With the furor lately about possible operation of a Wal-Mart store in Pagosa Springs and proposed plans for development on Reservoir Hill, it has been easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of comments and misled by some of the misconceptions involved in the issues.
But, one thing has been made clear by the hubbub: the political reality here in Pagosa Country. There are laws that determine voting rights, in place since the county was formed. They mirror restrictions in place in nearly every other county in Colorado (or the U.S., for that matter).
Like it or not, it is the law that, in order to vote in a municipal election, you must reside in the municipality. There was no recent conniving that made this rule; there has been no gerrymandering or tricks employed to shut voters who live in unincorporated sections of a county out of the vote. If you live in unincorporated La Plata County, you do not vote in Durango elections. If you live in unincorporated Montezuma County, you don’t vote in Cortez elections. The only way to change this scenario is to institute countywide home rule government or to have the municipality dissolved via a decision by town voters.
Many people also seem to have a misconception about how we govern ourselves. There are some who believe if an issue draws their attention and ire, they should have the right to vote on it. Selective participatory democracy, if you will. The reality is that, while citizens should always have forums at which to express opinions, their representatives make the decision. Nearly all municipalities, all counties, all states and the nation operate as representative democracies. We elect fellow citizens to act in our stead. If we disagree with their decisions, we have the option of referendum. If we disagree with their actions, we can attempt to recall them. But, it is those we elect who must shoulder the lion’s share of the burden for decisions, large and small, insignificant and controversial, that shape our communities.
Three such individuals will be elected in April to fill seats (or should we say hot seats?) on the Pagosa Springs Town Council. This is a particularly edgy time for people to volunteer for these positions. The councilors are unpaid and often the objects of heated attention.
It is time for people to step up — those who agree with council decisions, those who disagree. This should not be an election in which there are no seats contested, or an election wherein there are not enough candidates to fill the available seats. There should be three or four candidates vying for each place on the council. Most particularly, it is time for younger residents of Pagosa Springs to take one or more of the three at-large seats on the council and begin to reshape that body, to redirect it for future needs. The council needs members drawn from the pool of the town’s 18- to 45-year-old residents; it needs councilors who represent younger, single and married-with-kids residents.
To be eligible, a resident of Pagosa Springs must be 18 years of age or older, be a registered voter living in the town of Pagosa Springs and turn in a valid petition by the deadline.
Petitions can be picked up at Town Hall beginning Friday, Feb. 10. Candidates can begin collecting signatures on petitions beginning Monday, Feb. 13. Completed petitions must be turned in at Town Hall by March 2 with 25 signatures of registered town voters.
If you have vision of what the town should be, what its future should hold, now is your time.