City of Flagstaff 2020 Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire

City of Flagstaff 2020
Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire

Council Member Charlie Odegaard


Q:  When sworn in as Mayor of Flagstaff, the City will be roughly six months into its 2020-2021 fiscal year.  To date, the current City budget has been negatively impacted by COVID19, and will likely be more largely impacted over the coming months with continued business operation restrictions, and reduced travel.        
What is your understanding of the current City budget and impacts on the City’s budget from COVID19?  Assuming there are budget shortfalls, how will you as Mayor of Flagstaff address these shortfalls?  

A: From my understanding, the city is in good shape financially as we ended the last fiscal year in the black, even with COVID. If we don’t get into a position of revenue growth, the only option is continued cuts. Unlike the county, we did not and will not raise taxes in time of COVID. City Manager Greg Clifton has been very proactive since November last year concerning the budget.

Q: What are the key economic drivers in Flagstaff, and what’s important to you when you think about jobs and the local Flagstaff economy?

A: The key economic driver that the city has been relying on is tourism. While tourism is extremely important, with COVID we have learned we need to diversify our economy. To get there, the city will be partnering with a master developer to take 30 acres of city-owned property at the airport for a business community development to diversify the economy with more medical-related business and manufacturing.

Q: What are your thoughts on housing in Flagstaff?  What concerns, and solutions do you have regarding housing within the City limits?

A: Housing is a huge issue for Flagstaff and always has been. It is a supply and demand issue. We are a very attractive community to live in. My solutions are an all above approach. We have to bring dollars to the table for infrastructure, hopefully, the City would receive some affordable units in exchange, to continue our work with accessory dwelling units the residential property owner to get rental income, and right now we are getting ready to put out a Request For Proposal to with a private entity to do a redevelopment of city-owned and managed properties.

Q: Thinking more specifically about City-developed housing, what is your stance on developing the City’s three-acre parcel at Schulz Pass and Fort Valley Roads, after the City reportedly spent $500,000 on infrastructure at the site?

A: I was the first councilmember to push back against the proposal. It should not happen for two reasons. First, three major gas pipelines go through the middle of the property. Second, it would destroy an iconic viewshed.

Q: Further along the lines of housing in the City of Flagstaff, what can/should the City be doing to improve housing affordability?

A: See the response in question #4. It’s a supply and demand issue and we need more supply of all kinds of housing.

Q: Recently public safety and specifically municipal police departments have come into question-related to how they serve and protect communities, and what their funding should be.  What are your thoughts on the City of Flagstaff Police Department funding?  Would you be advocating for increased police funding, in future budgets, to remain the same or alternatively directing current City of Flagstaff budget dollars away from the City’s police department for other services?

A: I would always advocate for more funding for police departments. Since I was elected in 2016, the Council has hired more officers, gave our officers a merit pay raise, we hired police aids and their pension is 100% funded without raising taxes.

Q: How would you describe the state of public safety in Flagstaff?  Do you have any current concerns?

A: I am currently concerned with the several shootings and related deaths that have happened recently. Also, we are seeing an increase in graffiti. Day one after I am elected I plan to see our police chief, city management, and community leaders to work towards rectifying the problems.

Q: Thinking about traffic congestion in Flagstaff, what are your concerns and solutions?

A: Traffic congestion is a huge problem and the city has to be proactive with partnering with other public agencies to get issues resolved as we did with the new fourth street bridges.

Q: Northern Arizona University is an integral part of the City of Flagstaff, regional, and state economies.  What are your thoughts on NAU’s role in Flagstaff, and further, how the City interacts with NAU? 

A: NAU is a $2 billion economic impact on our community. NAU since 2016 has been wanting to be partners with the community and we need to encourage that cooperation to resolve issues in the community that are university related.

Q: What are your thoughts about “climate change,” and what should the City of Flagstaff be doing about it (beyond the Climate Emergency Declaration)?  Will you advocate for any specific carbon related programs or policies, and if so, what are they? 

A: I voted for the Climate Action Adaption Plan (CAAP) in 2018 and it was a unanimous decision. We cannot get there on our own of working towards carbon neutrality, so we will have to partner with utilities, like APS, to help with our community desires.  

Q: What are your thoughts about the City’s current zoning code? 

A: There is not a lot we can do with the current zoning code because of proposition 207 concerns. When a rezone is asked for, the major hurdle is community benefit.

Q: What infrastructure needs face Flagstaff in the coming years?  Please be specific

A: The next big infrastructure for Flagstaff is the interchange for I40 and Lone Tree. I know we can get it done. We got the federal funding for the Rio de Flag Flood Control Project, I’m optimistic for the interchange.

Q: What opportunities do you see ahead for Flagstaff?  What will be your focus/priorities be when sworn in as Mayor? 

