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Time to act as stewards

Last week’s Town Council meeting provided another example of how out of touch many in that group are with the public and with the obligations of representative government.

Last week, the council voted to ban commercial marijuana establishments and sales in town. Why the question, “How can we prevent the verified will of the people from becoming a reality?” when it should be, “How can we implement the verified will of the people?”

That a councilor would vote for a ban now, before the state has finalized regulations — especially on the grounds that such a failure would mean the council has approved sales without the immediate ban — is confused.

That a councilor would highlight concern over what tourists from Texas and Oklahoma would think, fearing “conservative” folk will cease to travel to a Pagosa that allows sales, fails in light of the fact such folks (hardly all our visitors from these places) would, by this argument, refuse to travel anywhere in Colorado, which has a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana.

To note the town charter compels the council to conform to federal law is to ignore the fact the people of Colorado and this county saw fit to do otherwise and that the federal government is, at present, adopting a hands-off approach. If the feds commit to a hard stance on the issue in the future, back away. Until then, move ahead.

Elected officials have two roles available, depending on the situation: the first is to act as leaders, the second as stewards. We believe several councilors have lost sight of the role that best fits this situation. A comparison of issues is revealing. With the Reservoir Hill issue, prior to Tuesday, there was no carved-in-stone indicator of what Pagosans wanted. There was comment and debate but, until numbers were available, no one knew for sure where the people stood. The situation called for leadership, action on the part of elected officials based on “morals,” assumptions, personal preferences. The council did this with the Hill, in a flawed way, with less than accurate ideas about public opinion. The people rejected the move but, make no mistake, the councilors acted as leaders.

Concerning commercial sale of marijuana (the limits as yet undefined), with legal growth, possession, trade and use by adults defined in an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Colorado, with a majority of voters in Archuleta County favoring the amendment, there is an accurate picture of the will of the people available.

In this case, the duty of elected officials is to accommodate that will, to act as stewards.

The council’s ban is a blatant repudiation of the vote. What is appropriate is for elected officials to find a solution that satisfies the greatest number of citizens, on both sides of the issue. The vote is in; allow for limited commercial activity, in locations that are not blatantly obvious, with minimal signage. Let the market determine who survives.

Last week, two reasonable councilors suggested that, since state regulations to govern commercial sale are not complete, there is plenty of time for the council to wait, to learn. They were right. And they will be right if they suggest the town ultimately act in accord with the amendment.

The board of county commissioners faces a similar situation as it considers how to deal with the mandate of the amendment vote, with at least one commissioner already noting his unwillingness to implement the will of the people. The commissioners should act as stewards. We wait to see if the board’s response is more laudable than the council’s.

Karl Isberg

This story was posted on April 25, 2013.