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Tue, Aug. 20

Council, public feud at meeting

The City Council meeting Monday, from the Call to the Public to the actual business items discussed, once again turned from a night of conducting city business to a public spectacle where the discourse between officials and residents spiraled from the topics at hand to a spewing of personal attacks.

From a proposal to change the zoning for businesses in neighborhoods to a rezone request for an excavation office, each debate fell back to what became the general theme of the night: a showcasing of the damaged and still-deteriorating relationship between the city and its critics in the community.

But whatever emotions flared between officials and several residents voicing concerns, the main speakers of the night now seem to have calmed in hopes that future meetings won't be a repeat.

Councilman Kerry Deering shared several less-than-flattering comments with many of the residents who spoke on various issues. He started with Praise Chapel Pastor Howard Pennington, then resident Mike Roundy, and eventually Scott Dunton. But the majority of his comments were targeted toward the city watchdog group Residents Against Irresponsible Development.

RAID President Mike Bihuniak and several other members voiced their opposition to a proposal from the development department that would add a slew of new types of businesses to residential neighborhoods.

RAID expressed frustration with the lack of public involvement in creating the proposal, but several city officials didn't take well to accusations of wrongdoing.

Bihuniak said he and RAID are in the process of coming to some compromise with the contractors and building department staff that met to draft the proposed changes, and he asked that those most affected by such a change be included next time.

Bihuniak said his group is looking to establish recommendations to give to Council about what should and should not be included in the new zoning, and he asked that the proposal be tabled.

But the topic, and RAID's comments on the proposal, quickly spun into a web of criticisms unrelated to the changes proposed.

"Mr. Bihuniak, I had a question: Why doesn't your group just make your recommendations? We have two groups. We have the building association. We have RAID. What makes anyone think that ya'll are the voice of Kingman ... that we're going to throw out all other public voices and listen to your two groups?" Deering said.

"Well," Bihuniak began, "I actually said at the meeting that we don't presume to represent all of Kingman. I hope you all understand that we would love to have more input from other people in the community, but so far no one has spoken up."

RAID founding member Marvin Robertson highlighted this problem with the city's policy on disseminating information in general.

"Since we did the General Plan, there is no organized way to get input from the public. We don't get the info unless we dig it out and get it out to the public."

"Did you not see it in the paper?" Councilman Tom Carter asked.

"I wrote it in the paper," said Robertson, who contributes news and opinion articles for The Standard.

"You're pattin' yourself on the back," Deering said, "but what you don't realize is there's a lot of people in Kingman that you don't even know, that don't read your paper, and you know what, they don't like RAID ... You are not the voice of Kingman."

Deering continued: "Have you ever been on a commission? Has Mr. Bihuniak? Has any of RAID been on a commission? Have they served on a public city commission, have they asked to be on a commission?"

Councilman Ray Lyons added his take on the issue.

"(W)e have, with our, what you might say our money where our mouth is, we run for election and get elected," Lyons said.

"None of you people have ever been on the ballot, as far as I know of, none of you ever will. So if you are actually concerned about all the citizens of Kingman, how about getting involved instead of coming here and spitting your piece, which, this is a free country."

"You have to understand," Deering added. "We were voted to represent a voice of the people, and we don't like being second-guessed by one group, and you know, that is a democracy."

When all the dust had settled by Tuesday, the previous night's exchanges seemed to have dissipated; frustration with the current political climate remained, but tempers had cooled.

"I hope that the RAID group, I hope that Dunton, I hope that Pennington, I hope that they'd basically give us some time to work on the things that we know they're concerned about," Deering said. "They don't have to be the nagging wife and nag us; they need to let due process go through, which sometimes can take some time.

"It's a learning process for all of us. I think people should not be so critical. They don't realize how many things we're entrusted with," he said.

Bihuniak said, "Honestly, I wish they would do their job and there wouldn't be any suspicions. I didn't retire to come here and get involved in all this (stuff).

"They do it legally, they do it above board, but they depend on the fact that most of the people aren't watching," Bihuniak said. Noting that RAID is watching, he said, "That irks them."

Deering said he wants everybody to be respectful, and Bihuniak wants to work together toward the same goals. The two my not be holding hands walking down the street, but they're both looking forward. And, Council asked city staff to look into the procedure for public involvement.

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