City Council needs to discuss designee votes
Should a single member of the Grand Junction City Council be able to torpedo a majority decision of his colleagues? That’s almost what happened during a recent dust-up over cost estimates to develop Las Colonias Park.
As The Sentinel’s Mike Wiggins reported in Friday’s paper, bids to build an amphitheater in the riverfront park came in slightly over budget, prompting the Downtown Development Authority to consider yanking its $500,000 commitment to the park.
City Council member Marty Chazen is the city’s representative on the DDA board. He joined two other disgruntled DDA board members in voting against fulfilling that commitment.
Fortunately, they were out-voted 4-3. The DDA’s withdrawal of its financial commitment could have jeopardized the amphitheater, the construction of which will be covered by non-city funds that will disappear if the city welches on its commitment.
As the city’s designee, should Chazen be able to vote independently on an issue that could thwart an outcome previously decided by a council majority? The city has failed to articulate a policy that council members serving as designees on boards, advisory councils and committees must represent the interests of the city.
It’s time for a discussion about this policy hole. We’re not suggesting there’s a right answer. But there should be an answer. If the nine-member DDA board voted 8-1 to withdraw funding — with the city designee being the lone vote to support the city’s position — that would be one thing. But what if Chazen’s vote broke a deadlock? He would essentially be a one-man wrecking crew getting two bites at the proverbial apple.
If council members agree that this is a critical check that provides balance to the decision-making process, we’d love to hear those arguments. But Chazen provides the justification for the opposite view. The council voted to build an amphitheater and Chazen, who opposed that decision, was ready to dismantle the project by exploiting an unresolved question.
At a minimum the council could outline parameters that keep council designees from voting on issues that contravene official city positions.
We’re not suggesting the DDA, or any other political subdivision, should be a lap dog of the city. Those members independently selected to serve on the board should be free to vote as they see fit. It’s council members getting second chances to circumvent democratically decided issues that’s the problem here.
We disagree with the DDA members who cited cost overruns as a justification for pulling out of the amphitheater. The DDA agreed last October to chip in $500,000 for the build-out of Las Colonias contingent upon the city securing the $3.5 million project budget. The city did that and has the means to cover the $117,000 shortfall.
The DDA is attaching strings retroactively. That’s not fair, but that’s not the point. Chazen’s anti-amphitheater cheerleading is. The council should address this issue before an important project gets derailed by a single rogue council member.