Time Flies!

One year.

365 days.

8760 hours.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

                                               -Nathaniel Hawthorne

One year ago, April 7, I was honTime Fliesored to be elected as the second At-Large City Council member for the City of Glenwood Springs.This anniversary, along with other prompts have caused me to reflect on this year, and the circumstances leading to my decision to run for office. In many ways, this year has flown by.  In other respects, it seems like a slow slog through knee deep mud.

Three words were prevalent in my campaign.

STRONG.  CONNECTED. COMMUNITY.

To me these words were more than an empty slogan. Although they were words that could be strung together in one sentence, they were meant to stand alone. Each word has meaning for me. They relay my values and what I hope I have brought to this position.  In looking over what I hope to accomplish while in office, words that were written as I made my decision to run, I see that some things are happening, but there is much more yet to be done.

In this series I will review some council accomplishments as well as some things yet to do.

STRONG

STRONG, RESILIENT ECONOMY AND A FISCALLY SOUND MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT

Development Code Re-write: Among my goals in this area was a revision of the city’s development code. The need for this became readily apparent while I sat on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Most land use applications that came before the commission had at least six variance requests and some came with many, many more.Yard_sign The lack of new “attainable” housing units, is a perfect example of why not only the code but the process needed to change. This is currently underway.

City Financial Backbone: The City has been using software from 1987, with the last upgrade done in 2003.  The issues included lack of integration, resulting in hours of manual entry on the part of staff. Time and attendance reporting are not automated or integrated, which requires about 70 hours of time per month. The public cannot pay for utilities, park fees, building permits, etc., on line. Reporting is slow and requires extensive staff time. We are currently underway with a new financial backbone system and it will be implemented in phases over the next two years.

Budget Process: Accountability and transparency are key in this area. Council must be good stewards of the citizen’s funds. As council liaison to the Financial Advisory Board, I have advocated for more involvement  by this group of financially astute individuals in the city’s budget process. Last year was spent observing the current process and the board is in the process of making recommendations to City Council on changes that could be made. Additionally, with the help of Interim City Manager Drew Gorgey, this board is revamping the city’s discretionary and tourism grant process to provide clearer direction and more accountability.

STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

Local and Regional Partnerships: Building these relationships will enable us to collectively solve regional issues. This council and Garfield County have a good working relationship — even if we don’t always agree. Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) has also been a great partner in our work to obtain a permanent 8th Street Connection and resolving some issues for residents in the Cole Subdivision. I sit as an alternate on the RFTA Board.

Bridge Move

Pedestrian Bridge Move

I have met with fellow council members from Carbondale and Rifle to discuss issues in our communities. The City’s relationship with CDOT has been one of cooperation. We are facing a long, difficult construction period and we must maintain a good working connection with CDOT and their contractors.

The city is continuing to work closely with the Roaring Fork School District on various school projects, including a land swap which enabled Glenwood Elementary to remain a central fixture in our core. Both city and RFSD are working to resolve an issue with the designated park lands and finalize the swap.

Additionally we have been working with a group that is interested in seeing a Detox facility built in or near Glenwood. Players include Valley View Hospital, Grand River Hospital, Garfield County, Mind Springs Health, law enforcement agencies from Rifle to Carbondale. Sadly it appears that this public/private partnership is in need of a champion to carry this forward. The city is currently at capacity, as I imagine are other entities. Any volunteers?

I am participating in Garfield County’s Economic Development Partners, Club 20 and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments as well as many Department of Local Affairs and Colorado Municipal League events.

Partners4Glenwood (P4G) is another group designed to leverage local knowledge and talent to bring a fresh approach to issues impacting the city and to lend a hand when possible.

STRONG DIRECTION

City Hall is in a transition period, which is not easy. It is not easy for staff, department heads, the public or council. City Council made some major changes in administration this year, which was not without pain. When you are dealing with real people, and making major changes it is extremely difficult. We currently have an Interim City Manager, Drew Gorgey, who is doing a great job and moving some key initiatives along. City Council is in the process of interviews for a permanent manager and we hope to have that accomplished by the end of June.

Economic Development

While we have started the ball rolling, there is still much to be done in this area. Glenwood needs to continue working to keep our local businesses thriving and those, like Meier Skis, in town. According to Place Value, a report done by the people I now work with, Community Builders, there are new trends in economic development. It is no longer about seeking and courting the big dogs. Instead it is more about Economic Gardening and knowledge based jobs. It is about training people to do the jobs that need to be done. It is about the revitalization of downtowns, the core of the city.It is about making places that people want to live and work. We know the major problem that faces many of our workers  — housing. We must continue to work to increase the amount of attainable housing for our citizens

Stay tuned for CONNECTED & COMMUNITY and thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving you.

Biting my tongue . . . or not

Blogging and writing has been more difficult these last 10 months. It is not because I have nothing to say. I actually do.  I realize that not everyone agrees with me and that is ok. But I find myself mulling over the word decorum – behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety.  I find myself walking a very thin line.  So mostly I find I bite my tongue and stay away from my computer.  For me this is painful.   

The reason for my discomfort and disconnect is simple.  I was elected to a local office. So now, rather than speaking my mind, I am trying to listen more and search for the common ground.  I now represent more than my one opinion. Sadly, sometimes I fail miserably.  But I continue to try to maintain a certain decorum fitting of one holding an elected office. 

