Skaters demonstrate the power of local democracy …and how to frame housing discussion

What’s not to love when small town democracy works – and it can still happen here often. It happened Monday night when the Crested Butte town council did the right thing tapping into its healthy financial reserves to complete the funding for the proposed CB Skate Park renovation and expansion. Facing a full house of skaters who spoke their truth helped.

Listening and acting to support a crowd of passionate citizens under the age of 10 and over the age of 50 is rarely a bad move. Making it clear that the decision to pull almost a half million dollars from the bank was a hard choice, given that tradeoffs would be involved, was fair and honest. Fairness and honesty are trademarks of good small-town decision making. 

Tying the $450K to the equivalent cost of about two affordable housing units was also fair given the pool of capital money it will come from. It goes to a point that is essential as we talk housing pretty much every day in the valley…. that just as important as achieving the number of ‘needed’ housing units on a spreadsheet is focusing on the idea that the people working and living and raising families here deserve a good life, not just a crammed working serf existence. The housing discussion should include that workers here are able to enjoy their life in a really nice place while being able to move up the life ladder from ski bum to couple to family to retiree. Providing workforce housing is certainly important but it means more than cramming a ton of small units around a patch of green space. 

Simply fulfilling a consultant’s conclusion that we need X number of workers so Y number of new beds needs to be built to staff the projected restaurants and ski area in 2029 is not the highest end result. Helping to make working blue collars achieve the high mountain dream of living, mingling and playing together with dignity in this unique Rocky Mountain community is the better mission. 

Blindly financing another bed for a future bartender who might work in a property owned by a billionaire— rather than making choices that result in deeper community — is an easy but misguided option.

It goes back to a question the community has been dealing with for decades — “who are we saving this place for anyway? Those that have been here and added to the things we all love, or the people moving here in the future that have different expectations?”  

By making a hard decision on Monday, the council showed they are willing to spend money to help preserve it for the families, kids and workers that live here now and not the guy who hasn’t even heard of Crested Butte yet but might be needed to fill shifts at CBMR or the Elk Avenue Bruhaus five or 10 years from now. Small town democracy pushed by the skating community worked this week and can be a reminder of how we should proceed and make the housing discussion even more meaningful.

—Mark Reaman

Check Also

81225 action… zip code dominance, recall overkill and Telly!

Spotlight on Mt. Crested Butte! Telly’s back, Roman might have to leave and new signs …