False Charges Merit Reply

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Ordinarily, if we saw someone wandering down the street with their fly open, we’d either look politely the other way or give them a discrete heads up.

Even so, we feel compelled to comment on supposed ethics expert Al Poskanzer’s odd little screed this week in another publication that’s just too wonderfully backward to ignore — especially because he’s assaulting the character of innocent bystanders.

Thing is, Poskanzer ought to know better, since he helped write a town code of ethics adopted in the administration of former Mayor Bob Edwards. So now he asserts that Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Manager John Stanton and Payson Recreation and Tourism Director Cameron Davis had a “conflict of interest” in supposedly giving the Roundup a no-bid contract to produce the “official” guide to the August Doin’s Rodeo.

That’s a potentially serious allegation — maybe even libelous if proven both untrue and malicious. People might actually take his claim seriously.

Except it’s completely, outrageously, laughably wrong.

For starters, no one awarded a “contract” for our rodeo special issue because we did it all by ourselves, as we have for decades without any outside help or review. No one at the town or the chamber awarded any contracts, had any editorial control or officially endorsed it.

Now, it is true that Roundup Publisher John Naughton served as a volunteer on the Rodeo Preservation Alliance Board, as he does on a host of community groups. But even that poses no conflict, since the code applies to decisions made by public officials that financially benefit. The Rodeo Alliance ran the rodeo, but awarded no contract and neither gave nor received any financial benefit as a result of Naughton’s service on the board.

Nor do ads bought by the town in that publication and in competing publications pose a conflict of interest, since the town is merely promoting a sales-tax-generating event. We did run free ads from rodeo sponsors in the publication to support the event. We also donated several thousand copies to the Boy Scouts to help raise money.

Mind you, if Poskanzer’s wildly inaccurate attack had just slandered our integrity, we’d have just let him wander about with his fly open. But since he maligned others as well, we felt compelled to correct the record.

So this leaves just one question: What’s the ethical thing for a fellow to do after he learns he has falsely accused someone else of unethical behavior?

Time for second act

Alas, poor Main Street — we knew you well.

Not to wax too Shakespearean, but Main Street increasingly seems a tragedy of ambition, complete with a fatal flaw.

People who love Payson and believe in its future have labored this long while to turn Main Street into the sort of treasure for browsers and visitors that Prescott, Bisbee, Jerome, Flagstaff and even traffic-clogged Sedona have created.

Alas, we’ve failed.

By many measures, Main Street has even slipped, with the closure of the Main Street Grille, the limbo of the Hallie Jackman’s hoped-for condominium project, the muddy nothing of the American Gulch, the scattering of empty storefronts.

That sad failure after years of big plans and frustrated effort has many roots — starting with the state legislature’s crippling of the whole redevelopment process. Now we need a new approach to sustain a high-quality tourist district stretched down a mile of street front.

Perhaps we can focus using Green Valley Park to lure people off the highway, rather than the impossible task of filling in a mile of storefronts. Let us use the spectacular amenity of those lakes, hungry trout, picnic areas, bandstands and shaded green slopes to draw people off the highway down Main Street.

That will certainly require much better signage at the highway. It could include additional amenities at the park — like a stable, mountain bike trails, a stream to fish in and perhaps innovative things to do — like a carousel, skateboard park, kayak sluice or a climbing wall.

Next, concentrate new, pedestrian-friendly businesses at the park-end of that long street. We might, with consistent effort, create a couple blocks of street front to please tourists and strollers seeking knickknacks, art galleries, lunch, smoothies, a hiking guide and a mountain bike. Those visitor-oriented stores could lead naturally to an art district, with studios established in the many vacant storefronts.

Such an approach stands a far better chance of creating the busy tourism and recreation center than stubbornly clinging to an unrealistic dream. As someone once said: A rose, by any other name — still smells as sweet.

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