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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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10/25/2011 10:11:00 PM
Lopas resigns from council, citing bench removal as 'last straw'
Lora Lopas
Lora Lopas
Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - The Monday night/Tuesday morning move by the City of Prescott to remove the controversial bench at Granite Creek Park was the "final straw" for Councilwoman Lora Lopas.

In a letter to the council early Tuesday afternoon, Lopas submitted her resignation from the council post that she has held for nearly four years.

"It saddens me to feel I cannot complete the term, but I no longer can be a part of a council that chooses to not do their job of setting public policy, but rather micromanages details of the city on a daily basis," Lopas wrote. "As of this date, Oct. 25, 2011, I am resigning from my seat in City Council."

Lopas later said in a telephone interview that she has been "out of the loop" on the council for much of her term.

For instance, she said, she learned about the city's decision to tear down the park bench in Granite Creek Park from the media.

"I was informed by the article in the paper," Lopas said Tuesday afternoon. "That shows the complete lack of respect."

In her resignation letter, Lopas said, "For a city to go in the middle of the night (last night) and remove a piece of public art, when I was last informed there was a solution to replace certain tiles and keep the bench, that just frankly disgusts me."

That move, on top of other alleged micromanagement by the city, prompted her decision, Lopas said. "I was blown away by it; I thought, 'That's the last straw.'"

Lopas said she did not know who made the final call on the removal of the bench, and she was uncertain about exactly when the demolition occurred. But others have said the bench was gone from its site around a tree at Granite Creek Park by as early as 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Lopas, who won her seat on the council in 2007, said the instances of micromanagement among council members have grown over the course of her term.

"In my four years, I have never seen it so bad," Lopas said. "I know many, many (city) staff are in fear (for) their jobs, and that's not right. I've been watching it over and over and over, and I've been completely helpless."

And she agreed with the view of some residents - including Prescott College student Kristin Anthony, who created the Granite Creek Park bench - that the city has engaged in bullying.

"She was bullied," Lopas said of Anthony. "Nobody was allowed to be in the meetings but her."

In her resignation letter, Lopas said, "I know that each and every person on this council (has) a good heart and they really do think they are doing the right things, but it is, in my opinion, not what the public wants."

Lopas' council term was scheduled to expire on Nov. 22.

After Tuesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said he had just received Lopas' resignation letter, and had not yet had time to read it.

"It was totally out of the blue," Kuykendall said of Lopas' decision.

In response to her claims of micromanagement, Kuykendall said he was not involved in the Monday decision to remove the bench. "It was never a part of council policy-making," he said. "I've never even seen (the bench) except in the pictures."

Kuykendall noted that Lopas had yet to sign the resignation - a component that is needed to make it official.

After that happens, Kuykendall said the council likely would conduct a meeting to accept the resignation. Because of the short time left before the seating of the new council (Nov. 22), he said the council would not appoint an interim replacement.

Lopas, who said she had planned to miss this week's meeting anyway because of illness, was not at Tuesday's council meeting.

Related Stories:
• Top Stories of 2011: #5 - Public Art's Struggle: Bench's construction, destruction fuels debate
• Prescott Council won't fill Lopas' vacant position
• Lopas' resignation, fire department budget up for Prescott Council review
• Park bench removal continues to raise questions
• City covertly removes controversial park bench
• Granite Creek Park bench revision plan removes symbols, designs
• City, artist meet to discuss park bench design

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011
Article comment by: True meaning Of a Competitor- and it's not Lopas

Total failure in leadership is Lopas quitting. How disrespectful of her to personalize this issue in lieu of the people that voted her into office. I get that she was on the outside of the good old boys club but she had a seat at their table and completely blew the opportunity to make ANY difference. Thanks for keeping the seat warm for the next REAL candidate because you have done absolutely NOTHING. You were even a competitor because a competitor will find a way to win. Competitors take bad breaks and use them to drive themselves just that much harder. Quitters take bad breaks and use them as reasons to give up. It's all a matter of pride. And clearly you lost all of yours.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Sad to See You Go But I Understand

Lora is a bright woman of integrity and I was already dreading a city council that did not feature her courage, independence and willingness to research. Based on her letter of resignation, she is evidently saddened and frustrated that the level-headed city she once knew has devolved into a volatile, reactionary, divisive place overrun with hotheads. She is not alone. If the housing market hadn’t dropped halfway to China, many fine citizens would have long-since exited for greener pastures, gladly leaving the haters to duke it out with one another to the bitter end. Yes, I know. Bye-bye.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Appreciation for Lora Lopas

Thanks to Lora Lopas for her dedication to the community. What a crazy time and poor government that a small bench was not allowed to be completed but instead was demolished in the middle of the night. All of you speaking with such hatred of a bright and talented college student should be ashamed.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: What was Gained?

