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Archive for March, 2016

Conflicting Party Ordinance Talking Points

March 28, 2016 Leave a comment
By Elisha Dorfsmith

The Flagstaff City Council will be revisiting their recently passed party ordinance on April 12th at their 6:00 pm work session at City Hall. This may be our last chance to institute changes to the ordinance and if you have concerns I strongly encourage you to attend this work session and make your voice heard. If you cannot attend, please send council an email. You can email the entire Flagstaff City Council at council@flagstaffaz.gov

I will be speaking at this work session but I have also emailed council several times with additional concerns. Below is an email I sent today talking about the Flagstaff Police Department’s conflicting talking points.

“Mayor and Council,

As you know, the Flagstaff Police Department recently conducted a series of meetings with students and concerned residents to discuss Flagstaff’s recently passed party ordinance. I attended these meetings and while I found Flag PD to be open to listening to our concerns, I also found that they seem to be pushing a lot of conflicting talking points. 

At our first meeting a Daily Sun reporter quizzed us about why we were opposed to the new ordinance since it takes away some criminal penalties and makes them civil. She said students should be thanking Flag PD for making their lives easier. I said the better question is how will this ordinance help Flag PD if it is all about making student’s lives easier. After all, Flag PD says they need this new ordinance to help break up parties. Flag PD responded that the reason it is better is because they can now go after property owners. 

With this in mind, pay close attention to the Flagstaff Police Department’s presentation on April 12th. As of March 9th they told us that no property owners had been cited. Yet, they will be at council touting the success, so far, of this ordinance. They will even be showing you a video of them breaking up a party. If it is the same video they played for us, you will see a crowd quietly and respectfully dispersing. You will see no citations issued. You will see a small amount of litter on private property but something I suspect would be picked up the next morning. Simply put, you will hear Flag PD touting the success of this ordinance while showing proof that 3 officers can peacefully break up large parties without using the ordinance. 

Of course, that video is not reflective of all parties in Flagstaff. As of March 9th, 95 civil and 22 criminal citations had been issued under the new party ordinance. What Flag PD could not tell us was how this measured up to the same time period in previous years. Would those violations have equated to 117 criminal citations? Or would there still have only been 22 criminal citations with no civil citations? We need to know because of the possibility that the vague language of this new ordinance is casting a wider net on the civil side. 

I hope you will join me in looking for clarification and answers to these questions at the April 12th council work session.

Thanks for your time, 

Sincerely,

Elisha Dorfsmith
Flagstaff”

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Video: Civil Asset Forfeiture Hearing At AZ State Capital

March 25, 2016 6 comments

By Elisha Dorfsmith

Today I had the opportunity to talk with LD6 Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe about yesterday’s hearing in the Arizona House Government and Higher Education Committee on Civil Asset Forfeiture reform. I have endorsed his reform bill in previous posts on my blog and have been anxious for it to start moving forward.

Unfortunately, I learned today that committee chairs are still refusing to allow this bill to advance. This is largely due to push back by prosecutors and police groups who profit from confiscating property and cash from people who are not convicted or even charged with a crime.

Below is the entire video of yesterday’s hearing. It is very eye opening and worth listening to. After watching it, one thing is very clear to me, we need an even bigger push for these reforms next session. We need to get this bill passed and signed by the governor.

 

 

November Election Date Turns Local Council Races Partisan

March 20, 2016 4 comments

By Elisha Dorfsmith

During last year’s City Charter campaign I strongly argued against the option to have the Flagstaff City Council election on the same date as the state and national general election. While the alternative was not perfect (spring of odd-numbered years) I felt it was better than having City Council races on the same ballot as the President of the United States.

My biggest fear at the time was that having the City election on the same cycle and same day as other high profile races would turn the local non-partisan contests into partisan battles. Local candidates would be competing against congressional and state races for air time and press with some advertising going to the highest bidder. The cost of campaigning would be much higher for Council candidates than in past years.

This would lead to local candidates being forced to raise more money and piggyback on volunteers who are working on large scale campaigns for Democrats and Republicans.  There would be a big incentive to turn what used to be local independent races that focused on local problems, into large scale campaigns that distract from the issues locals really care about. Additionally, political parties and outside dark money groups would certainly have a bigger influence in the City as they started pouring cash and resources into the local elections.

