Sometimes, the rules can trap you — even when you believe in those rules with all your heart. So we struggled a bit with the first salvo of what’s shaping up to be a fiercely contested battle for the privilege and duty of serving as Payson’s mayor.
Challenger Randy Roberson asserted that a seemingly bland letter Payson Mayor Kenny Evans wrote to a homeowner concerning the town’s restrictions on swimming pools was unethical and perhaps illegal.
We gave the story prominent play, since the allegations are serious and we have a sacred obligation to our readers to give them the information they need to make a decision in the voting booth.
But it grieved us to do so.
Certainly, many grave and important issues face Payson. Everyone benefits from an open, vigorous campaign. Both Mr. Evans and Mr. Roberson have repeatedly proven their deep commitment to this community — and their admirable drive to serve their fellow citizens. Mr. Evans has spent vast sums of time and much of his own money to help others. Mr. Roberson has devoted himself to charity work, saving lives by flying into disaster areas with urgently needed supplies and care. They’re both thoughtful, public spirited and brave.
But we need a thoughtful, forthright debate. The council must make crucial decisions in the next two years. The town must conclude its effort to bring a university to town, confront the danger of wildfires, build a resilient, year-round economy, encourage growth without sacrificing our small-town virtues. The candidates have lots of issues to debate. Sometimes, we have agreed with the incumbents — sometimes we have challenged them.
But we hope both sides will refrain from unsupported personal attacks. Perhaps Mayor Evans has sometimes overreached and underestimated, but he has worked selflessly on behalf of this community. He has poured out his time and his energy. He does not deserve to have his integrity challenged on such thin evidence.
We felt compelled to report the allegations — along with the mayor’s defense. As a result, the hurtful speculations got wide circulation. The rules we believe in to our deepest roots require us to report as objectively and completely as we possibly can in our news columns anything we feel our readers need to know.
Mind you, we don’t endorse in elections. We trust our readers to reach their own conclusions. So don’t read this as an endorsement. But we hope the candidates will also trust those voters. Don’t let the politics of personal destruction that has metastasized through national politics spread through our beautiful little town.
Let’s have a debate on the issues — even if the personal attacks do get headlines.