Over the last several weeks I have published a number of my perspectives on the various issues facing our great city. I hope this gives you insight as to how I will represent you on the Sedona City Council.
As I’ve been out campaigning for a seat on the Sedona City Council, walking neighborhoods and talking with people, I’ve encountered a few questions that I hadn’t directly addressed in my campaign materials. These questions have been about Jordan Lofts, San Jose Pension Reform, and lessons I’ve learned as a Mayor’s Chief of Staff.
On 7/6/2021 the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Commission heard a request to change the Future Land Use Map in conjunction with the Jordan Lofts project. Changing the Future Land Use Map is an early technical step in a long public process for some zoning changes. Staff was not requesting a rezoning decision, but the action was clearing a process step. Staff made a convincing case that the parcel would be best suited for higher density residential use, especially multifamily residential, of which there is a severe shortage in Sedona. P&Z voted 5-2 to approve the Future Land Use change. I voted with the majority. Ultimately, the Future Land Use Map was not changed because the request was withdrawn before it came to the City Council.
I voted for the Future Land Use Map change to encourage innovative projects to come forward. I am committed to helping solve the housing crisis that Sedona faces. We need to reverse the decline of our full-time resident population. We need housing options beyond expensive single-family homes. We need smaller homes, multifamily homes, and long-term rental units. Creative proposals for mixed-use projects should be welcomed. We need more families, local workers, and full-time residents in our community to keep it thriving and to help support the resident-oriented businesses we desire.
The 7/6/2021 P&Z meeting was also a Conceptual Design Review of the Jordan Lofts proposal. Conceptual Design Reviews are intended to solicit early feedback from the public and P&Z Commissioners and are not decision-making opportunities. Most of the community members who wrote or spoke at the review expressed concerns about the Jordan Lofts project. P&Z members heard the community, had their own concerns, and reflected them in many comments to the developers. My comments, as well as those of my colleagues, expressed skepticism that the project would deliver the workforce housing and other community benefits the developers were promoting. It seems that the developers concluded their project wasn’t being favorably received, withdrew their application, and are working on another project that does not require P&Z approval.
The second question I’ve been asked is to provide more context and detail about the fiscal and pension reforms we implemented in San Jose. Sedona has never faced the crisis that confronted San Jose, partially because of good budget policies and practices, and partially because public sector pensions in Arizona are managed by the state, rather than the city as they are in San Jose. I’m resolved to keeping Sedona financially healthy.
I began working as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff in January 2007. We were quickly confronted with the 2007-2008 financial crisis that enveloped our nation and the world. San Jose faced the fiscal crisis with added stresses from budget shortfalls caused by a series of poor decisions in previous administrations. One factor was rapidly rising pension unfunded liabilities, which imposed an unsustainable demand on the city budget. During the crisis every city department faced budget and staffing cuts, including police and fire. Libraries and community centers were shuttered. San Jose faced a service level insolvency that had the potential to destroy the community. There were many difficult decisions that had to be made, and pension reform was one. It’s no surprise that city employees and their union bosses didn’t want to make the necessary changes. But the voters did, and in 2012 they approved pension changes with 69% approval. Of course, that wasn’t the end of the story. In California, major decisions are met with litigation, and years of courtroom drama and employee negotiations ensued. Some of the changes were rolled back, some remained intact. The bottom line is that an insolvency crisis was avoided, and pensions became more sustainable. San Jose pensions aren’t yet out of the woods; only exceptional future investment returns will save the day.
For more background on the pension crisis San Jose faced, refer to the San Jose Auditor Report 10-10, September 2010: “Pension Sustainability: Rising Pension Costs Threaten the City’s Ability to Maintain Service Levels – Alternatives for a Sustainable Future.”
Finally, as I reflect on eight years serving as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, I remain impressed by the number and diversity of issues that crossed my desk each day. Addressing them required seeking input from staff and outside experts, engaging with many interested and concerned residents, and working to build a consensus with council colleagues, all within the bounds of open meeting laws. Thankfully, I was supported by caring and dedicated professionals. It was an eye-opener, coming from the private sector and working mostly with engineers, to working with a huge diversity of learning and working styles. I adapted and learned. You listen when others around you point out flaws in your thinking and help you see and learn new things. Public policymaking is not for the faint of heart, and experience matters. I have never worked as hard and long as I did in those eight years, and I enjoyed almost all of it. It was the most meaningful work I have done in my life, and I’m proud to have served the mayor and people of San Jose.
Pete Furman’s Answers to Red Rock News Questions for Sedona City Council Candidates.
Published June 10, 2022 in the Sedona Red Rock News
- How long have you been living in Sedona? I first visited Sedona in 1986, and moved here full-time in March of 2018 with my wife, Lisa Voss.
