Small business is going to drive the city of Durango into the future, and City Council candidate Marcos Wisner thinks cutting regulations is the way to encourage it.
Wisner, a 31-year-old small-business owner and Durango native, said his ultimate goal on City Council would be to trash the land-use development code and write a new one that is more progressive and better serves residents and their expectations about how the city should grow.
“Something I’d like to do is open up and ease some of the red tape that’s been put on entry-level and small businesses,” Wisner said. “The land development code, and requirements on that, protects the big things; it really is hard to be the new kid on the block.”
Wisner grew up in Durango, spent eight years traveling, learning and working as a chef, then moved back to Southwest Colorado to get back to his roots and start his own business. His first endeavor was a food truck; now, he’s co-owner of Ernie’s 11th Street Station.
Businesses like his are the lifeblood of the city, he said, and encouraging more small businesses is the best way for the city to ease its financial pinch, Wisner said.
In November, the city tried to pass a sales and property tax increase to pay for streets, sidewalks, law enforcement and other city buildings that failed by more than 20 percent.
The problem was that city councilors lumped too much together, Wisner said, and they didn’t do enough to market the tax and make it palatable for voters. He supports ballot measure 1A, which if approved by voters in April, would raise sales taxes by 0.5 percent. But Wisner said that doesn’t go far enough. The city needs to hold events and encourage small business downtown to make up for what it currently lacks.
“Provide a better platform, promote locals to go out with events, engage in downtown activity more often, create events that would create a whole month of healthy business,” Wisner said of the city’s role in getting itself out of a financial slump.
It should be up to nonprofits and faith-based organizations to come up with permanent shelter for people experiencing homelessness, not the city, Wisner said. Durango should designate an area somewhere in the city where people can go and sleep, with some kind of law enforcement to keep order, he said.
People camping there should be required to take down their tents during the day, Wisner said. He doesn’t want to make it too comfortable or too easy – within the limits of the Constitution – to sleep on public property.
“I’m not trying to say we should be so hard on them. At the same point, I do think some of these people need checks and balances in the community,” Wisner said. “I think it would be a city-controlled program, is how I envision it.”
Cutting land-use regulations would also encourage more affordable housing, he said. And a tax on second homes, if the council could make it happen, would be nice too, Wisner said.