Finding a path forward
Cave Springs in need of leaders, not squabblers
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?