In two Northwest communities, the people – at least some of them – spoke last week.
Oro Valley’s town council election has been decided. Incumbent Barry Gillaspie has “unseated” a fellow incumbent, Terry Parish. There are two new people, Bill Garner and Salette Latas, on the OV council that is formally empowered in early June. Parish and Helen Dankwerth consider important 2008-’09 budget decisions for the last two weeks of their terms.
In the Oracle Elementary School District, three sitting board members have been recalled. Susan Beaman, Boyd Bosma and Jack Walden were recalled by wide margins; only Beaman got more than one-third of the votes in one-on-one pairings with Alicia Bristow, Dave Bowersock and Kurt Steffens.
There’s little surprise in the Oracle result. The focused energy of dissatisfied patrons put the recall before voters in the first place, and it’s nearly inevitable that such energy shall carry through.
It must be noted that 2,520 voters, just over 27 percent of the 9,322 registered in the Oracle district, cast ballots last week. Similarly, in Oro Valley, 8,830 of 26,230 registered voters, or 34 percent, cast votes between Gillaspie and Parish. In each jurisdiction, minorities rule.
Gillaspie and Parish have genuine respect for one another, and took the high road throughout their campaigns. “He’s an honorable guy,” Parish said of Gillaspie. “I ran against a good opponent and I wish him all the best,” Gillaspie said.
Parish, who received considerable campaign contributions from people interested in development, acknowledges there has been a backlash. Latas and Garner “pretty much ran on zero growth,” said Parish, who counters that retail growth supplants residential property tax increases.
Zero growth in Oro Valley? That’s unlikely, in the near term, and certainly into the future. Nor is zero growth desirable. Communities are not static entities. They either grow, or they recede. Wise growth is the goal. And the community’s imminent decisions, about general plan amendments, Arroyo Grande annexation and the like, are enormous opportunities to make sure growth is in the people’s best interests.
In Oracle, Bristow, Bowersock and Steffens take office sometime after an early June official canvass. Almost immediately, they’ll be making decisions to form a school budget. Not long after, Steffens and Bristow must decide if they’ll seek re-election. Their seats come before the voters in November, a blink of the political eye from now. Here’s a bet that they’ll have opposition, if they decide the life change that comes with public service is worth their time and energy.
Public service is difficult. The defeated, Parish, Dankwerth, Bosma, Walden and Beaman, have given up much of their lives these last several years to do the people’s work. And for what? Essentially nothing in personal gain, other than the painful wisdom such service yields, and the exclusively personal satisfaction that you’ve done your best, and that people and institutions are better off because of your work. We thank these people.
In cynical modern America, we tend to label people in government as “bad” or “self-serving” or “evil.” None of those judgments apply here, certainly. They’re not evil. In the case of those defeated, the majorities of participating voters don’t agree with their decisions, and take exception to their records and styles of leadership. No more, nothing less.
Those elected have great challenges. One group should be trying to mend a school district. The others are attempting to lead a community. May they govern well.