- What do you or did you do for a living? I began working as a mechanical engineer in Phoenix in 1986. Later, I founded a high-tech manufacturing company. In 2007, I began a second career in local government, serving eight years as Chief of Staff to the Mayor of San Jose, California. I am currently retired.
- Where in Sedona do you spend the most time? I spend most of my time in Sedona biking on our roads and trails, or in meetings at City Hall.
- How else have you been involved in the Sedona community [other than running for office]? I’m a Sedona Planning and Zoning Commissioner and a member of the Sedona Police Pension Board (the PSPRS). I served on City Workgroups that considered the merits of Home Rule and reviewed the City Budget. Last year, I received the City of Sedona Commitment Award for “dedication and unparalleled expertise and for advancing the betterment of Sedona.” I also help repair local trails with the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition.
- What do you believe are the most important values to Sedona residents? I believe residents value community involvement, volunteering, caring for our beautiful environment, and enjoying the wealth of artistic and cultural resources we have in Sedona.
- Why are you running for City Council? I’m running to improve the quality of life for Sedona residents, protect our environment, and maintain local control of our budget process and laws. My governing principles include honesty, fiscal responsibility, and open government. I care about our future, and have the experience, knowledge, and energy to help guide its direction.
- What are Sedona’s top 3 issues right now? The top three issues for Sedona are traffic congestion, proliferation of short-term rentals, and a lack of workforce housing.
- What do you feel is the City Council’s biggest responsibility to the residents? The biggest responsibilities of Council are to establish both long- and short-term objectives and priorities for our city, to hold regular meetings, and to hear requests and concerns from the community.
- How do you plan to work with six other council members when coming to a consensus? I plan to build trust with fellow council members by having a thoughtful and collaborative presence during council meetings and in public. I will learn about issues, prepare for meetings, treat everyone respectfully, and listen to colleagues and the public.
Pete Furman’s Essay for Red Rock News (750 word maximum). Submitted on 5/20/22 to Kyle Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m Pete Furman, candidate for Sedona City Council. I’m running to improve the quality of life for Sedona residents, help protect our environment, and maintain local control.
Talking with residents and business owners, I hear fears and concerns about a declining quality of life. People cite negative forces like traffic congestion, high housing costs, and strangers filling our neighborhoods. They believe that short term rentals (STRs) have decimated the availability of rental housing, causing workers to leave. Crowded restaurants, slow service, and rising prices are common. Trailhead parking is difficult, and trails are overcrowded and trashed. Irresponsible ATV operators damage the environment and cause noise and congestion problems. Everyone suffers as our doctors and teachers move away. Residents blame overtourism, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.
While we can do more, I believe city and community leaders are working to improve our quality of life. But public policy issues are difficult because our many needs and desires pull in different directions. And the process is darn slow. Improving quality of life takes time, money, and effort.
In Sedona, tourism funds most of the city budget. Our challenge is to use tourism tax revenues to solve needs of residents and the local businesses we depend on. Managing tourism and mitigating its negative impacts on resident quality of life has become essential. City, Chamber, and Forest Service leaders all play vital roles. It’s important for residents to participate in Sedona’s budget process because that’s where city officials decide how to improve our lives and spend available revenues.
If elected, I will be laser focused on improving quality of life. I’ll seek to increase residents’ understanding of the budget. I’ll track our traffic, STR, and housing efforts, and will ask for outcome-based measures to gauge progress. I support the Sedona In Motion (SIM) projects. I believe unregulated, commercially operated STRs are mini hotels using state-protected loopholes, and don’t belong in our neighborhoods. I believe workers, families, and retirees all enrich our community. I want more teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, city employees, artists, and hospitality and service workers living in Sedona. We can’t solve everyone’s needs for housing within city limits, but we’ll do what we can and work regionally to encourage more supply.
My attention will also be on protecting our environment. Sedona’s Climate Action Plan is a significant body of work. I support it. Government has a legitimate role in advocating for and modeling good choices. Water and fire issues are particularly crucial. Flood protection, water supply and quality, conservation, and reuse will get my attention. As will fire prevention, risk reduction and preparedness, and evacuation planning.
Another key focus is local control, which means Home Rule. I’ve studied Home Rule and its impact on our city budget. I presented to Council about it. I support Home Rule. Maintaining local control also means working with state legislators who understand that local leaders know what’s best for their communities and need flexibility implementing state laws.
Through experience, I’ve learned to work with the public, elected officials, and city staff. I understand how local governments set policy and I enjoy the public process. I’m energized, and ready to work for Sedona’s residents.
Interview With Sedona City Council Candidate Pete Furman
Sedona Election News: The following is an interview with Sedona City Council candidate Pete Furman. All council candidates have been invited to answer specific questions in relation to their positions and candidacy.
See the full interview at: https://sedona.biz/interview-with-sedona-city-council-candidate-pete-furman/