Durango City Council election results and the approval of an increased lodgers tax, based on preliminary results tallied earlier this week, affirmed the community’s concern for a healthy business economy – at least in part.
Yet the lodgers tax increase passed by only a very slim margin. Durangoans supported the increase from 2% to 5.25% by 2,563 to 2,404 votes, or 51.6%.
But Letters to the Editor during the election cycle suggested many who supported an increase opposed its 55% allocation to tourism marketing. Not all residents are convinced that we need to continue aggressively marketing Durango as a tourist destination – especially after last year’s damage to our fragile natural environment.
Other portions of the new tax revenues are allocated 20% to city transit and 14% to arts and cultural organizations, facilities and events. The remaining 11% will be spent at the discretion of City Council on any of those three categories or tourism impacts.
Considering the slim margin by which the initiative passed and anti-marketing sentiment, council should eschew spending any of the extra 11% on tourism marketing in the foreseeable future.
City Council election results were surprising in some respects.
Not surprising was the fact that Melissa Youssef, whom the Herald endorsed, by far received the largest number of votes and was returned to the council. Her experience, capacity for listening and vast knowledge of city policies and activities will be a continued boon to the community.
Also not surprising was the election of Jessika Buell. Buell’s entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen, as owner of three Durango companies, have earned her respect among residents. Buell can be expected to actively represent the small-business community.
Although the Herald endorsed Olivier Bosmans, we were somewhat surprised that he was elected, because he did not spend a lot of money on campaigning. We suspect voters, like the Herald Editorial Board, were impressed with his previous public service and business experience and recognized the value his engineering background will offer the city.
We commend all candidates, including those not elected, for the willingness to serve and the herculean effort it takes to run. How to explain the losses?
Seth Furtney’s loss – just 243 votes shy of Bosmans – may have been because of the specter of his past criminal conviction. Had he been more forthcoming, the outcome might have been different. The Herald endorsed Furtney because he has much to contribute. We hope he will find other ways to continue to serve the community.
Frank Lockwood’s participation in the community seemed limited to his past leadership of the tourism office, and from the lodgers tax vote, we can see that support for more tourism is limited.
We appreciate Harrison Wendt’s youthful energy and values. More than any other candidate, he drew attention to the needs of our marginalized residents. We hope Wendt will get appointed to a city commission where he can hone his policy-making skills, perhaps in preparation for a future election bid.
Our newly formed City Council will include four women and one man, a gender ratio “first” for Durango. Will that influence decision-making? Only time will tell. We look forward to an even more diverse council in the future.
With only two newcomers on the council, Durangoans can be assured of continuity and the stability that brings – so needed as we rebuild post-COVID-19. We look forward to the work our dynamic new council will do on behalf of Durango and offer sincere thanks, in advance, for their service.