One steps up, the other steps aside


One group of elected officials does its job — or at least half the job — while another indicates a desire to pass a big decision to the voters. One makes progress, the other founders.

The county commissioners are close to doing right by the voters, approving the addition of a second medical marijuana dispensary to the local business mix. In taking this first, small step, the BoCC proved it, unlike a reactionary town council, can recognize and respond to the will of the majority without demanding special votes or making silly arguments to defend what is, in the end, merely a personal, ill-informed bias.

For the BoCC to achieve complete success, it must now make the final move. When Amendment 64 passed (as it did in this traditionally conservative county), the message was clear: regulate sale and use of recreational marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Municipal and county governments have the right to approve or deny — the question is whether they heed the mandate.

The commissioners are nearly to that point, creating a timeline and refining regulations in the approval process for the new medical marijuana dispensary that can easily apply to other commercial businesses. They have the regulatory means to limit where such businesses operate and the manner in which they operate. There is one step left to comply with the constitutional amendment — one that allows for limited commercial sale of recreational marijuana, the number of businesses controlled, in part, we hope, by the market.

The town council, on the other hand, is backing away from a big issue — a proposed recreation center — ready to ask voters to make a decision for them. This in light of the fact council has shown a willingness to go counter to the people — specifically, in the case of Amendment 64. The council has refused to move on the amendment, to find a reasonable way to satisfy the majority and mitigate the impact on the minority. What we hear from most of the councilors are feeble arguments against implementation: tourists from Texas will cease to come here, elected officials in a “republic” are obligated to go against the majority, youth will use more marijuana than they do now. If tourists don’t come to Pagosa Country because it allows adults to purchase small amounts of marijuana for personal use, those tourists will refuse to come to the State of Colorado for the same reason. The people of Colorado gave the OK; it is a reality — one reflective of a population that increasingly champions the right of law-abiding adults to control their private lives. To think more marijuana will be available to youth displays an incredible ignorance of what currently occurs with the black market.

Now, the council might opt to pass the buck on the rec center issue, sending the matter to a vote next spring.

This one, they’ll listen to … won’t they?

The problem for voters in Pagosa Springs is not with the centerpiece issue, but with a deeper dilemma: why elect a council if its members are unwilling to make the tough decisions? If the council wants a center, say so, and let the voters decide whether to go into debt. If the council doesn’t approve, say so, and let proponents deal with the decision.

Council members are elected to step up and make decisions, not pass the responsibility (i.e. blame) to constituents. However, if council decides it is necessary to seek a public mandate on an issue, it should follow that mandate. And it should do so in every instance a mandate exists.

Karl Isberg