She spent all that time serving yet was never able to really make a positive impact on ANY issue so the drama of being a quitter is kind of overshadowed by the fact that she was pretty much dead weight.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Cordes Coyote

Greg Huber nailed it.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: To Oh Please

Any issue that affects a community to the extent that this issue has, needs to be addressed by the 'leader' of the community.

And you may be okay with the leaders of the community using underhanded tactics to destroy freedom of expression and speech, but I am not.

I believe in the Constitution. It is a shame you don't.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Oh Please

Beth: Yeah because what a Mayor should be is the city's primary ugly bench inspector. Get serious. This may be the most important thing in the world to you. That's sad. To serious people, it's a trivial issue.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Beth C

"In response to her claims of micromanagement, Kuykendall said he was not involved in the Monday decision to remove the bench. "It was never a part of council policy-making," he said. "I've never even seen (the bench) except in the pictures."

The city mayor admits he never saw the bench. The bench issue has garnered national attention, was front page news in the local paper-but he never even saw it.

That is total failure in leadership.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: About time tired

Bye... don't let the door hit you in the back... thanks, for being melodramatic in this case... you out of the loop because you want to be, you would have been out of a job in a few weeks anyway.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Sheesh Deluxe

Billy Jack contains everything anyone needs to know about Prescott politics.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Greg Huber

While growing up back in Dayton Ohio in the early ‘70s, our Oakwood theatre hosted what became the longest running movie in its history – Billy Jack. The movie told the story of an Indian school on the outskirts of a small western town in the early 70’s, and of the abuse visited upon the school and its students by a particularly insular and bigoted segment of the town’s white population, including, among others, the son of one of the town’s most prominent figures. My friends and I must have gone to see Billy Jack a dozen times during its run, and to this day I really can’t put my finger on what drew us to it.
For reasons I cannot fathom, I thought of Billy Jack a couple of years ago, and was able to rent it at Hastings and watch it with my son. In doing so, I quickly realized that I had ultimately made my home in the town in which Billy Jack was set (and filmed). For those of you who have not seen this movie, I encourage you to seek it out. If you do, you will quickly note how little the façade of Prescott’s downtown has changed over the years. And in light of recent developments surrounding a park bench and school mural, you will also note that since Mayor Kuykendall exclaimed “we’ve taken our town back” in a bar after his first election a couple of years ago, Prescott’s political landscape has taken a big step back towards earlier times.
In a single week, Mayor Kuykendall (with the help of Councilman Blair) has managed to lead the City into an unprecedented and embarrassing mess over nothing. And in a mind-bending move, the Mayor then issued a public statement asserting that he was not the person who ordered the nighttime removal of the bench, followed by a total communications lock down on the rest of the City’s employees. Meanwhile, the City Council is beginning to look like the circus that occurred in Billy Jack when the children and faculty from the Indian school came to a council meeting to protest their treatment at the hands of the City.
I don’t know about you, but I’m on my way back to Hastings to rent and watch Billy Jack again – but this time with the goal of figuring out which young thug and which up and coming politician were played by Steve Blair and Mayor Kuykendall respectively.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Kind Sole

Tongue –

You have not the faintest idea what conservatism is. I was at Barry Goldwater's election night party at the Camelback Inn in 1964. Where were you, squirt? You have some deranged ideas about conservatism and liberalism, based, I guess, on what you heard in your home growing up. And now you've become the kind of fella that gives conservatism a bad name. In other words, a run-of-the mill redneck bigot. It doesn't matter how many times you post or how many inane pseudonyms you use, that fact always shines through. And by the way, Blair did it.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Tongue-in-Cheek @kind sole

Once again @Kind Sole, as a typical Liberal you guys always avoid a direct question by changing the subject. This entire article and comments are 100% about Lopes. I am challenging someone to list for me what she ever did, as a council person, that was productive for this city to deserve the accolades some posters are giving her. If your goal is to change the subject to "other council members, save your avoidance. All I have heard for 3 years is "BUSH did it" which we all know is BS. Now in Prescott all I am hearing is "BLAIR did it". I am asking what specific accomplishments did LOPES do for us?