A: We have a great opportunity for diversification of our economy. We are a shopping hub of Northern Arizona and there is no reason for Flagstaff to not have Costco or Trader Joes. We need to partner with the hospital in their plans to expand medical services with the new campus. My focus will also be housing and public safety.

Q: Do you have anything you would like to add?  What is important for the business community to know about you that we have not covered in previous questions?  

A: As a small business that has been in Flagstaff since 1969, I understand the struggles of businesses especially as I sign the front of a check. When we expanded our business to Fourth Street after four decades in downtown Flagstaff, we had to hire an attorney to make the move because the regulatory asks of the city were so unreasonable and we won the case. As mayor, I would like to see a push to reduce regulations that hamper local businesses that want to grow and come to Flagstaff.

Paul Deasy, Mayor Candidate


Q:  When sworn in as Mayor of Flagstaff, the City will be roughly six months into its 2020-2021 fiscal year.  To date, the current City budget has been negatively impacted by COVID19, and will likely be more largely impacted over the coming months with continued business operation restrictions, and reduced travel.        
What is your understanding of the current City budget and impacts on the City’s budget from COVID19?  Assuming there are budget shortfalls, how will you as Mayor of Flagstaff address these shortfalls?  

A: My understanding of the budget is that since 2017-2018 the city has seen a decline and then a flattening in sales tax revenue. For FY 2020-2021, the city is forecasting an overall decline in revenues of about 6.4%. This revenue drop will mean the city will have to make cuts.
COVID-19 has caused a big drop in economic activity during the stay at home order, which has negatively impacted the city’s economy. Fortunately, in the Fall of 2019 city staff formulated a recession plan to enable the city to more quickly offset revenue declines during an economic downturn with cost-cutting measures. The Council adopted and implemented it in April 2020. The city is now in the ‘significant’ stage of the plan.
As Mayor, I will advocate that the Council address budget shortfalls by looking closely at what the city can live without. For example, the city should critically analyze existing consulting contracts and think very carefully about entering into new ones. I will advocate that the focus is on eliminating those expenses that are not directly related to providing the basic services that the taxpayers want and expect.   Professionally, as a government analyst, I have been through three major budget cuts and institution-wide transformations where I helped figure out how to create greater efficiencies with a fine-tooth comb. It’s back to basics for now at the City. That’s what it will take to maintain essential services for the community.

Q: What are the key economic drivers in Flagstaff, and what’s important to you when you think about jobs and the local Flagstaff economy?

A: Tourism/outdoor recreation, education, healthcare, and biotechnology are the fundamental economic drivers in Flagstaff. We must continue to promote these industries, but this economic model has left Flagstaff vulnerable to economic downturns. We should learn from the impacts of the pandemic by looking at what industries continue to expand amidst the crisis. We have a strong, qualified labor force in computing and data science, industries that continue to expand even during a recession. I think the city should focus its energy and resources on this sector of the economy to balance the current emphasis on more volatile segments of the economy like tourism. 

Q: What are your thoughts on housing in Flagstaff?  What concerns and solutions do you have regarding housing within the City limits?

A: We are seeing a lot of new construction now with new home prices out of reach for many. It’s disconcerting to me that the City Council still has not looked at amending the 2010 Incentive Policy for Affordable Housing. This policy is not working as intended because developers are, for the most part, not taking advantage of the incentives. In 2018, Vintage Partners asked for a $1.6 million rebate in engineering fees for Timber Sky, a request that was outside the parameters of the incentive policy. The council granted the request. At the time, staff recommended that Council re-examine the policy if it decided to grant the request but the council still has not acted. It’s quite clear that the most important thing the city can do is to come up with more effective incentives so we bring the housing development community to the table.
The city and the development community should work together to find solutions to the housing challenges in Flagstaff. I don’t think the taxpayers can or should be expected to provide all of the solutions.

Q: Thinking more specifically about City-developed housing, what is your stance on developing the City’s three-acre parcel at Schulz Pass and Fort Valley Roads, after the City reportedly spent $500,000 on infrastructure at the site?

A: I think the City Council should hit the pause button and allow the citizen initiative to place the question on the ballot of whether it should be open space or developed for housing. The City Council has been inconsistent in its direction.  Thousands of people have signed the petition to get the question on the ballot. Sometimes the best thing an elected representative can do is step aside and let the voters decide the best solution to a problem. 

Q: Further along the lines of housing in the City of Flagstaff, what can/should the City be doing to improve housing affordability?

A: We can’t create affordable housing through the government alone.  It is not fair to property owners and renters to place the burden of affordable housing solely on their backs.  We need to revise the 2010 Incentive Policy for Affordable Housing, which isn’t achieving the policy goals that Council intended when it was adopted. We need to seriously ask what would bring the development community to the table.