More frequently I find myself trying to choose my words, and explain my position so carefully that I get lost in the weeds and I fail to make my position clear. I rarely put words down on paper — or in the computer — because, quite frankly, you never know where they will end up and how they may be interpreted.

While I intend to maintain decorum and seek common ground, I find I must continue to write . . . to clarify to me, my position. I need to write both sides of a situation, to more fully understand it. I need to explore the issues and my thoughts.  It will benefit me and those I serve. Some will end up here.  Some will remain on my laptop.

Right now, three issues jump to the forefront.

Grand Ave Bridge (still)

First is the ever-present Grand Avenue Bridge. I will not belabor the point, but I, like many others, are looking forward to the possibilities a new bridge will bring, rather than looking backwards at what Glenwood was, 20, 30 or 50 years ago. I am amazed that after as long as we have been cussing and discussing this bridge that so many people don’t understand the need and don’t see the potential benefit. Yes, it will be painful. During the height of construction and closure, my 7 minute commute will likely be five times that — if I drive.  If I am practicing what I am preaching, I’d better be walking, biking or on the bus. But more than that, I need to find ways to get others out of their cars and using alternative transportation.

Snow Removal

sidewalk parking garage

Courtesy of the Glenwood Post Independent

The second deals with snow and the fact that it is still around on many of our streets, trails and sidewalks. And another storm is looming. This is when exploring both sides of the issue helps — just a little.

Viewpoint one: There is still a lot of snow on the city streets and it has been a few days since the heaviest snowfall. I don’t like it. But what I like even less is that we  have such a hard time properly clearing sidewalks and trails. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist (no laughing, please) and so it bothers me to see sidewalks that have a single shovel width haphazardly scooped, or worse yet, no attempt made. In my opinion, if it is a city code that sidewalks be cleared within 24 hours, then  they should be cleared and made safe and easily passable for anyone. I would ask that the city set the example.

This was discussed by council last week and we requested that city staff provide the protocol for clearing streets.  Public Works Director Robin Millyard provided the following Information:

As follows is a listing in order of priority for snow plowing of City of Glenwood Springs’ streets.

A. Emergency routes, school bus routes, and main traffic areas such as Alternate Route – Midland Avenue to Glenwood Park, South Grand Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Blake Avenue and Donegan Road.

B. Downtown Commercial areas.

C. Steep streets such as Cedar Crest area, Vista Drive, Sunny Acres, Traver Trail, the North Glenwood area, the Red Mountain area, and steep streets East of Grand Avenue.

D. All remaining streets in low and/or flat areas.

Grand Avenue and U. S. Highway 6 are plowed by the Colorado State Highway Department.

Robin Millyard asked that if you have question to call Rick Turner, Streets Superintendent at 970-384-6379

I am still awaiting information from the Parks Department on trails and sidewalks.

Viewpoint two:  Within the city limits of Glenwood Springs there are 84.04 “Lane Miles” of streets that must be cleared.  There are also a significant amount of sidewalks and trails. It should be noted that clearing much of the sidewalks within the city is the responsibility of adjacent residence or business.  It is the city’s responsibility to clear snow around parks, parking garages, city buildings and city trails.  Like it or not, the city has a limited budget and a finite number of staff to carry out those duties. If money and resources are put into plowing and shoveling, it is likely that some other program will be reduced.

Hot Springs Pool Outflow Pipe Relocation

Glenwood Hot Pots

Photo Courtesy of Glenwood Post Independent, John Stroud

The third is more of a comment. I believe the city made the right decision on the location of the Glenwood Hot Springs outflow pipe for a number of reasons:

The change in the floodplain mapping has created a hardship for one of Glenwood’s largest tourist attractions.

The move farther downstream mitigates some of the flood potential and the Glenwood Hot Springs liability

The pipes (the pool outflow and stormwater drainage) would have been moved by CDOT anyway with the construction

The Hot Springs is paying to have them taken farther downstream to a more optimal location.

The location to which CDOT would have moved the pipes would have meant a greater likelihood of future hot pots and the outflow pipe would not have been buried

The outflow pipe (not the stormwater pipe) will be four feet below the low water like in faster flowing water ensuring better mixing.  The flow rate of the river will help prevent random hot pots from cropping up.

The Hot Springs intends to work with the city in making some shoreline improvements while they are in the area, hopefully moving a shoreline restoration project in that area along.

Until next time, I remain your committed public servant!

Budget Time & Councilor Monthly Update

 

Budget Time & Monthly Update!

I am five months into my four-year term of serving you as Councilor-at-large on Glenwood Springs City Council. It is a privilege to be a part of such a great city and I am honored to work with other city council members, city staff, local business and citizens to help guide Glenwood through the next three and a half years.  It is likely to be some of the best times that Glenwood has seen, as well as some of the most difficult.

One of my election promises was better communication and I have not been as good at that as I had hoped.  So, to that end, as a start I plan to provide a monthly update that will include a brief description of meetings and events I have attended as well as a bit about one or more city departments.  Sometimes it may seem like nothing is happening and things do move more slowly than we all would like. But picture a duck on the Colorado River.  On the top, the duck looks calm and seems to be floating along, but below the surface, that duck’s feet are paddling like crazy.  So goes it with city hall.

