Come to a Wickenburg Town Council meeting.
If you’d like to see an example of the failure of democracy in this country, go to a Wickenburg Town Council meeting. That’s where you’ll see a Mayor and Council, with an agenda entirely different from the majority of the people they serve, ignore the will of the people and defend their agenda-serving policies. And if you’re as unlucky as we were yesterday, you’ll get to see the Mayor belittle and insult his constituents, too.
Yesterday’s meeting was a farce of epic proportions. The public input session lasted a full hour with about a dozen people coming forward with requests to reconsider the unfair rejection of a petition to bring a high-density housing project to a vote. (You can get the details on wickenburg-az.com‘s Opinion pages.)
The mayor punctuated the session with inappropriate comments addressed at his opponents. At one point, he made a comment to Ray Johns, the man who had submitted the petition, about the fact that he hadn’t been to a council meeting in three years (this is unconfirmed) but yet he submitted a petition. The comment was rudely delivered, obviously meant to belittle the man or at least insult him. Understand that Mr. Johns lived in Wickenburg for over 40 years when his house washed away during the February 2005 floods. He is now living in a trailer someone loaned him. As an elderly man and long-time resident, he deserves our respect; as a flood victim who lost everything he owned, he deserves our sympathy. It appears that the mayor isn’t compelled to respect or sympathize with anyone.
Each speaker was only given three minutes to talk. When one of the speakers, who is nearly deaf, asked the Town’s lawyer a question, she responded so quietly that most of the room didn’t hear her. When he asked her to repeat herself, it used up nearly a minute of his time. The buzzer rang and the mayor told the speaker to get off the podium. “Time’s up.” I guess the mayor has a new way to keep citizens from talking too long — just respond in a whisper or slowly so it eats up all the speaker’s time.
Another man told the assembled group that he had in his possession a copy of a letter from the developer’s lawyers addressed to the town telling the town exactly how to handle the petition that was subsequently rejected. The man made it clear what he thought about a developer’s lawyers directing the mayor and council.
I made a 2-minute speech about the First Amendment where I pointed out that Mr. Johns’ First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances was violated by the unfair rejection of his petition. He had submitted it in good faith, I argued, using a format he knew to be successful in the past. The town should accept it. I think my big words were too big for the Mayor and council members. They obviously didn’t understand what I was saying. The audience did, though. I got a nice round of applause. But I may as well have been talking to a brick for all the impact it made on the town’s representatives.
At the end of the public session, the Mayor began his defense. During the course of his ramblings, he let it slip that he rejected the petition to avoid a lawsuit by the developer. He also tried to cloud the issue by telling us that he’d looked up the word cluster in the dictionary. Yeah? So what? Just another attempt to lead us off the main issue. It didn’t work.
The councilmen spoke, too. Most rubber-stamped what the mayor said. Dave Lane let slip in his mumbling, stumbling response that the development had been approved so the town could get more revenue from property taxes on all those new homes — a disclosure that got a murmer of disapproval from the audience. (Give Lane enough speaking time and he’ll talk his way into a noose.) Only John Cook was reasonable, siding with what is so obviously right. It’s nice to see that the mayor’s puppet strings can sometimes shake loose from council members.
Personally, I can’t believe the people of the town of Wickenburg would vote in a man like our current mayor. His attitude and complete lack of respect for anyone — including his constituents — makes him arrogant. Yet when he talks to you one-on-one, you can see that there’s nothing inside that head of his — nothing except plans to make himself look bigger and more important than he really is. He’s building an empire in Wickenburg, annexing land and approving zoning changes for high density housing without the infrastructure to support the new homes or the jobs for new residents within town limits. And the whole time, rumors are flying around town about payoffs and ulterior motives.
It’s a dark time here in Wickenburg; I can’t wait to see the light here in town again.