Governing is serious business, but the start of Tuesday’s Town Council meeting bore a celebratory air as Judge Susanne Ross swore in a new mayor, a new councilperson, and a second-term councilperson. The Rebekah Hall council chambers were filled with town staff, friends and family, and an impressive contingent of new Chief Marshal Josh Comte’s former colleagues from Newport Beach, California.
Before reading the oath of office for newly elected Mayor DeLanie Young, Ross told the assembled that swearing in new public servants was one of her favorite parts of being a judge. Council member Adrienne Christy was next, followed by Lars Carlson, who kept his seat as top vote-getter in the three-way council race decided on Nov. 5.
Comte took his oath of office last. He’s replacing Jim Kolar, whose retirement begins in mid-December.
Post-election, it is then the task of the mayor and council to divvy up the numerous boards, commissions and committees on which council members serve.
“Don’t over-burden yourselves and burn out,” cautioned Young.
It took the entire morning session — until noon — to fill spots on the nearly 40 organizations in which town’s elected officials are involved, as well as other housekeeping business, such as how meetings are run and the 2020 meeting calendar.
After council’s lunch break, council and staff tackled a proposed ordinance that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age.
The first mention of raising the purchasing age to 21 came on the heels of council’s Oct. 29 meeting in which the discussion centered around new state laws that would allow municipalities to provide regulated places for the social consumption of cannabis. Communities, under the new law, have the option of adopting the new regulations, or ignoring them. Toward the conclusion of that work session, councilperson Geneva Shaunette pointed out that cannabis seemed to be getting greater scrutiny than alcohol.
“I don’t see anyone coming to protest a new bar in town,” she said. “There’s a bit of a disconnect and discrimination against cannabis.”
She then proposed raising the purchasing age of tobacco to 21 years of age in an effort to push back against smoking and vaping use among area youth, a direction that gave Town Attorney Kevin Geiger and Town Prosecuting Attorney Lois Major just three weeks to craft a proposed ordinance.
Major led the discussion, noting that the movement to raise the purchasing age to 21 is gaining traction nationwide. Massachusetts, Major told council has 263 “over 21” communities, while Colorado’s movement has grown to nine, which so far includes Edgewater, Aspen, Avon, Basalt, Carbondale, Denver and Boulder. Studies show that underage smokers, dippers and vapers tend to get their tobacco products from young people in the 18-21 age range. If the minimum age is raised to 21, there is less generational crossover and those studies report it is demonstrably more difficult to illegally obtain tobacco.
“(It’s )one of the best reasons to go ahead and raise the age limit,” Major said.
Discussion centered on enforcement and on whether holders of a retail license found in violation should also face consequences such as temporary suspension of that license.
A suspension, Major said, “would get their attention.”
But, she noted, “Without steady, consistent enforcement they (new regulations) don’t mean much.”
Also at issue, would be the need for a new licensing authority, similar to those currently in place that regulate and rule on alcohol and marijuana laws. Geiger pointed out that licensing could fall under the purview of those current authorities.
Though a draft ordinance was on the table, council refined its direction to staff to include some kind of punitive action for retail license holders, as well as stiffen the fine structures. It was agreed to schedule a work session for the Dec. 10 council meeting that would include input from officials from the schools, the county and the Town of Mountain Village, so as to present consistent new ordinances.
In other business, local short-term lodging industry employee, Peter McGinty asked council to hold off enacting the voter-approved 2.5 percent tax on short-term rentals in the Town of Telluride until Jan. 1, 2020. The lodging industry, he said, “would be severely impacted if it was to be retroactive.”
He said that asking those who’ve already booked for additional costs associated with their rental, “is not something they’re really responsive to.”
Also on the agenda, Toby Brown was recognized for his five years of service on town’s Planning & Zoning Commission. He was awarded a service medallion for his work from March 2014 through October of this year.
“You were a valued member,” Mayor Young said, “ and we thank you for your willingness to be a public servant.”