Archive for Prescott, Arizona

Ziplines Anyone?

So over Spring Break, we took a cruise down to Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerta Vallarta.  In Puerta Vallarta we did a zipline tour….14 ziplines in what I would call a jungle, the longest and highest one about a quarter of a mile long and about 500 feet above a creek and canyon.  VERY COOL!  As I am going down the long line, I think “GRANITE DELLS!”.  Sitting at the end of the tour in the restaurant along the creek, my vision really came in full, and I knew this could be something.  A great, low-impact way to have tourist (and locals too!) enjoy our beautiful rock outcroppings…and the best part for the City?  It would create an income stream to offset the cost of buying, managing and maintaining the open space! 

I look forward to hearing back from my readers, what do you think about this idea?  Have you been on ziplines?  Where?  Pros and cons?

Advertisements

Prescott, Politics and the Media

Wow, things got a bit out of control over the suggested Library fees.  First, before I get in to that, I need to say that all my blogs are from ME, and only me, not representative of the Council, but MY VIEWS ONLY.

Ok, so the Council discussion Friday at the planning/retreat/whatever you want to call it is just a discussion!  The purpose is to through ideas out with our Directors and find a direction and how to get there.  We did discuss “user fees” and the Library came up as a possible “user fee” location.  I do not agree with this, as we pay property tax towards the library, and it is designated for the Library, and no other fund (other than fire, etc) get funding that is designated from property tax.  I think a library is a source to keep our population educated, a fundamental basic need to keep a community healthy.  It is a core resource for the public, not a frivolous extra.  So I do NOT support user fees at the library.  Now, that said, if there is something costly that is above and beyond what a library would “normally” provide (like letting out movies), having a fee for that I think is acceptable…but books and resources need to remain in the hands of the public.

I do have an issue with our local newspaper, The Daily Courier, and most (not all) media.  Instead of reporting the NEWS and FACTS, like to make something out of nothing and try to sell more papers with misinformation.  One of the main reasons I started to blog!  I am sick and tired of citizens getting upset over nothing, due to the lack of correct information distributed in the newspaper.  The purpose of the Council planning discussion meeting was never explained.  The discussion was only printed in partial form…my words of pointing out that the library is funded via property tax already was never spoken.  The other locations for user fees was not included in the article.  This is not the first time, nor the last, for this to happen.  Even the Editorial today was wrong, they obviously believe their own bad articles!  You cannot report half of the conversation and call it a day. 

Ok, next is the question of Tourism.  A panel of three council (Mayor, Lamerson and myself) will be discussing the potential ideas on how to handle tourism and bring our recommendation to the entire Council.  That’s all I can say at this point, but we expect to have a Council discussion in March.

I’ll post more later, but that’s it for today!

Real Estate & Estate Taxes 2010

There are so many misconceptions about the real estate market today.  it really is a great time to buy, and for someone who bought their home before the “bubble” got big, you should be ok (as long as you didn’t go take a huge second out on your home). 

I have recently come across some great articles to share:

REAL ESTATE

General Real Estate news: http://realtytimes.com/

The difference between short sale, foreclosure and REO: http://www.realtor.com/blogs/2010/02/07/the-differences-between-short-sale-foreclosures-and-reo/

ESTATE TAXES:

3 steps to take now: http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/04/estate-gift-gst-tax-2010-personal-finance-pwc-three-steps-now.html?partner=relatedstoriesbox

Where not to die in 2010: http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/03/state-estate-tax-laws-personal-finance-2010-map.html

New State laws for Estate tax? http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/03/congress-estate-tax-2010-virginia-personal-finance-new-state-laws.html?boxes=Homepagelighttop

Remember, I am always available for your questions, and will soon be launching a new segment of my real estate business to including business consulting and planning.  I often go into a business, or chat with someone looking to start a business and they need help!  I have a great creative side and actually am working on a large redevelopment plan for the City, and I have a list of businesses that could do well here.  I have given many ideas out to existing businesses, and they were successful…it’s just time to get paid for my services. 

Until next time in the World of Blog,

Lora

Faster than the speed of light (well, almost)!

