When the newly constituted Durango City Council takes over April 16, it will face a series of ongoing and developing issues. Few are new or surprising, while several could allow for innovation. All are worthy of the council’s attention.
Fixing or maintaining the city’s basic infrastructure is something the council cannot avoid. Potholes are an irritant that focuses voters on the city in a way good-government types only wish they could.
Sewers and sewage treatment plants, however, are the kind of thing most people rarely consider – until there is a problem and by then it is too late. The only effective way to deal with infrastructure of that sort is to act before the situation becomes critical.
With something as potentially problematic as sewers, that means now. But remember the potholes, too.
Relations between the city and La Plata County have been good in recent years. But with two new city councilors and two recently elected commissioners, there could be an opportunity to take that relationship to a new level.
That could be particularly important as the city revises its Land Use and Development Code and the county revisits its comprehensive plan in a reawakening real estate market. In areas such as Grandview and along La Posta Road friendly cooperation at all levels could make all the difference.
Parking is a perpetual issue. But with new blood on the council, now might be the time to point out that there are more points of view worth considering than just those of downtown businesses and officials focused on the city’s coffers.
Little things help set the tone for more important questions and the idea that the city wants to squeeze every cent out of shoppers and visitors is not necessarily the image Durango needs. Nor is it fair to dismiss nearby neighborhoods’ parking concerns.
In many ways, the City Council should look beyond downtown. The Central Business District is crucial, of course, but there is also more to Durango. North Main Avenue, in particular, is sorely in need of attention. Much of the area is ripe for redevelopment and for new sidewalks. In many cases, it might make more sense for retail and office space than Bodo Park.
North Main poses neither threat nor competition to downtown, but could become an equally vibrant part of the community in a wholly different way. A little encouragement might help.
The council should also come to a conclusion about Lake Nighthorse. A council vote to kick it back to the state to run it as a state park could be defended. State revenues are better than in recent years and although close to town, the reservoir’s location suggests it should be a state park.
But if that is not in the cards, the city should work with the other agencies involved to let residents play in the lake. There is no need to first develop it all into what officials might like it to look like eventually.
And in all things the new council should avoid being sucked in by fads or special-interest groups. That there are bears in Colorado is neither news nor a crisis. Our parks are not being slathered with DDT or Agent Orange and do not need to be made safe for mosquitoes. And if plastic bags are such a problem, why not find a way to let us recycle them?
With the economy reviving and so many challenging issues before it, the next few years could be an exciting time to be on the City Council. To the new members, welcome.
Oh, and did we mention potholes?