AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #16: How do you feel about the local tax rates within the city?
Constant balance is needed when levying local taxes. Raising taxes may increase cost of living, overburden taxpayers and discourage economic activity; while low taxation may cause cutbacks of essential services.
Prudence in spending and debt is integral to fiscal responsibility. It’s imperative to discern the projects and programs for which tax dollars are spent in terms of collective impact. I pursue fiscally-prudent stewardship of public funds; wisely allocate, disburse and leverage tax dollars for additional funding from other entities. It’s also vital to be forward-looking in earmarking future funding for water supply, flood mitigation and public safety.
Flagstaff’s combined sales tax rate is 8.951 percent (state: 5.6 percent, county: 1.3 percent, and city: 2.051 percent). With an additional 2 percent BBB tax (Bed, Board and Booze) charged at restaurants, bars and hotels, sales tax within the City is 10.951 percent.
Council raised primary property taxes by 7 percent two years in a row intended for public safety.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #15: Why should voters trust you?
Public office is a public trust. Elected officials must be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.
Ingrained in my consciousness, my core values keep me grounded on my commitment to serve Flagstaff’s diverse communities: prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope and love.
Within four weeks, I earned the trust of 1,619 Flagstaff voters who signed my nomination. Pursuing selfless service, pragmatism and balance, I earn the trust of every voter I meet.
Born and raised in the Philippines, I bring diverse perspectives and wide worldview to the city leadership. I bring extensive experience in government, business, academe, and nonprofits: community and economic development, policy research and analysis, budgeting, fiscal management, resource mobilization, mediation, fundraising and friend-raising. I have the energy, ability and grit to bring people together and seize opportunities that serve our communities.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #14: How do you feel about traffic and snowplay issues?
Flagstaff is Arizona’s winter wonderland, welcoming thousands of visitors for snowplay and winter recreation. More vehicles, narrow roads due to snow, and lack of driving skills in winter conditions cause traffic mayhem.
Comprehensively addressing winter traffic requires working with Coconino County, DPS, ADOT, USFS, Arizona Snowbowl, Nordic Center and snowplay areas. Planning and management of snowplay areas in terms of accessibility, ingress and egress traffic, safety, parking, and waste removal is paramount.
I offer these solutions:
• Increase awareness of residents and visitors about snowplay areas. Widely distribute the City’s Winter Recreation Map. Engage hotels, local restaurants and shops.
• Direct residents and visitors to safe snowplay areas.
• Encourage more shuttle services to Snowbowl and possibly snowplay areas.
• Create more snowplay opportunities within city parks. Involve local nonprofits and youth organizations. Fort Tuthill is a great example as it offers multiple winter activities.
• Develop alternative routes from I-40/I-17 to North Fort Valley.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question # 13: Is consensus on council important and how do you plan to work across ideological lines?
I pursue balanced, pragmatic leadership by focusing on local issues and seeking participation, inclusion and consensus. Anchored on shared values and common purpose, consensus is my core principle in serving our Flagstaff’s diverse communities and citizens. My extensive background in all levels of government, nonprofits, academe and enterprises here and from the Philippines are unique valuable strengths I bring to city leadership.
As an experienced mediator, I have facilitated parties with conflicting interests and diametrically opposed ideologies to sit down, work together and achieved win-win solutions. I offer these steps in building consensus:
1) Identify the root of the problem or issue.
2) Recognize underlying intentions and interests.
3) Explore options for solutions.
4) Agree on a resolution.
Open-mindedness, non-violent communication and emphatic listening are integral to consensus. In intense and emotionally-charged situations, I may ask for a recess and invite everyone to take meditative breathing and yoga stretches.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #12: How will you vote on the minimum wage proposition?
The disparity between the state’s and Flagstaff’s minimum wage is $3.50/hr by 2022 (Prop 414). An entry-level position costs an additional $7,000/yr plus taxes. It excludes public employees working for state or federal agencies or higher pay grades causing wage distortion.
Experience mediating labor disputes, I view wages with labor economics perspective. Over 90 percent of businesses are small businesses and struggle to stay afloat. Some shops closed, reduced operations or moved. Local nonprofits stopped or reduced services. Prop 414 results to lower take-home pay, underemployment, wage distortion, inflation, increasing costs of goods and services, businesses and nonprofits closing, downsizing or leaving Flagstaff. These are not indicators of economic vitality and vibrant community.
