Hello, and welcome to the all new edition of the Flagstaff Chamber’sadvocacy newsletter, from the desk of the Government Affairs Director, me, Mike Sistak. This newsletter will be a bi-weekly publication keeping Chamber members and the Flagstaff community-at-large informed of the pro-business lobbying efforts here in the pines, down in the Valley, and across the country at our nation’s Capital.
I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Flagstaff for welcoming me back to my home state, and I extend an offer to our members to reach out to me with any tips, suggestions, or concerns about local, state, and federal issues you may have. I can be reached at the office at 928-774-4505, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Thank you to our luncheon sponsor for making this event possible:
At the Corner of Aspen and HumphreysIn mid-July, the Flagstaff city council wrapped up their session until September, but considered items of great importance to the Flagstaff Chamber before they did.
The Flagstaff Chamber staff was in attendance at the weekly meeting to urge council to support the 2014 Dew Downtown event, consider an alternative to the 2012 international energy code, and support local businesses through a local preference point system for city contracts.
The Dew Downtown event, scheduled for next February, is a chance to showcase the splendors of our city by hosting a Snowboarding event in the center of town which is a very unique winter sports attraction. Coupled with Winterfest Flagstaff, Dew Downtown helps generate significant revenue for our restaurants, stores, and hotels through bringing visitors from across the West to our community. Council approved the plan to close sections of San Francisco Street for the event and accompanying festival. The Chamber will be working closely with the city to build on the success of the 2013 event.
The council also decided to vote against the 2012 version of the international energy code, and instead adopted the 2009 version as a compromise. The 2012 version would have added up to $4,300 to the cost of building a new home in Flagstaff, a proposition that the Chamber could not justify when we already sit at 144% of the national average for housing costs making it very difficult for first time homebuyers or those recently out of foreclosure to achieve their dream of home ownership. We support the 2009 version, however, as it will reinforce the Chamber and City’s commitment to sustainability without adding so many burdensome costs to building a home here.
The Chamber has been advocating for several years now for a local preference in awarding city contracts for construction and professional services. We moved one step closer to that goal being realized as the city council considered language that would stress that every effort be made by city staff to award contracts locally. More work is ahead for the Chamber to represent local service professionals and contractors when we advocate for specific criteria that would further benefit our businesses as the assessment of this proposal is considered by the city.
Taking Action on Forest Health in Arizona
In July, Senator Flake introduced legislative bill S. 1300, the Stewardship Contracting Reauthorization Act of 2013. The Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce stands in full support of this bill.
The purpose of S. 1300 is to give the United States Forest Service (USFS) a vital tool in preventing wildfires that have severely devastated our state in recent months and years. Currently, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) here in Northern Arizona is a prime example of forest stewardship contracting that is used by the USFS to help thin overgrown forest areas and clear out the heavy undergrowth of vegetation and dead foliage that cause fires to spread more quickly.
The current authority that the USFS operates under to enter into stewardship contracts expires at the end of the current federal fiscal year, September 30, 2013. The Forest Service can only continue to do so by an act of Congress. Currently, this legislation has strong bi-partisan support among western senators. Our own Senator John McCain has joined with Senators Michael Crapo and James Risch (Idaho), Dean Heller (Nevada), and Max Baucus (Montana) to help shepherd the bill to passage.
S. 1300 must first be considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining, of which Senator Flake is a member. It would then advance to the full Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, before debate and consideration by the full Senate.
The citizens of Flagstaff are already heavily invested in forest health. In last fall’s elections, voters overwhelming passed a $10 million bond to help thin forests in our immediate area, in conjunction with the current 4FRI project. The Flagstaff Chamber believes that our community should reaffirm its commitment to forest health by supporting Senator Flake’s bill. That is why last week the Chamber, in partnership with Mayor Nabours, Flagstaff Forty, and the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona, sent a letter of support to Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and John Barrasso (Wyoming), the chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining, urging their support for Senator Flake’s bill.