The chair of the city’s beautification commission, Anthony Garcia, announced he would be seeking a seat on Flagstaff City Council in 2020.
Garcia said he wants to run in part because he wants to represent citizens of Flagstaff who may feel as if they don’t have a voice in the city or at the council.
“I think it’s important for every public official to understand what the community wants; it’s not what the individual wants. I don’t think that’s what being involved in politics at the local level is about,” Garcia said.
Garcia said he learned that lesson most clearly after he was appointed to the beautification commission by Council in 2017. Garcia said the commission would be discussing some aspect of public art in Flagstaff and he would find himself wanting to get a better feeling for how citizens felt about the issue.
Because of that, Garcia said he would often hit the streets, talking to people and conducting informal polls about their own thoughts regarding the beautification issues the commission was discussing.
But Garcia said his interest in local politics and shaping the city began 10 years before he joined the commission when he realized that he as a citizen could influence his representatives.
Garcia said it was 2007 when he stopped by city hall to deliver a letter in support of an action the city council was discussing. Unsure of where to go, he walked into the council chambers while a meeting was underway. And instead of simply delivering the letter, Garcia was able to speak to the council about the issue.
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When it comes to problems facing Flagstaff, Garcia said he believes managing the boom of development may be one of the most important issues for the city’s future.
Garcia said he believes development, like change of any sort, is generally a positive, but he acknowledged that it can be difficult for people -- and he does worry about overdevelopment.
“Change is good and evolution is good, but it’s always hard to stomach at first. You know when the viewshed is being taken away from you [because of] a big housing project, you don’t always see that it’s more sustainable to have that number of people living in that one space,” Garcia said. “All you see is you're taking away my view of the Peaks, which is therapeutic for people who live here.”
And without some change, Garcia said he worries people will just see the cost of living continue to rise in Flagstaff.
Garcia said he works his regular 8 to 5 job at Spellman Hardwoods and then he drives for Uber after work. At the same time, Garcia said his partner also works two jobs and, even living in Sunnyside in a house that was once considered affordable, they still struggle to get by.
Nonetheless, Garcia, who grew up in Flagstaff attending Sinagua High School, said the community and environment around Flagstaff makes the struggle worth it.
Garcia, who said he is also something of an artist, believes public art may be one way to help preserve and reflect the culture of the city while also adapting it to change.