2013 is over and 2014 has just begun. Like most people, I’ve been looking back on the past year and forward to the new.
For me, 2013 started off a bit slow on the Flagstaff City Council but ended very strong.
I admit, in the beginning of 2013 I was still learning how to navigate City Hall and after only six months in office at the start of 2013, I was still getting my footing on how to effectively accomplish the goals I had set to achieve and the progress many Flagstaff residents expected.
I am pleased to tell you that by the end of 2013 I feel that my footing is firmly grounded at City Hall and I am optimistic of the year to come.
There were many accomplishments in 2013 but some of note include:
Smarter development policies to help grow our economy. These include the Little America project, several parcels of land being re-zoned for development and the zoning code being amended to allow for concept zoning. An energy code that balanced cost and energy efficiency was also a huge success.
On the environmental side, after over 600 dead trees on private property, I led the charge to eliminate chemical de-icer on City streets. Two controversial parcels of land that residents wanted preserved for open space were preserved. In fact, in 2013 Council preserved more open space than any council in history, increasing designated open space by a factor of ten.
These two issues, development and the environment clearly show my willingness and a majority of Council’s ability to work together in order to get things done for Flagstaff.
There has been some frustrating issues that did not gain support this year as well though.
My resolution opposing two pages of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was defeated. Ending the policy of indefinitely detaining US citizens seemed like a no brainer to me. My attempt at a resolution regarding local food production has stalled and looks to be dead, an unfortunate victim of partisan politics.
My continued attempt at reigning in Federal spending didn’t gain a lot of support from my colleagues either but often times was recognized by residents of Flagstaff. These include voting against an $800,000 grant to replace perfectly good street signs and thrift shop startup money among many other questionable expenses. I plan to continue my attempt to send a message to Washington that we cannot continue to spend as we have been and expect a stable economic future.
A failure by Council to act to provide emergency funding to Flagstaff Shelter Services in order to facilitate their opening turned into an overwhelming success. After Council voted 4-3 not to provide $5,000 in emergency funding from the emergency housing fund from the City’s budget, individuals and the private sector stepped up raising nearly $15,000 in about a week.
On a very positive note, my campaign promise to go through the City’s budget line by line occurred. At the insistence of Mayor Nabours and I, a new budget process was created and will continue in 2014. Each department now presents to Council budget details. This has allowed us to find efficiencies that were often times over looked in the past. The result, funding towards our distressed streets has increased three fold.
The issue with our streets and other infrastructure represents another positive step and great hope in 2014. One of my goals and reasons for running for Council was and continues to be our infrastructure. It took about a year of continuously pointing out the need to address this issue. At one point I brought a piece of crumbled asphalt to a meeting as a reminder to my colleagues of one of our core functions, maintaining our streets. I am very optimistic that in 2014 our streets will begin to see a major overhaul.
2013 also saw the Regional Plan issue come to light. I have been pointing out since getting into office that the draft plan needed to be balanced. Hundreds of Flagstaff residents agreed and hundreds of sensible changes have been made. On January 14th Council will vote on the amended plan and I anticipate it will pass before going to the voters in May for final adoption. In my opinion the compromises reached by Council and many in the community in creating a more balanced plan is a perfect example that Congress needs to follow. Work together, compromise and find balance in policies that represent the entire Community, not just well connected special interest groups.
I will also continue to work with and expand relationships with our state representatives and other state office holders. I am currently working with Representative Barton, Thorpe and Senator Crandell to change the law regarding Regional Plans and voting inequity issues. I also look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Paul Gosar on forest restoration issues.
There are many other examples of successes and shortcomings in 2013 but for the sake of time I cannot list all of them. Overall I see Flagstaff moving in a more positive direction at the end of 2013 compared to the end of 2012.
There is much work to do in 2014. Over the coming weeks I will be releasing my 2014 Council goals. I have been asking constituents for ideas and thoughts and would appreciate input.
In 2014 I will continue to post all of my votes on my various social media outlets, which was another huge success in 2013 with tens of thousands of views. I’ll also continue my frequent public meetings, forums, coffees and weekly radio visits.
Finally, 2013 was a banner year for public participation. Week after week Flagstaff residents showed up at Council meetings to voice their comments and concerns. It has been the voice of so many Flagstaff constituents that has had the greatest impact on our Community.
I thank all of you for your continued hard work in ensuring Flagstaff has a bright future.
I wish all of you a safe, prosperous and Happy New Year.
Councilman Jeff Oravits