Each Councilor Should Appoint

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The committee appointment process for the Payson Town Council is still broken and needs fixing.

No one person should have the authority or responsibility for appointing all the members to the town’s volunteer committees or commissions — whether it’s the mayor or vice mayor.

Voters elect council members, so the best way to ensure the committees reflect the priorities of the council is for each council member to appoint a member to each of the key committees.

Nothing against rotating the vice mayor position, but having a vice mayor play the dominant role in making those appointments sets the stage for the problems revealed at last week’s meeting.

Each council member wins election because voters support their judgment and stand on the issues. Each elected member of the town government brings unique qualifications to the positions. Therefore, each should recruit and appoint members to the commissions and committees — who would then represent the interests of voters who elected that council member.

It is an easy process.

The terms of the commission or committee members should match those of the councilors. After each election, the newly elected, or re-elected, councilor can keep or replace the members associated with him. This staggers the terms of committee and commission members as it staggers the terms of elected officials.

It gives every elected official the right to appoint someone to every committee and commission. Each of those volunteer sub-council groups then reflects the council. This system would not prevent these appointed people from being independent. It would foster good communication with the council and give the council more say in what is taking place at the commission and committee level.

Unfortunately, some good people were removed from town positions last week. We were particularly sorry to see Tom Loeffler leave the traffic committee, given his 22 years of professional highway experience and his work on the committee in the past year. That is not to say some good people were not appointed. But the current system does not ensure the committees and commissions will reflect the needs or policy of elected town officials.

So let’s take this opportunity to review the process and make changes. Let each elected official make his own appointments to all of the town’s committees and commissions.

Christmas tree tag foolishness

Everywhere you look in the Rim Country you can spot a perfectly sized Christmas tree — setting off visions of sugar plumbs and Santa’s helpful elves. Lovely little trees — often growing in thickets — just the right height and easy to find.

Except you cannot purchase a permit in Payson or Pine or Strawberry to cut a Christmas tree minutes from your house. Instead, you must travel to the Valley or Flagstaff or Show Low — anywhere but Payson. That’s because you can only buy a Forest Service permit at the nearest Big 5 Sporting Goods store — wherever that is since they don’t advertise in the Rim Country.

So your 15-minute trip into the woods to find that perfect Christmas tree just became a three-hour round trip to the Valley. How’s that for government efficiency?

Apparently, the Forest Service decided it was too costly to issue permits through local ranger district offices, so it decided to send everyone to a retail store either in the Valley, Flagstaff or Show Low.

Forget about Payson, where three national forests come together.

The millions of Christmas-tree-sized saplings in Rim Country the Forest Service won’t let people cut for the holidays actually pose a deadly danger to these forest communities. Granted, even if every one of the 30,000 people who live in Rim Country went out and cut a tree, it wouldn’t make a huge impact on the problem. Still, it adds insult to injury that the Forest Service spends millions on thinning, but won’t let Rim residents cut a Christmas tree.

So, we do get the smoke from the slash piles all fall and winter, but you can’t buy a permit in the town most of those Valley residents clutching their Big Five permits pass through en route to a Christmas memory.

Candy Luhrsen, who manages the Christmas tree program for the Forest Service statewide, said the contract with Big Five essentially saved the program, by removing the administrative burden from the Forest Service, which previously used a mail-in lottery system. We can only hope that she’s successful in finding a retailer in Rim Country willing to sell the permits next year.

But in the meantime for Rim residents, it’s a system that would have Santa’s elves shaking their little heads and the Grinch rubbing his hands with glee.

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