I thought this community had finally killed this stupid rumor, but after everything I've heard last week, I figured I needed to take some time this week and try to kill it -- again.
Let's make one thing abundantly clear: The "Shifty 50" does not exist in Mountain Home.
Nor did it ever exist.
For all intents and purposes, this rumor is dead, just like disco balls and corduroy pants.
Unfortunately, I know there are still a few people out there that still won't believe it. This community seems to have its fair share of conspiracy enthusiasts out there that want to believe that there's a group of people out there that control every aspect of what happens in this city.
They've convinced themselves there's some kind of Illuminati-type organization that exists in Mountain Home. These folks somehow think there are "puppet masters" lurking in the shadows pulling the strings on every decision that happens in this city.
We can only assume these conspiracy buffs want to believe in Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and little green men as well, but I digress.
While some people out there want to believe the Shifty 50 is alive and well, I would easily wager that these folks couldn't provide the entire list of people they think are part of this fictitious group. It's doubtful they could even come up with even five names.
However, since it was a "conspiracy," I have to assume these people don't want the story to simply die. I suppose they want an explanation.
After doing some fairly extensive research over the past seven years that I've been with this newspaper, the best I can figure is that everything involving this so-called conspiracy revolves around a decision made more than 60 years ago by the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce involving its Military Affairs Committee. Hoping to make membership in the MAC more of a privilege, the chamber apparently decided to set a limit on the number of people that could join the committee. The number they chose was -- you guessed it -- 50 people.
Well, it was a really bad move, the policy was quickly abolished, and today it's a group open to anyone interested in joining, including those currently on active duty. However, the damage back then was already done, and it apparently triggered a rumor that continues to circulate around the city today.
Unfortunately, this story has only served to fuel the rumor mill that has persisted here for more than six decades. It's continued to weave an atmosphere of distrust that starts the minute a family moves here.
In some cases, these folks have already heard the rumors well before they got here. And when they hear these stories, it's a safe bet they'll accept that story at face value (versus doing a little investigating on their own).
And then the story perpetuates itself over and over again like a broken record.
So why do I care? Simply put, I'm getting tired of hearing the same rumor repeating itself time and time again. I'm tired of hearing people throw out baseless accusations that local officials are corrupt and the reason why is because they're following the orders of the Shifty 50.
I'm also getting tired lately of watching city officials dedicate a lot of time and energy having to go through mountains of message traffic to appease people in this town that seem hell-bent on finding anything that could be considered inappropriate.
From my perspective, having city workers devote time responding to these baseless queries versus doing their actual jobs is not an effective use of city resources and taxpayer dollars.
What I'm also hearing is that those making those accusations don't want to meet with the city officials who have offered to meet with them to set the record straight. Instead, it appears these folks want to hide behind the cloak of "cyber anonymity" versus confronting the alleged wrongdoers face to face.
From my perspective, if you can't directly confront those you feel are doing things wrong, how can you be taken seriously?
Now chew on this.
What's easier to believe? Can we simply accept that this city is still too small to attract big-name restaurants and stores? Or do we want to delude ourselves into believing that there's a secret society in this town that's calling the shots?
Unfortunately, there are still those people out there that will pick the latter since it's easier for them to assign blame and continue to feel bitter. The rest of us are willing to accept that the city needs to grow a little more -- by about 6,000 more people in fact -- before we reach that "magic number" for Sonic and Applebee's to even begin looking at Mountain Home for future business.
Here's something to else to consider. What do you think would happen if someone in this city actually tried to keep a business from coming to Mountain Home? I imagine the subsequent lawsuit filed against this city would be astronomical because you can't prohibit someone from opening a store because you don't like what they sell.
A lot of us remember the public outcry when an adult-themed store wanted to open in Mountain Home a few years ago. Sure there were laws on where the store could open from a zoning standpoint, but there are no laws that prohibit these types of businesses from coming here, like it or not.
Here's my bottom line: The city of Mountain Home has some hard-working individuals that have done everything they can to make this community a place where people can raise a family.
Our crime rate remains significantly lower than other communities in the Treasure Valley -- and we like it that way.
Mountain Home has plenty to offer if people are just willing to get out and look. And when something doesn't exist, there are those in this community that are willing to take a chance and create it.
I understand that Mountain Home isn't perfect. But then, other communities are not perfect, either.
But at least this city tries its best.
-- Brian S. Orban