By Corinne Murdock |
Last Wednesday, the town of Gilbert apologized for creating a document ranking residents based on their support or opposition of a road widening project.
Maricopa County island resident Rich Robertson presented the document to the Gilbert Town Council during last week’s meeting item discussing the project. The document listed the affected homeowners, their parcel, their address, the landowners’ stance on the project, and a “vocal level” of 1-4. A rating of “1” indicated the resident was among the most vocal in opposition, while a rating of “4” indicated that the resident was reasonable.
“The town of Gilbert has created, effectively, an enemies list,” said Robertson. “Why are we as residents — who are trying to exercise our rights — being ranked by your staff on how compliant we are with you? This is, I suspect, not how the council really wants its residents to be treated. I think it’s outrageous.”
The city issued an apology statement last Wednesday from Public Works Director Jessica Marlow.
Marlow apologized for using the “vocal level” category, and said that the intent wasn’t to label anyone. She explained that the intent was to prepare city leaders for meetings with affected homeowners last October. Marlow admitted that the document should’ve been named differently, in hindsight.
“It was meant to help staff better understand how to address concerns ahead of the meetings,” wrote Marlow.
Awareness of the issue was made possible due to three freshman council members who placed the item on last week’s agenda: Jim Torgeson, Chuck Bongiovanni, and Bobbi Buchli. The trio and Mayor Brigette Peterson vocalized their dismay over the document. The mayor noted that she wasn’t aware of the document before the meeting, and apologized.
“I don’t know anything about it, and I am just appalled that something like that might be going around,” stated Peterson. “I do believe that you don’t deserve any of that. I apologize for that.”
Robertson, who was rated a “2,” rejected the city’s claim that the classification wasn’t intended as a list of enemies.
“I think that’s what leads to those kinds of characterizations,” said Robertson. “It certainly wasn’t inadvertent. It was clear that it (the document) was intended to identify the people who were problems and to steel themselves against those people.”
Robertson speculated that he received the “2” ranking due to writing letters frequently to the council.
The project that inspired so much controversy about residents intended to widen Ocotillo Road into a 110-foot right-of-way. The expansion would require several new bridges to span a section of missing roadway. It was included in the FY2023-2032 Capital Improvement Plan, with funds from 2022 General Obligation (Transportation) Bonds.
Watch the discussion of the “vocal level” controversy below: