I go to a lot of government meetings. Not all of them are good. Monday’s Crested Butte Town Council meeting was long—and it was good. It was another positive example of small-town governance.
Scores of people had sent their representatives emails and comments about the proposal to re-site the Crested Butte Center for the Arts. Some were for it. Some were against it. The idea would have affected neighborhoods near the Town and Rainbow parks.
Then on Monday, the council spent three and a half hours giving the people an opportunity to listen to the plan, provide input on the concept and shape the direction of the proposal. And the direction shifted as a result.
There will be no major shake-up at Rainbow Park. It is clear that the Arts Center will get the okay to expand and be improved and will probably move north of where it sits now. Some details remain controversial, such as size and parking, but those will get hashed out in the design review process. Some form of Pitsker Field might be shifted somewhere in town…or not.
The council decision to indicate support but hold off on an official resolution was good, but the actual meeting was better. Anyone who wanted could stand up and express his or her opinion and be heard. It was another affirmation of good small-town democracy. Representatives of the Arts Center could make their case. Citizens could ask questions and get answers. Councilmen could debate each other and come to conclusions. The meeting was conducted mostly with thoughtfulness and compassion. And it mattered. Policy appeared to shift between the time the discussion started a little after 7 o’clock and when it concluded at 10:50 p.m.
There was some emotion and some eloquence. It wasn’t always succinct or on point. There was some heat and some frustration. But it was all pretty much done with respect for the neighbors who might be on the other side of the issue. The town staff was prepared, the council willing to listen and the citizens sincere in their thoughts. After three and a half hours, everyone was ready for it to be over.
The council at one point looked to be headed in the direction of passing some sort of truncated resolution to give the Arts Center folks some solid direction in favor of the relocation onto Pitsker but the council made the right move putting that on hold another couple of weeks. It takes some time to digest three and a half hours and dozens of letters with various opinions. That additional period of contemplation could give the town some time to come up with something creative with the Pitsker Field dilemma.
So here’s a pat on the back for a positive illustration of how a small town can operate effectively. The Center for the Arts contingent heard they were loved but the new plan was moving a bit too fast and affected too many people while leaving a few unanswered questions in the mist. The council was fair and struck a good note with a full room of people speaking for both sides of an issue.
“This issue should unite our town and not be a divisive thing for us,” noted artist Suzanne Pierson.
“It’ll work out,” promised councilman Skip Berkshire.
We still live in a place where your voice matters. In a small town, government decisions really do affect the individual. Your voice carries weight and can help direct those decisions. You might not end up on the winning side of every debate but it is important to be a part of the process because it honestly can make a difference. That’s not the case everywhere. Monday night might have been long at times, but it was a prime example of good small-town governing.