Tuesday, January 15th, the Cottonwood City Council ended the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) process with a 5-2 vote in support of the Parks and Recreation Riverfront Park Master Plan. The two dissenting votes by Mayor Elinski and Councilman, and former Mayor Ruben Jauregui, supported the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition plan for transitional housing. The 3-hour and 27-minute meeting enjoyed the highest number of public comments in recent memory.
All five funding requests received convincing public comments supporting the program. Overall, 12 public comments were made in support of Riverfront, and 11 for the Transitional Shelter. Once the meeting was closed for comment, the council members voiced that they wished they were able to fund all the programs, and that some council members were actually swayed by the public comments they had heard.
With a population of close to 70,000 in the Verde Valley, should these programs rely on $330,000 in federal grant money? With an eye on more sustainable progress, I believe the Verde Valley should see more organized fundraising efforts, but most importantly, active community participation.
The Parks and Recreation Department has been requesting funding for its Master Plan for 18 years. Twelve people stood in support of this program; why wasn’t anyone supporting it at the City Council budget hearings for the last 18 years?
Nonprofits have taken a look at homelessness over the last 30 years. Habitat for Humanity, Old Town Mission, Catholic Charities, Verde Valley Homeless Coalition, Sedona Area Homeless Alliance, and Manzanita Outreach, have all worked to support those between homes or needing an upgrade by providing shelter, food, and life’s basic needs. Where have you been when they needed your help?
I plan to attend as many City Council meetings as I can so that our elected officials know that they are not alone, and that there are individuals and organizations ready to step into the ring.
I implore you also to get involved in local government, the work of local nonprofits, and other local organizations doing work you are passionate about. We can no longer simply talk about the community we hope this to become.
I believe in Cottonwood and the whole Verde Valley. I believe in our mayor, the council, and the local organizations making change. I think they are doing the best they can, but they can’t do it alone. Together we can build a vibrant and healthy community.