Finance Department

Charles Kelty

Charles Kelty, Finance Director

 

Since we are deep into budget season, the first department I would like to highlight is the Finance Department, headed by Charles Kelty. Charles took over the reins from Mike Harman who retired earlier this year after 24 years as the Finance Director. Charles spent nine years as the finance director in Rifle and had a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Finance handles all of the city’s payroll, utility billing, tax administration, purchasing and building maintenance as well as making sure the city’s bills are paid and collecting funds owed to the city.

Staff includes Yvette Gustad, Assistant Finance Director; Ricky Smith, Purchasing Agent; Karen Bender, Janice Palacio, Linda Millyard and Candie Vandermark, all Senior Accounting Techs and Martha Gonzales and Elida Trujillo Solano the ladies who keep city hall sparkling clean. When you come to pay your utility bills or pick up a bus pass, these are the staff you see and are often the main contact for people dealing with city hall.

Taking the city through the budget process is no easy task and involves hours of the finance department’s time as well as a great deal of time from City Manager Jeff Hecksel and all department supervisors. Beginning Sept 29, the city will begin holding meetings with City Council, the Financial Advisory Board, and department heads to review the proposed budget, line by line. A schedule of these meetings is provided below. These are public meetings and the public is encouraged to attend.  A preliminary draft budget should be available on the City’s website when the budget work sessions begin.

Budget Work Session Schedule:

Sept 29 – 5pm -7 pm

Oct 8 – Special Meeting, DDA & Budget 6pm-9pm

Oct 15 – 4pm – 6pm

Oct 20 – Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Oct 29 – Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Nov 5 – if needed

All budget work sessions will be held in council chambers at city hall.

 

Monthly Update – meetings and events I attended

Grand Ave Bridge:  Met with representatives from Glenwood Springs Chamber, CDOT, DDA and city staff to discuss public information plans for the Grand Avenue Bridge Project August 27 2015.

Transportation Commission Sept 1, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this commission.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included the Blake Avenue Gate between Walmart and the RFTA BRT station on 27th as well as traffic calming measures on the residential streets in the downtown area.  Terri Partch, City Engineer and Geoff Guthrie, City Transportation Manager discussed the proposed multi-use path along Midland, from Lowes to Interchange 114, 27th Street Bridge and touched on RFTA’s Access Control Plan.  They updated on the Grand Avenue Bridge and 8th Street extension projects as well as discussing who will represent this commission on the Acquisitions and Improvement (A&I) tax working group.  The Transportation Commission is finalizing the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and determining next steps.  This commission always has a great deal to discuss and it seems like never enough time!

Ride-along with GSPD Sept 4, 2015:  I was privileged to be able to ride and walk with several officers from the police department  from 6 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m. It was a great experience, one I hope to do again. You can read more about my thoughts here.  My thanks to Officers Noel, Crawford, Cole, Gobbo, Miller, Dietrich, Yorty,  and Lawson as well as Code Enforcement Officer Springer, Detective Sergeant Hassell, and Patrol Sergeant Prough for putting up with all of my questions and taking the time to talk with me.

Colorado Municipal League (CML) District 11 Meeting in Silt Sept 9, 2015: CML provides  training and information on issues of concern to counties and municipalities.  It is also a great chance to talk with other staff and elected officials from other communities in our area. Mayor Rick Aluise presented a wonderful powerpoint on the accomplishments that have taken place in Silt in the recent year.

Roaring Fork Transit Authority Board Meeting (RFTA) Sept 10, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this board.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison. Discussion items included a presentation of the first draft of RFTA’s 2016 budget and an update of the Rio Grande Corridor Access Control Plan.  License for access to the Rio Grande Trail was granted to ACES Rock Bottom Ranch

Take Back Your Power Sept 10, 2015:  At the invitation of Marilyn Shettel, I attended a screening of a documentary “Take Back Your Power.”  It raised some interesting questions and I will be talking more with Ms. Shuttle in the near future.

We’ve Got Your Back!  Sept. 11, 2015:  This was a hastily thrown together “thank you” to area law enforcement andPolice 3 first responders in our region from Aspen to Parachute.  For being planned in less than 36 hours, it was well attended.  I have received requests from community members to turn this into an annual event and make it bigger. We’ll work on that!

Club 20 Fall Meeting Sept. 12, 2015:  This was my first Club 20 meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on things happening statewide and nationally. I also received lessons from Henry Sobanet, Governor Hickenlooper’s Budget Director on Colorado’s fiscal challenges and from Mark Hermundstad on water regulations and impacts on Colorado’s Western Slope. The networking was also wonderful!

Garfield County Economic Development Partners Sept 16, 2015:  This is a group of staff and elected officials from various entities throughout Garfield County that meet quarterly to review what is happening in Garfield County. RFTA presented their 2015 Travel Plan Study.  The roundtable is particularly useful to know what other communities are working on and to provide opportunities for partnership and coordination.

In addition we have had two City Council meetings which included a work session on the Confluence Area and a work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

***MARK YOUR CALENDARS***

Community Discussion: The Effect of the Growing Homeless & Vagrant Population in Glenwood Springs

Monday, October 5, 2015

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Glenwood Springs Community Center

Coming up this week: 

City Staff Employee Picnic Friday, Sept 25 – City Hall closed from Noon to 2 p.m.

