Fri, April 03

Editorial: Town council service is not a popularity contest

It’s been more than 100 years since famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was recognized as “the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none.”

To which Shackleton said, “Loneliness is the penalty of leadership.”

That is probably some good advice for the folks on the Jerome Town Council to remember as they consider the introduction of paid parking in the mountainside town and the even bigger problem of what to do about a crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure.

Being a strong leader will never make you popular, and that seems to be one of the major stumbling blocks in Jerome over the introduction of paid parking.

As Vice Mayor Sage Harvey said recently, “We are going to freak the town out if we just plop a bunch of parking kiosks in town … The locals are going to flip out … People don’t like it, people don’t want it, it’s going to upset them …”

What Harvey and the other members of the council need to realize is that serving on an elected town council is not a popularity contest. Your job is not to win friends and please people.

Rather, your job is to do what is best for the town.

The impetus behind paid parking in Jerome is that it will create a new revenue source that can be applied directly to the infrastructure problems that some claim has reached crisis stage.

As Mayor Alex Barber explained recently, “Jerome sits on infrastructure and water system and sewer lines and water lines that I’m going to call antique … we’re set up where our water and our sewer lines and our systems in all of our residential areas are so clustered that we are having problems with fixing roads that are in disrepair because we need to get to infrastructure underneath.”

Fixing such problems could cost Jerome tens of millions of dollars, an amount that likely exceeds the bonding capacity of the town. Certainly, paid parking is not going to provide the revenue in itself to solve Jerome’s infrastructure problems. It will only create a revenue stream not currently available to the town.

Jerome’s leadership needs to get beyond worrying about how the difficult decisions facing the town are going to weigh in the court of public opinion. Paid parking pales in comparison to some of the ultimate decisions that need to be made if the town’s infrastructure problems are going to be properly addressed. In the grand scheme of things, a decision one way or the other on paid parking is a small problem for the Jerome Town Council.

All of which begs the question: If the Jerome Town Council cannot be trusted to make a decision on something as minor as paid parking, how can council members be trusted to make the decisions required for a permanent fix for the town’s infrastructure needs?

This can has been kicked down the road long enough. It’s time to make a decision one way or the other on paid parking.

Let’s face it, either way you’re bound to make someone mad.

It comes with the territory when you put yourself in a position of leadership.

It can get lonely at the top.

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