Flagstaff to Increase Minimum Wage to Nearly $17 an Hour

Flagstaff to Increase Minimum Wage to Nearly $17 an Hour

By Corinne Murdock |

Come January, Flagstaff will increase its minimum wage from $15.50 to $16.80 an hour, and from $13 to 14.80 an hour for tipped employees.

Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy shared the news on Tuesday.

The city factors minimum wage based on cost of living in addition to inflation. In 2016, Flagstaff voters approved Proposition 414, a measure raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour last year and ensuring annual adjustments for inflation and cost of living every year thereafter. The city’s minimum wage must be at least $2 above the state’s minimum wage. 

Prop 414 also ensures that hourly tipped minimum wage will be the same as hourly minimum wage by 2026.

It’s anticipated that the state will increase minimum wage to $13.85 an hour, just over a $1 increase from the current $12.80 minimum wage.

Despite criticism that the minimum wage would exacerbate unemployment, Deasy shared in March that unemployment rates have halved since 2016.

Those unemployment rates may reflect the hiring and growth of big box and chain stores, in turn masking the suffering of small businesses.

Several small businesses were vocal about experiencing the brunt of Flagstaff’s minimum wage increases. About a month before the pandemic occurred, small business owners reported that they’d resorted to reducing their number of employees and their hours of operation. 

The Flagstaff City Council has also considered a minimum wage increase for its city employees. They haven’t voted on an increase yet.

Deasy has petitioned the council to increase city employees’ minimum wage, initially asking for $17 an hour but settling for slightly less, $16.60 an hour.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Flagstaff Approved “Sustainable,” “ADA” Compliant Library Entrance But Removed Handicap Parking

Flagstaff Approved “Sustainable,” “ADA” Compliant Library Entrance But Removed Handicap Parking

By Corinne Murdock |

The Flagstaff City Council approved expenditures of over $1.1 million for what it said would improve Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance for the public library entrance — yet the majority of the project accomplishes sustainability and artistic ends, and the conceptual rendering removed current handicap parking. Construction began Monday. 

Of the seven initiatives outlined in the project’s executive summary, only one directly addresses an ADA item: safety railing. The executive summary noted that the project’s priorities and objectives align with diversity, inclusivity, sustainability, and carbon neutrality initiatives, in addition to benefiting a local artist. 

That artist, Maria Salenger, received a $75,000 contract in December 2020 to create exterior artwork for the library, which includes miniature steel sculptures of open books that will line the pathway and be illuminated at night. 

The Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library entrance renovations include new asphalt, curbs, gutters, and sidewalks; railing and ground-mounted art pieces; project lighting and electrical components; conduit and pull boxes for ITS Fiber and APS charging stations; a concrete plaza, pathways, and stairs with integral color and architectural finishes; hydronic heating in certain concrete pathways; and expanded landscaping. 

Noticeably absent from the conception drawing are the two handicap parking spaces currently positioned directly in front of the building; there, the city projected the installation of a garden bed. There’s no handicap parking anywhere near the library entrance in the drawing. 

According to the ADA: “Accessible [parking] spaces must connect to the shortest accessible route to the accessible public entrance or facility they serve.” For every 25 parking spaces in a lot, there must be at least one accessible parking space and at least one van accessible parking space.

(Source: U.S. Department of Justice, “ADA Compliance Brief,” ada.gov)

A conceptual rendering of the renovations depicts the library with a zigzag of sloped wheelchair-accessible concrete ramps lined with benches, plant beds, and safety railing. One side of the building will have stairs, whereas the current library entrance doesn’t. The new library entrance will also have porch tables and chairs.

The current exterior of the library has two straight, wide concrete pathways leading directly to the entrance, and no stairs.

The city announced early last year that the library’s front entrance wasn’t ADA compliant. 

The city awarded the “Main Library ADA Entrance Project” contract to Scholz Contracting, the only company to submit a bid for the job. The city posted a solicitation for construction last month and closed it after two weeks. In that time, the city received only one bid: Scholz Contracting.

According to the city’s procurement code, invitation for bids must be issued 21 days before the closing date and time for receipt of bids, unless a shorter time is determined necessary in writing by the purchasing agent pursuant to a written request from the department requiring the contract. The city charter requires that public notice of bid invitations must be published at least once in the newspaper, five days prior to the opening of bids. 

Funds for the renovation come from the general government and BBB funds for the library. The project is scheduled to take 130 days. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Flagstaff Considering Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Flagstaff Considering Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

By Corinne Murdock |

Flagstaff City Council will consider requiring all single occupancy public restrooms to be gender-neutral. Affected restrooms would be those in city-owned buildings designed for one person, a family, or assisted use. 

