I, like many others, thought that the local race for mayor and town council seats would be a race focused on improving the community, building community, and having a vision for the town articulated by the candidates. Am I ever disappointed. Talk about negative campaigning which all started with accusations of the mayor violating open meeting laws and helping his friend build a pool. The negativity has only continued as the majority of the candidates have entered the fray. What a mess as everybody cries foul and all the voters get is bickering between the candidates. Local elections should be somewhat civil.
So now we have the controversy of the Fox Farm annexation that might be used to develop a light industrial park. That sort of got my interest since I am quite familiar with the site due to running on Granite Dells road and spending time on the various trails located south and west of the site. I will admit I was quite alarmed but that has passed. Currently the Fox Farm area is used not only by those looking to hike but by dirt bikes, atv’s, partiers, and even dumpsters. Yes you can find mattresses down by the Fox Farm. If you were to learn about the history of the trails in that area, you might discover that many years ago local residents Mark Sopeland and Roy Sandoval actually were riding their mountain bikes on the “animal” trails and took clippers along to help widen and connect areas so there would be some loops for people to use. Maybe they should have some input on the area. In my opinion, with correct development, the trail system could have paved trail head parking and the Forest Service could establish a pay structure to help pay the cost like they do in Sedona. Just a thought. I constantly hear how the airport park can accommodate the ammo group but I never hear or see what area up there will accommodate the company. Is it just something to say or is there really some large acreage available? No specifics have ever been mentioned.
So my friend Andy Romance, who really is a visionary, wrote this on his Facebook page:
My short answer is, Job creation trumps environmental preservation. My longer answer is, we can have both if private development and government work well together; The community cannot effectively respond at the last moment, but it’s government must proactively create an economic and environmental roadmap for development to follow. For example,1) Encourage the local government to require three complete trailheads along Granite Dells Road, one at Cypress Trail, one at Monument Peak Trail, and one at the Fox Farm accessing Boulders Trail. A complete trailhead includes restrooms, water stations, parking lots, and information kiosks. 2) Require a minimum 8-ft wide paved shared use pathway for pedestrians and bicycles the entire length of Granite Dells Road between Fox Farm and Safeway Commercial Center, detached from the roadway a minimum of 4-feet.3) So Star Valley and Payson both benefit from these amenities, and the employment, require public access through the industrial site by extending Granite Dells Road to Moonlight Drive. 4) Finally, if the community desires, determine what type of building materials and architectural style the campus must create. Soooo… THIS is how I believe government can create an environment where existing citizens, future employees, the developer, and employer can all succeed, and BAM a little town can start competing with the big cities for a Great Economy, while flat out kicking tail with Quality of Living.
Thank you Andy for those words of wisdom. Those are the types of things lacking from the candidates running for office. Nowhere can I find so much as a vision for the community expressed by those running for public office. So I currently see the dilemma as one group opposing it simply for the sake of opposing it and another group for it simply for the sake of being for it. I just can’t figure it out, what does anybody have to say about a vision for Payson and how improvements can occur and what one would like Payson to look like.
There is plenty to discuss. Payson is probably the only community that I am aware of, in the Northern Arizona area that has no identifiable downtown which results in a lack of community. How about making Payson a bicycle, running, walking, swimming, and outdoor pedestrian friendly town? Most places that are thriving are welcoming to the pedestrian. (Prescott, Williams, Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Sedona, Village of Oak Creek, Show Low, Pinetop, Clarkdale, Jerome) Not Payson.
I would like to see some progressive thoughts on improving Payson. How about getting rid of every single stoplight in Payson and putting in traffic circles? Progressive? Better? Who knows but I will say the current way of dealing with traffic on the highway is not effective and leads to people just trying to get out of town. Did I mention vision? Why is That Brewery fromPine adding a second location in Cottonwood. Could it be that Payson was noncooperative? Payson should have actively recruited them onto a spot on Main St. If you visit with the shop owners in Old Town Cottonwood, they will talk about a visionary town manager and visionary town council. I know because I asked. They actually sent a group to recruit the expansion of That Brewery (Pine) into Cottonwood and helped find a location/building to house the brewery.
My advice whether anybody wants it or not is to show some independent thoughts, ideas, and explanations of how you will strive to improve our community. Right now, my ballot is about to be wasted.
About 14 months ago, I went to Starbucks in Fountain Hills to drink some coffee and eat a breakfast sandwich. I joined a family sitting outdoors on the patio and had a wonderful conversation. Initially I had no idea that I was sitting with a former first round NBA draft pick. I am not disclosing his name but he is a very tall non-white male. His wife and infant son were having breakfast at Starbucks and they welcomed me into their conversation. We quickly hit it off and our conversation turned to where I lived and when I told him and his wife, Payson, his exact quote to me was, “you know, we went and visited Payson about a month ago and couldn’t get out of that town quick enough”. Stunning? It smacked me in the head with the cold reality of his words.
Of course I had to explore why. He said that the town was downright ugly and they never could find the the downtown. He asked me where is the downtown? I had no answer. Anyhow, he and his family eventually ended up at Walmart and they turned right around and went back home. Now I realize that might be harsh but here is a guy who has millions to invest and wanted nothing to do with Payson. To further that view of the town, one only had to be here for the firework display where nobody communicated to the crowd that a delay was happening and that there would be fireworks as soon as there was a break. Instead, the overwhelming majority left the area only to see the fireworks going off in their rear view mirror one hour behind schedule. Somebody should have been held accountable for that PR disaster.
All I ever wanted was to find out if anybody could articulate their vision for improving the community and making it a destination spot instead of a pass through community. Even Clarkdale, AZ has figured it out. Check out Old Town Cottonwood. http://www.oldtown.org Note what a thriving small town community might look like.
I am so disappointed that we have “teams” running against each other. I still and always will believe that local elections should have candidates that run independently. Independent thought is most important to me. I only see one candidate who is completely independent and I find that disturbing. I remember when Mayor Edwards put together a team to run with him and that didn’t turn out so well. It is time to break up and speak as an independent voice on what “you” as a candidate believe. That is the small town way.
So back to my point on voting for a visionary, what I care about is how is Payson going to be a more attractive community that is biker and pedestrian friendly and embraces a healthy life style for all. (See the above list of towns for some ideas) Gee whiz, how about a pool that stays open past the third week of July and is open 6 days a week? My wife and I and our money go to Sedona to swim in their community pool because it is open from May through the end of October with times to swim on Saturday, and Sunday. Every other week, we trek to the Verde Valley area so we can enjoy walking around on designated trails, bike, run, swim, eat and drink. I don’t want to hear any excuses about the lack of workers etc, on why a pool can’t be open for a longer period of time.
Here is an example of what Cottonwood did to make their town bicycle friendly: http://verdenews.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=48460 You ever see a sign that says, Payson is a bicycle friendly town”? Or how about a sign in Payson that says “share the road”? They just don’t exist because the town leaders and managers do not embrace pedestrian traffic. It is time to replace the old school town department heads with some new blood that has some ideas on improving community. I think replacing the current department head with an Andy Romance would be the first order of business. We need a visionary who understands community and embraces outdoor activities and it starts with replacing those who have become a hinderance in progress by their positions at town hall. Just look at what Pinetop has done with Andy. Lets bring him home!
Enough said. I challenge you to go ask people in thriving communities if visionary leaders make a difference. Just look at the picture of Old Town Cottonwood. Note the crosswalk signs so people can walk around. Could never do that in Payson with the current management team in town hall.
So please candidates articulate a vision for Payson. Transparency, et all is not a vision. That is just common sense and I get that. I want to hear your real vision for Payson.