Monday, September 24, 2018
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You know when the family holiday dinner turns ugly? Well…

Maybe it’s the new proliferation of jet contrails that someone called to tell me about. They appeared this week, dulling our crystal-clear blue skies. Weird.

 

Maybe it’s the low-pressure system that seems to be sneaking in after a great few weeks of fall bonus weather. Bummer.

 

Maybe it’s the stock market that crashes almost 300 points a day sometimes and picks up 100 the next and crashes 48 hours later. Ouch.

 

Whatever it is—oh yeah. Whatever. Elk Avenue still looks low-grade groovy in a blue tint sort of way. That should disappear sometime this month with a high-end milling of those affected blocks. The council had a change of heart and is directing that the lone blue pole be repainted a pedestrian green like the rest of the lamp posts so as not to offend those who continue to hate on Whatever.

The council still likes Mel Harper’s idea of painting various lamp posts different colors in the future to honor different Crested Butte institutions, so we may yet see a blue or a red or a white pole. The town is planning a Whatever debriefing for the community sometime in early December. It will be a chance to comment and criticize, praise and maybe suggest fixes for some of the things that went wrong or right in this initial go-around with a major special event. But the contrails or the weather or the stock market sure set off the Town Council last Monday. It was at times ugggggly between mayor Aaron Huckstep and councilman David Owen. Owen asked for Huckstep’s resignation. Huckstep declined. Owen asked the council to censure Huckstep. The council declined. Owen felt the mayor had overstepped his authority in asking the town attorney to make a contract change during the Bud Light negotiation chaos, without approval of the full council. Huckstep probably did go over the line in a technical sense. In theory, the mayor has no more power and authority than a councilman. But in reality, the mayor is elected separately from the rest of the board because he is chosen to lead the council and the town at a level different level from that of a councilman. He is not there to simply run the meetings, but to set the tone. Huckstep’s tone has always been a bit of a type-A personality that jumps into situations other mayors might not. Huck’s inclination to just do something quickly to get it done might work well in the private sector but it does not always work in the government realm. And it pushed Owen over the edge on Monday. He said he wasn’t angry at Huckstep personally, he was “angry at what you are doing.” I think he is angry at Huckstep. It is reciprocated. Huckstep responded clearly that he didn’t trust Owen’s motivations and felt the councilman was being pushed by people who wanted him out as mayor. Huckstep said he has felt attacked by Owen and his supporters for more than a year. Both actually have valid points. But the personal animosity between the two of them was spewing all over Monday’s council meeting. That’s too bad. It made for a weird meeting. Sort of like a Thanksgiving family dinner where politics and religion get brought up over a few bottles of wine. What could go wrong? Frankly, it would have been simple for Huckstep to admit that in the chaos that surrounded those hours between Whatever public meetings, he might have made a mistake in going a bit too far. But he just couldn’t do it with Owen. It would have been simple for Owen to accept the fact he didn’t have any council support for his demands and move on. He just couldn’t do it. It was obvious Monday there is huge animosity between these two elected officials. Owen actively campaigned against Huckstep a year ago. He did what he could to keep him out of the mayor’s seat—but voters overwhelmingly gave Huckstep a victory, flaws and all. Huckstep won and Owen lost. When trying to drum up support with fellow councilmembers to slap Huckstep’s wrists, Owen again lost. There are consequences of such contests. The rest of the council too has expressed some hesitation with some of Huckstep’s actions but overall they support his leadership style. David is not afraid to make waves and I appreciate that, but he should be careful those waves don’t sink his ship and leave him alone and irrelevant as someone who can’t work as part of a team. His perspective is different but if he keeps working the wave machine, his voice will fade away. Owen directly asked the rest of the council Monday if they wanted Huckstep “to act on your behalf or stay within his role as mayor?” The council remained silent. It was a very loud answer that David didn’t seem to hear when later in the meeting he balked at Huckstep’s being the town representative on the panel deciding how to use the money donated by Whatever. He was making more waves in a vacuum, but it stalled another council decision. Will this personal animosity matter to the town? Not really. There have been plenty of times the council had people on it who didn’t like each other. But look guys, Huckstep isn’t going away anytime in the next year – so deal. Owen wants to be a bit of a burr under the saddle – so deal. Both these guys try really hard to make logical decisions when it comes to policy so it would be better to accept the political and stylistic differences and deal. It’s just too bad those jet contrails took the council to a new tipping point. It was an ugly Thanksgiving dinner last Monday. Whatever. 

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