XYZ Forum Questions
Good evening. My name is Brian Fultz. I live very near the Chapel with my wife, Miss Amy, the director of our amazing Sedona Charter School. Together, we have 3 children. I'm originally a degreed rocket scientist, so while you may say it doesn't take a rocket scientist to solve our problems in Sedona, it can't hurt to have one around. In my professional career, I have worked for large companies like General Electric and Accenture, but for the last 16 years and counting, I've been a small business owner focusing primarily on my consulting company, Peak Innovation. I love to be creative, and you may have noticed I'm the only candidate with round campaign signs.
I've been a homeowner in Sedona for about 18 years but became a full-time resident last year and have jumped in headfirst getting involved in our community. I've completed the Sedona Citizen's Academy, which is fantastic for learning how our city operates. I've been appointed to the Sedona Community Plan Update Working Group to help set the strategy for the next ten years. I'm a leader at my church, and an avid mountain biker and hiker.
Our proposed questions are:
1. Sedona's workforce, which is comprised mostly of members of generations X, Y, and Z, has an extraordinarily difficult time securing affordable housing in Sedona. What specific measures will you employ to increase the number of affordable housing units in Sedona, and what will you do to accelerate/expedite the processes in place to provide housing solutions within your term on the Council?
About a year ago, the Jordan Lofts apartment project was proposed to provide a combination of market rate and workforce housing. The project failed to move forward because there wasn't alignment between residents in that area, the developer, and the city code. If we can't align those stakeholders, we won't make progress in building affordable housing. We need to learn from what happened on that project and develop a PlayBook in which there are concepts for housing development that align with residents from an aesthetic and density perspective, that align with our existing or likely updated Land Development Code, and that align with the developer's ability to return an acceptable profit. The benefits of this playbook would include expedited approval, reduced development costs for projects, and a higher likelihood of interest from developers to work on projects in Sedona.
I believe we should be looking at bringing back approval for ADU's or Accessory Dwelling Units, which are apartment casitas that are a separate dwelling unit on someone's property. To be successful, we need to ensure we create the right rules so that they are only used for long-term housing. And built as modular, tiny-house structures that could be constructed off-site and then transported and lifted into place on-site, they could be an attractive housing option.
And last, the Cultural Park and Dells properties both represent opportunities to develop affordable housing. I would prioritize the Cultural Park because it is within the city limits, and in theory could be developed more rapidly than the Dells parcel.
I support the city's development of a program to incent short-term rental owners to convert to a long-term rental, and that requires critical analysis to ensure the program doesn't get abused but if the potential issues can be ironed out, it would provide an expedited solution.
2. Do you support home rule? If no, why not? If yes, how can you assure that the dollars spent by the city will benefit the younger generations in Sedona?
I support home rule. There are numerous reasons why you should vote yes on home rule and you've already heard many of them. They include: A loss of home rule would constrict our budget down to about $29M dollars from the $105M in FY23. Yes, a budget override could be introduced for voter approval, but that is intended to be a one-time instance, not an annual event. The reason that the base expenditure limit is inadequate is that the formula is based on a time when the city wasn't even incorporated, and we have the unusual distinction of being a small town that lives and has the income of a much larger town due to tourism and the revenue that it brings in, so we need to be able to spend those funds to mitigate the impact of tourism.
The way to ensure that younger generations benefit from our strong finances is first to ensure they are a priority in the Sedona community plan and then the city council needs to tell staff to prioritize initiatives for the annual work plan and budget accordingly. And I think the council should be revisiting the community plan at least twice per year to ensure we are working on those priorities that the residents told us to focus on.
Other reasons I support home rule include that we live by representative government, so you vote for the people you trust to make good decisions on behalf of the community and then you let them do their job. Saying no to home rule second-guesses your mayor and council. I can tell you that just as a candidate I've spent over 100 hours in council meetings this year, and that's what's required to be knowledgeable about what makes up our budget. Without home rule we need every resident putting that kind of time in to be informed enough to vote on the budget. I don't think that's realistic.
We have a strong, conservative financial position with a balanced budget.
Also, don't accept a non-answer to this question. If you are not for home rule then you are definitely against home rule. And if you are against home rule then you are against working on projects to address workforce and affordable housing, transit, and any other programs designed to attract and retain a diverse culture of individuals and families in Sedona as well as endangering our economy, which is nearly 80% made up of tourist related businesses, many of which you own or work within.
3. Sedona XYZ would like to see increased diversity in Sedona – racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, people with disabilities, and in all ways. What are some definitive steps you think we can take as a community to move in that direction and what will you do, if elected, to ensure that our existing diverse communities are protected?
