Monday, April 20, 2009

Community Plans May Have New Rules

There are two communities currently ready to submit their Community Plans for approval by the county board of supervisors -- Paulden and Williamson Valley. Both have been working on their plans for several years. Several other communities are either in the process of revising their community plans or are about to begin.

The broad changes proposed in the Power Point presentation, the text of which is reproduced below, given on Monday, April 13th at the joint session of the county planning and zoning commission and the board of supervisors by development services director Chad Daines would change the rules in a dramatic way. These changes were for discussion only and the county will take public input before moving forward on adoption. We thought you'd like to see where the community planning process might be headed. Any questions or comments you might have should be directed to your supervisor and Mr. Daines.

Community Plans

Board of Supervisors
Planning and Zoning Commission
Joint Session – April 13, 2009

Community Plan Overview

• Community Plans are an extension of the General Plan and provide a detailed long-range plan for an area in terms of land use, open space, transportation and water resources.

• State Law mandates that the Board of Supervisors is responsible and has a duty to adopt and maintain the General Plan and by extension Community Plans.

• ARS 11-821.A “The commission shall formulate and the board of supervisors shall adopt or readopt a comprehensive long-term county plan for the development of the area of jurisdiction in the manner prescribed by this article.

• Over time, community groups have become progressively more involved in the formation of community plans (and amendments), as well as more involvement in the management of the process

• Although community involvement in the planning process is critical and integral to the success of a plan, a number of issues have evolved which necessitate clarification and possible amendment of the process

• As the Board is ultimately responsible for the adoption and amendment of the General Plan, direct County management of the community plan process is imperative and essential

Current Issues

• Lack of step to ensure County agreement in concept to the scope or goal of the plan or amendment

• Lack of clear goals of community plan or amendment

• Lack of step to ensure adequate staff resources are available to administer the process

• Lack of step to ensure plan or amendment is supported by majority of residents

• Lack of step to ensure process is inclusive, representative and transparent

• Lack of prioritization of proposed amendments in relation to other communities [sic] needs

• Lack of separate process for County initiated amendment and community initiated amendment.

• Lack of compliance with overall General Plan and State Law

• Limitations on community group financial participation for professional services, mailings and process administration

• Lack of compliance with expanded number of Elements required by State Law (Current: Land Use, Open Space, Transportation, Water Resources. New: Energy, Growth, Environmental and Cost of Development)

Proposed Process Changes

• Community groups to submit proposed conceptual plan or amendment goals for initiation by BOS with P&Z recommendation

• Clarify County’s direct role in process management

• Analysis of availability of staff resources to support proposed plan or amendment prior to initiation

• Prioritization of proposed plan or amendment in relationship to other communities [sic] needs for plan or amendment

• Establishment of requirement to file petition signed by 51% of residents to show broad support for the amendment (community group requests only)

• Establishment of amended citizen participation requirements to ensure inclusive, representative and transparent process

• Establish separate County requested plan or amendment process

• Require cost sharing from community groups for community requested plans or amendments

• Require community plans meet County General Plan and incorporate all elements required by State Law

County Request Process

P&Z recommendation and Board Initiation

County assembles Community Advisory [Community Input]
Committee, completes community assessment,
conducts community survey

Community Meetings and Draft Plan Formation.
Plan Revision and Finalization

Planning and Zoning Commission Public Hearing [Community Input]
and Recommendation

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing and Decision

Community Group Request Process

Community Group files request and petition for
P&Z recommendation and Board Initiation

County assembles Community Advisory [Community Input & Financial Cost Sharing]
Committee, completes community assessment,
conducts community survey

Community Meetings and Draft Plan Formation.
Plan Revision and Finalization

Planning and Zoning Commission Public Hearing [Community Input]
and Recommendation

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing and Decision

[Musings: I can't help but wonder if these proposed sweeping changes have anything to do with a pending lawsuit against the board of supervisors, which in the interest of full disclosure I must say I initiated on behalf of Friends of Williamson Valley, Inc. It has since been taken over by Williamson Valley Community Organization, Inc. I believed then, and we still believe, the board is not following their own General Plan. We seek legal clarification as to whether these General Plans, mandated by state law, are simply guidelines that can be trotted out or ignored at whim or whether there is a more binding obligation to follow them. A hearing at the state court of appeals for this action is scheduled in Phoenix for May 20th so the timing is worth noting. The full text of the complaint will be posted here shortly.

It also occurs to me that these strong-arm tactics concerning community plans may be a way of gaining more control over "troublesome" communities as the 2010 census is underway and redistricting imminent. Political eyes are certainly looking ahead to the 2012 election when there will be five supervisors and a whole new configuration of voters in Yavapai County.

