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?


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!

Tough Times Make Us Brighter and Better!

I saw a quote the other day that made me smile.


Hard times are like a washing machine.

They twist, turn and knock us around.

But in the end, we come out cleaner,

brighter and better than before!

                                   – Anonymous


 Tough Times Ahead

Many people agree that these next four years are critical for Glenwood Springs. But not only will they be critical — lets face it — they are going to be downright tough!   But that is what I love about the quote above. Once we get through the wringer,  Glenwood will emerge brighter and better than before.

The Glenwood Post Independent ran an “Our View” column yesterday that illustrated many reasons Glenwood is going to face some tough times and why this election is crucial. I am running for the At-Large seat for City Council and I absolutely agree!  GPI stated, traffic and transportation are at the top of the list. Traffic and transportation are huge, but we can’t address it as a singular issue.

 It’s Complicated . . .

Glenwood Springs is like a fine tapestry, with many things woven together to make a wonderful design. It is complex and beautiful. But it is all interconnected.  For example, changes in transportation can impact land use.  Changes in land use impact potential development.  Development impacts the economy. The economy impacts sales tax revenue . . . and on and on and on.

It is for this reason that the issues that Glenwood faces are so critical . . . and so complex.

Looking forward to the discussions

As a candidate, I look forward to exploring and discussing these issues over then next few weeks.  Top among the issues will be the Grand Avenue Bridge and the never-ending bypass/alternate route debate.   However, I hope that we can also delve into some other issues that impact our economy, our businesses and our ability to move forward including:

  •             Encouraging economic growth and supporting our businesses
  •             Cultivating local and regional partnerships
  •             Creating exceptional community places
  •             Honoring and preserving our history while moving toward a better future
  •             Connecting people, transportation, businesses and government to get things done.

 Glenwood Needs Decision Makers

The column in the GPI also illustrated, even if it did not come out and say it . . . that Glenwood needs decision makers.  It needs leaders that are not afraid to be innovative, and make those tough choices. Government gets bogged down too often in paralysis by analysis at a huge cost to citizens in the form of tax dollars and other resources wasted.  Lets end that now. I have worked in government and participated enough that I understand what it takes to get things done.  It also makes it perfectly clear what must change, and that  change is needed.


If you want more information about my position on the issues, my personal web site  will be up and running next week.   I will also be at the Bluebird Cafe in downtown Glenwood from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 11th and I invite you to join me for tea or coffee and conversation. I also encourage you to look through the archives at Our Town – Glenwood Springs. Glenwood is facing both tough and exciting times.  I am the leader Glenwood needs at this time

I need your support now and your vote when ballots are mailed March 16th. 

Here are five ways you can help:

  1. VOTE for Kathryn Trauger when the ballots are mailed.
  2. DONATE to Committee to Elect Trauger.
  3. WRITE letters to the editor in support of my election
  4. TELL your friends and neighbors that you support me and why
  5. POST a yard sign in your yard

Please call 970-945-6493 if you want a yard sign and we will deliver it to your door!

Donations can be mailed to:

Committee to Elect Trauger

c/o Suzanne Stewart

343 Sunny Acres Rd.

Glenwood Springs, CO 81601

Due to campaign finance regulations please include a telephone number where you may be reached should we need additional information from you.

Please give me a call or send me an email.  I want to know what concerns you have and ideas of how we can make this an even better place!


Kathryn Trauger Contact Information:

Phone:  970-379-4849


Lets get things done!



A Hard Loss for our Community

2015 is starting out on a rough note. The start of a new year should bring an end to the difficulties of the previous year and renewed optimism for the future.  So it is hard when the year begins with a series of events including sickness, death, roadblocks, and obstacles.  It just doesn’t seem right.

You may not agree with me, but I firmly believe that we learn and gain from  everything we go through in this life. I am not saying I like it, that I don’t get angry with it, that I don’t question why.  I am not saying it hurts any less. But it is part of this precious thing we call life.

Buzz 1Loss of a Community Leader

This year our community has lost a wonderful, very powerful, but quiet leader.  Lawrence “Buzz” Zancanella was Glenwood’s Fire Chief, but he never held an elected office.  He quietly reminded us of our history, but was not one to write letters to the editor. He created bubbles on the corner, but never climbed a soapbox. Yet, at his passing, a community mourned.  And I mean that.  For days, my Facebook account was filled with concern after learning of his heart attack. When news came that he had died, the memories of what he did for this community and what an impact this one man had on so many lives filled my inbox.

