News from the Campaign Trail

Besides fighting the winds while I went door-to-door to meet my future constituents, I had the the opportunity to be at a couple of great gatherings in the last few days.

On Friday, I joined “Breakfast with the Candidates” hosted by neighborhood Democrats at the Eastside Toasted Owl. This is a fine group of people who are working to preserve what’s good about our city, county, and country and to change things for the better.

At that meeting, I shared that  as a County Supervisor I would prioritize getting more state money for education, reducing the risk of forest fire and resultant flooding, working with the City to properly treat reclaimed water before it’s discharged and seeps into our drinking water (aquifer), and the need for long-term rehabilitation for those with addiction problems.  Working with the Navajo Nation, I will support increases in education funding, help find federal & tribal money to build more dependable water systems, improve broadband services, and work with our Congressional representatives to acquire money for Chapter economic development available thru the 1975 Grand Canyon Enlargement Act that was withheld during the Bennett Freeze. It’s time for the federal government to fulfill that long-delayed promise of help with economic development.

On Saturday, the “Doney Park wing” of the Coconino County Democratic Party held a candidate information meeting for County Offices at Horsemen Lodge. Close to fifty civic-minded people attended, including Sheriff (Jim Driscoll), County Attorney (Bill Ring), County Superintendent of Schools (Dr. Tommy Lewis), and County Assessor (Armando Ruiz). The County provides numerous different services, many of which city and county residents may not be aware of, yet are significantly affected by.

After sharing about some of my life accomplishments (see elsewhere on this page), I laid out three major responsibilities of the Board of Supervisors and explained why my many years of engagement in local affairs along with my science background uniquely equip me to fulfill these duties:

  1. Provide oversight of and direction within the seventeen County Departments while making sure that communication within and between Departments is consistent, collegial, and effective.
  2. Set budgets to enable each department to meet its service goals, and act as the fiduciary agent for several special districts within an annual budget $215 Million.
  3. Meet with US and State Legislators, other Arizona County Boards of Supervisors, and other parties which influence county operations throughout the year.
County Board of Supervisors candidate Bryan Bates, County Attorney Bill Ring, Sheriff Jim Driscoll, County Assessor Armando Ruiz, County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tommy Lewis

CPWAC Meeting

On Friday, I attended the monthly meeting of Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council (CPWAC), a consortium of nearly 20 different entities working to preserve water quality and quantity. CPWAC focuses on understanding the current and future needs for water in our area and what can be done to ensure an adequate supply. The agencies and organizations that are now working toward finding answers to our water issues are also dedicated to protecting the health and beauty of our environment. An affiliate organization, the Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership is a separate entity for the purposes of lobbying and funding efforts.

At this meeting, the Friends of the Verde River shared its research on the river’s health from the perspective of water quality, habitat, and community needs. The value of this multi-dimensional study lies in getting a large-scale perspective on what impacts humans may be having on the watershed and how different actions may improve the overall quality. More info is available at https://verderiver.org/watershed-report-card/

A second presentation by Freshwater Research Associates (FRA) assesses the ecosystem services (services we derive from nature) of the Coconino Plateau groundwater. This second of five (planned) reports by FRA to CPWAC delineated the region where CPWAC has contracted to monitor groundwater quality and quantity. The purpose of this research is to provide the data and analysis necessary to guide policy development for numerous governmental agencies including City of Flagstaff and Coconino County.

Since water quality is an important part of my platform, I plan to follow this work closely.

CPWAC Meeting February 28, 2020

Four Forest Restoration Initiative

Today, I had the opportunity to attend the regional Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4-FRI) Stakeholders meeting. 4-FRI’s objective is reduce fuel loads in our national forest to reduce catastrophic fire risk and use the harvested wood to drive local economic development.

