He’s a man of passion — and conviction, who has served his community with great dedication. So we’re sorry that Star Valley Mayor Bill Rappaport’s decision to conclude that selfless service has come packaged with pain and conflict. We’re also sorry if we added to that pain by misunderstanding key details of the unfortunate tangle of complaints about his position on gun control that prompted him on Thursday to resign.
But we hope that the community he has served will not let this final squabble obscure the great service Mayor Rappaport has rendered to his fellow citizens. He helped to incorporate the rural community of 3,500. He tackled the complex problems with energy and dedication. He kept a close eye on the bottom line when other towns struggled and he advocated for the installation of speed cameras that both kept the town solvent and sharply reduced accidents and speeding on the highway.
He also displayed a rare quality: The ability to change his mind. So when studies provided reassurance about Star Valley’s water supply and the operations of Payson’s Tower Well, Rappaport had the intellectual and political courage to end of the water wars. He so changed the tenor of relations with Payson, that Star Valley joined in creating the Rim Country Educational Alliance SLE, dedicated to bringing a university to town.
Of course, the same passion and energy that animated his service sometimes created conflicts. Certainly, the Roundup came in for its share of criticism from a man who never hesitated to speak up. We didn’t always agree, but we knew that even in anger he strove to serve his fellow citizens.
Ironically, the conflict that provoked his resignation had little to do with town policy. Rappaport wrote a letter to Arizona’s U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake urging them to close a loophole that allows people to buy weapons as gun shows without background checks. That’s an entirely reasonable position and the mayor was certainly within his rights as a citizen to express his views.
Unfortunately, his critics on the council blew his letter far out of proportion. Even worse, we fear the Roundup compounded the problem by misinterpreting some comments the mayor made during a brief phone interview. We thought he said he wrote a letter to the White House — he didn’t. We thought he acknowledged that he was a member of an organization that advocates a range of gun control measures. In fact, Rappaport says the organization used his name and image without permission.
So we hope that the residents of Star Valley will join with us in thanking Bill Rappaport for his efforts to make things a great deal better. He fought the fight for the right as he saw it — true to his beliefs and steadfast in his service. That’s all you can ask. For that, we thank him. We hope you will too.
Don’t sell Frontier
The Payson School Board appears poised to conclude an ill-advised fire sale on the future. The board has held a series of closed-door executive sessions to consider an offer to buy the Frontier Elementary school site. As near as we can tell, the board has rejected two offers that came in below the $1.25 million value the district arbitrarily put on the site. Later today, the board will consider a final offer.
We hope that the board will reconsider the decision to sell the school site, even if the undisclosed buyer — reportedly a private school — comes up to the $1.25 million cash asking price.
Certainly, we understand the board faces a tough decision. The district’s enrollment continues to decline, in the wake of a stubborn downturn that has driven away many young families with kids.
The school board accepted projections generated by formulas offered up by the Arizona School Boards Association that projected enrollment declines for years to come. We don’t believe those projections. We’re confident that the Rim Country Educational Alliance will strike a deal this year with a university partner to build a 6,000-student campus here.
Moreover, Payson remains one of the only communities in Arizona with enough water to sustain all its future plans. A projected water shortage afflicts most of the communities that must compete with us for growth in the years to come.
We fear that the panic-stricken district will sell off Frontier for a fraction of its investment. When growth resumes here, that will look like a terrible decision.
Now, it’s possible that even when growth resumes the district won’t need another school site — especially if the district considers a shift to the kind of K-8 system that so much research on student achievement supports. Perhaps in that case it would make sense to sell Frontier to raise money to accommodate that growth.
But we’ve seen no such plan. Rather, the board seems in a rush to make a short-term decision without a long-term plan. At the very least, a delay would avoid a sale near the bottom of the real estate market.
For all those reasons, we hope the district will reject the offer in hand.