Letter: The reason for petitions

The Pan and Fork narrative continues. Involved, active residents have now moved forward with a petition to place a referendum on the next scheduled Election Day ballot.

Debate has now begun on the petition and its potential effects on the process and end result. I am not going to engage on the end result here. What I want to bring to the forefront is the role of our elected leaders, and especially our city staff, when the community feels a petition is the answer.

When an electorate decides that the next step is a petition process, what it is collectively saying is that we no longer have faith in our elected officials and tax-paid staff to manage the process appropriately, effectively and in the best interests of the community.

To get personal for a moment, I am going to share my attempt to spend a few quality moments with the Basalt town manager six or so months ago.

I’ll start at the end. After months of personal reach-out and after being completely blown off without as much as a response to my numerous emails and voicemail messages, I was finally given a moment to have a cup of Joe at Saxy’s with him. It was scheduled for 10 a.m. on a typical weekday morning. Guess what — stood up. Not as much as a call, text or email to let me know. So close, but no latte.

Eventually, the town manager returned my email stating he had an emergency. Ready for this? Flooding on the Pan and Fork site. It happened right after the restoration plan was completed by the town of Basalt on the site. The town manager’s response in the media was that the site was designed to flood. You just can’t make this stuff up.

I still have not had the opportunity to meet the town manager and share some thoughts on all things Basalt and beyond. All I was trying to do was share potentially valuable insights focused on the management of the process. I have decades of experience here, and I have felt from the very beginning of this extended and painful course of action that it has been mismanaged by the city staff. My thoughts couldn’t have hurt, right?

The resulting action of many a mismanaged public process is the petition route. Petitions are a way for the commoner to shout that we are not being heard. It is about fighting for an appropriate process, communal respect and public transparency. It’s about confusion and the non-understanding of city staff signing an agreement for a public-private contractual relationship that just plain doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s an action of last chance. It’s bigger than the specific initiative. It’s about the loss of trust.

Petitions are solely a way of having voices heard. Elected officials, and especially city staff, cannot be tone-deaf to their community. When they are, the petition process cranks up the volume. And the energy.

R.J. Gallagher Jr.