Buzz and big sis Ellie

Buzz and big sis Ellie

He cared for his family, for his nation, for his God and for his community.  He was a man of action; just not the kind of action that makes headlines.  Here are three items plucked from hundreds of comments on Facebook:

Chris Chambers: I was playing with matches near the school bus barn, I think I was around 9 at the time, and caught the dry grass on fire all along the outside wall. I did what any responsible child would do and ran as fast as I could back home. Of course everyone knew everyone in those days so I was caught having been seen fleeing the area. Buzz had my mother bring me down to the fire station and held a mock trial that scared me straight. I never played with matches again.

Kevin White: Not too long ago, Buzz invited me into his home so I could help him scan some larger images for his posts, I had known Buzz all my life, yet had never really spent any time with him. What an awesome treat it was to talk Glenwood Springs history with him that afternoon. He proudly showed me all of his GWS treasures, from bottles of hot springs water to commemorative spoons to beautifully framed pictures of the pool and Hotel Colorado. It was a true honor to share his space for even those few minutes. They will be with me forever.

Roz Eberle :The last time I saw Buzz was a couple of years ago when we were in town. I told him how much we all loved his postings. While he was pleased, he quickly asked about my mom. He was a man of great kindness, a man of generous spirit, and a man of great faith. Go well, Buzz. We will never forget you.Buzz 3

My eldest son and his friends spent many hours at Buzz and Gracie’s home, partly because of Gracie’s wonderful cooking and partly because Buzz and Gracie valued their company.  The feeling was completely mutual. They have my unending gratitude.

Buzz epitomized the word community. He raised the bar for us all in Glenwood. And while he loved Glenwood’s history and the way it was when  he was growing up, he knew that change was inevitable.  Let’s honor Buzz by looking out for each other and looking  forward to a new year, complete with its challenges.  Let’s work on making Glenwood Springs the best community ever . . . in every sense of the word.

Rest in peace Buzz.  Your community thanks you for all you have done.

2015 A Crucial Year for Glenwood Springs

I am not a huge fan of poetry. Some I get. Some I don’t.  But I remember hearing the Road Not Taken by Robert Frost for the first time in fifth grade. It clicked. It still does decades later.

two roads

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . . “

Both Glenwood Springs and I stand at the point where there are multiple paths before us.

Glenwood is at a crucial point. What does the future hold?  Change seems to be coming from all angles and at a pace that seems overwhelming at times. The new Grand Avenue Bridge alone could bring significant changes.  It can be exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I, too, stand at a pivotal point.  Choices must be made. Thoughtful consideration has been given, but ultimately, it is simply a choice.

“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

So like Mr. Frost, years from now, I want to be able to say that I chose the road less traveled, and it made all the difference.

The Choice: To Run for Glenwood Springs At-Large City Council Seat

The choice I have made for 2015 is to run for the At-Large seat on Glenwood Springs City Council currently being held by Dave Sturges. Dave will be stepping down after two terms, eight years, on City Council and participation in numerous other boards and commissions throughout our area. Though not large in stature, he will leave immense shoes to fill. 


Dave Sturges

In addition to having served as councilor, he also served as mayor pro tem, chaired the Transportation Commission, and served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for six years. He was a member of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission and currently represents Glenwood Springs on the Northwest Council of Governments board. If that all is not enough, he is on the Garfield County Senior Services Committee, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and is a member of the Colorado Municipal League Executive Board. I am sure I have missed some things. See what I mean . . . enormous shoes! 

As a mediator and facilitator, Dave has tried to carefully and thoughtfully approach issues, listening to various viewpoints and then, ultimately choosing what he thought was best for Glenwood. He has worked tirelessly advocating and lobbying for what would bring the most benefit to the citizens of Glenwood Springs.  As a citizen of Glenwood Springs I am very grateful to Dave for the perspective he has brought to the table for eight years. Thank you, sir.

Four Seats Open

Todd Leahy - Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Todd Leahy – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

In this election, four of seven seats are up; those held by Todd Leahy, Ted Edmonds and Michael Gamba as well as the one held by Dave Sturges.

