At the March 19 commissioner meeting, dozens of residents were present to question the recent decision to eliminate the Upper North Fork seat to the Delta County Planning Commission (PC).
Several simply wanted Jen Sanborn, who had held the seat for more than three years, reinstated. Others questioned the transparency of the appointments and their legality under county regulations.
Commissioners summed up their reasoning by telling the public that the "system needed to be fixed." They told residents they made the decision so that each district would have equal representation.
The problem with this line of thinking, however, is that Delta County's planning areas are not divided by population, as are districts. They are -- by design -- divided by community. The Upper North Fork is very different, communitywise, from Crawford for example.
More than 10 years ago, Delta County's planning department put considerable resources into developing the planning commission bylaws, the planning areas and how each area would be represented. The process was long, and involved countless hours of well thought-out work, yet it took commissioners minutes to dismantle the PC makeup, conceivably breaking the system rather than fixing it.
A close examination of meeting minutes obtained by a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request revealed that no discussion about why commissioners felt that the system needed to be fixed was recorded on public record.
Commissioner Don Suppes, who brought the original complaint to fellow commissioners, said on March 20, 2017, during a public meeting, he did so "after a discussion with RPI," the county's consultant for the Master Plan update. He provided no details and commissioners simply agreed.
In a conversation I had last week with Gabe Preston, principal consultant with RPI, he didn't recall any conversation involving the PC markup other than anecdotally mentioning how Park County planning is done. He added that he didn't know a lot about how Delta County's PC was configured.
Commissioner Mark Roeber, whose district lost a PC seat, agreed that the system needed to be fixed. "There needs to be more equalization among the districts," says Roeber. In other words, he and the other commissioners, have chosen their own political districts over community uniqueness and their right to representation. As a result, one such community has lost its voice -- the Upper North Fork.
Rather than district equalization on the PC, would it have been smarter to examine the planning areas, which were meant to be redesigned as communities grow and change?
Commissioner Suppes' original complaint could have been easily addressed by adding an additional planning area within his district. Cedaredge is arguably very different from Orchard City.
At the end of the day, had this discussion taken place in a public forum with county staff, the planning commission and members of the public, well-considered options, without public backlash, would have been a lot more likely.
It's called the democratic process.
P.S. At a planning meeting, new appointee, Lucinda Stanley declined to represent the PC in upcoming Master Plan public meetings. She cited her inexperience with the development of the Master Plan.
In this case, shouldn't she abstain from the final vote on the plan as well?
The election results are in at the local, state and national level, and as expected, Democrats are doing well in state and national races. Colorado has elected Jared Polis as governor; nationally the Republicans appear to retain control of the Senate while Democrats now control the House of Representative.
With a ballot full of local and state measures, voter turnout in Delta County topped 71%, with 15,889 ballots cast. Statewide, voter turnout was just over 52%.
Of the three Delta County residents seeking state offices, Matt Soper won over Thea Chase in State Representative Dist. 54; Mike Mason lost to Julie McCluskie in State Representative Dist. 61; and Olen Lund lost to Kerry Donovan in State Senate Dist. 5.
Locally, in the City of Delta voters rejected a .5% sales tax increase to fund recreation, as well as recreational marijuana sales. The sale of medical marijuana and cultivation/manufacturing facilities was approved by a slim margin. Delta voters also gave the city the green light to move forward with selling or trading the Cottonwood and Riverbend Park, and to sell the old Municipal Light and Power Building.