Fire Department’s Open House Saturday Sept 26!  The Fire Department’s Open House is always fun for all ages so come on down from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the downtown fire station at 8th & Cooper.

Board and Commission Openings:  apply here!

Planning and Zoning:  1 Alternate

River Commission: 1 Alternate

Victims and Witness Assistance & Law Enforcement Board (VALE): 1 Alternate

Board of Appeals: 1 Alternate

Parks and Recreation: 1 Alternate

 

Update Sept 2015 – Budget, Homeless, and More!

I am five months into my four-year term of serving you as Councilor-at-large on Glenwood Springs City Council. It is a privilege to be a part of such a great city and I am honored to work with other city council members, city staff, local business and citizens to help guide Glenwood through the next three and a half years.  It is likely to be some of the best times that Glenwood has seen, as well as some of the most difficult. 

One of my election promises was better communication and I have not been as good at that as I had hoped.  So, to that end, as a start I plan to provide a monthly update that will include a brief description of meetings and events I have attended as well as a bit about one or more city departments.  Sometimes it may seem like nothing is happening and things do move more slowly than we all would like. But picture a duck on the Colorado River.  On the top, the duck looks calm and seems to be floating along, but below the surface, that duck’s feet are paddling like crazy.  So goes it with city hall.

Finance Department

Charles KeltySince we are deep into budget season, the first department I would like to highlight is the Finance Department, headed by Charles Kelty. Charles took over the reins from Mike Harman who retired earlier this year after 24 years as the Finance Director. Charles spent nine years as the finance director in Rifle and had a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Finance handles all of the city’s payroll, utility billing, tax administration, purchasing and building maintenance as well as making sure the city’s bills are paid and collecting funds owed to the city.

Staff includes Yvette Gustad, Assistant Finance Director; Ricky Smith, Purchasing Agent; Karen Bender, Janice Palacio, Linda Millyard and Candie Vandermark, all Senior Accounting Techs and Martha Gonzales and Elida Trujillo Solano the ladies who keep city hall sparkling clean. When you come to pay your utility bills or pick up a bus pass, these are the staff you see and are often the main contact for people dealing with city hall.

Taking the city through the budget process is no easy task and involves hours of the finance department’s time as well as a great deal of time from City Manager Jeff Hecksel and all department supervisors. Beginning Sept 29, the city will begin holding meetings with City Council, the Financial Advisory Board, and department heads to review the proposed budget, line by line. A schedule of these meetings is provided below. These are public meetings and the public is encouraged to attend.  A preliminary draft budget should be available on the City’s website when the budget work sessions begin.

Budget Work Session Schedule:

Sept 29 – 5pm -7 pm

Oct 8Special Meeting, DDA & Budget 6pm-9pm

Oct 154pm – 6pm

Oct 20Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Oct 29Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Nov 5if needed

All budget work sessions will be held in council chambers at city hall.

Monthly Update – meetings and events I attended

Grand Ave Bridge:  Met with representatives from Glenwood Springs Chamber, CDOT, DDA and city staff to discuss public information plans for the Grand Avenue Bridge Project August 27 2015.

Transportation Commission Sept 1, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this commission.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included the Blake Avenue Gate between Walmart and the RFTA BRT station on 27th as well as traffic calming measures on the residential streets in the downtown area.  Terri Partch, City Engineer and Geoff Guthrie, City Transportation Manager discussed the proposed multi-use path along Midland, from Lowes to Interchange 114, 27th Street Bridge and touched on RFTA’s Access Control Plan.  They updated on the Grand Avenue Bridge and 8th Street extension projects as well as discussing who will represent this commission on the Acquisitions and Improvement (A&I) tax working group.  The Transportation Commission is finalizing the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and determining next steps.  This commission always has a great deal to discuss and it seems like never enough time!

Ride-along with GSPD Sept 4, 2015:  I was privileged to be able to ride and walk with several officers from the police department  from 6 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m. It was a great experience, one I hope to do again. You can read more about my thoughts here.  My thanks to Officers Noel, Crawford, Cole, Gobbo, Miller, Dietrich, Yorty,  and Lawson as well as Code Enforcement Officer Springer, Detective Sergeant Hassell, and Patrol Sergeant Prough for putting up with all of my questions and taking the time to talk with me.

Colorado Municipal League (CML) District 11 Meeting in Silt Sept 9, 2015:  CML provides  training and information on issues of concern to counties and municipalities.  It is also a great chance to talk with other staff and elected officials from other communities in our area. Mayor Rick Aluise presented a wonderful powerpoint on the accomplishments that have taken place in Silt in the recent year.

Roaring Fork Transit Authority Board Meeting (RFTA) Sept 10, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this board.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included a presentation of the first draft of RFTA’s 2016 budget and an update of the Rio Grande Corridor Access Control Plan.  License for access to the Rio Grande Trail was granted to ACES Rock Bottom Ranch

Take Back Your Power Sept 10, 2015:  At the invitation of Marilyn Shettel, I attended a screening of a documentary “Take Back Your Power.”  It raised some interesting questions and I will be talking more with Ms. Shuttle in the near future.

We’ve Got Your Back!  Sept. 11, 2015:  This was a hastily thrown together “thank you” to area law enforcement and first responders in our region from Aspen to Parachute.  For being planned in less than 36 hours, it was well attended.  I have received requests from community members to turn this into an annual event and make it bigger. We’ll work on that!