Q: Recently public safety and specifically municipal police departments have come into question-related to how they serve and protect communities, and what their funding should be.  What are your thoughts on the City of Flagstaff Police Department funding?  Would you be advocating for increased police funding in future budgets, remain the same, or directing current City of Flagstaff budget dollars away from the City’s police department for other services?

A: Over the years, our police departments have been asked to respond to all kinds of calls including those that are not really criminal in nature, including homelessness, mental health crises, and public intoxication. We’ve placed an almost unbearable burden on our officers to be experts on issues that they really aren’t trained to address, which makes the job of a police officer extremely difficult. I will support looking at strategies for how other professionals can play a role in police work so that our police officers are allowed to deal with criminal issues and social work and other related professionals deal with the non-criminal issues. This could lead to better outcomes for the public.

Q: How would you describe the state of public safety in Flagstaff?  Do you have any current concerns?

A: I think that Flagstaff should work towards transitioning from a retributive justice model to a restorative justice model. 

Q: Thinking about traffic congestion in Flagstaff, what are your concerns and solutions?

A: At the moment, I believe we have to allow the City to construct the projects that the voters approved in November 2018 when they passed Proposition 419, a “Continuation of Sales Taxes for Roadway, Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Safety Improvements” and proposition 420, “A Sales Tax for the Lone Tree Railroad Overpass from Butler Avenue to Route 66”.
Proposition 419 will fund new streets, widened streets, pedestrian and bicycle projects, safety improvements, and street operations, including but not limited to, traffic signal technology. To accommodate vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, and buses, new and widened streets will be proposed to be built as “complete streets”. 
Proposition 420 will fund the construction of a new bridge connecting Butler Avenue to East Route 66 over the railroad tracks at Lone Tree Road and a new traffic signal at the connection with East Route 66. The overpass will have multiple lanes, sidewalks, bike lanes, and a Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS) trail. Connections to the pedestrian and bicycle Santa Fe Trail along East Route 66 will be made. Local street connections under the Overpass will also be completed.  

Q: Northern Arizona University is an integral part of the City of Flagstaff, regional, and state economies.  What are your thoughts on NAU’s role in Flagstaff, and further, how the City interacts with NAU? 

A: NAU is a major economic driver in Flagstaff. Unfortunately, however, it seems that the communication between the City Council and the NAU Office of the President has broken down. It’s important that the City Council consider how to restore this relationship.

Q: What are your thoughts about “climate change,” and what should the City of Flagstaff be doing about it (beyond the Climate Emergency Declaration)?  Will you advocate for any specific carbon-related programs or policies, and if so, what are they? 

A: Cities can be part of the climate change problem; they can also be part of the solution. One thing the City Council could do that it really hasn’t done much in the past is to lobby the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to regulate carbon emissions and support alternative energy.  Flagstaff can’t do this alone so we should organize with other cities to put pressure on the ACC to create meaningful change.

Q: What are your thoughts about the City’s current zoning code? 

A: I think most people don’t understand the City’s zoning code. I think it’s a very complicated code that has proven to not always reflect the values of the residents.

Q: What infrastructure needs face Flagstaff in the coming years?  Please be specific. 

A: In the coming years, Flagstaff will have to figure out how to ensure we have adequate landfill space. This could be an even more urgent issue since, as of last year, China stopped accepting much of the recyclable waste from the United States, which means it’s now taking up very valuable space in our landfill.  Our landfill won’t last indefinitely. Figuring this out will be expensive so we should start planning sooner rather than later.  

Q: What opportunities do you see ahead for Flagstaff?  What will be your focus, priorities, when sworn in as Mayor? 

A: We have many opportunities to improve communication and transparency in City Hall.  We only have one newspaper, with limited coverage of local politics and city operations. As mayor, an area I want to focus on is more effective communication from the Mayor’s office. One of the most common complaints I hear from many people is that they don’t know what Council is doing. Even our engaged citizens are not receiving responses to their concerns and questions about city policies from our elected leaders. In addition, I want to prioritize passing a Council Code of Ethics and establish disclosure rules, so city council decisions are much more transparent.  I also want to get the discussion going about how to create meaningful incentives for affordable housing.

Q: Do you have anything you would like to add?  What is important for the business community to know about you that we have not covered in previous questions?  

A: It’s important for the community to know:

  1. I am an effective communicator and have experience leading, directing, and facilitating meetings. I am an effective meeting chair, which is a critical role of the mayor. Anyone can announce the agenda items to the public, the council and staff, but not everyone has the leadership and communication skills to lead a productive discussion and make sure that everyone listening understands what the council discussion was about. This is a skill set that many underestimate/overlook when thinking about who to elect as mayor, but it is quite important and should be considered.
  2. I earned two master’s degrees – one in political science and the other in economics, and as a government analyst, my job is to use data to inform policy recommendations for leadership. I’m an analytical thinker and have experience with economic downturns in government and understand how to create greater efficiencies in government operations. 

%d bloggers like this: