Lance Eldridge: Justice center problem needs to go away

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The on-going public spectacle to find a home for the new justice center will do little more than drive an even deeper wedge between our local governmental structures and the constituencies they represent.

To bring some resolution to the debate, both major political parties must involve themselves in the mundane details of the political process and forge a compromise. A compromise, of course, is typically one where no one is happy with the results, but they're willing to accept them as long as the problem goes away. This problem needs to go away.

The emerging gulf between the city and county became statistically evident when the voting patterns in the past national election emerged. Routt County supported John Kerry but only because the growing community of Steamboat Springs voted what appeared to be a more liberal ticket and the outlying rural areas voted more conservatively. One suspects that it will be only a matter of time before Steamboat Springs' residents no longer think of themselves as part of Routt County but instead identify only with the resort community in which they live.

This subtle but discernable shift to the political left could well be a natural outcome of the town's growth. This divide may continue as like-minded individuals gravitate to where others of similar thought reside, ultimately creating communities of affiliation that foster and retain a narrow political complexion. Unfortunately the more conservative and potentially underrepresented rural minority may find themselves increasingly on the short end of the stick unless the political parties assure their inclusion, and that's done appropriately through representative government and elections.

The irony, of course, is that our local political culture looks more like that of our divisive national debates, but without the political party influence we often but sometimes wrongly blame for the problem. Here it may well be the lack of public political party involvement that's contributing to the morass. The differences on the Justice Center are not between political parties but instead between town and country and, ultimately, what these different constituencies may believe to be the role of representative government. No doubt the "Friends" would agree with noted historian J.G.A. Pocock that "our notion of representative government is in some measure in crisis, because it is harder and harder to believe that those we elect to govern us do in any sense represent us." But the "Friends'" alternative verges on what they hope to be virtuous demagoguery. No matter how much rhetorical makeup is used, it's still demagoguery.

The so-called "Friends of the Justice Center" will continue their disservice to all Routt County voters and exploit this divide with their worn efforts at pedantic persuasion in pursuit of their agenda to construct the new justice center at their pre-determined and politically correct downtown location. Any other solution, if one reads between the lines, is unacceptable despite that they misuse the language of democracy and reasonable compromise and downplay or ignore the larger implications of their efforts.

Lance Eldridge

Steamboat Springs

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