Boarding my flight, a man with kind eyes settled in next to me and we struck up a friendly conversation. I learned he immigrated to the U.S. from India 20 years ago. When I mentioned my mayoral role as the purpose of my visit, his ears perked up and he asked my opinion about the state of politics. I let out a quiet sigh.
As the conversation progressed, I heard optimism in his voice, especially as he talked about his opportunities in this country and those of his 15-year-old daughter who challenges his paradigms, his son who just graduated from college and myriad opportunities that now lay before them.
He is grateful for his choice to call this country home and, while we may feel at times we are surrounded by divisiveness and animus, there are many that choose to see the beauty and positivity around them.
He reminded me that rarely can we change others, but we can change our perspectives on things, share ideas, and respect and treat one another with simple kindness. The more we are able to do so, the better we can rise above the fray and appreciate what we often take for granted: like places where a woman wouldn’t be able to travel by herself, let alone serve in public office, places where political opinions must be whispered or places torn apart by war and famine.
We have the ability today to grab coffee with a friend, appreciate our beautiful, natural surroundings and get involved in our community. Through our attitudes and ideals, we shape our nation.
I have just spent the better part of a week in Washington, D.C., marveling at the founding of this nation, learning and sharing ideas with municipalities from one coast to the other and processing my last eight years serving on Durango’s City Council.
For these past eight years, I have tried to do my best, studying the information, listening to opinions, working toward compromise and making decisions that I feel are the best for our community. I know that not everyone has agreed with every decision. That said, I want you to know that your local elected officials are here listening to you, working for you and making every effort to represent our democracy. We are not career politicians; we are community members doing our best on a largely volunteer basis, and I think we can be proud of what we have accomplished.
Since 2009, we have weathered a recession and emerged as a stronger community. We have acquired hundreds of acres of open space to expand our trail network, enhance our outdoor experience and further our connections with Trails 2000.
We have a robust public-private economic development alliance with the vision of La Plata County as the premiere Rocky Mountain destination to grow a business, while enjoying a superior quality of life.
We now have a single-stream recycling program with more than 80 percent of households participating. Medical and recreational marijuana policies took shape. Our 3 percent cap on vacation rentals is a model policy to help balance tourism and housing stock. We have a beautiful library, bustling recreation center and a river trail that stretches seven miles through town with additions to come.
Accessory dwelling units are now permitted in three of Durango’s established neighborhoods, with opportunity to expand the program further. Our Mayor’s Youth Engagement program is in its seventh year, with participation from an impressive next generation of community leaders. The downtown welcome center is in its fifth year, hosting more than 100,000 visitors annually. Our public art collection has grown substantially, and we have strengthened partnerships with the county, Fort Lewis College and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
We’ve enhanced our transit system and multimodel opportunities, as well as reconstructed Florida Road as a complete street with sidewalk, bike lanes and landscape medians. We’ve grown our parks and invested in our water and wastewater infrastructure. Our focus continues on creating housing opportunities, addressing homelessness, establishing character districts to maintain our sense of identity and adopting the 2017 Comprehensive Plan.
Credit is due to dedicated city staff, volunteer board members, many long hours, and citizen engagement. It truly is your city, and it is up to you to help contribute to its full potential now and into the future.
Christina Rinderle has served two four-year terms on Durango City Council and twice as mayor, a position rotating among councilors. She will be succeeded later this month by now-Mayor Pro Tem Dick White.