Local advocacy group 'RAID' town hall targets city budget

Thursday meeting will include mayor, manager, and finance director

Mayor John Salem

Mayor John Salem

KINGMAN - After a yearlong hiatus, local advocacy group Residents Against Irresponsible Development is set to resume hosting monthly town halls this week, with the first scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Hualapai Mountain Medical Center. The topic of discussion will be the upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2012 as well as what cuts the city has already made over the past several years.

RAID had begun holding monthly town halls in the summer of 2008, shortly after Mayor John Salem was first elected to office. Through the end of 2009, the town hall forums provided Salem and other City Council members and staff the opportunity to speak to the public in a less formal environment without having to post or advertise the meetings like the city must do for regular Council sessions.

The town halls also allowed invited councilmembers and city staff to deviate from the set agenda, another freedom they don't usually have at official Council meetings.

Toward the end of 2009, however, RAID had a falling out with the city after RAID member Bill Delmar was twice passed up for appointment to vacancies on the Planning and Zoning Commission. At the time, RAID President Harley Pettit said the group took the Council's actions as a snub, particularly after then-Councilman Ray Lyons said he believed no RAID member should be eligible to serve on the commission due to conflict of interest, despite Delmar's credentials as a former planner for the Mohave County Development Services Department.

Delmar's perceived snub wasn't the first time RAID has clashed with the city. In 2007, RAID members fought vociferously against the passage of a $56 million capital improvement bond, which ultimately failed to win voter approval. At the time, the city had argued that the bond was needed for vital capital improvement projects, while RAID members criticized the measure as a blank check that was short on specifics.

Wounds healed

Time appears to have filtered out much of the bad blood between RAID and the city, however, with the past year seeing Lyons defeated at the polls and Pettit named to the Tourism Development Commission. Pettit said his group is now willing to host town hall meetings again, this time to give city officials a chance to discuss with the public how they've managed to cut spending out of the budget for the past several fiscal years, and what options may be on the table for the coming year.

As the city has begun to approach the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, several councilmembers have expressed concern that, despite cutting millions out of the budget over the past several years, some in the public still don't seem to realize just how much the city has had to cut while still maintaining their level of service.

Having attended many Council meetings himself over that same period, Pettit said he's inclined to agree.

"I think the City Council and their staff have actually saved the city," he said. "They've absolutely cut to the bone. Absolutely everybody's sacrificed and tightened their belts, and it's really a comment on our workers and our public employees what they were willing to do."

For that reason, he said, he approached Salem about hosting a town hall on just that topic, having secured a venue at Hualapai Mountain Medical Center.

"Basically we'll introduce the mayor and he runs the meeting," Pettit said. "We only do this because if the mayor were to introduce the meeting, the agenda would restrict him to talking about only one issue."

In addition to Salem, Pettit said other confirmed guests include Financial Services Director Coral Loyd and City Manager Jack Kramer. It's also likely that Vice Mayor Robin Gordon and one other councilmember will attend, since up to three can attend the same function without having to advertise it through the city.

For more information on Wednesday's meeting, call Pettit at (928) 530-2555.