Unfortunately, the charter change to move the election date to November won by a landslide and it appears that my biggest concerns are now starting to come true. Last week former “independently minded” candidate Jim McCarthy announced he was running for City Council as a Democrat. His campaign signs even say “Democrat for Flagstaff Council”.

The days of local issues oriented, non-partisan Council races are no more and we are all worse off because of it. At a time when more and more voters are running away from the party system and shedding (R) and (D) labels, Flagstaff seems to be running in the opposite direction.

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The above post by McCarthy was posted on Facebook a couple days ago.

Mayor’s Rational Vote On The Hub Wins My Support

March 3, 2016 1 comment

By Elisha Dorfsmith

I have purposely avoided discussing the Hub student housing project and other projects like it on my blog because these projects do not really fit the focus of what my blog is all about. People can support or oppose different developments in the City and still be on the side of liberty. There are a lot of good pro/ con arguments out there on the Hub but I think it is finally time for me to step out of the sidelines and share my perspective.

The Hub is just the most recent in a long series of highly emotional and polarizing issues before the Flagstaff City Council. It is also one of the most misrepresented issues (intentionally or not) by local media, certain council members and activist groups voicing their opposition to the project.

Those yelling loudest would have people believe that voting against this project’s rezone will stop the development. I have been arguing with a lot of people on social media trying to explain to them that this is simply not the case. If a project is being built in a location it is already zoned for, the Flagstaff City Council has no say.  City Staff look at criteria set in the Zoning Code and Regional Plan and if it meets that criteria, the development is a go. If people don’t like that, my argument has been to work to change the code and Regional Plan.

Last night Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours issued a statement explaining the facts as they stand in very simple terms that everyone should be able to understand. Being able to cut through the emotions and focus strictly on the reality of a situation shows a clear head and is one of the things I really respect about Nabours.

Governing based on emotions makes for poor governance. Nabours has proven to be a rational thinker that considers much more than just feelings when he makes a decision. The Mayor’s stark contrast to his campaign rival Councilmember Coral Evans earns him my vote for a second term.

You can read the Mayor’s full statement on the Hub below:

“I had promised to post current issues and explain my point of view and votes. I want to share my insights into the background of last night’s Hub Vote:

Yesterday’s city council meeting ended with a vote that may have been confusing to anyone who may not have the full background.

I want to give some background: At the council meeting last night the city council was faced with two options:

(A) Option A would be for The Hub to build a 65 foot high apartment complex. They already have the zoning for that. They do not need city council approval;

(B) Option B would be for the Hub to get a partial zoning change that would allow them to build a much more attractive project. Option B was developed after months of meetings between Core and Flagstaff residents and city staff.

When the council met last evening to address the zoning request, there were only those two choices. We listened carefully to the hours of public comment and it became clear that the most of the public wanted council to deny ANY project. Not building anything was not a council option. This was explained several times by the city staff and the city attorney.

There was some argument that Core did not have the required zoning. The city attorney said they do. Bottom line is, Core can build on that property with or without a zoning change.

The regional plan was approved by the voters of Flagstaff in 2013. That plan specifically identifies this location as an urban activity center with high density housing and walk-able shopping and restaurants. The planning and Zoning commission voted 6-1 to recommend approval to the city council.

A zoning change would allow them to make the project more appealing (by everyone’s standards). It has allowed the city staff to sit down with them and ask for concessions . The project with the zone change will be less tall, have a bottom floor of retail shops and have more attractive facing and windows. Plus, the city is getting over $1 million in utility repairs and parking contributions from Core.

The vote of the four (Nabours, Oravits, Overton and Brewster) was a vote for the city to get the best possible product, given the circumstance that the city cannot outright disallow the project.

Evans, Barotz and Putzova’s vote was not a vote to stop the project, it was a vote to allow a less desirable project. Their “no” vote (to deny the rezoning) is to tell Core to go ahead and build the project under their current zoning, without any concessions.”

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