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The first half of the February 6 regular meeting of the Salida City Council, which lasted a good four and a half hours, was dominated by citizen comments on topics ranging from the F Street closure/opening debate to the continued presence of gun-toting Danny Taylor on F Street and Harald Kasper on the SCC, to parking and Short-Term Rentals (STRs).

A range of comments occurred during the citizen comment portion of the meeting and some came later during the two public hearings scheduled for Ordinances 2024-02 and 2024-03.

Citizen comment begin after the SCC moved to combine and approve the consent agenda. Thirty people, according to Mayor Dan Shore, were signed up for the citizen comment period.

Shore noted before the comment portion started that Council member Suzanne Fontana, who was joining the meeting remotely, had been in a bad ski accident and is currently recovering from surgery. He also reminded the public attending of the three-minute limit on comments, and said that the Council’s usual practice of reflective listening would be waived for the evening, in the interests of time.

Several veterans, including Dennis Hunter, argued for the re-opening of F Street to vehicular traffic for the specific purpose of allowing parades to resume, including the Fourth of July and Memorial Day parades, which feature a strong veterans’ presence.

“I love a parade,” said Leslie Jorgensen, F Street gallery owner: “I’m not sure F Street is the only street we need a parade on. I support the F Street closure…[there are] easily 50 signatures collected from business owners who want to keep the F Street closure. We have an issue downtown with a man with a gun. Mr. [Danny] Taylor’s speech has been bullying with bullhorns and black flags. Luckily we have a statute about disorderly conduct [C.R.S. 18-9-106]– we should consider enforcing it.”

Ron Salerno also expressed concerns about Taylor’s particular forms of expression, including his AR-15 and black flag: “I think that’s a message of hate and I think we need to take it seriously – and I don’t want to see it”.

Other F Street business owners concurred, with one saying: “I had people say they will never come back because of [Taylor] – the number one word I hear from people is ‘intimidation’.”

Harry Hansen of Riveting Experiences, asked the SCC: “As a business owner I am told by my customers that they won’t come back [because of Taylor] – Council, is this what you want to be the face of Salida?”

No recent SCC public comment period has gone by without hearing from Danny Taylor himself. In this session, he denied that he “had ever intimidated anyone”, and then after decrying a description of himself as a “hostage taker,” (since he “had no demands”),  promptly demanded a hostage as a condition of taking his guns and flags back to Highway 50. He said he would do so if Harald Kasper resigned. (Whether he plans to do so now that Kasper has, in fact, resigned remains to be seen.)

Jane Templeton, former Councilwoman for Ward 1 in Salida, CO (Photo by Taylor Sumners)

Former SCC member Jane Templeton, among others, came to Kasper’s defense, enumerating his qualities and achievements as a Council member.

“His constituents are lucky to have him,” she concluded. “I am bewildered by the same people who criticize him for temporarily moving outside city limits who were OK with others who did the same in other councils.” A round of applause from the public accompanied Templeton’s comments.

“I am super disappointed in you guys asking [Kasper] to step down,” said  Melanie Critelli, wife of Mayor Pro-Tem Justin Critelli: “After six years of service, you are letting a few loud voices tell you to get rid of him.”

Other commenters addressed two issues relating to the F Street closure. T.W. “Chief” Winston, owner of the Hi Side! Bar & Grill on First Street, addressed the fact that it would mean a loss of easy downtown parking access for older residents and the mobility-impaired, a point which Kay Duffy reiterated, saying that F Street should stay open until mobility/handicapped access issues get addressed.

After reading a Proclamation declaring February to be Black History Month, Shore opened the public hearing on Ordinance 2024-02, authorizing the city to enter into an agreement for a city parking plan with Interstate Parking Management (IP).