Last night was an example of the ability for democracy to prevail on a local level. After listening to the continued public outcry against the project and a series of question and answers with the developer, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to not recommend the rezoning of the Arrowhead Trailer Park for Landmark Properties’ project the Standard.
This project was easy to oppose. There were many problems with the project: lack of planning when it came to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, the displacement of people, conflicts with the Flagstaff Regional Plan and La Plaza Vieja Neighborhood Plan, and the list goes on. The problems were so pervasive the developer and their contractors had difficulty defending the project. Nonetheless, this commission, who has said yes to nearly every project they have seen, still had difficulty saying no.
If it weren’t for the public’s presence this project would have been smooth sailing through the P&Z process. Instead, the process included two extensive meetings that lasted 6 hours and lasted 3 hours. A couple of commissioners made explicit in their testimonies that public participation undeniably made a huge impact on this decision.
Democracy was upheld because the people engaged the democratic process. Democracy requires a two-way conversation between the decision makers and the public. Without the public’s input we cannot expect our interests to be upheld. Sometimes it is simply because decision makers and policy planners don’t know where we, the public, stand and we can more easily be ignored. This time we made it clear where the public stands. Many people who have spoken up throughout this processes had never set foot in City Council chambers before. So we owe a big thank you to everyone who has invested their time and energy to support the families of Arrowhead and our community in this fight. This takes courage, and a lot of effort, but it could not be accomplished without you.
Some of you may feel like your presence doesn’t matter, your vote doesn’t make a difference, your voice goes unheard, or you don’t know enough to get involved – we am here to say that type of thinking is false. It does matter on the local level. Because at the local level, elections are determined by 10 to 100 votes and decision makers are normal people who are open to meeting with you and listening to your perspective. You can influence the direction our community leads itself; by simply showing up; showing support; being open to learning; being vulnerable enough to say I don’t know; sharing your opinions, feelings and ideas, etc..
You are apart of the political process whether you decide to recognize it or not. Political decisions are being made whether you know about them or not. If you decide to ignore the system then decisions are made that directly affect you, without you even being able to have a say in it. And just by stating your opinion, you plant a seed in the decision makers’ mind that they must acknowledge and decide to ignore or consider.
So let them see, hear, and feel your presence and your stance. If they decide to ignore you, so be it. The beauty of it all, is that they work for you and ultimately you decide whether they have a job after the next round of elections.
So my friends let this battle over the Arrowhead Trailer Park serve as an example of the differences we can make together. We must continue to Speak Up! for what we believe in, and be persistent in our pursuits to create a town we can all be proud to be apart of.