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Brian Brecto

Wow! It never seizes to amaze me what the council will involve itself in and the absolute nonsense that comes out of that chamber on a weekly basis. Sorry elected city officials but you do not represent common sense nor do you exhibit the type of leadership required to move this town forward. This park bench, love it or hate it, was a symbol of diversity and an opportunity to be bigger. I hope the City Attorney whom they rarely listen too let's them fall on their face, as he should the next time they act up and I'm sure it won't be long before they do.!!!

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Kind Sole

Tongue –

Total non-response. I answered your question, but you didn't answer mine. The only reason I'm not sending you on your way with a lovely parting gift, is because your opening sentence was SO true (I know. You're thinkin' "How did that happen?"). "No one is thanking or claiming these other council members have done so much for the city." Way to nail it, Tongue! When you're right, you're right.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Geez Suzi

If *ugly* is the standard of what stays and what goes, well, most of the *folks* in this town would be removed in the night as well.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: suzi bell higgins

The bench did look ugly, but who was responsible for removing it????? And for Lora Lopas quiting, what for???? You're going to be out in a couple weeks anyway!!! What's with all the dramatics?

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Tongue-in- Cheek

@ Kind Sole: No one is thanking or claiming these other council members have done so much for the city. I am only calling out those who are thanking Lopas for ALL the greatness she has afforded this city. SORRY, I can't come up with anything mentionable she ever did other than keep a council chair warm in the winter.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Amazing contradictions from Prescott's esteemed mayor

Holy cow, does the mayor really want to be taken seriously or is it his real intention to be considered confused? First, I guess he's trying say, "I did not kill that park bench, because I did not ever see it." And second, he didn't read the letter from council woman Lopas but he was having a premonition that it was not signed. What a ding dong.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Raoul Duke

Thank you for having morals Lora, they are sadly lacking in this beautiful beautiful town.....Now if only Steve Blair could muster up the same, but then he would have to go see the Wizard of Oz and get some first.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Kind Sole

Mr. Cheek:

The list is 100% identical to the list of accomplishments of Mr. Bundy, Mr Hanna and the others. Dispute that. In other words, what did they accomplish that she didn't?

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: NOT A CRIME ?

It is reported that Prescott Police were called by someone as a result of the unannounced disappearance of the bench, that more than one police car showed up, and that the officers declined to take a report.

Very odd. As the City had never accepted the bench, were it and/or its components not still the property of the artists and contributors? Does making it disappear without the owner's permission not therefore at least POSSIBLY constitute a crime?

Should the officers therefore not have defaulted to the safe (neutral) side and taken a report, and let the prosecutor decide whether laws were broken, as is done in many cases of uncertainty?

I have great respect for law enforcement, including Prescott PD, but I believe that in this case they erred, unintentionally or otherwise.

Might the fact that PD reports to (and thus takes orders from) the City Manager, who in turn works for and takes orders from Council, have any connection to this?


Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: jeri smith-fornara

I greatly admire your willingness to stand up for principle, Lora. First the stupid stop-sign
debate and now this. I remain convinced that the true spirit of Prescott is not represented by those temporarily calling the shots.

I know you will remain active in our community in one way or another. All the best to you and yours.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Tongue-in- Cheek

There are all these "postings" thanking Lora for all she has done for them and the city. I have been around a long time and I watch the comings and goings of City Hall quite closely. Would some kind sole please provide a brief list, maybe a half dozen accomplishments that Lora Lopas has contributed during her tenure. Frankly, I have missed here contributions and I am curious.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Jim Moses

Let's do and say things in the light of day shall we, including posting our real names on this board. It is too easy to take pot shots from the relative safety of darkness...which is how the City of Prescott chose to handle the bench issue. Claim your words.

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