City acts like kid in a candy store

To the editor,

City officials have abdicated their obligation to the taxpayers of Durango to be fiscally responsible stewards of public monies and take care of the basic needs of our community. After increasing our water and sewer rates to some of the highest in Colorado, if not the nation, the message now is that if we don’t pass the 1A sales tax increase they will simply quit maintaining our streets.

Seriously? Of course we want our streets maintained! City officials are trying to turn this vote into a referendum on street maintenance just like they tried to turn last November’s vote on ballot issue 2A into a referendum on whether you supported the police department or not. Speaking of which, why are our men and women in blue who put their lives on the line for us now being left out in the cold? Is filling potholes more important than a new police station?

We expect our elected officials and city employees to act like responsible adults and live within the budget they have available just like we have to do at home. But it seems that most city projects come in at a much higher cost than anticipated. The city has $12 million to build less than a mile of trail to Oxbow Preserve including a $3.4 million bridge over 32nd Street, but we don’t have any money for the police department? Seriously, who is making these decisions and are they in the best interest of the whole community?

The city manager prioritizes lawn mowing over snow removal in the central business district. Again, seriously? This isn’t just a budget issue, it is also a public safety issue. To say that you’ve run out of money for snow removal for the cash cow downtown business district would be like the firefighters on the 416 Fire last summer saying halfway through the fire fight that we’re sorry,  but we went over budget so we’re packing up and we’re out of here – good luck!

On the April ballot, the city could have at least put the 2005 1⁄4 cent sales tax for open space up to a vote for reallocation to infrastructure to show taxpayers that they are serious about balancing all of the needs of our community while striving to live within their $92 million per year budget.

I love open space but how much more do we need especially if Durango taxpayers are paying for this when there are more pressing needs in our community? We already have the 1.7 million acre San Juan National Forest as well as BLM land like Animas Mountain, and Bodo and Perins Peak state wildlife areas, abundant undeveloped Southern Ute Indian Tribal lands, Horse Gulch, Overend and Dalla mountain parks, and Ewing Mesa.

I believe Barb Bell summed up the sentiment of a lot of Durango voters in her Dec. 8, 2018 op-ed in the Durango Herald regarding the failure of ballot issue 2A last November:

“Why, when General Fund revenue has increased by over $12 million from 2012 to 2019, wasn’t someone planning and saving for needed infrastructure? What kind of management team constantly overlooks the need to prepare for a new sewer plant, a new police station, road maintenance and water line maintenance? These are easily anticipated expenses. It is your job to hire a qualified manager and to oversee the financial well-being of the city. City Council approved annual budgets, determined priorities, and has set this wicked problem in motion.”

Bell personally found it distressing that in 2015, City Council encouraged the extension of the Parks and Rec sales tax while choosing not to share information about the pending increase in water/sewer/recycling and construction of a new sewer plant. People are feeling blindsided and misled she said.

The City is acting like a big-eyed kid in the candy store who can’t believe that his parents won’t give him any more money to buy candy because he needs new shoes to walk to school but he keeps crying for more candy anyway! It is time for our city officials to grow up, act like the responsible adults we thought we elected, and be accountable stewards of taxpayer money rather than always crying for more!

Please Vote NO on ballot issue 1A.

– David McHenry, United for Durango’s Future, Durango