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Flagstaff City Council mulls November 2022 bond election as citizens committee work to begin

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Council In Person

Members of the Flagstaff City Council.

The Flagstaff City Council convened Tuesday to discuss placing bond measures up for voter approval in the November 2022 election -- an effort that, if approved, would see a variety of city needs and projects funded by a secondary property tax.

A citizens committee will begin reviewing bond options in December, and the council discussion on Tuesday took place to provide the committee with a scope of consideration. The potential bonds discussed come after funding needs were identified by city council earlier in the year.

Council identified a set of potential bond projects during an annual budget retreat in April, discussing bonds placed on the ballot to fund housing projects, climate action initiatives and an Alternate Response Care Center.

Another set of bond measures were identified by the council during the annual infrastructure retreat in September, including stormwater infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure and equipment for firefighters.

Following the city council discussion, a Citizen Bond Committee, selected earlier this year through the city manager’s office, will begin reviewing bonds that are being considered for next year’s ballot. Shannon Anderson explained that the committee plans to receive community feedback throughout the review process.

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On Tuesday, city project manager Christine Cameron presented city council with specific projects related to infrastructure bonds.

One of the bond projects is a longstanding plan to build a pedestrian underpass from Florence Street to Walnut Street, creating a north-south Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS) corridor for bicycle and pedestrian use. The construction of the underpass is included in the La Plaza Vieja Neighborhood Specific Plan, which was adopted in 2015 but currently has not secured funding.

Cameron also presented the Southside Community Civic Space as a bond consideration that would be located next to the future Lone Tree Overpass and bring additional civic and recreation space for the Southside community. While funding has not yet been secured, the city could seek grant funding in addition to a bond.

City council was also presented with bond considerations related to the city’s flood control efforts, focused in the Museum Fire Flood area.

Now that the council has expressed an interest in holding a bond election, Vice Mayor Becky Daggett said she is interested in seeing how the committee assesses the bond projects that have been identified by the council.

“My preference would be that we let the committee come back to us. I’d like to see a ranked list with the bond issues they feel are most critical to the community,” Daggett said.

But Mayor Paul Deasy felt further input from city council on potential bond measures was warranted before a committee review. He cited “voter fatigue,” or placing many items up for voter consideration in a short period of time, as a reason to narrow the number of bond measures being considered.

“Right now we are looking for the parameters for the discussion and what we as a council body would like to see on the ballot. We have a very short amount of time to make that decision,” Deasy said. “We really need to provide those parameters for the [committee's] sake.”

Deasy asked for the council to consider which needs were crucial for the upcoming election, and suggested that the rest were held off to be placed on a future ballot.

Councilmember Austin Aslan said he believes the city can avoid voter fatigue by framing the issues correctly. He suggested that some of the bond issues can be packaged together to categorize the bonds in a way that is helpful.

When talking about potential bond measures like flood control and climate action, for example, Aslan said the voters are likely to see a connection and the city may want to consider combining those items. He also noted that bonds related to public safety have historically been supported by voters, and could be packaged together.

“If we were to package a public safety bond together all by itself, without respect to whatever else we’re doing, in my mind it has a high likelihood of passing,” Aslan said. “Voters understand public safety and those needs are ongoing.”

Daggett said she has a list of the types of projects she would support, including housing, but would also like to explore how the bonds can be packaged together.

Councilmember Adam Shimoni said he hoped for representation in the review process from neighborhood representatives. City manager Greg Clifton said the city is in the process of ensuring input is gathered from stakeholders geographically and not just by the topic of the considerations.

“It is very important. And we do have representation from Southside, but it is important that we have representation from La Plaza Vieja and Sunnyside as well,” Clifton said. “I think we do have good representation on the topics of sustainability and housing.”

“There's just a lot of needs in the community … and they are each rightfully important,” Shimoni said. “I don’t really have much clarity on how to move forward with narrowing this list down. I am interested to see how the committee wrestles with it and what they bring back to us.”

The Citizen Bond Committee is anticipated to arrive at a list of potential bonds by October, and it will be brought to the community for feedback through surveys and public meetings. After reviewing the public input, the committee will present final recommendations for bond measures to the council.

Approved bond items will then go back to the Citizen Bond Committee to assist the city with support before the November 2022 election. Ahead of the election, the committee will employ a campaign to educate and promote the upcoming bond ballot measures, city staff said.

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