This shift from community-based planning, which I believe should be the intent of any General Plan, in favor of top down government initiated/controlled planning for communities needs to be monitored. Our elected officials and their staff work for us and when creating plans that will ultimately dictate how our money will be spent, those who will live with the results of these plans should have the greatest say.]

Friday, March 20, 2009

Urgent Need

Prescott Area Women's Shelter (PAWS) urgently needs food providers for evening meals. You may bring a hot meal, serve it and stay to join in the meal, or you may prepare a dish and simply drop it off. PAWS also would appreciate bagels and cream cheese, fresh fruit or any other healthy snacks. The meal can be delivered between 6:00 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Snack items can be delivered at the same time. PAWS is located at 336 North Rush Street in Prescott, which is off of Sheldon, just west of Yavapai College. If you wish to add your name to a list of regular meal providers that would also be greatly appreciated. You can call and leave your information at 928-778-5933 or send an e-mail to

Friday, March 6, 2009


You know what they say. "Be careful what you wish for!" Well, I wished for a book contract so I could get back into my writing career after a year and a half on the campaign trail and now, here it is. So for about four months I will be working on a new edition of my bestselling book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organizing Your Life and won't have a lot of time to contribute here. But I'll be watching in the wings and probably have a few things to say between now and when the manuscript is due in early July. I'm also planning on having some guest bloggers fill in for me, so things won't be totally dark.

Thanks for bearing with me while I pursue some gainful employment for a few months and I hope you'll continue to take an interest in all things Yavapai County and in Yavapai Central.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some Answers

In a comment to my last post "Not This Year" JulieG asked the question:
"I would be curious just how much of the capital expenditures on correctional facilities (jail, juvenile) results from unfunded mandates thanks to the federal govt."

Yavapai Central posed the question to all three district supervisors, county administrator Julie Ayers, and Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh. So far we've received two replies, one from Sheriff Waugh and one from District 2 Supervisor Tom Thurman.

First Sheriff Waugh's reply:

The mandates to have a Constitutional Jail and the necessary capital expenses associated with that are based in Constitutional Law (Cruel and Unusual Punishment), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act and the U.S. Supreme Courts interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

All of these focus on treating individuals humanly and the elimination of dungeon type prisons and jails. There are numerous Federal Mandates in our business that require resources whether it be people or things and the Federal Government never proportionately provides funding. However, we receive numerous Federal Grants but most are not tied to capital expenses; but if we did not maintain our Jail Facilities and meet other Federal requirements those Grants would not be available.

Overall the County, by State law is required to build jails and therefore the cost associated to them are borne solely by the County not the Feds. Although jails are expensive to build, it is a one time cost. The real problem is the shortage of money to run them – the annual operating costs. That is where we are presently suffering and will continue to suffer unless significant monies are taken from the General Fund or elsewhere which means many of the entitlement programs for citizens would have to disappear!

In reality the Federal Government is headed to a Socialistic environment so I know that no entitlements are going away and even more are in our future. Therefore, the costs of operating jails and building them will not get any better and therefore we are back to the point of Julie G’s question –“Who is going to pay”- it is you and me not the Federal Government!!!!

And second a short reply from Supervisor Thurman:

ACLU seems to mandate many things and we let them on fear of law suits!

If we get in any other replies we'll post them for sure! Thanks for the question, JulieG.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Not This Year

Neither the jail tax nor the county complex of new buildings is going to happen this year, county supervisors decided on Monday. An increase in the jail district excise tax is being put off to avoid competition with a tax increase sought by the City of Prescott and to ensure a “win” at the ballot box. The capital improvements program is being scaled back and delayed because of the economy and a new commitment by one of the supervisors to a pay-as-you-go capital improvements program.

Thurman first apologized for not asking Sheriff Steve Waugh to weigh in on the jail tax timetable. Sheriff Waugh said he favored a September 2009 timeline, but said whatever the board decides is up to them. He added “it’s a crap shoot no matter when we do it whether it’s in September or whether it’s in March, whether it’s in May…September would probably be my choice.” But ultimately, said Waugh “I defer to you folks.” He emphasized the need for preparation, advertising, who the voting public would be at each possible date, and which would yield “your highest possibility of success.”

District 1 supervisor Carol Springer said emphatically that she doesn’t want the jail tax and the City of Prescott’s bid to raise their sales tax on the same ballot.

“I kind of have changed my decision,” said Springer and cautioned against “trying to compete with them [the City of Prescott] for obviously limited taxpayer dollars.” She asked to take the discussion off the table “until Prescott makes its decision and then we can kind of go from there.”