Wow!  I can’t believe I have not blogged for 2 weeks.  So much is moving so fast, where to start? 

First, the good news is real estate is picking up.  So what?  Well, it is an indicator of the economy getting better.  BUT, I do caution everyone, there are as many opinions as there are economists, so the theories are all over the place.  An interesting interview I just saw http://video.forbes.com/fvn/davos-10/davos-roubini-preditcions mentions that the first half of 2010 will be good, but the second half is going to slack off.  Hoping he’s wrong, but only time will tell for sure.

Our listings are down, but sales are up from this time last year!  Good news for sellers!  Buyers, the deals are still there.  What this means is a year ago it was about a 23 month of inventory in the Prescott area.  Today it is about a 13 month inventory (on average). 

Tourism: Council will be discussing the direction next week.  Most of the discussion I expect will be during the “retreat” or “envisioning” or “plenary” session (depends on who you talk to for what to call this annual planning) on February 12th at the Library in the Founder’s room.  Personally, I would like to see the City hire staff and eventually branch that out to a separate organization (if/when needed).  Flagstaff has a tremendous department, and we can simply follow their model.  The biggest question  funding.  If we want to get real about this, we need to get real about the dollars we are going to spend on tourism.  I don’t want to try to do anything half-way, and that’s what we’ve done in recent years.  Nobody wants to collect more tax, but to fund this properly, the pre-made food/beverage tax of 1 or 2% is not a bad idea (not in grocery stores, just restaurants/bars).  Flagstaff uses a tax like this and it funds their tourism.  Our tourism (based on bed tax revenues) is down over 40%.  Flagstaff is UP 1.5%!! That is what we can do with proper funding.

Peavine Trail:  The discussion is ongoing…to bridge or not to bridge?  There are Federal Transportation Enhancement Grants that a City can apply for, up to $500,000 per year!  Prescott Valley applies and receives this nearly every year.  We have not applied in about 8 years, so that is like turning away $4 million dollars.  Some Council members feel that grants are not constitutional and/or not a good use of money, but it is how our system is set up!  We can’t change the system by not going after grant money, it just means the funds will go to another city.  Our responsibility is to bring back funding to our citizens.  It is our tax dollars too, and it is irresponsible for a Council to not to try to bring this money back to our community.  If you don’t like the grants system, well try and get it changed at a Federal level (and good luck with that!).  So, that is funding that would pay for a bridge on Peavine to keep pedestrians and cars separated.  An at-grade crossing is just not an option in my eyes.  We want to recruit new businesses here and most businesses move their company for a better quality of life.  This is an asset that can be used as a recruiting tool, if done properly. 

Another storm is due this weekend, snow on Sunday!  Not any where as bad as the last one, but the rain could melt the remaining snow, so still be careful out there! 

Oh, and I need to make a plug for Horizon Airlines!  http://www.alaskaair.com/ Don’t forget we have daily non-stop flights to and from LAX!  Much cheaper and faster than driving.  For those of you out of town, or locals that have visitors, have them bring their mountain bikes too, and enjoy all our great trails!

Adios Amigos, will blog again soon!

Garvey for President, Mountain Biking, Tourism, snow…what a week!

I was so busy last week I never got back to my blog.  Again, so much good is in the works, it really fuels my soul. 

Due to the Holiday, not much happened until Tuesday where I went to one of Barbara Garvey’s famous “Community Conversations”, and the guest speaker was her husband, Dan Garvey.  “Garvey for President”  “Dan’s the Man”!!!  I love hearing him talk, he is really a gifted speaker, and sends a strong clear message for our future.  Sustainability was the topic, and not in the environmental sense, but in the all-around, need to think about the future of everything sense. 

