In the running: Craig Sanderson, candidate for Tusayan mayor
Grand Canyon News is running a Q & A for both candidates running for Mayor of Tusayan.
Candidates were asked to answer the same questions about important local topics including why they are seeking office, what residents can expect during their term if elected and what they see in Tusayan's future. Craig Sanderson is the incumbent and Clarinda Vail is a long-time resident and business owner.
Why are you running?
I have served our community for seven years with the mission to make Tusayan a better place to work and live.
Among many other things, I successfully pushed for free internet for all residents. My vision of Tusayan is not based on asking your employee for basic freedoms, unlike my opponent who is running for personal gain and to protect a family legacy of controlling the lives of people. I serve because I have felt the same things that you feel. It is time to put the petty family squabble to rest. Don’t let her buy your vote.
How do you plan to approach the current crisis created by COVID-19 in Tusayan?
I plan to continue what we have been doing and more.
Your town council and I have worked hard to proactively stay ahead of the crisis. We will continue supporting food banks, children and local business with necessary tools and supplies to ensure everyone stays safe and healthy. If federal assistance becomes inadequate, I will have the town financially assist our community. Unlike my opponent, who proposes an annual distribution, my plan is more inclusive to Tusayan employees that lives outside of town in company housing. My plan includes $1,000 monthly distributions to the needy and nothing to the wealthy.
What budget impacts do you expect the town to face from the COVID-19 shutdown? How can the town mitigate economic impacts?
The town is in a very good financial position with public funds set aside for future capital projects, however, in an emergency such as COVID-19, we can and will divert funds to assist our residents and business community.
Our current budget includes up to $2 million for COVID-19 response.
In this pandemic the town must not stop forward progress but rather be ready to use public funds targeted to help our businesses. If the town can increase business revenue, businesses can increase payroll. Increasing business revenue also increases tax revenue which completes the circle of economic development.
Tusayan currently has a variety of activities for visitors. Is it necessary to change Tusayan’s offerings? If so why?
We could invite some diversity to our businesses but we should remain tourism based.
We must do a better job of promoting visitation during the winter to help our businesses profit during the slower months. I would support a snow play area in town that uses reclaimed water to make snow. What is more cool than visiting the Grand Canyon during the winter — playing in the snow, taking a hot shower at a hotel and enjoying great food at a restaurant?
Is it important to create new retail and activity spaces?
Absolutely, but we also need affordable private housing.
The town has seen new businesses such as Jeep and Hummer tours, tandem parachuting, ATV and E-bike rentals. These innovative tourist based offerings help our entire community as their guests are likely to spend the night and eat in town. Tusayan has residents with great ideas on new business opportunities but they are held back due to the lack of affordable business space and the threat that goes with living in employer housing. Development of affordable private housing and business space will result in a boom of small business creation.
What are the greatest challenges to Tusayan’s infrastructure and do you believe there is community support for changes?
Water, water and water! The town is pursuing purchase of the water company. Doing so will allow us to bring the water quality up to higher standards required for municipalities. We are also working with the sanitary district and the U.S. Forest Service to build retention basins to protect our town from storm water that regularly creates small floods though much of Tusayan.
We must also build a flood channel through town. Recent flood studies suggest that a once in a hundred year storm will overflow the sewer ponds with devastating environmental and economic impact forcing an evacuation of the entire town.
Beyond the Ten-X project(s), are there any other potential options for creating affordable housing in Tusayan?
In addition to Ten-X housing project that is currently awaiting final results of flood studies, the town also owns 20 acres of land at Kotzin just west of town. This land is very suitable for development of affordable housing. Water, sewer, and electricity are nearby.
The town is working with the USFS on an easement wherein Stilo has committed to pay to build the paved road and utilities to the property. The easiest homes to build would be on property owned by Clarinda (Vail) and her family, however, these homes would not address the need for additional small business opportunities.
What are the greatest challenges in creating housing options for residents?
Land and infrastructure. The price of available land in Tusayan is affordable only by millionaires.
Stilo donated 40 acres of land so that the town can build an assortment of single and family housing that will be available for purchase or rental by individuals that work in Tusayan. Living in your own home in Ten X or Kotzin will give residents the opportunity to start small businesses such as day care providers, laundry service, hair salon and many other small businesses that need commercial space.
Beyond providing affordable groceries and services, do you have ideas to help reduce poverty levels in town?
Like any town there will always be a segment of the population that lives in poverty.
The problem with Tusayan is the lack of opportunity to pull yourself out of poverty. Employer based forced housing is the biggest obstacle because, when you are in company housing your options are very limited.
Where would you like to see Tusayan in the future?
Tusayan is a great place to work and live, however, it does not include many of the basic rights we should be able to expect in America.
My vision of Tusayan is not based on asking your employee for basic freedoms, it is a community that is prosperous and independent. A place where a person is free to work where they want, live where they want, date or marry who they want, and if you want a pet you don’t need your employers permission either. You can live as the founding fathers intended: free.
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