Glenwood Springs councilors interview Ward 2 applicants
Glenwood Springs City Council interviewed three applicants for the vacant Ward 2 seat Monday afternoon.
Some recurring themes that came up were, for Monica Wolny, improving communication between council and residents and making Glenwood more family-friendly; for Ray Schmahl, focusing on infrastructure; and for Ingrid Wussow, not being loved to death by tourism and getting data from experts to assist in decision making.
Mayor Jonathan Godes asked the applicants 15 questions compiled from council and citizens in 45-minute interviews. Following are the applicants’ answers to 12 of them in the order the interviews were held.
The Glenwood Springs City Council is slated to meet at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 27 to select the Ward 2 councilor.
Goals in the next six months
Wolny said her goal would be to improve communication and be a voice for citizens, “to make a better relationship between the people and council and the city.” On some issues council should seek public input through polls or social media to act on what citizens want, she said.
“I have no goals of my own other than to assist council making the best decisions and plans for the city that we can come up with,” Schmahl said.
Wussow said her goal would be to integrate into council and to bring good listening ears.
Role of a councilor
Wolny said her role on council would be as a voice of the people. “I want communication to be between our citizens and the council, and that’s the only reason why I’m running.”
Schmahl said his role would be “reacting as rationally and as logically as possible to the issues that are before the council at this time.”
Wussow said her role would be as an advocate for her community.
Interaction with city staff and budget oversight
Wolny said that despite having been vocal about her views on council, she believes she can work together for solutions to problems. “If we work together and put all our thoughts together maybe it’ll be a better City Council,” she said.
Schmahl said he would like to help with budget decisions. “I would need to understand the budgeting process and the financial condition. … There has to be some hard decisions on where that money gets spent, and I would welcome being part of those decisions,” he said.
City staff can and should take direction from city council, Wussow said.
“Council is the employer of the city staff, and that’s how I want it. I want a top-down approach,” she said.
Big issues in the future
Wolny said there aren’t enough things for families to do in Glenwood Springs, which causes some families to leave after a few years. “I’m running because my kids are growing up in this area. It has to be a family-friendly place,” she said.
Both Schmahl and Wussow said one of the biggest issues in the next two years will be returning to normal following COVID-19, and transportation will be the biggest issue in 10 years.
“The new bridge is already becoming obsolete or it wasn’t that much help to begin with. Gridlock is negatively affecting the character of the community,” Schmahl said.
Wussow said another long-term issue is “how to have tourism work for us without loving us to death.”
2A and 7A
Council asked applicants how they feel about ballot issues 2A and 7A. Ballot issue 2A would provide a revenue stream for emergency services free from the restrictions of the Gallagher Amendment. Ballot issue 7A would raise taxes to benefit the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
Wolny and Schmahl both said they are opposed to repealing the Gallagher Amendment.
“Any increase in taxes is undesirable. I think citizens are taxed adequately and should get more return on their contributions,” Schmahl said.
“I am supportive of [2A] but I do think it was premature to put it on our ballot not knowing what direction Gallagher would go [statewide],” Wussow said. The statewide Amendment B vote would repeal Gallagher through all of Colorado. Wussow also supports 7A.
City fighting RMR mine
Wolny was in agreement with the city putting money to fight the mine.
Schmahl said the money the city has spent fighting the mine was not well spent. “I have a hard time seeing how that mine expansion is financially viable to begin with. … But if in fact [RMR] has a legal right as a property owner and have the mining rights to that stuff then fighting it and trying to say no is not as effective as trying to make sure that they do it with minimal impact,” Schmahl said.
Wussow is opposed to the mine and said a “no strip mine” bumper sticker was the first she had ever put on her car. “It’s that big of a deal,” she said. She said she doesn’t know enough about where the money the city spent fighting the mine went to have a strong opinion about whether it was put to good use.
City’s biggest economic opportunity and challenge
Wolny said future shutdowns from fires will be a big challenge for the city.
Schmahl said the city should focus on infrastructure to keep the city a healthy place to live. “I have some concerns that we may have overdone a good thing here, relying as heavily as we do on tourism that we’re trampling what made tourism so attractive to begin with,” he said.
Wussow said the greatest economic opportunity and threat are one and the same: tourism. “Tourism in general is our greatest opportunity … but that brings in more tourism which in turn brings in that ‘loving Glenwood to death’ component,” she said.
Role of city in supporting affordable housing
Wolny said the current economy makes it difficult for developers to build affordable housing. “Two years ago we got rid of affordable housing and we said developers no longer need to build affordable housing. … Maybe we wouldn’t have the problem now with all these apartments going up and none of them being affordable,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s the city’s role to try to manage or create affordable housing. … If businesses want employees that live in town they should pay them what it costs to live in town,” Schmahl said.
“We can encourage the incorporation of more townhomes and entry-level homes into [development] plans,” Wussow said, and municipal code already specifies that projects should have a diverse range of housing types.
Tourism vs. locals’ quality of life
Wolny said that the city should organize events in the off months to bring residents together. “We can have enough things in this town that not only will bring the citizens together but will bring the families out together, and that’s what we need,” she said.
“If the preponderance of the city’s income comes from tourists then it’s appropriate that we accommodate the tourists to continue that. If the bulk of the city’s income comes from people who live here then that appropriate amount ought to be dedicated to improving their quality of life,” Schmahl said.
“We need to understand that [tourism] supports the community” but also creates traffic problems, Wussow said. Though she said she doesn’t know what the answer is, the role of city is to balance tourism and local quality of life.
City’s role in filling big box stores
Wolny said there aren’t enough people locally spending money in those stores. “First you need to build that community sense and have people want to stay here and live here, and people have to want to spend here,” she said.
“The city should fully understand why those stores are empty. I suspect that part of it is they’re difficult to get into and out of,” Schmahl said.
“It’s the city’s responsibility to create an environment where these big box stores can thrive and want to be here,” Wussow said. “We can support initiatives to bring them in.” She recommended consulting with experts.
Vision for transportation in next 20 years
Wolny said the city needs another road to get traffic through town, such as Midland Avenue, but that she sees it as more of a county and state issue. As for traffic: “Deal with it, there’s nothing you can do,” she said.
“It doesn’t appear that the buses are working, so some big method of getting around town without having to go through town for those people that want to is the target for the big vision,” Schmahl said.
Wussow said that she doesn’t know a lot about transportation, but the city could get feedback from other communities and help from consultants.
City’s role in dealing with homelessness
Wolny said homelessness is bigger than a city issue. “I don’t believe this is a city issue, I believe this is a state issue. I don’t think the city has enough manpower, it doesn’t have enough funding. I don’t feel like the city is responsible,” she said.
Schmahl said the city should stop accommodating the homeless, but if the city decides that that is its role then money should be spent on the problem.
Wussow said homelessness is an interagency issue. “So many of these homeless camps are actually on county property. We have an issue that trickles down from county property. … Some accountability from the county would be a good start,” she said.
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