I guess I'm not surprised that Kingman resident Jay Schritter's statement, "We've got six monkeys that are poisoning our city," furrowed some brows this week. I know if he was talking about me, if he saw me as a long-tailed primate administering toxic and potentially lethal chemicals into our small-town municipality, I would be a little crabby, too.
City Councilman Kerry Deering was, and his argument against Schritter's statement is valid.
"It's one thing to say you don't agree with people, it's another to say that there's six monkeys poisoning the city. I don't think you should ever question someone's integrity unless you know they're lying," Deering said.
"I don't think that anyone on that Council has been doing anything that's shady," he added.
Perhaps not, but there is a larger problem, and it's a problem Council's "new direction" should have spearheaded: government transparency.
Was Schritter's statement tasteful? Probably not. Does the majority of residents view Council as a bunch of monkeys? Probably not. We'll find out next May.
Was his quote an accurate depiction of some of the sentiments expressed by many of the 25 residents who met Monday and voiced their concerns about the lack of transparency and questionable integrity of local officials? I think so. That's why I printed it.
Deering made another valid point in our conversation.
"There's a big difference between the general public and the group that met" Monday to rail against local officials, Deering said. The critics, besides members of RAID, Deering said, mostly make up members of the real estate and development industries who've seen a major hit since the economy slowed. They have pocketbook interests, and that leads one to believe they might not be as sincere as they appear to be in their claims of simply wanting the best for Kingman.
"The problem is our economy. We were in a boom, and now we're in a bust. I'd be the same way if my business was ... if I didn't know if I would be able to go on," Deering said.
It's a valid point. But it's not the sole reason for the criticism and skepticism of government officials.
I'll euphemize here and say that City Manager Paul Beecher's recent experiences with diminution of constructive constituency receptiveness is no secret. So when Council members back him and attribute his mistakes, at least in part, to their leadership failures, it's understandable that Beecher's critics then lash out against Council.
As a result, the job of every Beecher-supporting Council member is on the chopping block, and I anticipate a record voter turnout at the May general election because of it.
Again, calling somebody a monkey may not be the best way to go about addressing grievances - even if it makes it in the paper, twice now - but Schritter's point isn't unfounded. He said, "If they're not dirty ... they have the appearance of being dirty." Perception is everything.
When you say you have nothing to hide, yet you withhold documents that by your own policy are public records, then whether or not you're actually hiding something, it appears you are. Hiding stuff isn't good.
As a result, the city was slapped with a lawsuit this week by one of the best media law attorneys in the state. When you want to charge churches impact fees, claiming that nothing can be done about it, and then state a year later that "we ought to look into the fees and see if we can help the churches," it looks like you either screwed up or didn't try to help the first time. Helping is good.
When your representative on Kingman Crossing tells the public he doesn't know the cost to fill a crater at the Crossing site and says something like, "the report's probably on my desk as we speak," yet he e-mailed those same costs to the city manager two months earlier, it "appears" that he's lying. Lying isn't good.
And when you're required to do an "independent" third-party impact study before giving sales tax incentives to a developer, yet you seek that developer's counsel on who to hire, it appears that you have a 4-year-old's understanding of the word "independent." It looks dirty. Dirty is not good.
And these aren't the only examples of why residents are skeptical and critical.
My point is that there are reasons people are skeptical of the government - reasons other than developers and Realtors wanting to make a buck and have financial security in their own city. These reasons are the issue, not Schritter's comment about monkeys. Anyway, I'm sure he meant five monkeys, as he's expressed favor with two members of Council.
Unfortunately, the Miner's solution for the city to hire a public information officer has been dismissed. The only other solution I see is the one proposed by critics, and unless something is done, their solution will likely cost you, City Council members, your positions.