Revenge Makes Poor Public Policy


Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold.

But it's a lousy basis for public policy.

So the foes of Mayor Bob Edwards who have been beat around the head and shoulders with questions about their motives and integrity, got kind of excited when they found a club of their own laying on the ground in the debris of the election.

On the club, were inscribed the words: "Poetic Justice."

Don't pick it up guys.

Walk away.

Specifically, a few supporters of Mayor-elect Kenny Evans and newly elected town council members say they want to "do an Edwards" and force the mayor out immediately, instead of waiting until June.

As precedent, they cite the tussle that took place two years ago, when Mayor Edwards invoked the letter of the law to overturn tradition -- which had the effect of enabling him to take his seat a couple weeks sooner than he would have. Seated in a brawl of a council meeting, the new council majority then took several actions that had significant downstream consequences.

So now Mayor Edwards' foes have pointed to a troubling ambiguity in both town ordinance and state election codes.

Both state law and the local ordinance say new council members shall take their seats at the first regular meeting after the votes are canvassed by the town council ... after the general election. But this year, voters decided everything in the primary election, by decisively rejecting both Edwards and the two council candidates he had endorsed. So the town council will canvass the vote tonight -- not after the general election date in May.

This sets up an apparent contradiction. Do we go by the day the council canvasses the vote or the general election?

Some adamant critics of Mayor Edwards have insisted that the intent of the law is to ensure a shift in power as soon as possible after the results are official -- which would mean the new council would take their seats on April 3.

Evans has said he will accept the opinion of the town attorney. Winning council candidates Richard Cory and Michael Hughes have both said the same thing.

Town Attorney Samuel Streichman has been mulling the issue for a week now.

Obviously, we're not attorneys here -- and perhaps there's some element of the law that eludes us, but in reading the ordinance the matter seems clear enough. Both the town ordinance and the state code say the new council members should take their seats after the general election. Invoking the reference to the canvass of the vote seems a stretch, in face of a clear reference to the general election.

Granted, the legislature ought to settle the matter by removing the reference to the general election from the state code -- which would allow council members to take their seats right after they're elected. But right now, the law seems plain. It would require Houdini dexterity to slip out of the handcuffs of that clear language.

And that's the last thing Payson needs right now.

Mayor Edwards has issued various e-mail blasts -- some insightful, some sad. He called this a campaign without issues, since he and Evans agreed on most of the big issues confronting Payson right now.

In his latest take on the election, he took justifiable pride in his accomplishments and then suggested that the "old guard" who wanted "uncontrolled growth" had risen up and wrested back power, turning various candidates and institutions into their tools.

But he also included a very heartening paragraph. "We need to give him a chance," wrote the Mayor about Evans. "He strikes me as a man whose heart is in the right place, and so, I will be surprised if he is a tool of the group that elected him."

That is a heartening opening to what voters really wanted: a healing of the divisions and the personal accusations that have marred town politics.

A nasty fight now to seat the new council members two months sooner, would invoke an unseemly loophole to no good end. We believe the town will remain in good hands with Edwards, Councilor Andy Romance and Councilor Tim Fruth continuing to serve. We believe that Evans, Hughes and Croy will take good advantage of those two months to get up to speed.

And we believe that natural, human eye-for-an-eye urge leads to the proverbial world of blind men.

And some dishes, are best not served at all.

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