This is not intended as a debate on whether the Marana Town Council made the correct decision Nov. 3, when it voted 5-1 to rezone a parcel of land owned by Vice Mayor Herb Kai, and to accept a development agreement allowing a 430-acre commercial landfill on the town’s western edge.
No thumbs up, or thumbs down. Plenty of people believe this to be a terrible idea. Plenty of other people think it’s a step forward for a community establishing its completeness. You, dear reader, may already have adopted one of those views, and your opinion is of merit and worthy of respect.
All must acknowledge that this is an enormous decision. Lives are affected. A large piece of ground — and, yes, a piece of ground above someone’s underground drinking water, not far from people’s homes — would be forever dedicated to a singular use that no one really wants in their backyard.
There are winners and losers. Some people stand to make a lot of money. Others may see their property values decline, and they may more deeply believe their lifestyles and health are threatened.
It’s been written here before, and must be repeated — there’s not a soul among the unelected who wanted to be in the positions of Mayor Ed Honea and council members Jon Post, Patti Comerford, Carol McGorray, Roxanne Ziegler and Russell Clanagan, the six elected people who had to vote on the Marana Regional Landfill proposal. They didn’t want to vote on it, either. But they had no choice. Someone had to decide.
From this distance, the council went about it the right way. Oh, sure, the critics are going to scoff about perceived payola and political consequences. And, yes, Kai put the council in a lousy spot. There were bumps and missteps and loud voices and accusations along the way.
But, in the end, right before the vote, after 10 months of being talked at, members of the council spoke from their hearts to a full house of more than 200 people, some wearing green shirts expressing their support for the landfill, others holding signs against it. There were Boy Scouts, grandmothers, children, all awaiting a decision.
If you watch government, as those of us in the media do, the council’s remarks before that vote were among the most honest, anguished, riveting comments you’ll ever hear at a public meeting. Real-life theater.
They voted without regard to the political consequences. Will there be some? Maybe. But it’s a mistake to believe the people who serve on the council, or on any governing board, put up with the tedium, the abuse, the loss of sleep and the time away from loved ones because they love the power. Public service is simply not what it’s cracked up to be. Want to choose someone else to serve? Have at it.
For 10 months, the good people of the Silverbell West community and their allies have fought the good fight against this proposal. Life caused attrition in their ranks. From a swelling of more than 200 people at the Sky Rider Café last winter, their numbers had thinned. The demands of work and family, the discouragement of battling against deeper pockets, the fear of retaliation, and the perception that they could not influence the town council — Silverbell West is outside Marana’s town limits — eventually wore people out.
Now, they may be left with nothing to show for their energy. If DKL Holdings does indeed secure permits for this landfill, Larry Henk ought to approach the people at Silverbell West, and offer help. Their neighborhood, strong of spirit, could use some assistance, maybe some paving or pothole filling, or a park, or something ongoing. They may be too proud and angry to accept anything. But they should not be forgotten.
There’s not enough space to get into the intrigue of Pima County’s position on all of this. The county made clear its opposition to the Marana Regional Landfill, even as it fumbles with the future of its own Tangerine Landfill. And don’t forget the competing Durham Landfill proposal in Southern Pinal County. Where shall it all go?
Now, the Marana Regional Landfill moves from the political to the technical, from waving signs and green shirts to core samples and 22 permissions.
Actually, there remains one more political possibility, that of a referendum for Marana voters on the May general election ballot. Will the signatures be gathered to put the question forward? Wouldn’t be surprised.