|EDITORIAL: Community Development in a Town Without Community|
|Bill Hudson | 3/7/12|
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|Last week, the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation — a government subsidized private corporation, and the brainchild of Pagosa mayor Ross Aragon and his supporters — distributed its Monday, March 6 meeting agenda via email.|
In the midst of Pagosa's worst economic downturn in at least 20 years, this is the agenda for our government subsidized "economic development" corporation:
When I received this email, I quickly made a decision to skip the meeting entirely. Judging from the agenda, nothing productive was going to be accomplished, or announced, or decided. The meeting was obviously going to follow the pattern of all the other meetings I have attended since the hiring of executive director Rich Lindblad. The pattern has been pretty darn consistent, and consistently lacking in truly innovative proposals.
- Approval of Invoices and Payables
- Approval of Minutes from February 6, 2012 Regular Meeting
- CDAP Update/Blueprint Connect: Ed Morlan
- Introduction of Dr. Rick Smith, General Manager, SCAN
- PSCDC Review of First Six Months Activities and Accomplishments: Rich Lindblad
- Business Introductions: The Buck Stops Here, Kevin Schuchart; Design A Sign; Chris and Linda Erskine
- “Positive About Pagosa” Contest Winner – Kayla Nasralla
- Adjourn: Next Meeting Scheduled for April 2, 2012
Here's the pattern for recent PSCDC meetings:
I have enjoyed a couple of recent articles written by reporter Jim McQuiggin for the weekly Pagosa Springs SUN, that have raised questions about why we — the taxpayers — are funding this "economic development" organization to the tune of more than $100,000 per year. In his most recent piece, McQuiggin summarized the normal functions of a "Community Development Corporation," in the way such organizations typically exist in almost any city outside of Pagosa Springs.
- Introduce Mr. Lindblad's "economic development partners" from Durango.
- Listen to Mr. Lindblad claim credit for various "economic development classes" and "counseling sessions" that have been offered here in Pagosa for many years prior to his hiring.
- Listen to Mr. Lindblad present clients who have accessed outside business resources at his recommendation.
- Hear about dubious grant proposals, such as the one recently written by Mr. Lindblad and consultant Leanne Goebel supposedly designating Pagosa Springs as a "Creative Industries District."
- Avoid any meaningful discussion of "community development" or PSCDC policies.
- Adjourn the meeting.
Typically — McQuiggin writes — Community Development Corporations "are formed by residents, small business owners, congregations and other local stakeholders to revitalize a low- or moderate-income community, typically with the goal of establishing affordable housing and creating jobs for community residents. Jobs are often created through small or micro business lending or commercial development projects. As such, CDCs prefer to partner with those organizations rather than administer projects through direct participation as board members.
"Ultimately, the goal of housing and commercial development is to anchor capital locally, with dividends to investors resulting from a stronger, more stable and secure local economy, as a local workforce is provided with not just a sustainable environment for living (and spending money), but also jobs through encouraging business startups."
The article specifically questions the wisdom of allowing mayor Ross Aragon, Town manager David Mitchem, and County commissioner Clifford Lucero to sit on a "non-governmental board" spending taxpayer funds. Incidentally, all three of those board members, plus PSCDC board member Mark Weiler, are residents of the "exclusive" neighborhood within the Town boundaries — wherein only 14 percent of the county population resides, but where half of our community sales taxes are expended. The other two PSCDC board members, Morgan Murri and Bill Kinsley, own businesses located inside the Town boundaries.
"The participation of Aragon and Lucero on the PSCDC board is part of a larger issue regarding the propriety of local officials serving on and leading the boards of local committees and commissions," he writes. "Town Council member Kathie Lattin presides over the town’s planning commission board while Town Council member Bob Hart is [chair] of the Town Tourism Committee. Both the planning commission and the TTC bring recommendations to Council, many times with accompanying requests for money or staff resources. Neither Lattin nor Hart have recused themselves from votes on resolutions or ordinances that originated from their respective extracurricular boards."
One issue that McQuiggin does not address in his recent articles is the fact that PSCDC executive director Rich Lindblad has no experience and no background training in "community development" or "economic development". Mr. Lindblad, whom I've known for many years, is a self-taught "business counselor" who worked for most of his professional life as a project manager at AT&T.
At recent PSCDC meetings, it has become clear that Mr. Lindblad sees his role as PSCDC's executive director basically as a simple continuation of his previous role as a "business mentor" with the Small Business Development Center in Durango — except at a much higher salary. The combination of government control of the PSCDC board, and the hiring of an executive director with no background in "community development" has left Archuleta County taxpayers funding an organization unlikely to fulfill its original purpose — its original purpose when it was created two years ago via a series of government discussions between the Town Council and the County Commission.
The only possible solution to this unfortunate situation, as I see it, is for a few sensible and ethical candidates to step up and run for local office. And it appears that might be happening this year, at least at the Town Council level.
Oh... and did I say "courageous"? I meant to say "courageous candidates". Courageous enough to ask the hard questions, publicly. Courageous enough to stand up to Pagosa mayor Ross Aragon and his supporters, and say, "No more government waste."
So far, we have no one sitting on the PSCDC board who has been willing to do that. County commissioner Michael Whiting was starting to ask some of those hard questions — which might be the reason he was recently removed from the PSCDC board by his fellow commissioners Steve Wadley and Clifford Lucero. He now sits in the audience with the rest of us.
But Mr. Whiting also shops at City Market, and when I ran into him Monday afternoon near the canned beans, he advised me to buy the organic garbanzos even though they cost 50 cents more per can.
He also suggested I attend the PSCDC meeting, at 3 o'clock.
Read Part Two...
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