A Viscous (Sticky) Cycle

I’m scared for Mini-Cassia. I have been for a while now and I wanted to put some of those thoughts and opinions out to the community. My hope is that you don’t just read this. I want you to comment, share, disagree, agree, and do something about it.

1st: History is Repeating Itself

George Santayana, the famous philosopher, poet, essayist, and novelist on the subject of history said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This seems to be the case for our personal lives, our community, country, and world. We often repeat mistakes, refuse change, and find ourselves in a non-progressive cycle. Eventually, I would like to think we learn from our past and correct it. One local cycle has been extremely destructive within our community is what I like to call “The Lenkersdorfer Cycle”. Here’s a diagram:

the-Jay-Lenkersdorfer-cycle

 

Let’s go back to 2009 when Jay Lenkersdorfer was an elected official (city councilmen) and in a venomous duel with former Mayor Jon Anderson. There were many anonymous attacks on Jon’s personal character and his role as mayor that were being published in Jay’s paper (The Weekly Mailer). Jay even used his own column 2 weeks before the election to poison the publics opinion of Mayor Anderson. After a brutal column against Jon he said the following in his column on October 20th, 2009:

I resist using this space as a bully pulpit…but today I will overcome my own resistance and use it as a soapbox…Fools Pride, arrogance or simple pettiness? Take your pick, but know that when Jon Anderson loses the election for mayor in Burley he has simply beaten himself.

At that time he put all his efforts into endorsing candidate Terry Greenman and in my opinion did so as he felt that he could influence Terry to do his political biddings. He praised Terry and dedicated entire issues of his Weekly Mailer to ensuring that Jon Anderson was destroyed. Shortly after Terry Greenman was elected and he was unwilling to follow Jay’s lead, the attacks started again. On May 11th, 2010 Jay said in his column:

It is becoming very clear that our newly elected mayor is working very diligently to consolidate his power and to divide the council. There isn’t room enough in this column to reveal all of his shenanigans, but they will be made known in future columns.

From that point on I’ve watched as Jay and his clan of followers have done everything in their power to tarnish Terry Greenman’s reputation simply because he wouldn’t do what jay demanded. Lately, Jay has focused on how Mayor Greenman was unfit for leadership because of how he handled the joint police contract.  On Oct 29th, 2013 Jay wrote the following in his column with a little over a week before the Mayoral Election:

In that interview a venomous Greenman blasts the Cassia County Commissioners for the problems experienced in the law enforcement negotiation. I don’t know what they asked him to elicit such a hateful response, but it doesn’t really matter. Once again he showed his true colors, demonstrating he is not fit for leadership. Yes, he looks rather sporty in his jacket, tie and cowboy boots. Like the city dwelling Texan with a big hat and no cattle, Greenman is a fraud…If you want concealment, walls, one view, distrust and a one trick pony, cast your vote for Greenman.

Looking back at the initial contract issues that started in 2011 it seemed that Jay Lenkersdorfer was one of the original instigators for Burley getting their own police department and was willing to pick a fight to get it done. He wrote a column on May 10th, 2011 called “Barney Fife or Police Chief?” that blasted the former Sheriff and pointed all the blame towards the County for the issues around the contract. 

Hypocritical? Or was Jay Lenkersdorfer so bent on digging up whatever dirt he could on Terry Greenman that it didn’t matter what he said in the past. Two columns leading up to the election and multiple unsigned letters were placed to ensure that Terry Greenman wasn’t re-elected. The same was done when Jon Anderson tried to run for re-election 4 years ago. 16,000 households received this propaganda before they cast a ballot. How many votes were swayed by this?

I recommend you read the Society of Professional Journalist code of Ethics. Here’s a few bullet points:

  • Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • …Shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  • Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
  • Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

The lines are so blurry with Jay Lenkersdorfer as a political activist, a journalist, an editor, and a publisher that there is no clear indication of which one he is acting in at a given time. The damage that this has brought Mini-Cassia over the years is so great that it’s hard to even quantify.

For now, the viscous cycle has come full circle, with Jay happy that his constant personal attacks and one sided views helped to accomplish his political goals. But soon our new mayor is going to find himself on downward end of “The Lenkersdorfer Cycle” and we will watch another good man begin to be unraveled by barrels of ink.

Jon Anderson, Terry Greenman, and Merlin Smedley are all good men. I have agreed with some things they have said and done and disagreed with others, but none of them should subjected to the type of abuse that The Weekly Mailer brings to those that are found on the wrong side of Jay Lenkersdorfer.

2nd: Good Men Still Do Nothing

I wrote a column about this on one of the last weeks I was publisher of the Voice.

What I couldn’t do in the paper was share my viewpoint as a Mormon.

In March of this past year a talk was given at the quarterly CES fireside by Quentin L. Cook (who is an Apostle or basically a really high ranking authority in our Church).  The talk was called “Don’t Wear Masks”. I don’t think this is a strictly Mormon view. As a matter of fact, a lot of the article centers around a conversation with Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The article talks about anonymity throughout history and how self proclaimed “moral watchdogs” disguised themselves and did things that they wouldn’t have done otherwise. One group mentioned was the klu klux klan. When veiled with masks they committed hate crimes against african americans, catholics, jews and many others. When the masks came of they were normal parents, church goers, and businessmen of the community.

Here are a few of the quotes from the article:

It is common today to hide one’s identity when writing hateful, vitriolic, bigoted communications anonymously… Some refer to it as “flaming.” Certain institutions try to screen comments. For instance, the New York Times won’t tolerate comments where there are “personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, … impersonations, incoherence and SHOUTING. …

It is clear that evil communications are not just a matter of bad manners, but, if practiced by those who are Latter-day Saints, they can adversely affect those who do not have knowledge of God or a testimony of the Savior.

