Fri, May 24

Let's maintain our small-town heritage

Bill Dwyer's letter of Feb. 12, "Let's not get in the way of progress," represents a narrow perspective on a complicated state of affairs in the sister communities of Rimrock, McGuireville, and Lake Montezuma.

Our adjoining communities are in the early stages of a development boom and residents naturally have strong opinions on how growth should proceed.

Rather than simply offer his personal vision of the area's future, Mr. Dwyer opted to demean those who do not share his ideas. The Concerned Citizens of Beaver Creek (CCBC), a newly-formed advocacy group supported by hundreds of residents, received an unwarranted drubbing from Mr. Dwyer because members have serious reservations about the array of strip malls, franchises, apartment complexes, and chain stores that threaten to eventually accompany unrestricted growth.

The CCBC issued a standing invitation to all area residents to attend meetings and freely discuss pressing issues that affect us all. They include:

• A rapidly-shrinking ground water supply affecting those already here.

• The problem of extending education services for families of new residents.

• Access difficulties into Lake Montezuma. A two-way bridge, prone to obstruction by flooding during monsoon season, is the only access into town.

• The need for planned open spaces and parks for all to enjoy.

• Respect for numerous Native-American gravesites and cemeteries that stand in the way of proposed commercial buildings. The Yavapai-Apache Nation archeologist describes these sacred sites as widely-scattered throughout the area.

Rather than address these and other legitimate concerns, Bill Dwyer launched personal attacks against citizens who feel as strongly as he does that their cause is just and their vision for the future is workable and progressive. Especially damaging to the needed exchange of ideas are Dwyer's charges that those who propose an alternative course of progress are "lacking in intellect," unable to "keep up with change," and representatives of the "last gasp of rural poverty."

Labeling those with whom we disagree as stupid or backward only creates acrimony. The unspoken message is that fellow citizens do not deserve a hearing because they are backward illiterates ‹ stereotypical characters out of "Deliverance."

Particularly distressing to me is Mr. Dwyer's attack on Lance Morris, a CCBC organizer and one of two individuals mentioned by name in the Bugle article.

Despite his "education" in a series of substandard Indian boarding schools, Mr. Morris is a highly intelligent and articulate individual whose ideas are novel, inspired, and inclusive of all residents.

There is no better speaker in the area. Mr. Morris, in the article, suggests that our sister communities give priority to a center for our young people rather than pursue a new strip mall and IGA store. To quote Mr. Dwyer, Mr. Morris is lacking in "original ideas," "refuse[s] to work for a better future," and is "ensuring our children a life of decline and poverty."

I fail to see the connection between a youth center and a life of decline and poverty for our young people, who, regrettably, tend to leave the area in droves at the earliest opportunity because there is "nothing to do."

I am not well acquainted with Billy Dabbs to whom Mr. Dwyer applied these same hurtful and humiliating charges. I do know, however, that Mr. Dabbs has poured his heart and soul into the CCBC and is both passionate and thoughtful about the area in which he has lived for over three decades. One of his goals is to retrieve the histories of Rimrock and McGuireville, our oldest communities. He is within his rights to complain when advocates of development announce their intention to subsume these all three communities under a single name, thus demolishing historical reference points.

Dwyer's use of the term "political battlefield" is a

divisive call to arms. At this point, battles and wars are counterproductive. What we need is a dialogue leading to a rational development model, with input from not only privileged property owners who want to commercialize our poorer rural sections, but from residents who have signed the CCBC petition for reasonable, sustainable growth. Dwyer's claim to speak for the "majority," is suspect in light of our currently circulating petition calling for limited and sustainable growth. As of this week, over 700 residents have signed on. Dismissing this mass of concerned citizens as the "last gasp of rural poverty," and "living in the Dark Ages" is surely not the way to reach an accord.

Dwyer accuses the CCBC of waging class war, a tactic in use by radio talk show demagogues to discredit working-class demands for social and economic justice.

The rule of thumb is that Rimrock, McGuireville, and outlying areas tend to be predominately working-class, while Lake Montezuma is home to many retirees and professionals. Lake Montezuma proponents of development intend to situate their mini-malls, chain stores, sewage treatment plants, and other unsightly projects in Rimrock and McGuireville.

Rimrock and McGuireville residents are generally opposed to this intrusion. I speak in generalities here ‹ quite a few of our petition signers live in Lake Montezuma. Still, if this is class war, so be it.

Our new country store, Barefoot's Market and Deli, also comes in for its share of Dwyer's ill will. The new (local) owners most assuredly did not establish this pleasant and well-stocked little business in order to monopolize the area's grocery trade, as Dwyer charges. They invested a great deal of time and money to establish a place for all the people of our small communities to gather, including Bill Dwyer.

Customers sit and chat around the sturdy new picnic tables and umbrellas out front. The owners are a dynamic young brother-and-sister team who have quickly involved themselves in community issues. They are outspoken, well-educated, and idealistic. We need more young people of their caliber to inject life and vision into our three communities. What is the point of criticizing them for intentions they do not hold?

Indeed, why refer to any small business owners as protectors of "marginal retail establishments." These "marginal" businesses are their life's blood. Every American has a right to set up a small, independent business. Wal-Mart has already obliterated many of Cottonwood's "marginal retail establishments." The CCBC do not find such a prospect appealing.

Dwyer's comments on property rights are not incorrect.

In this country, people can pretty much do as they please with property they own. But at what point do unrestricted property rights and runaway development bring about a decline in everyone's property values?

When the water is gone? When septic and agricultural run-off poison both land and water? When the stench of a new sewage treatment plant hangs permanently over the length of our little green valley? When toxins from the plant seep into our notoriously porous caliche, then into our remaining groundwater?

The CCBC do have viable alternatives in mind. For instance, the area is ripe for a Main Street USA makeover, if we take it up before the small businesses and architecture that make us unique are replaced by 7-11's and Sonics. We can look to

Flagstaff's involvement with this program, in which individuals from wildly diverse backgrounds cooperated in making Flag's downtown one of the most agreeable and distinctive in the state. The entire downtown area is revitalized; local merchants and property owners cooperate and thrive. Rather than create dissension and ill will, rather than declare culture and class war, let's cooperate to maintain our small-town heritage and ambiance.

Jeanette Rodda is a resident of Rimrock.