This is a very exciting time for Glenwood. The opportunities are endless!  There is renewed energy and

Michael Gamba - Glenwood   Post Independent Photo

Michael Gamba – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

vibrancy. Things are happening.  But we must recognize that change is not always easy.  For some of us that fondly remember Glenwood Springs as it was “when we were kids” – when there was a Christmas tree in the middle

of the intersection of 9th and Grand, a drive-in theater in West Glenwood and a tunnel formed by trees over Grand Avenue – comes the realization that our town has, and continues to grow — whether we like it or not.

Ted Edmonds - Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Ted Edmonds – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Growth and change is natural, like birth. It is often a painful process to get to a beautiful result. The result must not only work for the present, but for the future – for my grandchildren’s grandchildren — and yours. The answers are not always as black and white as some would have you believe. But it is City Council’s job to see that policies are in place and decisions are made with the greatest care and consideration for what is best for the community.

Kathryn Trauger

Kathryn Trauger

I bring a vision for a prosperous, beautiful, dynamic Glenwood, balanced with a sense of our history and identity. I bring integrity and experience. I bring a drive to make your local government accessible, open and inclusionary.  It is time to break down silos. Glenwood no longer has the luxury to just let things happen but must have a clear direction.

I Want to Hear From You

You will hear more about me and my goals very soon, I promise.  But first, I want to hear from you.

Listening is an important part of what I do. What are the major issues facing Glenwood?  How should City Council tackle some of those problems? And maybe more importantly, what can we do to create our future — the way that we want it?  You can leave comments here or you may email me at or call me at 379-4849.  Please let me know. I really do want to know what you think.

Peer Pressure, Herd Mentality and Crowd Hysteria

Here is a link to my column that appeared in the Glenwood Post Independent: Peer Pressure, herd mentality and crowd hysteria.

Does EA stand for Eaten Alive?

Battered and bruised at the Grand Avenue Bridge EA hearing

I am feeling a little bit beaten up and if I am feeling that way, I can only imagine what Joe Elsen must be feeling.  To say that the public hearing on the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Grand Avenue Bridge was interesting is a bit of an understatement.

GAB EA CoverThe Good

The night was not without merit. Some universal themes repeated themselves, the best of which, in my opinion had nothing to do with CDOT or the Grand Avenue Bridge.  That is regional transportation planning.

Regional Transportation Planning

I fully support the idea of regional transportation planning.  It is high time that Garfield, Eagle & Pitkin counties, along with the municipalities of Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, Snowmass, and Aspen form a Regional Transportation Commission to address regional needs.  That need is apparent with the Grand Avenue Bridge and it also came to the forefront with the FedEx approval. 

I would suggest that a 12 member Regional Transportation Commission be formed, consisting of a single representative from each of the above counties and municipalities.  I would also suggest that a representative from RFTA be included, making up the 12th member. I would suggest that a CDOT representative be included as an ex officio member.  Like it or not, they are a major player in transportation in our area and we need their voice at the table.

One Voice

For project funding and statewide support, we —this region — must speak with one voice.  We are competing with major metropolitan areas and we can no longer afford to compete with one another for the extremely limited transportation funding available.

The first charge of this group would be to develop a 25-30 year regional transportation plan. Only then can shorter range solutions be found.  This doesn’t have to be rocket science and studies costing hundreds of thousands of dollars are not needed.  Bring existing plans to the table and see what are common needs, and what are the greatest impact to the region. Start simply and build a strong plan.


Mayor Leo McKinney appealed to CDOT to extend the length of the comment period, if for no other reason than to give city staff a chance to thoroughly study and adequately comment on the EA. This also would give the public a better chance to read and try to understand what is contained in this document. A 30-60 day extension seems to be a good idea.

Negative is more compelling

I love the passion that people have for Glenwood and for the region.  It was a good turnout and no, I don’t think John Haines or the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue “stuffed the ballot box” so to speak. But frankly, as humans, we are far more comfortable complaining than we are expressing how satisfied we are.  When I was in advertising many years ago, there was an adage that people who had a bad experience were likely to tell 10 people, but those that had a good experience were likely to share it with no one. I have personally talked with many who are very much in favor of the Grand Avenue Bridge project. Were they at the meeting tonight? No. Most were home playing with their children, helping with homework, visiting friends, or out for a brisk bike ride. Will they take the time to comment on the EA? Probably not. That is the unfortunate reality.

