Editorial: Livestream CMC trustee meetings, drop censure | PostIndependent.com

Editorial: Livestream CMC trustee meetings, drop censure

The Colorado Mountain College trustees meet this week in Steamboat Springs.

We have to imagine that very few constituents of the college district will be able to attend, and we believe the college should do more to make its governing meetings readily accessible to the public.

The trustee majority also needs to knock off its unproductive drive to dress down a member of the board minority.

Among the agenda items of interest to Garfield County residents this week are planned action on the “Cooper Commons buildout lease option agreement” and “board conduct/trustee censure (tabled from June).”

The Cooper Commons item refers to converting the vacant upper floor of the CMC headquarters at Eighth Street and Grand Avenue into usable space that will be an important new venue for meetings and events in Glenwood Springs. It promises to more fully leverage CMC’s space both for the good of the college and the community.

The space is a small example of the terrific asset CMC is to the region it serves. More importantly, it is working hard under President Carrie Besnette Hauser to partner with high schools and expand opportunity for all sectors of western Coloradans.

Our criticism of what a previous editorial termed an effort by the trustee majority to “foster a cloistered culture in which dissent is punished” is meant to encourage an important institution to be more open and accountable. In the long run, that will make CMC better.

The censure item is the case in point. It grows from a 4-3 split on the board and some trustees’ irritation primarily with Trustee Mary Ellen Denomy of Battlement Mesa.

As the Post Independent reported in July, Trustee Patricia Theobald of Breckenridge moved to censure Denomy “for repeated, serious violations of the responsibilities of [a] trustee of Colorado Mountain College, for engaging in a public campaign through newspapers across the district to mislead the readers by publishing the minority opinion [and] for expressing condemnation of the board and disapproval of properly approved actions by the board.”

“This conduct can only be intended to cause overwhelming damage to the college,” Theobald’s motion said.

The motion was tabled pending a discussion at the board retreat on Wednesday, but is back on the agenda for Thursday, perhaps as leverage to get Denomy and perhaps Trustee Kathy Goudy of Carbondale to agree in the retreat to behave the way the board majority would like.

Denomy’s sin, besides being a persistent questioner and voting against the budget this year, was to write two letters to editors of newspapers in the CMC district explaining why she would cast certain upcoming votes.

The move against Denomy smacks of an effort to muzzle an elected public official and to intimidate other members of the board minority into compliance and silence.

Elected boards shouldn’t work that way despite board President Glenn Davis’ wrongheaded assertion that the trustees are less like a city council than the board of a private company.

Such matters — as are the many less sexy matters before the CMC board — are of clear public interest. As we noted in our previous editorial, the trustees are elected and are the public’s only voice in allocating nearly $47 million that residents of six counties pay in property taxes that provide two-thirds of the college’s annual budget.

So shouldn’t CMC, home of the Isaacson School of New Media, described as “a cutting-edge learning environment designed to prepare you for a career in today’s digital world,” be livestreaming its meetings so anyone in its sprawling district could watch?

It is entirely appropriate for the trustees to meet in the college’s different locations, from Leadville to Aspen to Rifle to Steamboat.

It also would be entirely appropriate for two or three Issacson students to be assigned to transporting the equipment needed and setting up a livestream at all trustee meetings.

Livestreaming isn’t simple, and it’s easier if the event to be streamed is in a place with fixed equipment, but what we propose is entirely doable.

It also is a proper step for a regional school that relies on tax support (and doesn’t have to seek renewal so long as it doesn’t increase its levy).

Transparency sends the right message about a good institution to taxpayers and young people it seeks to educate.

And for goodness’ sakes, trustees, drop the censure motion. It’s unbecoming.