Having attended the Sept. 5 Special Meeting of Ridgway’s town council, and witnessing their unanimous vote to remove the Streetscape initiative from the Nov. 5 ballot, I was shocked to read the recent letter to the editor from Streetscape Advisory Committee (“SAC”) Co-Chair Paula James (“Council Caves to Opposition,” Sept. 12-18 issue).
I first found myself questioning the judgment of a newspaper editor who, having had a reporter in attendance at that meeting, would allow such an inaccurate and misleading account of what actually took place – by someone who wasn’t even at the meeting – to be published. But after some reflection, it’s apparent the editor has done a great service to Ridgway’s many stakeholders by publishing Ms. James’ rant and giving us some insight into who the town appointed to co-chair the SAC.
We also now have some insight into how it came to be that, with her co-chairing SAC meetings, “surveys,” and talking one-on-one to scores of citizens to “ascertain” public opinion, by their own admission everyone on town council was left clueless about the degree to which Ridgway’s commercial property and business-owners objected to the scope, cost and timing of the Streetscape initiative.
The truth is, in just 48 hours, no less than 121 Ridgway commercial property and business-owners (more than a few) agreed to sign the formal request of town administration and council to act urgently to remove the Streetscape initiative from the ballot before the Sept. 6 deadline for doing so. It wasn’t because these good folks “resorted to threats, rage and a promise to tear the community apart if they didn’t get their way” that town council acted as they did. In fact, the threat to tear the community apart arguably came from those responsible for misleading town council into voting it onto the ballot in the first place. What town council responded to in voting on Sept. 5 to reverse that decision was a compelling argument as to why the ballot measure was seriously flawed. Specifically:
As the business community had consistently urged throughout the process, the project scope and cost was excessive for a town of 900 souls and barely 100 small businesses; there was no cost/benefit study conducted to support the claims of increased prosperity that would result or to determine which taxpayers would benefit by how much; and the ballot language was cleverly worded to obscure the fact that voters would be authorizing $4.6 million over 20 years for capital improvements in the Historic Business area in addition to a $500,000 DOLA grant or $1.3 million negotiated contribution from CDOT.
Undeterred, Ms. James has urged boycotting Ridgway’s businesses. Wouldn’t that be a fine contribution to our community? And Ridgway’s sales tax revenues?
Instead, let’s just find another co-chair for the reconstituted SAC. An understanding of how democracy works would be helpful.
– Bob Kelly, Pleasant Valley