The pragmatic solution: adjust Flagstaff’s minimum wage to $0.50/hr above state’s rate. I support PROP 418. It will allow small businesses and local nonprofits survive and thrive in Flagstaff.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #11: What is the city's role in combating climate change?
Climate change is an issue requiring state, federal and international actions. The proposed City Climate Change Action and Adaptation Plan must be viewed with a local policy-making perspective: identify what, and how much, it will take to implement it. Community engagement, grants and private-public partnerships are integral in the process of adopting and implementing a local action plan.
The 2012 voter-approved $10 million bond funding the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project is a model environmental stewardship. Forest treatment efforts covering city, state and federal lands reduce the risk of wildfire and post-fire flooding in the Rio de Flag and Upper Lake Mary watersheds. Through partnerships, $5.2 million was raised in leveraged funding.
I also support updating the City’s Energy Code to encourage voluntary participation of property developers and builders to construct new buildings to be more energy-efficient to reduce greenhouse emissions. Sustainable practices in construction are essential to a thriving community.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #10: Looking back in the last two years, what is one thing you believe council did well or should have done differently?
Council’s goals are essential to community vitality. There are goals set beyond council’s authority requiring state and/or federal policy actions.
I would have voted to send the community-driven Flagstaff Open Space, Parks and Recreation initiative to the ballot to allow Flagstaff voters to decide on the need for a regional sports park to serve youth, adults, community and competitive tennis, soccer, little league and softball teams. The Flagstaff Open Space Program (FOSP) is underfunded. The City spends $11.74/ acre while robust open space programs invest $100/acre. To continue the preservation of natural resources, dedicated funding is needed for FOSP. (Unfortunately, the current council declined to send it to the November ballot.)
My top priority: advance economic vitality by growing and strengthening a resilient economy through balanced, planned, managed and sustainable growth. I support small business retention, tourism, new business development, workforce development, and local nonprofits; while protecting natural areas, open spaces and dark skies.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #9: What do you see as the future of economic development in Flagstaff and how can the city achieve this?
Strengthen Flagstaff’s industries, retain businesses, shop local, support nonprofits and create synergy for workforce development. Flagstaff’s thriving entrepreneurship is energized by our highly educated workforce, cutting-edge research and quality of life. Flagstaff can be positioned as Arizona’s virtual Silicon Valley. For businesses to thrive, remove barriers such as excessive bureaucracy and taxation.
Vital economic facts and figures:
• Key industries: manufacturing, astronomy, bioscience, craft brewing, digital/eCommerce, entrepreneurship, retail and tourism
• Arizona’s best-educated workforce: over 44 percent of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher
• Tourism/hospitality is a $563 million industry: 8,000+ employees, 5,000,000+ visitors/year, over $21.67 million in BBB taxes collected in 3 years
• Flagstaff is 14 times more specialized in biomedical manufacturing than any other city
• Flagstaff is a Craft Brew City with eight breweries, one distillery, and one meadery
The city’s ecological, historic and cultural assets can be leveraged sustainably to generate revenue for the community while preserving the past and protecting the environment.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #8: How do you feel about the number and location of parks in Flagstaff and what should happen to the old public works yard?
There’s a growing need for a regional sports park to serve youth, adults, community and competitive tennis, soccer, little league and softball teams. Current council declined sending the community-driven Flagstaff Open Space, Parks and Recreation Campaign to the ballot. It’s time for the private sector to step up through public-private partnerships. Such investment in recreation and sports will boost economic activity and revenue dollars that can be reinvested to the facility and recreation programs. There’s the multiplier effect on lodging, restaurants, attractions, and local shops too.
Flagstaff Softball Little League and West Flagstaff Little League had combined participation of 674 kids. The community sense of pride was resounding when Flagstaff Girls Softball Little League All-Stars advanced to finals. Adult softball leagues bring 400 teams with 15,000 players from the region.
The old public works yard may be re-purposed into a campground in addition to community gardens, trails and passive recreation.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Candidate Question #7: How do you feel about the current relationship between the city and the university and would you like to see it change in any way?
It’s imperative to perceive NAU as a community asset rather than a liability. It cannot be denied that NAU is an economic driver essential for our community.