First off, it would be presumptuous to think that I can solve this problem alone as far as underrepresented groups are concerned. That said, here's how I would proceed. As I mentioned in my introduction, I'm serving on the 10-year community plan update working group and our primary mission is to ensure that ALL the diverse voices of Sedona are heard over the 2-year process of updating the plan. So, we've got to make sure we're capturing the voices of these diverse groups, but importantly, we should use this process to foster community, connection, and the opportunity to serve in an ongoing manner for these groups; not just during the plan update process but moving forward in perpetuity.
And that brings me to my other thought on this question. As recently as this past Saturday I met a resident at the younger end of the age spectrum here in Sedona that is well-spoken, well educated, highly motivated and has essentially been shut out of meaningful opportunities to contribute and lead in our community on account of his youth. And you could realistically switch out youth for any other underrepresented group. So what do we do about it? Well, first we have to acknowledge it, and then we have to look at intentional programming designed to mentor and give people in these underrepresented groups an opportunity to deeply engage, meet others, and feel like they are making a difference. Because I think the diverse groups we seek will be attracted by learning of the positive experiences of those similar to them that are already here. So fostering the right environment should lead to our underrepresented groups using social media and other communication channels to promote living in Sedona when they share the stories of their lives that are occurring daily.
4. Many members of Sedona XYZ are raising their children in Sedona. What specific initiatives will you champion to ensure that we retain the young families that are here and attract new young families to live and work in Sedona?
When I thought about what makes a community attractive to young families when my family was younger, I thought about safety, school quality, diversity of culture and activities, the weather, and the cost of living with a heavy emphasis on housing. I think we score well on safety and the weather. I think we have some gaps in school quality and diversity of culture and activities but those elements are part of a virtuous circle because as we make progress in attracting more families, the school quality improves as does the diversity of culture and activities! Now, we're obviously in a sad spot concerning housing.
So what can we do? Well, there are communities, such as Bentonville, AR, the home of Walmart, that are providing $10K+ incentives to move to the community. So I think we should consider creating a community organization, staffed by volunteers, that the city funds with $1M annually for incentives at $10K per family to apply to move to Sedona. That would bring 100 new families per year. If they average 1.5 kids per family, that's 1500 kids over 10 years. Yes, there will be attrition but these kinds of numbers are huge from a Sedona perspective. And is this not a good use of the remarkable level of revenue that our city raises annually courtesy of tourism? I think we also need to look at whether there is support that could be provided to our existing families as well because it's still expensive once you arrive here. And of course, all of this is predicated on there being enough housing. Really that's the linchpin to so much of what our community needs. Housing at prices that young families can afford.
5. One of Sedona XYZ's core values is sustainability, environmentally and otherwise. If you are elected, what will you do to ensure that the elements of Sedona's Climate Action plan are implemented and that the city government serves as environmental stewards of this beautiful place we call home?
Climate change is real, and we should take practical steps to do our part to preserve our red rocks and the planet. The climate action plan was born out of the city listening to residents in the community plan process in which we said that protecting the environment was of the utmost importance.
So I support the CAP. However, I believe it is overly broad and should focus more on driving the biggest bang for the buck, which means focusing on building structures and transportation since they represent 97% of the plan's impact. Concerning building structures, the city can provide retrofit incentives to encourage homeowners to make their property solar and EV ready. In talking with residents I found that they would be more responsive to the incentive approach where the cost of making their property ready can offset city permitting expenses for instance.
In transportation, we need to pursue the concept of the park once and then ride transit with all due haste. This takes tourist cars off the road relieving congestion for residents while reducing vehicle emissions. A real win-win.
Any kind of effort like the CAP requires metrics to assess progress. The city sustainability staff will soon be presenting a revised emissions baseline measure along with 2020 and 2021 figures. But I think to make this real and really ensure program success we have to engage residents at a neighborhood level. We need passionate volunteers that are interested in talking with their neighbors about practical actions they can take in their homes to reduce energy usage. Combined with measures of progress this could turn into a gamified program and be a source of community competition and pride.
As a candidate, if you have no relevant leadership or work qualifications and you have no track record of service to our community, you attack those who do. If you don't understand the basic science of climate change you claim it is made up by a global conspiracy and you call it fake news or the hokey pokey. If you speak nothing but complaints while others have well-thought-out actionable ideas about how to create positive change, you resort to partisan-style political attacks. You have a choice between candidates that are one type or the other that I've just described.
I'm all in for Sedona. I've been doing the work to learn how the city operates, and to serve on one of its most important working groups. I've been generating and actually working on real ideas to effect positive change for the community right now. I have the experience to lead and work with diverse groups while fostering a collaborative and positive culture. You can't criticize and complain your way to making Sedona better. I'm Brian Fultz, I would be grateful for your vote, and you can count on me to be a positive agent of change for Sedona.