Does the EA have flaws? Absolutely!  And the scope of the project and its purpose are probably some of  the largest.  A much larger area should have been considered – an area covering Midland to 27th Street at least.  This would open a more likely partnership on a permanent 8th Street Connection .  The purpose statement of the EA is weak.  It does not address the regional importance of the bridge.

The Bad . . . this is gonna hurt

fist fight

Frankly I am going to irritate some people by what I say next.  As an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, one of his quotes comes to mind:

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

I believe my feet are in the right place, so here goes.

There were many comments from people tonight who, as sincere and impassioned as they were, had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.  They may have thought they have all the information they need, and that the information they have is accurate, correct, and complete, but there are some suggestions and recommendations that absolutely fly in the face of reality. 

“Tell City Council to stop this.”

Seriously?  How?  It is the State’s bridge.  It is the State’s highway.  Could CDOT walk away from this? Maybe . . . but then what?  What if CDOT said, fine – the bridge and Grand Avenue through town is yours, Glenwood.  You maintain it. You replace it.  Do you think city sales tax, the minuscule amount of property tax and lodging tax is going to cover that? I don’t think so.

Ah . . . the Bypass

I am not anti bypass.  Let me be clear.

However, two questions loom and no one tonight addressed the biggest one.

1. Where? 

and the biggie . . .

2. How do “we” pay for it?

For the where – I heard some suggestions.  Twin tunnels from Canyon Creek to South Bridge. Cut and cover tunnel along the railroad corridor. Just condemn some houses and go along the old railroad. No problem.  Well . . . maybe it’s not that easy.

pennies from heavenLet’s talk money 

No one addressed the financial piece.  Several said there “must” be some money “somewhere” for this. If you think so, then please come forward with a concrete suggestion.  And again I heard, ‘just move the money from Grand Avenue Bridge and build a bypass.”  Is anyone listening?  Even if you had Governor Hickenlooper’s support for doing that and the backing of the state governing body those funds are constrained. 

The massive amount of repair to the highways to Estes Park were mentioned as an example of found money. Those come from federal emergency funds.  If CDOT walks away from the Grand Avenue Bridge, I certainly hope emergency funds are available in a few years.  We may need them.

If you want funding to build a bypass, then let’s be honest.  It will probably involve TAXES. The Federal Government is not going to roll over and hand us the money.  Rather than calling for a vote whether to allow a new bridge, perhaps Citizens to Save Grand Avenue should be pulling together a referendum to take to regional voters for a tax to fund a bypass.


Honestly, I am insulted by some of what I heard tonight.  There have been groups of local citizens, perhaps your friends and neighbors, who have been meeting for months and months, spending hours of their own time pouring over plans, talking with other people,  listening to alternatives, sitting in public meetings, workshops and forums and asking nothing in return.  I have been part of those groups.  I have seen how seriously they have taken their charge.  They have simply been trying to work to bring some resolution to a very real safety concern, and find the best solution for Glenwood Springs. Yet there are armchair quarterbacks stating the process is flawed and the design is bad.  Perhaps it isn’t perfect – but then the next time there is an opening on the Transportation Commission or some other opportunity to give your time – I hope to see you there.  Get out of your armchair and be part of the solution.

If you haven’t read the Environmental Assessment (EA) you can find it here.    To submit a comment send an email to Joe Elsen:

I could have spoken up at tonight’s meeting, but three minutes was not nearly enough time as it was not for many who spoke.  What do you think?  Am I totally off base?  Let me know.

What is this thing called “Transparency”?

“If You Are Paying Attention . . . It Should Be Transparent” . . .NOT!

City_of_GWS_LogoI have been underwhelmed by comments on my latest Glenwood Post Independent column, and I am not surprised.  The city budget can be a dry subject to most and I did little to bring it to life. However,  I did receive two comments from Mayor Leo McKinney involving three items I mentioned; transparency, goals and creative thinking.  So, while I am no authority,  let me explain my view.Tweet

The first of Mayor McKinney’s comments, read “the process is transparent for anyone who wishes to pay attention & goals are laid out in the manager’s budget message.”

So What Is Transparency . . . Really?

I will address the transparency issue  in this post since it is the largest and ties into the other two.  In a subsequent post I will talk about goals and creativity. 

