Open Mike

Tom Paul...the hero of the working man

I don't like government much. Mainly because government sticks its nose into our business, telling us to do this and do that while our tax dollars are spent on things often times we don't agree with.

That is why it is refreshing every once in a while to see the likes of a Tom Paul come along.

In my opinion, Paul could be the poster child for the working man, standing up against something he felt was wrong, at great personal expense for what will amount to very little return.

For those of you who don't know, Paul was the originator of many colorful signs along Sunnyside's South First Street, including one I didn't personally like that was a take on a popular movie. Paul's journey started last year when he obtained a conditional use permit from the board of adjustment to place a billboard on his property along South First Street. The City Council, at the urging of city staff, overturned the decision by the board of adjustment to grant Paul the conditional use permit on a number of factors, one of which was the permit was granted without any conditions and another was the billboard couldn't be placed on his property because of the impending South First Street expansion project.

What I would describe as a big mess of legal mumbo jumbo ensued, with Paul placing the less than flattering signs on his property, ridiculing the practices of city government. The city and Paul recently settled (for now) their argument and Paul will be allowed to place a billboard on his property for the immediate future.

A very disheartening act by our local City Council occurred in January when Paul went before Council to appeal the decision of the governing body. The Council showed just how politicians can be when they don't like something.

Mayor Pro-tem Mike Farmer and Councilman Paul Garcia were the only ones who understood their jobs that night, voting to uphold Paul's appeal. The Council, with the exception of those two gentleman, showed how politicians too many times let their personal feelings interfere with their work. On that night, Farmer and Garcia were the only ones who backed up the decision made by the board of adjustment, the same board the City Council charged with making such decisions. Why have a board of adjustment if you're not going to trust the decisions made by its members? Other members of the Council called Paul childish and said he couldn't do what he wanted with his property because it didn't fall within the parameters of what the city was trying to do with that area of town.

City staff members have recently become fond of reminding city commissions of what their purpose is, but they might just remind the Council on occasion, as its members often forget, it is not always about what they want. How many times have we seen politicians, such as our Council, base their decisions on their personal feelings. How many times do we see liquor license renewal requests rejected or hear how the city needs to translate everything into Spanish or how a particular member doesn't like low-income housing or gambling. It is fine that Council members don't like these things, but there isn't really any reason why they should make their personal feelings known. Follow the letter of the law.

The problem with some politicians is that they try and walk all over the working man. They think they are smarter than the person who works for a living every day. There are times when I would much rather have someone who owns a mom and pop store running things than some of the people we have now because at least they know what the common man feels.

Someone asked me a while back what Paul really won in his settlement with the city. His billboard will have to be taken down in the next three years, which may not seem like a victory to some. But sometimes victory is in the eye of the beholder. So Mr. Paul, this is me tipping my hat to you for fighting the fight of the little man, a fight very many of us only dream to take on.


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