NAU’s growth has impacted our mountain town. I listened and understand the frustrations of Flagstaff citizens who believe NAU’s aggressive growth cause traffic congestion, high-rise buildings and a higher cost of living for residents. It’s time for city leadership to take a proactive approach to growth at NAU, working together with citizens and the university to study the true impacts, positive and negative, and create a joint strategic plan to work toward solutions.
It's time to improve and build upon existing relations and communications between the City and NAU and work as partners in pursuit of community vitality. It's time to find areas of cooperation and foster synergy with NAU and its stakeholders on economic and workforce development, infrastructure, road and traffic management, sustainability, housing, safety and crime prevention.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #6: When have you changed your mind?
I’ve changed my mind on personal and professional commitments on situations when my continued commitment no longer served the parties or organization involved. I learned, as part of adulting, that thoughts and perceptions are not static and stagnant. The way I think, perceive and understand people, situations and issues evolve, as time goes by, with more information, data, research, discernment, and insights from experts and stakeholders.
Pursuing balance and pragmatism to serve Flagstaff’s diverse communities, my belief system and core values are anchored on cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude with the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. These virtues, ingrained in my consciousness, will keep me grounded on my commitment to serve our community. Maya Angelou’s wisdom also inspires me: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #5: With the first day of school just around the corner, the next question is education focused. How do you feel about the Red for Ed movement, how will you vote on the FUSD bond in November and what is the councils role in supporting local education in Flagstaff?
I come from a family of teachers in the Philippines. My grandma often told me, “Your lifetime inheritance is education, not wealth or property.” I earned my bachelor’s degree from St. Scholastica’s College – Manila which produced the country’s first woman president, President Corazon Aquino. I was later invited to teach at my alma mater as a college instructor.
My sons were molded by FUSD schools and teachers. Gian graduated from Flagstaff High. Kelly went to DeMiguel and Sinagua, now a senior at Coconino. I support education, teachers, and the FUSD bond. I will make certain there is a balance between the cost to taxpayers, teachers and students.
I will pursue for Council to signify quality education and workforce development as a policy goal and demand much-needed funding from the state and federal government. Also, seek grants and public-private partnerships toward this goal. This will be implemented by Intergovernmental Relations Program.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #4: Will you vote for the affordable housing bond on the November ballot? Why or why not? How should the money be spent on? If you oppose the bond, how should the city address the issue of affordable housing?
My heart says “yes” on Proposition 422 - Affordable Housing Bond; but the pragmatic side of me says “no”, listening to Flagstaff citizens. The need for affordable housing in Flagstaff is an imperative for decades. However, I’m concerned the proposed $25 million affordable housing bond nearly exhausts the city’s bonding capacity of $40 million for the next 20 years. Would landlords pass on the increases in property taxes to their tenants? What would the cost be for residential/commercial property owners? Affordable housing needs to be addressed. However, I’m not certain that a $25 million bond now is the answer. It’s important to pursue alternative solutions. I’m likely to vote no; however, I would consider voting yes if I could be convinced that bonding needs are met, including critical water infrastructure with the remaining $15 million, and that the cost do not place an excessive burden on property owners and tenants.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #3: In a non-partisan office, what is the place of council to weigh in on national and controversial issues?
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.
AZ Daily Sun Candidate Question #2: How well do you think the city of Flagstaff is managing growth and what could it do better?
The city is doing its best managing growth. The 2014 voter-approved Flagstaff Regional Plan sets the framework for development. However, in recent years, the city appears to be responding to rapid growth in reactive mode. It’s time to review the Regional Plan and identify what works and what does not. An example is McMillan Mesa Management Plan underway for the 2016 voter-approved “Greater Buffalo Park” protecting open space initially intended for housing development as stipulated in the Regional Plan.
AZ Daily Sun Question #1: What's the most important reason you're running for Flagstaff City Council?
I’m the only female and independent candidate for City Council. I’m a mother, a businesswoman and an immigrant living and thriving in Flagstaff for the last 12 years.The most important reason I’m running for office is offering my whole being to serve Flagstaff citizens and diverse communities. Born and raised in the Philippines, I bring diverse perspectives and wide worldview to the City leadership. My extensive background and experience in government, business sector, and nonprofits are unique values and capabilities: community development, policy research/analysis, legislative development and labor dispute mediation.
I pursue LIVE THRIVE FLAGSTAFF through pragmatic leadership. We live, thrive, grow, and evolve in Flagstaff in spite of the challenges we experience, whether we have lived here since birth, for 2 years or for over 20 years. I have the energy and ability to bring people together, discover, develop and seize opportunities that serve us and our communities.
CITY COUNCIL MEETING 6/12/18
I attended the City Council meeting on June 12 when they gave direction to move forward with the “$25 Million Housing Bond Measure” to get on the November 2018 ballot for Flagstaff voters’ decision. Next step for the Council on June 19, 2018 is to call the questions for the ballot, and adopt a council resolution. It was clarified that a council resolution is not required but is a best practice insofar as having one document to reference. The City Clerk and Attorney are tasked to draft the ballot questions.
As a Flagstaff resident for over 12 years, I spoke before the City Council and urged them to provide clarity to voters to be able to make informed decisions on this issue in the November elections by raising a few questions and points:
1) How much in property tax increase for residential and commercial properties? (There’s no iteration on the impact of this bond proposal on commercial property based on 5/29/18 Housing presentation)
2) Is there a clear-cut implementing mechanism and guidelines?
3) How will this bond impact rental properties? Will it result in rental rates to increase?
4) Please take a look at low-cost housing models in the US and abroad.
5) Explore public-private partnerships to address workforce housing.
It was edifying to listen to the varied perspectives offered by Mayor Evans, Vice-Mayor Whelan and Councilmembers Barotz, McCarthy, Putzova, Odegaard, and Overton. Councilmember Barotz noted there is lack of clarity and the initially proposed $35 million bond may exhaust the City's bonding capacity. Councilmember Overton mentioned it's bad timing and poorly written.
Members of the public who spoke up made significant remarks as well. I will continue to learn more about this imperative bond measure and how it will impact Flagstaff voters and stakeholders in short, medium and long terms.
There were other items on the agenda that were also discussed: ParkFlag, Urban Farm Incubator, Rethink Waste Plan and socially responsible investment.
PLAN, MANAGE SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
I believe it is City Council’s job to lead policy-making to plan and manage sustainable growth. The cost of living will also become an even greater concern than it is today. Rapid, unmanaged growth impacts our quality of life and the character of our mountain town suffers.
We need to find a balance through finding workable solutions allowing for reasonable growth that does not destroy the character of the city. Careful review of the Flagstaff Regional Plan is a good start. The plan was developed by our own citizens, and I believe it is time to take a serious look at the plan to determine what is working and what is not. Ultimately, it will be up to the citizens of Flagstaff to determine what their city will look like through their own participation at the ballot box.
Growth and development throughout the Flagstaff can be planned, managed and sustainable to advance economic vitality while maintaining the city’s character and preserving natural areas, open spaces and dark skies. I aim for balanced tourism, business retention/expansion, well-planned multimodal transportation, infrastructure development, road management, affordable housing, water conservation, and sensible alternative energy. The historic, cultural, ecological and outdoor adventure assets of Flagstaff can be leveraged in healthy and sustainable ways as an economic driver, thereby generating revenue for the community while celebrating the past and protecting the environment. This can be done by pursuing public-private partnerships, fostering synergy and cooperation among partners in the city’s growth including small business, local nonprofits, Coconino County, and Northern Arizona University.
If elected it would be my priority work with city planners, fellow city council members and other agencies like ADOT and NAIPTA to find workable solutions to issues that affect most Flagstaff residents such traffic congestion and flood control/prevention. It will also be my goal to listen to what all of the people want and need to thrive in Flagstaff, finding that balance of economic vitality and environmental sustainability. I invite you to come forward with your suggestions about how we can achieve the balance that I mentioned by offering positive and constructive options/solutions.
Minimum wage has become a problematic, divisive and polarizing issue in Flagstaff in the last couple of years. When Flagstaff voters approved a higher minimum wage increase (Prop 414) to that of the statewide legislated increase in November 2016, conflict arose and has created animosity within the community.
