Friday, December 31, 2010

Current Watch: "Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. citizen's investigation summarizes 2010's 'Watch'"

A year ago, 'smalltown 7' summarized the first year of the 'Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association' with a post from the two founding members of their group. 

 'glenwoodsprings22' and his wife 'gws44'. That post and the resulting comments from the community is now hard copy archived for evidentiary purposes in the future.

'22' spoke from his heart as he told the story of what prompted them to step forward. 

There were many points brought to light in that post. 

The resultant comments and emails that locals and others sent in were overwhelming. 

And, as rightful things always do, contained the last remaining pieces of the puzzle to enable this group to accomplish what they have this year.  After watching us for months, your trust that you really did have a SafePlace, paid off in the end.

That was also the post that brought SafePlaceBlogs to national non-profit watch-dog attention and our statistics soared along with our rankings getting to the top of internet searches. 

With your insights and facts as fuel, that rise to visibility turned the tide for the citizens of 81601 and eventually for all whistleblowers on GSCRA.

As 'smalltown7' met today to discuss strategy for the upcoming year on this 'Current Watch', all agreed that the strongest point made in last year's summary remains the strongest point to summarize how very far they have come. 

That point is one that these very good people saw and instantly knew they could not turn their backs again.  Knew that their standing up  to finish what a community actually began well over fifteen years earlier, was imperative in it's need and unyielding in it's demand.

That point, was the watching of a crew of hispanic masons, who had not been paid in months.  Who were forced to work hungry and frozen in exterior sub-zero temperatures for days.  For the sole purpose of attempting to satisfy an obvious insatiable greed from the project's owner.  With hungry children at home and on through Christmas Day of 2008, those men worked at what would end up being an effort in vain as that project rolled over the course of the upcoming months. 

As 'glenwoodsprings22' sat idling in his warm truck, watching these men he had known for years help each other move their frozen limbs as they lifted stone after heavy stone, an unyielding resolve ignited into a flame that would alter his life forever.  That flame was the realization that there comes a time in everyone's life where they must act for the sake of others.

That project's owner was Marianne Virgili, President, CEO and Executive Director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

From that now epochal moment, this group of seven tackled a problem within Glenwood Springs so entrenched in multi-faceted issues, the web spun around it daunted everyone who had tried before them until they simply gave up.

First taking the steps to attempt discreet handling for the sake of a community with need for no further scandal on those issues. 

At that failure, empowering others to step forward and share what they knew with them. 

With the next step being the need to move out into the open, they attempted local media.  That media that would later go on to reveal as being one of the greatest contributing factors in cover-up on these issues.  Due to their asleep at the wheel apathy and loss of journalistic integrity, they failed their community and this group.

Sitting on top of a Jobox on a construction site, four members + one sketched out a three-sided strategy.  With the need for only that one point of '22's' to be accomplished, that strategy basically amounted to a '3-sided pen'.  One strong enough to first corral and then hold the elements needed to finally accomplish getting the problems they faced under control until authorities would act.

That 'pen' has it's base side as the unyielding truth.  A very basic strategy that sooner or later and despite human nature that holds free will to make wrong choices, the truth of the accommodations tax issues and what five women whistles and their lives had endured, would prevail.

By that time, law had been broken by those wanting SafePlace and it's harbor suppressed.  Lives were being harmed by others in obvious ways and at an obvious hand.  Through the anonymity of safety within SafePlace to Whistle blow, a community strengthened and created this blog and their commenting in as the second side to the 'pen'. 

The next step that led to the third and final 'side' of this now unbreakable corral was given by human nature. 

Human nature that when facing the beast inside a bully, puts it's head down and gives up.  With the result then being a back turned and a blind eye  overpowering the awareness of right from wrong.

In the case of this 'Current Watch,' the dual factor of that problem was our local print media being one of the sectors falling prey to it.  Obstruction of voices began to occur.   'smalltown7' encouraged and helped create blog media that allowed for the tracking of daily regional news and allowed free speech in commentary.

