Guest column: Carbondale creativity?

Ed Cortez
Guest Column

As a political observer these past few years, I have had the unique opportunity to watch the Carbondale Board of Trustees work its magic to fulfill its promise made to the public a few years back. That promise was to create a new economic environment based on the creative talents of its residents, or least those who believed that economic development could be achieved on a nontraditional path.

At that time, I was a member of the Carbondale Board of Trustees. I firmly believed then, as I do now, that to preserve the character of Carbondale, the town needed a revenue source based on traditional commercial development. A proposal was in place, at that time, to develop the parcel commonly known as the Market Place for the third time in 15 years. Each time, public sentiment favored the non-development route. A vote of the trustees ended with a 3-3 tie and one recusal. Trustees Frosty Marriott, Pam Zentmeyer and John Hoffman voted against the development. Trustee Elizabeth Murphy, Mayor Stacy Bernot and I voted in favor of the development. Trustee John Foulkrod recused himself from the vote, and the 3-3 tie resulted in a denial of the project.

I accepted the vote and bowed to what seemed a popular decision. Since that vote, we have seen an economic collapse and now a recovery. However, as all our jurisdictional neighbors are seeing incredible economic growth, Carbondale is lagging far behind — forcing the trustees to try to force two tax issues on the people of Carbondale.

Some may argue that maintaining the status quo is preferable to commercial development, but as the Board of Trustees has recently moved forward with two ballot issues (ballot issue 2A, or the carbon tax, and ballot issue 2B, or a 3-mill property tax), I question the “creativity” of that move.

I have read recent letters to the editors in the support of these taxes, all from trust-funders, professionals and highly paid government officials. I don’t consider these letters a true reflection of the Carbondale electorate. I haven’t read supportive letters from the wage-earners, people on fixed incomes or bus drivers (the working class).

This is the group that will control this election. As the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1774 for Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley and a 21-year resident of Carbondale, I must oppose these taxes. I am opposing the impacts such taxes would have on the many members of our union who live in Carbondale, not to mention all wage-earners who pay rents and utilities with no control or access to energy programs available except those who can afford them.

I also question this board’s decision and experience to efficiently spend taxpayer money in this area. I walk my dog every afternoon at the dog park and pass the solar array and nod my head in frustration every time I walk by and see that 50 percent of the array is facing in the wrong direction and losing at least 60 percent of the system’s production. How can I trust that taxpayer money will be spent efficiently?

As my union’s chief negotiator in our recently successful contract negotiations with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, we were able to secure historical benefits for our members, but our jewel in the crown was to pull at least 60 of our 133 members out of the poverty level with the wage-progression concessions we were able to secure. Now, some of these hardworking taxpayers, not to mention all wage-earning taxpayers and fixed-income taxpayers, may have to take several economic steps back if these taxes are approved.

No, this is not the creative economics I was led to believe the Carbondale trustees would undertake but rather another attempt at tax-and-spend policies we should not have to bear. The biggest irony here has to do with the recent front-page rendering of the proposed new City Market. Frankly, all I saw was a giant asphalt parking lot with a grocery store and gas station. Much less in architectural character than the proposal our creative board denied years back and certainly more of an eyesore. All for a lack of revenue. Not very creative if you ask me.

If you ask me, creativity is a bunch of bus drivers’ ability to secure historical wage benefits, as well as quality-of-life benefits, in an astounding five days without costing the taxpayers a thing. Perhaps our governmental leaders can learn from this.

Please vote “no” on ballot issues 2A and 2B.

Ed Cortez is a Carbondale resident and president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1774.