Club 20 Fall Meeting Sept. 12, 2015:  This was my first Club 20 meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on things happening statewide and nationally. I also received lessons from Henry Sobanet, Governor Hickenlooper’s Budget Director on Colorado’s fiscal challenges and from Mark Hermundstad on water regulations and impacts on Colorado’s Western Slope. The networking was also wonderful!

Garfield County Economic Development Partners Sept 16, 2015:  This is a group of staff and elected officials from various entities throughout Garfield County that meet quarterly to review what is happening in Garfield County. RFTA presented their 2015 Travel Plan Study.  The roundtable is particularly useful to know what other communities are working on and to provide opportunities for partnership and coordination.

In addition we have had two City Council meetings which included a work session on the Confluence Area and a work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

***MARK YOUR CALENDARS***

Community Discussion: The Effect of the Growing Homeless & Vagrant Population in Glenwood Springs

Monday, October 5, 2015

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Glenwood Springs Community Center

Coming up this week: 

Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22

City Staff Employee Picnic Friday, Sept 25 – City Hall closed from Noon to 2 p.m.

Fire Department’s Open House Saturday Sept 26!  The Fire Department’s Open House is always fun for all ages so come on down from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the downtown fire station at 8th & Cooper.

Board and Commission Openings:  apply here!

Planning and Zoning:  1 Alternate

River Commission: 1 Alternate

Victims and Witness Assistance & Law Enforcement Board (VALE): 1 Alternate

Board of Appeals: 1 Alternate

Parks and Recreation: 1 Alternate

Glenwood’s Police Deserve Our Respect

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” — Matthew 5:9

Shield

Glenwood Springs is a special place. We have it all: natural beauty, great amenities, wonderful people. We are truly blessed to be able to call this town home.

Yes, we have it all. And we also have a dedicated group of professionals helping to make Glenwood Springs one of the most desirable places to live in the United States — the Glenwood Springs Police Department.

I had the privilege of being allowed to do a “ride-along” with Glenwood’s officers last weekend. Although it was a relatively quiet night, it gave me a glimpse into a side of Glenwood that I knew, intellectually, existed, but I minimize. It allowed me the opportunity to watch them in action, watch other’s reactions to them, and most importantly, talk with them and begin to get to know them.

As I told Chief Terry Wilson — I am in awe.

First, a disclaimer; I have law enforcement officers and first responders in my family. Perhaps I have a bias because of close relationships to these people. However, after this, I will never look at their jobs in the same light.

For about the same wage as the average skilled office worker, these individuals leave their homes and families, put on their Kevlar vests and utility belts, and hit our streets to protect and serve, not knowing if they will see their families again. Am I being melodramatic? Absolutely not.

In Glenwood, almost every category of criminal activity, from petty offenses to felonies, have seen an increase through July over the entire year of 2014. Felony cases are up 37 percent.

Glenwood Springs Police Department is a finely coordinated team that protects us from the frightful and disagreeable elements that find their way to our Mayberryesque town. They do so with such finesse that we see little of the sordid underside, allowing Glenwood to remain a great place to raise a family or to vacation.

Recently, two disturbing nationwide trends are having an impact in our community. The first is the increasing number, changing demeanor and level of drug use among the homeless, vagrant population. The second is the increasing threats and disdain toward our police.

The entire community is attempting to grapple the vagrant issue, and more information will be forthcoming regarding a community meeting in the next few weeks.

The negativity and threats toward our police is heartbreaking to me. The reality is that the public never hears about the thousands or millions of times these peace officers make the right decision under incredibly stressful conditions. Is that gun a pellet gun or a rifle? Is the driver of the vehicle reaching for insurance information or a gun?

police 1You say these things only happen in Denver or Los Angeles or Ferguson? Hardly. Just ask Colorado State Trooper Eugene Hofacker. Or for that matter, ask our own officers. The media, both social and traditional, focus on the one in 100,000 as Kenneth Berkowitz, chief of police of Canton, Massachusetts, so aptly describes in a recent article. Often, the good is overlooked.

Believe me, there is plenty of good. During a traffic stop an officer encountered a lost and distraught driver pulling a trailer in an unfamiliar town at rush hour trying to get to a gas station on the other side of the highway. He gently eased into traffic behind and allowed the driver to make the lane switch to get where they needed to be.

On two occasions on foot patrol, two separate officers encountered someone well-known. In one case, the officer talked with and comforted someone who was distraught over the loss of a wallet and offered additional assistance if the person was not able to locate the wallet by the next day. The other officer was sought out for counsel and advice because he was considered a trusted friend. I am also aware of an officer in a nearby community who promised to buy a 25-cent glass of lemonade from a neighborhood lemonade stand, only to realize all he had was a $20 bill — but a promise is a promise. Imagine the image that young person has of their community police.

On many occasions the officers are greeted cordially or at least respectfully. That is not always the case and many tire of hearing expletives or seeing obscene gestures as they walk or drive through town. They are often punched, kicked or spat upon. They work long shifts, holidays and weekends, when most of us are sleeping or enjoying festivities. And they do so without complaint.

