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Some city commissions could be eliminated, restructured

SIERRA VISTA — The city’s various commissions — panels made up of citizens who advise the city on different topics — could soon get an overhaul that would create what officials hope will be a more efficient advisory process.

While the issue of which city commissions should be created, which should be combined and which should be eliminated or streamlined, is still very much in the talking stages, Mayor Rick Mueller agreed to take on the Herculean task of looking at the panels to determine which ones would serve the city best and which ones should go.

“Members of council have come to me and said we have to do something,” Mueller said. “The management (of the commissions) is kind of gangly. Probably against my better judgement, I said, ‘I’ll look at it, come up with a couple of proposals, come up with a straw man.”

A straw man is a brainstormed simple draft proposal intended to generate discussion.

So far, city council members have discussed the issue in a couple of work sessions. City staff also prepared a presentation that’s on the city’s website titled, “Board and Commission Restructuring — Concept Brief.” The latter presents a scenario of how the city’s boards and commissions could change.

“We’ve had a number of challenges over a number of months,” Mueller said Friday. “We have a commission that has no members right now — the Cultural Diversity Commission.”

Mueller said the members of that panel did not renew their memberships after serving a two-year term.

“Under the straw man proposal, it would be integrated with the Arts and Humanities Commission,” Mueller said.

One of the commissions that might be shored up and folded into another is the Airport Commission. Under the concept brief prepared by the city, that panel would be rolled into a newly-created commission called the Transportation Advisory Board.

That idea ruffled some members of the Airport Commission, who showed up at the city’s last work session on Dec. 10.

Tom Kennedy, the seven-member panel’s new chairman-elect, told the City Council that disbanding the group would be a mistake.

“The Airport Commission consists of seven pilots with varying levels of experience,” Kennedy, a retired pilot, told council members from a prepared statement. “If the Airport Commission is disbanded, this group will will no longer be meeting, and their contributions toward airport operations will be permanently lost.”

Last week though, Kennedy and other Airport Commission members met with Mueller and came away with a different outlook.

“I am quite confident that we can keep the Airport Commission intact and at the same time fully support the proposed Transportation Board the mayor favors,” Kennedy wrote in another statement.

Kennedy said the most significant contribution the panel performs is, “We pay attention to aviation safety. The only people who can identify safety issues, are pilots. Our biggest contribution is that safety is top on our priority list. We help identify safety issues and we help the city resolve them.”

But as the mayor said, nothing is written in stone.

A similar plan was attempted in 2016, when the city had 17 commissions, Mueller said. At the time, three council members interviewed each of the commissions to learn their missions and how those impact the city.

“The effect on policy was that one commission was very good; the others were who knows where,” he said. “Trying to get a consistency and productivity out of the commissions was a challenge.”

The 2016 sessions resulted in a general report and an opposition report, Mueller said. But the effort was all for naught.

“There was no consensus on council to change anything,” the mayor said. “We went through this long process and nothing.

For now, they will continue to study the issue.

“(Right now) it’s basically up for discussion,” Mueller added. “We’re going to discuss the ideas and go through the various recommendations. Nothing is in hard copy yet. Once that gets done we’ll figure out where the consensus of council is.”

“If there is consensus of council, we’ll have to go back formally again and look at each commission. It’s going to be a long process to make the changes,” Mueller said.

If that happens, then the next step, Mueller said, is for the City Council to formally go through each commission’s authorization document and consider any changes in the panels’ missions. The process will be a lengthy one, the mayor said.

“The goal is to have a more efficient system,” Mueller said.

HERITAGE BROUGHT TO LIFE: Native American event in Tombstone draws rave reviews

TOMBSTONE — The rhythmic beat of drums filled Tombstone’s historic Allen Street on Saturday, replacing the erratic blasts of reenactment gunfire that have become associated with the town’s Old West image.

Native Americans from different tribes gathered in Tombstone, where they entertained visitors with a mix of ancient and contemporary tribal music and dances as they shared their heritage through the town’s first-ever Native American Heritage Day celebration.

With a beautifully performed lineup of educational, entertaining stories — many depicting the sacred connection native people share with Mother Earth — spectators lining Allen Street were treated to a ceremonial blessing of the four winds as part of the event’s opening ceremonies. Performed by Azteca Dancers Luis Fimbres and Mireya Arredondo of Mexicayotl Academy out of Nogales, the ceremony included the cleansing power of a smudge pot filled with burning sage while Fimbres sounded a conch shell.

Following the opening ceremonies, the expressive, explosive movements of nine-time world champion hoop dancer Nakotah LaRance drew rave reviews from spectators.

“Through the hoop dance, Nakotah represents the beauty of Mother Earth and all the incredible gifts she gives us on a daily basis,” said Steve LaRance, Nakotah’s father. “Some of the dance designs include the eagle, butterfly, flower, ladder of life and the horse,” Steve noted as he narrated his son’s dance. “Watch for these designs as he moves through the dance.”

Nakotah, 30, started hoop dancing as a 4 year old and has performed all over the world. While hoop dancing is his passion, he also dabbles in acting and has appeared in “Dances with Wolves”, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and the television series “Longmire,” to name a few of his appearances.

Robert Erickson, a tourist who was visiting Tombstone from San Diego, describes himself as one of Nakotah LaRance’s fans.

“I started following hoop dancing after watching Nakotah at another event, and I think he’s phenomenal,” Erickson said. “The way he brings animals to life from his hoops and movements is amazing. He is truly impressive.”

Singer, songwriter and flute player Shelley Morningsong also dazzled the crowd with the sheer purity of her voice as she sang about tribal cultures and traditions. Her partner, singer and dancer Fabian Fontenelle, performed beautiful portrayals of those stories.

The event was organized by event coordinator Dennis Nofchissey, a Native American jewelry maker and silver and goldsmith, who also opened a new art gallery at 110 South Fourth Street next to Tombstone’s Rose Tree Museum on Saturday.

Designed as an entertaining portrayal of Native Americans while capturing their heritage and culture, Nofchissey said he hopes to make the event an annual celebration.

“One of the goals is to bring more diverse events to Tombstone,” Nofchissey said. “This is the first Native American event of its kind in town.”

While supported by most Tombstone merchants, there was one hiccup early in the day when Native American jewelers with vendors booths in the city park were asked to relocate to a place on Fremont Street.

“My understanding is that a local business is objecting to the jewelry vendors in the park, so now they are being required to relocate,” Steve LaRance said. “It’s unfortunate when something like this happens. This could be a fantastic event for Tombstone, but they’re going to kill this celebration before it even gets started.”

Tombstone business owner and one of the heritage day organizers Robin Chelmis was responsible for the event permits.

“All jewelry vendors were supposed to be told there would be no jewelry sold on city property, and that includes the park,” she said. “I arranged for all the jewelers to set up their booths at Vintage Cowgirls on Fremont Street and we erected a tepee for them. Unfortunately, some of the jewelers did not receive that information ahead of time and had to move out of the park.”

As the primary organizer, Nofchissey said that he is working on smoothing out the misunderstanding.

“The crowd and sponsors loved this event and would like to see it happen again,” he said. “We’re hoping to bring it back in the spring, as a multicultural event with Hispanic, Native, Anglo and as many cultures that want to participate. I’m very excited about bringing this event back to Tombstone and making it bigger and better.”