This column by John McLemore appeared in yesterday’s GILBERT Republic…and you thought we only had these problems in Scottsdale! I would remind you that yours truly was fired from the Scottsdale Airport Advisory Commission–the first sitting commissioner removed in 30 years–for similar dissent regarding the Scottsdale City Council’s approval of high-rise housing projects inside the Scottsdale Airpark.
I’ve heard it said that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” If true, then what happened last month regarding Gilbert’s advisory boards is as unpatriotic as it gets.
We lost two citizen advisers, not because they shirked their duties, not because they were incapable, not because they were unwilling, not because of any conflict of interest, but because they dared represent opposing views. Bobbi Smith advocated for a robust parks system that supports families in providing wholesome activities for their children. She didn’t just pay lip service to the notion, as pointed out in The Republic’s June 28 story (“Shake-up on parks board”). She was a lightning rod for the creation of a 10-year master plan for the parks and has several other accomplishments during her six years of service.
She obviously took the job seriously.
Bob Steiger always lent a sympathetic ear to the town’s residents during reclassification and rezoning hearings. He might not always vote your way, but he always took time to hear both sides and make a considerate decision. He was the only engineer on the board and one of few who didn’t have ties to the development community. He was the citizens’ voice among developers. So I’m sure those who were kept or who voted to replace these public servants were superior advisers, right?
For the Parks Board, we now have a real-estate investor and a real-estate attorney/agent for two of the three opened slots. Nothing I read in any of their relevant experiences or visions demonstrated unique knowledge or better suitability for the position than Bobbi’s resume.
For the Planning and Zoning Board, they reappointed Jennifer Whitman, whose cozy business relationships with real-estate attorneys and developers almost guarantees a rubber-stamped “yes” on any request coming through.
And then there’s Khyl Powell, who was reappointed alternate to the Planning and Zoning Board even though he lacked the motivation to attend his interview with the Town Council (“New personnel rules get mixed town OK,” June 29 Gilbert Republic ).
What seems to have happened is that the mayor and council rewarded their base supporters — who happen to be in the real-estate business — and turned a deaf ear to all others in the community. Instead of making well-informed decisions after hearing all sides of any particular issue, they seem intent on finding those voices who echo their desires. Their minds are set, and they don’t want to muddy the waters with contention [emphasis added].
The sad part is that the council ignores the fact that they represent a diverse community and that the best overall solutions come from this diversity. They’d prefer to deny alcohol tasting and liquor permits or even do away with tapes and videos at the library to developing a robust parks system or protecting the open-space vision that was outlined in the voter approved General Plan.
Because for them, that’s what family values are all about. They just need to understand that there are a lot of us who believe otherwise.
John McLemore is a communications engineer who lives in Gilbert.