If you want something, now is the time to ask

Local government and politics is a 24/7 deal. A councilperson might be having a quiet drink at the bar and someone might want to complain, I mean chat, about plowing or dog tags. The councilman then gets to chat about plowing or dog tags. The same scenario can happen at a U-8 soccer game, at the post office or at a dance performance. That’s part of the deal of local politics. If the councilperson is lucky, the complainer, I mean chatter, might pick up the drink tab.

But the foundation of most local political discussions is being formed now. It is budget time at the towns and the county. Where and how the governments and politicians choose to spend their money for the next year sets the tone of town and the real practice of the community. If you want something from town, now is the time to speak up and make your case. The blueprint is being drawn.
The town of Crested Butte held its first budget work session last Monday evening and all those running for a seat on the council passed the first test. They showed up to watch and listen. Whoever is elected will live with the budget decisions being made now so it is a smart move to be part of the process. It allows some insight to decisions that will come up three or six or nine months from now. So pats on the back to Huck, Michel, Owen, McGruther and Matusewicz for jumping into the meat.
Now about that budget…
Thanks to the fiscal tightness of the town staff, particularly Finance Director Lois Rozman, the town of Crested Butte has a lot of breathing room. They have what could be considered huge reserves worth millions of dollars in a down economy. It gives the community some breathing room to continue services at the present level and even move forward a tad. They haven’t had to lay off people or stop mowing the ball fields. They haven’t jumped in and bought new vehicles, either. Smart, conservative decisions and that action is currently paying off.
Now the present council gets to look over the budget and make a decision on what they want to see in the next year. I don’t really see any place in there for, say, recycling bins on Elk Avenue. And actually, that is being considered in a proposed trash contract so it could end up happening, but outside of the town’s expenses. If it ends up not being part of the contract, the council should certainly look to include such bins in the 2012 budget. I did see something called the doggie doo project and while I’m not sure what that is, I think we should all be glad it is in there. Councilman Roland Mason wants a top priority to be a renovation of the bathrooms in the Town Hall. They are pretty awful and they do get used a lot and Roland pointed out they are exactly the same, only nastier, as they were when he attended elementary school in the building. Deli wants to explore buying solar panels for the town to generate electricity. Everyone has their thing and this is the time to put it in the budget or at least talk about it.
So as a citizen, now is your time to make it known what it is you want the council to prioritize. If you don’t make the effort now, and you bring it up next April, the council may listen and try to accommodate you but it is easy to fall back on the old “We don’t have it in the budget” reasoning.
So now is the time to be paying attention. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad time to corner your councilman at the bar and complain, I mean chat, about budgeting for extra plowing or dog tag fees or whatever it is you want to see in the next 365 days. But at least when making your case, be the one to pick up the tab.

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