EDITORIAL for August 31 through September 4, 2013
Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof. Over thirty years ago, the Benson City Council voted to do away with partisan elections and instead have a non-partisan city council. That means that when people run for seats on the city council they donít run as Republicans, Democrats or Greens. The ballot doesnít say what party each candidate belongs to though each candidate very likely is affiliated with some political party. Be that as it may, the thought occurs to me that in a very real sense there are two defacto parties present at the Benson City Hall. Since neither party has any official name Iím going to name them myself. Iím going to call the two parties the Good Old Boy Party and the Reform Party.
Letís start with the Good Old Boys. As far as I know, the Good Old Boys have always had a majority of the city council seats. Who are the Good Old Boys and how do you join their party? To become a full fledged member of that party there is a terribly long residency requirement. It helps to be a lifetime resident of Benson and itís even better if your family has lived here for generations. Itís a good idea to join local clubs and organizations and be involved in school matters, especially sports. When the Good Old Boys run for election, they shy away from any controversial issues and run on the basis of their personalities. Their selling points are belief in good government, the stars and stripes, children, the elderly, and apple pie. When the Good Old Boys run for office their favorite line is ďBenson has been good to me and Iíd like to give something back to the town that I love so much.Ē The voters eat that up.
Okay, so who are the Reformers? The Reform Party tend to consist of people who arenít life long Benson residents. They see Benson as an outsider might see it. Reformers look at the Benson that the Good Old Boys have always controlled and they spot waste and inefficiency and sometimes even corruption. The Reform Party people notice that thirty years ago Benson had about 4,000 people and today we have 5,000, making Benson one of the slowest growing communities in Arizona. The Reformers see public servants raking in the dough while the public pays high taxes and high utility rates. And the Reformers are weary of the fact that there have never been good paying jobs for young people, so our youth are forced to leave town. Meanwhile the city government mushrooms in size and expense. Reformers think that much more could be done to improve Bensonís sluggish economy. Reformers also stick up for the rights of property owners.
The modern Reform movement likely began in around 1977 when Don Buchanan was elected to the town council by a razor thin margin. Buchanan tried to get the City Attorney fired. A year later, in 1978, Buchanan was recalled and replaced by Good Old Boy Jim Crawford.
The Reform Party became dormant for the next fifteen years. In 1993 Bennie Metheney and Jane Kennedy Holehan ran as Reformers. Bennie won election but soon lost interest in bringing about change. In the late 1990s, Jay and Kathy Suagee formed a concerned citizens group aimed at getting rid of waste and corruption. But it wasnít until 2003 that Kathy Suagee was elected on a reform platform. Kathy was re-elected in 2007. Also in 2007 Dianne Tipton was elected as a reformer along with Al Sacco. But in 2008 the Good Old Boys engineered a recall, and with a lot of help from a biased newspaper, both Tipton and Suagee were kicked off the city council leaving the Good Old Boys solidly in control.
In 2011 Ron Brooks ran for a council seat on a Reform platform. The Good Old Boys did everything in their power to keep his name off the ballot but they failed and he was elected. Between 2011 and early this year, only two Reformers were on the council: Brooks and Al Sacco. But things were looking hopeful when last spring Reformers Brian Crafts and Peter Wangsness were elected. It looked like for the first time in history the Reformers would have a narrow majority. But their luck ran out when a couple months ago, Al Sacco abruptly switched parties and became a Good Old Boy. He has given no public reason for his switch but thereís little doubt that the Good Old Boys put a lot of pressure on him. A very recent development is that the Good Old Boys have tried but failed to have Ron Brooks removed from the council. A well paid city employee headed this recall effort but this time the tactic didnít work.
If you havenít already gathered this already, Iím a Reformer. I get weary of doing business in a community that has a lot of potential for growth and prosperity, but under Good Old Boy leadership Benson stagnates while public officials live high on the hog.
The Good Old Boys will undoubtedly try again to remove the Reformers from the council. Thereís talk about recalling Brooks, Wangsness and Crafts sometime next year. I hope that the people of Benson will recognize as I do that if Benson ever turns into anything besides a dot on the map it is the Reform Party who will bring about those changes for the better. The Good Old Boys are mostly interested in bettering each other.
Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions youíve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone elseís. If youíd like a copy of this editorial or youíd like to express your opinion go to the CAVE web site at CAVEFM.com. Thatís CAVEFM.com