District 2 supervisor Tom Thurman agreed, citing spring 2010 as the earliest likely date.

District 3 supervisor Chip Davis spoke out strongly in favor of the tax and said he wished it had passed in November.

“I want the increase to pass,” said Davis, and he emphasized the importance of conveying the right message to the public so they vote the tax in. “I sincerely, sincerely, sincerely hope we can convey to folks the necessity of doing this…More than anything I want to win…I want the increase to pass.”

Davis said for the tax increase to pass the best course would be to wait for the economy to turn and not compete against other entities looking for taxpayer dollars.

“This investment is really long-term. We need to start saving our capital funds right now for what is going to probably be a 40 or 50 million dollar facility.” He supported taking it off the table for a little while and advised the others to “keep our ear to the railroad track and see how the economy is doing.” He added, “When we do it we need to win.”

Board chairman Thurman said that although the board had decided to put off seeking the increase they should continue to “campaign” for it throughout the waiting period.

If there was agreement on the jail tax deferral, there were fireworks instead just moments before when the board discussed the county’s capital improvements program.

Strong disagreement arose between Supervisor Springer and Supervisors Thurman and Davis when the firms hired to do the site engineering and design for the juvenile detention facility at the Prescott Lakes Parkway location made their presentations.

Thurman billed the actions as a “quick and painless way to start” with the juvenile detention center being the only building they would go forward with at this time. It has a projected price tag of 15 million dollars.

Supervisor Springer revisited the action taken by the other two supervisors at the last board meeting to return the 50 million dollar loan she and Thurman had voted in last year. The lease-purchase agreement was to be used to fund a large county complex of buildings at the Prescott Lakes site.

“The two of you decided at the last meeting to turn that loan back,” said Springer. She added that they had not taken into account the interest the loan money was earning when they expressed concern over the interest payments of $26,000 a week as a reason for returning the loan. Chairman Thurman later called on county administrator Julie Ayers to clarify the composition of the current weekly payments and Ayers said the $26,000 “did include an offset for the interest.” The loan allowed for a three-year period of interest only, one of which has already passed. In two years the payments would also have included principle as part of the payments and go up substantially.

Thurman expressed concern over the county’s ability to make the loan payments, interest plus principle, in two years if the economy has not recovered. “It’s going to be a huge burden for the taxpayer in Yavapai County to have to keep that 50 million dollars,” said Thurman. “I can’t build administrative buildings and have them half empty and have to go back to our departments and tell them they have to cut funding and we’re going to have to start laying people off.” Thurman said he has heard it could easily be four years before the local economy could see a real recovery.

After laying out what she believed to be the county’s reserves Springer went on to say “I’ve worked hard these last 4 years, as you have, on this program. I think it’s absolutely necessary to have this capital program go forward but you put me in the position of having to choose between having Yavapai County remain in a solvent financial position or choosing to go forward with the capital program. So I can no longer support a capital program of any kind,” and admonished the other two supervisors “you are putting Yavapai County in a very precarious position and I can’t support it.”

Springer’s math went something like this:
$15 million in the capital projects fund
$7 million in the contingency fund
$50 million in the lease-purchase agreement (loan) for 20 years at a 4.45% fixed rate

This totals $72 million that had been earning interest. The county has already spent $15 million of the $50 million loan, so the $15 million in the capital projects fund would be spent in the repayment of the loan would leave us with the $7 million contingency fund money. The juvenile detention facility is projected to cost $15 million. Springer contends all the revenues coming in from county sales tax would be going into this one building project.

Thurman argued that the county does have the revenue stream to pursue a pay-as-you-go approach to the juvenile detention center. The plan he and Davis are supporting would mean that engineering and design services would go forward, which Thurman estimated would take approximately a year, and then the board could evaluate whether the funds were available to begin construction early next year.

“We do have this revenue stream, 30 percent, to pay for a lot of these items,” said Thurman but he added “We don’t know where we’re going to be January or February of next year.” Thurman added that if the economy hasn’t come back by then his recommendation would be to shelve the plans. He added that he couldn’t go along with pursuing the original building program, which included two administrative buildings.

Springer again insisted that by turning back the loan and using cash on hand to fund the scaled back building program would mean “we’ll have no reserve at all.”

“We can afford it. That’s not going to be a problem,” countered Thurman, adding the county may have to make some sacrifices in its regional road program to implement the plan.

Supervisor Davis agreed with Thurman. “It’ll be a phased process” of engineering, then design, said Davis adding the county will watch the economy while going through that process. “We won’t pay the whole lump sum tomorrow. I think that’s one of the misconceptions,” said Davis.