Dan is the President of Prescott College, which is in the top 300 colleges (out of 6500!).  He and his wife are part of the Institute for Sustainable Social Change.  His message is simple:  We have many questions to answer, the basic one being “Is our community acting as if it wants to/can continue?” Sustainability means the ability to continue.  This can be applied to every facet of one’s life.  Part of the problem today is too much information.  We confuse the ability to GET information with how to SYNTHESIZE (process) it.  He said a great book is called “Bowling Alone” and it is about what communities do to become successful (therefore sustainable).  The theory is this:  go to any town on a Thursday night…is there a bowling league?  Or are a few people just bowling alone?  The communities that have a true community feel ie:bowling leagues, are ones that are unified, therefore better communities.  Very simple concept here…work together and get more done, work alone and be alone and die alone.  I am always so inspired when hearing him talk, it’s like I need to hear someone talk about things that are simple, something everyone can do, that we really can be a unified community.  There’s HOPE!

Then there was snow…need I say more?  The City seemed to be fairly well prepared, Thursday we had a meeting with all the Chiefs (fire, police, emergency services).  They had plans and actions in place to deal with whatever Mother Nature wanted to throw out.  I was really worried, as growing up here I have seen many floods, have heard all the stories about someone who got washed away and drowned.  In 1983 we had a storm that knocked out water and gas lines, we had no drinking water and had to get jugs filled from the National Guard.  At 13 years old when this happened, that is a memory that will stay with me forever. 

Now on to Saturday.  IMBA, the International Mountain Bike Association was here for a presentation and community discussion.  WOW!  They are great!  And a HUGE thank you to Chris Hosking and Rob Hehlen for helping get their attention and inviting them to town.  And a HUGE thank you to Residence Inn for hosting them and the presentation!  And THANK YOU to anyone else that had a hand in this as well! 

https://www.imba.com/  IMBA helps communities form clubs and pull businesses together, along with any government players (city, forest service, etc) to support mountain biking.  It is not only great for residents of that community, but something that can be a great tourism boost with a nice economic impact as well.  Done right, the trails are better, less damaging to the environment, and it is one of those great things that pulls a community together.  IMBA has the plan, they know what works, and they basically give the community a blue print for success!  The room was packed, I’d say at least 80 or more people were there, and it was only word-of-mouth.  The Mayor came, another Councilperson, City staff, and the Parks & Rec director as well.  Businesses and citizens were there, so just a wonderful mix.  I am excited to get this started, and form a “ride center” which means a bike-friendly community with the tools to support the tourism side as well.  I might even get on a bike myself when the weather warms!  (now that I had knee surgery and it has healed well, it’s about time!).

So, stay tuned for more updates, there is always something in the wind!

Where is Arizona headed?

I often get so busy I don’t follow the news closely…I was shocked when I heard that many State Parks may be closed.  I went to the Arizona State Parks website http://azstateparks.com/index.html and read the agenda for their Board meeting to be held this Friday.  The list of parks that are recommended for closure is so sad, and what’s worse, is going further hurt our tourism industry! 

It really boggles my mind that the State leaders cut funding on the very things we need to keep our economy going.  It’s like the Coke or Pepsi executives saying “well, sales are down, so let’s stop advertising”.  When their sales are down they INCREASE advertising!  Many layers and levels of our government are no longer working, and I really feel that is because they need to be run like a business, but never are.  I know government and business are separate, and they look like different animals, but the both live and die due to the economy, so the heart of the animal works the same.  If you wouldn’t make that financial decision for your company, your home, your employer, why would you do it for your country, state or city? 

It’s Winston Churchill who said “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”, but in this case, our plan is failure!  I hope we can all look forward to some better leadership, we certainly need it.

Life in someone else’s shoes

We have a certain person who likes to get on the agenda at our Council meetings and complain about the police department.  Now there are times I have seen all sorts of people do things I question, but I stand back and ask myself if I have ANY clue as to how their life is going, what they are doing, etc.  So when I see a police vehicle screaming dow the street, with or without lights, I have to trust that they are doing what needs to be done.  I am NOT in their shoes, I do NOT have their training, and I do NOT have my life on the line on a regular basis.  These guys are our local heros in my book, they defend our cities so our military have decent places to come back to after defending our country.  So it really ticks me off when a citizen wants to complain about every little nit-picky thing our police department does and he has NO idea why what he saw transpired.  I was raised to do two things: 1) Treat others as you would want to be treated and 2) do not judge a book by its cover.  I have tried to uphold this, even with those that get under my skin, but the nonsense of this person coming and wasting our time, staff’s time, complaining to the legal department, calling the police department…this is HOURS of staff time that is wasted….citizen’s tax payers money wasted over really nothing.  I do not believe that nearly every one of our fine police officers has committed whatever infraction he claims he has witnessed.  I hope that this person is no longer acknowledged unless he has something else to say, the more attention he gets, the more he needs more attention.  I know that was not a very eloquent way of saying it, but darn it, let’s get to work and stop the nonsense!

