It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, just the former this week, as a new level of understanding was forged between developer and developer and between developer's planner/PR team and small-town editor with a tendency to get under people's skin. God help us all.
I'll admit that I wasn't quite sure how to react when I first heard the news that local developer Scott Dunton had decided to drop his sword at the feet of developer Jim Rhodes, and the two were reportedly coming together to hammer out their differences. As most people here know, Dunton has been rather outspoken against the Las Vegas developer and even sued him (and won) to get what he'd been promised.
So when reporter Nick Wilbur told me that Mr. Rhodes had just flown in to Kingman to meet with Dunton, I really didn't believe him. Then Nick reminded me that the county P&Z meeting was scheduled for the next day. Of course, I thought: Mr. Rhodes, as he's been known to do, was settling a dispute at the 11th hour, just before the noose was tightened around his neck. But I still didn't think anything would come from it.
Rhodes and Dunton were not on my mind at 7 a.m. the next morning when I arrived at the Miner, and I was a bit shocked to see Nick's truck in the parking lot. I figured he must have had engine trouble or something, because I don't remember ever seeing him at work before 9. The shock continued for me when his eyes peeked out around the side of his computer monitor as I entered the newsroom.
"They did it!" Nick exclaimed. I would love to lie here and say I immediately knew exactly what he meant, but Nick would never let me get away with that, so the truth is I think I muttered, "Who did what now?" So Nick proceeded to fill me in on the eight-hour intense negotiations between the Rhodes camp and the Dunton camp and how agreements were made well beyond the lawsuit, agreements on the master planned community in Golden Valley and the city well sites and Sacramento Road.
"They shook hands at the end," Nick said. Being an editor, I immediately quipped, "Did we get a picture." And so Nick had. And as I looked at the shot of the rival developers' clasp, I tried to figure out exactly what it meant. Throughout the day, I went from melancholy to excitement, then back to melancholy, then to something in between. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
On one hand, I felt a little let down, as Dunton had been Rhodes' worst critic, calling him names like "scoundrel" and other things I can't share in a family newspaper. I thought that he had caved. On the other hand, I was jazzed that Dunton had pushed Rhodes well beyond the lawsuit to acquire assurances on the Pravada project, especially on those confounded well sites.
After leaving work at 6 p.m., I found a few moments to think about it all without constant interruptions. Rhodes' PR/planning team had been down to see me late in the afternoon to tell me how much they had loved my Sunday column (they didn't love it) and how much they appreciated being called liars in the paper (they didn't appreciate that at all).
So when I finally had a moment to think, I came to a conclusion. Rhodes is not going anywhere. They are going to build a master planned community called Pravada in Golden Valley because they purchased the land to do so. That's a fact that I guess took me a while to wrap my mind around, and it took Dunton nearly as long to figure it out, and there are some vocal opponents in our community who may never get that message.
As I told the Rhodes team that afternoon, we will continue to watch everything they do. If the Miner and I have been overly critical of them, tough cookies. This community has never dealt with something this big, and frankly, it scared the hell out of a lot of people here when Pravada and Rhodes' other projects were first introduced. The massive scale shocked this community, and some of the shenanigans with the well sites and the 301-foot buffer and the recent Golden Valley meeting that was announced just two days before the event have sent up fiery red flags that, as editor of the Miner, I felt I had to investigate, or at the least to inform them about everything concerning Rhodes' past and present actions.
I did not and will not apologize for our coverage, but I did assure them that we would communicate better with them in the future. I must say that the people we are dealing with now have been tremendous when we are seeking answers compared to the folks we dealt with in the past. I also know that many of the people in this community tend to be severely paranoid about pretty much everything, and they fight any and all impediments on their "quality of life." Some have to realize that this community is not theirs alone; others have just as much right to their "slice of heaven."
I used to believe that the vocal opponents to growth were always on the right path, but now I wonder. I look at Kingman and the surrounding area and think, why hasn't this community grown like other communities? Where are the water parks, where are the Best Buys and Targets and Dillard's, where are the arts centers and theaters and places for kids to hang out and have fun? Why are there patches of empty desert all through Kingman, why are so many streets unpaved, and why are so many people so pissed off all the time? I came from communities of like size, Cheyenne Wyo., and Grand Junction, Colo., and both had problems, but both have malls (real ones where you walk inside) and both have continued to grow. As needs arose, those needs were met. Why not here?
