News and Press Releases
The Smart Choice Is Requiring Masks
June 24, 2020
We can save lives and save our local businesses,
but to do it we have to be smart, disciplined and
work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.
It's clear that some of our leaders have misunderstood
the nature of the threat. On February 26 our national
leader told us that there were only 15 US cases and
within a few days that would fall to zero.
Four months later we have 2.3 million cases and 122,000 dead.
On May 12 our state leader said, “We are clearly on the other side of this pandemic,” and soon lifted the shelter-in-place order. Less than a month later a Yale University public health scientist and epidemiologist stated that Arizona's epidemic “exceeds Brazil and Peru to be one of the hardest-hit regions in the world.”
It’s all around us, in Kingman, in Flagstaff, in Maricopa. Yavpai County Health Director Leslie Horton warns that we have to “remain vigilant with our approach, not let our guard down.”
It's been clear from the start that masks are effective. New Zealand, Slovakia, South Korea and other nations that required masks and pursued testing and tracing have effectively minimized deaths and stopped the spread.
Our economy cannot recover until we stop the virus. Sadly, misinformation and political posturing turned the effectiveness of masks into a political issue. We have to stop arguing about masks and start wearing them.
We have to come together on this as a community. I applaud Mayor Mengarelli and Supervisor Brown for recommending masks, but the reality on the ground here is that many are not listening. People obey speed limits and stop at red lights both because it's safer and because of the consequences for breaking the law. The safer choice now is to call for mandatory mask use in public places, as most of Arizona has done, including the Northern Arizona mayors of Clarkdale, Flagstaff and Sedona.
By holding large events like the rodeo and the July 4 parade, we are encouraging tourists to come to town and adding to the vulnerability of those in the service industry. Sanitary measures at the rodeo grounds may help, but increasing human density in Prescott inevitably increases the spread of the virus, and a bigger outbreak here will further damage our economy.
Mayor Mengarelli says, “we can’t shut the town down,” but the rodeo and parade are not the town. They are important to our cultural identity, but not essential. As a Whiskey Row business owner I recognize their economic importance, but human life is more important than that. We have to face the reality that we're already shut down, and we can work together to get through this crisis sooner. We need some patience and discipline.
We will have to make sacrifices to defeat this disease. I would much rather it is the inconvenience of wearing a mask and postponing our community celebrations than having our families losing loved ones and our businesses continuing to struggle.
Recommending the public use of masks is better than disputing their value, but taking the next logical step and requiring them would help us stop the spread of this disease, return sooner to a vibrant economy, and save lives.
To download this statement click here
Statement on New Jail
May 29, 2020
Several important factors in the new-jail issue tell me that the Supervisors
would be wiser to slow down and reassess the entire project before committing
the money to construction.
Voters soundly rejected a sales-tax increase to pay for the jail complex twice,
and many tell me that they believed they were voting against the jail. This
understanding should be acknowledged and honored.
Without the sales-tax funding, as they said they would, the Supervisors went
forward with an 18% property-tax hike last year, effectively raising our taxes
at the maximum rate allowed by law over the past nine years. That doesn't
look like sensible management to me or to many of the voters I've been talking with.
The Supervisors are basing their decision to spend 65 million borrowed dollars on the new jail based on a consultant's projections from 2011. The County economy and demographics have changed a lot in the intervening time, particularly in the last few months with the pandemic.
Current best judicial practices recommend less incarceration of nonviolent offenders, taking many people out of jails in favor of home detention and tracking. This not only reduces the cost but helps maintain the economic security of families and businesses. These practices do not appear in the report recommending the new jail, and should be considered by the Supervisors as well as our judicial and law-enforcement officers.
For these reasons I believe the wisest course is to suspend collection of the property-tax increase, hold the funds we've already borrowed and conduct a forward-thinking review of the County's likely needs once the pandemic has subsided.
Statement on Covid19 from Yavapai County Democratic Party Chair John Lutes
March 14, 2020
The Yavapai County Democrats support the efforts by Congressional Democrats to have the federal government provide assistance to those who find their livelihoods and housing threatened by work stoppages related to the coronavirus pandemic.
So far we in northern Arizona are experiencing relatively low risk from the virus, but we should expect that it will come and plan accordingly, including the avoidance of large public meetings.
The Senate bill:
* Allows the application of emergency Employment Insurance funds to help workers and small businesses cope with disruptions.
* Requires all employers to allow employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave, and provide 14 days of immediate paid leave in the event of a public-health emergency.
* Allows payment deferral of up to six months on federally insured or guaranteed mortgages and federal student loans without additional fees, compounding interest or risk to credit scores.
