At a strategy session Monday evening, the two groups opposing the Payson Town Council's decision to take water from Star Valley opted to field a slate of candidates to oppose the incumbents running for re-election rather than recall the entire council.
"When you start putting together all the time frames, in reality you're going to be right on top of the March elections so it doesn't make a lot of sense to challenge those who are up in March," Bob Edwards, chairman of the Payson-based Committee for Community-Based Growth said. Also in attendance at the meeting was the Diamond Star Water Coalition.
The mayor of Payson stands for re-election every two years (unless the voters agree to a four-year term when the question appears on the ballot next year), while the six councilors serve four-year terms, with three councilors up for re-election every two years.
Those councilors whose seats are up in January are Dick Reese, Robert Henley and Judy Buettner. Not facing re-election until 2008 are Tim Fruth, John Wilson and George Barriger.
It was decided at the Monday meeting that Reese and Barriger would not face recalls since they now oppose taking Star Valley's water, and since Buettner is not running for re-election and Mayor Barbara Brewer and Henley are up for re-election, the most logical subjects of a recall would be Wilson and Fruth. Although Fruth has recused himself from voting on the Star Valley water issue, Edwards said the mandate to remove the current council is based on a larger issue.
"Clearly this is a council that has decided the citizens don't count, and it doesn't change," he said. "Time after time they keep saying the same thing, so the citizens need to start a fight to be heard."
Fruth will probably be targeted along with Wilson because the two groups don't "see much hope for him either."
Although names are still being bandied about, Edwards said the two groups are confident of their council candidates. While Edwards himself has taken out a packet to run for mayor, he would like to see another strong candidate step forward.
"Clearly there needs to be some housecleaning downtown, there needs to be some structural changes done, and that's a tough charge to give somebody," he said. "Ultimately I would do it if we can't find somebody else."
Meanwhile, Town Clerk Silvia Smith clarified the procedure for council candidates.
"The packet has all the information," she said. "Once they turn in the statement of organization, they're an official candidate and they can start collecting money and signatures on the petitions."
Smith said the only statements of organization returned so far are from mayoral candidates Brewer and Jon Barber and council candidates Henley, Mike Vogel, and Su Connell.
Another major focus of the Monday meeting was the incorporation of Diamond Star, scheduled to be considered at a Gila County Board of Supervisors meeting at 10 a.m. Nov. 1 at the Best Western Inn of Payson.
"We need to be there because I'm sure the county is going to be under tremendous pressure to do the wrong thing," Edwards said.
But just as important, he said, the entire town needs to send a message to the town council.
"They need to get the message that if they now challenge the incorporation, they are really going against the citizens," Edwards said.
Despite claims from Town Manager Fred Carpenter that he has no plans to challenge the incorporation, that was not the impression he left when he addressed the CAC Monday, according to some in attendance.
"He's good on his feet," Edwards said of Carpenter, "but we came away with the feeling that it was a done deal -- they will challenge it in court."
Carpenter said the "key fundamental reason" the town could challenge incorporation if it chose to is "because we never passed a resolution saying it was OK to go ahead, which state law says you have to do."
Chris Benjamin, a member of the Diamond Star Water Coalition, attended a meeting of the supervisors in Globe this week.
"The county went into executive session and came out an hour later and informed us that we need to have our resumes for our candidates into them this week so that if they incorporate us next Tuesday, they will swear in the seven chosen candidates," Benjamin said.
The supervisors, meanwhile, issued a press release asking that qualified electors interested in serving on the first Diamond Star council send letters of interest or resumes to Steven L. Besich, 1400 East Ash Street, Globe, Arizona 85501, or at firstname.lastname@example.org until noon on Monday, Oct. 31. The envelope should be clearly marked "Diamond Star Town Council Applicant." For further information, call Jacque Griffin at (928) 402-8770, Marian Sheppard at (928) 402-8757 or Jo Johnson at (928) 474-2029.
Carpenter produced documentation Wednesday indicating the town of Payson achieved incorporation in 1973 when two-thirds of the registered voters signed petitions. The Diamond Star Water Coalition was under the impression that their incorporation would be the first accomplished without a vote of the people.
Ironically, Payson was smaller when it incorporated than Diamond Star. Only 729 citizens signed the Payson incorporation petition, while 843 valid signatures were on the Diamond Star petition.
Appeal of 2098
Also headed for court is an appeal of the town's decision not to hold a referendum on Resolution 2098 (in part authorizing the town to pay $750,000 for water from Star Valley), despite the fact that 1,900 residents signed a petition to that effect. The decision was based on the advice of a legal expert from the Valley. The council did not vote on the issue.
The Committee for Citizen-Based Growth is spending $5,500 to appeal the town's decision.
"The big issue is that we are digging into our pockets to go to court and fight our own tax money, and what's wrong with that picture?" Edwards asked.