Todd: On cops and committees
When Ouray police officers voiced their concerns to the Ouray City Council at a work session after implementation of the four days on, three days off scheduling, the recommendation to the officers from city administrator Patrick Rondinelli was give it some time.
Prior to presenting its report at a council meeting, a KRW Associates representative and Rondinelli met with segments of the city council, in pairs and with the mayor separately. Consensus of the council was never reached nor asked for in switching to the new schedule. But, then again, consensus was never needed.
When KRW presented the four days on, three days off, 10-hour scheduling to council, it also presented other ideas. For instance, one idea was to hire a part time administrator to help alleviate administrative duties burdening the police chief. Other ideas generated by the firm were presented, as well. Here’s an idea, and you may or may not want to adopt it. Here’s another idea, which may or may not be the best fit for you. None of the ideas were presented as ultimate solutions or recommendations.
The city administrator has the responsibility and authority to run the city. In this matter, the council is a resource, but not the decision maker. No one wants the council and mayor to perform the administrative duties of the city.
Whether or not the decision was right for the future operation of the police force is yet to be determined. We know that it was not the right decision for three of the four officers. In fact, it may have been the catalyst for an overdue eruption. Sometimes, all it takes is change to bring out feelings that are boiling under the surface.
As the city begins the search for three new officers, including a chief, the question needs to be asked: Is the four on, three off schedule the best solution going forward? To be able to recruit and retain a police force, finding the right solution is important at the outset, or we could be in this boat again. In that vein, we applaud Rondinelli as he vows to involve the new police chief in the process of determining scheduling and best methods of officer retention. Getting participation and buy-in from the beginning will be important. And giving it time to work will be essential.
Several months ago, the Ridgway Streetscape committee held two meetings with over three dozen Ridgway business representatives to discuss the progress of the efforts to pave downtown streets, create walking malls and improve sidewalks and drainage. Two things stood out in these meetings. These business owners protested the proposed increase in taxes. They also protested how the process could have progressed as far as it had without their knowledge. Even though progress had been plotted in the Plaindealer, and meetings had been noticed and made public, many business owners felt out of the loop. Some accused the committee of trying to slip the project past them without allowing their participation and input. Everyone involved vowed to go above and beyond communicating with each other.
So, it comes as some surprise that a group of 12 business owners met last week and did exactly what they felt had been happening to them. Last week's meeting was explained as business owners who had “expressed an interest” and who were representing Ridgway businesses to find solutions to the Streetscape issue.
It’s not clear, however, whose interests this group represents other than the 12 self-appointed who attended. Certainly, they are only a fraction of the businesses in Ridgway who stand to be affected by increased taxes due to this project. And don't accept apathy as the reason for the low turnout because only a fraction of Ridgway's businesses were invited.
Turns out, everyone should have been invited, including the voting public. Three members of the Streetscape committee happened to be in attendance. That qualified the meeting as a public meeting. It should have been properly noticed according to the manner in which the Town must notice meetings. And access to that meeting should have been made public.
Furthermore, any decisions made by the Town Council that have a root in this meeting could ultimately be made null by a successful court challenge.
Imagine passing a sweeping tax increase by election, imposing that tax and then being put in the position of having that questioned in court.
Do you think those that were truly left out of the process might feel inclined to challenge?
At the very least, the council needs to have a refresher course with the Streetscape committee members and go over the Colorado Open Meetings Act. On Aug. 16, 2012, Town Manager Jen Coates emailed committee members a summary of the Open Meetings Act, explaining that the committee would continue to follow it through the duration of its meetings. It wouldn't hurt to revisit it.
At the most, a fraction of any group, business owners or otherwise, should not profess to speak for the majority.
To truly come to a compromise, you have to invite everyone to the discussion table, including those with whom you disagree. And you have to do it out in the open.
We think Streetscape committee member, town councilman, Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce board member and Ridgway businessman Rick Weaver said it best regarding the meeting of 12: "All I know is, I wasn't invited."
Alan Todd is publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at 970-325-2838 or firstname.lastname@example.org.