What we are seeing in society is that when people wear the mask of anonymity, they are more likely to engage in this kind of conduct, which is so destructive of civil discourse. It also violates the basic principles the Savior taught. The righteous need not wear masks to hide their identity.

My question is how can any Mormon (or person of any faith) continue to participate, support, or simply do nothing while the Weekly Mailer (which is built on the idea of using anonymity to attack others) tears down the brotherly kindness that we are trying to build between all races and religions in this community?

One by one I have watched as people I have known and respected find themselves a target of The Weekly Mailer’s anonymity and bullying and I am tired of it.

How many of you businesses owners have agreed with me that The Weekly Mailer is bad for the community but continue to run ads in that paper? Is the profits gained worth it? Can you buy anything in this world with money gained through doing so? The easiest way to end a majority of the issues that The Weekly Mailer brings to the community is simply to stop advertising. You will never be able to draw a line and distance yourselves from the fact that your ads are the only thing that keeps the anonymous attacks which destroy reputations going to every household in Mini-Cassia. Your ad is a vote of support no matter what you say to others. It’s time to step up and be men of character. To stop separating your business from your religion and make hard decisions that go beyond the bottom line.

How many of you continue to send your missionary pictures to the weekly mailer to be published next to anonymous attacks and don’t find it ironic that on one page we are sending people out from our community to uplift and help others while on the next page we are tearing down those that are our neighbors?  How many of you read the opinions written by Jay and others and think that what you are reading is the whole truth and nothing but the truth and begin to form opinions of public servants in our community when you have never talked to them personally?

And worst of all, how many of you simply do nothing? Or find it amusing or titillating to read the gossip? Doing nothing means that the paper will still be delivered to every household in the community. Doing nothing means that Mini-Cassia’s bully will continue to terrorize. Doing nothing will lead to a community that is politically controlled by one man who has created the closest thing I have seen to a “secret combination” that is looking for power by hurting others.

Our community is a community of faith. Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and many other Evangelical denominations. We might not all have the exact same view on how to worship but one thing we have in common is our creed to be Christlike.

I do not believe that anonymity and bullying are characteristics that represent the faith and belief of the majority of our community.

3rd: What’s The Future of This Area Look Like?

Where do you Mini-Cassia in 30 years? I can tell you that I will only be 59 years old and my children will be around the age that I currently am now. I want them to “want” to live in this area. I want them to have the opportunity to do so and have the jobs around to do that.

There’s a problem though, as the economy continues to globalize through the advances of the internet and better means of transportation the ideas and options for a local economy will change. Many business models won’t be able to compete with the likes of Amazon, Walmart, Google, etc. It’s not because we can’t. It’s because we don’t want to change. We don’t want to take new risks. We largely want our community to stay how its always been. Well, that’s not going to happen. Many of our local businesses, services, and agricultural companies have continued to do what they have always done and wonder why things aren’t like the “good ol days”. There are a few exceptions and I say good for them. But when I drive through our downtown areas and see empty storefronts and struggling businesses I am reminded of a study from The University of Minnesota that examines small town economies:

On the forces that threaten small towns:

Engstrom: From my observation, the biggest systemic threat is related to population decline, and specifically among younger age groups. As the population in small cities declines and grows older, there is less consumer activity, causing a decline in retail business. Also, school districts with fewer students fuel the local economy less. It’s a vicious cycle once it starts. The decline in retail and business activity leads to a glut of Main Street retail buildings, which drives down property values and eventually leads to a decreased tax base.

On what helps a small town survive:

Leonard: How young people are regarded by a community is key. If enough people hold a mindset that young people don’t have a future in their small town and that belief is instilled from an early age, then the town is on a downward spiral. If kids are embraced, supported and encouraged to be a part of the community’s present and future, then that community is investing in its own future.

How are young people and new ideas currently embraced in our community? Do we show the youth that we care enough about the future of our area to provide them with tools to help them succeed? Do we provide opportunities for them to come back to work here after obtaining college education? Have we improved the library to help them know that we care about their education and want them to succeed?

I would love to see these things happen over the coming years.

What I don’t want to see happen is that 30 years from now we have a “sound off” that my children have to deal with that complains about people, weeds, annexation, new roads, the cost of a library, or a high paying salary for the CEO of our city (city administrator).

If something needs done that helps us grow and be more attractive for the future then stop complaining and know that if we don’t step up and get it done then we are setting our children or grandchildren up to move somewhere else that does.

I believe in the Future of Mini-Cassia. But it’s not going to be built by a few factories coming to town alone. It’s definitely not going to be built with a paper like “The Weekly Mailer” which brings destruction and distrust to our community. It’s going to be built by people who have a passion to see a better day for our downtowns, and a desire to empower the youth with a sense that this area is one worth fighting for.

I moved back because of those I looked up to who lived here. I saw them and wanted to be like them. Now, seeing so many good men (and woman) do nothing made me realize that it was my turn to be a reason to stay for the future generations. If my parents were ones affected by Weekly Mailer and I was in High School I would never want to move back here. We need more reasons to stay, not leave.

To all the anonymous and narcissistic naysayers: Move to the big cities if you want to hurt others and tear people down while hiding in the shadows. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd there and not matter. This is a community where we know our neighbors. We stand by our names, and work together to make Mini-Cassia a place worth living in.

Mike Ramsey