Council Shuts Out Those with Different Views

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.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. John, now come on, does the actions of Mayor Lane, (pardon the pun) and the Scottsdale City Council surprise you one bit? Doesn’t me. The reason I don’t attend City Council meetings is I would be asked to leave for LAUGHING OUT LOUD in my seat.

  2. The point is that that’s not how it should be – we should expect more from our “leaders”. Their jobs are to represent the whole community when making decisions – not just a few interest groups. By shutting out those with differing views they are shirking their duties.

    Our strength as a community and country is only through collaboration (not compromise) between diverse interests and opinion. As a nation we have forgotten this and it has rippled down through all areas of government. It now plays like “winner take all” even though the elections are won by the slimmest of margins.

    I’m in Gilbert and we face many of the same issues that Scottsdale does. We have noticed the active citizenry of Scottsdale and have been impressed – at least you guys fight back – we need to follow a similar path down here. Perhaps there will be a time in the near future when we could work together. The developers from Mesa and Scottsdale pour a lot of money into influencing Gilbert elections and I’m sure you face similar outside interests. Maybe there IS strength in numbers.

  3. Happy to work together anytime, John! And, as Norm says, I HAVE been laughed out of city hall a few times:)

    I have to believe that there are a lot of really smart, really concerned people out there who would join us if they only knew what is really going on. We can’t rely on the Republic to do the in-depth community reporting that is required to make that happen, but short of having a lot of money to start up our own newspaper, ScottsdaleTrails is the best way I’ve found. I just need help getting the word out!

    Maybe we can do something similar for Gilbert.

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