Are we open for business or not?
One of the hallmarks of any governing body is the regulatory atmosphere it establishes for business.
In some quarters, for example, compliance with costly regulations is said to hamper the natural gas industry, leading drilling companies to go elsewhere to operate at maximum profitability.
“Business-friendly” is a political catch-phrase we hear often at election time. It’s the predominant theme when business interests vet candidates for public office.
So, we were surprised that the Mesa County Commission — with its “pro-business” bent — decided by a 2-1 vote to charge Country Jam organizers $50,000 for law enforcement.
Say what you will about Country Jam — that it encourages the kind of behavior that puts a strain on the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department — it’s a major event that brings in thousands of people into our county.
It exposes visitors to wine country, the Colorado National Monument and biking culture, among other things, and generally plays a role as ambassador. It’s also a great benefit to locals who don’t have to travel far to see Nashville’s hottest acts.
But the bottom line is that Country Jam is a business. Townsquare Media Group, the new organizers of the four-day music extravaganza, has agreed to foot the bill, but not without pointing out that other communities in which they promote concerts do not require on-site help from law enforcement.
Townsquare plans to make a case for having this charge eliminated next year by offering proof through an economic impact study that the festival provides a significant boost to the local economy.
Commissioner Rose Pugliese was conflicted enough about the principles that she opposed the added law-enforcement fee.
“The sheriff and his crew will be out there regardless — the question is, who pays for it: the taxpayer or the private sector?”
A better question might be: What if Country Jam decides Mesa County’s conditions are too onerous to continue doing business here?
By charging Country Jam for the enhanced law enforcement, it sends a strange message to other potential concert promoters: “Bring your concert here, but we may have to charge you for law enforcement.”
It seems opportunistic and wrongheaded. Decisions like this have a cumulative effect that create questions about how business-friendly the county really is.