As the Charter Review Committee has begun to meet, there have been some complaints about no diversity being represented on the committee. In response to this Winslow City Council voted 4 - 2, in favor of adding four new members to the Charter Review Committee.
Mayor Affeldt, Council members Peter Cake, Sue Bumpus and Judy Howell all voted in favor of allowing four new members to apply to be on the commission. Council members Robin Boyd and Stephanie Lugo voted against any new community members to be allowed on the commission. Harold Soehner was absent from the meeting and still has to choose another member since his choices so far have withdrawn from the opportunity.
The Charter Review Committee members currently are Jim Weldon, Roy Crain, Thomas Chacon, Sarah Smithson, Garret Hamblin, Dan Simmons and Eloise DeSpain. One more member will be chosen by Soehner and four more will be appointed upon their application to the city. This committee is charged with looking at the city charter and either rewording it to a modern understanding or throwing it out completely and creating something new. It is considered extremely importantly undertaking as it is like a constitution that can completely change the way city government is structured and operates or could make it more powerful and difficult to control.
Part of the reason City Council voted to add more members is because there is a factional split of those who defend the old power structure versus those who are trying to place power more in the hands of Winslow's people.
Chacon said that there are some obvious selections for the Charter Review Committee that reflects certain City Council members desire to have those represent their own ideas.
"To me the Charter Review is being represented by the ideas of only a few and not the community as a whole," Chacon said.
For committee members like Weldon, they want to create a whole new form of government that gives more control and representation to more of the community in Winslow.
"The people don't seem to have much control over the city now," he said. "Right now it is split 4 - 3, where one side only wants to change the language and the other side want to rewrite it completely."
Weldon and others expressed their concerns to City Council about this deadlock. Councilwoman Howell asked City Council to put seven new members on the Charter Review because of what Chacon and Weldon said.
"It would be better to have people on this committee that are not already on other city committees," Howell said. "This is the problem we have know because the same people get involved in everything in Winslow and now everything is controlled by a narrow view."
She asked to appoint Angela Thomas and Marcie Heavrin, but Boyd and Lugo agreed that adding seven more members on the committee would make it less effective.
"Though if there are some people that want to be on it, I don't have a problem considering them," Boyd said.
City Administrator Jim Ferguson said it was his concern that this process was being delayed.
Community Activist Eloise DeSpain approached City Council and said that she resented Howell's statement and that the Charter Review Committee did not need 14 people or even another 4.
"I think the perception that some people have that the committee doesn't represent a diverse segment of the community might be a little misleading," she said.
DeSpain said that many in city leadership now, know her to be the one who can spot something suspicious that may be going on behind the scenes and that she has a close enough relationship to city staff and can make them aware of it. DeSpain has claimed many times in the past to be on the inside with many at City Hall, particularly City Attorney Dale Patton and City Administrator Ferguson. DeSpain also was the main organizer to elect Lugo to City Council. DeSpain has expressed her severe dislike for Mayor Affeldt, Howell and Bumpus, many times to this reporter after first coming to Winslow.
Before City Council she explained that it takes a legalistic mind and understanding of complex issues to truly be able to represent the diversity communities in Winslow.
"I am representative of the diverse communities. Beside from being handicap, some people say I'm crazy, so I got two more bases covered," DeSpain said.
She went on to talk about mortgage scams and flood insurance, and how it took her ability to work with the city attorney to make this an issue with the attorney general's office. She said that people on the eastside of Winslow, a predominantly African American neighborhood could be negatively affected by such scams because they might not be so aware of what an escrow mortgage is and might be taken advantage of by unethical companies.
"Just because I'm on the Charter Review Committee and this or that and I have an education and I am white, doesn't mean that I do not have the concerns for a diverse community," DeSpain said.
DeSpain offered to represent the primarily African American organization of the Winslow Desert Scene Elks last year before the City of Winslow and the Stnadin' on the Corner Foundation. This year every Desert Scene Lodge member spoken to and their leadership claimed that DeSpain never represented them and had allegedly pretended to work with them and then go against them behind their backs so the City and Corner Foundation could do as they had every year.
When asked if only people of higher intelligence should represent Winslow's diverse community as DeSpain proposed, Chacon said, "Everyone has a different skill and idea or understanding they can bring to the table. No one should say that only they speak for others. It is important to have people involved who experienced culture from the inside, not just seeing it from the outside."
Those interested in applying for the four open seats on the Charter Review Committee have until the next City Council meeting on Oct. 9, to get the application from City Hall or on the City of Winslow website and turn it back in.