During my term on the City Council, I have learned the reason the wheels of government turn slowly is so many of them are turning at once. I hope this column, the first of a monthly series, will convey to the community a deeper understanding of the many facets of our city government.
Following last year’s election, the new City Council held a retreat to brainstorm our collective vision and goals for the city. Additional staff input and the creative organization of many disparate ideas by the city manager’s staff resulted in a coherent set of four goals (see: www.durangogov.org/CityCouncil):
Promote community sustainability;
Foster civic engagement and democracy;
Demonstrate government performance; and
Envision Durango’s sense of place.
With these goals come 12 associated objectives and many prospective council actions. Each action includes identified council roles, level of priority, an indication of capital-improvement implications and implementation timeline.
In the limited space available here, I will focus primarily on the objectives encompassing the 19 action items identified for the 2013-2014 City Council year:
Fiscal resilience. The council has adopted a sustainable budget for 2014, which includes merging the parking and transit funds into a single transportation fund – in part to maintain free Main Avenue trolley service. With the county commissioners, we began to review the joint sales tax fund. This conversation will continue in 2014, including consideration of growing demands for library and senior services and the need to expand the airport terminal. The council also allocated funds for a study of utility rates and fees needed to maintain and improve our water and sewer infrastructure.
Environmental safety and resource stewardship. The city collaborated in a critically important effort to reorganize fire and emergency services under the now-funded Durango Fire Protection District. Consistent with a commitment in the franchise agreement approved in 2012, La Plata Electric Association has implemented a policy to permit remote net metering of solar gardens. On the council agenda for 2014 are: adoption of updated International Building Codes, updating the city’s Sustainability Action Plan and addressing the implementation of the 2011 community Climate and Energy Action Plan. The council also passed an ordinance to reduce waste though a fee on grocery checkout bags, but this was rejected by the voters.
Transparent government. The city successfully completed negotiation of a new cable television franchise agreement. A public process to optimize use of Animas River put-ins will continue in 2014 as part of developing designs for the Oxbow Park and Preserve (see below) and upgraded facilities at the 33rd Street and 29th Street put-ins.
City services. Objectives met this year include installation of new parking meters as part of a comprehensive integrated Parking Management Plan, development of a program to calibrate water meters and initiation of electronic billing and expansion of online bill payment services. A critical unanticipated priority was appointment of Dirk Nelson to succeed City Attorney David Smith, who is retiring in April after 37 years of outstanding service.
Character districts. As the result of an extensive collaborative process with La Posta Road residents and businesses and La Plata County, the City Council adopted the La Posta Road Area Plan. An additional effort – preparation of a management plan for the Oxbow Park and Preserve – has had extensive joint review by the Parks & Recreation Commission and the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board; it will come to the City Council during the first half of 2014. Another action – establishment of a character district for Three Springs – awaits further developments. A step in this direction is receipt by the city and county of a $4 million grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation for the extension of Wilson Gulch Road from Mercy Regional Medical Center to the new intersection with U.S. Highway 160 East (“the Bridge to the Future”). Construction may begin in mid-2014.
Land use planning. The council will fulfill a critical priority this spring when it adopts the new Land Use and Development Code. We also aim to fulfill another by adopting a new intergovernmental agreement with La Plata County to manage planning just beyond the city limits.
Community identity. Under this goal is another item on the council’s agenda for the spring – that is, finalizing regulations for recreational marijuana.
This brief summary addresses only seven of the 12 objectives and a fraction of all the targeted actions. I urge citizens to review the rest and to engage the council as we move forward to forge Durango’s bright future.
Dick White is the mayor of Durango, a position rotating among members of the City Council. He was elected to the City Council in 2011 and will serve as mayor until April 15, when he will be succeeded by now-Mayor Pro Tem Sweetie Marbury. Reach him at DickWhite@DurangoGov.org.