More input would set unwelcome precedent

The negativity expressed in the headline, “City Council smothers bag-fee foes,” (Herald, Aug. 7) prompts me to explain my decision as mayor not to entertain public comment about the checkout-bag ordinance at the Aug. 6 City Council meeting.

The city charter requires that the City Council conduct a public hearing on the subject matter of any proposed ordinance before the two separate votes required for enactment. A public hearing on the checkout-bag initiative was duly held June 4. After a study session June 25 to review the issue and finalize details, the City Council directed the city attorney to prepare the ordinance that appeared on the July 16 agenda.

Except for public hearings mandated by the city charter, discretion for accepting public input falls to the presiding officer, usually the mayor. On July 16, the mayor pro-tem (in my absence) offered additional opportunity for public comment on the ordinance before the City Council discussion and first vote. The ordinance passed, 3-0.

Pros and cons of the checkout-bag issue have been fully aired for two years, as proponents and opponents have passionately articulated their arguments in the press and in communications to the City Council, including the June 4 public hearing and the July 16 public comment period. My decision Aug. 6 to proceed to a final vote without further public comment adhered to customary procedure. To have acted otherwise solely because the issue is controversial would set an unwelcome precedent for future City Councils.

Finally, I am compelled to point out that, later in the August 6 meeting, the City Council unanimously voted to approve spending $4.8 million in city funds to purchase water storage in Lake Nighthorse. This action completes the initiative of an earlier Council to augment the City’s limited water storage capacity. It will affect residents of Durango long into the future, but received no public comment and no coverage by the Herald.

Dick White, mayor, city of Durango


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