What a mess.
It now looks like the petitions circulated by a citizens' group to force a vote on whether Payson should lease land to the YMCA for a badly needed recreation center may have had some fatal flaws.
A lawsuit alleges that the name of the group circulating the petition was so misleading and the organizing papers so flawed that the court should cancel the November special election.
The town now finds itself in the odd position of defending a petition drive that would overturn a plan the council itself supports. Ah, Payson. What an interesting little town.
So what to do?
Gulp. Pause. Gather nerve. All right. We can't believe we're saying this.
We think the town council ought to call the election itself if the court tosses the petitions.
Mind you, we think the whole point of electing council members is to let them make these decisions on our behalf. And we hate spending $40,000 on the election.
Moreover, we love the YMCA. We think the partnership between the town and the non-profit group makes all the sense in the world. Payson urgently needs the gym, year-round pool and other cool amenities the YMCA will bring to town with $5.6 million in donations.
We do still have concerns about the proposed location -- which would sacrifice a bunch of wonderful pines and one of the coolest corners of the park to save a little money and stretch out the use of the aging Taylor Pool.
All that said, we think the YMCA would bring wonderful things to Payson -- at no cost to the taxpayers.
Still, that's not actually the point here.
The critics of the proposal gathered 1,500 signatures in a matter of weeks -- which represents 16 percent of the town's voters. Clearly, voters want to have their say.
Now, the folks seeking to have those petitions thrown out do make a good point. The anti-YMCA petition circulators called itself "Friends of Payson," which could easily confuse voters who knew that "Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation" have pushed for the YMCA plan all along. The confusing name and the paperwork problems do seem to run afoul of state laws intended to ensure that voters can easily figure out who's backing an initiative.
However, the petition circulators gathered about three times as many signatures as they needed in record time. Given that strong sentiment, we don't think the town council ought to force the YMCA down the throats of reluctant voters. At this point, the council ought to let the people decide.
As Winston Churchill put it: Democracy is the worst form of government....except for all the others.
Unfortunately, that means the voters have a right to smash the crockery and have a bonfire in the living room if that's what they really want. Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith to trust the voters -- but it always seems to work out in the end.
Fortunately, town officials have so far acted with energy and integrity to protect the rights of the citizens to have their say. The council acted immediately to schedule the vote quickly -- and so far the town seems ready to vigorously defend the petitions in court.
On Monday, the council will meet in executive session to ponder the town's options.
We hope that one option will be calling a special election -- in the event the court tosses the petitions.
No doubt about it. The place is a shambles; we got ourselves a royal mess.
Time to hand the brooms to the voters.
Lemonade stands raise $6,500 for memorial fund
Way to go Lemonaders...is that a word? It really doesn't matter. What matters is that the children of the Gracie Lee Haught Children's Memorial Fund committee members saw their parents raising funds to help less fortunate children and wanted to do their part.
So, they came up with the idea of selling lemonade. They built the stands, made and sold the lemonade at some 25 locations throughout Payson and Pine and guess what, they raised more than $6,500.
Also, kudos need to go out to the businesses who let these kids use their property and to the thirsty patrons who stopped and supported them.
These Lemonaders called their effort "Kids Standing for Kids". Add "Adults Proud of Kids" to your motto.
-- John Naughton, publisher