Spear leaving Council
Several of the people serving on City Council have expressed frustration with the controversies of the past year - the well site bids and billboard ordinance debates, Kingman Crossing this and Rattlesnake Wash that.
The mayor and three Council members are up for re-election this spring, and while the debate within the community centers around mere speculation of which seats will be empty come the March primary, none has yet to announce a run for another four-year term.
That is, until Tom Spear spoke up at a meeting with Residents Against Irresponsible Development on Oct. 24 and let slip a side comment: "I know one person who will not be on the next Council."
After 11 years, minus a two-year hiatus, Spear is ready to put his days of public service aside.
His primary reason for the withdrawal from the upcoming campaign season is the time commitment. With his parents needing more and more attention lately, Spear said simply, "I don't have the time anymore." He noted how he has missed several meetings to family affairs already. And all the while Spear continues to run the Best Western Kings Inn & Suites hotel on Route 66.
The secondary reason is the Council itself. "We're not being proactive," he said. "We're being reactive. We haven't been proactive since Les Byram became mayor.
"And when you have a mayor that's proactive instead of reactive, you get spoiled," he said, referring to the style of former Mayor Monica Gates. Under Gates, the Council was proactive in implementing development impact fees and rearranging the general fee structure in the building department pursuant to the recommendations in a city-funded rate and revenue study, Spear said. They also funded and built the Airway Avenue Underpass, which was completed in late September of last year.
Referring to the continual debate over a billboard on Route 66 and Airway Avenue, Spear said, "I mean, we can't even decide where to put a damned sign. We dinked around with that for how long?" The answer: nine months.
Spear began serving as a Councilman in 1995, when he was appointed to fill the remaining three years of a term. In 1998, Spear campaigned and won his first full four-year term. He took a break between 2002 and 2004, and was elected again in the spring of 2004.
Then in 2006, after having been appointed vice mayor, Byram unseated first-term Mayor Gates. It was a day Spear hasn't forgotten.
"The night the results were announced, he asked for my resignation," Spear recalled.
One of Spear's major issues with the current mayor and Council is the way they handle various business entities.
"It's been a disappointment for me to see different entities and different people being treated differently; people aren't being treated the same," he said. "That's a policy shown by City Council's actions."
One of his prime examples of this is the situations with the proposed interchange projects at Kingman Crossing and Rattlesnake Wash off Interstate 40.
"We treat (Lee) Bruno and (Jay) Schritter differently than we do Vestar and that group," Spear said of the developers of Rattlesnake Wash and Kingman Crossing, respectively.
"We were going to have the funds from Kingman Crossing pay for Rattlesnake Wash," he said, wearing an astonished expression. "Rattlesnake Wash should pay for itself, as should Kingman Crossing."
He said the players at Kingman Crossing have understood that they need to have a funding source to make the interchange project a reality, and they have considered three options: a sales tax reimbursement, a community facilities taxing district and bonds. "The developers at Rattlesnake Wash were told three years ago they needed a funding plan and they haven't (got one) yet."
With the state preparing to put the Rattlesnake Wash project in the books as a future project, Spear fears the effect on this city if the private developers at Rattlesnake Wash don't start working on means of paying the city's 30 percent portion of the project.
"We're going to jeopardize our credibility with the state of Arizona if we have a spot on the five-year plan and we can't come up with a funding source," he said.
Actually the "first time" Spear was ready to fire Paul Beecher, whom Council eventually did fire on Aug. 10, was soon after his hire, "when the zoning came through on Rattlesnake Wash," Spear recalled. There were no requirements, no infrastructure, no plan for funding, "not a cup of water," he said.
It's disappointing to Spear that the city doesn't expect more, and this is a historical trend, he said: "It's been going on for years."
As an example, Spear cited a past development at Southern Avenue. Council had the opportunity to have the developer pay for infrastructure improvements, but he was given a deferral instead.
"For me, it was a moral dilemma when Council handed him the deferral and expected taxpayers to pay for it," Spear said. "That's why I voted against the deferral."
The Southern improvements were included as part of the street projects in the $36.4 million street bond that residents would have paid for with an increased secondary property tax. Voters shot down the bond request on Nov. 6.
Referring to the mayor and Acting City Manager Jack Kramer, Spear said, "they don't understand that things have changed. This is not the Kingman it was five years ago.
"I look at the communities around us, for example Lake Havasu and Bullhead, and they're moving forward, getting stores, and they've been hit with the same thing we have with the real estate market.
"We don't understand to what extent we do compete with them. And the real significance of the dollar value we're missing out on, I think it's huge."
The decision to eliminate the economic development department wasn't the smartest opinion in Spear's mind either. He called it a personality conflict between the mayor and the department head, Jeff Weir.
But, "the economic development director was not the City Council's employee. It was the city manager's. If there was a problem with the economic development director, it should have gone through the city manager.
"I was very disappointed in Paul Beecher when he let the Council attack his employee," Spear said.
Because Weir was the city manager's employee, the mayor couldn't fire him. The only option the mayor had in ousting Weir was to eliminate the department altogether, and Byram, "unfortunately, had the support from the other Council members."
Spear and Councilman Ray Lyons were the two dissenting votes against the Council majority that eliminated the department in May of this year.
Spear will remain active
While it's been a rough ride, Spear was thankful for the opportunity to serve Kingman. And he's not through completely. He will remain the executive vice president of the Route 66 Association and he will continue to orchestrate the annual Fun Run.
"I do appreciate the support that I've had on Council and the trust that the citizens have placed in me. I respect that trust," he said.
"I look forward to supporting someone else who's as passionate about the job as I am."