Candidate profile: Solona Jade Sisco

Sisco worked briefly as a freelancer for another local newspaper, writing primarily about upcoming events. She has also written about affordable housing in an article about city council discussions over a possible incentive program, modeled after one in Vail, Colorado, for long-term housing development and rentals.

Here is how Sisco responded to our three questions:

What are your thoughts on the version of PAD that the city passed last month? What would you like to improve, change or remove?

“I think that the May 14th passage of the PAD was great progress on one of many needed solutions for the housing crisis. If the first PAD developments in R-3 and/or R-4 get overall neutral or positive reactions from the community, then I would be interested in expanding the PAD into R-2. Further deliberations would be warranted, continuing the discussion that the council had in its March 6th PAD workshop about how the PAD would be adjusted for R-2. If someone in R-2 has a home garden or rooftop solar panels, then I think it is important that those continue to get plenty of sunlight rather than being shaded by a building that is tall or that has a tiny setback.

“I would like to see off-street parking requirements reduced or eliminated. The PAD as it was passed requires one off-street parking space be provided per studio or one-bedroom unit and two spaces per two bedroom or larger unit. I do not want to encourage on-street parking, but rather make housing more affordable for those willing and able to live car-free lifestyles. Most vehicles pollute the atmosphere with carbon dioxide when driven, but even electric vehicles take up valuable real estate. Affordable housing would be more affordable if residents would not have to pay for parking spaces that they never use. I would like for there to be more economic incentives for eco-friendly choices, particularly the impactful choice of walking and/or bicycling rather than owning a car. I am interested in the ideas of planner Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking and editor of the book Parking and the City.

“I think it is important to bear in mind that the PAD is costing the city nothing more in tax dollars than the labor of drafting the legislation. This is in contrast to the potential Moab Indeed program costing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more and the Walnut Lane redevelopment project costing millions of dollars from the city’s budget. Yes, it is socially difficult to get the PAD to be done in a way that is just for everyone in the community, but we at least are not having to raise taxes for it or strain to find money for it in the budget.”

What are your thoughts on the proposal for council members to get back health coverage that they lost starting in 2014? Would you like to see city council members’ pay and benefits increased, decreased or stay the same?

“I think that a higher compensation is needed in order to make the role more accessible to people of diverse economic backgrounds, and also to attract candidates who are highly qualified and/or motivated. It would be difficult for many to earn merely a $721 per month stipend for a job that can entail close to 40 hours per week of work. Managing that can be infeasible for those who are not retired or independently wealthy. 

“I believe that it looks slightly disingenuous for the council to be proposing such an increase of pay/benefits- largely for future council members- when all three incumbents up for re-election will likely be re-elected. However, I do think that the current council works hard and deserves a substantial increase in compensation.

“If the compensation proposal is passed as it is currently written, then if elected I personally would take a vow of poverty. I would take the health insurance equivalent and give it back to the city of Moab, earmarked to the sustainability department. I would do this in solidarity with the low-wage workers and interns of Moab and also as a show of how serious I am about sustainability, while still working close to 40 hours per week in my capacity of city council member.”

What are your thoughts on removing lodging as a protected use in the City of Moab? Should the rules be less restrictive, or should new hotels and overnight rentals be disallowed completely as proposed?

“I agree with removing overnight lodging as a protected use in the City of Moab, at least for the short to medium term future. On the topic of the city potentially getting sued for not allowing new overnight rentals past the August moratorium end date, city manager Joel Linares at the June 11th City Council meeting said “As long as we’re acting in good faith and we’re moving forward, and we’re actually doing what we say we’re doing, I feel better about it.” I am inclined to agree with Linares on legal matters such as this.

“With vested hotels under construction set to increase the nightly rental capacity of the area by as much as 20% or even 38%, I predict that the housing crisis is set to get worse before it gets better. In the language of Landmark Design’s proposed overnight accommodation options, I would like to go with 5 (“no growth”, i.e., “balanced growth”) and then 4 (“controlled growth”). Number 5 would be the stage during which we draft an overlay that sets in place form based standards.

“During that time of number 5, I would also want to set in place strict environmental requirements (such as attempts at Living Building Challenge certification). Such strict requirements on newly constructed overnight rentals would ensure that when we move from 5 into 4, the growth of new overnight rentals would be slow and of high quality. If tourists get to stay in a Living Building Challenge Certified hotel, then that will provide them with an educational experience that they can take with them when they go home. A world class eco-tourism destination should not only allow tourists to enjoy experiencing natural wonders, but also inspire the visitors to lead lifestyles that are more eco-friendly.”

Note: This story has been edited to add Sisco’s responses to our three questions.