He also laid out the county’s finances, which differed from Springer’s accounting by 12 million dollars and pointed out that the 30% set aside from sales tax for capital improvements should generate about 4.2 million dollars a year and over 5 years would move the building program forward.

“We’re not throwing darts at a board to figure out what our decision making process is… We can stop anytime. Davis reasoned that paying $41,000 a week on interest is like paying an employee a year. Yavapai County has historically paid for buildings as they went by taking the capital available and applying sales tax as you go. This philosophy, said Davis “puts us on a slow, progressive stable movement forward.”

Thurman concurred, “I think that revenue stream is there.” He also stressed the importance of having the plans for the juvenile detention facility ready to respond when the economy does come back and that the cost of doing those plans now would be less than it might be in a better economy.

The juvenile detention facility as currently being discussed would have 80 beds and be expandable to 120 or even 160 beds.

To hear an audio recording of this meeting click here (Internet Explorer only).

[Musings: When supervisors present different numbers for existing funds and projected revenues it's, in a word, confusing. There seems to be a lack of preparedness, misinformation or perhaps both when two supervisors present widely divergent financial figures at a meeting. Members of the board often lament the fact that because of state statutes regarding open meetings the only time they get to confer is at public Board of Supervisors meetings. Well, it's also the only time the public gets a regular (or should we say "irregular") accounting of how the board is spending its money. How about a simple finance report each month for the benefit of both the board and the public given by county administrator Ayers listing how much money we have in the bank and revenues for that month? Make it clear, make it simple, make it for general consumption not for members of the finance department. Perhaps that would eliminate some of the confusion for all of us.]

Monday, February 2, 2009

Supervisors to Consider Jail Tax Again

The county supervisors will again revisit the Yavapai County Jail District Excise Tax, this time as an Action item, at tomorrow's regular meeting in Prescott. According to the published agenda they will "consider establishing a timeline proposing the levy of an additional" tax. The current tax stands at 1/4%.

The vote on raising the tax a 1/4% to a total of 1/2% could be on the ballot as early as the September 1, 2009 election and as late as the November 2, 2010 election, with the September date being the one most discussed so far. Deadlines that needed to be met to have the tax on ballots coinciding with the March 10th or May 19th elections have already passed. In order to be ready for the September ballot a "call for election" must be made by May 4th, 120 days prior to the election date. Also on the ballot in September will be the City of Prescott mayoral and city council races and possibly a vote on Prescott roads and open space issues.

A hearing for consideration of the Planned Area Development (PAD) amendment to allow the expansion of the Granite Gate Assisted Living and Intermediate Care Facilities has been deferred to the March 2nd Board of Supervisors meeting.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Price Water?

Dr. John Danforth of Prescott delivered the following paper at the Verde River Awareness Day panel at Prescott College this past Wednesday night. In addition to being a consulting economist, Dr. Danforth is the former director of research of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and former associate economist of the Federal Open Market Committee. Dr. Danforth is also the treasurer of the Citizens Water Advocacy Group.

Questioning the Economic Case for the Big Chino Pipeline
Remarks By
John P. Danforth, Ph.D.
Danforth & Company, Consulting Economists

As an economist, I tend to think about issues like preserving the flow of the Upper Verde in terms of the choices or tradeoffs pursuing this objective entails. While some folks might oppose any action that could harm the environment and some might be totally indifferent to adverse environmental impacts, I believe most of us fall somewhere in between those two extremes.

For those of us occupying that middle ground, if potential adverse environmental impacts from the pipeline are negligible, then the pipeline could make sense even if the expected economic benefits of the project were modest. Yet if potential environmental costs are significant, then the prospect of substantial economic benefits would seem to be required.

Pipeline supporters have claimed the economic benefits of completing the Big Chino pipeline are so substantial they would outweigh any plausible environmental costs associated with the project. However, some members of the public are skeptical of the economic case for the pipeline advanced by its proponents. Indeed, I personally question whether the pipeline project can be counted on to yield any economic benefits for the average current resident.

To date, the only support I’ve seen for the claim that local residents will benefit economically from completion of the pipeline is a report commissioned by the Central Arizona Partnership. This Report, prepared by Elliott D Pollack & Company, purports to show that completion of the Big Chino Pipeline would have enormous positive economic impacts on our area.