A major challenge is that the industries that purchase and process the cut trees to make electricity and wood products have a really tough time when the federal government takes a long time to make decisions that affect wood available to the industries. These industries have to plan on 10-20 year horizons, yet governmental leases are much shorter term. There is currently no clear pathway to resolve this, and with your help to become a County Board of Supervisor, I will work to resolve this conundrum.

Bates visits Leupp Chapter House

On Jan 13, I attended the Leupp Chapter meeting on the Navajo Nation.  The Leupp Chapter had a full agenda with presentations, discussions and community vote on issues about 1) the creation of Navajo nation-wide policy restricting  genetic research on Navajo people, 2) the design, construction and financing of wells and piping systems to allow for better regional irrigation of crops and livestock, 3) designation of a regional land exclusion for potential economic development,  and 4) a report on educational funding and student learning at the Leupp schools. It was apparent that the Chapter Officials at Leupp Chapter are very much engaged with the Navajo Nation government and regional issues. 

I began my presentation by sharing that I spent 5- ½ years at Rough Rock Schools where I taught Jr. and Sr. high school science as well as night courses for elementary teachers working toward their certification.  I also started the Leupp Boarding School high school for students who did not fit the Anglo method of teaching. Through Mark Sorenson, then Director, Jim Store and I created an alternative high school based on experiential learning with standard core subject matter infused. We started an agricultural program with a greenhouse where students learned traditional Navajo farming while also using microscopes and conducting science experiments to understand plant growth.  I also spoke about Navajo cultural astronomy and their incredible knowledge of the sky. When Jim Store spoke in Navajo, which he is, I heard my name. Not speaking Navajo, I asked my friend Robert Chee what he was saying, and Robert responded that Jim was telling lies about me because I wasn’t as good as Jim was saying. 😊

I spoke and shared that, with their support, I would work to represent them at the County level and beyond as best possible.   I first stressed that I was not there to make promises but rather to be an advocate for them in 1) cleaning up the uranium mines, 2) working for more educational funding, 3) working to develop water systems potentially with mobile or regional water purifiers as have been developed through the STAR school program and 4) continuing County road maintenance. I felt very welcome and will be returning to Leupp to learn more about their needs. 

On Jan.15, I will travel to Tolani Lake Chapter meeting and then onto Birdsprings to meet with people at Little Singer School where I also worked.

~ Bryan

Wally Covington and Public Works Facility

Dr. Wally Covington with the Board of Supervisors

Dr. Wally Covington was honored for his career in forest health research and advocacy for reducing fire risk in forest through fuels thinning and prescription burning at the Dec 17, 2019, Coconino County Board of Supervisors meeting. Dr. Covington began the Ecological Research Institute at the NAU School of Forestry, a program that compared pre-settlement Ponderosa Pine forest structure with today’s forests. He and his students found that early forests had more open land with grasses and larger trees than today. Fire crawled across the early forest floor every 2-10 years and reduced the fuel load such that minor fires scorched tree bases but rarely caused catastrophic wildfires as we see today.

In his career, Dr. Covington created one of the pre-eminent forestry programs, documented how forest thinning led to healthier forest and then shared his research with the US Forest Service, U.S. Congress and innumerable conferences on forest health and fire ecology. His pioneering work was recognized by the County Board of Supervisors who declared that, in honor of his retirement, Dec 16 -22 would be called “Wally Covington week”.  The Board presented him with a certificate of appreciation acknowledging his accomplishments.  (See photo.) I instructed students in my Environmental Science classes at CCC about his research and persistent calling for fuels reduction in the forest, efforts that in part led to the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4-FRI) in Arizona’s forest within the US Forest Service.

After a lunch break, the Board of Supervisors reconvened at the Public Works facility. A lot of the day-to-day “hands-on” labor that needs to be done, such as road repair, snowplowing, and maintaining the fleet of country vehicles, happens in this facility. This building was constructed in 1960s, reconfigured in 1980s and has since gone through numerous “fix or repair” sessions. Public Works Director Lucinda Andreani and her staff took the Board of Supervisors and other attendees on a tour of the facility and shared concerns about potential safety issues, needed repairs and outdated structures. The Board unanimously agreed that the facility needs a major overhaul and directed the staff to move to the next level of preparing plans and costs estimates for renovating the facility to serve another 40 years or through 2060.

