Friday, April 19, 2019
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Passion, respect, fun, trust and money

For those who support the MSEOTH for publicity…you got your wish. It is everrrrrrrywhere in the world.
Locally, there were plenty of solid, intelligent points made over the course of this week’s public hearing on the potential Bud Light, Whatever USA party proposal. People are justifiably passionate in their positions. The two primary parts of the divisive issue…public trust in our town officials and the event itself…has split the town in half.
Despite what some of my friends feel, I fall on the side of this being an interesting party that reflects some of the character of the town. Weird. Funky. Colorful. If it happens I’ll enjoy it. If it doesn’t, I’ll ride my bike that Saturday. But I’d guess most people here will happily ride that blue wave if the town, the applicants and the council get it together on Thursday to approve this event. I do think people are starting to realize this might be the match that lights a larger discussion about growth and impacts here, and that too is valid.

Now, I’ve always maintained that despite its happy-happy mountain village patina, Crested Butte is one of the most bare-knuckled towns in the Rockies. It is part of the charm of this place. And that “charm” has been in full force the last couple of weeks as friends and neighbors trade blows over their opinions on whether to allow this party on Elk Avenue and the Big Mine Arena. The party would turn CB into a cruise ship for a couple days but there will be about 10 days of noticeable impact on the town for build up and teardown. As it stands, the town would get a $250,000 check from Bud Light. That transaction is seen by some as selling out the town, while others view it as getting a bump in the pocketbook. Not since Snodgrass have I seen something blow up like this debate. And this might be the new angst standard.
The nitro on the fire is that the town and the event guys did their best and succeeded pretty well in keeping the idea a secret for months. Not only was that not cool, it was stupid. The mayor and the event guys admitted as much Monday. It still tweaks me how it was handled and people on both sides of the issue mentioned that shattering of trust by the small town council as a major blow to the community. In my mind, that’s the worst part of this situation.
If anyone on that current town council were running this November for election, I’d say, “Why bother?” Despite what they saw as their good intentions and admitted struggle with the secrecy aspect, they have a lot of work to do to regain the public trust. But the next council election is November 2015 and in a small town most people move on in forgiveness. Plus both Huck and the applicants admitted that in hindsight, they screwed up with the secrecy thing and would do it differently if they could, and that is a rare commodity in this modern world.
It did seem that a few others up at the council table were acting like Captain Renault in the film Casablanca and were “shocked—shocked—to find (a MSEOTH) going on here.” Really? Look, “The buck stops here” mantra is valid. The staff has been following the obvious direction of the council and doing whatever it can to keep a new special event project going. They’ve been banging the work harder than ever. The council owns this thing fellas, so deal with it.
One more thing about trust. The citizens obviously voiced frustration with their town representatives for keeping them in the dark and not shooting straight with them. Now the event guys are feeling the same anxiety. The council gave the wink for this MSEOTH and appears to have given the nod for the parameters allowed and the money required as a donation to make it happen.
Is $250,000 too little? Yeah. There are impacts happening for more than just the couple of party days. That’s maybe a place the town could have used some professional advice but what did the Pro Challenge donate to the town again? Nada. Nothing is simple. The event organizers believe that the local businesses and workers are getting a financial bump and that should count as an economic infusion and “donation” to the town. For the council to move that $250K goal line and not even be able to throw out a new number (“I don’t know, just more…”) seems a tad sketchy. Is that being a hard-nosed negotiator or another example of weak trust?
The reality is that aside from the issue of secrecy, the idea of the $250,000 was the most common thread commented on on Monday. And given that this was the first official opportunity for the general citizenry to speak, the council and the event guys should indeed listen to the people and revisit that number. While a quarter million bucks is real money to me, and I’m all for an interesting party, getting honestly impressive money for renting town property for 10 days might help assuage the vitriol over this whole issue. Plus being around the initial staging, there will definitely be some real impacts.

On the bright side, kudos to Huck and the council in general for conducting a long but respectful public meeting that could have turned ugly after eight hours of heated debate and little food. The gym was packed with about 300 local residents wanting to express their opinions. And they did with thoughtfulness and intelligence. It got emotional at times but everyone hung in there with respect. That was big because there were times it could have gone sideways. It showed how small towns can actually hash out their issues.
Some points were perhaps made better than others, but all were pertinent because the comments were draped in sincere passion. A big nod to Huck for running a smooth debate as mayor. A shout-out to all the citizens who realized they are actually neighbors who will run into each other at the post office long after this either happens or doesn’t happen. And frankly, a shout-out to the applicants for staying engaged in a grueling eight-hour process.
To me, the event looks interesting and clever and fun. If nothing else, and this may be the bigger plus, it will provide a template for discussion of the macro question of ”Is this where we want to go with the town?” There is great value in that discussion and having an actual experience to draw from doesn’t hurt.
While I would love to see a blue elephant at Third and Elk, that likely won’t happen. But I hope it won’t happen because it’s not in the plan, instead of the council telling them to pack up their blue paint and go somewhere else…

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