We believe Town Manager David Mitchem’s response when he was asked last week about the results of an online SUN poll concerning development on Reservoir Hill highlights an attitude that has been in evidence throughout the planning process.
Considering the fact the poll garnered 620 votes (with measures in place to prevent vote flooding), with 81 percent deeming the council’s go-ahead on the plan “unacceptable” and a “poor decision,” the response is arrogant as well.
It reflects an indifference shown toward any competing ideas, and to an established process abandoned in the move for town government to create low-rent amenities on Reservoir Hill and a publicly-supported cushion for private business on a unique public treasure.
It mirrors the indifference to the notion that completion of the plan would damage a natural resource in ways that could not be overcome quickly, if ever.
From the time the proposal was made to purchase a ski lift for the hill, this indifference has been at the forefront. When an expert in ski lift operation advised against the project, he was met with indifference. Twice.
When the project was handed over to a committee designed to promote tourism in town, and complaints were voiced concerning the fact the traditional gatekeeper for parks and recreation projects — the longstanding town Parks and Recreation Commission — was being pushed aside … indifference.
When public comment surfaced opposing the amenities proposed in the final plan … indifference.
When criticism was levied concerning a “business plan” produced to support the project … indifference.
The indifference accompanies the certainty expressed by project proponents who believe it will boost the downtown economy. When concerns are voiced about this prospect … indifference.
When the opinion is advanced that the role government should play in the support of private business is the creation of public infrastructure (emphasize “public”) —sidewalks and trails, river improvement projects, bridges, the improvement of lighting, maintenance of streets, etc. … indifference.
The indifference results from tunnel vision, a determination to see a project through. Indifference is the medicine that makes one well at Town Hall.
Another comment the manager made troubles us more.
When confronted with this latest public feedback on the Reservoir Hill project, Mitchem remarked, “The council has made a decision and they are beyond that point.”
Does indifference burden the town’s elected officials as well?
Are they, indeed, “beyond that point” — a point where, despite a process that requires their continued input and decisions, they are “beyond” considering what a significant segment of the public wants?
It is our understanding that elected officials embody the electorate, that an elected official is compelled by duty to remain in touch with public opinion. All public opinion. True, the official makes the decisions, but he or she should make them with as much knowledge on hand as possible. That includes knowledge of, and respect for, public sentiment that runs counter to the official position.
The day the members of the town council are “beyond that point” prior to a final decision on a matter is the day they are not doing their jobs in good conscience.
Situations change, minds change. With this reality in mind, there is no way to effectively represent a constituency if you are “beyond that point.”
We wonder what members of the town council think when they hear they are “beyond that point.”
And, we wonder how long it will take certain elected officials to pull the blindfold from their eyes and see how indifference and arrogance play major roles in the governance and future of Pagosa Springs.