Three of the four candidates seeking election to Durango City Council said Thursday they want to bring jobs to the city, but they disagreed about the best way to do it.
About 80 people listened to and asked questions of Kim Baxter, Barbara Noseworthy and Marcos Wisner at the Durango Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues candidates forum, the first occasion in which candidates were gathered in one spot to take questions and share platforms. Candidate Jamie McMillan did not attend the forum and could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Candidates were asked about their stances on many issues facing the city, including the city’s role in economic development and how the city should manage its finances. Each candidate promised a more prosperous Durango, but their strategies varied.
Candidates were asked whose responsibility it is to install infrastructure for new businesses.
Baxter said the city needs to look at the U.S. Highway 160 corridor in the Grandview area as a possible location for a new business park. To encourage that kind of growth, the city should investigate what municipal services will be needed.
Wisner proposed having the city purchase property and lease it to business owners. Property is one of the wisest investments a business can make, he said, so why wouldn’t the city take an opportunity to invest in a revenue-generating asset, he asked.
Noseworthy said public-private partnerships can bring the Animas Air Park up to infrastructure standards – paving roads there to accommodate the private business – and establish infrastructure for a second business park in the Grandview area.
The City of Durango has an election coming up on April 2nd. Watch this video to get all the details of what's on the ballot! https://t.co/NjnmxxUx6N— City of Durango (@CityofDurango) February 26, 2019
Candidates were asked about their position on ballot question 1A, which would raise sales tax by a half cent to pay for the construction, operation and maintenance of streets, alleys, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and related street improvements. While each agreed the city needs to pursue financial sustainability, candidates differed in their strategies to achieve a balanced budget.
Baxter said there are other alternatives to fixing the city’s financial problems that don’t involve raising the cost of living for people already struggling financially. The city should redirect general fund revenues going to the Parks and Recreation Department to help pay for street improvements. That would give the city a couple of years to come up with a more robust and comprehensive plan to address city finances, she said.
Noseworthy said she does not support the tax increase. The city should instead look at the budget to determine what is needed versus what is wanted. She also suggested repurposing general funds currently going to parks and recreation to be used on streets.
Wisner said he supports the tax increase: “We’re at the point where we have to vote YES.” If 1A doesn’t pass, the city will need to act “smart and quickly” to cut programs, stop projects or reappropriate money to ensure city streets don’t crumble, he said.
Amanda Erickson, executive director of the Durango Area Association of Realtors and president of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, said the forum gave her a good perspective on each candidate’s experience level.
Chuck Fredrick, a certified public accountant with FredrickZink & Associates, said the forum provided a good opportunity to hear from candidates.
“I was impressed with all three candidates,” Fredrick said. “I didn’t feel there was somebody I wouldn’t vote for.”
The election for City Council will be held April 2.