Jon “JT ” thompson, sedona City council

Articles

Throughout the campaign, I will be writing brief commentaries on matters of current concern once or twice a week. They will appear on this page, with the most recent on top. To have them sent directly to you as soon as they are published, use this SUBSCRIBE button or contact me through regular e-mail or phone.

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  • 4 Aug 2022 1:24 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    For many months, August 2nd, primary election day, has been a frustratingly distant goal. All the day-to-day effort of running a campaign and speculating on the outcome has been focused on that moment when the results are posted and we finally know all the answers. And it seems like it will never arrive.

    And then, of course, it does arrive—but without all the answers. Or with answers that seem to conflict with each other. I've spent the past couple days thinking about what happened, getting theories and perspectives from friends, looking for a key to explaining it all. Here's what I've come up with.

    First of all, from the big picture vantage point, the Sedona municipal election results were a resounding success. At the top of the list is the fact that the voters supported Home Rule once again by a resounding, "no-doubt" margin. Despite the most organized and aggressive attempt yet by its opponents, Home Rule got nearly two Yes votes for every No vote. That is reassuring in itself, but it's also a bellwether of the public's feeling about the status quo.

    That is, regardless of how angry or frustrated the electorate is about traffic, housing, OHVs, or any other issue, they recognize that artificially crippling or punishing themselves is no part of the solution. The consistency with which Sedona voters have overwhelmingly supported Home Rule every four years for decades continues to reaffirm that as a community we are willing and able to seek out and recognize the truth. That is huge. In fact, if there is any good reason for having to go through this confirmation exercise every four years, that may be it.

    So what does that mean for interpreting the results of the mayor and council elections? I believe it makes it very difficult to mount any argument that the winners were undeserving or that the losers were somehow wronged. Sure, the reasons we vote for one candidate over another are very different from the reasons we support or reject Home Rule. But it's pretty clear that in both cases the majority was not likely duped, pressured, or otherwise victimized by some nefarious forces. Or if they were, they were capable of seeing through those efforts and voting their own, carefully considered preferences.

    Given that, I suppose my own election loss could be all the more disappointing, realizing that there was no unfairness to blame for placing fourth in a three-seat contest. And I confess I've had my moments of rationalizing. But they've been brief and have not changed my belief that the choices of Sedona's voters as a whole can be trusted as an accurate communal voice of what is best for our city. That's a great comfort to me, as I hope it is for you and all residents of Sedona. And that makes it all the easier, not harder, to accept that voice.

    Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

  • 31 Jul 2022 12:35 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    I came across this image while searching for something else and decided I should share it with you. Now that we are little more than 48 hours away from the polls closing on our primary election, it's possible that some of you may still be weighing your ballot choices. If you have already voted, I hope the experience was a happy one. Really. We can easily get stressed by tough choices at election time, and even the easy decisions are often made in a disagreeable cloud of claims and accusations that can leave us frustrated and angry. Not to mention worried about the results.

    So it's good to reflect on the simple joy of voting that we are privileged to have. That moment when we drop our ballot in the mailbox or ballot box is an instant like none other in our lives. That simple act simultaneously asserts our individuality; gives us power equal to that of every other citizen regardless of wealth, status, or intelligence; and connects us with those citizens in a common cause and cooperative pact. It's a moment when we can and should rejoice that such a thing is possible and that we are allowed to experience it.

    If you have not yet voted, I hope you are planning to, of course. Not because you're necessarily certain of your choices, not because you've been made to fear some negative outcome that must be avoided at all costs, and not even because you've been told it's your "civic duty". But because I hope you'll feel the joy of participating in arguably the most equalizing and empowering communal act that humankind has ever devised.

    Happy voting!

    Photo by stefan moertl on Unsplash.

  • 27 Jul 2022 7:49 AM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    Some residents have voiced concern about the prospect of a recession during the coming year. With the city poised to approve a budget based on record high revenues, it's perfectly reasonable to ask if we are being conservative enough with our projections and our planned spending so that we don't get caught short.

    The brief answer is, "Yes, we got this!"

