Excellence in government?

There was an offensive advertisement in the newspaper on October 15th depicting our City Administrator as some kind of puppet master over myself and Mayoral candidate Forrest Whitman. This advertisement was paid for by Salidians for Excellence in Government whose registered agent is Lorene Farney. The thirteen contributors to the organization as of October 13th include Lorene & Rod Farney, Billy & Sydd Carlisle, Vern Davis, Monicka Griesenbeck, Jan Sebastian and Steve Borbas. We have allowed people like these thirteen individuals to control the conversation in this community for far too long.

The damage that has been done to our community over the past few years is immense and will take years to repair. They have taken away from us our trust in our local government. We are such a fortunate community in the talented and responsible elected officials and staff who choose to serve this community. If you need proof, just look around at how this community is thriving. Salida hasn’t seen commerce like this in decades. Sure we have potholes and streets in disrepair. This did not happen overnight. Unlike many communities, we are actually addressing the problems which we were unable to even think about doing a decade ago.

Yes, there are challenges to be faced. Along with these improvements come concerns about things like housing prices, increased traffic, maintaining our small town character and the impact of second homes. And we need to address these challenges. It should be taken up through effective leadership, good governance and a collective vision for the community, not through vicious attacks on myself and others who serve the community.

A discussion of ideas and policy would be much more beneficial than silly statements like ‘the Mayor breaks ties’. Yes, I do break ties when there is a divided Council. What else is one going to do in the case of a 3-3 vote? If you disagree with the way my vote falls, then let’s discuss that, but to depict any duly elected official in a garbage can; come on, the voters deserve much more respect than that!

Local elected officials and staff are community members. They are involved in local governance because they feel compelled to serve their community. Don’t we want the best people we can find to serve this community? How does depicting a candidate as a puppet or an elected Mayor in a garbage can serve those goals? As a community we need to come together and reject these petty personal attacks. I sincerely hope that the next Council will be able to focus on proactive solutions to problems rather than being stymied by a few individuals and their outspoken reactive responses and constant lashing out at elected officials and civil servants.

During the remainder of the campaign and, if elected, I encourage all candidates to concentrate their efforts on improving and building up this great community rather than damaging and tearing it down. As a community let us focus on collaboration rather than division. Let us listen to one another, be open to new ideas and find common ground that we can agree on.

What have we become here in this wonderful community? Why have we allowed the conversation to get to this lowly level? We are better than this here in Salida. We have the good fortune to make our homes here in this wonderful valley away from many of the troubles of the world. Why do we continue to allow a small group of angry people tear us apart? Please join me in putting a stop to this unacceptable behavior. We do need excellence in our local government. We do not need hate, spite and nastiness. Carefully consider what each candidate stands for, not who they stand against and exercise your right to vote in this election. The future of this great community truly is at stake.

Jim Dickson


    There may be other comments on this topic on our Facebook page.

  • Well said. When I saw this cartoon this morning I felt physically sick and sad. My husband and I have decided not to openly endorse any candidates this fall. My ballot however, was mailed right after I saw the cartoon from the Salidans for Excellence in Government.

  • I thought the cartoon was really well done but there is no signature (I'm a cartoonist too). Also, I my opinion, it depicts our local government perfectly.

  • It is surprising to me there are so few comments to the views presented by Mayor Dickson. No matter who the readers of our local newspaper and the Salida Citizen support, all should be outraged by the ad sponsored by the Salidans for Excellence in Government presented in the Mountain Mail on October 15. Can anyone who sees this ad really want these types of people running our government, no matter what their intentions are? It promotes the negativity and polarization that is all too common in our city government today. Your vote is important. Please consider the candidates who present a positive outlook for the future of Salida without relying on using negative tactics to send their message. This is the attitude we want to have in our community.

  • Thank you Mayor Dickson, well put. I would add that it is a shame that our only newspaper, The Mountain Mail, has chosen to print these offensive, defamatory ads that are paid for by SEG. This libel further reflects the bias of The Mountain Mail.

  • PJ, the Citizen FaceBook page has had many more comments. Most, if not all, seem to share the opinion that the depiction was unacceptable. My opinion was 'childish.' This is definitely least common denominator tactics. Name calling and ambiguous accusations are a great place to go when facts are not relevant. There is a great story in the Mountain Mail today about some 'accusations and assumptions' made by SEG regarding the positions of a candidate who is even in office yet. It certainly didn't hold much sway in my mind.

    I feel that SEG certainly has some valid points and concerns. But when their tactics consist of mostly negativity and attacks on others, their arguments seem to ring hollow. I prefer to vote for something and not against something. It's a shame that they can't present a more intelligent presence. Simply being against everything the City does, or being against the 'other guy' is not a sound platform. I want some substance if a candidiate is going to get my vote. I only get one and it is precious.

    To your point, if these are the actions of individuals before the election, I can only imagine how bad things might get if their party is successful in taking over control of our local politics.

  • Yes, the 13 named individuals who are behind many of these ads and letters are welcome to free speech, even if fast and loose with the facts, using innuendo and speculation to further their conclusions. And yes, the Mountain Mail will take anyone's money, any day, to run titillating ads, but poor business decisions like these will continue eroding readership and have more advertisers pulling their sponsorship.