* Provides special relief for small businesses and local economies, including emergency SBA grants to cover the cost of lost business and sick leave.
* Provides emergency rental assistance to prevent evictions and utility stoppages.
* Provides emergency mortgage assistance, reinstatement assistance and legal assistance for those who fall behind on payments.
* Establishes supplemental federal housing support to provide direct aid to housing authorities and other organizations to ensure resident safety and maintain housing for those falling behind and vulnerable populations.
* Provides food-security measures to assist low-income and vulnerable populations in
maintaining nutrition and support food distribution.
The House bill:
* Provides supplemental funding for food assistance and to reinforce food distribution for children and low-income seniors.
* Suspends work requirements and provides emergency benefits for SNAP recipients.
* Provides for emergency paid sick days for those who are sick, quarantined or can't work due to school closings.
* Provides emergency unemployment compensation and administration infrastructure.
* Adds protections for healthcare workers.
* Requires health-insurance plans to cover COVID-19 testing and waive co-pays.
* Covers no-cost testing for the uninsured.
If implemented, these proposals will help us all maintain the health of our families, our communities and our economy as we weather this crisis. We urge you to express your support by calling your US Representatives and Senators at the numbers below.
John Lutes, Chair
Yavapai County Democratic Party
May 20, 2020
Blog for Arizona by David Gordon
John Lutes is a fixture of the Prescott Community.
A successful businessman on Whisky Row for over 40 years, first with the McMahon’s Furniture Store and then later with Arts Prescott Co-op and the Van Gogh’s Ear Art Gallery, Mr. Lutes has also devoted considerable time to assisting local non-profit organizations.
He is currently the Chairperson of the Yavapai Democratic Party.
Yavapai County includes all or parts of Prescott, Sedona,
Peoria, Wickenburg, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Dewey-Humboldt,
Prescott Valley, Jerome, Chino Valley, and Camp Verde.
A proud husband, father, and grandfather, Mr. Lutes is running
to become part of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors.
If he wins election to the board, he wants to:
“Help lead the conversation we need as a community about the
issues that are important to us all, to listen to the diverse needs
of our people, and to give everyone a voice in our shared future.
I want to see a common-sense approach to growth, water, and
housing in Yavapai County that benefits everyone and preserves
treasures like the Granite Dells, the Verde River, and our Courthouse Square.”
In helping plan for the future of the County, Mr. Lutes also hopes to:
"We must develop a plan to manage our prosperity and develop our economic sovereignty so that we keep the country in our county.”
Mr. Lutes graciously took the time to discuss his candidacy for the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors.
The questions and his responses are below.
Please tell the readers three ways the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors affects their lives?
“(The Board) oversees a budget of a quarter of a billion tax dollars, including state and federal grants, covering roads and bridges, health services, public safety and other vital needs. I worry that people do not know the Supervisors exist or what they do. The Board helps determine local and property-tax rates. It’s like the U.S. Senate of the County. The long-range plans that the Supervisors shape and administer have huge implications for the shape and character of our urban and rural communities.”
Please tell the readers how your education and experience has prepared you to serve on the board.
“Four decades of experience in the retail business on Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott sharpened what I learned in management and business at NAU. Running a retail business gives me a solid knowledge of the people and decision-makers in our area. I know the character of our community and what matters to our people. My Degree is a BS in Forestry from NAU, which taught me a lot about systems integration. An environmental education teaches how everything in our world interacts with everything else, and no action is unto itself. Understanding perennial challenges like water are supported with a science-based view of how our natural and man-made systems interact.”
Please describe how you would support:
Animal wellness, adoption, and protection:
“The level of sprawl-type developments seems to be ignoring animal corridors, and that affects our wildlife in adverse ways. That needs to be considered, and the way we develop should consider the impact on wildlife, including antelope, coyotes, red-tail hawks, and all other species. The way we approach this locally affects the world. I am a big promoter of animal adoption. My wife and I have always adopted from the shelters and pounds.”
2. Public safety from disease:
“The County health department should coordinate the response to disease. It should be encouraging the wearing of masks. I am concerned that our County budget will need revisions upward for pandemic preparedness. We need to be prepared for the future, and we need to be prepared at County Health Services.”
3. Ensuring immunizations are given to low income and homeless citizens:
“County Health Services should be in charge of overseeing this important function as a way to protect the whole population from the spread of disease.”
4. County Libraries:
“Where other Counties offer extensive parks-and-recreation systems and libraries, Yavapai has neglected this area as our population has grown. Expanding the parks-and-rec budget and putting it to sensible use is an initiative I’d like to have the Board consider.”