As it turns out, however, the Pollack Report is fatally flawed. It exaggerates positive pipeline impacts, ignores important negative economic impacts, and in the end, provides absolutely no reliable insights regarding whether area residents or local governments would benefit economically from the pipeline project. And I’m not alone in my assessment. Three independent critiques of the Pollack Report are posted on the CWAG website. In addition to my detailed comments, you’ll find similarly damning critiques by Dr. William Kendig and by Sidney Moglewer. Consider just a few of the Report’s more egregious failings discussed in those critiques:

First, the Report includes the positive economic impacts of spending $175 million to construct the pipeline, but it ignores completely the negative economic impacts resulting from the fact local citizens must reduce other spending to pay for that pipeline construction through increased taxes and/or water rates and fees.

Second, the Report’s fiscal impact analysis is based purely on government revenues and ignores completely the cost of government services required to support the population growth and commercial activity from which these revenues are generated.

Third, the Report completely ignores significant risks associated with the project, such as the risk that litigation substantially delays or prevents water importation after we’ve sunk substantial dollars into the project; or the risk that monitoring wells reveals significant pumping impacts and substantial amounts of money have to be spent to mitigate those effects; or the risk that population growth falls far short of expectations, requiring existing residents to increase materially the share of pipeline costs they’re obligated to pay.

And fourth, even if everything goes as planned, the Report provides no support for the conclusion that most current Prescott and Prescott Valley residents and business owners will share in any economic benefits resulting from water importation. For instance, doubling Prescott’s size certainly would increase local economic activity and would make some folks richer. Yet the report provides absolutely no reason to believe most of us would benefit economically from that population influx.

Based on these and many other serious problems, it’s clear to me the Pollack Report grossly exaggerates the positive economic and fiscal impacts of building the Big Chino pipeline and provides virtually no support for the claim that current citizens of Prescott and PV would, on balance, benefit from completion of that project.

Of course, I suppose some would argue you don’t need a fancy study to prove that the pipeline would have a positive economic impact on local residents. Building the pipeline certainly would
permit faster population growth, and isn’t it obvious that faster population growth increases the economic well being of local residents?

The answer to that question may surprise some folks. In fact, claims that increasing population growth can be counted on to provide economic benefits for the average citizen or that increasing population growth can be relied upon to enhance local government finances are just plain myths.
If you’re interested in a comprehensive debunking of these myths, I encourage you to read Eben Fodor’s classic treatise Better NOT Bigger. But for the time being, let me offer a few facts that I believe shed some light on this issue.

First, let’s look close to home and consider the most reliable publicly available indicator of the economic well being of an area’s individual citizens, namely per capita personal income. During the period 1980 through 2006, the rate of population growth in Yavapai County ranked 37th out of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States. Yet despite the fact that our County’s population grew faster than nearly 99 percent of US counties, average personal income of Yavapai County residents grew much more slowly than the average for the US as a whole. As a result, the ratio of Yavapai County per capita personal income to the national average per capita personal income declined from .86 in 1980 to just .73 in 2006. And while only about a thousand US counties had higher per capita personal income than our county in 1980, over 1,650 counties had higher per capita personal income than Yavapai County in 2006.

Moreover, Yavapai County’s experience of relatively rapid population growth and relatively slow per capita personal income growth is not an exception. Between 1980 and 2006 the average increase in per capita personal income in the fastest growing 10% of US Counties was 4.2% less than the average increase in per capita personal income in the slowest growing 10% of counties, all of which had actual population declines during this 26 year period.

A similar story emerges from an examination of the relationship between population growth rates and unemployment rates for US counties. The average rate of unemployment over the period 1990 to 2006 in the 10% of US counties with the fastest rates of population growth was 5.9% higher than the corresponding average unemployment rate in the 10% of US counties with the slowest rates of population growth (all of which had population declines of at least 10% during this time period).

And what about claims that population growth contributes to the fiscal health of municipalities? The most direct evidence addressing these claims of which I am aware is a compilation of more than one hundred “cost of community services” studies conducted by the Farmland Trust for cities located throughout the United States. A 2004 survey of the 103 “cost of community services” studies conducted during the prior dozen years revealed that the median cost of serving the needs of residential development exceeded by 15% the revenues generated by that development.

Now, don’t be tempted to read too much into these facts. They do not imply most of our citizens or our local governments would necessarily be harmed by the pipeline project. But they could be. Both of my grandfathers were carpenters, and I take very seriously their advice to measure twice and cut once. The Big Chino pipeline project is an enormous undertaking, and we should not proceed based on unsubstantiated assertions about the need for our communities to continue their historical patterns of growth. The devil is in the details, and we really ought to complete a careful, unbiased investigation of those details before rushing to impose potentially huge financial obligations on our local residents.

[Photo of Granite Creek flowing into the Verde River courtesy of Bobbi Wicks]