    Those behind these juvenile attacks should be smart enough to realize that this is not the way to achieve their agenda, unless that agenda is the continued destruction of this community. The only way these classic bullying tactics work is for people to remain silent or tune out of the process in sheer disgust.

    EVERY Salida citizen, regardless of political views or voting eligibility should walk up to the 13 named here and ask them to stop it. Now. Just like sexism or racial slurs, simply tolerating it silently when you hear it, implies you agree or that it is OK. This is NOT acceptable behavior for the good of our community.

    We have to start thinking beyond Election Day. Regardless of who prevails at the polls, we can no longer tolerate bullying and that what this is. Be visible - each of us has the power to turn this climate around and foster a two-way conversation that can lead to consensus.

  • Is there a hit out on the 13. How much? ... and didn't you all just make this a question of civility?

  • In the interest of disclosure I resigned from SEG a couple of months ago as I have some compelling business matters that require my attention. I do, however, support their views. Citizens have a right to assembly and to free speech. Have you ever heard the expression there is an ounce of truth in every pound of kidding? I speak only for myself, but I think SEG has a perfect right to their views and their speech. I have contributed to SEG and will again when I can afford to. It is not bullying when citizens express grievances and concerns. The bullying that disturbs me is when the city administration or their most vocal supporters attack folks who exercise their free speech rights. Keep in mind that sharp criticism is free speech too. It is not the government that needs protecting, folks. Our system of government was founded on a Constitution and Bill of Rights that protects our civil liberties, and our citizens. I noticed a cartoon of Obama drawn on the nose of a bomb today; I found that to be over the top. I did not care for that cartoon, and I like my humor more on the more light-hearted side. Political Cartoons and other forms of Satire are a part of our culture. Relax, if you can't take a little kidding look inward, not outward. I have at times been attacked in print by what I knew were flat lies and I know there have been some whisper campaigns behind my back. What would it benefit me or the community for me to whine about that? In the midst of all the political jockeying a little humor seems to lighten the day.
    Bullying is when citizens are ridiculed for questioning their government. Demanding accountability from government is a civic duty, not a nuisance or bullying. Best regards, Billy C

  • My thoughts on this… “Why CAG/SEG’s Cartoon Failed at Politcal Satire” ... http://salidadailypost.com/2015/10/17/opinion-why-cagsegs-cartoon-failed-at-political-satire/

  • edited October 2015

    Good points (and a good article), Cynda. And Joe Judd, I agree with some of what you say. You make some balanced and reasonable arguments.

    On the other hand, listening to Whitman at the LWV forum the other night ("[Citizens shouldn't dispute the council's decision to overturn a vote. They just need to trust us]" ), the cartoon's message is unfortunately probably dead on.

    And now there's this to Mayor Dickson. Mayor, you put your signature on the above (almost certainly ghost-written) letter. It's a pretty strong letter. So here's a pretty strong response.

    You almost certainly won in 2013 because of awful and untrue last-minute ads attacking Billy Carlisle. Those ads were promulgated under Jim McCormick's name. He has since blamed them on Jim Miller. I believe they probably originated with Tom Yerkey. Carlisle shrugged off the 11th-hour unfair attacks with grace and forgiveness.

    Now, who's the bully?

    It is not a "few" or "13" citizens that don't like the way things are going. It is, per the last citywide elections for mayor and 2A funds spending, about half the city. If you and the administration truly seek "collaboration, cooperation and consensus," it might help to quit disparaging and belittling citizens and their concerns. If you and the administration really want "collaboration, cooperation and consensus," you would seek out, listen to, and incorporate public criticism of your ideas. That's what a well-functioning, intellectually honest organization does.

    You and yours don't do anything of the sort. The horses to which you've hitched your cart decide things in the back room, refuse to fairly disclose them in the budgets, and too often do them before anybody knows they've been done.

    So, who's caused the damage and the rifts?

    "Economic development" is great, unless it means $2 million spent on Vandaveer to bring $1 million of economic benefit. "Affordable housing" on Vandaveer sounds wonderful, unless it really isn't.

    Administrator MacDonald has never had the courtesy or courage to sit in front of citizens at a real town hall and answer their questions or acknowledge their concerns. Why can't she do that? Why won't she do it? She hides herself deep in Touber and disdains to speak to the people.

    I watched Tom Yerkey run out of a town hall when citizens started asking him questions. They weren't mean questions. They simply required him to address hard facts. He couldn't take it and wouldn't do it. He refused to engage and left.

    "Cooperation, collaboration, consensus?" If you say so.

    Don't blame the discord of the past few years on a few people. The ruling cabal's values, methods and city attorney are the root cause. The "cooperation, collaboration and consensus building" talk is shallow. As things presently stand, those words just mean having everybody agree with you and calling them "bullies" if they don't.

    More than a year ago, there was a lot of talk to start a recall election on you. I wanted no part of it, thinking it would be too divisive. Your conduct since then has often caused me to question my decision.