That handshake, as tight and tension-filled as it was, represents a new chapter in Kingman, I believe. If these two can come together, then anything is possible. As I see it, the future is very bright for Kingman, and I look forward to being a part of it.
I received a nasty call this week from a real estate person or the wife of a real estate person, I'm not sure. She left me a message calling me and the paper "idiots" (she used the word 10 times) and saying we were basically stupid for not supporting Rhodes and Pravada. I'm used to criticism, as it comes with the job, so that didn't bother me. What did bother me was when she said, "How dare you write bad things about Rhodes when they bought a big ad in your paper."
Figuring that she's obviously a frequent reader, I thought it might be a good time to explain how a newspaper works when it comes to advertising and the newsroom. There's an advertising department and an editorial department, and never the twain shall meet, which means that there is a line between the two and NEVER should that line be crossed. NEVER. Here's why.
When a newspaper crosses the line, say, writes a story about a business because it has placed an advertisement in the paper, or sets up interviews with sources based on which ones have ads in the paper, that gets out into the community. Soon, another advertiser wants the same thing, then another and so on. Readers immediately pick up on that, and a paper's credibility begins to unravel. Once a paper loses credibility, readers tune out. It can be seen in lost subscribers, but it may not be as noticeable as that at first. It may be seen in fewer letters to the editor, fewer calls informing me that I'm an idiot, fewer people talking about stories in the paper at the greasy spoon.
Once readers can no longer trust what their newspaper is reporting, they quit looking at the ads as well, and they quit being impacted by the ads, and they quit responding to the ads. Crossing the line for one advertiser can adversely impact all the advertisers in the paper. A paper ends up selling out all of its clients to make a few happy. Not only that, the ones who got the "free advertising" also end up losing because fewer people are responding to their ads.
My ultimate responsibility as the editor of the Miner is to protect the newspaper's credibility, and thankfully, I have a publisher who understands the importance of that. Once the line is crossed, you will do it again. Then again. In the four years I've been here, I've NEVER crossed that line, and I never will. If I'm forced to cross it, that will be my last day at the Miner. Period.
a new buddy
I thought it was rather telling that Darryle Purcell, information guru at the county, would bring up Nick's blog that he wrote soon after arriving in Kingman. Mr. Purcell decided to unfurl that thing again when he wrote a response to my column that we published in the Miner on Friday. Hey Darryle, where have you been? Unfortunately, that bandwagon left the station months ago, as no less than former Kingman City Manager Paul Beecher and Mayor Les Byram and several Realtors, oh, and mayoral candidate Bill Nugent have already tried to use it against us. Is that the best you could come up with?
As I began reading your column when I placed it in the paper Thursday afternoon, I thought you brought up some valid points in defense of the county and its cozy relationship with Rhodes. All of a sudden, you pulled the Nugent rabbit out of your hat. Come on! I expected more from a former editor. If that's the best you can come up with in defense of the county, maybe said county should look for another information director.
The fact is, most people in this community believe the county overstepped its bounds when it accepted a ride on Rhodes' helicopter and when it sent a letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission urging them to accept Rhodes' proposal concerning water. If that wasn't bad enough, the county also included a letter from the county to Rhodes asking the company to list the benefits of their master planned community so the county could write the letter to the ACC. How in the world can you defend that?
On page 8 today, you will find responses from some of the candidates to a questionnaire presented by the Northern Arizona Building Association. We are printing the candidates' responses to just three of the eight questions because the other five dealt with issues that the candidates spoke about when they sat before the Miner Editorial Board. We will publish what they said to the board on Feb. 27, 28, 29 and March 2. The board's take will be printed on March 9.
I say some candidates because not all of them responded to the questionnaire. And one candidate, Mr. Nugent, sent in a speech from a forum instead of answering the questions, so he is not included. Another candidate chose to write in pencil, I guess, and we will attempt to track down the original or his responses will not be included.
I want to thank not only NABA but all of the organizations that have held public forums to better inform the citizens on the candidates we will be voting on in less than a month. There have been too many forums for the Miner to cover, but it shows that Kingman is a community that cares, which brings me back to a point made earlier in this long-winded column: It will be the best of times ...