Blumenthal: There’s trouble in River City
There’s trouble in our fair village that I feel compelled to weigh in on this week.
The conversation on almost everyone’s lips these days gets around to Councilman Chris Jacobson’s recent arrest and his behavior following that arrest. Although everyone charged with a crime is entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty, the firsthand reports as well as the recently released video recordings are very compelling evidence backstopping the felony charges filed by the District Attorney.
I’ve done some homework concerning our town and state ethics codes concerning the behavior and actions of our elected officials, and bottom line, the law is very weak on the subject. This current situation should serve as a siren call to the Town Council to promptly consider a thorough update of the ethics code.
In the event Councilman Jacobson is convicted of a felony, there’s a strong probability he’d be removed from office involuntarily; however, due to the legal maneuvering that goes on in such cases, at the end of the day it’s likely Councilman Jacobson would, through negotiations between his counsel and the District Attorney’s Office, arrive at a settlement for restitution and monitored rehabilitation and any hint of the felony charge would be buried as long as there were no recurrences of the actions and behavior that got him into this mess in the first place.
Without a felony conviction I don’t see much that town officials can do to remove him from office.
That being said many people in the community are extremely unhappy with Councilman Jacobson’s behavior and feel he’s no longer fit to represent them. In the best case possible he should voluntarily resign, but if not, many are suggesting a formal recall by the electorate.
A recall petition only requires 242 signatures from registered village voters. Since Councilman Jacobson has signaled he does not intend to voluntarily resign, the voices for recall are growing loud and I anticipate a formal recall committee will be formed within the next week or so.
A recall is always a very messy and unfortunate situation for both the town as well as the party being recalled; thus I would hope that Councilman Jacobson rethinks his position concerning this matter and voluntarily does the right thing for the sake of the community as well as his future rehabilitation and wellbeing.
Snowmass’ elected representatives are and should be held to the highest standards of trust. Through his well-documented actions and behavior, Councilman Jacobson has violated his obligations to us and his colleagues. His continued presence in office negatively impacts the important work still to be done in our community as well as the credibility of the Town Council. Notwithstanding the outcome of the criminal proceedings, I can see no way for him to remain in an elected position of trust.
Another troublesome issue floating around our village is the continued disconnect between town staff members and Town Council as well as the expressed preferences of many members of our community who’ve weighed in on what appears to be staff-driven agendas pertaining to the completion of Base Village as well as other issues of concern to the community.
We’ve recently heard similar complaints of conflicting agendas in Aspen, which has resulted in the Aspen electorate finally taking action to put the clamps on such matters. Hopefully we won’t have to go through that painful process, but it will require Snowmass’ elected representatives to clearly demonstrate extraordinary leadership in setting specific policy guidelines for the staff to follow concerning such critical issues as the completion of Base Village and the completion of our village entryway.
Current examples of this disconnect are the staff’s single- minded focus on the construction of a massive Brush Creek/Wood Road roundabout where many in the community as well as several council members have strongly suggested that less expensive and less impactful mitigation alternatives first be explored.
Another example is the current debate over Related’s community-purpose obligations. Related’s current Base Village amendment application contains an offer to the town of a significant sum of cash to be used as the community may later decide for such purposes as constructing a home for the Ice Age Discovery Center, a performing arts center, a science center and/or a cultural campus on town-owned land that could accommodate all these attractive uses and possibly others. The town staff, however, appears to be ignoring the cash offer on the table and remains solely focused on Related’s alternative offer to build the shell of a single-use facility dedicated to the Ice Age Discovery Center. Unfortunately the critical questions of where the rest of the financing will come from to build out the interior of the proposed Ice Age Discovery Center and to cover its operating costs as well as the financing for the other attractive options will not be answered for quite some time. Thus the safest and most responsible course of action for the town at this time is to continue negotiating with Related to maximize the cash offer, which will afford the town the greatest degree of flexibility for future planning.
An open and thorough discussion of all alternatives is necessary, but the town staff unfortunately appears to be leaving very little, if any, room for such exploration.
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