EDITORIAL: Some Thoughts on Community Development, Part Four

Read the first part

In my experience, eating just one ice cream cone can be very satisfying.

Eating half a gallon of ice cream in one sitting can also be satisfying, but in a different way.

When I moved to Pagosa three decades ago, I was hoping the community would grow into one ball, on a sugar cone.

A lot of people here, however, were looking for the full half gallon. Yesterday in Part Three we briefly touched on the discussions of the Pagosa Springs Area Tourism Board, which – after expressing concern for Pagosa workers being evicted as residential homes are bought and converted in STR (short-term rentals) – refused to permanently allocate part of their budget of $ 1.2 million for housing assistance.

The Council’s budget, spent to subsidize the tourism industry, has more than doubled over the past 8 years, largely due to these same STRs.

Full gallon of ice ? And no interest in sharing?

As mentioned yesterday in Part Three, various organizations have played a role in this development process, or have attempted to play a role. We have often seen our limited community resources successfully exploited… or, on occasion, wasted.

One of the organizations designed to help the community grow is the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, a 501c3 nonprofit created by the City of Pagosa Springs and the Archuleta County Council of Commissioners in 2010.

Any tax-exempt nonprofit theoretically “belongs” to the community it serves, but some nonprofits and cooperatives specifically allow “memberships” from the general public, allowing community residents to pay a fee. annual membership fee for the privilege of attending organizational events and voting on organizational matters. The Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation has become such a membership organization, but rather than setting a moderate membership fee of… say $ 50… the corporation weaned itself off the tax-funded pacifier.

On the PSCDC website:

The PSCDC offers three types of membership: Supporter Level ($ 250), Partner Level ($ 500) and Investor Level ($ 1,000).

Unfortunately, setting dues at these kinds of levels virtually guarantees that community members with moderate incomes will never become members.

The only account I could find for the PSCDC dates from 2019. It shows $ 6,170 from membership dues, donated by maybe twenty dues-paying members. Local, state and federal taxpayers apparently paid the remainder of the 2019 budget of $ 242,000.

It would appear that after 11 years of government grants, the business community is unlikely to step up and provide the primary source of funding for the PSCDC. Taxpayer grants are even more dominant this year and next, in part thanks to federal ARP funding provided to Archuleta County and the town of Pagosa Springs.

When the PSCDC was first created in 2010, the biggest problem – it seemed – was falling property values ​​and increasing foreclosures, resulting from the deflated real estate bubble and the global financial collapse. Two of the organizations affected by the downward economic spiral were city and county governments. The City saw a decline in sales tax collections after years of sustained growth; the county was experiencing not only the decline in sales tax, but also the decline in property assessments, resulting in reduced property tax revenues. Both governments ended up laying off employees.

A few related issues: a nosebleed in the real estate and construction sectors… a loss of revenue at the Pagosa Region Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) when the regular incomes of new clients disappeared … Declining school enrollment and subsequent loss of income per student… for a long time – companies of the time find it difficult to stay afloat.

It was a mess. A seriously melting ice cream cone.

The solution tried was to hire a charlatan who was expert in “economic development” from Mississippi, hand him over to the new community development company in Pagosa Springs, and pay him an exorbitant salary, which ultimately resulted in waste. hundreds of thousands of people. taxpayer money. You can read this sad story here, a depressing story of bad decisions and conflicts of interest.

But the main point here is that our community leaders, feeling a little hopeless, have devoted all of their energy to two key solutions:

1. Attract a Walmart store; and

2. Promote tourism as if there was no tomorrow.

As the Great Depression unfolded and Pagosa’s economy started to grow again, we got a Walmart. What about tourism? Well, many of us came to realize that an economy based on tourism was ultimately a pretty bad idea, if we were to preserve the refreshing and authentic city that we all moved here for.

Our community leaders did not come to the same conclusion, however. Under the leadership of government and business leaders, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into subsidizing the tourism and broadband industries.

When the real problem was right there right under our noses. No places to live, that we could afford.

As mentioned in Part 1, “community development” – in most places – means “community development”.

Here again is the definition of “community development” of the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals:

Definition: Community development is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participatory democracy, sustainable development, rights, equality, economic opportunity and social justice, through organization, education and the empowerment of people within their communities, whether local, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings.

Because some community leaders believed – in 2010, during the Great Recession – that the most important aspects of our community were “jobs” and “tax revenues”… we created a “community development corporation” focused primarily on on ‘growth’ at all costs… rather than community empowerment, truly sustainable development and ensuring our existing workforce is properly supported.

We could change gears, if we wanted to. The City Council, for example, will discuss this evening at 5 p.m. at the Town Hall about its 2022 budget, the key document that will define the actions of the Town Hall for the next 12 months. (Crucial months?) The public is invited to listen, in person or through Zoom. You can see the agenda here.

I don’t know about our Daily message readers, but I had hoped that Pagosa Springs would remain the kind of place where you would settle for a single scoop of ice cream.

But when governments continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting tourism and “economic development,” instead of focusing directly on the lives of local residents, things can start to look… unsatisfactory.

Bill hudson

Bill hudson

Bill Hudson began to share his opinions in the Pagosa’s daily message in 2004 and can’t seem to break the habit. He claims that in Pagosa Springs opinions are like vans: everyone has one.


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