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.”