Now, off that rant…and on to other things.  I was sent a very interesting email today, a copy of an article looking at how communities nationwide are trying to buy up precious pieces of land for conservation status.  It saddens me that we have some people here that seem to take our precious pieces of land for granted, and one day when it’s too late and the hills are gone people will start moving away as the reasons people came here will be gone too.  I hope this can be corrected before it is too late, but at least many other communities are realizing that the opportunity to buy land and conserve it is NOW.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/01/us/01preserve.html?scp=6&sq=land%20preservation&st=cse click to read the New York Times article.

Another great day, more great people

I have to say THANK YOU to Dr.  Myers and Dr. Upchurch of Prescott Naturopathic Group.  Those guys know what they are doing!  I have a hiatal hernia (yuck) and Dr. Myers knows how to massage that puppy back in to place.  I feel so much better!

I visited with a neighborhood group today (which at this point will remain nameless due to legal issues) and when you keep the attorneys out of it, you can talk rationally and get work done!  It was nice to meet more of our wonderful citizens of Prescott one-on-one.

On the real estate front, there are some GREAT buys out there!  This is how I see it: 3-5 years ago I kept saying that the 3-5 year ARM loans were going to cause a problem and we were going to see foreclosures on the rise (boy that was an understatement!).  Now those people who lost their homes still need a place to live.  Some have moved in with family, but that only will last so long.  Those that did a short sale will have this on their credit 3-5 years, if it was a full foreclosure it will probably be 5-7 years (these numbers flex, depending on other credit history, so this is just approximate time lines).  So, people who need a place to live now, and could afford a rent price but not their inflated mortgage prices…so these people are prime to do a lease-to-own for the next 5 or so years!  What does that mean to potential investors?  Well if you have a property at a good price now and the rent more than covered the mortgage, and sold it at market value in 5 years, you will be building equity the entire time, and have a renter that wants to own the house, so they will (in theory) take good care of it.  I have seen many homes under $100K for sale in the Prescott Valley area and fit the needed rental brackets.  So instead of a “flip” house, it is a 5 year plan.  I would like to put together an investment group to do this, and buy up many of the homes on the market.  This spurs our real estate market, puts people back in homes, and makes investors money.  Not a bad deal!  Positive actions are what will pull this economy around, looking for those opportunities instead of grumbling about the past and “I could have gotten more back then” ya, well you might be selling lower now but you are buying lower too!  ALWAYS look at the glass half full!  If you bought before 2004 you should be in the black on your house still (in the Prescott area at least), so if you maxed out the equity, you are hurting and there’s nothing that is going to change it.  Just deal with it as best as you can.

Tomorrow we have our weekly Council meeting, not too much on the agenda other than an update from Economists.com on our water/sewer rates.  This is the exciting stuff that gets us paid the big bucks (not really). 

Well, off to work more on my grand idea!  No, not all the way over to your area AM, but close!  That will happen eventually though!  But you and your lovely neighbors are wonderful additions to the area and the morphing has begun.  The domino effect is one of the best ways to take over a neighborhood and make it better.  Mayor Cory Booker (Newark, NJ) has done just that…he has been working with GreenSpaces to bring the parks back and let the neighbors enjoy them again instead of being the drug and gang infected hangouts.  Know what?  It’s working!  Slowly each house around each newly renovated park has been transforming into the nice neighborhood it once was.  Mayor Booker has put his money where his mouth is, he stayed in tents and has patrolled the streets himself.  What a guy!

