With all the zany antics going on within the Town of Gilbert lately, perhaps we should consider being part of a TV reality show. I’m not talking about vying for the title of “Biggest Loser” — although we very well might qualify — I’m thinking more along the lines of calling the program “This Old Town.”
Personally, I’m fed up with town politics resembling daytime television; it’s time Gilbert made the move to prime time.
A quick check of the most recent census shows that our population has topped 200,000 — we aren’t a small farming community any more. With a budget nearing $1 billion, and precious little local input into how that money is being spent, I say it is high time to remodel, upgrade and improve town government. And while I doubt Bob Vila is available to supervise the job, it might be preferable to have someone less resembling Tim Allen leading the renovation.
Gilbert’s biggest challenge seems to come in locating leaders more interested in enhancing the town than in lining their own pockets. When Mayor Steve Berman isn’t engaged in launching lawsuits or hurling insults at ex-wives and reporters, he turns his attention to negotiating self-serving deals with developers offering kickbacks. Of course, the mayor never found time to write that State of the Town speech; he’s been far too busy fending off recalls and investigations of spousal abuse.
Then again, it’s a shame the same town leaders so determined to fulfill our Big League Dreams are still struggling to settle the two-year battle between themselves and the Gilbert County Island Fire District board. Although, if the agenda is to spend as many tax dollars as possible, providing free fire service to county island residents fits nicely into their plans.
Many of us are still cringing at the ridiculous saga of the foiled recall attempt, unceremoniously concluded with Berman refusing to share responsibility for the Town Clerk’s office providing erroneous information to a citizen’s group seeking relevant government data. But the latest headlines regarding the mayor’s embattled personal life are really the last straw. One can only wonder how shallow the barrel must have been to elect such an unscrupulous individual to represent us. Then again, if the actual number of signatures needed to recall the mayor was 1,963, that means only 7,850 residents (from a town of more than 200,000 people) even bothered to cast a ballot.
I may be no better a mathematician than Town Clerk Kathy Templeton, but this lack of voter turnout leads me to believe that public interest in selecting a mayor rivals annual rainfall in that the gauge reads “drought conditions.” Seriously folks, can we do no better than this? Local editorialists have listed Don Skousen or Donna Davis as potential successors, and if he’s interested in the job, I believe Vice Mayor Steve Urie would be a vast improvement.
Mesa, once the poster child for the Valley’s most backward bedroom community, has recently revamped its outlook by selecting a fresh mayor and several new City Council members with innovative ideas for moving forward. In his first comments as that city’s new leader, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith established his commitment to economic development while distancing himself from “quick fixes and government incentives.” Such thinking represents the antithesis of our current mayor and Town Council with their magnanimous policies of abundant tax breaks and big-business giveaways.
As this summer’s replacement political entertainment, maybe we could begin with a stab at “Gilbert, You’ve Got Talent!” Or perhaps we can round up a few good prospects and select an “Apprentice” from among them. If that screening process doesn’t work out, I’m afraid we’ll have to call in a clean-up crew from Mesa and produce our own version of “Trading Spaces.” Whatever it takes, we must unearth a more suitable mayoral candidate from within the community so our next election isn’t as painfully awkward as “The Last Comic Standing.”
Sandi Glauser is a Gilbert resident.