Congratulations to the four Town Council members elected by the citizens of Crested Butte Tuesday night. Given recent events, Jackson Petito, Chris Haver, Kent Cowherd, and Will Dujardin are in for an interesting ride. With everything from slashing snow banks on Elk Avenue to engaging “partners” on land the town owns with others, the new people will get thrown into the frying pan pretty quickly.
The mayor’s seat is in flux, with Jim Schmidt and Chris Ladoulis basically ending up in a bit of a tie on Tuesday since neither garnered half the vote. That means there will be another election between just the two of them for the town’s mayoral seat, culminating on December 19. They get to wait a couple of months before one of them re-enters the frying pan.
Now, the grease coating that frying pan is the overarching issue of growth that embodies itself in things such as affordable housing, overcrowding, short-term rentals and general busy-ness. Everyone running for office had solutions in mind to all the problems. But now there is the challenge of turning those solutions into actual policy decisions that get enacted. That is the hard work of legislating in a small town.
Being sworn in means having to actually deal with the macro issue—growth—along with the micro issues such as Brush Creek, roundabouts, paid parking and snow banks.
Yes: Snow banks. The issue makes me happy to live here—simply because snow banks are an issue. It has been a constant in the controversial world of Crested Butte winter politics. By all accounts snow banks are a pain in the butt for maintenance and safety reasons. But they sure look good—at least for the first few days after a storm before the dogs mark their territory. They are emblematic of small town governing.
People will be talking more about the decision by the last council to eliminate the snow banks from Elk Avenue this winter than they will about most anything else in the multi-million dollar budget. Like dirt alleys, snow banks represent an ideal. And we all want to live in an ideal. Snow banks speak of quaint, picturesque, small-town existence. And then they run headlong into safety issues and practicality. The new council gets to deal with it now. I guess we can all sleep better now knowing the snow banks will no longer haunt us.
Now, more important, we’ll see if anyone elected Tuesday—including Petito and Schmidt or Ladoulis, who have been on council but now have fresh support from the citizenry—can tackle the hard issues. First on the list might be smoother communications with our elected representatives in the county seat. And then a real affordable housing effort to keep working-class voters inside the town. I think that is really important.
Here are a few things for the newly elected representatives to remember: Everyone believes they come into office with a mandate. To some extent that is true but most people want a reasoned representative who is not afraid to vote their views but isn’t too extreme. There will always be hard issues in a small town. Whether it is snow banks or personal relationships with fellow elected officials or how long to allow snow cats on town streets on any given night—you just never know what will cause stress amongst your constituents. It all matters to someone. Listening is really important but so is explaining your actions. Remember that you were elected to lead, not just poll the people and lazily vote for whatever the last person told you.
Have fun these next few years, Jackson, Chris, Kent and Will. Take it seriously but enjoy the ride, as bumpy as it might be right off the bat. A bumpy track is part of the joyride. Now about those snow banks…