Column: A tearful farewell to departing Council
Two weeks ago, in this column space, I mournfully parted with one of the best stories a journalist could ever wish for. It was the story of a year-long boondoggle over the city's twice-failed attempts to sell six worthless one-acre well sites in Golden Valley, for the worthless amount of $490,242.
The sale was accomplished finally with the third attempt, and I wept at having to say goodbye to one of the greatest periods in Kingman's political history.
In two weeks, residents of Kingman will witness another historical moment: the departure of three City Council members and one not-to-be-long-forgotten mayor. It is to the anticipation of this moment that I wish to dedicate my column space today, and it is again dedicated with a mournful salute.
With a new mayor and three new City Council members taking office June 2, residents and remaining officials alike have expressed fear over the new members' lack of experience. That alone sounds like a lot to fear, but residents, believe me when I tell you, the only thing to fear is fear itself - that and the prospect of our departing Council members and mayor running for re-election two, four or six-hundred years from now.
Push out those scary thoughts, Kingman, and instead focus on what we have coming in: mostly people you've never heard of, average, unaffiliated, fed-up and nonpolitical residents who campaigned on mature communication, honesty, respect for constituents and a heap of other possible goals. These goals we will hold against them if, say, they use the IRS to threaten constituents who wish to recall any of them (like our current mayor did); or, as another hypothetical, if they call any resident a witch (like our current vice mayor).
I have good reason to believe that Kingman's new leaders will not spark, fuel or kick the coals of otherwise minor and easily avoidable controversies, and my reasoning is not based on the fact that any leaders are better than the current ones.
Actually, yes it is based on that, but only in part.
I do not believe the incoming mayor and Council members will be plagued by the same void of common sense from which some of our current officials suffer, but I also believe the actions of our current Council could not get much more embarrassing, I mean entertaining, than they are already.
For the past year, I tried to stay positive and hopeful that one day I might see that there is more going on inside the heads of our elected leaders. (More than what I cannot say, because I'm still trying to find something I can compare to nothing.)
Two weeks ago Monday, I was fortunate enough - or unfortunate enough - to witness firsthand that there is, indeed, more than nothing going on in our current leaders' heads. (Unfortunate enough because it truly was unfortunate, but fortunate enough because it truly was entertaining.) I watched as my hope became a reality.
Two weeks ago Monday, Council heard a request for a rezone on Bank Street. Bank Street, you may recall, was created by the city as an alternative commercial corridor to the gridlocked Stockton Hill Road corridor. Much of the property on Bank Street remains zoned for residential use despite the absence of any residential property in the surrounding area.
The Bank corridor still sits empty, but two weeks ago Monday, a potential buyer was lined up and ready to develop one of the parcels into a classy restaurant and dance club. It was to be targeted toward older residents, those less likely to possess the drink-'til-you-puke-or-start-a-fight mindset. In preparation for the sale, the current property owner asked Council for a rezone to match the intended land use for the area, but there was a problem.
It was a problem much like the others we've seen the current Council create, and it was one that could have been avoided had there not been a Councilman on Council who was counseling from a personal agenda.
The problem wasn't that the classy supper club wanted to serve alcohol to its patrons, and it wasn't that the classy supper club wanted to serve alcohol to its patrons from a location three-quarters of a mile from a high school. If students want liquor, I doubt they would go into an old-folks joint and try to order a Sparks; more likely, they would put on a fake mustache and try not to get carded at one of the two liquor stores that sit a half-mile from the high school campus.
No, the problem was personal, and its name was Jay Schritter. Jay Schritter is an old-timer in Kingman who, in the heyday of Beechernomics, joined the rest of Kingman's vocal opposition to demand integrity and accountability of elected officials. He criticized city leaders and erected signs throughout town highlighting a half-dozen embarrassing actions of the past year.
He wanted voters to turn down the city's request for $56.7 million in capital improvement bonds, and voters did. By a landslide.
On top of that, Jay Schritter's son, Craig - also an owner of the Bank Street property - had tried twice to recall one of the City Council members.
So the problem wasn't the rezone itself, or the classy supper club and first-ever business on the Bank Street commercial corridor. It was that the Council member Craig Schritter sought to recall wanted to throw a wrench in his critics' plans to bring a restaurant to Kingman.
Now, this Councilman, Tom Spear, isn't an evil man. He's actually pretty funny, and by that I mean he has a good sense of humor. He's intelligent and successful in his business ventures, and I quite enjoy his observations of the current Council's ineptitude and the current mayor's borderline senility. Really, other than supporting Monica Gates as mayor during this last election cycle, Spear is an OK guy in my book. And at least I know there is more going on in his head than nothing, although sometimes I think more isn't necessarily better.
Spear serves as the most recent example of the type of problem that has destroyed all public support, trust and faith in the current Council: he fell victim to taking things personally when it came to city business - business, in this case, that would bring in sales tax to the city and provide more dining options for a population in Kingman that seems to be chomping at the bit for somewhere else to eat.
He convinced the rest of the Council to postpone the rezone, and he had the city attorney research options for placing liquor license restrictions on the supper club, even though it's unprecedented that the city would take on the duties of the Arizona Department of Liquor License & Control.
The inauguration of a new Council will not only mean the beginning of a new era of Kingman politics; it also will signify the end of an era of politicking that, in terms of entertainment value, puts the beloved "American Idol" to shame.
And so it is again with some remorse and a few tears that I say goodbye to another historical period in Kingman. Bon voyage old and vindictive Council members.
See you in 2010, or 2012, or 2612.