In a grassroots campaign dubbed Speak Up for Yuma, three local organizations are calling for “civility” following recent “inflammatory” discussions in the community.
The Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, BetterYuma.Org and Speak Up for Yuma Campaign have pledged to work together “for the betterment of our local community” by encouraging “civil, respectful input” from individuals, companies or organizations.
In a press release posted online on Thursday, John Courtis, the chamber’s executive director, Paul Muthart, chairman of BetterYuma.Org, and Danny Bryant, a representative of the Speak Up for Yuma campaign, said they will lead by example by acting with civility as well as “removing wording that is inflammatory” from their speech.
The campaign goals are to keep politics civil in Yuma “and let elected officials know that their service to the community and their personal sacrifice is appreciated and respected,” as well as help “those interested in moving to or investing in our community know that the majority of Yuma residents are proud of our community and the leaders we have chosen.”
Bryant explained that the movement grew in part out of “some emotionally charged comments about the mayor and council members questioning the competence and integrity of city government.”
Members of the organizations fear that the “inflammatory” comments will discourage businesses from coming to Yuma. “Leaders felt the campaign was needed to assure, both individuals and companies exploring a move, that Yuma is open for business,” Bryant noted.
He expressed excitement that BetterYuma.Org joined the campaign and pledged to support that group’s mission as well.
“After discussions, we found that the intent of the Speak Up for Yuma movement is consistent with our mission and vision statements,” Muthart said.
He pointed out that BetterYuma.Org’s mission statement, in part, calls for holding Yuma area governments “to be accountable, transparent, and responsive to their taxpayers and to their communities for fair fees, policies, and regulations that allow existing businesses to flourish and will attract new, smart growth.”
The group’s vision statement, Muthart added, encourages a “premier, business friendly community” in Yuma County. “We agreed that, while our mission to hold our officials accountable goes far past that of the Speak Up for Yuma goals, we also want to see civility in our discourse, respect for our public servants and a healthy, prosperous and growing community,” Muthart said.
Similarly, Courtis pointed to the chamber’s mission, which is to “represent our membership by advocating a healthy economic climate through the effective use of our unique regional resources to enhance the quality of life in the greater Yuma area.”
“I believe all will agree that this type of collaborative effort is consistent with our mission and will support and enhance the efforts of our community organizations and movements to make Yuma the best place to live, work, play, worship as you choose, and raise our families,” Courtis said.
Recently, the chamber board, with support from other Yuma citizens, voted to back the effort “to help make Yuma more attractive to visitors and businesses looking to relocate or invest in the community,” the press release states. “We are excited that so many of you have signed on to our letter asking for civility. Please continue to respond with ‘I’m in.’”
A letter had been posted earlier on the “Building A Better Yuma” Facebook page, which seems to have been taken down since then, listing more than two dozen community leaders who signed a letter agreeing to support the campaign. The letter asked “fellow Yumans” to help “keep our politics civil in Yuma” and noted that “the mayor and City Council have been under attack for several months now.”
Critics have alleged that Mayor Doug Nicholls has benefited financially from being in office, however, he has denied the allegation, noting that his engineering firm has experienced a 38% reduction in business since elected to office.
“Those of us who have served in the public, especially in elected positions, know that any claim the Mayor is corrupt would also require that the council members, the administrator, the city attorney, the CFO and several other employees to be corrupt conspirators as the Mayor could not divert funds for his firm’s use if the others did not attest that the service his firm provided was properly done and in the best interest of the City of Yuma,” read the letter.
The letter asked for volunteers willing to “speak up” when someone challenges a public official’s integrity, whether the attack occurs at council meetings or on social media.
Some people responded by calling the request a “threat” against free speech and said it seemed to discourage the right to question elected officials.