Stop The Crony Capitalism In Flagstaff

By Elisha Dorfsmith

Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours ran a very aggressive mayoral campaign against crony capitalism last year. He was known on the campaign trail for continually ranting against the failed policies of previous administrations and saying that the City of Flagstaff should not be in the business of picking and choosing winners and losers in the private sector.  During his campaign, he focused on three specific failed public/ private business experiments: The Auto Mall, Horizon Airlines, and the Aspen Place / Sawmill project.

In contrast, mayoral candidate and Flagstaff Councilman Al White ran an equally aggressive campaign demanding government involvement in all aspects of private enterprise. White was hailed by his supporters as a great Keynesian who realized business could not survive without government help.

The difference between the two candidates was very clear and while it cannot be said that all voters chose Nabours for this one issue, it’s safe to say that many did.  It’s also a fact that most of us who campaigned non-stop for Nabours considered his opposition to crony capitalism one of the main reasons we worked so hard to get him elected.

Last Tuesday, while Flagstaff residents prepared to watch national election results trickle in, the Flagstaff City Council was busy plotting to bring more crony capitalism to Flagstaff. In a 6-1 vote (with Councilman Jeff Oravits dissenting) The council chose to move forward with phase II of the Flagstaff Business Incubator NACET.

Oravits explains the issue in detail on his blog in a post titled Council Votes To Subsidize Select Flag Start Ups:

“I was not satisfied, to say the least, with the responses to various questions I posed during the meeting (watch video Item 14A). When I asked why the last contractor pulled out of the project, who was to build and fund the facility, I was told the company pulled out because they could not attain financing for the project due to the fact that the clients the incubator would serve were not credit worthy. It appears the Flagstaff tax payer is going to step up and subsidize businesses that may not be able to receive traditional funding. In other words, the Council has decided to invest your tax dollars into businesses that the private sector has largely passed on.”

I watched the video of Item 14A and and could not believe what I was seeing. The usual cast of characters (many who have also been begging for city tax dollars for the non-profits they all work for) pushing the council to throw hundreds of thousands of City dollars into pet business projects.

Wayne Fox, who created economic impact studies for NACET, refused to answer questions as simple as how much money total had been put into the incubator to create the 128 new jobs he proudly claimed NACET had created. He also could not answer which companies or firms had received assistance through NACET.

Refusing to answer simple questions like those throws up a lot of red flags for me. I got the impression that many of the speakers in support of phase II of NACET will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Before he voted, Mayor Nabours explained that many businesses and members of the public resent NACET. It’s not as popular as you think, he said. He referenced his past opposition to government involvement in choosing winners and losers in the private sector. He brought up the Flagstaff auto mall and said he sure hoped this project did not turn out to be a similar disaster. In short, he made the case for why he should vote no and then strangely voted yes.

When I work to elect candidates I make sure they know full well that I plan to hold their feet to the fire if and when they are elected. When Nabours voted for crony capitalism last Tuesday he betrayed the trust of those of us who voted for him and expected him to stick to his campaign promises.  I encourage my Flagstaff readers to contact the Mayor and remind him of why you supported him and how you feel about his vote for this project.

On the other hand, be sure to thank Flagstaff Councilman Jeff Oravits for not being afraid to be the lone voice of reason on the council.

You can find contact info for the Flagstaff City Council HERE.

  1. Carl
    November 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    shock & awe, a liar in Flag politics. he talked a good game in the campaign.
    Thank you Councilman Jeff Oravits. character is hard to find anymore.

  2. ghost
    November 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    maybe he’ll explain it to the tea party. or have they been totally absorbed by the gop.

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