Opinion: City Council election season could bring major change to Grand Junction
WHY WE LIVE HERE
Free Press Opinion Columnist
Election season is on us again and most people don’t have a clue. Due to some unexpected events in the Grand Junction City Council back in 2013, including the death of one city council member and the resignation of another, we find ourselves in the unusual position where five of seven City Council seats are up for election this April. This could result in major changes for our community — good or bad. It depends on how hard we work together to elect common sense leadership that will help guide the way to greatness.
This is a critical time for us. Despite lagging behind the rest of the state economically, our community made solid investments in 2014 that will change the course of history for our community. Those investments include an approved Master Plan for Matchett Park, the completion of Phase I of the Avalon Theatre, and an almost half-million dollars in grant funding for the planning and construction of Las Colonias Park, including the construction of an amphitheater. Additionally, the completion of the Monument View Trail — creating 31 miles of trail spanning Palisade to Fruita — is another great investment in our community. These are valuable investments that make this valley a better place to live, work, and play. These are the investments that might convince a family to stay instead of leave, an entrepreneur to relocate a business here, or a Colorado Mesa University student to stick around after graduation.
But not everybody believes that those are healthy investments. Some people think tax-payer money shouldn’t go to non-essentials such as parks and cultural facilities when, in reality, it’s those very “non-essentials” that we should be using to drive economic development and to draw business here.
One only has to look at Bend, Oregon, for a great example of a town that relied on its pioneer spirit to completely reinvent itself in less than three decades. A mid-sized, booming timber town, Bend was crushed by the crash of the timber industry in the early 1980s and was on its way to becoming a ghost town. Instead, it relied on its temperate weather and year-round access to outdoor recreation, made early investments in high-speed internet, good schools and medical care, and began to draw entrepreneurs and new business from California tech centers. They are not located on a major highway, they do not have a university, nor do they have a medical community anywhere near as large as ours. They do, however, have over 20 breweries. And that, my friend, is the true measure of a healthy economy.
Bend hasn’t done anything that we can’t do. Grand Junction has plenty of pioneer spirit to reinvent itself. We do, however, have to work together to make it happen and thankfully, that’s already begun. The joint effort between the city, county, the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, and many other organizations to work with a marketing agency to rebrand the valley is a great first step. A City Council with proven business leaders who have vision and will work together is the next step. For those of you who fit that bill and might be feeling the call to serve, I’ve provided a little Election 101 to help you understand what’s involved. It matters.
The city of Grand Junction is broken up into five districts. You can find a map of the districts at http://trimview.ci.grandjct.co.us/?=map/4579. One council member is elected from each of the five districts and there are two additional at-large seats, totaling seven council members. The City Council election is an at-large election, which means that every registered voter casts a vote for every city council seat. The only requirements to run for City Council are to be a registered voter 18 years or older and to have lived within your district for the 12 months prior to the election or within the city limits if running for an at-large seat.
Our current City Council consists of the following:
District A: Mayor Phyllis Norris
District B: Sam Susuras
District C: Bennett Boeschenstein
District D: Marty Chazen
District E: Duncan McArthur
At Large: Jim Doody
At Large: Barbara Traylor Smith
District A and D are not up for reelection — both Phyllis Norris and Marty Chazen are in the middle of their four-year term. District B, C, E and both at-large seats are up for reelection although, as of the printing of this column, it is unknown which of the candidates will run for reelection. Jim Doody is term-limited and therefore is the only council member who cannot run for reelection. Duncan McArthur and Barbara Traylor Smith are both appointees. As a result, their seats are each a two-year term, while the rest are four-year terms.
Holding a city council seat is fairly time consuming. Council members typically work up to 10 or more hours a week between work sessions, council meetings, and budget meetings. There are 25 city committees that meet separately and City Council members must serve on two to three of those as well. City Council members are compensated $500 a month for this, although the mayor — appointed by City Council members — gets $750 a month.
Potential candidates must pick up a packet from the City Clerk’s office located in City Hall at 250 N. Fifth St. between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The packet includes an election calendar, nomination petition and a copy of the Fair Practices Act, which outlines reporting requirements for candidates accepting donations. Candidates must gather 50 signatures from registered voters no later than Jan. 26 in order to qualify for the ballot. It is recommended that candidates turn in many more names in the event any of the names are disqualified. The City Council election is non-partisan, which means that party affiliation will not be printed on the ballot. Additional titles will also not be printed on the ballot, such as M.D. or PC.
The City Council election is April 7 and the term begins May 4.
Get involved. Spread the word. Our future depends on it.
It’s why we live here.
Robin Brown, owner of West Slope Events, wants to hear your ideas for a healthy West Slope economy. Share them with her at email@example.com or write a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. No political rhetoric, please.
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