Focus on the dream, it can come true.

Have you seen the move The Secret?  Or read the book?  I swear the power of positive thinking really does work. 

I have a “dream” of revitalizing certain areas of Prescott.  I have been flushing out the general idea with those that can visualize, and they are excited too.  Next step is to get a more formal design on paper to sell the idea to a few prominent people and really get the wheels in motion.  

I also have wanted to grow my little real estate firm, but have been so busy, I haven’t been able to carve out the time.  This has been on my mind a lot lately, I let a few of my friends in the business know, and out of the blue a very successful agent called me and interviewed with me today!  I really hope he will come on board, if I could clone myself, he’d be that clone.  Anyone that can have that many closed sales in 2009 (that are not working with banks and short-sales) is IMPRESSIVE!  Definitely my kind of guy and who I want to work with.  I have many ideas and if I could hired the right agents to carry out the ideas then we’d all be very successful.  It’s too bad that many say “but I don’t want to work that hard”.  Seriously?  You get what you give! 

On the political front, not too much new right now.  The Peavine Trail “tour” with council has been scheduled, I thought that those that will be voting need to SEE the area with their own eyes and understand exactly what the public is concerned about with the at-grade crossings. 

A Mayor from another community called City Hall late today and said he’s running for Governor and wants to me with any of us at 1 tomorrow.  WOW…that is some serious short notice and appears to not be planned well.  You cannot get back the first impression, and that impression was not good.  The kids and I all came down with sore throats this afternoon and evening, so I did not commit to meeting with him, but I really wasn’t all that motivated anyway.  One of my pet peeves is no respect for someone’s time. 

One of my favorite clients will be here next week and the two of us are going furniture shopping for her new home!  That is so wonderful about this job…I don’t get clients, I get good friends!  These people are going to be a wonderful asset to the community, I am thrilled to be honored to have helped them move here. 

Oh, found a great GYN today…you males that might read this, just skip this or tell your women in your life.  She is great, really a nurse practioner, but was as knowledgable as any doctor.  She does general women’s health too.  She was not only pleasant, concerned, gentle, and every other attribute that we look for in a doctor.  She also handles the HCG diet which I have been wanting to look in to, and she did the diet herself with amazing results.  Gosh, a doc that has been in your shoes is a total fresh breath!  Edie Morgan at Bellezza Sensa on Willow Creek.  I saw her ad in Prescott Woman’s magazine and being that I am about 4 years over due for an “annual” exam, I gave her a call and am very happy I did.

I’ll check in on the blog over the weekend, but for now I am signing off and going to dose us all with some cold medication.  I have been sick on and off with various ailments since November, and I am READY TO BE HEALTHY!  I know when I overdue it and don’t get enough sleep I get sick and I need to put my health further up my list, that is my one and only New Year’s Resolution.

See you all soon!

Solutions!

WOW!  It’s been an exciting day! 

Started the morning with Elisabeth Ruffner to talk about Open Space on KYCA radio.  I have only been on the radio once before, and it is a painless process for those of you who have not been in a studio before.  Not to mention I am honored to call Elisabeth a friend, and to talk to a friendly face makes it even easier.

We are working on State Trust Land applications and reviewing the past applications of Badger “P” Mountain, Glassford Hill and the pieces in between called the “Yavapai Strip.  I must give kudos to Maria Baier, the State Land Commissioner appointed about 6 months ago by Governor Brewer.  Maria’s staff are wonderful (in fact they remind me of many of the great City staff we have) and reviewing files has been not the chore I thought it would be.  I hope that the approximate 2000 acres that these 3 pieces could amount to will be conserved properly and you’ll all be hearing more about this in the coming months.

Next I was off to hear the report from Bill Geist on the tourism direction the City needs to look at.  His report was nothing new to me, in fact I wish I had written my words from the last several years as it would have looked like I wrote portions of the report!  But it needed to be said formally, and I do believe that when information is PAID for, there is more weight with it, even though it really often weighs as much as the free information!  But writing that check makes one take notice (which goes in to my thoughts on changing my real estate business to a consulting business and something I am sure to go in to more at a later date).

