Overreach and the decay of Leadership

Time flying doesn’t begin to describe the past few months.  With all the town sponsored fireworks during ‘budget workshops’ (now more town awards ceremonies than actual workshops) and the Council meeting, it is difficult to remember what day of the week it is.  It has been even more difficult to overlook the fact that this is an Election year in Carefree.  I remember when Council workshops actually involved people rolling up their sleeves and digging into the ‘work’ details!  Deceased Councilman Jim Van Allen used to dig in and crunch the numbers the old-fashioned way, by hand, and always had valid questions and suggestions regarding proposed budgets.  He had been criticized for questioning, was accused of being wrong, and was even characterized as “hating everything” by Mayor Peterson.  Jim loved Carefree, displayed his love publicly, and could still smell horse droppings even in this era of fancy electric cars.

In recent times these budget ‘workshops’ have become a tedious rerun of ‘what a great job everyone is doing’ and how wisely Marketing money is being spent.  The Town Administrator constantly reminds everyone that town revenue emanates essentially from two sources, Carefree’s local Sales Tax and State Shared Revenue – his tiresome “2-legged stool” analogy.  In case you don’t know what the missing 3rd leg is in his analogy, it is called a Carefree Property Tax.  The current Administration postures that they don’t want to impose a Carefree Property Tax.  However, in town hall and during the Mayor’s private pitch to HOAs, faux deniers throw around the term ‘Property Tax’ like old sweat socks in a locker room – they claim to not like the smell, but they keep sniffing.

The recent budget workshops were a poorly disguised attempt by an incumbent Mayor and the Town Administrator to paint a mayoral challenger as a renegade to their marketing plan (is it a plan or still a work in progress after 3 years?).  It was clear, after two “workshops” that few, if any marketing plan details existed beyond the Pumpkin event and the now protracted Christmas event, yet the Council was asked to vote in favor of another substantial amount of money (short of a half million, depending on how you count), without a well-documented and detailed plan to support the dollars requested.  Successful businesses don’t run on blind faith.  This all seemed weirdly reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi’s plea to pass the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) so we could see what was in it – we have a pretty good idea what was in it now, and many Americans discovered it is far from affordable.

Anyway, one would hope that the Mayor and town staff will refrain from playing politics during future town meetings.  Besides demonstrating pettiness, the public just doesn’t care for it.  And, the staff has no business getting involved in local politics or our elections, other than in a purely support role for the election.  Their meddling is especially bothersome considering most town hall employees are not residents. It may be that the Mayor and Vice Mayor were hoping someone would perform selective video editing to demonize anyone expressing anything other than an affirmative head nod, or who would dare to withhold an attaboy.  At the May 1st Council meeting, after a protracted and somewhat confusing procedural exchange, the 2018-19 bottom-line budget of $8.6M was tentatively adopted by a vote of 5 – 2, with Council members Farrar and Orrico opposing.  The opposition votes were predicated on the need to review actual details of a Marketing plan before forging ahead on blind faith alone.  I’m told the demonizing has begun and I strongly suspect it will intensify.

Speaking of the Vice Mayor, John Crain, what can I say?  Mayor Les Peterson and John Crane are a team attempting to flaunt the Carefree Term Limits Statue, in defiance of voters who not only imposed Term Limits by a substantial margin but also upheld Term Limits by an even larger margin when challenged in a subsequent election.  Councilman Farrar was also subject to term limits, but rather than breaking the law he has instead decided to seek election to the office of Mayor and continue to serve the residents of Carefree, which he is entitled to do under our laws. So, what don’t the Mayor and John Crain get?   Perhaps they believe lawyers will slip one past us.  Because most of us understand that even nice people are capable of doing bad things, I believe voters will take notice.  Why is that political team so willing to retain, arrange, or work with lawyers to circumvent the will of voting residents?  If these individuals feel the law is wrong, they could have worked within the election system to present their case to voters instead of paying lawyers to pull one over on us.  Ask yourself why the Mayor and Vice Mayor think the law is wrong now but waited years before making these noises prior to the election in which John Crane is subject to the force of Term Limits.  Something really stinks.

Sadly, we live in an era in which a segment of the population does not accept the outcome of democratically held elections.  It is sadder still that the same moral decay has entered Carefree Town government.  The Mayor’s political overreach is not about addressing what he suddenly perceives as a ‘flawed statute’, rather it is just dirty & petty politics.  Makes me wonder if there have been payments to the town attorney in regard to this political matter? That would be highly problematic for all those involved.  Is it possible that the Mayor, or other council members are willing to financially support an end-run around term limits?  Let’s hope not.  If this pattern of unsavory behavior continues Carefree may need a Special Counsel appointed to sort through the sordid mess.   Perhaps even the Russian government has been involved, you never know!

Keep smiling, this will be interesting, as in, “may you live in interesting times.”

John Traynor