A Top Ten Coolest Small Town in America*
Part One: When Words Become an Act.
By Warner Blake: “Long-term partner of the mayor,” letter to the editor.
I found this sign on a bright Sunday morning on my way to get milk. It’s my long-term partner (LTP) who is running for mayor in our coolest of towns. It was two days before the primary election in a campaign for small town values fought against small-minds severed from the heart.
The act is beyond my imagination, even as wild as I imagine it to be. My finger is pointing the cursor to a social media group (SMG) started by one person nearly four years ago called: “Citizens for Responsible Government.” A popular name for conservative groups but as our group grew to over 600 members, a more descriptive name would be: “Let’s Work Each Other-up Complaining About Changes to Our Small Town That We Don’t Want to Understand and Find Someone to Blame.”
Egged on by the Leader, his group of responsible citizens zeroed-in on the city manager then the mayor, my LTP.
Many years ago, when our cool town was less cool, the good-old-boys, led by a strong mayor, were using public money as a slush fund for pet projects. A majority of council members pushed back against the mayor and eventually, with the help of the ballot box, changed the form of city government from Mayor/Council to Council/Manager in 1971. (This form of local government distributes the power of the mayor amongst seven council members who elect one of them to serve as mayor to run the meetings for only two years, and together the council hires a professional manager to run the city and whose contract is renewed every year — no waiting for the next election.)
It was a cool move 45 years ago. And the first step in fact toward the recent travel award one of the coolest. For example, shortly after the change of city government, the Snohomish Historical Society, itself a new organization, prepared the application for the establishment of a Historic District that was approved by the new council and sent to the National Park Service where it has been listed ever since.
Nearly 10 years ago, my LTP beat the staunchest of the good-old-boys in an election for a city council seat. She was elected along with two other women and the seven member council worked in collaboration with the city manager to bring stability to city government which in turn brought prosperity to our small town.
Slowly a variety of business began returning to our historic main street, even a bakery came back. Restaurants multiplied, shops so prospered over the years that today we have one that has taken over two rooms of a former hotel for a line of custom bridal gowns!
While the institution of marriage is a strong small town value, (hence my moniker of long-term partner which is used in council meetings and in letters to the editor), this store represents change — up-scale change that is not to be trusted as expressed in the postings of the responsible citizens.
The council-manager harmony turns suspicious. Backroom deals are imagined at every turn: a cell tower application; a proposal for small apartments called apodments; and especially the manager’s removal of the deed restriction: For playground purposes only from a city lot donated in the 1920s. Yet, today, cell towers are not allowed in city parks, the thing called apodments were not built, and the donated lot today is home to a Boys and Girls Club, a skate park, a playground, and a future park on the site of the school district’s former pool. Plus, it’s protected by a zoning ordinance, much stronger, clearer than an historic covenant that has lost its meaning.
With the number of responsible citizens joining the closed SMG, a competitive spirit of vitriolic comments toward the mayor went from silly to disturbing — what was happening to us? I gave up expressing my views which were dismissed with insults and wrote that the group was not open to discussion but was an echo chamber of misinformed malcontents. The Leader responded with the suggestion that I urinate up a rope and that I had until noon to quit the group.
Like I said, democracy is messy. And it was about to get messier than any of us could imagine.
The Leader proposed a petition to place a change of city government on the ballot. Due to the low turnout in the previous election, the Leader needed only 218 signatures out of a population around 6,500 registered voters. This is when the Leader’s Brother-in-Arms (BiA) stepped forward to lead the way, door-to-door.
Motivated by the mean-spirited cheer leading of his group I suppose, the Leader filed a petition based on fictitious issues to recall the “decorative” mayor, my LTP. However, he withdrew the recall petition before it went to court claiming that his family was being harassed — implicating by innuendo my LTP. Eventually it came out that he had filed the petition with a false address. The Leader of the closed SMG was not a resident of our city nor are many of his group of responsible citizens. How high does fraud rank in a town fighting for its small town values?
Never-mind. The Leader’s BiA came through with just enough signatures and the Proposition to return local government to the Mayor/Council form was on the ballot. It was number 2. Proposition #1 was to ban fireworks, it lost. Proposition #2 won by 11 votes out of 4,843 cast. Keep the fireworks, lose the working form of local government.
A social media hijacking led by a person with no legislative experience, either paid or volunteered, but with the confidence of one with a suspected personality disorder — mindlessly repeating the preamble to the Constitution: “We the People….”
Our small town tradition of sign-waving for candidates at the major intersection in town was tense leading up to the primary. My LTP was verbally attacked: “You’re not a Democrat,” he said, pointing his finger inches from her chest, “you’re the reason Democrats had to vote for Trump!” With his temples bulging he turned to walk away but stopped to push the button for the walk-light, grudgingly accepting government assistance crossing the street in the morning rush hour traffic.
The Leader’s BiA won the primary but the built-up nastiness generated by the echo chamber of the Leader’s social media group leaked out and words had became an act.
As a counter-punch, my LTP is giving red shirts with just the word KINDNESS in white letters across the chest to her campaign volunteers. For her it’s a fierce and generous Kindness — all for the greater good of our residents working, playing and making our town cool.
How will it play out: More Nasty Shit or Move Toward Kindness?
To be continued.
*Title is from a CNN Travel website: www.cnn.com/travel/article/feat-budget-travel-america-coolest-small-towns.../
Warner has written two books on the history of Snohomish, only the one release this summer is promoted here: J. S. White: Our First Architect.
More here: WarnerBlake.net