Cortez voters who havent received a municipal ballot in the mail go to the polls on Tuesday to pick city council members.
Aside from occasional controversies like the recent recall, city politics generally are low key, which is the sign of a municipality run well. Because the police come when we call them, our streets are in good repair, our taps produce clean water and our garbage is hauled away, Cortez residents assume that all is well with the city government. Thats a local benefit well worth working to preserve.
Council members receive solid information from the city manager and department heads and make sound decisions based on data rather than on politics. Their constituents are usually willing to let them perform their duties without a great deal of supervision or interference. That doesnt mean citizens shouldnt choose council members wisely and interact with them during their terms. Not everyone can be a good elected official. Those jobs involve time-consuming hard work, often without thanks, and the decisions that must be made sometimes are chess moves in a plan that wont play out fully for many years. The skills and motivations of the people making such decisions determine the future of Cortez.
With that in mind, consider these qualities:
Council members must be able to organize, understand and process information in a way that informs their decisions. They must be willing to read thick packets, research complex issues, and recognize the multiple factors involved in each issue.
They must be willing to seek information from constituents, then separate it from the emotions involved in current events and make decisions based on facts.
They must not be susceptible to the pressure to treat family members, friends, neighbors and business associates differently than other constituents.
They must be able to accept legitimate criticism without internalizing the viciousness that so often characterizes 21st century politics.
They must be able to understand the way their decisions work with other forces, including other local governing bodies like the county and special districts, state and federal laws, the economy, the environment, community values and social change.
They must be able to create policies that are sustainable but not immutable, to serve the community well now and into an unknowable future.
Most of the time, they must bring those skills to bear on esoteric issues that arent particularly interesting to the general public until something goes wrong.
Choose carefully, vote wisely, and stay involved after the election. Local politics may not be as entertaining or as upsetting as the national show, but the actions of city government have a greater effect on the everyday lives of the people who live and work in Cortez, as they do for those in Mancos and Dolores.