    But you don't have to take my word for it, even though my Council colleagues and I certainly considered the possibility of a recession when we scoured the proposed FY23 budget line by line. Instead, I urge you to read the City Talk column in today's Red Rock News. Cheri Wright, our amazing Director of Financial Services, has once again done a marvelous job of explaining dry numbers in a way that reveals their relevance to the issues that really matter to us, using comparisons that we can easily identify with.

    For just one example, on this very subject of recession concern, Cheri explains that if her already conservative projection of FY23 revenues turned out to be off by a whopping 60%, we would still have enough income to fund everything in our budget, without touching a penny of reserves. And for comparison, she points out that in the four years of the Great Recession—from the very peak just before it hit to the lowest point before it started to recover—our revenues decreased only 15%!

    Please do read the article for much more straight and reassuring talk about how the budget is anticipating inflation, ensuring we can move on key land acquisition opportunities, stay ahead of costly wastewater infrastructure maintenance, and more, in addition to funding the traffic mitigation, housing, transit, sustainability, and other projects that are more "front of mind" for residents.

    Photo by D koi on Unsplash.

  • 19 Jul 2022 2:22 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    The second quarter financial reports are out. Last Friday was the deadline for every candidate for Mayor or Council whose campaign has raised and/or spent more than $500 for the upcoming election to file a detailed report of their financial activity through June 30th. If you haven't already looked at them on the city's website, I highly recommend that you do so. And be prepared for some surprises.

    The total amounts raised is likely the highest of any local Sedona election to date (if any of you long-term residents know of an election that was higher, let me know and I'll update this online article). But the stunning numbers are just the start of the story. Because the forms for the financial statements categorize donations in a variety of ways, you can see where a candidate is supported by out-of-state funds and, among other things, whether donations are made in cash, as loans, or as in-kind gifts of goods or services. And the names of donors are listed for amounts over $100; in a relatively small city like ours, spotting names you recognize can be another helpful way to determine the makeup of a candidate's base of support.

    For your convenience, I've listed the candidates below, with the amount of total receipts they have claimed for this election cycle, through June 30th. Click on any name to retrieve the full report from the city's website. Or you can open them from the website itself, here.

    Mayor

    $51,611 Samaire Armstrong
    $21,845 Scott Jablow
    $  8,000 Kurt Gehlbach
    $  7,514 Sandy Moriarty

    Council

    $15,425 Pete Furman
    $  5,245 Jennifer Strait
    $  4,900 Melissa Dunn
    $  2,160 Brian Fultz
    $  1,347 Scott Moffatt

    [Note: There is no report for me because I have chosen not to accept donations and have kept my campaign spending under the $500 reporting limit. I explain my reasoning on my website's DON'TNATE page.]

  • 17 Jul 2022 7:52 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    I was quite surprised to see how many key issues likely Arizona voters agree on, as revealed by a comprehensive survey conducted by the Center for the Future of Arizona and Education Forward Arizona. A summary of the results can be viewed here.

    And if you're interested in hearing what the sponsors and survey administrator make of these results, join me in watching the one-hour webinar on Zoom, sponsored by the Arizona Capitol Times. It's at 8:00am this Wednesday, July 20. There's no charge, but you must register for their "Morning Scoop" event here.

  • 10 Jul 2022 2:17 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    Did you get your ballot yet? If you're on the early voter list, you should be getting it any day now, if you haven't received it already. And unless you've already made up your mind, one of the criteria you will likely be using to determine your voting choices is experience. Candidates who have it will say how valuable it is, while candidates who don't have it will say that fresh approaches are necessary. So who's right?

    Sedona.biz conducted virtual interviews with all four of our mayor candidates and all six councilor candidates, and they published the interviews online around the first of last month. (Use the site's search feature to find them by candidate name.) One of the questions addressed the value of experience, and I've since realized that my answer left off a particularly important point. Here, first, is the question and my answer:

    What do you think is better? Electing people who have served for years in office, committees, etc.? Or electing a candidate that may be politically inexperienced but brings new ideas to the table? Isn’t that what they call a false dichotomy? It’s interesting to me that someone who has served in office for some years is assumed to be drained of new ideas. For one thing, an experienced councilor may still be working to get across ideas that were new once and are still as important and worthwhile as any new ones—these things, especially big complex things, don’t get implemented overnight. Also, an experienced councilor can have new ideas all the time, but with the added knowledge of how to present them and work on them in the political environment. And finally, an effective councilor, one who isn’t burdened with stubbornness and a self-centered ego, can recognize and promote good ideas that come from others, or from anywhere. So I would say to look first for the candidate who can recognize a good idea wherever it comes from and has the ability to promote it effectively. Their level of experience and their individual ability to come up with the ideas by themselves are bonuses.