Given that money is the force that drives all things, the Board then dove into the Public Health Budget for FY2021.  The diligent county staff had prepared a budget history of the previous four years and budget projections for the next four years.   In FY 2021, there is currently a projected shortfall in funds needed for public health; however, with planning, the staff anticipates that the needed funds in well be available from savings in different county programs and the General Fund.

When I witnessed the County Board of Supervisors and the County staff working together, honoring Wally Covington, and grappling with next year’s budget, I realized that I have both the skills and the passion to dig in and do the work that is necessary to be an efficient and effective County Supervisor. I cordially request your help in electing me to County Supervisor so I can best serve you and our entire county.  Please go to my front-page and make a donation so I can be successful in defeating Mr. Bob Thorpe, my challenger.

Thank You for your support, and don’t forget to contribute.

Sincerely, Bryan Bates.

Bates attends State Legislative Roundtable

County Staff Photo from December 12, 2019

On Dec 10, 2019, I attended the “State Legislative Roundtable” held between our County Supervisors and our LD-6 State Representatives Walt Blackman and Bob Thorpe and State Senator Sylvia Allen. The information below comes from this meeting based upon the County Supervisors Association, 2020 County Legislative Priorities.

Supervisor Ryan spoke on allowing local communities to define short-term rentals (STR) regulations and establishing fair tax levies between home rentals, multiple room/home rentals and traditional hotels. This issue directly affects numerous Flagstaff communities and is rapidly emerging in the county.

The Arizona Long-Term Care System is a state mandated program that requires counties to pay the bills. Supervisor Archuleta expressed her concern over the increasing costs to the Arizona counties with the 2019 bill rising by 8% to $21.7M and projection of 11% increase to county taxpayers in 2020. Overall, Coconino County raises $9M/ year in taxes, but then has to spend $3M for State-mandated programs.  Supervisor Archuleta called upon the State to fund more of the cost through AHCCCS.

Under State law, counties are required to pay for elections and then the State reimburses the counties; however, the March 17 Presidential Preference Election (PPE) budget is $3M low. This means additional expense to county budgets that are already stressed. Senator Allen suggested having the political parties pay for their own preference polls, yet that doesn’t solve the issue for 3 months from now.  Supervisor Babbott is concerned that the Independent and small party voters, 34% of the State registered voters, have to pay for the PPP but don’t get to vote because they are neither Democrat nor Republican. I would note that the exclusion of Independents from the PPE is likely unconstitutional but that is the way our Legislature has written the law so it would take an expensive lawsuit to overturn it or a change to the statute. This is a matter that the Legislature should take up with input like this from the counties.

Supervisor Fowler personally asked the State representatives and has solicited Gov. Ducey to contribute more money to Coconino County because of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) closure.  Her district will be particularly hard hit and the effects will be felt throughout our county as revenues will decrease with the loss of jobs and people relocating. She is working with US Representative Tom O’Halleran to get Federal money through H.R. 4318. NGS is the only power plant in the US that is partially owned by the federal government. To partially counter the loss of jobs, wages and taxes, Supervisor Fowler is initiating the Colorado Plateau Economic Development Alliance to advance tourism and build alternative energy production.

County Attorney Bill Ring proposed the State fund a program to allow law enforcement officers the choice of taking individuals with mental health problems to mental health care as opposed to taking them to jail.

Sheriff Driscoll spoke to the need of having “School Resource Officers” in schools and working to get law enforcement and the Department of Education to work together.