In his book, “Transparent Government: What it Means and How You Can Make it Happen”, Donald Gordon defines transparency as:

“The principle by which those affected by administrative decisions and legislation are made aware of the basic facts and figures as well as the mechanisms and processes of their government. This information must be presented in a way that is accessible, comprehensible and enticing, thus motivating citizens to engage in the dialogue necessary to improve the efficiencies of government and mitigate corruption.  It is the duty of our elected representatives and of civil servants to act in such ways as to enable this transparency.”


While this is kind of a mouthful it contains key elements that are missing in the budget process – as well as other areas – of the City of Glenwood Springs, and frankly from most governmental entities.

The basic facts and figures are present in the 100-plus pages of the City of Glenwood budget. However, the mechanisms and processes as to how those facts and figures were determined are be found anywhere.  Once again, this is NOT an indictment of the city’s finance department who is responsible for preparing the draft budget, but in the policies that govern the process of determining the over-all budget as well as the final recommendations that council receives on each line item of the budget.

Micromanagement?  Maybe . . .

Some may assert that is micromanagement.  That may be.  Sometimes micromanagement is good and even necessary at times. As a taxpayer, our elected representatives and we, the citizens of Glenwood, have the right to know the basis for those decisions.  Not to pick on specific departments, but for example, what has been the policy, thought process and justification for 26 full and part time employees and an operating budget of  $3.29 million in the Parks and Recreation department compared with 31 full and part time employees and an operating budget of $3.34 million for the Police department?  What is the data to support those decisions and on what basis were they made?

Three Hurdles to TransparencyPolicy, Technology, Culture

Gary Bass, founder and executive director of OMB Watch, which is now the Center for Effective Government and Sean Moulton, Director of Open Government Policy at the Center for Effective Government note that there are three hurdles to transparency; policy, technology and culture.

Policy & Technology

Regarding policy & technology, Bass and Moulton state,  “Current laws and policies on public access are inadequate for today’s 24-hour-per-day, seven-days-per-week Internet-enabled world.” 

If this is the case, why would it appear the city is not fully committed to bringing their information systems into the 21st Century.  Currently the Information System Director is a .5 FTE – which means that he works in IS about 20 hours a week.  The city has committed to hiring another  Assistant Computer Tech., which brings the number of personnel in this department to 2.5.  Compare this to Durango with a staffing level in their Information Systems of 10 for 2015.  Granted, the population of Durango is about twice that of Glenwood, but it would seem that if the city was committed to upgrading their systems, the number of personnel and capital expenditures budgeted would be higher. Again, it would be wonderful to have access to the process and reasoning behind these budget decision. I attended the budget work session last Monday and I still don’t know.

In his book, Mr. Gordon maintains that information should be released in a timely and efficient manner and “we need to require government agencies to convert that information in to a useable format that prices a level of comprehensibility that does not require a law degree to decipher.”


The budget process speaks to the culture within City Hall. There are, of course exceptions.  Bass and Moulton maintain that those in civil service (i.e. those who are employed in any government agency except the military) do not get rewarded for improving public access and, furthermore, the way governmental agencies operate discourages openness.

To illustrate, I will use an example I am very familiar with – that of information surrounding items coming before the Planning and Zoning Commission.Wizard_of_Oz_1939_Insert_Poster It was not until approximately 2010, after my repeated requests as Chair of that commission, that the agendas and minutes of the P&Z were made available on the city’s website.  As it is now, there is a significant delay in posting the minutes – either in draft or accepted form, which I am told is due to workload issues as well as issues with the website.  Furthermore, the online availability only goes back one calendar year.  Why is that?Additionally, if a citizen would like to review an application before the public hearing, they must go to the Community Development office and request a copy, which is normally provided in paper form.  This information should be readily accessible to the public, via the internet.

Please know that I am not asserting that Community Development, or any one department  is attempting to discourage citizens from obtaining information. It is simply the way it has always been done.  In my opinion, this must change.

Wizard of Oz Wisdom

I understand that with the recession the city has been keeping a tight rein on expenses – and that is as it should be.  However, that does not preclude citizens from asking tough questions and being involved in that process.   It is no longer ok for someone to infer  “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” – as the Wizard told Dorothy and her pals.  Citizens need the information, and it needs to be understandable and timely.  From this will come authentic citizen engagement and better decisions.

So, I must respectfully disagree with Mayor McKinney’s stance that, “the process is transparent for anyone who wishes to pay attention . . .”  I pay attention and the process is not transparent to me. As citizens and taxpayers, it is time for some changes.