    I still think that's true. But the important point I missed in that answer is that someone who has not done a job already can only imagine what it's really like. And if they get the job and find out that it's very different from what they were expecting, they might be willing and able to make the necessary adjustment, or they might bail—essentially or literally. Candidates who have already served on council have already shed most, if not all, illusions about the complexity, pressures, time commitment, and other aspects of the position. So if they are willing and interested in serving again, we voters have not only their record of service to evaluate but also the assurance that they know what's expected and what's possible. So we know not only whether they represent our individual interests or not, but also that they are more likely to be the same after the election as during the campaign.

    Taking that point a step further, I would also point out that you can tell something about first-time candidates' character from how thoroughly they are willing to prepare themselves for a job they have never held. Have they served on any city commissions or committees, attended many council meetings? If they are running for mayor, have they previously served on council? Have they attended the Sedona Citizens Academy or the Community Police Academy? How long have they even lived in or visited Sedona?

    As you fill out your ballot, if you have any of these questions about me—or any other questions for that matter—please call me: 928-821-5142. And in any case I hope my record of service and my willingness to continue serving will make you confident about voting for me. Thank you!

  • 4 Jul 2022 4:03 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    Happy Independence Day!

    Last evening a national news program aired a segment in anticipation of today’s Independence Day celebration. They asked some random people on the street and on Zoom what it meant to be an American. It seems like a simple enough question, but the answers were quite varied, and they didn’t come easily. And I found it hard to come up with my own definition of American as well.

    Someone born on American soil. That would be the easy, literal answer. But it’s only a starting point. We need to include naturalized citizens, of course, as well as those born outside the U.S. to an American parent who fulfills a U.S. residency requirement. And we need to exclude those who have formally renounced their citizenship. But what about today’s Dreamers who have never known another home country, the draft dodgers of fifty years ago who fled to Canada, or the enslaved people brought here during our early history and the indigenous people whose ancestors were here long before Columbus—did these people at some point earn or forfeit the right to be called Americans, regardless of their citizenship status?

    This definition is getting complicated. But the news of just the past week or so raises even more questions. For example:

    • If a January 6th rioter is found guilty of seditious conspiracy, is he still entitled to keep his citizenship in the country whose very government he was attacking? And does it make a difference if he sincerely thought his actions were necessary to save the America he loves?
    • Does the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent overturn of Roe v. Wade mean that an embryo just conceived on U.S. soil is an American citizen? And if states are allowed to decide whether abortion is legal or not within their borders, does that mean that the states are now also deciding whether a fetus is an American or not?

    It quickly gets really philosophical and political. But as long as we have laws and courts to look after the rules and exceptions, is it even necessary to have a simple definition of American? That’s the question I asked myself after watching the news. And for me the answer came back yes because as a member of the Sedona City Council, I need to be clear about who I represent; and just as with the elusive definition of American, I find that my definition of Sedonan doesn’t neatly and exclusively apply to only and all the residents within our city’s borders.

    Home addresses within our borders is certainly the default starting point. But how can I not care about and represent those who have lost their Sedona address and live in their car or in the forest? Or those who for many years have commuted to work for our city government or for the many businesses in town and would move here in a heartbeat if they could afford to? Or those whose Sedona address is today a second home and are counting the days when they can retire and move here permanently? Or how about those living on county land just up the canyon or on the western outskirts and are active in Sedona as volunteers, patrons of our arts, and regulars at our shops and restaurants?

    On the other hand, how can I be expected to feel the same sense of responsibility for those whose home is within city limits but who show little regard for their neighbors’ welfare? Or are more focused on the personal wealth they can extract from our visitor economy than on the community welfare they could contribute to? We have many views on how our city can best be run, but is there a point at which opposing the will of the majority goes beyond constructive dissent and enters into the intentionally destructive territory of misinformation and groundless accusation for strictly selfish or ideological ends? If I say I represent all Sedonans, must I include those intent on disrupting the values that most Sedonans hold dear?