As is clear, our county faces multiple challenges and dwindling resources to address those challenges. A principle challenge I will address when you elect me to the Board of Supervisors is to either reduce the amount of your county tax dollars going to the state or increase the return of those tax dollars for your local benefit. I am the best candidate to get this done because I have always worked in a cooperative manner, looking for where people agree and building on those agreements. I ask you your help in becoming the next County Supervisor for District 4.

Please contibute to my campaign to serve you. Thank you for your support! ~ Sincerely, Bryan Bates

Western Navajo Agency Council

On Dec 14, I attended the Western Navajo Agency Council meeting at Coconino Community College. Navajo President Jonathan Nez, Council Delegates from western Navajo Chapter Houses, County officials, and numerous others associated with Navajo Health and County Services met to update each other on different efforts to maintain and improve health, infrastructure and representational governance on Dine’ Bike’yah, the Navajo Nation. 

I spoke with and listened to Navajo representatives on their concerns related to impacts from the Bennett Freeze area (where Navajos were not allowed any development during the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute settlement), uranium mining, water quality and education.  I was honored to introduce myself to the Council and share about my history of teaching on the Navajo Nation while also working to incorporate Navajo ways of learning (i.e. their science) into curriculum. I even shared a story about how I embarrassed myself when I tried to speak Navajo. 

Steps to Reduce Forest Fire Risk

On Nov 20, I attended a meeting of the Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4-FRI) at the Coconino National Forests Supervisors Office. 4-FRI is a collaboration of four national forests in Northern Arizona and a collection of other stakeholders who are committed to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire in our region. In its 10-year history, 4-FRI has had several accomplishments in reducing fire risk and protecting watersheds, yet still faces challenges related to the rate at which different regional forests can be treated.

Private companies contract with the Forest Service to cut and remove or burn small to medium diameter trees. Currently, these contracts run for 8 years; however, in order to get private companies to commit to a contract, they need assurance that their investment in building infrastructure and hiring workers will last longer than 8 years. The Forest Service is re-writing their RFP to extend the contracts to 20 years.  In addition, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has worked with the Forest Service and approved use of larger trucks which are the only way to economically transport the timber to mills and market.

Currently, these private contractors are producing 2.2 million board feet/year (bd.ft./yr.) with an estimated 100 m bd.ft. needed to be cut within the State of Arizona.  Due to the massive fires in California, Gov. Newson has declared a “State of Emergency” and order that cutting trees and fuels reduction proceed as quickly as safely possible.  Members of 4-FRI have asked that Gov. Ducey also declare  a “State of Emergency” and thereby provide additional funding to reduce the fuel load in our forests and better protect citizens who live in or near forests and/or shrub environments. Unfortunately, Gov. Ducey has not responded to this request.

In addition, efforts are underway to get the Arizona Corporation Commission and public utilities to join the efforts to reduce forest fuels and thereby better protect their infrastructure and responsibility to provide for citizens’ safety.  Once again, neither the ACC nor the utilities have acted on the requests. If a cooperative agreement could be struck between the ACC, public utilities, and the private contractors to reduce fuels and build additional infrastructure, that would reduce smoke from burning slash that has no economic value and greatly reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire.

Finally, in a conversation with local Forest Service individuals, it was suggested that Coconino County could immediately help reduce fire potential in our region. If the empty County trucks driving up to Cameron could be filled with ~ 12-18” logs from cut timber, those logs could be used to help Navajos who cook with and heat their Hogans with firewood. The County trucks would then be filled with trash, as is mandated and currently happening, prior to returning to the landfill for trash disposal.  This means accomplishing two objectives that are independently budgeted for and likely saving both parties money while increasing efficiency.

With your help, I will work as your County Supervisor to make these types of cooperative agreements happen between different governmental agencies and industry partners regardless of political party.  Our forest health is our greatest health risk, and we need leadership that will reduce that risk while restoring our forest to a healthier status. 

Please contribute to my campaign to serve you. Thank you for your support! ~ Bryan Bates