Why do they do this? Why do they put their lives at risk, see little of their family and stay in one of the most stressful jobs in the world for a nominal salary? Most would say it is because they love their job and want to make a difference. In my opinion, they do make a difference — a huge difference. We owe them our respect and admiration. Glenwood Springs’ finest certainly have mine.

Celebrating July 4th – Let’s Do This Glenwood!

1403209861july_4_fireworksWhat’s more American than mother, apple pie and fireworks on the 4th of July?  To many it seems unpatriotic to forego fireworks on Independence Day. There is a certain adrenalin rush with the first boom reminiscent of the “bombs bursting in air.”  No doubt, it can be an awe inspiring 15 minutes.  The City of Glenwood Springs has recently received sharp criticism for shifting fireworks to Ski Spree in February. So, what is the solution?

For many fireworks on July 4th is a tradition that is hard to break.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am absolutely for a big celebration on Independence Day. We need to  celebrate our freedom, and be thankful for the freedom we still have! We need to honor those who have fought for that freedom.  I simply think there are other options than thousands of dollars going up in smoke in 15 minutes. kids-fourth-of-july Stay with me for a minute and see if that money might be better spent in others ways that bring the community together, actually honoring those who have served,  and coming together as a community rather than staring at the sky.

First let me start with some suggestions for things the city could work on for next year, because Glenwood cannot simply ignore this holiday any longer  These have been suggested by residents, business owners, friends, neighbors and family as a way that we could observe this great holiday.  I know there are many more possibilities, too! 

We could have an Old-Time Theme Fourth of July complete with pancake breakfast, parade, old time games and crafts for adults and kids, old-time baseball game, BBQ, marching bands, band or orchestra concert, ice cream social.Old_Time_Base_ball Period costumes could be encouraged with willing volunteers playing roles (Teddy Roosevelt, Doc Holliday, Carrie Nation, etc.) and wandering through town interacting with guests and creating photo ops. costume_1How about a vintage swim suit show at the Hot Springs or Iron Mountain Hot Springs? Would the Hotel Colorado be willing to give tours or “ghost tours”? Could the Frontier Historical Museum haul out its Linwood Cemetery Ghost Walk for a couple evenings?  Maybe even bring the Vaudeville players on stage at 2 Rivers or show old movies in the band shell;  how about Tom Mix and the Great Train Robbery?

2015-07-07_1233Or we could have something like a “Taste of the Valleys”   Everything from locally produced fruits and veggies, wine, honey etc., as well as local restaurants at Two Rivers. Maybe we could have a giant yard sale or craft fair featuring items made by people from Aspen to Vail to Parachute.  Perhaps we could include a laser light show, rather than fireworks. How about a giant slip and slide to cool off on a hot July 4th. What about an old fashioned street dance and bring back the classic car show!  In years past the downtown merchants had gigantic sidewalk sales that seemed to draw people along Grand Avenue.

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Another idea would be to make it truly a patriotic celebration to honor our current military, veterans, firefighters, hot shots, State Troopers and police officers, including those that lost their lives defending Glenwood Springs on Storm King.

We could do any assortment of these things and more!  Yes, we would need to budget for it and yes, we would need assistance, both monetary and volunteers.  The Chamber is just recovering from Strawberry Days, so to put this burden on them is not feasible. The city cannot do this on its own, but it sounds like there might be enough interest in having something that we could get some willing volunteers.laser_light_show

With or without fireworks, Glenwood is in a unique position to put together a wonderful way to celebrate July 4th, honor those who have served and who continue to serve our nation and provide a great experience for residents and visitors alike. Again, Glenwood cannot simply ignore this important holiday.

The current City Council has been raked over the coals in social media for not having fireworks.  Some have argued that we had a much wetter spring than normal and therefore should have had fireworks now.  However, this decision was made during the last budgeting and grant cycle and the budget was approved in late 2014.   Additionally, although I am new to Council, having been elected in April,  I understand it takes lead time of longer than a few weeks to find a purveyor of fireworks that can put something together on the magnitude that Glenwood would like to see.

firefighter_memorialHaving been a Glenwood resident through both the Storm King and Coal Seam fires, I will admit that I don’t want to do anything that could possibly cause something like that devastation again.

Yes, fireworks is the go-to tradition.  But lets give folks more reasons to celebrate our nation’s independence in Glenwood Springs. Next year, July 4th is on a Monday – lets begin now to make a new tradition in Glenwood.

Interested?  Let me know. The city will be starting the budget process for next year soon!  And if you absolutely cannot do without your fireworks on July 4th in spite of some different possibilities — let me know that too. I am listening – really. Comments welcome on this blog or  email me at kathryn.trauger@cogs.us or call me at 379-4849. 

The Devil’s Playground – South Canyon

If you Google “mountain biking in Colorado”, Glenwood Springs does not appear on the list of popular destinations.  Those destinations include Fruita, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Salida, Winter Park, Telluride and more . . . but not Glenwood.

There is a group that is trying to change that; Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA), which is a chapter of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Active since about 2008 this group plans, executes and maintains mountain biking trails throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

Ken Keister - Red Mtn Trail

Photo courtesy of Ken Keister, Red Mountain Trail

Supporters tout the economic benefits of becoming a mountain biking destination. And one probably only needs to look to Moab or Fruita to see that mountain biking is indeed a popular sport and seems to be growing.  As a matter of fact, Glenwood Springs High School now has a mountain biking team of at least 20-30 enthusiastic young people. Several coworkers are mountain bike enthusiasts and I enjoy riding, albeit vicariously, with them through their GoPro cameras.

