'Give Town Back To The People,' Candidate Says

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It's not easy to get a retired preacher riled up, but the powers that be in Payson have done just that.

"It just incensed me that the majority of planning and zoning was not listening to the people at a public hearing, and they weren't listening at town council either," council candidate Ed Blair said. "So I call the public hearings public ignorings."

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Ed Blair

Blair and his wife moved to Payson from the Minneapolis area in 2002, where he served for 31 years as pastor of a large Lutheran church with a congregation of 3,000.

"After I spoke up at a couple of meetings," Blair recalled, "some people close to (mayoral candidate) Bob Edwards said I should run. I said, ‘Oh, no, not me.'

"Then when some of the people I thought should run declined, I decided I needed to step up to the plate, because I really like this town and what's going on is not right. The citizens are not being heard."

So now this preacher has moved from the pulpit to the street -- going door-to-door to get his message to the people.

"I've been to about 800 doors," he estimated, "and I'm finding that people are ready for change. I say, ‘I'm Ed Blair and I'm a candidate for town council, and I think we need to make some changes.'

"They say, ‘You got that right,' or ‘I agree with that,' or, as one guy said, ‘I'll vote for anybody who's not an incumbent.'"

Blair agrees with Mayor Barbara Brewer that this election is about growth, but he doesn't agree with her position on the issue.

"I am not in favor of no growth," he said. "I'm in favor of normal growth (from the 900-1,000 lots within town limits whose owners have been promised water) until Blue Ridge water or water from the forest becomes available.

"Until that time I'm not in favor of new subdivisions. I'm in favor of the developers staying within the zoning density as we have it now; I'm in favor of no zoning changes that would increase the density."

In his research, Blair uncovered an action step in the town's Corporate Strategic Plan that bothers him -- and the people he's pointed it out to:

"Many of the citizens I meet at their doors don't favor objective number one under the key result area of Water Resource Management, which says, ‘Provide renewable water supply to support a population of 32,000.' Where did the figure of 32,000 originate? Probably the council and staff which met several times to develop it.

"The people I talk to say, ‘Let Payson be Payson,' or, ‘I don't want Payson to become another Prescott,' or ‘I moved from Phoenix (or California) to get away from the congestion,' or, ‘We can't take care of the streets we already have.'"

One woman told him, "Why should I sacrifice so the new people can flush their toilets? I've been here 20 years and we've had restrictions the whole time. It's not fair that we should continue to sacrifice so that developers can make money selling new houses."

And Blair doesn't believe the town should turn to Star Valley water to solve its problems.

"When I'm elected to the town council, I want to do everything legally possible to help the Star Valley people keep their water," he said. "It's their water underneath their town borders.

"I believe many of their wells will go dry if a large amount of water is taken for Payson building. I do believe it is a moral issue."

Blair puts it this way:

"What if Scottsdale were on our southern border and somebody from Scottsdale bought a lot in Payson and dug a big well? Wouldn't we just be livid that they were taking our water?"

He believes there are other benefits to getting out and meeting the voters that can serve him well when he's in office.

"I have found that going door-to-door helps me organize my day personally, and because citizen input is so important to Bob Edwards and me, I'm going to go down to town hall from 9 to 11, three mornings a week and do what needs to be done in preparation for meetings, and I'm going to be available to citizens (during those hours)," he said.

Another notion of Blair's, one that no other candidate has come up with, is sure to go over big with anybody whose had to stand in the parking lot at town hall and listen to an overflow meeting over a public address system.

"I'm thinking we can maybe reorganize the council chamber so that you and the other media can sit farther up front, and there can be more room for the people."

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