Soap Box

Yes on 1A; keep Durango beautiful
03/28/2019

To the editor,

I am voting yes on 1A on the April ballot because I love Durango, and I want visitors and locals alike to be amazed by our infrastructure as well as our natural beauty. I am voting yes because I can’t always find what I need locally, and I know that every online purchase takes a little out of our local sales tax revenue. As a matter of fact, increases in online shopping have made a serious impact on the amount of sales tax coming in to the city. I am voting yes because I know that operational costs of maintaining roads have gone up due to increased cost of materials and are not able to keep pace with our General Fund revenue. I am voting yes because I know that if the City doesn’t maintain our roads now, it will cost taxpayers millions more dollars to repair them later. I am voting yes because Durango is my home, and I want to take care of it. I hope you will join me in voting yes on 1A. It’s the right choice for Durango.

– Sarah Brown, Durango

1A won't fix poor decision making
03/28/2019

To the editor,

As a person who usually supports tax increases for valid needs, justifying them as “what we pay for civilized society,” I am reluctant to support ballot measure 1A. Road repairs and upgrades are important, but I feel that recent and planned road projects have been unwise. In 2018, a traffic light was installed at E. College and 2nd Ave. at a cost of $564,000 to accommodate construction of two new, for-profit hotels. This work also included changing E. College from four lanes to two, based on the dubious theory that making it more difficult to drive a route will reduce speed. Well, that worked, as there are often lines of cars stopped in front of my residence on E. College that makes it tough to get out of my parking area. An additional inconvenience to pedestrians is the timing and preferences of the traffic lights and walk signs that make the delay in crossing in any direction excessive, resulting in about one-third of observed pedestrians jay-walking in frustration.

The city website describes further work planned to reduce E. College lanes from E. 3rd to 8th, a five-block stretch of road that will cost $2.1 million. Over $1 million of this is city money. The rest may be grant money, but it still is tax money, whether city or state or fed, and still comes out of the pockets of taxpayers. That stretch of road is one that currently requires only minor pot-hole repairs, and spending over $2 million to eliminate some lanes while major pot holes remain throughout the city seems a bit short-sighted. I will vote no on 1A in hopes that future city councils make more sensible decisions.

– Rhys Schrock, Durango

Bring common sense to City gov't
03/28/2019

To the editor,

Deferred maintenance on federal, state and local roads has been a problem since the 1980s. Clearly, the City needs to fund road maintenance, but the City’s proposed 1-A tax is not the way to address this issue! Even with this tax the City would be unable to fund:

• Snow removal – if heavy snow occurs after snow removal funds are used.

• The homeless issue, the council’s highest priority, no money to work with the County and volunteer groups.

• Adequate water supply – If the drought continues, tapping water from Lake Nighthorse would be required to supply water to Durango. Piping and pumping stations would be needed.

The best way to get voters to approve a bond to fund a new police station or expand the sub-station – buying the  proposed property, prepare a design of the structure, then ask voters to approve a bond to construct it.

In each of these scenarios, funds from this new tax would not help. What will voters think if in two years the City asks for yet a new tax to address one of these issues? Do you want a series of proposed tax raises to address these foreseeable issues? Is this good fiscal planning?

Advocates of 1-A have exaggerated the need and urgency of dealing with this problem by approving a poorly thought-out tax. By rejecting 1-A and electing city councilors who will explore other solutions, we can do better.

Kim Baxter and Barbara Noseworthy propose to fund parks and rec facilities maintenance thru the 2015 half-cent tax for parks and rec., not the General Fund. This would free up $1.2 million immediately for road maintenance. Both would analyze the City’s budget and operations to make operations more effective and efficient. For example, the City does not plan to fund maintenance of parks and rec. facilities or City buildings. Does this make sense? Noseworthy proposes to establish a long-term financial planning committee reporting to City Council. Clearly the City needs to do this.

We are fortunate to have two well-qualified City Council candidates who will listen to the citizens and work to deal more effectively with fiscal issues, make the city more transparent and restore trust of the City’s fiscal management and planning. Please join me in voting against 1-A and electing Noseworthy and Baxter to City Council.

– John Viner, Durango

City needs to listen to citizens
03/28/2019

To the editor,

Recently, the City Council approved the formation of a long-term finance committee, based on a flawed proposal by the city manager. Thankfully, only Melissa Youssef advocated for withholding determination of the members until our new City Council is seated. More shocking is that the current council seems deaf when it comes to citizen participation in city government. Based on the November vote and listening sessions, citizens are very dissatisfied with the council and city manager regarding finances, and citizens called for a finance committee.

Without any public participation, the council determined the committee by-laws and structure. Why is this council so arrogant that it chooses to bypass citizen input in a structure/process suggested by citizens? If the committee is to have credibility and be an interface between the council and citizens regarding the city’s financial future, then listen and utilize public input in its design.

Nominating two former council members, per Le Blanc’s suggestion, is pure folly and suggests only that Le Blanc wants to protect his territory. To be successful, this committee needs people versed in a variety of areas, who can challenge long held assumptions, be skillful and think out of the box, and be credible with citizens and councilors.

I also hope with the new council, citizen participation will be once again valued, when councilors will respond to citizen emails, and where dialogue between councilors and citizens can occur. This might lessen the mistrust citizens have for the council and city management.

– Pete Johnson, Durango

1A represents long-term planning
03/28/2019

To the editor,

So now the City has proposed a new 1⁄2 cent tax for 10 years. Why? With sales tax revenue threatened by increasing online sales, decreasing oil & gas tax revenue, increasing construction costs, and higher minimum wages, the City needs to raise money to adequately maintain and repair the streets of Durango. This will save the citizens millions of dollars over time. The tax will be used for specific projects that the City has prioritized based on paving assessments and other metrics. This is not some haphazard plan, but one based on careful, long-term planning. Please visit the www.A1durango.com website for answers to many of the questions and criticisms that have been raised.

As to raiding the 2015 recreation tax funding (approved by 70 percent), this would require a vote of the citizens and also be detrimental to our large recreation economy, negatively impact the health of our community, and damage our local culture and reputation. Rarely mentioned or discussed are the myriad programs and activities that the recreation department provides for the children of our working parents such as Gametime, Lego building, chess club, kids club, etc. These provide an affordable, safe, healthy, educational space after school, during school vacations and over the summer for the children of Durango that allows their parents to work in our community.

Fifty cents for every $100 is money well spent to maintain our streets. I urge all residents to go to www.A1durango.com for more information and to vote YES on 1A!

– Sandy Burke, Durango