What do you think transparency is?  Do our local governments have it? What works well and what doesn’t?

Bridge Vote? Based on what?

It is great fun to read all the letters to the editor in the Glenwood Post Independent. Kudos to Editor Randy Essex and Publisher Michael Bennett or providing space to allow people to have their say!

Two recent letters require some response – if not in the paper, then on this blog.

Bridge Vote

Grand Avenue Bridge April 5, 2013

Grand Avenue Bridge April 5, 2013

The idea is once again circulating that the citizens  should be allowed to vote on whether the Grand Avenue Bridge should be replaced. My question to them is: Based on what?  What law or code allows citizens of a municipality to vote on any aspect of the highway right-of-way through their town?  I have not heard of one, but if there is, I would really like to know.

I would also like to know who gets to vote. Citizens of Glenwood, Garfield County? How about Pitkin or Eagle County?

You could possibly delay the bridge, but, my guess is that if the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the State say that the bridge for which they are responsible for should be replaced, it will be replaced. The question then becomes, what will it look like?  CDOT has been trying to work out a context sensitive solution. Yes, that context sensitive solution is turning out to be significantly more costly than planned. But ultimately, it is still the FHWA and the State’s call.

As far as voting on a bypass . . . I really do get the frustration with the inability to get off dead center, make a decision and move forward. The letter from the Gianinetti’s and Mr. Moffatt assert that, “We believe that the time has come to put the question of a bypass to a vote of all the people who live here.” However, there is nothing specific on the table on which to vote.

The group also states “Valleywide (sic) transportation routes should be discussed and decided upon by regional consensus. The routing of a state highway through or around any municipality should never be determined uniquely by that municipality.”  I would agree that transportation is a regional issue and that more effort must be made to work for regional solutions.  However, the regions and municipalities that will see the greatest impact, whether economic or environmental must have the greatest say in the decision. And as far as consensus, if you can find a location and a design on which you can get consensus within the region, let alone Glenwood Springs, I would love to see it!

What would help are other connections that would allow people to get to work and truck traffic to get to upper valley destinations, particularly when there is a closure in either Glenwood Canyon or South Canyon. I first heard this proposal from City Council member Michael Gamba and it is, in my opinion, a sound one.  These connections do not need to be high-speed highways, but paved, maintained roads that could be used year-round. One option is Cottonwood Pass. Yes, it would require quite a bit of work, but it is likely it could be done for less than a Glenwood Canyon type roadway through Glenwood Springs.

It is time to try to think beyond what is possible within the confines of our narrow valley.

Wowed by BRT!


The other letter was from Teonna Villasenor. I could not agree more that public transit has the potential to make everyone’s life much easier. Although not a regular rider, I had the opportunity to take RFTA’s BRT to and from Aspen for three days last week. All I can say is wow!

The bus was on-time, comfortable and best of all I could relax as we navigated rain, fog and darkness. I may never drive to Aspen again!  I am totally sold on taking RFTA when possible.  The price, while not cheap, was much less than it would have taken me to drive and park in Aspen.  The drivers were courteous and helpful. Total time, including stops: one hour. Cost of sitting back, working on my laptop, sipping my coffee and watching all the other drivers on the road . . . priceless.  Dan Blankenship and his crew have done a bang-up job with the new BRT service!

All the municipalities, counties and large employers should be putting their heads together with RFTA and Glenwood Springs’ Ride Glenwood to make riding the bus the choice for getting to and from work starting now unless you are already within walking or biking distance.

Employers could start by providing discounted bus passes and flexible work hours or work-from-home options. Making a seamless integration between RFTA and Ride Glenwood would also help. RFTA and Ride Glenwood need one ticket/pass that could be used for both and routes and connections for Ride Glenwood that coordinate with the BRT schedule but not duplicate would help. Geoff Guthrie, the Transportation Manager for the City of Glenwood is working hard to make transportation within Glenwood work well, not only for public transportation but for all modes of transportation.

I would also urge the City of Glenwood and RFTA to work together to put a BRT station and large park-and-ride in West Glenwood. Parking is limited at the 27th Street Station and we need to encourage less traffic through Glenwood. A BRT station in West Glenwood could significantly alleviate travel through Glenwood.

While it looks like the bridge construction is a little ways off, changing the paradigm now rather than waiting for crisis mode would seem to be the best option.