Opinion | Bruce Butler: Let the town council campaigns begin | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Bruce Butler: Let the town council campaigns begin

As a former town elected official, I want to recognize and congratulate each of the candidates in Blue River, Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne who submitted nominating petitions to run for town council. It takes personal courage and a commitment to public service to place your name in nomination and to subject yourself to the will of the voters at the polls.

While the mayors of Dillon and Silverthorne will run unopposed, it has been some time since several of the towns have had contested council elections. Uncontested elections are generally a sign of relative voter content, which results in apathy, but uncontested elections can also disconnect citizens from their representatives as elected officials assume they know what people want. Contested elections are in the best interests of the governed.

I will have more to say about issues facing candidates and voters in each of the towns as the campaigns heat up in March ahead of the April 5 election date. For now, I want to help set the stage for the campaigns and give voters some ideas and questions to think about as motivated candidates begin to lace up their Sorrel’s and risk life and limb to walk neighborhoods and ask residents for their votes.

Note to candidates, people like to be asked for their votes, and there is nothing like talking to voters to find out what their real opinions, issues and concerns are. And it is a personally vulnerable activity that hopefully produces more humble, thoughtful and responsive local government.

Colorado municipal elections are nonpartisan elections. I encourage all candidates and voters to focus on ways to find common ground regarding town issues and to not get sidetracked by state and national issues over which municipal governments have no jurisdiction. Town councils that operate this way are much more productive than those who want to play politics and grandstand over broader political issues.

I similarly encourage voters to support the most thoughtful and qualified candidates, some of whom are not necessarily the most polished personalities in the room. Oftentimes the most productive elected officials are the ones who spend time doing their homework and working to build strategic alliances, not those who seek press accolades or a large following on social media.

For voters, think about how much government and regulation you want in your town and your life? Ask candidates what their philosophical approach to government is? Are they are inclined to pass more laws to shape and coerce public policy, or do they favor less government, individual freedom and market economics to address societal challenges? Do they support increased or new taxes or maybe even tax cuts? Do they support or oppose a higher local minimum wage and why? At what point do emergency orders cease to be emergencies and the orders should be subjected to the public lawmaking process to remain in effect? What is their approach to short-term rental rules, restrictions, and additional fees and taxes?

For many candidates, the answers are likely to be a blend of all of the above. Ask savvy questions about candidates’ local government spending priorities, ideas for diversifying our local economy, proposed solutions to pressing highway infrastructure and transportation concerns, support for new development, what new ideas they have to creatively address workforce and affordable housing challenges, and their approach to environmental conservation and additional rules and regulations to achieve those ends?

If candidates have not spent time thinking about these questions before they ask for your vote, or generally support the status quo, do not be upset or surprised when nothing changes.

On the flip side, no candidate has all the answers. Support candidates who admit their shortcomings, listen to voters and will bring sound judgment to the town council. It is easy to have all the answers sitting on the sofa. It is a lot harder to sit in the big chairs in the front of the room. For candidates, understand that voters despise petty name-calling, even more so in local elections, and remember — win or lose — we all shop in the same supermarkets, our kids go to the same schools, and we all benefit from a kind and respectful community.

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