Editorial: Thurman’s leadership lacking on growth issues
In July, District 2 Yavapai County Supervisor Tom Thurman said there was an 80 percent chance he would not seek re-election in 2020.
Now already, especially when it comes to development issues, Thurman is walking with the limp of a lame duck.
In a way, you can’t blame him. High profile development issues are a local politician’s worst nightmare. The meetings are often a mob scene with no-growth rhetoric dominating the discussion. Often, the elected official’s only way of saving face with the mob is to reject the development plan. Anything less, he or she is accused of being in bed with the developer.
And even when the politician is a no show at such meetings, as Thurman was during the two community gatherings on the Primrose project in Rimrock, he or she will take a beating anyway.
Forget the fact that developers are taking advantage of a favorable real estate market for the various proposed development projects currently considered for the Verde Valley. No, paint the politician as the bad guy who’s too cozy with the developer and picking up kick-backs on the side.
So, what do you do?
The right thing to do is deal with it. That’s what you were elected to do. As President Harry S. Truman famously said, “If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
In Thurman’s case, he instead chooses to find a scapegoat and shift emphasis away from himself.
That’s exactly what happened last week when Thurman’s email began exploding over the two massive development plans considered for the Oak Creek Valley area off State Route 89A between Cottonwood and Sedona.
The first round of deliberation for these two projects will occur Nov. 12 when the Cornville Community Association will host the project developers for an evening of show and tell. The public notice for this meeting sent out by the Cornville Community Association had all the markings of having been written by a county staffer. It was heavy on bureaucratese and short on clarity. It was vague, which is probably exactly what the county wanted in realizing the headaches these two projects will create for them.
So, The Verde Independent opted for details over vague bureaucratese in telling the community exactly how massive these two projects really are. Fortunately, we received good help from a county staffer in providing that information for you.
And human nature being what it is, the story created a maelstrom of calls and emails to county officials.
That very thing President Truman referred to as heat in the kitchen.
In response, Supervisor Thurman’s executive assistant, Marlyn Van Keuren, fired off an email to board members, past and present, of the Cornville Community Association alerting them that “Supervisor Thurman will not be at the community meeting in November due to the way the Verde Independent reporter crafted the article earlier this week.” The claim by Van Keuren is that the article stated the Nov. 12 gathering would be a Yavapai County meeting.
Which is absolutely not true. Our article clearly stated, “Tuesday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m., a community meeting is scheduled to be held at Oak Creek Elementary School, 11490 E. Purple Sage Road … Bev Jackson, president of the Cornville Community Association, sent out an email to let her members know about the Nov. 12 meeting, as did members and leaders of similar associations in the Cornville area … Feedback from the meeting will be utilized as the Cornville Community Association makes recommendations to the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission, which, once the change requests are placed on one of its meeting agendas, recommends approval or disapproval to the County Board of Supervisors for a final vote.”
In truth, what the county did not like was the fact that our story provided exact details of what the developers are proposing as opposed to the vague bureaucratese the county wanted to spoon-feed the public.
And in typical political fashion, Thurman played dumb when confronted about the false claims made by his administrative assistant.
When asked why Van Keuren would send out an email that is blatantly false, Thurman’s response was, “No clue. She always tries to protect me. My mom I guess.”
Which begs the question, who is running the District 2 County Supervisor’s office, the elected county supervisor or his mom? Thurman already answered that question for us.
Thurman’s own rationale for bailing on the Nov. 12 meeting of the Cornville Community Association is, “I’m afraid it could turn into something like a county condemnation for allowing growth when they haven’t even put in for a permit yet.”
Which is another way of saying he doesn’t care to hear his constituents’ concerns about the growth challenges confronting the Verde Valley.
It’s unlikely Thurman will get to dodge the bullet of having to vote on the Primrose project or the two new projects proposed near Oak Creek Valley. When that times comes, one would hope he is thoroughly informed on both the projects being proposed as well as the sentiment of the community. Is there a better way to do that than hear it directly from the developer and listen to the community response provided in a community meeting? Is there a better way to do it than personally follow the process from start to finish? Don’t for a second buy into the excuse that attendance at these community meetings somehow violates the Open Meeting Law? It would take three county supervisors to be in attendance at the Nov. 12 Cornville meeting for Open Meeting Law stipulations to take effect.
What Thurman and the other county supervisors need to realize is that the volatile nature of these kinds of meetings, and the mob tactics of no-growthers, comes with the territory of being an elected official. This is not the first time down this road in the Verde Valley. Growth and development issues come in waves based upon a variety of economic factors.
Being thoroughly informed is the best way to deal with them.
Letting “mom” protect you is hardly deserving of the leadership the Verde Valley needs on growth issues.