First and foremost; it has been an extreme pleasure to be involved in the democratic process. A process that is best embraced and not taken for granted. Transparent Payson has been honored that so many volunteers have provided their resources and time to assist in our efforts.
Five years ago, on April 25th, 2018, Transparent Payson submitted approximately 1,900 total signatures per Initiative to the Town Clerk, Ms. Smith, in an attempt to have two initiatives placed on the ballot. (1,927 on the Debt Initiative and 1,882 on the Lease Initiative.) As a point of reference, the number of signatures was over 40% of the total number of votes; 4,387, cast in the controlling Mayoral election.
We figure it is time for a history of Transparent Payson.
In 2017 the Town of Payson leadership presented a plan to form a public/private partnership with a foreign (Canadian) entity, Varxity, a Phoenix-based group, Community Center Partners, and the Town of Payson to develop an elite prep/boarding school for 600 hockey players. The private entity had no track record and limited resources. The Town was to develop and provide a recreation/training facility that included two hockey rinks and other amenities located on public parkland with limited access to the community. The Town spent tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of dollars to develop the plans. Neither the funding for the project nor the total price was ever disclosed.
A group of concerned citizens formed “Transparent Payson.” As allowed under the Arizona Constitution and the Town Code, two propositions were placed on the ballot that would require a general vote for leasing public lands exceeding three years and a vote if the financing mechanism for a facility had a “backstop” feature that functioned as a general obligation bond. The Propositions were passed with 60% approval.
After the Propositions were passed, the Town of Payson terminated the agreement with Varxity. An agreement was then made by the Town of Payson and the MHA Foundation to develop a recreation center on MHA land that was deeded by the U.S. Forest Service to establish a college campus in Payson. Varxity Development filed suit against the Town of Payson for breach of contract. That matter is ongoing, with the last activity occurring on 04/18/23.
In 2021 the Town Council considered repealing the enacted Propositions. The basic argument was that the citizens lacked the authority to place the matter on the ballot as allowed under Arizona Constitution, Article IV, Section 1. Transparent Payson responded, and the repeal was not enacted. On April 12th, 2023, the Town Council enacted an “emergency ordinance” to repeal the Propositions. The “emergency” was partly based on fears of rising interest rates. The matter was approved six to one by the Council.
Six Council Members have repealed a duly enacted Proposition passed by 60% of the electorate. A request was provided to the Council on April 11th, 2023 outlining the concerns of Transparent Payson. A copy is below in .pdf format. After the repeal by the Council, a formal response was provided via Counsel that the repeal is invalid. Again, a copy is below in .pdf. As a response was not provided, a suit was filed.
To ensure their rights, the citizens of Payson must now bring action against the Town of Payson. The outcome of this matter may have broader implications for any voter-approved initiative in Arizona. These issues are important at many levels.
We hope for the best in our current fight.
Letter of April 11th, 2023 to Town Council via Transparent Payson.
041123 Letter to TOP with enclosures
Letter of April 21st, 2023 to Town Council via Counsel.