    On this Independence Day, I’m grateful for the opportunities and entitlements I enjoy as an American. I also accept the responsibility to do my part to guarantee those great privileges to the Americans who will succeed me, just as I am deeply indebted to those who came before me. Many others in our land are expressing or at least feeling the same way today, and I am proud to be counted among them as true Americans. So that’s my definition of American. And if you substitute Sedonan for American, that works too.

  • 2 Jul 2022 1:37 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    The recording of this week's Sedona City Council candidate forum was partially compromised by technical difficulties. But if you were unable to attend, it's still worth watching. Sponsored jointly by the League of Women Voters of Northern Arizona and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, the forum was attended in person by candidates Brian Fultz, Melissa Dunn, Jennifer Strait, and myself. Candidates Pete Furman and Scott Moffatt were unable to attend and submitted statements and answers which were read by the moderator, Clarkdale Mayor Robyn Prud'homme-Bauer.

    The video can be viewed on Facebook at https://fb.watch/dZzN1ZuR8s/.  Please note that the first half hour was not recorded, so opening statements and answers to the two sponsor-prepared questions were lost. However, most of the audience-supplied questions and candidate responses are included. There are two additional gaps in the audio as well, from approximately 11:40-14:30 and 47:10-51:40.

  • 24 Jun 2022 2:31 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    The first of the 2022 Sedona City Council candidate forums took place at Keep Sedona Beautiful this past Tuesday evening, sponsored by KSB and the Northern Arizona Climate Change Alliance (NAZCCA). A full house in addition to many viewers on Zoom heard the candidates answer pre-determined and live audience questions on the theme of Sustainability in general and Sedona's Climate Action Plan in particular. If you missed the 1.5-hour program, you can watch the recording at the KSB website, keepsedonabeautiful.org, or just click here.

    The next forum for Sedona Council candidates will be this coming Wednesday, June 29, sponsored by the Northern Arizona chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. These sponsors and the sponsors of last Tuesday's forum will also be holding forums for Sedona Mayoral candidates on back-to-back evenings early next month. And the local Sedona XYZ organization is planning a joint Council/Mayor forum in mid-July. The dates, times, locations, and other information for all these events is available on my campaign website at SedonaJT.com/Events.

    I'll be attending them all, and I hope to see you there, too!

  • 17 Jun 2022 2:07 PM | Jon Thompson (Administrator)

    I probably subscribe to at least a dozen email newsletters that deal with sustainability generally and the climate emergency specifically. I feel like I have to. It's the most important issue facing us today, and it's far too complex and multi-faceted for just one or two perspectives—even the solidly scientific ones I rely on.

    The problem with following all that information about such a dire and depressing subject, of course, is that the anxiety can sometimes get the better of me. And hopelessness is not a good place to stage one's daily resolve to take positive action on behalf of a six sextillion metric ton rock.

    But I have help! About once a week I light up when Sarah Lazarovic's name shows up in my email inbox. Sarah writes Minimum Viable Planet, which she describes as a "weeklyish newsletter about climateish stuff, and how to keep it together in a world gone mad." The writing is informal and personal but brilliantly phrased, filled with wit and humor and her own clever drawings. If you can imagine something comforting, entertaining, and inspiring all at the same time, you'll know what to expect from MVP. That and videos of people dancing at the end of each issue that are a sure-fire smiler every time.

    And like all the best things in life, it's free. I definitely recommend that you give Sarah your email address at https://www.mvp.ist and see for yourself. Her back issues are available at that site as well; the recent one on positivism is a great read while you're waiting for the next issue to arrive in your inbox.

    P.S. Today's MVP newsletter, "The Mayor of Montrose," is ostensibly about Sarah's precocious young son Teddy. But it is really about community. And there were at least a couple places where I felt the immediate relevance to our search for sustainable community here in Sedona. So I realized that sharing Minimum Viable Planet with you was the daily deed I needed to do on behalf of Mother Earth. I hope you like it and that it helps salve whatever climate anxiety you may have as well.

    [Illustration (c) 2022 by Sarah Lazarovic]

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