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Sat, Jan. 18

Cantlon: Council could cool contention, and preserve the vote

My apologies for repeating the same subject but there’s some info worth sharing. What it leads to is that there is no reason for council to seem to be at odds with people who want to save the Dells. No reason for it to be approached as a two-sided, tug-of-war issue.

Councilman Steve Blair has talked several times lately about the Dells on his stints on local radio broadcasts. Each time there’s a sizable dose of contentiousness with it. About how people want to violate the private property rights of the owner, or how they say that members of council don’t care.

Here we have to separate individual talk from organized pronouncements. Maybe some individuals have said council doesn’t care, I don’t know, I haven’t heard that, but neither myself nor anyone in leadership of Save the Dells has, to my knowledge, said anything like that. On the contrary, the perception is that a good portion of council may be very supportive. Individual citizens may talk about preventing the owner from developing, but you don’t fault them for having uninformed concern. It’s not their job to know the legalities, just to speak up. The private property rights thing is a red herring anyway. The hope is to strike a trade, not violate anyone’s rights.

I tried three different ways to contact Blair to see if he’d like to talk together on radio in some constructive way that sets unneeded contentiousness aside. There was no response.

But there should be no contention here. Evidently many citizens want to save the Dells. Presumably city management and council want to see developments happen in the best ways possible for Prescott, and want the assets of the area, like the Dells, preserved and enjoyed as much as possible. From that perspective everyone wants the same thing. No reason for contention.

Unfortunately no one from the city, to my knowledge, has made it loud and clear that, “Hey! Trade the developer some favors on other properties in exchange for making a core part of the Dells a park? Great idea. We’ll see how close to that we can come.” Most on council and in management are silent, and the few that have been vocal have leapt to defensive positions, accusing preservers of wanting to violate those property rights, and taking a contentious approach that seems to suggest they are against those wanting to save the Dells.

Blair says he played in the Dells as a kid and loves them, and I absolutely believe him, and I know members often put in way more time and effort than their meager pay is worth. Still, past deeds speak louder than good intentions. Like spending almost all of the open-space money on roads when voters thought it would go mostly to space. Like seeming hell-bent on avoiding acknowledging the mitigation issues of pumping the Big Chino, to name just two. Concern seems justified.

The city is too focused on the privacy of preliminary negotiations. Details in there time, but goals and inclinations of members and management could be known, and either calm concerns, or not. After all, Blair and Councilman Lamerson have been vocal, and in negative tones. The silence of the rest naturally renews historical concerns. If council really cares about citizens’ concerns, here’s something they could do. I mentioned before that a citizen referendum could possibly reverse a deal that citizens don’t like. But lawyers always have clever ways to structure deals to circumvent such possibilities. Council could ensure that any deal is subject to a vote if citizens call for one. After all, how could council possibly be against upholding the constitutional option of a vote if residents want one?

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at

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