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Opinion: Town update from Carbondale mayor

Locations: Columns, Opinion Published

Summer is typically the busiest season in town, but wow – has this summer been off the charts. As a father of two high schoolers, our summer officially ended this week, so I thought it was an opportune time to update readers on what’s happened and what’s to come for the Town.

One of the more common comments I’ve heard this summer has been concern about development projects and the outrageous spike in housing costs and decreasing availability. These aren’t problems we can resolve overnight, so we launched an update to our Comprehensive Plan which is underway. Hopefully you have had a chance to offer your thoughts on our “Chart Carbondale” project. If not, visit the Town’s website to learn how to participate. The finished product will be the guiding light for development for many years to come. Unfortunately, even this process won’t solve the workforce housing crisis, but we are working on a few different things on that front, too. 

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COVID continues to have a strong presence, but it is nice to have several effective tools at our disposal that we didn’t have last year. Garfield County has a fantastic dashboard on its website to monitor COVID data and we have fast, accurate and convenient COVID testing behind the Rec Center. According to Garfield County data, the vaccines appear to be incredibly effective and the data shows that Carbondalians have taken advantage of free vaccines by a wide margin. But we aren’t out of the woods, so I’m pleased that we also have a well-informed community that now knows how to minimize risk.

I’m excited to report that we continue to make progress on the Aquatics Facility dream and voters will see that question on an upcoming ballot. Check out our website for more information. Another exciting announcement is that RFTA, with a goal of increasing youth and family ridership, recently changed its youth fares such that, come this fall, anyone 19 or younger can ride for $1 – anywhere. Now mom and dad can kick back on RFTA for family ski days!

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I am much less excited to report that our process to replace Jay Harrington, our town manager, is also underway. It is the understatement of the year to say Carbondale would not be the strong, resilient, vibrant and creative community it is without Jay’s efforts and leadership. He will be missed as a manager and as a friend. There will be an opportunity for the public to meet finalists when we get to that point. In the meantime, we will appoint an interim town manager and hope to have a new one in place before the end of the year. 

Lastly, an update on our efforts to re-envision community policing, including resolving and responding to the incident with Michael Francisco on Christmas Eve. Most are aware that the criminal charges were dropped and we initiated a third-party evaluation of the incident. Gwen Garcelon and Barbe Chambliss facilitated a community forum discussion which was a very useful opportunity to ask and answer questions about the incident. We are discussing another facilitated meeting as an opportunity for the Town and public to continue the dialogue. I should also note that, almost two months ago, Mr. Francisco’s attorney notified the Town that he may initiate a civil claim. As a result, the attorney for our insurance carrier is now the lead on the case. The Board of Trustees and I are as eager as anyone to resolve any legal proceedings, but we must await Mr. Francisco’s response. 

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 On the broader issue of community policing, Chief Wilson and his officers conducted a Citizen’s Academy which proved to be a fantastic opportunity for two-way dialogue on what community policing looks like now and what attendees envision for the future. I heard wonderful reviews from both attendees and our police officers. As a follow up to this, we will also begin a third-party cultural assessment of our police department, including policies, procedures, training and more. These actions, together with countless one-on-one conversations that Chief Wilson has had with community members, will greatly inform forthcoming board discussions on how to update our collective vision of community policing. 

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for fall and the rhythm of school, but it’s been a busy and productive summer and I’m grateful for town staff’s efforts to manage the impacts. As summer fades into the rearview mirror, I look forward to a healthy school year and a productive one too, especially for my sleepy teenagers.

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