When was the last time you visited the little town of Castle Rock, Colorado? Has it been awhile? Just south of Denver, for many traveling along I-25 Castle Rock is simply a place we pass on our way to Colorado Springs. Of course, some may stop and fill up. Others might visit the ever-expanding Outlet Mall (slash) Promenade. And that’s just fine with most us who live there. We’re happy to see you, but even happier to see you go home.
But let me tell you about that little Colorado town that’s nestled beyond the freeway exits. Where an economy is booming, businesses are hiring and new homes are being built. Let me tell you about Castle Rock’s peaceful quality of life, its high education standards and a town budget inching toward $200 million dollars a year and whose total financial position is more than $1.3 billion. That’s a billion with a “B.”
Castle Rock sounds like the all American small town, right? Well it is, but for none of the reasons that you might think. The town is faced with a fork in the road and the debate taking place is very American.
There’s an ideological fight brewing in Castle Rock among its neighbors. No fists have been thrown but powerful — often attacking — words have been. The residents of Castle Rock are in the midst of painful growing pains, and they are trying to decide what kind of town they want to live in and leave to their children. In the coming months, residents will choose and will define what kind of town Castle Rock will be for decades to come.
A new ballot measure is being shared among neighbors gathered in front of the local post office and grocery stores. The measure, if passed would give the citizens of Castle Rock the right to vote and elect the town’s mayor. A no-brainer for the majority of us, right? I mean, I refer you back to the title of this op-ed … There’s nothing more American than the right to elect the men and women who will represent your interests. But for some, even this small change to the town charter represents too much change and too much growth.
Currently, it’s only the seven-member town council that elects Castle Rock’s mayor and then only from among its own ranks. The current system was designed to be exclusionary and limit the voice of the voter. And by the time someone sits on town council for six years, they are indoctrinated into the ‘good old boys’ society where being tapped to be mayor is more about it being your turn than being the best qualified to do the job.
So why do some residents choose to hold on to what is obviously an elitist system of government? I have been stumped. Of course, I’ve heard the “if it ain’t broken” argument, but at some point that seems as persuasive as holding my breath until I turn blue. Castle Rock is booming and residents need to have the right to vote for a mayor with a vision and a plan for the entire town, not just one district. It’s time that Castle Rock join the vast number of Colorado and American towns that elect their mayor.
Despite the current debate, I do believe Castle Rock residents will eventually vote themselves the right to elect their mayor. It’s obvious the town desperately needs the accountability and advocacy that an elected mayor will provide. An at large mayor who is chosen by the entire town to represent everyone is vital for our town’s successful future.
And there’s nothing more American than that.