My View

By Don Sorchych | October 14, 2009

canfield cartoon

Don Sorchych
Scary ideas

I received a number of heart warming calls about my resignation from Kiwanis and I have been asked for details about previous events I mentioned in last week’s editorial.

Our electronic files end at 1999 but I managed to find this article in past issues. Since the editorial is 12 years old, some of the people named are long gone.

You will see my attitude at the time was fairly positive about Kiwanis and it is sad that it has retrogressed into a politically controlled organization.

One member told me he will demand ouster of the next individual he overhears expressing a political attack. Pairs like ex-Councilmen Gary Hayworth and Lloyd Meyer get their heads together regularly. I wonder what a fly on the wall would hear?

Ex-Kiwanis President Brian Kunkel had the right idea in banning the “round table” but it crept back in with promises of no political talk. Who polices that?
Here is history:

My View, 8/27/97

It is amazing how many people from surprising places would deprive us our first amendment rights. It seems that even some of our most eminent institutions would like to see only positive media; hide their peccadilloes, no matter how few. Much like the NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitudes we frequently expose, institutions want to be nameless, except of course, in promoting their own good works.

One sad byproduct of this attempt to hide imperfection under a rug is the proliferation of the public relations (PR) function or the more modern Public Information Officer (PIO) function, in government and industry. Often these offices serve to obfuscate facts, withhold information, and put a positive spin on their press releases and verbal responses to inquiry.

Local examples abound: Jeri Robertson’s PR office at CCUSD costs taxpayers over $80,000 per year, the Chamber of Commerce has a PR function and the town of Carefree just awarded a single source contract of $7970 to Marianne Lasby for print spin. Lasby, by the way is staff writer for a local paper, the Foothills Sentinel. Is this called a good old boy insurance policy to assure positive spin in the media as well as in their own paid and edited version? Is it proper to have a town paid PR person report supposedly objective news on the Carefree town government in a circulated newspaper?

The first test on this potential conflict of interest was revealing. Lasby wrote not one, but two articles on the last Carefree council meeting. Neither article mentioned her controversial, disputed award. It was news, and not good news for Carefree citizens, but Sonoran News and only Sonoran News reported it. This incident certainly casts doubt on the integrity of the council itself, as well as the self-serving Lasby and the newspaper she represents.

My View covered that story, as did our news pages. Then I received a curious phone call concerning my editorial, from Lee Lange, Carefree Kiwanis president.

Before I share the substance of that discussion, some background is in order. Kiwanis is the first civic club I ever joined, always having been too busy for such activities. Kiwanis in some ways is an anachronism, but a good anachronism.

Each meeting is opened with a prayer, a patriotic song, and then the pledge of allegiance to the flag. To my generation, these are thrilling moments, entirely proper; respect for God, respect for country. And most of these men (there are four women members) are of World War II or Korean War vintage. Many, maybe most, are from the Midwest. It has a huge membership, currently 225 members, which may place it in the in the top 20, in the world.

We do good things. Our scholarship program has helped many qualified students to achieve educational levels otherwise beyond their means. Fund raisers are perennial. A close affiliation with the Salvation Army has helped many area residents.

“Ye shall know them by their works.” Yes, Kiwanis is a community treasure.

Lee Lange, after opening pleasantries, said he had enjoyed my editorial (the one referred to above) and didn’t care what I said about the Carefree council but suggested that I leave Kiwanis out of the editorials. Previously, I had made mention of a “local civic club,” and Lee said he would like for me to continue that practice. I told him I would think about it. Lange then responded, “I’m trying to be nice about this, but I am telling you to do it that way, I am no longer asking!” To which, of course, I replied that I didn’t recall that he was authorized to cancel my first amendment privileges.

Sorry Lee, Kiwanis was mentioned several times to prove a point. This is a free country; we celebrate that fact each Wednesday when you preside over the opening of another weekly meeting. You are not going to take away my constitutional rights over an ill-conceived belief that the public is best served by secrecy and cover-up, or that using the noble name of Kiwanis in the real world somehow diminishes it.

When six of seven Carefree councilmen belong to a club it is improper to continuously brag about the fact. It is even more improper to allow floor time for controversial political issues such as “Yes for Kids.” In these areas leadership did not exercise good judgment.

Yes, networking goes on at Kiwanis as it does in all civic clubs. When the line is crossed though, as it was in the Lasby single source award, investigative practices always follow a path of the relationships, the money and the opportunity. The odor is there, not due to any wrongdoing by Kiwanis or the vast majority of its members, but because of these affiliations and connections and the appearance presented.

But let me make one thing crystal clear, Mr. Lange. Neither you nor anyone else outside of this newspaper is going to dictate the editorial policy of Sonoran News. If you want to attempt to remove my presence from Kiwanis, take your best shot; there was life before Kiwanis, and there will be life after.