Last week, we weighed in on speculation that Durango city leaders would send another tax increase to the ballot, this time in April (“Don’t even: Lessons need to be learned from 2A defeat,” Jan. 17).
“We are not convinced that the city has all the revenue it needs if it would just institute a pay freeze or shift funding from parks or find a more cost-efficient way to house police headquarters,” we said, “although we do think 2A’s failure should make councilors give these and other things a long look before they put another tax on the ballot, even one that is scaled back.”
That was then.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved a question for April’s ballot, proposing a half-cent sales tax hike “to pay for the construction, operation and maintenance of streets, alleys, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and related street improvements” (“Durango voters to decide tax question in April,” Jan. 22).
OK. We are willing to be convinced. Fresh start. Open minds.
By the city’s calculation, the increase will raise a maximum of $47 million over 10 years, and just from sales tax, unlike its much more ambitious proposal last November.
And the tax increase will be dedicated just to the area of roads. Also good.
We say “area of roads” because the definition is still a little elastic.
Are we being asked to pay for the construction of new bike lanes? That’s not clear. Are we being asked to pay for the construction of roads that are new altogether, in new places, as opposed to what the city says is needed maintenance of existing roads? Also unclear.
Are we being asked to pay for the construction of new footpaths, too? We would not necessarily object, but first we need to see a firm definition and know that the mayor, councilors and the city manager will be bound by it.
We are willing to take their words for that – this is our elected government, after all – but we are asking for precise definitions for how our money and visitors’ money will and will not be spent. All voters of good will are owed no less.
More than that, with the short time available until the election, we want to see the city mount a positive initiative to sell a proposition that four of five councilors approved.
The city got a great deal of push-back leading up to its failed November tax question, in our pages and elsewhere. Some of that is bound to recur. There are citizens who do not trust their government to manage their money, along with perennial naysayers. We are more in the Ronald Reagan “trust but verify” camp.
We think it is one of the primary duties of leaders, to build trust in government wherever it can be built. So we expect the mayor and councilors to give a respectful hearing to their critics.
We want them to go before the voters with their case for what we will get in return for another pinch at the cash register every time we shop. We want them to acknowledge that this adds up, especially for those who are struggling to hang on in Durango.
We want them to show how some road improvements can benefit everyone.
We want them to rebuild trust after their November debacle. We think it can be done. We think it should be done.
Now is when the real work begins.