Council grappling with sensitive topic
[ by Kendra Walker ]
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council and town staff are working on drafting a proclamation condemning racism in the town of Mt. Crested Butte. It’s proving to be a sensitive and delicate topic. Several council members have attended meetings of the recently formed Crested Butte Black Lives Matter Committee, and the council would like to show its support for the valley-wide efforts to be more inclusive.
However, some of the council members are not yet satisfied with the wording of the drafted proclamation and have requested that it get reworked a bit more until making it official.
During the November 17 council meeting, council member Dwayne Lehnertz had a problem with using the words “systemic racism,” as something that Mt. Crested Butte wants to condemn.
“Is it systemic? Is it something that is pervasive that’s creating problems within our community or are we making something up, are we directing our attention and our focus to an issue that doesn’t need our attention or our focus? Or are we just trying to make a statement that, yeah we recognize that there is a problem out there?” he asked.
“To me, I think this whole thing is a subject that needs way more discussion among ourselves than just putting something out without taking the time to really clarify what we are trying to accomplish,” Lehnertz said.
“There is some systemic racism going on in the north end of the valley,” said mayor Janet Farmer. “Maybe you don’t see it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” she said, explaining that she has observed racist acts in town.
Council member Michael Bacani agreed with Lehnertz that the proclamation as written alludes to the idea that racism does in fact exist in Mt. Crested Butte.
“My initial interpretation was that it sounds like Mt. Crested Butte is inherently racist so we are going to correct that. We know that’s not the case,” Bacani said. “It makes it sound like it’s a big problem here, which is why I can’t support this right now.”
Bacani continued, “It is a difficult topic and so I don’t understand the need to hurry up and put something up right now. I am in favor of rewording this and talking about it and getting it right so it’s a 7-0 vote. I’ve personally been walking down the street and been called derogatory Asian names, and so what as a council can we do about that? So let’s write something that is acceptable to everybody that handles concerns and take our time doing it.”
“I’m perfectly happy with taking our time and getting the words right,” said mayor Janet Farmer.
“This is not something we should try to legislate,” said Lehnertz. “I want to acknowledge that I’m not enthusiastic about the task.”
“This is not legislating anything,” countered Farmer.
“This is saying we’re open to having a conversation if somebody sees something and we’ll do our best to address it,” said council member Roman Kolodziej.
Town staff and the council are going to continue tweaking the wording of the proclamation and review at a future council meeting.