The puppy needs one master
A recent letter from County Commissioner Mick Ireland, “Don’t put the puppy to sleep,” laments some proposed changes to the housing program. Mr. Ireland specifically contends that City Council members are lowering housing goals.The facts:The 1998 AACP citizen plan specifically dropped the goal of housing 60 percent of the workforce as an unhealthy goal.The 1998 AACP plan called for the creation of between 800 and 1,300 additional units.It is imperative the city adopt a measurable, identifiable goal for our housing program and retire the prior strategy of throwing projects and staff at the wall in hopes of something sticking. I suggested the city adopt a goal of housing 55 percent of the workforce (measured annually with state employment figures), which translates to exactly 1,100 additional units (of which 445 have already been completed).Adopting a goal of 1,100 units is clearly high in the range of units called for by the AACP, and is not a lowering of program goals.The months required to revise the 1993 AACP a few years ago was a collective community effort, and Mr. Ireland’s suggestion it be ignored in favor of a prior AACP that he evidently prefers ignores the careful work of our citizens.Mr. Ireland also contends that government has no need to be “efficient” in the administration of the housing program. He fails to note that the government is planning on constructing $190 million worth of housing in the next decade, a quantum leap in ambition. Our nationally recognized advisors summarized the current management structure:”The current organizational structure involving the Housing Board, the housing staff, the City Council, and the Board of County Commissioners is confusing and inefficient, requiring staff to respond to multiple and sometimes confusing directions.”Project costs are too high, community priorities are not clear, and the time required to make decisions is excessive. A new organization is recommended to set a unified direction and to establish clear lines of authority between stakeholders that align the initial goals, the funding and final project approval.”A local observer noted to me the following: “The culture of strategized chaos that is our housing program only allows strong personalities to politically dominate. It will never provide the public what it deserves; dollars directly creating the housing we need.”My personal observation is throwing dollars, staff and political will at any moving project target only serves to create a “crisis” mentality that effectively prohibits anyone speaking out for common sense in the program.The City Council bravely took a time-out (and lots of criticism) this summer and hired real professionals to give us an outside picture of our housing program. For the first time ever we now have an A-to-Z plan, with A being where we currently stand, Z being where we want to get to, and a clear action plan to get from A to Z.The City Council is committed to executing 100 percent of the program, has 95 percent of the needed committed funds, and expects 100 percent of the needed units to be on city land, since the county’s land use code proposal prohibits any affordable housing outside the Urban Growth Boundary. The county currently has no plans or commitment to provide additional affordable housing (except 18 units at Stillwater) and has no future money available to contribute to the program. Everyone knows what the county has done for housing in the past, and there is no need for Mr. Ireland to justify the county’s track record.Quite simply, the efficiency of the housing program in the next 10 years is going to make or break the long-term health of our community. Our experts have told us the current system of multiple political bodies managing the program can only result in more of the same – confusion. If the county had even a 50 percent stake in the future of the program, I would gladly turn over the entire responsibility to them. As it stands, over 95 percent of the program in the next 10 years will be the city’s responsibility.Common sense (and nationally known experts) tells us that nothing gets done well if no one knows who’s in charge. I understand Mr. Ireland’s reluctance to let go of a system he has been instrumental in creating. Sometimes the overall good of the community supercedes the political status quo.Common sense is highly uncommon. Tim SemrauAspen City Council
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