With their own media and the 'pen' tracking the problem within the Chamber, freedom was able to come to the voice of the common man and the sub-community of 81601.  Who then went on to see the following accomplished in 2010 on this 'Current Watch on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association': 

  • From 1/1/10 through to early September, a historic new board, with unprecedented power and representation of the citizens of the community was seated.  Marking an end to upwards of an estimated 14 million dollars in public revenues, over the span of 23 years, never undergoing a forensic audit and being continually left with little to often no oversight in the hands of a private non-profit and that board of hand-picked directors.
  • Within a little over 60 days that board revised the control over spending of those funds by the still held marketing vendor of the Chamber.
  • Within a little less than 90 days that board sent the very strong and powerful message that allowing public funds to remain with no forensic and outside oversight would no longer be tolerated.  They sent down the mandate to City Council that the accounting and handling of marketing funds from the acccommodations tax would be under the control of the board and an outside accounting firm of their choice.
As the year now rolls over, GSCRA has been awarded one last year of the tourism marketing contract.  All future years will see, for the first time ever, an RFP issued on this contract.  The board to remain in charge.

'smalltown7' sees the following needs for SafePlace remaining as they wind down 2010:

1.   The accommodations tax revenues and the tourism marketing of 81601 is in excellent hands now.  Under a City Council oversight that has much needed elections coming up in April of 2011, politics can never play as influential of a role as they have in past years.  The citizens, under Ordinance #12, series of 2010, are now in charge.

2.  Come April 1, 2011 the bookkeeping and accounting from the Chamber will be removed from the Chamber Board's hands and placed into third-party control.  By relying once again on 'side #1' of their pen, 'smalltown7' believes truth will prevail with the eventual validation of all whistles.  In the event there is a continued lack of  authority's doing their jobs, and stepping in with the strength of prosecutorial powers to investigate; the remaining two 'sides' of small's 'pen',  will be keeping an eye on progress as the conversion is made.

3.   The board has now placed themselves in the micro-management position of oversight on how the 2011 marketing funds are spent.  Spending and the use of credit is one of the major whistle complaints over the years. Rightfully so as those whistles are the ones suffering the wrath of the Chamber in retaliation for speaking up.  As the next few City Council meetings unfold alongside other related due processes,  there is still the issue of the supposedly civic event of  Strawberry Days to be reined in.  There is also the still remaining issue of repayment for the bail-out given to the funds when the Chamber ran the grant funds dry in Spring 2010.

From a long, long list of your concerns brought forward to SafePlace and 'smalltown7' over two years ago, we are now down to those two remaining issues being the only true issues surrounding public funds.

The third and also the few remaining concerns over GSCRA, Virgili and the accumulated past we feel will likely run a natural death course (or) end up in the hands of our community's new Tourism Promotion Board.  After this last stand by the board, we are highly confident they recognize all the issues and the dynamic of what they face in 2011.

As for the crew of hispanic masons so symbolic to an entire community, their plight and the plight of the five women whistles spanning over 12 years draws to a positive close for them and their families. 

You have noticed the decrease in posts on SafePlace over these months.  We have been slowly rounding to full circle and returning to what 'smalltown7' had forcibly taken out of their hands in 2009 and 2010 by Virgili and the Chamber.

What was taken out of their hands was their choice for discretion and quiet handling of the clean-up of a core so ugly it tainted a town. 

That was the original desire of these people who love their community deeply. 

The feeling of 'smalltown7' is that they now claim a belated victory in that effort as well. 

The wailing and crying of a chamber board, former tourism board and former council members that do not care to bring the darkness of years into the public light, is back full circle in those same folks hands that are doing the wailing. 

A community has held them accountable and exposed core concerns.

All of the people, including whistles and small have simply stood back and let the base of the pen run it's natural course. 

'smalltown7'  and 81601 would have by far preferred discretion of their problems over two years ago.

'smalltown7' takes the win.

Only the reporting of progress as we head down the home stretch will now be reported on this 'Current Watch:  Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association'. 

smalltown7 keeps talking.