Flagstaff City Council and mayoral candidates have been given the chance to answer a weekly question in no more than 150 words. This week’s question: In a non-partisan office, what is the place of council to weigh in on national and controversial issues?
I have learned my personal feelings about controversial issues have to take second place to the health, welfare and safety of the people of Flagstaff. The good of the people is my primary purpose for running for office.
However, there are issues that may appear as partisan but in reality are issues of ethics, morality and decency. One example is the separation of children from their parents.
Our State Legislature is continually trying to usurp local control by enacting laws that do not have local communities' wishes in mind. Our water, natural environment and economic development are under attack by legislation enacted by the Arizona State Legislature. Uranium mining has catastrophic effects on our water supply and can destroy vital resources. This damage cannot be repaired. It is only through the political influence of towns and cities that we endeavor to protect our environment and the quality of our lives.
The simple answer is, no.
I would focus on the four Strategic Priorities and Goals as stated on our City’s official website. Here are the basics: 1) Provide exceptional service to the community; 2) Invest in our employees; 3) Foster economic prosperity; and 4) work toward a safe and livable community. The success of these items affects our daily lives.
Our current resources are/should be focused on economic development, public safety, water conservation, transportation and infrastructure, community outreach, housing, environmental matters, personnel retention, town and gown. These are bread and butter matters.
In conclusion, I am not in favor of non-binding resolutions. It seems to me that the legal cost and staff time costs associated with drafting non-binding resolutions could get expensive and drain resources from the City. Let us spend any extra funds on addressing our City’s unfunded pension plan.
I’ve heard from thousands of Flagstaff residents during this campaign. A common theme I’ve observed has been taxpayer fatigue with a Council that overreaches into national politics through “useless” resolutions. I agree we can do better.
Council must remain focused on Flagstaff’s core debates including growth strategies, housing affordability, economic prosperity, sustainable management of scarce resources (especially water), smarter planning, and providing exceptional city services to all.
As locals, we’re capable of tackling thorny problems without resorting to tired, tribal bickering and partisan rhetoric. We can leverage our common vision toward solving quality-of-life issues that affect our families, our community, and Flagstaff’s future.
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However, national controversies sometimes find us. Occasionally it’s appropriate for local leaders to advocate for Flagstaff’s self-interest at state or national levels, especially when vulnerable residents come under threat. Council is never obligated to remain silent when local injustice demands better due process from higher governing bodies.
The Flagstaff City Charter defines council’s powers to enact LOCAL legislation, adopt budgets, determine policies and appoint the City Manager who shall execute the laws and administer the government of the City. Council Vision Statement: “Flagstaff is a safe, diverse, just vibrant and innovative community with a unique character and high quality of life for all. The City fosters and supports economic, environmental, educational and cultural opportunities.”
In addressing national issues, the principal role of council is to identify legislative priorities at the county, state and federal levels to be carried out by staff, Intergovernmental Relations Program, responsible to develop and advocate for Flagstaff community by fostering and maintaining relationships with individuals and entities that affect the City’s interests. The program’s stated principles include transparency, accountability, active participation with the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, and working with regional, statewide, national and tribal partners as essential to community vitality.
As City Council is as local as government gets, its members should prioritize their time, resources, and energy on solving issues that directly affect its residents, neighbors, and visitors. However, local government also has a responsibility to represent the values and standards of its constituencies.
When national decisions represent the ethical standards of a nation, and often directly affect local conditions, especially when it comes to immigration, human rights, and the environment, passing resolutions or making statements, even if non-binding, is an important part of civic engagement and discourse. They provide an opportunity for elected officials to publicly air the concerns and interests of their voters, and allow local jurisdictions an avenue to express their unique characteristics and values.
Local governments weighing in on national issues can have invaluable influence and impact, while giving voice to Flagstaff residents.
Council goes too far sometimes in weighing in on national and controversial issues in their official capacity. We all have the right to free speech, councilmembers included, to discuss as we wish in our free time and personal Facebook pages, but as it comes to our official capacities, city business, and staff time, we should be more mindful. Overdoing it distracts from attending to city business.
There is a place for weighing in, however. If there are certain national issues that disproportionately affect Flagstaff, we have full rights to make official statements. That’s why resolutions are in our city charter. A good example is the uranium mine at the Grand Canyon. The unmarked trucks with radioactive material are transported through our town. This is something we can legitimately make a statement about and create a resolution in an official capacity.
When I represent a city made up of immigrants, women, DREAMERS, children, LGBTQIA folk, Native Americans, Seniors who rely on Social Security or Medicare, people who have disabilities, those who value dark skies and the environment and any other group whose rights are being attacked at any level of government my place, as mayor, is speaking up for them.