Ted Wang: Some thoughts on the public process in Granby
March 5, 2008
The current question about a proposed ordinance to limit, not ban, pawn shops and tattoo studios from the central business district in Granby has revealed a number of misunderstandings about how local government functions, so it’s my hope in this column to clarify how things really work.
From the Congress of the United States to the Granby Board of Trustees, “We The People” participate in a representative democracy where we elect people to represent our views and to make decisions on our behalf. Only in very specific instances do we directly vote on the measures that affect our lives.
It is the responsibility of those elected to listen to their constituents, whether they agree with everything they say or not, and to use their best judgment in collaboration with their fellow officials to reach their decisions.
There have been calls for allowing non-resident business owners in Granby to vote for the town board and that the “bylaws” of the town should be amended to allow this.
Granby is a “statutory town,” which means that Granby is limited in what it can do by the statutes (laws) of the state of Colorado. The state doesn’t permit non-residents to vote in local elections, and any effort to make that change would involve changing state law. However, business owners in Granby can be assured that the board and I do listen to Granby business owners’ concerns.
Proposing an ordinance is only a first step in an open and public process to frame a discussion on an issue. Proposing is not the same as passing. Once an ordinance is discussed and, perhaps, amended does it come up for a vote. It’s the vote that determines whether it passes or doesn’t, not the introduction. There are even provisions for a passed ordinance to be appealed by the public before it goes into effect.
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One recent letter stated, “The current atmosphere requires leaders who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing ideas that clash with comfortable customs and beliefs,” and I believe that sentence exactly captures the responsibility with which your elected officials are charged. Being willing to listen to a wide variety of opinions and perspectives, without prejudice, is vitally important to reaching wise decisions.
No one person or group has a monopoly on the “right” answers on issues before the community. Better results come from considering differing points of view, even those from some labeled as in the minority.
As each person elected to the town board or planning commission takes office, he or she takes an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the laws of Colorado, and those of the town of Granby. These board members are bound by their oaths and have followed the town’s ordinances and agreements in their work, and they’ve taken that oath seriously ” as anyone elected or appointed should.
Over the years, some have said that the town is “too hard” on one entity or another, usually focusing on development review. Developer “A” or business “B” or organization “C” is said to be “good people” or “has done so much for our town,” accompanied by urgings to “don’t be so hard on them,” or “they shouldn’t have to do that or go through that process.” Giving preferential treatment based on this kind of reasoning violates law and easily leads to corruption.
In recent times, some applicants have refused to follow the town’s process, have submitted incomplete or incorrect materials, and have been quick to blame the town for delays and plan review costs that their actions, or lack thereof, have caused. I won’t claim perfection on the part of the town; we’re human too, and mistakes get made.
However, I can assure Granby’s citizens and business owners that Granby’s officials and staff diligently strive to avoid delays and increasing costs. Town officials are charged with the enforcement of our regulations, balancing the rights of property owners, and growing a community with quality infrastructure. I think everyone is aware this is a difficult task, complicated further when misconceptions about the political process, the true responsibilities of local government, and the reality of the constraints your representatives confront daily.
One column or article can’t address all aspects of our form of government, as stacks of books and college courses can attest. I hope, however, this column is helpful in achieving a better understanding of our local process. I welcome everyone’s continued input about these important topics and look forward to continuing discussions. Additionally, I would like to note that the proposed ordinance has been withdrawn from further Town Board deliberation at this time.
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