Sedona must not believe fake news
“I don’t get it, especially when the Chamber is working to promote solutions…”
“We can’t afford misinformation. We need facts.”
“…I wish the local residents better understood that tourists bring the dollars that pay for the impressive infrastructure they take for granted…”
“We do have issues to resolve, but we can’t afford to lay a shaky foundation by working with misinformation…”
“Residents need to know that the Chamber’s efforts are part of the solution, not the problem. Thousands of people are depending on your efforts …”
These are just a few of the comments I received after Sedonans finally heard the truth last week: false news and destructive agendas are hard at work in our community, dividing Sedonans, poisoning our civic life and threatening our economic vitality.
A small cadre of activists want to see city services slashed by more than 50 percent, the Chamber & Tourism Bureau functions destroyed, and our police force, recreation programs, small businesses, library, and economy decimated by the consequences. It’s all in the name of a strange concept of liberty they believe will be realized by voting NO on Home Rule in August. They will say anything to accomplish the destruction and, in their words, “starve the beast.” How does cutting all the funding for transportation projects actually fix traffic?
The biggest smear yet came last week, when a complaint filed with the Attorney General’s Office alleged (falsely) that City Council members violated the Arizona Constitution in their contracts with the Chamber and by allocating bed taxes imposed on hotel guests for tourism management and promotion. By law, the Attorney General must investigate these allegations, no matter how absurd, thereby lending a patina of legitimacy to ridiculous charges.
This reprehensible trick to spread misinformation and mislead honest people is the very definition of false news. You need to know about it and reject it.
The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau is designated as the Official Destination Management & Marketing Organization (DMMO or DMO) for Sedona. DMMOs around the country are typically funded by bed tax dollars; 87 percent report being funded this way. This widely-established system is designed so that visitors, not residents, pay the tax. Sedona is not unique in that way.
Let’s clearly state the fact at the heart of our community discussion: Sedona has cultural, environmental and quality of life challenges associated with tourism, our biggest industry. Traffic and seasonal overcrowding require community-supported solutions.
Everyone recognizes this, reflected in the fact that our FY19 is goal is NOT about attracting more visitors to Sedona. We are laser-focused on attracting high value visitors to continue to support our jobs, community services and local businesses.
The City, the Chamber and our hundreds of Sedona-based small businesses are working together with residents and community groups to find answers and to find balance. The Sedona in Motion Traffic Improvements are one step in the right direction. The soon-to-be-completed Sustainable Tourism Plan is another. Hundreds of residents have already contributed their ideas to the Plan, which will produce strategies for broadly dispersing traffic while educating visitors to respect and support Sedona’s community values, among other innovations.
We are not all the way there yet, but we are moving forward. Together. As a community.
Wrecking our community budget and eviscerating the City of Sedona by voting NO on Home rule vaporizes these hopeful steps. It also destroys the businesses, amenities and services we all count on for our quality life and even our livelihoods.
That’s because the defeat of Home Rule means turning over control of Sedona to the state, which will slash our citizen-guided and Council-approved balanced budget by more than 50 percent, based on a state-imposed formula that a NO vote automatically imposes. Could your family or business survive a 50 percent budget reduction? What would you give up? Paying for utilities or groceries? A defeat of Home Rule means our community will face the same kind of impossible choices.
In a defeated Sedona, tourists will still pay most of our sales taxes, as they do now. But the city will not have access to those funds to improve quality of life, infrastructure, to mitigate traffic issues, and to plan for the future.
The most bitter irony for NO supporters is that as stores close, services decline, and people lose their jobs, taxes will not go down. The City can still collect revenue but will not be able to spend it. It is like dying of thirst on the open ocean. Water everywhere, not a drop to drink. Revenue to avoid slashing police or closing the parks or neglecting our tourism industry, but none to spend.
In appreciation of these terrible consequences, dozens of cities and towns all around Arizona vote YES on Home Rule over and over again.
No responsible community advocates its own suicide.
I encourage all Sedonans to reject false news and divisive tactics. Let’s continue planning together for the Sedona we want in a spirit of honestly and mutual respect.
Vote YES for healthy civic discourse. Vote YES to affirm our commitmemt to govern ourselves. Vote YES on Home Rule. For more information, visit sedonachamber.com/home-rule-information/.
–Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO