We were pleased as punch to see City Council moving ahead Tuesday with the creation of a board to oversee the way money will be spent from the April sales tax hike.
Regular readers may recall this was a fraught subject four months ago. We saw sound arguments for raising the half-cent revenue, to be used for roads repair and maintenance, and we heard from many well-informed readers and watchers of city government who feared the city would take the money and run, basically.
They wanted more accountability.
Tax proponents said that would come from an advisory board.
That helped make us a “yes” vote. We said then, “It is high time to build consensus about just what an even brighter tomorrow resembles.”
We think council did that at its Tuesday work session. It is just a first half-step, yet it is good to see council moving.
City staff recommended the existing utilities commission be enhanced to encompass all infrastructure spending, including roads. This will get the road spending oversight up to speed more quickly than creating another board, and council concurred.
Council could formally approve the revamped commission at its meeting in early September.
The ballot language voters approved said proposed expenditures would first be submitted “to a citizen advisory board.” Some voters may have taken that to be a promise to create a new board, although that is not what it said.
Some Durangoans may still think someone is trying to pull a fast one, so great is their mistrust of local government, which is unfortunate. And, as far as we can see, untrue.
The tax increase is expected to raise up to $47 million over 10 years. Even in this age of multi-billionaires (and malefactors of great wealth), that is real money for our city that could be used to build our brighter tomorrow from the ground up.
At the same time, council has two new members who did not support the tax increase and who are well situated to understand the suspicion of government now from the inside out.
One is Kim Baxter, who championed the revamped commission plan. The other is Barbara Noseworthy, who said Tuesday the commission should be expanded to include someone with a background in finance; that seems sound to us. Both councilors are so far fulfilling their implicit campaign pledges to make sure city government remains transparent and accountable to everyone.
We hope council and its commissions continue down this road.
Once city government has submitted planned roads expenditures to the commission for review, we would like to hear and see that commission’s work. We want the people to see how this is or is not working. We want council to keep building these glass bridges and building trust, because there are so many things swirling around us in the nation, the world and the news these days that feed fear and suspicion, and that divide us.
The way our beloved little city goes about its work need not be one of them.
And the way City Council is proceeding bespeaks good faith.