In this space a week ago, just before running off to Oro Valley's "State of the Town" address, the suggestion was made that members of the town council find "some common ground," each side making "overtures to the other, to let everyone — and the public — know that all ideas and perspectives are valued and respected."
Then, at the admittedly ceremonial State of the Town address, three members of the council — the three who were on the short end of the David Andrews vote the week before — were notable in their absence. Bill Garner, Barry Gillaspie and Salette Latas didn't show up.
So much for an overture.
Garner, Gillaspie and Latas are very busy people who attend far more meetings than almost everyone else in the community. They work hard and long to serve the people, and we respect that effort. We are not here to denigrate them; their reasons for not attending the luncheon must be legitimate and valid.
But certain appearances matter very much, and this was one of them. State of the Town is the place to demonstrate civility and respect. This boycott, or whatever it was, looked bad. In a show of concern at a difficult time, 500 people plunked down money and gave of their day to be there, and to listen. It looked like three of the chosen leaders, presumably upset with a defeat, picked up their marbles and went home. That's not true political leadership.
Political leadership is the craft of compromise. Competing ideas vie for the majority of minds and votes within structures of government. When there is real conflict and division, as became the case with Town Manager Andrews, someone's going to win, and someone's going to lose.
It's important for the winners to be humble and gracious, to extend a conciliatory hand and to move ahead. It's important for the losers to accept a decision and go on to the next issue, the next decision, the next important piece of the people's work. That means sitting at the table. That means showing up.
Repeatedly last Tuesday, residents of the community were told this year's budget anguish may pale when next year's pain rolls up Interstate 10. It's going to be more difficult, not less, to fit a level of adequate community services into a shrunken pot of money. It's going to be more crucial than ever to have a town council that communicates, with one another, and with constituents, exchanging ideas to solve enormous challenges in compromising fashion. No more pettiness. No more sulking. No more eyes rolling. No more protests of absence.
It's galling to see council members "mail it in" via video, as took place last week. On the tape, Councilwoman Latas told the group how critical it is for the council to operate with "the highest degree of openness, respect, integrity, accountability and quality."
Well, then, let's do so, everyone. The task demands nothing less.