I had intended a different post, but as often happens in Milton, better material (for the blog post) presented itself. Today’s post is Painted Horse (Part 2). (I will often post about Matilda’s and The Painted Horse as the proceedings for these venues bracket Council Member Bentley’s first term in office, and they tell The Tale of Two Zoning Hearings.) Citizens are raging at each other about The Painted Horse on various social media platforms. However, what these citizens don’t understand is that their ire is misdirected. Through its poor decision-making, Milton’s City Council has pitted citizens against each other (while Council and staff have stepped aside to enjoy the show). This happens on a regular basis, the result of either cronyism or incompetence (or both) at City Hall. For example, most citizens may not realize that the bruising battle over the Southeast corner of Birmingham Crossroads, where single family homes are being built, resulted from Milton Community Development’s error in not documenting the conditions of a 2014 rezoning. (And yet the some of same people are still employed and making the same mistakes. There is no accountability, but that is a topic for another blog post.) These regular battles pitting citizens against each other are hugely destructive to the community. They consume vast resources, set dangerous precedents, divide the community, demoralize City staff, and erode trust in government. And worst of all, they are often unnecessary—again, the result of incompetence or cronyism or both. Citizens need to wake up and direct their ire not at each other but at their City government. Miltonites deserve better from their elected representatives and from City leadership staff.
To get to the point, Council Members Laura Bentley and Paul Moore have a Matilda’s problem. Laura and Paul were the primary champions on Council for Matilda’s. (Ms. Bentley eventually recused herself from the Matilda’s vote—a disingenuous recusal that will be the subject of another blog post.) Matilda’s was all about cronyism and set the threshold quite low for what development is acceptable in Milton. A total of twelve variances were approved for Matilda’s—some eliminating fundamental zoning protections for the community. For example, council eliminated buffers around the entire property. Council allowed a developer to bastardize the festival use permit to create a music venue at Birmingham Crossroads that pumps out loud music every Saturday night (more than 30 times per year) to the quietude of the most rural area of the City of Milton; I have heard the music 1½ miles from the venue. (With enough variances you can re-purpose a use permit to do nearly anything in Milton. This must stop!) The precedents set by Matilda’s will long haunt our community. It is certainly true that you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:8).
Before Matilda’s, I might not have been very sympathetic to The Painted Horse’s owners. Rule-of-law considerations and other principles of good governance might have prompted me to express concerns about the Painted Horse. However, with the Matilda’s decision (and other recent decisions), Council has put principles of good governance, which are usually mutually re-enforcing, in conflict with each other. Specifically, the rule of law has been put in conflict with the principle of fairness. Viewed through the lens of Matilda’s, the severe restrictions put on The Painted Horse appear unfair. Yes, there are differences between Matilda’s and the Painted Horse, but those differences seem to mostly militate for (not against) The Painted Horse. And our city government officials know this. They know that decisions on Matilda’s (and in other matters) create a strong case (in legal courts and the court of public opinion) for The Painted Horse and endanger re-election prospects for certain politicians. The City cannot win on the merits of the issue. This is why Painted Horse opponents are engaging in a behind-the-scenes campaign to disparage the owners and their patrons. The Painted Horse is being characterized as a den of iniquity by Milton’s own self-appointed Morals Police. The intent is to make the owners and even patrons pariahs in the community. This is WRONG. I will not dignify or give currency to the allegations (being made against The Painted Horse) by describing them, as such descriptions would only serve to perpetuate the rumors. If Council members have justifications for restrictions on The Painted Horse that they will not publicly state, then I question the veracity of these justifications and the motives of those spreading scurrilous gossip. Certain politicians in Milton know no boundaries. The politics of personal destruction are alive and well in Milton. As my readers know, I believe Miltonites need to have ferocious debate among friends about issues and governmental process. This includes debate about the comportment of Council Members in the conduct of their office; that is fair game. However, personal attacks having nothing to do with policy or principles should be off-limits. And the debate needs to occur in the light of day and not in the shadows.
Speaking Truth to Power,
Note: I encourage readers to notify me if my blogs contain any factual errors. I will expeditiously correct any errors of fact. Of course, my opinions are my opinions . . . which I support with facts.