Some key points from this morning’s meeting (my summary and words here, I don’t want anyone to think the presenter was this blunt):

*Too many groups sending too many mixed messages to the public. 

*The City needs to figure out funding and get skin in the game if they want to be a player in the tourism super bowl (show me the money). 

*Local business and citizens that benefit from tourism need to support it.  It’s great when someone comes to your community, spends money (which puts people to work and money in the City coffers) then leaves.  It is a clean industry and one that Prescott has taken for granted.  Personally, I like using the term “accidental tourism” and that is what it has been…credit does need to go to the groups that have done PR and marketing, but there has never been a real professional effort to be serious about tourism. 

*The City needs to make someone accountable…whether hiring a tourism director that works in the City or for a DMO (Destination Marketing Organization).  For the last 10 years the City just gave money to PACT (Prescott Area Coalition for Tourism) and never had any way to measure successes and never gave formal direction to keep up with the industry or make changes. 

*term limits on any Board that may be involved…in the past many board members have been the same and it was perceived as not being a welcome group (this happens to MANY groups in this area and I think most Boards should look at this…we all hate those politicians that are lifers, so let’s not have Board members that are lifers either-give the new guy a chance!)

*is this going to stay a regional effort, and if so the surrounding communities also need to put real money in.  You get what you give folks!

So, how does Mr. Geist propose these changes are made?  Where do we go from here?

*PACT may be a good vehicle to have an overhaul as they are established, the non-profit status is in place, but on the flip side, the image is so badly tarnished that there may be no way to carry out this successfully.  There is also the newly formed local CVB (Convention and Visitor’s Bureau) that may be the right way to go, but they have no track record and are a for-profit organization which many businesses are going to be leery of. 

*Create a new non-profit

*Create a City Tourism Department (of some sort). 

I want to throw in a 4th option-combination of public-private/non-profit.  We (the Council) are now burdened with some huge decisions.  First, we have the funding that needs to be decided on, as with no funds we cannot hire anyone or give the money to another group to hire a professional of this caliber.  I will get more into the funding shortly.  Second, we have to find this magic person who will fall in love with Prescott as we all have, see it through those fresh eyes, and promote our assets that we have sat on for so long.  We have invested the citizens money in buying open space, buying the lakes, buying the Rodeo grounds, putting in trails, maintaining parks and fields, etc, etc but we don’t reap the rewards financially that we could if these were components used to draw in tourists.   (either with going with an old non-profit or a new one, or having a new dept within the City, an excellent director or CEO will need to be hired).  Third, since we have NO experience in this, and we need to set some guidance for hiring a business, non-profit, person, whatever, I know I am a little hesitant about how to go about doing this!  I’m going to have to think about this and do some research, but I am not sure about handing over a large budget to a group that would have yet to prove themselves.  Most of this is actually common sense and relationship building, but it’s kinda like looking for someone to take care of your children, – complete faith in them or you immediately remove your child from their hands.  It is the same way with tax payer dollars, we need to have the ability to take the funds back and correct a problem- should a problem arise.

Ok, so the funding…There are too many funding strategies to list.  so far the one I am most in favor of is a food and beverage tax of 1%.  Combining that with the current bed tax and we would have more than a million dollars to have a decently funding DMO.  The funds also need to be protected..I do not want anyone down the road to think “geez, times are good, so let’s pull that money and spend it on a new widget”.  Why does Coke continue to advertise?  Outta sight, outta mind!  This is the fastest and easiest way to go, a tax this small would amount to 4 pennies on a Big Mac combo with fries and a drink!  30 cents on a $30 meal…being that with a family of 4 we often spend $50-$60 when we eat in a restaurant, that would be .50 or .60…if it means more tourism which is good for the CITIZENS of Prescott (by bring in more jobs and more sales tax-which right or wrong we live and die by) then it is a good thing. 

Well, I think I have bored you all enough for today, I have some ideas on economic development and investment opportunities in the near future.  Remember, you have a choice when you get up in the morning…the choice of making it a good day or a bad day…always choose to make it a GREAT day!