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Glenwood Springs City Council to continue code of conduct discussion

Marijuana regs revision to get first reading

Glenwood Springs Post Independent news graphic

Disparaging comments, what can be provided to the media and how such rules might be enforced generated over 90 minutes of conversation by the Glenwood Springs City Council on Nov. 5.

Now, the council is slated to continue that conversation during a work session slated for 4 p.m. Thursday.

At the Nov. 5 meeting, Mayor Jonathan Godes explained that the code of conduct is a council-driven effort three and a half years in the making designed to guide the behavior of councilors during and possibly outside of meetings.

Councilor Tony Hershey said he would not support the code of conduct, saying anything that restricts free speech is “unenforceable nonsense and a colossal waste of time.”

Councilor Charlie Willman — who drafted the code after reviewing similar codes from other cities — said that he did not intend to restrict free speech in the draft.

“It’s more addressing how we address each other, not what we say,” he said.

City attorney Karl Hanlon said that he would review the document for infringement of free speech after council decides on language but the code is more about behavior.

“Decorum is very different from speech,” he said.

Disputes broke out throughout the work session in the battle between aspirational ideals of behavior and legally enforceable rules.

Willman began to run through the draft section by section. Council discussed sections I through V, leaving VI through VII for this week’s meeting.

The councilors’ fine-toothed combs came out as they haggled over words or intentions.

Councilor Shelley Kaup said that a line reading “Each council member shall respect all other council members” sounds like it’s dictating what councilors should feel and suggested it be changed to “Each council member shall treat all other council members with respect.”

A line about councilors not leaving the dais prompted Godes to say, “If someone storms off, they’re signifying that they’re done for that evening.”

Willman disagreed, saying that he in the past had been hot-headed and just needed some time to cool off. 

“As an elected representative of the city I shouldn’t be barred from the remainder of the meeting because I let my emotions get the better of me,” he said.

Godes suggested a line about councilors not belittling or disparaging each other inside or outside of meetings should apply to anyone before the council.

Hanlon didn’t argue that point but said this should apply to meetings only. Any councilor is completely within their rights to go to the bar and badmouth the mayor, he said.

Godes asked about restricting councilors’ use of the media after mentioning an opinion piece by Hershey responding to an opinion piece by Councilor Paula Stepp, both written this summer.

“It wasn’t a good look; it wasn’t productive,” he said.

Hershey said residents want to know what their councilors think.

“It’s a legitimate disagreement, and that should be aired in the public. That’s what the people want,” he said.

Hanlon made it clear that restricting use of the media can be a part of the code of conduct but it would not be legally enforceable.

Similar logic applies to conduct unbecoming an elected official, where a hypothetical bar fight involving a councilor was discussed.

Council finished the work session discussing whether the code should apply to members of boards and commissions.

Councilor Ingrid Wussow did not think that’s a good idea.

“I don’t think we should have a lot of stipulations. We’re lucky that people want to show up,” she said.

Kaup said that it is a good idea for two reasons. It raises the expectations of how to act as a public servant, and it also gives council an “out” with a problem member.

Council has allotted an hour and a half for the continued discussion.

Marijuana regulations

Council is also scheduled to give a first reading to a municipal code amendment regarding retail marijuana stores at the regular council meeting starting at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.

The Planning and Zoning Commission had discussed regulations over several meetings and unanimously approved revisions to the code on Oct. 27.

The code revisions focus on expanded buffers and a cap on the number of pot shops allowed based on population.

The regulations currently dictate that a new shop must be 900 feet from other pot shops and 500 feet from schools. The revisions change the buffers to 1,000 feet from either and added to that list mental health and drug treatment facilities and parks.

P&Z recommended using areas defined as parks in Title 090 of the municipal code excluding trails. 

There is currently no maximum number of pot shops allowed in the city, and the revisions included a cap of one shop per 1,000 residents.

City staff recommends that council approve the revisions.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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