Jim McCarthy for Flagstaff 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)?

1. Review zoning code
2. Citizen participation
3. Affordable housing, jobs

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

I am disappointed that the council majority represses public participation. Examples are the new requirement for 25 signatures for citizen petitions, and four council votes to put an item on the discussion agenda.
Council made the right decision when it denied the Hub zoning request (although only after a citizen petition forcing a super majority). If council had approved the request, it would have secured some concessions, but it would have allowed the massive five story Southside project. With the denial, the appeal process will weigh explicit zoning code intent “to ensure that proposed development is compatible with existing development.”

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 served on the Flagstaff Planning and Zoning Commission for six years. I worked collaboratively to improve projects before their approval (e.g. adding conditions for the new Greyhound Station) and voted against bad projects (e.g. the cell phone tower in La Plaza Vieja neighborhood “needed” by NAU students, and the golf course expansion at Little America).

I served on the city Water Commission for five years. I stood for lower rates for those that conserve water. I was instrumental in protecting our drinking water supply from snowmaking at Snowbowl. I recently served on the Coconino Community College Citizen Review Panel.

CAMPAIGN FOR A GREATER BUFFALO PARK BALLOT INITIATIVE: Do you support or oppose the ballot initiative to protect the city-owned lands on McMillan Mesa as a park? Why?

I circulated petitions for the Greater Buffalo Park Initiative because I support the proposal. Because of Buffalo Park’s central location, magnificent views, and opportunities for contemplative recreation, it is critical that this valuable open air land be preserved for the people of Flagstaff. If the measure fails, the city council will be able to sell the land for development.

FLAGSTAFF NEEDS A RAISE BALLOT INITIATIVE: Do you support or oppose the ballot initiative to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15/hour over 5 years? Why?

Flagstaff voters should have the chance to enact this measure. Higher wages would put more money in the pockets of families trying to live on an unrealistically low wage, which would improve the overall economy. The negative effects would be offset by a more stable workforce and reduced training costs.

I worked at the minimum wage in 1968 to support my wife and son. It was essentially impossible. Adjusted for inflation, that wage would be 10.90/hour now. With that rate, and an annual inflation factor of 6.6 percent for five years, it would yield $15.00, which is reasonable.

WATER 1. Do you support or oppose having our limited local water resources be taken into consideration when planning for growth and development in Flagstaff? Why?

Water resources are a limiting factor for growth. In the short run, we are in pretty good shape. But in the long run, things are less certain. As we make long-term land use and zoning decisions, we should consider the availability of sustainable water supplies.

I have advocated to increase the consumption part of our water bills to boost conservation. This will also increase revenue to replace failing infrastructure and to create a revenue stream for future water infrastructure, including new wells. Once considered liquid trash, reclaimed water will become increasingly valuable.

WATER 2. Do you support or oppose accessing water from Red Gap Ranch to meet future water needs? Why?

Our community needs to decide if we want to supplement supplies with other sources like Red Gap Ranch. The estimated cost translates to roughly $5,000 per Flagstaff resident, to get lower quality water. Federal funding, higher hookup fees, higher taxes, and partnerships can be problematic. Before we authorize construction and after the costs and possible funding methods are determined, there should be a public discussion. It may be that conservation measures (low flow toilets and showers, rainwater harvesting, less lawn, etc.) may be more attractive in the near term, even if we need expensive supplemental supplies in the future.

DORMITORY-STYLE (HIGH OCCUPANCY) HOUSING 1. Would you support or oppose re-evaluating the zoning code to ensure that new development is compatible with surrounding neighborhoods and historic areas? Why?

Reviewing the zoning code is one of my key goals. While we will have growth, it must be smart, thoughtful, and compatible with surrounding neighborhoods and historic areas. Indeed, that is the primary purpose of zoning. When the city added transect zoning to the code, it included the condition that new development be compatible with existing development. However, as the Hub case has clearly shown, that goal is not sufficiently supported in certain parts of the code, or in the specific zoning designations made. We need a public discussion to assure that community goals are reflected in the zoning code.

DORMITORY-STYLE (HIGH OCCUPANCY) HOUSING 2. What additional solutions do you have to the challenges related to dormitory-style (high-occupancy) housing developments such as the Hub?

Massive bulking of apartments can create buildings out of scale with neighborhoods, and inappropriate social situations. For instance, the Hub would border a predominately one-story traditional neighborhood. On the other hand, Aspen Place at the Sawmill is reasonable because it has compatible development around it. A key purpose of zoning is to assure that proposed developments are compatible with existing surroundings.

Informal social events can be good. But regardless of building scale, we all must respect our neighbors. The city can help by working with owners, landlords, and tenants to require reasonable restraint and courtesy during social events and parties.

CLIMATE CHANGE 1. Would you support or oppose the resolution presented by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby regarding Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation to address climate change? Why?

There is convincing evidence that climate change is real, measurable, and due to greenhouse emissions. Now the only responsible question is how to address the issue in a timely manner. While fossil fuels remain artificially cheap, their use will increase.

The most effective and practical remedy is a simple market-based approach. To reduce global carbon emissions, we need a global carbon fee. I support a resolution to urge Congress to enact a revenue-neutral greenhouse emissions fee. Congress recently overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to evaluate environmental chemicals. Addressing climate change is another critical issue that deserves strong bipartisan support.

CLIMATE CHANGE 2. 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?

Conserving energy will reduce greenhouse emissions, and will save owners and renters money. For instance, when we built our home, we upgraded the wall insulation from the standard R19 (actually R15 when installed) to R21 (when installed), and upgraded the ceiling insulation to R40+. The upgrade only cost a few hundred dollars, and has saved more than that in heating bills. The insulation not only saves on heating bills, but keeps the house cool in the summer. With the reduced cost of ownership, and the reduced greenhouse emissions, it’s a win win. I support updating the energy code.

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

Housing is the major cost driver. The construction industry can’t keep up with the number of new college students, which drives the whole market to higher prices. Allowing smaller lots for new construction could reduce the land and infrastructure costs. While certain candidates support reducing impact fees, I do not want to burden existing homeowners and renters with new construction subsidies. I do not support increasing the sales taxes further, nor do I support taxing food. City support for entrepreneurial incubators can bring economic development and higher paying jobs to partially address the high cost of living.

TRANSPORTATION What strategies or policies would you propose to enhance our transportation systems?

The Flagstaff Urban Trail System and NAIPTA buses are integral parts of our transportation system. They benefit their users and car drivers (less congestion).

We also need realistic funding for road projects. The state legislature has only recently returned some of the withheld Highway User Fund revenue to the city. Our state gasoline tax has not changed in 26 years (a 45% loss to inflation).

Intersection improvements are cost effective because intersections are the bottlenecks. Projects like turn lanes on Humphreys Street, and improved signal light timing projects, could help. Alternate routes, like the Lone Tree corridor, could relieve congestion.