Power to the people!

Thank goodness we have an engaged electorate fighting the really important battles and openly questioning the legitimacy of local government.

If the authority of elected officials is derived by the consent of the governed, then the Grand Junction City Council’s vote to rename North Avenue — without a vote of the people! — is proof that we’re living under an autocratic municipal regime.

Mayor Kim Jong Un, anyone?

Forgive the sarcasm, but the backlash against University Boulevard has taken on ludicrous proportions — as if a cabal of political elites and university officials conspired to do the unthinkable in the dead of night.

Let’s put aside for a moment any argument — pro or con — about changing North Avenue to University Boulevard. The issue was batted around for years and discussed in the open and in detail before the council finally made it official

Where were all these anti-name change petition-signers then? What’s especially galling is any suggestion that the City Council somehow subverted the democratic process by not putting this question to a popular vote.

A quick reminder that we live in a representative democracy precisely to avoid mob rule and to expedite decision-making. If we’re going to poll every voter on every issue every time, why bother having a City Council at all? We elect members to ponder the issues and make rational decisions in the best interests of the community. If we care enough about an issue, we attend meetings and make our wishes known before they vote.

That “consent of the governed” argument is more apt for elections than overturning council decisions. If we don’t like how our representatives vote, we get an opportunity to put someone else in office. Mounting a petition drive for the opportunity to change a council decision is like initiating a recall election because a representative didn’t vote the way you wanted. Recall is a tool voters should use only to remove people from office who are seriously negligent in performing their duties or are engaged in official misconduct. Sadly, we’ve seen it used in this state to punish elected officials for their political views.

In our view, this name-change kerfuffle hardly meets the threshold as a legitimate redress of grievances. Mostly, it sounds like people are nostalgic for a time when North Avenue was a bustling corridor. The irony is that the name change aims to help restore the street’s luster.

The best argument against the name is the cost to businesses affected by it, but that issue was addressed during deliberations. The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Mesa University and the city have offered to help with expenses for North Avenue businesses. While the costs to most businesses will be nominal, one man’s pittance may be another man’s fortune.

Still, it’s hard to fathom that this is the controversy that woke the sleeping giant. It feels like a strange case of work avoidance. Of all the county’s challenges, this is apparently the most solvable. Maybe its grassroots genesis feels more empowering than getting behind a push for better schools.

It calls to mind the quote by the American writer, H.L. Mencken: “Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.”


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Speaking strictly as a former economic developer, how does a name change revitalize a street, any street? I spent over 20 years working for a national not-for-profit working in the field. In all of the conferences that I attended, including many break-out sessions, I never once heard any economic development theory that included changing the name of a street to improve a community. The sarcasm directed at the people who are upset that they were not aware of nor consulted about the name change is not particularly becoming. You should be embarassed at the tone you are directing toward people who are exercising their democratic prerogatives. What I’ve found interesting, and the story that you’ve missed, is the fact that on this issue there are members of Mesa County Patriots and Democrats working together. This is an issue that has crossed political lines. We need more of that, not less of it. Sarcasm is not the way to encourage political opposites to work together on solutions.

The big problem is that city council does NOT make rational decisions much of the time.

Remember back in 2001, when Council had the option to move the Ten Commandments tablet to the church across the street for free to get out of an ACLU lawsuit, and instead they decided to spend $64,000 of taxpayer money to build the “Cornerstones of Law and Liberty Plaza” to circumvent the U.S. Constitution? Remember back in 1998 or so, when Bookcliff Middle School students asked the City to make restaurants, bowling alleys and other workplaces smoke-free so asthmatic kids could accompany their families on outings? Remember the American Lung Association, Heart Association, Cancer Society, Mesa County Medical Society and other organizations proposed a 100% smoke-free ordinance just like the one all of Colorado has now, but out of abject fear Council cobbled together a crazy ordinance nobody asked for that required massive “casino-style” ventilators, 3/4-height walls in businesses, specific amounts of wall space devoted to windows and percentages of floor space devoted to smoking and non-smoking areas, and other requirements that would have bankrupted business owners and made their lives impossible?

You base your editorial on the great assumption that city council is always rational and always makes sensible, well thought-out decisions, but very often it’s the exactly the opposite. Their decisions are often based on fear, belief in myths, ideological political beliefs and religious fervor instead of on actual facts, knowledge of law, history, business realities, and the documented experiences of other towns in similar situations.

I think the “sleeping giant” has been awakened because people in this town are sick of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce pushing flawed “solutions” on this town. They never offer any proof that any of their ideas will actually work. In fact, many of their ideas are documented NOT to work based on the experience of other places that have tried them. There is just no reason to trust the chamber, and it only represents a tiny fraction of people in town.It’s time that council listen the people for a change and get their head out of the chamber’s backside.

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