Austin Aslan for City Council

 

PRIORITIES: What three specific issues will you bring forward to the City Council if you are elected (What are your three main priorities)?

  • Sustainable + Smart Growth
  • Affordable/Workforce Housing, and
  • Public Safety
 

CITY COUNCIL CRITIQUE: Among City Council decisions in the last 24 months, what is one decision that you support and one that you were disappointed with and why?

I was disappointed in the Council’s approval of Mill Town as proposed. Although expanded walking and biking options are a benefit, we have seen from the progression of the Hub how high-density student housing on municipal land leads to problematic parking/ traffic crunches, and overburdens our already-stretched police and fire resources.

I supported the Council’s prioritization of climate readiness and sustainability planning and its science-based study of transportation and affordable housing options to place before voters.

 

EXPERIENCE WITH CITY GOVERNMENT: Please describe your experience serving on City boards, commissions, or task forces and describe your involvement so far in shaping City-level policies.

I grew up in Arizona, but lived in Sacramento, California for nine years, working as a professional, church-basement community organizer, empowering locals to work alongside city government to make changes important to them and their families. I personally had a seat at the table shaping the direction of city policies, including writing policy drafts. I closed notorious liquor stores, renamed school and county properties to better reflect the community’s values, placed a measure on the ballot to better fund youth jobs and gang prevention efforts, and collaborated with the police department to bring an innovative “Cease Fire” program to Sacramento.

 

NAU: Are you satisfied with the relations between the City and NAU? What are some areas for improvement?

I have observed deepening strife between the City of Flagstaff and NAU over the past several years, and believe improved relations are essential for sustainable development within the City. NAU’s growth is motivated by financial pressures from ABOR, but Flagstaff’s long-time residents bear the consequences of clogged traffic, overworked safety officers, and sacrificed historical neighborhoods. I believe the City should demand that NAU adequately support its student population with increased transportation options, strict vehicle limits, traffic infrastructure, and public safety officers, as well as adopting a more neighborly attitude toward sharing sporting and other facilities with city residents.

 

WATER: Do you support or oppose having our limited local water resources be taken into consideration when planning for growth and development in Flagstaff? Why?

I absolutely support it!!! We live in the arid Southwest, but much of our development and many of our residents (including students) fail to keep that in mind when they use water resources. We absolutely must consider water conservation as a top priority when any growth and development is approved. The City already works to verify that new developments can claim 100 years of water availability, but those calculations rely on snow-pack that we know is becoming increasingly unreliable. We must err on the side of caution. This is a matter of survival for our City and way of life.

 

WATER: Do you support or oppose recycling reclaimed water for drinking? Why?

I would love to support this, but I question the trade-off of striving to use reclaimed water as potable water. There remain many issues and emerging concerns with contaminants in reclaimed water. I think a better approach would be to focus on the availability of reclaimed water for every other use, especially outside uses including yards and gardens and restoring riparian corridors. That should be the priority, but along the way we should be open to revisiting the science of converting reclaimed water to drinking water as it gets safer and less energy-costly and more viable in the public eye.

 

HIGH OCCUPANCY HOUSING: What additional solutions do you have to the challenges related to dormitory-style (high-occupancy) housing developments such as the Hub?

If I could, for now, I’d place a moratorium on further high occupancy housing developments. We suddenly have plenty. Yet Flagstaff has neither the transportation, parking, or public safety resources to support these developments. I will push NAU to house more of their students on campus. NAU only houses 40% of their enrolled population! Meanwhile, some 13,000 students are off campus. That puts a lot of pressure on local affordable housing! It’s aggravated when traditional student houses are more profitable in the VRBO or Airbnb markets. NAU needs to be using their land and resources to house these temporary residents.

 

HIGH OCCUPANCY HOUSING

Supports:

  • Providing incentives for affordable housing units within HOH developments
  • Sustainable building practices including renewable energy and water conservation
  • Placing limitations on parking spaces for HOH developments near transit
 

CLIMATE CHANGE: Would you support or oppose updating the city’s Energy Code so that new buildings must be built to be more energy efficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Why?

Climate change is already impacting our region. Our droughts are more extreme, our forests more flammable, and our snowpack less reliable, impacting our public safety and future water resources. Climate change will bring a wave of new settlers to Flagstaff as climate refugees flee southern Arizona over the coming decades. This is a critical problem affecting our future quality of life and impacting Flagstaff’s character and resources. I strongly support an update to the City’s Energy Code and requiring that our community take immediate responsibility for our contribution to climate change and do what we can to mitigate it.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE: How high of a priority is implementing the City’s new Climate Action and Adaptation Plan when approved?

It’s an essential, urgent priority. I have a master’s degree is in Conservation Biology, and I am the recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. I understand the authenticity of the threat posed by climate change. Our community, our future resource availability, and our environment which gives Flagstaff such high quality of life are all at risk. Implementing the new Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is absolutely essential. The Plan is being developed with input from the top climate and sustainability scientists in our region and represents the kind of forward-thinking pro-activity our City, region, state, and world require.