    A mayor has the power to do a lot of good and correct a lot of wrongs. You never did. Instead, you barred public comment when the city added a $600,000 ($115 per citizen) so-called "change order" to a $420,000 project. You barred public comment when the auditor talked about the NRCDC supposedly "sending revenues to the city." You barred public comment when Dara spun a bunch of rosy tales about what the City does or doesn't spend on the NRCDC and how the City accounted for the spending. You barred public comment when the long-time city CPA auditor gave a dog-and-pony show for the City after the Carlisle-Farney vote, the same "independent" city auditor who - and you just can't make this up - donated to Alisa Pappenfort's campaign. You barred public comment anytime Tom Yerkey or Dara MacDonald wanted it barred, looking right and then left to them whenever some member of the public asked you to allow it.

    And now you write, "As a community let us focus on collaboration rather than division. Let us listen to one another, be open to new ideas and find common ground that we can agree on." OK, sir. :-)

    You let yourself be used, Mayor Dickson. Sometimes Yerkey et al had to publicly direct you which way to vote. Once they had to direct you to reverse your vote, and you promptly did. You abdicated your responsibilities and your powers. Feel bad about seeing your cartoon effigy in a trash can if you want to, but ... it could well have been worse. And please don't lecture us on trust.

    Many private citizens have made huge investments in this city of their capital, sweat, concern for others, and vision. These folks are amazing. Some support you and the administration, some don't. It doesn't matter. Their accomplishments are humbling. We owe them (who are sometimes ourselves!) a lot of gratitude.

    Mayor (and ghostwriter), stop taking credit for what private citizens and larger forces have done. The world would have turned and will keep on turning, whether you, Dara, or any of us were or are here. The city government has done some good things that city governments are supposed to do, and for that I am thankful. But neither you nor Dara nor Tom Yerkey are responsible for the sun shining, the river flowing and the snow falling, nor for that which private citizens have done in this City, nor for the fact that the natural wonders and quaint (at least for now) atmosphere of our city attract more people every year.

    "Salida hasn’t seen commerce like this in decades." OK, but who really believes that ten-foot glitter hearts, moving the RV Dump station and the US Forest Service to Vandaveer, spending a ton of money on the Touber Building, or erecting institutional way-finding signs ("Wow, now we're just like Westminster!") have brought increased commerce to Salida?

    Who thinks building yet more government buildings on Vandaveer (thus worsening the city's already strained operations budget) is going to increase commerce or be a net gain?

    And moving to a much larger discussion about "commerce," there's this. On a rapidly warming planet of ever-decreasing resources and ever-increasing demand, is it really wise and prudent to equate "Moving Forward" with embracing outdated models of economics that presume and expect endless "growth"? Tom Yerkey was born during or shortly after World War II. He has imposed huge decisions that will affect our children, children who will face a much different world than that of the 1950s and 60s that shaped Yerkey's thinking.

    Should we be focusing on developing Vandaveer and working so hard to "Breck" Salida ("been there, seen that" for many of us), or should we be using our talents and resources to build a really unique, sustainable and durable city that is ready for coming challenges and that is a role model for others? We can't even have the discussion. Mr "Cooperate" Yerkey, Ms. "Collaborate" MacDonald and Mr. "Consensus Build" Dickson won't even field or allow the questions.

    I don't know what will happen in the election. I don't always expect or even want my ideas to "win." Nobody can or should. What I do expect though, is intellectual honesty along with full, fair and respectful disclosure from my government, and good debate when necessary. We have rarely had these things for a long time. I sure hope that the next council and mayor provide them.

  • What about the "silent majority"?

  • Jeff, Your comments make Mayor Dickson's point. Thanks again for your truthiness and mean-spirited comments.

  • I can only say that I am disappointed with any candidate who appears to approve of a special interest group attacking their opponents with ridiculous cartoons and misinforming ads. If the Salidans for the Elimination of Government or the Citizens Against Government (or whatever the acronym du jour is, it's difficult to keep track but not to see through it) want to accuse current councillors and the candidates they oppose of being "puppets", then make sure it goes both ways, as the councillors they they support certainly behave in exactly the same way with the only difference being they are on the 'other side' of their perceived table, where ever that is. I truly hope that all candidates will enter this election with an open mind and an eye toward the future of our town, not the agenda of any particular special interest group. Salida is going through some growing pains right now, and we need good leadership and councillors who can work together to move us forward in a productive way, not divide our community with toxic rhetoric.

  • I was puzzled by the word "truthiness" so I looked it up. Ms. Fish, at least one commentator says you can't use the word without also haing "Colbert " within one sentence.

    I'd welcome a critique as to what facts I've stated that aren't true, or maybe you're just making those assertions from the gut or on instinct.

    I guess "truthiness" is sort of like asserting that SEG went to Bowers or Gleason and asked for their approval of the puppet ad, or that they only do what SEG tells them. It may sound like what some want to believe, but it's a pretty silly notion and, as far as I know, has no basis in fact.

    After all, it's not as if SEG has dinner and drinks with them after city council meetings, as Whitman, Yerkey, Dickson and MacDonald did last night.

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