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The people of Rifle spoke Tuesday, and now we have an almost entirely new City Council.
Say what you will about the outcome because I’m not going to. Whether or not the candidates you backed got elected matters little at this point. However, I would be remiss for failing to acknowledge all of the candidates.
This job requires me to sit through a countless number of meetings: city council, town trustees, school board, this advisory board and that advisory board. It is part of the reason why I respect our fellow residents who take the time to serve on these bodies. Aside from a few regulars at these various meetings, it is usually the local officials and myself in the meeting room
We, most of us, like to criticize elected officials at every level when things are not going so well, or at least we’re told they are not going so well.
Yet, only a few of us actually take action in the form of direct involvement — a guaranteed seat at the table through the electoral process. In government, the table occasionally resembles a dysfunctional family’s dinner table at Thanksgiving.
I wonder how liberally-leaning auntie May is going to respond to racist uncle Jim’s color commentary on the Lions game? God help us if politics enter the conversation, and there will never be an end to the long-running dispute surrounding who really makes the best sweet-potato casserole.
The race to win a seat at that table can be equally inhospitable, filled with mudslinging and accusations that meander past the boarder of common decency. All of this is blood in the water for us journalists who depend on unusual, and sometimes uncouth, events to feed the copy beast.
I have not detected even of a whiff of that during my time here, both in council meetings and during the duration of the most recent race. Our current council, including the three outgoing members, and the seven candidates deserve credit for that.
None of this is to say, though, that we should not have disagreement in our local government, and it certainly is not a call to withhold criticism. Both are necessary for a healthy and functioning system, which is why the spotlight will almost immediately be on our new council.
The four new faces, along with the three sitting members of council, are going to have to hit the ground running.
Important issues that could wait, largely have for the past month or two — a move by the city intended to allow the new council an opportunity to weigh in on the more consequential issues.
Least among those is the annual budget. With the first budget workshop scheduled for Oct. 7, and five more following the first during that same month, few issues will be as immediately time consuming as the budget. It will be the first opportunity for the newly elected members to offer up suggestions demonstrating the fiscal responsibility espoused during the candidate forum in August while addressing the city’s role in fostering economic development, another discussion topic at the forum.
While certainly not the most pressing issue, the future of the Rifle Information Center is another subject the city will likely have to address in the near future; and it will be interesting to see how the city and the new council use the data gleaned from the most recent community survey when making decisions.
However, if I were a gambling man and I had to bet on one issue that will rear its head in the near future it would be recreational marijuana. Understand that this bet is neither support nor condemnation of the industry. I say recreational marijuana because it continues to arise in conversations with people, in Rifle and outside of it, who remark at the concentration of medical dispensaries in town.
And with the recent decisions in neighboring communities to the east and west, I’m putting my money on those conversations making it to City Hall. How far talks go once there is another matter for a council with no shortage of issues to tackle.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or email@example.com.
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