Find­ing a path for­ward

Cave Springs in need of lead­ers, not squab­blers

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Was Tues­day night’s City Coun­cil meet­ing in Cave Springs a cli­mac­tic turn­ing point for a town des­per­ately in need of di­rec­tion and unity of pur­pose even as peo­ple work out their dis­agree­ments?

Re­cent his­tory sug­gests the lead­ers in this Ben­ton County town’s gov­ern­ment aren’t just po­si­tioned in op­po­si­tion on strate­gies and pro­pos­als to ad­vance the com­mu­nity. The com­pe­ti­tion of ideas is a fact of life in ev­ery level of gov­ern­ment, a vi­tal part of its de­lib­er­a­tive pro­cesses. Cave Springs’ is­sues ex­tend well be­yond that. Re­cent trou­bles have all the mak­ings of in­tensely per­sonal quar­rels, anger, hurt feel­ings and vengeance.

The most re­cent flare-up came Jan. 4, when the City Coun­cil gath­ered in a hastily called spe­cial meet­ing and voted to elim­i­nate the po­si­tions of 10 em­ploy­ees in what they sug­gested was a cost-cut­ting mea­sure. They also ap­proved a mea­sure that, when rarely em­ployed in other cities, re­flects a lack of faith in a town’s mayor: Any ex­pen­di­ture of city dol­lars by Mayor Travis Lee will re­quire the approval of the City Coun­cil. The mayor, who ac­cused al­der­men of schem­ing to get rid of em­ploy­ees they didn’t like, ve­toed the fir­ings. That led to Tues­day’s meet­ing at which about 150 res­i­dents showed up and the City Coun­cil re­vealed the 10 em­ploy­ees would not lose their jobs. The au­di­ence roared their approval.

In the course of these events, the al­der­men have vi­o­lated laws de­signed to en­sure the pub­lic is in­formed of their rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ ac­tions, ac­cord­ing to the city at­tor­ney, Tom Guar­ino. In Tues­day’s meet­ing, an ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion — which Guar­ino warned against — ap­pears to have been used to shield al­der­men and the mayor from pub­lic scru­tiny rather than the purposes in­tended for such ses­sions.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to know the mo­ti­va­tions of every­one in­volved. The pub­lic can only eval­u­ate peo­ple’s words and their ac­tions. What’s clear is Cave Springs has de­volved into clashes of per­son­al­ity that defy the func­tion­ing of good gov­ern­ment, the kind that serves the purposes of the peo­ple.

If all the play­ers in Cave Springs gov­ern­ment be­lieve they are called into pub­lic ser­vice, that they have the best in­ter­ests of the com­mu­nity in their hearts, they can­not em­brace the kind of tur­moil that marks Cave Springs these days. Real lead­er­ship isn’t ex­ac­er­bat­ing ten­sions; it’s find­ing a path to end the an­i­mos­ity and make ad­vances that ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity.

Do such lead­ers ex­ist in Cave Springs?

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