If enacted, the affected restrooms would be required to have “nongendered signage.” Instead, signs would read: “gender neutral,” “all gender,” or “restroom” without reference to a specific gender. 

The Commission on Diversity Awareness characterized the change as equitable and ensuring safety for “gender non-conforming persons.” The commission also urged the council to recommend gender-neutral restrooms for all others not owned by the city. 

The proposed push for gender-neutral restrooms arose out of the city’s application of the Municipal Equality Index: a metric designed by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ activist and lobbying group in the country. The index measures from 0 to 100 the inclusivity of laws, policies, and services within five categories: non-discrimination laws, municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and leadership on LGBTQ equality. 

Flagstaff scored 88 out of 100. They lost points in areas related to housing, health care, conversion therapy, youth bullying prevention, general resources, and all-gender facilities. 

Some private facilities took the step toward gender-neutral accommodations years ago. The Flagstaff YMCA changed its single occupancy restrooms into gender-neutral ones in 2016 after a young transgender male lodged a complaint. The operations director received Northern Arizona University (NAU) LGBTQIA’s Ally of the Year award. The director reported that the sign change impacted the transgender male so profoundly that the parents cried over it. NAU established gender-neutral restrooms in 2015. 

The site refugerestrooms.org lists the location of gender-neutral restrooms on Flagstaff and nationwide. The restroom locator service also comes in the form of an app. 

The city commission discussed the policy proposal on Tuesday. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Flagstaff City Council to Return to Drawing Board on Land Use Laws

Flagstaff City Council to Return to Drawing Board on Land Use Laws

By Corinne Murdock |

Flagstaff City Council indicated in a work session Wednesday that it will work on modifying its High Occupancy Housing (HOH) Plan. The plan caused pushback resulting in over $50 million in claims through the Arizona Private Property Rights Protection Act (Prop 207).

The council voted last week to waive the HOH policy application for those claimants. According to The Goldwater Institute – the think tank that assisted many claimants in submitting their demand letters – the city can anticipate even more claims.

A majority of the council’s discussion centered on the origins story, purposes, and strategies of the HOH Plan. At the end of a presentation from city staffers responsible for drafting and implementing the plan, the council was presented with the option of maintaining the plan, modifying certain aspects of it, or scrapping it entirely.

A majority of the council indicated that it would go back to the drawing board with a focus on the plan’s effects on environmental sustainability and housing.

Council members Adam Shimoni, Becky Daggett, Jim McCarthy, Regina Salas, and Austin Aslan indicated that repealing the HOH Plan wasn’t an option.

“We cannot allow the boogeyman of off-campus student housing to be the enemy of appropriate and healthy city development, especially so near the heart of the city,” asserted Aslan.

McCarthy added that the community needed more housing for families, and less apartments.

Only council member Miranda Sweet said she was in favor of repealing the plan entirely.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Flagstaff Waives Land Use Law For Certain Property Owners

Flagstaff Waives Land Use Law For Certain Property Owners

By Corinne Murdock |

Flagstaff City Council voted last Tuesday to waive its land use restriction for property owners who submitted around $50 million in legal claims under the Arizona Private Property Rights Protection Act.

The Goldwater Institute submitted a demand letter on behalf of property owners in July. At the time, claims amounted to over $23 million for over 50 property owners.

Under the city’s High Occupancy Housing (HOH) Plan, residential and mixed-use properties faced restrictions such as a limit on the density and number of bedrooms and units, and additional requirements for automobile and bicycle parking standards. The HOH Plan would affect buildings with more than 75 bedrooms or 30 units per acre in dormitory or apartment-style units.

In part, the Private Property Rights Protection Act, or Prop 207, requires government to compensate property owners for any land use laws that restrict the right to “use, divide, sell, or possess” a property and thereby reduce its fair market value.

“If the existing rights to use, divide, sell or possess private real property are reduced by the enactment or applicability of any land use law enacted after the date the property is transferred to the owner and such action reduces the fair market value of the property the owner is entitled to just compensation from this state or the political subdivision of this state that enacted the land use law.

Under Prop 207, individuals that believe a land use law impacts their property’s fair market value must submit a demand letter to the government who enacted the law. The government must then choose to either compensate the property owner, waive the law for that property, or amend the law entirely.

Prop 207 also doubles down on private property protections within the state and federal constitutions, adding further measures to define and restrict eminent domain.

The Goldwater Institute confirmed with AZ Free News that even more property owners have contacted them about claims.

This Tuesday, the Flagstaff City Council discussed the HOH Plan again during a work session. A presentation on the subject noted that there were 87 Prop 207 claims in all, totaling over $50 million. In reviewing the plan, the presentation asked the council if it would like to maintain the plan, modify certain aspects of it, or scrap it entirely.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.