Voters in Grand Junction decisively approved two ballot measures that will allow retail marijuana businesses to operate in the city limits, opening the possibility for tax revenues from pot sales to fund a community center.
It’s probably no coincidence that the four candidates considered to be more progressive on the political spectrum won the four open seats on the Grand Junction City Council as well.
We felt that this election would be extremely telling about the direction of the city. The winning candidates were generally more focused on a vision of “placemaking” via amenities and smart growth while their opponents emphasized keeping spending under control and getting government out of the way of business.
It felt to us, at times, like a choice between moving forward or applying the brakes and trying to reel the city back from becoming too visionary.
We’re pleased that the voters’ choices aligned with our endorsements. We thought Randall Reitz, Abe Herman and incumbent Rick Taggart, all of whom won their races, were the best people for the job. Dennis Simpson bested Greg Haitz in the only race in which the editorial board couldn’t reach a consensus on whom to endorse.
It was Simpson’s third attempt to land a seat on council. He’s spent years watching council proceedings and criticizing certain council actions. It will be interesting to see if he improves transparency or becomes a divisive figure who alienates staff and fellow council members by insisting on changes in budgeting and the council’s relationship with the city manager. He campaigned on changing the system from within.
The new council’s immediate challenge is to adopt a regulatory framework that will define how the retail marijuana trade will operate — what types of licenses to issue and how many, store signage, locations, etc. By approving Measure 2A and 2B, voters have authorized the city to collect up to $2.9 million in marijuana-related sales tax in the first year of implementation.
The tax revenue should go first to implementation and enforcement. After that, money is to be directed to fund priorities in the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan. That plan identified a community center as its top priority. It’s probably fair to assume that linking the marijuana question to a community center, no matter how informally, helped it pass.
Voters on Tuesday also approved Measure 2C, allowing a new development east of Las Colonias park to modify an easement for the Riverfront Trail that will cross its property.
We feel that voters unequivocally got that one right. We shudder to think how the development could have gone sideways with 2C’s failure.
Voters surprised us, but they were surprisingly consistent. There were no mixed messages from the results.
Thanks to Haitz, Mark McCallister, Jody Green and Kraig Andrews for giving voters a choice in this election. They may not have won, but they contributed mightily to the dialogue about the city’s future.