Last Wednesday, April 29, I attended an open house at the Glenwood Springs Community Center sponsored by RFMBA to explain their current plans for the Red Mountain/Jeanne Golay trail upgrades. The improvements on this trail seem reasonable.  It would run nearly parallel to the existing road that traverses Red Mountain to the cross. The plan, if I understand it correctly, would keep the trail at about a 5-7 percent grade and improve some fall-line trail where some erosion is taking place.  My biggest concern is parking in this area although the City owns the right-of-way that is currently being used for parking. An additional concern, with increased usage will be proper toilet facilities.  My guess is that these are not new to the RFMBA and they may have thought them through.

South Canyon Trail Proposal

Propose South Canyon Trail

At the City Council meeting of April 2 (before I was elected) Council also approved a $15,000 appropriation to study the South Canyon area for potential mountain bike trail use.  I am also aware that the Historic Preservation Commission is planning an interactive historic trail for the old South Canyon camp and settlements that were in the area.

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Donald “Rusty” Ford near his the site of his former home in South Canyon.

Today, I had the privilege of a tour of the South Canyon area with Donald “Rusty” Ford.  Rusty, understands this area as few residents of this area currently do.  He spent much of his youth in this area. Rusty is a coal miner and the “son” of a coal miner.  He spent 31 years in the mines of the area, mostly in Coal Basin.  He was there when Mid Continent Resource’s Dutch Creek No 1 mine exploded. Those memories still haunt his dreams.

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Smoke rising from the Coal Seam in South Canyon

Rusty loves South Canyon and the hills come alive as he tells of his escapades going into tunnels with his pal Joe Llewellyn or tossing rocks into a gaping hole left by the coal seam fire, and never hearing it hit bottom.  There is a part of South Canyon he calls the “Devil’s Playground” and it does seem to be that.  Apparently, this is the area in which the Coal Seam Fire started.

Rusty reached out to me, as a member of City Council, to express his concern for human safety.  The tunnels of the South Canyon mines criss-cross the area, some directly under the road, and many of them are burning. It will be critical, as we move forward with any plans, whether they are for historic trails or mountain bike trails, to understand this area and map it well to ensure public safety. 

We simply cannot take chances with human life. I understand the fascination with this area, with the fire underground. It is human nature to want to get just a little closer look. 

My request of RFMBA is to take this concern seriously as their plans and study move forward. Take advantage of the memory and the facts that people like Rusty have of this area.  The Coal Seam is still burning.  

And as for Rusty . . . I hope to continue more of his story later!

The CHOICE for a new Mayor

As I took my place on the dais, a new greenhorn council member, I was immediately faced with a tough choice. Who should be our next mayor? Three of our seven member council volunteered or were nominated; Stephen Bershenyi, Leo McKinney and Michael Gamba.

For me this was a choice, not a decision. That made it no less easy or awkward, particularly as a new council member. For me, the choice was between Bershenyi and Gamba. McKinney has fulfilled that role for the last two years and it was just time for a change.

Webster defines choose as,” to select freely and after consideration” Last fall, I attended a Mastering Performance seminar with Jonathan Clark. We spent some time on the concept of choice vs decision. This one was hard for me to grasp. Tonight I get it.

Michael Gamba - Glenwood   Post Independent Photo

Michael Gamba – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Both Bershenyi and Gamba would have made excellent mayors. Bershenyi is intelligent and very well spoken. It is obvious that he loves Glenwood and acts consistently in the best interest of Glenwood and her citizens. Gamba is also intelligent and a straight shooter. He too is a champion for Glenwood and a visionary. Both are outspoken, but who on council isn’t. Because of my involvement on the Transportation Commission and the Victims and Law Enforcement Board, I have gotten to know Gamba.

But in a matter of a few moments, Council must make a choice that could affect the direction and set the tone of this Council for the next two years, at least. So that is what it came down to, a simple choice. In this instance I chose Gamba. I made this choice after consideration – brief as it was. The choice I made belongs to me, not to my reasons for choosing Gamba. I am completely comfortable with that choice.

This process still begs the question: is this best way to choose a mayor? I am not so sure, although there are some advantages. What I do know is that this is an awkward process and does nothing to enhance relationships and cohesiveness among City Council members. And to a greenhorn council member, it is a sensitive choice. My hat is off to anyone who is willing to serve in this position.

Thank you, Leo McKinney, for your service as Mayor for the last two years. Michael Gamba, best of luck to you in your new role.

Come Together!

Well tomorrow’s a big day for me and I am very excited!!  Election Day!

I am not sure I will ever look at another election or Election Day in the same way again – whether I am involved or not.2015-04-06_1742

First, I would like to thank all those who have supported my campaign. I am truly honored by the support of the citizens and business community of Glenwood Springs. Your support, whether time or financial support or both have enabled me to reach hundreds of citizens with my vision of a strong, connected community. For that I am truly thankful!

Our community will have a new bridge in a few years that will bring countless opportunities and last long beyond my time on this planet.  Now it is time to work on building bridges of a different nature.

