Byars joins Carbondale mayoral race
Carbondale Trustee Katrina Byars is running for mayor, describing herself as the most experienced option for voters, given her two years on the Board of Trustees and her service on numerous other boards representing the town.
Also running are Mayor Pro Tem Dan Richardson, who won election to the board in April, and former Trustee Ed Cortez.
“The mayor determines what the board talks about in its meetings, when those items are addressed and whose voice is heard,” she said.
“That we’ve lost two important elected officials [former Mayor Stacey Bernot and more recently former Trustee A.J. Hobbs] in the middle of their terms makes it important that the new trustees take the time and work hard to get up to speed,” she said. “And the board needs to be led by someone who is all caught up on Carbondale’s issues.”
It takes years to fully understand all the complex issues the community faces, from water infrastructure and affordable housing needs to needs of older residents and community safety, said Byars.
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“I’ve been working on some projects for a while, and because of the change on the board we’ve had to start from scratch to bring everyone up to speed.” These items include upgrading the town’s parks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and resource shortages for seniors.
Byars said she’s been immersed in the town’s operations through her two years as a trustee and work with Garfield Clean Energy, Victims Assistance Law Enforcement board, Third Street Center board and the steering committee for Carbondale’s source water protection plan.
“It’s difficult to know how to prioritize community needs if you don’t have the background of what all those needs are.”
For example, Byars and Richardson have recently disagreed over the process for getting items on the board’s agendas.
That slow process prompted a dozen Carbondale women at a recent trustee meeting to speak out on public safety following two reports of assaults on women walking through town at night. Many women said the town was too slow to respond to the issue.
“I think that’s a perfect example because there was an imminent community danger. I first asked to have it on the agenda on July 26. Now it’s tentatively on the agenda for Sept. 20,” Byars said.
“Women who were affected were asking for immediate action, and to me it wasn’t an issue that should have waited for following meetings.”
“The most important thing to me is that everyone gets the opportunity to be heard, so in no way do I want to repress relevant community topics.”
Byars earlier this year made headlines when the home she was renting was sold and she faced temporary homelessness. She since has found housing and has become general manager of the Dandelion Market, the town’s grocery co-op.
If Byars wins the mayoral election, her term would end in 2018, at the same time as her trustee term ends.
If either Byars or Richardson is elected mayor, the board will then be tasked with finding a replacement. While the board is currently in the process of replacing Hobbs, it recently opted to appoint his replacement.
Anticipating another potential replacement on the board, some trustees have said they’ll want to send the next board replacement to voters rather than making an appointment.
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