Friday, November 15, 2019

Celebrate a W and then get ready for real work

Congratulations to Will, Mallika, Mona, Candice and Laura who join councilman Chris Haver and mayor Jim Schmidt to make up the Crested Butte Town Council for the next two years.

And congratulations to Anne Moore as well. Frankly, there was an hour stretch during last Monday night’s Crested Butte Town Council meeting when I was figuring the real winner of Tuesday’s election was the person who received the fewest votes Tuesday. That 60 minutes felt like 60 hours at times and now Anne gets to be home reading a book or planning her early morning Tuesday ski adventure instead of listening to the riveting reports about other government agencies.

Anyway, those who join the magnificent seven certainly will put in their time and earn their not so great pay. As departing councilmember Paul Merck (congrats and thanks to him for his service on council as well) tried to explain Monday to a citizen who was expecting the council to do things not directly under their control, ”These people are essentially volunteers who are doing their best.” True, that. And while their best may not always be what some individuals really want, it is all done with sincere motivation.

Being on the Crested Butte council is a bit trickier than being on many other local boards. Most people living in the north end of the valley who go anywhere else in the world identify themselves as living in Crested Butte. They have a personal connection to the village and so sort of expect the council members to represent them in the broader discussions that take place. And while the council members are certainly obligated to represent those living inside the town boundaries first, they shouldn’t forget that most of the general fund revenue comes from sales tax instead of property tax, so a wide range of people contribute to the success of the town. Tourists, second homeowners, those living in Crested Butte South—all help make Crested Butte what it is and they all appreciate having a connection to the council.

Those who step up aren’t doing it for the money or the fame. I mean, they’ll get a monthly check and become well-known enough to get stopped and receive an earful in Clark’s or Ace from the guy who got an idling ticket that morning. Or they’ll find that they aren’t invited as often to the same cocktail party they used to go to after their neighbor was turned down in his quest for a window variance. But then they’ll get a pat on the back from an acquaintance for taking a stand on some other issue. It’s all part of the joy of public service in a small town.

Being on the Town Council matters. Policy decisions can change things or keep them the same. There will be debate over things like paid parking, where marshals should focus attention and where tax money should be spent.

This new council is already charged with looking at some pretty dramatic decision points, with a new Climate Action Plan and a potential tax on second homeowners with places in town that sit empty more than council feels is appropriate. They’ll eventually have to agree on how to relook at the property on Brush Creek that they share with three other entities. Those three quick issues alone could have huge ramifications and major impacts on the community. These are real topics that have real consequences and the challenge now for the newly elected representatives is to be able to find collaborative ways to maintain or move the community forward. All the issues mentioned above might be perfectly appropriate, easily solved and make everyone super happy or they might cause some friction within the group—just ask Deli and Dujardin in the never-ending topic of Brush Creek and the foundation of trust.

The real council work involves taking the time to do the research on an issue and coming to rational conclusions that can be logically explained. The hard choice is possibly voting differently than friends or neighbors expect—and moving on gracefully whether you win or lose the vote.

But all that will come later. This week, celebrate the opportunity to have a seat at an important table. It is a table that can be high profile and one that requires a lot of work to be meaningful but being up there can make a difference if you want to make one.

Welcome to one of the hardest but most rewarding positions in any little mountain village. Welcome to small town government in Crested Butte.

—Mark Reaman

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