Letter: River park or developer theme park for Basalt?

After having watched the Basalt Town Council for the past several years dealing with the Pan and Fork, a persistent, disturbing theme similar to the poker scene in the movie “Stripes” keeps on playing over and over. In the movie, John Candy, as Dewey Oxberger, plays a game of poker with Pvt. Cruiser, who kindly could be described as gullible. In the game, there is a big pile of cash on the table. Cruiser fumbles his way along and keeps being manipulated by Oxberger, even allowing Oxberger to see his cards. It is a scene where Oxberger compliments and jokes with Cruiser continually and Cruiser smiles and eats up the attention. At the end, Oxberger encourages him to keep playing and dump the rest of his cash into the game. The game ends, Cruiser is fleeced, they all laugh, and they all had fun.

In Basalt, Oxberger’s persona is shared by a fairly small group. The town manager and the head of the Planning Department have played along with the game. For the past year and a half, the cast of council members have done so, too, on the other side of the table. Basically they are unable to say “no” to the developer support group and have largely followed the guided developer happy path while ignoring the public.

The most spectacular charade is that although the town can zone to get exactly what it wants to preserve 70 percent of the Community Development Corp. parcel as open without investing more money, it does not do so. The Basalt council is a very polite and developer-obedient group. The town manager has not said this would be an option, and so the council has not considered it as a real option. Instead, the council keeps being asked to give more and more wealth to the developer consortium, and so it keeps considering giving more and more away.

The plans that the council, the Planning Department and the Parks, Open Space and Trails Committee have been working on were set in motion about a year and a half ago, which is a citizens uprising, two citizen petitions and an election ago. Apparently the public does not matter. The council continues to remain developer-team-obedient, focusing on developer shopping-cart items, including a smaller, expensive park with lots of other developer-benefiting bundled amenities.

Gary Tennenbaum and Mayor Jacque Whitsitt have been the only two decision-makers who remain true to the voters and have said they are supporting the voter “no residential” or “no condo hotel” mandate to allow for the best public-serving river park.

Some developer team members are now calling for “compromise,” which is a new term being used to describe the same idea of transferring a very large amount of public wealth to their group.

Perhaps it is just inevitable that Pvt. Cruiser plays out his role and gives the public’s stuff away. Why not? It is just a game, anyway.

Mark Kwiecienski