Advocates group challenges council
February 8, 2008
FRISCO ” A group of citizens who say the town doesn’t listen to public input have formed an advocacy group aimed at promoting more responsive government and encouraging the town to annex neighboring subdivisions.
Frisco Advocates for Community Excellence (FACE) wants to develop a slate of candidates who promote openness and timely communication with residents, said Gail Culp, one of the group’s organizers.
Frisco Mayor Bernie Zurbriggen said the town makes every effort to involve its citizens in decisions, with ample opportunity for public input and comment.
“At some point, you have to make a decision,” Zurbriggen said. “If people don’t like those decisions, they say we’re unresponsive.
“We have seven council members and no one has a greater vote than anyone else,” Zurbriggen continued. “We work together to come up with what we think are the best solutions for the town.”
FACE represents citizens from different sides of various issues, said resident Miles Porter. Some of the members were pro-Home Depot and some were against, and some were for locating CMC on the peninsula and some were opposed. Both were voted down in public elections.
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What the members of the group have in common is a sense that government decisions aren’t always reflecting the will of the people, Porter said.
Culp and Porter said FACE will develop a scorecard-type rating system for incumbents and council candidates to help educate voters for the upcoming April 1 municipal election. Three council seats and the mayor’s spot are up for grabs.
Culp said several of the group’s members come from the ranks of citizens who have served on various advisory committees. In some cases, recommendations made by those panels have been ignored by town staff, she said.
That would include a recommendation from the Frisco Open Space and Trails (FROST) advisory on the location of Colorado Mountain College, said attorney Mark Richmond, another FACE member.
Richmond said FROST made a recommendation that could have helped the town avoid what became a contentious showdown leading to public vote.
“That recommendation was totally ignored,” Richmond said. “I was told by several council members that it wasn’t communicated. I think there is a lack of transparency in the way the town works.”
Zurbriggen remembered it differently. He said the the CMC discussion was comprehensive and included input from all viewpoints and that the final decision on the potential CMC site reflected consensus.
“There was a second location considered but in the end, everybody thought it would be better on this side of the ridge. Closer to the Nordic center, so there would be some synergy between them,” Zurbriggen said.
Richmond said the goal of the FACE group is to elect council members who will work toward improving the town, by promoting a message of change similar to what voters are hearing in national campaigns.
Town manager Michael Penny said it’s important to remember that the advisory groups are just that ” advisory, and that it’s the council that is charged by law with making policy decisions.
“If there’s a difference between what a committee recommends and what staff is recommending, we point that out to the town council,” Penny said.
FACE will use the following criteria to grade mayoral and council candidates:
– Promote timely communication, openness and respectful treatment of constituents.
– Provide financial accountability and transparency in town operations and decision-making.
– Give committees more exposure and responsibilities.
– Support locally owned businesses.
– Advocate open bidding for town projects.
– Maximize use of volunteers and make use of local expertise and talents.
– Start our town on a path to annexation of adjacent unincorporated subdivisions to expand participation in Frisco democracy and make the town “whole.”