We don't need empty promises, ol' buddy
Vacating Kingman for a week gave me some time to reflect on the last year, like City Council did at its retreat last month. (Don't worry, I was off the clock, it didn't take eight hours and it was a little more productive than to stare at pictures of thunderstorms on a projector screen while contemplating how to stifle the Goth movement by getting a Claire's boutique for women to put ribbons in their hair.)
Looking back on 2007, the issues I remember most from the city government beat were, of course, the controversial ones: the well sites bidding process, the numerous code violations, the citizens paying a city manager $149,000 to write personal e-mails all day, the lawsuit that followed when the city withheld more than 8,000 personal e-mails, Economic Director Jeff Weir's secret severance package, the mayor's IRS threats, and, my favorite, all the confusion over why news coverage of city hall was often negative (hint: it was because of that darned muckraker at the Miner).
Some things weren't so bad, like when the mayor boasted about putting on a stellar fireworks display over the summer. It was nice. Good job, Les. Also, I thought the awards ceremonies were pleasant. Good job, Les. Oh, and so was firing Paul Beecher. Good job again, Les ol' buddy.
During my reflection, I questioned whether or not we are better off now than before the excrement hit the air conditioning, as Vonnegut said. I concluded that no matter who you ask - so long as it's not the mayor, anyone on Council, most of city staff or anyone who was fired for signing secret contracts - the answer is yes, we are better off.
We needed to see what was happening inside our government, and thanks to some gutsy residents who were willing to ask a few tough questions, we've seen what's happening, at least in part. It was ugly, but at least we know. And I'm glad we know.
Kind of like the destruction that comes with the storms (which, again, Council stared at for eight hours), now is the rebuilding process, and we have 13 residents who are bold enough to inherit the budget shortfall and the controversies, the lack of trust and accountability; they want to take over, and I applaud their bravery in even considering the job.
I look at the current situation with two sets of eyes. In the first, they're stepping into a position whose title itself makes people cringe. With the budget, the city manager search, the Kingman Crossing interchange and the other vital decisions on the horizon, considering those, being a Council member is about as appealing as ... uh... well, I can't think of any job less appealing than being on Council, so it's about as appealing as the most unappealing job there is. (We have a new low in the labor market, folks.)
The other option is to view the job as ideal. Personally, I would love to be on Council right now; there's not a lot I could do to look any worse in the eyes of voters, so there's nowhere to go but up.
When I was done reflecting, and I was satisfied with the outcome of all the embarrassing quotes and decisions that made me cringe and cackle at the same time, I started to look toward the future.
My sight blurred and images of Todd Tarson and Travin Pennington danced around in my head. Then Bill Nugent and Monica Gates faded in. I wasn't sure if I should run or pop open a bottle of champagne.
Still not sure.
When my colleague Andraya Whitney and I conducted interviews with the candidates, while some were OK, we both agreed that if these candidates don't do more than lay on the thick political rhetoric that created so much conflict for the current Council, we're no better off than if we had Dave French as mayor.
So, with the reflection now complete, I offer this advice: If you're going to say things like, "I'll demand accountability," then back it up with examples of what you would have done in specific situations of the past or how you will deal with specific situations in the future.
Otherwise, it's a blank promise that you'll never have to live up to, as we've seen with most of the mayor's 2006 campaign promises.
That is all the advice I have, but it applies to each the following goals recorded by Mrs. Whitney and myself during our candidate interviews: "Effectively capitalize on tourism"; "Communicate"; "Learn to live within a budget"; "Cut the fat"; "Bring trust back to Council;" "No back door deals"; "Managed growth, not growth explosion"; "Impact fees need to be adjusted"; "Help Kingman a little more"; "Honesty, integrity, loyalty back into government"; "The biggest thing is integrity"; and finally, "Come back and trust city government."
We all are dying to know from each candidate who spewed these goals: how? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? And how?
In that order.