 

COST OF LIVING: What strategies or policies would you propose to address the high cost of living in Flagstaff?

Flagstaff’s high cost of living threatens our long-term families, single residents, and our service industry. As a community, we are economically reliant on tourism, yet many of the employees in our hotels and restaurants and other hospitality establishments are unable to afford living here. Additionally, our families, senior citizens, teachers, and public safety officers face enormous economic challenges and are often forced out of town as a result. This is a threat to Flagstaff’s very DNA. Elsewhere in this survey I further discuss my support of this year’s ballot measures which do their part to address these issues.

 

WASTE: What do you propose to move our community towards zero waste targets?

My responses above and below reflect my compass needle bearing with respect to this question. I will seriously consider any strategies we could successfully implement in order to bring Flagstaff closer to zero waste targets. Some additional thoughts, here: I realize the state of Arizona has refused to allow plastic bag bans within towns in Arizona, and I believe Flagstaff should challenge this, from the standpoint that such ordinances place more control in local hands, an expressed value of our state leadership. I also propose we explore new recycling opportunities, now that our city recycling has reduced its acceptable items.

 

TRANSPORTATION TAX – ROAD/PED/BIKE/SAFETY : Do you support or oppose a sales tax increase for roadway, pedestrian, bicycle, and safety improvements at outlined in Proposition 419?

It is clear that we require additional transportation resources. Flagstaff’s rate of growth is not matched by its transportation infrastructure. Traffic, parking, and safety are all impacted and can negatively influence our quality of life. I therefore do support Proposition 419. We must make headway on addressing these problems.

TRANSPORTATION TAX – LONE TREE RAILROAD OVERPASS : Do you support or oppose a sales tax increase for a Lone Tree Railroad Overpass from Butler Avenue to Route 66 as outlined in Proposition 420? Why?

I support Proposition 420 as an important step toward alleviating traffic congestion. HOWEVER, I’m very sympathetic to critics who worry that more roads simply induce more driving which eventually exacerbates the overall problem. I happen to agree and I think new roads should be the last option in an integrated approach to traffic management. I would like more info that actually shows the overpass would not induce more driving, and while on Council I’ll always ask for proof that any development project is solving our quality of life issues and not simply streamlining further growth for growth’s sake.

TRANSPORTATION TAX – TRANSIT: Do you support or oppose a sales tax increase to expand frequency and times of service for transit as outlined in Proposition 421? Why?

Making public transit a desirable option is an important part of transforming our community into a model of sustainability. People require public transportation to be available where they are and when they need it. I do support Proposition 421, as part of my prioritization of sustainability.

ATTAINABLE HOUSING BOND: Do you support or oppose a bond to pay for new affordable housing, rehabilitation of existing affordable units and homebuyer assistance as outlined in Proposition 422? Why?

I’ll vote yes on Prop 422. Had I been on Council, I would’ve supported placing it on the ballot. Housing affordability is the number one concern residents share as I campaign, and voters deserve this opportunity to be heard. This is an existential threat to Flagstaff’s DNA, and it “hits home” at every economic level. I have friends with PhDs who just moved to Montana because they could never afford a home here. Our educated young families shouldn’t be forced to move. And our workforce shouldn’t feel compelled to live outside of town and commute to their jobs.

SUSTAINABLE WAGES ACT: Do you support or oppose a new minimum wage law that would repeal the provisions of Proposition 414 passed in 2016? Why?

I do not support the disingenuously-named “Sustainable Wages” Act, and will vote no on Prop 418. The proposition passed in 2016 should be given a chance to prove itself worthy or not. If it turns out to be problematic, we can make adjustments, but let’s wait to judge its effectiveness until we have adequate, local data. I understand businesses feel stretched by the new laws, but I’ve observed other mountain/tourist communities around the West lose their service workers and suffer economically. We must make it possible for the foundation of Flagstaff’s economy—its workers—to live within city limits.

FUSD: Do you support or oppose the FUSD bond? Do you support or oppose the FUSD Override Renewal? Why?

As the Red4Ed movement demonstrated so clearly, our schools are desperately underfunded. They serve our children and families and are critical for ensuring a prosperous future in Flagstaff. We need to produce educated, civic-minded students. I support both the FUSD bond and override renewal. It is my belief that the full community benefits and prospers when education is made a top priority. Research shows that such an investment generates returns in the form of safer, cleaner communities and reduced healthcare and safety net costs.

CCC: Do you support or oppose the continuation of CCC bond spending to support programs and curriculum? Why?

Particularly given the dramatic escalation of public university costs in Arizona, a high-quality alternative that can provide education to our citizens and prepare them for the workforce is essential. When I attended Arizona’s public universities as an undergrad, I spent less than a thousand dollars a semester. My children are likely to spend ten times that much, at least. This is a financial strain that every Arizona family anticipates. We must support our CCC bond spending.