Flagstaff Votes: Art Babbot, Council candidate
To see the council candidate profiles of Stephen Knutson, Dan Frazier or David Evans, click their respected photos. Look for the part two of this series covering the Flagstaff city elections, which will include the final four candidates.
Current title: Small Business Owner
Length of Flagstaff residency: 10 years
Education: Bachelors Degree in political science from Amherst College and Masters Degree in Urban Affairs/Public policy from University of Delaware
Background: For the last 10 years I have dedicated myself to serve this community by serving on many commissions and councils. In 2006 Friends of Flagstaff’s Future awarded me a “Livable Community Award” for running our summer community farmers market and for my work as a council member. My life would not be complete without my wonderful wife Heather and a beautiful baby-girl Lila Sol.
Why are you running for City Council?
The focus of why I’m running relates to my observation that we have strayed as a community from our strong history of forward thinking, land use planning, regional planning, and long term strategic economic development. Flagstaff has a very long history of long term planning and we need to make sure we continue that as the foundation of how we progress to the future. The first priority is to provide some fiscal priority to our current governmental … operations.
If elected, what skills or experience would you bring to City Council?
Well, I’m a small business owner who runs the community farmers markets, the Pine Mountain Amphitheater, and I was one of the partners in the Amphitheater until this last May. And I was on city council from 2002 to 2006, so I bring I think very strong private and public sector experience. And I think one of the most important attributes of a good public server is someone who can sit down in a room not just with the people who think in agreement with them, but who can sit down in a room with people who disagree with them and try to find common ground on issues that are very important to the community.
What makes you stand out from other candidates?
I think one thing that makes me stand out is that I take my beliefs and values very very seriously, but I do not take myself too seriously. I don’t take things personally, and I believe in not letting my personality driving policy, but let good policy drive policy.
How do you especially relate to the citizens of Flagstaff?
Being in the tourism/retail segment of our community I interact through both the farmers market and the Pine Mountain Amphitheater. I interact with tens of thousands of our citizens every year. I think one of the most important things that separates flagstaff from other communities is that we have a strong community sense of identity and very importantly, citizens who ask the questions “where are we going as a community,” what do we want to look like in the future, and then how we get there. So I think that personal interaction of people-its not just about me interacting with the members of the community, we have a community at large that even though there’s great diversity at the least, the ideology is here and there all balanced by the things that draw us and keep us in Flagstaff.
What are some of the ideas you would “bring to the table” if elected?
Given our incredibly difficult fiscal realities right now, we are going to need to focus on policies and strategies that look towards maintaining any of our forward thinking and environmental policies but doing that with future focus on economic development. As a small business owner, we need to spend more efforts in strategic economic planning and development especially with regard to our pushing technology sector here and one observation is that our current leadership continues to use public funds to subsidize new retail and service sector developments I think is poor economic developmental policy. We need to focus on diversification of our economy especially with regards to our emerging green technology and our emerging entrepreneurial businesses in flagstaff specifically with regards to the center for emerging technologies up on which is kind of an economic incubator up there.
What cause are you most passionate about? How would you advocate it?
I think the fundamental issue that is most relevant is the reality that Flagstaff is pricing out of our community the people who work in this community. Fundamentally, it makes no sense if the people who work here have to move or buy a house in Williams in order to afford a house. It’s about understanding the reality that many people have a very difficult time surviving in this community. We need to address that not only with economical development, but with a mix of housing options including public and private land trusts, smart regulatory reform of our land development code, and working with some of our larger employers to creatively permit people of all income ranges to stay in our community. We will have failed in our job if only the wealthiest of the wealthy can survive in Flagstaff.
My observation is that the current leadership has spent too much time revisiting issues from the past. The reason I believe that is because I was on council from 2002 to 2006 and we moved and put in process many issues that are still being revisited and re-discussed today and at the end of the day, if I felt like the city was moving in the right direction, I wouldn’t be running for council, I would be supporting someone who was moving us in the right direction, but I do not feel that way. I feel like we need to focus on long term strategic planning and not look behind, but forward to the many, many challenges that we face.
Some info courtesy artforflag.com .