In recent months various issues have caused some polarization and division between citizens within our community, between local governments, and even within our own city hall. With such great opportunities ahead of us it is more important than ever that we come together and work together to make Glenwood the best place to raise a family, start a business or just enjoy life.

What are the differences . . . really?

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photo by Rémih, from wikipedia

For several months you have been trying to determine what the big differences are between the candidates.  While it is a bit of the eleventh hour there may be some of you still trying to make a final decision. Let me help by repeating:

We must come together.

Let me explain.  Council is divided from each other and from city staff. City staff is in departmental silos as are the boards and commissions.  The city and the county are still finding it difficult to work together.  There appears to be little interaction or cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions.  Citizens feel disenfranchised.  We need a bridge builder – that can bring people together.

    I am that bridge builder.

I am excited and have worked very hard to win this election.  I am the person to help Glenwood come together and work together to get things done.

A more effective government and better relationships starts by council, in spite of some philosophical differences, working together to define a vision, goals, and expectations of themselves and city staff.   It’s a small bridge to start with, but no less scary to cross. I am convinced we can build it and cross it safely and be a better, stronger, more effective town government for it!

Let’s build a few bridges together.  We all want what is best for Glenwood.  Join me in making Glenwood a

Strong Connected Community.

I would greatly appreciate your vote!   If you have not voted, there is still time. If you did not get a ballot, please contact the City Clerk, Catherine Mythen.  You can vote until 7 p.m. Tuesday!

“Pet” Projects – Dog Park

We love our pets! While I have been out knocking on doors and visiting with people throughout Glenwood, one thing is clear . . . folks in Glenwood love our critters.   That was abundantly clear to me this morning as I took a stroll along the Rio Grand Trail.  Lots of pooches and their two-legged pals were enjoying the beautiful spring weather.

I am no exception to the critter craze.  My household currently consists of two dogs, a Goldendoodle (a stray that found us)  and a Cairn Terrier mix (a rescue) , three cockatiels and a green-cheek Amazon parrot. Not too long ago it also included two cats and an African Grey parrot.  Sadly my two cats departed for the rainbow bridge at the ages of 15 & 17.  My African Grey was a victim of the listeria outbreak a few years ago.  He loved fruit and cantaloupe was a wonderful treat.

In most households, my knock on the door is met with at least one “dog alarm” letting their owner know someone is there.  One of my opponents has said he will advocate for a dog park for our furry friends – a noble cause. From a photo I have seen, it looks like he may have a Cairn Terrier as well. I am sure he realizes that Glenwood has a dog park and dog run along the Rio Grand Trail, just south of the high school. Playing in the park

Is this ideal? No – for a number of reasons but three that are important. 

Access: To get to this park you must walk along the Rio Grande trail. There is limited parking across from the High School football field and the access is not great. This could be a problem if you are disabled.

Services: Apparently there is no water and no shade.  According to Tom Barnes, Glenwood Springs’ Parks and Recreation Director, the soil is very poor in that  area, making growing trees or grass difficult.  I only saw one lonely park bench for pet parents, in the middle of the play area for the larger dogs.Human amenities

Security:  Because it is along the trail there is no one nearby to monitor the activity in this area. In some areas the fence appears to have holes or gaps that could allow escape.

According to Mr. Barnes, the park site was based on citizen advocates and funded by the city in conjunction with donation of time and materials. He mentioned, and I agree that there are probably better options. He noted health concerns with pets that are not properly vaccinated and cared for.   

Dogs saying goodbyeSo what part does the city have in fixing this problem, particularly when the budget is tight and  needs are high?  Should this be a priority? Mr. Barnes indicated a willingness to work with community members to find better options. This is not an ideal place for this park and we and our fuzzy companions would probably be better served if this park were in another location that was more accessible and could be better monitored. But, again, the city is under very tight budget constraints and where does this fit in?

Mr. Barnes stated “Change does not take time, it takes commitment”.  It is going to take commitment from pet advocates, dog owners, and businesses to make such a change happen. 

My suggestion is that the Parks and Recreation Commission, along with the Parks and Rec Department and a representative local veterinarian and three interested citizens/businesses determine three viable alternatives for this park.  The fourth alternative is to leave it where it is and do nothing at this time. From that, Council will make a decision after hearing public input.

The criteria for selection and final determination should include a brief SWOT analysis, resource requirements from the city (money, personnel and equipment), availability to water and electric, potential for shade, access to the site and access and location within the city, security and a committed volunteer group or sponsor to not only help build, but maintain and monitor this park. This is not an outside study. This is a brief 2-3 hour exercise.

I would recommend looking for sponsorships for ongoing funding for this park.  Those could come from national organization such as Purina, Petco, or local businesses such as veterinarian offices, Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE), HighTails or Shaggy Dog. This is a unique opportunity for a truly public/private partnership.  Perhaps some budding or existing entrepreneur or group would be willing to partner with the City for an adjacent doggie daycare facility and could serve as monitoring agent.

The possibilities are endless and from my wanderings around town, it is apparent that we in Glenwood Springs  love our dogs. You may have other suggestions on our dog park and if so, I would love to hear them.  The bottom line is that the City cannot do this alone particularly when there are so many other pressing needs.  It seems there are enough dog lovers that truly want this.  If so, then it will take some creative thought and commitment. With that commitment and a public/private partnership, we could have a world-class dog park. It is all about creating places that people (and their pets) want to be!