Crawford citizens say no to municipal court
By Carl Page
Published Thursday, June 30, 2016 9:29 am
After the lofty and lively rhetoric of the Crawford Town Council campaign, its citizens now face the "realpolitiks" of our new mayor and town council. Realpolitiks is defined as "policy based on power, rather than ideals." There was a lot of idealism presented by members of the now sitting council. John Patton, Chris Watters, Hetty Todd, Wanda Gofforth all spoke highly of the people of Crawford as assets, "what a great bunch of people," and "striving to keep Crawford as it was 35 years ago."
What a difference two months has made in that bucolic perspective of Crawford. Now the fore-mentioned council members are seeking a municipal court and code enforcement for all the "assets and great bunch of people" that live in Crawford. So much for keeping Crawford like it was 35 years ago. Crawford has never had a municipal court. In fact, I can find no other municipality with a population of 400 or less people in Colorado that does.
The DCI printed an article a couple of weeks back indicating that the June 15 meeting of the Crawford Town Council would have Sheriff McKee and the county tax assessor there to discuss a municipal court in Crawford. That gave roughly 13 more days to gather over 86 signatures on a petition opposing a court in town. That's 13 more days than the 24-hour notice of the meeting agenda the town is required to give.
I attended that meeting, with the petition and another "great bunch of people" from Crawford, some who had never attended a meeting before. We were there to ask questions of the sheriff's department and tax assessor regarding a municipal court in our town. Interesting enough, having a court and code enforcement in Crawford was not on the agenda for the evening. Yes, the assessor spoke about taxes, and Undersheriff Taylor and Lt. Palmer spoke of how Crawford is one of the "safest places to live in the U.S." and that the Delta County Sheriff's Office had only 37 callouts to Crawford last year, mostly dog complaints, alcohol related incidents, and DV's.
When Undersheriff Taylor asked if there were any questions re: a municipal court, Mayor Gofford said, "That will be for another meeting." Does this mean that the Delta County Sheriff's Office and tax assessor office will return to answer questions? I seriously doubt it! Mayor Gofforth deliberately took the muncipal court debate off her agenda when she found out there was a petition being circulated and a sign was up urging citizens to come "Stand Up and Say Hell NO" to a court in Crawford.
Consider once again the definition of "realpolitiks," power versus ideals. Mayor Gofforth, as a trustee, on more than one occasion showed her disdain for such American ideals as the First Amendment giving us the right to petition our government. On at least two occasions where a petition was presented to the council, she along with Trustee Hetty Todd and Mayor Steckel referred to the petitioners as "that same bunch" (not to be confused with "a great bunch").
When the town council decided to decrease the town hall access from five days a week to three days a week to accommodate the town clerk, they all violated our Fifth U.S. constitutional right to due process because they had failed to put it before the citizens of Crawford. That "power over ideals" received a printed apology in the DCI from Mayor Steckel.
Now Mayor Gofforth and her council allies are trying to increase their power by establishing a municipal court in our town. A municipal court in Colorado has the power to impose a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail imprisonment of six months. A municipal court in a small town such as Crawford would be like a homeowners' association on steroids! A municipal court magistrate only needs to have a high school education, no law experience. The same or less for a code enforcement officer. The town council will have the power to appoint these positions without a vote of the people. It will be the citizens of Crawford who can afford it least, who will be paying the fines necessary to operate and maintain the "power" of the court.
The Fourth Amendment assures us the right to "be secure in your person and property." Should a municipal court be forced upon the citizens of Crawford, what defines "person and property" will be up to the council and magistrate to adjudicate. There is wisdom in the saying, "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Citizens of Crawford, hold your elected officials responsible for their actions. Attend the July Crawford council meetings, sign the petition against a court and enforcement, and most of all, stand up for your community against those who have chosen power over ideals!