On August 21, 2017, the Greater of Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce’s website stated: “The motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Joe Bader against Elevate Flagstaff has been granted. The lawsuit, case number CV2017-0031 in the Superior Court for the State of Arizona in and for the County of Coconino, has been dismissed with a ruling that Mr. Bader did not have standing to bring this action in this case. The ruling ensures that The Sustainable Wages Act will be on the ballot in November 2018 and the citizens of Flagstaff will have a chance to vote on it. If passed, the ballot measure will alter the Flagstaff City Code to require employers in Flagstaff to pay their employees at least the minimum hourly wage as imposed by state law with an additional fifty cents per hour. Tipped wages will remain intact. This means that, given current state laws, the minimum wage in Flagstaff would gradually increase to $12.50 per hour by 2022. Mr. Bader (husband to Flagstaff City Councilmember Eva Putzova) intended to prevent the Sustainable Wages Act ballot initiative from being presented to voters. The Sustainable Wages Act is a voter-led initiative which collected nearly 6,000 signatures in a six-week period of time last winter. This initiative will prevent Flagstaff from having the highest minimum wage laws in the country.”
I have a master’s degree in labor and industrial relations (University of the Philippines) and mediated labor strikes in the Philippines. I worked in Philippine Congress as chief of legislative staff of the Chairman of the Committee on Labor & Employment, Vice-Chair on Trade & Industry, Banking & Finance, Energy, Rules, Ethics, Human Rights and Higher Education. This background guides my approach to wage increase with macroeconomics and labor economics perspectives.
Minimum wage is defined as “the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period” (International Labor Organization). “It is the lowest wage per hour that a worker may be paid, as mandated by law. The minimum wage is a legally mandated price floor on hourly wages, below which non-exempt workers may not be offered or accept a job” (Federal Labor Standards Act).
I sympathize with the clamor for increasing purchasing power and take-home pay. Low and middle-income Flagstaff residents contend with high cost of living, not just the minimum wage-earners.
I support the need of a comprehensive empirical study on the impact of minimum wage increase approved by Flagstaff voters in 2016. How local businesses and nonprofits have made shifts in operations/management to stay afloat? How many businesses and nonprofits have closed shop, on the verge to close, cut, or move operations outside Flagstaff? What percentage of minimum wage earners feel that their purchasing power/take-home pay have increased? What percentage of minimum wage earners have experience reduction in work hours? Take a look at the ripple effects such as invisible underemployment, wage distortion, compression and increasing cost of goods and services. Has Flagstaff’s economy improved? Is Flagstaff’ business climate competitive to adjacent towns?
I have heard from several small business owners who say they have been struggling to stay open. It’s painful to listen to a business owner in a situation to choose between keeping a home or a business. I have listened to many employees who make entry-level minimum wage plus tips that their take home pay has declined as their hours were cut, tips declined, and rent increased. Some have been let go. The community has seen local nonprofits ceased or reduced operations and services in Flagstaff. This is appalling as nonprofits are the lifeblood of the community as they fill in the gaps for community and social services, particularly the under-served sectors. These are anecdotal testimonies I have gathered in the last two years.
The disparity between the statewide minimum wage ($12.50/hr) and that of Flagstaff ($15.50/hr) is $3.00/hr. For a full-time employee, that one position will cost approximately an additional $7,000/yr. Then multiply that by the number of employees that will have to get paid this additional amount. This is the minimum impact on payroll. Other employees who are paid more than entry-level wages would also expect to have their hourly earnings raised to keep a gap.
Consequently, the City’s minimum wage that is 25% above the state’s makes Flagstaff no longer attractive to new businesses, uncompetitive with surrounding communities like Williams, Winslow, Holbrook, Tusayan, Page and Tuba City. In addition, Flagstaff is now considered to be the highest rent community in the state. A higher minimum wage by 25% more than the state will only make matters worse due to inflation and compression.
Some observations compare Flagstaff to California which is faced with extreme homelessness problems due to high cost of living. Do we want to do the same for Flagstaff? People already cannot afford to live here. When prices go up it’s the working class that get affected first and most. Small business is right behind.
So, I pose these questions and the likely answers I have gathered thus far:
1) Is Prop 414 resulting to wage distortion, compression, and the inflationary domino effect of a higher minimum wage above the state-approved? YES
2) Are layoffs, business reduction, relocation, and business closures indicators of economic vitality and healthy, vibrant business climate? NO
Based on all the foregoing statements, I am in support of a measure to adjust minimum hourly wage in Flagstaff as imposed by state law plus fifty cents per hour. It’s also imperative to explore other opportunities, ways and means that will improve purchasing power and take-home pay for Flagstaff’s workforce. Lastly, take into account business owners’ propensity to pay wages higher than the minimum to retain qualified, skilled and dedicated employees and even offer career growth.