5. Veterans Services:
“The Prescott VA Center has a great reputation and our Veterans services are extremely well received. My wife’s career as a nurse at the VA has brought home to me the need to always care for our Veterans. and as County Supervisor I would continue to advocate for the support our local VA Center needs.”
6. Safeguarding waste, recycling, and sanitation:
“The County needs to get a better handle on the issue of wells and septic systems. One of the biggest issues in Yavapai County is the unregulated use of over 11,000 wells, most of them paired with septics. As long as that is the case, we will have a problem with clean, safe water. Another issue is the burying of garbage waste and the lack of regulations, especially when the waste becomes toxic, and threatens leaching into our aquifers. We should be more carefully regulating our landfills.”
“Our people feel that the County is spending money on infrastructure to promote growth and the kind of sprawl that does not help current residents. People don’t want to sit in traffic looking at a sea of rooftops. They want the openness, and infrastructure that promotes the safety and wellbeing of the people already living here. That’s where they want to see their tax dollars go in reference to infrastructure. The largest spending project that the current County board is going with is a $65-million incarceration facility. On April 1 they approved it, in full knowledge of the economic downturn we have to anticipate with Covid-19. They should have delayed the project until they knew how far sales-tax revenues would fall, as well as declining property values. County voters turned down proposed sales-tax increases for the jail in the last two election cycles. In voting down the sales tax, they felt they were turning down the jail. Instead, the Supervisors increased the property tax by 18 percent without the voters’ approval, and this is upsetting voters. It does not sit well with them.”
Please address other priorities, not covered in question four, as a member of the board you would like to pursue if elected.
“I would like to pursue responsible, forward-thinking stewardship of our shared resources, especially water. We have been treating our groundwater as more or less a fixed accounting problem rather than a vital and diminishing resource as our population grows. This needs to change. Uncontrolled urban sprawl is eroding our quality of life. We need a clearer vision for what we want the County to become long-term, and be willing to fight for that vision.”
Please tell the reader anything you would like them to know not covered in the previous questions.
“My wife and I have made Yavapai County our home for four decades. We should preserve the best parts of our way of life for future generations. My daughter and her family live here, and I think we should preserve the treasures of Yavapai County such as the Verde River, the Granite Dells, and the Courthouse Square that we all cherish.”
April 1, 2020
For immediate release
Contact: Steven Ayres, Communications
John Lutes for Yavapai County Supervisor
John Lutes Drops Signatures for Supervisor; District 1 Campaign Begins in Earnest
PRESCOTT—John Lutes, running for Supervisor in Yavapai County District 1, delivered 289 signatures to the County Recorder's office on March 18, officially launching his campaign. Under the statewide shelter-in-place order related to the Covid-19 pandemic, he faces challenges in devising new ways to reach voters and communicate his concerns about some County projects, including the new justice center proposal.
Lutes speaks enthusiastically about the race: "I've pulled together a great team and some generous support, and we've been getting very positive responses from voters across the spectrum since we started talking with them in January. People want more balance, fresh ideas and transparency from the Supervisors, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to take that message to the County Building."
The first phase of the campaign will be about listening to what voters want. Says Lutes, "I've been doing business on Whiskey Row for nearly forty years, and I certainly have ideas about what I'd like to see the County doing. But to properly represent the people of this district, I need to know a lot more about their experiences and what matters to them. So we're working to put together a series of neighborhood forums to hear those voices and explore those experiences."
Under the conditions imposed by the pandemic, the time-tested practice of canvassing door-to-door and talking with voters one-on-one is off the table for the time being. Lutes: "This means we have to reach people in different ways, mostly online and by phone. I hope more people tune in to the County meetings by teleconference. It is more important than ever that we become more involved and more knowledgeable about local government. We need to encourage conversations about the Board of Supervisors, which is not well understood by many voters."
Lutes and his partners have suspended operations in their gallery, Van Gogh's Ear. "We're in a serious time, and our County is facing the kind of challenge we haven't seen in a hundred years. As citizens it's our responsibility to work together more thoughtfully and look out for one another as we work through this crisis."
One issue that concerns Lutes is the proposed justice center in Prescott and how it has moved forward without considering the impact of the pandemic on the economy. "To prevent what may be a major error, I think the Board should pull back on this project until we see how the economic landscape looks once the pandemic subsides. Many people believed that when they voted down the sales tax to pay for it, they were saying 'no' to the new jail. Instead the Supervisors went ahead with it, as they said they would, and have implemented an 18% property-tax hike to pay for it. I need to know more about why we need to spend 65 million dollars for this, when the pandemic will be changing our economy and leading us to rethink how we incarcerate people."
John Lutes is a principal partner in the Van Gogh's Ear Gallery and current Chair of the Yavapai County Democratic Party.