Council Repeals 401 & 402
What really happened at the last Council Meeting?
By Paul Frommelt
Payson, AZ On Wednesday, April 12, 2023: After a grueling 5+ hour council meeting, the Payson town council voted to repeal the voter approved initiatives know as Propositions 401 and 402. These Propositions were voted and approved by 60% of the electorate in 2018. They were put into town code and have been there for nearly 5 years. It took the town 5 years to come up with a plan to remove them? They couldn’t come up with a good way, but they did it anyway!
During the argument put forth by the town attorney, Mr Palladini used a 60 minute ‘word salad’ which only served to further confuse everyone in attendance. His arguments appeared, at least to me, to contain only ‘smoke and mirrors.’ He quoted obscure case files that had little or nothing to do with the ordinances discussed. He continually took items out of context, and repeatedly misrepresented the meaning and intent of the peoples’ wishes! I realized that the council members are not lawyers, but even most working-class citizens in our community could see through this charade. Why couldn’t the council? Is it because the decision had been made long, long ago?
Throughout the past 5 years, the town, and it’s representatives have continued to misrepresent these Propositions: Especially Proposition 402…”The People’s Right to Know.” They continue to claim that this common sense restraint on runaway town spending ties the hands of the town, by requiring a vote of the people for any expenditure over $1 million dollars. This is simply NOT TRUE. This claim has been rebutted every time the town has made this argument. The ordinance only takes effect under the following conditions…
(1) If the bond is presented as a Revenue Bond, but contains a “combination or backstop” feature, where it would revert to a general obligation bond if revenue is not met. According to The Arizona Constitution, any General Obligation bond MUST be approved by the voters. Revenue bonds do not. If the debt instrument were to revert to a ‘general obligation’ bond, the town’s citizens would be on the hook for the cost. (This protects the citizenry from possible tax increase.)
(2) It only applies to “the purchase, lease, or maintenance of a FACILITY!” (Emphasis added) The argument has been made that the purchase of two fire trucks a few years back violated this ordinance. Not so. Fire trucks are vehicles, not facilities. This ordinance in no way comes into play during the routine town business maintenance, fire and police employment, staffing, road maintenance, etc…..UNLESS the town pulls a sneaky bond with the above mentioned criteria. It is designed to give the people “A Right to Know” about impending town debt on Huge Projects.
A few interesting notes on this recent action:
1.) The town proclaimed an “emergency declaration” for this action. By doing so, they bypassed the legally required two public hearings, and a thirty day waiting period to allow public input. This was all done in one quick meeting! (Transparency?)
2.) While notices of town agendas are generally received late Friday morning, this particular meeting’s agenda was not received by recipients till around 4:30, on Good Friday! (Transparency?)
3.) The agenda made no mention of the words Proposition, or 401 or 402 in the headings. This would have attracted some attention. Instead, I noticed the title “REPEALING THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO KNOW”, and it was all the way at the bottom of an already very, very long agenda! (Transparency?)
4.) The doors were locked when concerned citizens began to arrive early shortly after 3:00 to get a seat. Many had to leave, as some had infirmities that limited their ability to stand that long. There was no place provided for the handicapped to sit. In my personal experience, this has never happened before. (Transparency?)
5.) Those brave souls who chose to stay and wait it out, were stuck in the hall way or outside, with malfunctioning speakers, and were unable to hear or participate. Those on Zoom suffered the same fate, but that is typical for the attempts to join via Zoom. (Transparency?)
6.) Many people (myself included) who wished to speak, submitted a “Call to the call to the public” which is always done early in the meeting. Regarding the “Call to the Public, The agenda states…”
Citizens desiring to speak on any issue within the jurisdiction of the public body may do so at this time. Yet, Mayor Higgins made anyone who wished to speak on the subject wait till the end of the meeting. Did he even have the right to do so? (Transparency?)
In conclusion this non-transparent, “in your face” behavior is the very thing that mobilized the citizens five years ago to approve these propositions by such a wide margin. They were angry, and did not trust their own town government to be honest and forthcoming with matters of great importance to them. They are just as mobilized, angry, and distrustful today! The town has once again awakened “The Sleeping Giant!”
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