Devastating is the word that comes to mind regarding the process involving the so-called "Spike Petition‟.
The matter of the evolution and convolution of the actual petition process was a fundamentally simple legal question which the President of the Golden Spike properly stated should be determined by a judge rather than by the City Council.
And, as was also made clear to the City Council, the only way to get the petition question before a judge was to not approve the resubmission of the petition to the County Clerk. From a legal perspective, everybody came out a winner. A required legal interpretation is in the hands of the legal system where it belongs. The final outcome is of little consequence.
If the petition makes the ballot and voters approve it, nothing will happen beyond introducing the City‟s Administration into the mad realm of the circular accounting formula involving their Budget, General Fund and Property Tax Relief. They can handle it. The financial impact is insignificant.
So why does devastating come to mind? Because of what it does to people. As much as we may choose to ignore it, corporations, communities, organizations and even governments are made up of people. People who have drive, dedication, imagination and dreams.
The editorial page of the January 24th edition of the North Platte Telegraph addressing this topic is worth framing. It is a classic representation of two people looking at the same coin and focusing on opposite sides. One column reminded people that if you have energy and dreams, anything is possible:
“……. let's put our energy, enthusiasm and imagination behind the greatest marketing opportunity since Buffalo Bill. We are designated by Congress as „Railtown USA‟. That gives us a unique national identity, a brand name. We are the Coca Cola of railroad towns, the Schmucker's Jelly of railfans. The Golden Spike is part of that brand identity; so is Railfest; so is Bailey Yard. The pieces are in place. The promotion has possibilities beyond an old editor's wildest dreams.”
The other column reminded people that, like Christ going to Calvary; even if the sins were committed by others, we will flog you every step of the way:
Over the rocky past of the Golden Spike project, successive city councils have invariably turned a deaf ear to critics of the project, even as grand plans went by the wayside, some funds were mistakenly spent on other projects, and meetings of the Golden Spike board were, for years, held in private. The councils have been steadfast that the controversial project would be completed, as it was, and that all of the hotel/motel occupation tax funds would be available for its use, even when those taxes amounted to more than the amount needed to pay off the debt incurred to build it.
The Golden Spike is simply a structure overlooking the world‟s largest railroad yard. The petition is simply a political statement, the financial outcome of which is pretty insignificant in the scheme of things.
But the message to people is clear. If after all these years, the Golden Spike cannot escape from being “battered and bruised and battled” there is little reason for people to believe any other similar project will.
But it‟s not those projects that are at stake, it‟s the people. Progress is the result of actions taken by motivated people. The motivation to participate in the projects envisioned by the author of the first column will eventually be killed by the perspective of the second column.
Devastation does not fall on observation towers, it falls on people.
Read the editorial page of the January 24th edition of the North Platte Telegraph, fold it lengthwise and decide which side of the coin you want to focus on.
Regards, David M. Harrold
Dave Harrold is the Chairman of North Platte's Original Town Association. He and his organization are responsible for the annual Rail Fest celebration, and for North Platte's designation as Rail Town, USA.