Guest Editorial


Carefree Forum Scorecard: 
Ed Lewis: 4  –  Mayor Schwan: 0

Co-MVPs: Melissa Price, Stakeholders & Residents
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jim van allenIf anyone needed another reason to VOTE NO on Propositions 488 & 489 all they had to do was attend the last "economic development forum." They would have witnessed the worst example of leadership or rather a total lack of leadership, a disdainful stubborn attitude, and rule breaking conduct by our present Mayor. Ed Lewis, the developer who is ready to invest up to $90 million dollars in our town center had to, on several occasions, call out the Mayor as he made inaccurate, or untrue statements. The Mayor then went "off agenda" (a violation of the Arizona Open Meeting Laws) on two occasions to rudely 'blast' his former Vice Mayor, Melissa Price (and in so doing, also insulted the Town's Stakeholders). Shortly after, he again ignored the rules and started a carnival barker pitch for his pet project of erecting a new building for his Council Chambers. Neither item even came close to the official agenda as published. Wonder what the Attorney General would say this time?

Ed Lewis put on a great presentation. He received many rounds of applause which is very unusual in Carefree Chambers. He said, over and over, that he was ready to start his project if he could ever get cooperation from 'town leadership'. He brought the ASU team to town only to have them leave with a terrible taste in their mouths as a result of their treatment by the Mayor. Lewis insisted this meeting include ALL OF THE COUNCIL, which is why the meeting was held in an open public forum. It seems he and the Mayor cannot get it together in private sessions to finalize an appropriate development agreement. I agree with Ed Lewis that clearing the air was appropriate.

It was quite apparent that the Mayor wants only to build his new buildings and to sign a deal with the Desert Foothills Theater group to justify doing so. He ignores the fact that taking $1.5 – $4 million to have a place to hang his brass plaque is total economic disaster. He also ignores the fact that nonprofits, like the Desert Foothills Theater DO NOT PAY SALES TAXES. He can't explain where the increases in tax revenue would come from. He totally ignored all the residents who strongly oppose what he wants to do. They gave him many good, well thought out, and strong reasons from their own careers. A good example is the man who heads up the Botanical Gardens, who said there is NO WAY the town will be able to avoid annual cash contributions to the Theater plan. Just like so many area towns already have to do, and those are bigger towns.

The Town’s stakeholders were at the meeting in a big way. NOT ONE in the crowd of over 150, standing room only, offered an ounce of support for the Mayor's plan or proposals. One was insulted and told to be quiet or she would be evicted. Three others blasted the Mayor for his attitude and remarks about their petition and their agreement that he was taking us down the wrong path. And these are the folks who run the business units that pay the sales taxes that support our town.

Ed Lewis, in closing remarks, said what none of us want to admit: Carefree is a town in decline. No one on the Council, or the mayor, disputed that assessment. Lewis said he wants to help reverse that course. Not one word came from the Mayor about any short or medium term ideas to help the town reverse its downward spiral. Of course there was no mention of the fact that for the first 3 months of this fiscal year public documents show that sales tax revenues are DOWN OVER 15% to the prior year. Neither did we hear anything about adding shade or misters to Easy Street, like the huge investment just made in the amphitheater, an area which is vacant 90% of the time. Until the Thunderbird Artist show on 10/31, the few upcoming events are sponsored by nonprofits, meaning no town revenue.

I am sure it was a great surprise to the Mayor that two of the "charter members of the GOB club" are opposed to his plans. And maybe many more are as well. Even Ed Morgan sounded off from Arkansas. Now if the residents, the Stakeholders, and the GOB club will not support his "spend it 'til it’s gone" positions, the mayor is standing on the edge of the boat with 'mutiny' in the autumn air.

The meeting only highlights what has been going on behind closed doors for some time. This type of conduct occurs when political folks think their office is a 'kingdom' and they take a "my way or the highway" attitude. 

Folks VOTE NO on Propositions 488 & 489 before November 4 so we can begin to put an end to this craziness. The future of your Town is at stake.