As a group we make the public statement that we had hoped the passing of a little time would see the end of the few remaining issues surrounding current and past use of public funds by GSCRA.
Not only does that seem to not be happening, public awareness now holds serious concerns over conflicts of interest that effect fair process in the tourism RFP, still no control over the funds surrounding Strawberry Days and no answers to the citizens on the legal concerns surrounding public monies.
The highly effective medium of this blog seems to be the answer once again in getting voices heard. Now that confirmation holds the innocent in this scandal are safely tucked aside, we can return to the cause we began in 2003.
Which is the full securing of past, present and future aaccommodations tax revenues within 81601.
This post is a summary of where we are in that battle:
"The standard response from elected officials and city administration anytime the subject of any question raised about the current and past handling of public funds or public events by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. is that they believe the chamber does an excellent job and has their full support.
To say that answer is an evasion of the question(s) is unnecessary.
Anyone can see that it is not only an evasion, it's a deliberate spread of disinformation by omission.
Anytime a question of concern by taxpaying citizens is not only avoided but deliberately steered in another direction, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that something is being kept hidden.
If the problems and concerns were fresh, new and few then maybe some understanding of officials possibly wanting to not tarnish their city could be found.
But in the case of 81601 the diversion and aversion has run rampant and unchecked for literally decades.
Where exactly do the citizens of Glenwood Springs stand now?
Let's take a look:
- A quick review of this blog shows that not without a great deal of passive aggressive manipulation by the Chamber and its Board of Directors, 81601 now has a strong Tourism Board in place that is under the control of the city. Also in place is a first ever competitive bid process for the tourism promotion contract, starting with the 2012 award. What is very important to note are the subtle manipulations in the background and throughout 81601 to try to undermine this good work. The people see it, they know it, but yet the behavior remains tolerated by our sitting officials. There is some hope that our new council members will finally get their legs under them and begin to objectively look at what is ultimately best for 81601 when it comes to tourism, events and city functions that draw revenue into our community and meld all factions into a working unit rather than under the umbrella of a unilateral determination of direction.
Let's take a look at the loose ends surrounding those two big changes. All of which are not minor, but rather are major thorns in progressive movement for 81601:
* The allowing of a bidding vendor, in the Chamber Resort Assoc. to hold a monopoly of seats on the new Tourism Board. The people still state that this is not a popularity contest nor is the rationale that just about everyone on the Tourism Board is a chamber member. This conflict is directed at any sitting Tourism Board member that is also a sitting director on the chamber board. There are at least three in Peter Tijm, Ken Murphy and Carl Moak. The solution is simple. All should have abstained from any input whatsoever on the RFP, any input whatsoever on selecting who can and cannot bid and certainly abstain from any voting. We can see in our own city council that even the slightest hint of conflict of interest and councilmen abstain. Actually leaving the chambers during discussion.
* While on the topic of conflicts and special privilege granted to certain members, the question of whether or not Ken Murphy's application to re-up his seat was done in a legitimate manner or should Jon Zalinski actually be sitting that seat needs to be answered by council.
* The tourism board, because it is a public funds accountable board, should have minutes and taped meetings available for public view instead of kept under lock and key with the city clerk.
The point to these questions is that our board needs to be held to legitimate standards, not selective and preferred by some standards.
What is our call on these points?
Publicly announce what has been done to date on the issue of conflicts and if the answer is nothing, then GSCRA should disqualify.
If the answer is only abstain from voting, then the public should be informed of all the reasons why the Tourism Board is being granted any special privileges above any other city board and requirements of charter and law.
This board is the only board that handles public funds and they should be held to the highest of standards as they are in a position of trust. Be accountable and transparent in public ways.
Moving forward with the remaining issues we see:
- The current tourism marketing contract for 2011 was given blindly to the chamber in early 2010. No one really has a problem with that, it's best we have someone familiar to keep things going while transitions are being made. Where the problem lies is still in the stone wall to show transparency to the money. Since the time of giving them 2011, publicly recorded minutes and videos of meetings show the see-saw effect of the chamber's attempt to push council and the citizens back to 'the way things used to be'. These public records then show a grudging acceptance.
a) Where is the accounting for at least the 2010 bailout of the grant fund? Why haven't the detailed records of exactly where the 2010 20% to the chamber went been seen by the public?
b) Why hasn't the accounting for the tourism contract cushion, spoken of by Lindsay Lewis as being sat on by the chamber and the obvious accounting for the salary of Kate Collins that was not spent after she quit yet was funded by the contract; been accounted for publicly? The chamber is boasting of sitting on a positive bottom line at the end of 2010 fiscal year. How much of that is public money?
c) Mayor Christensen showed a rare moment of both anger and disdain when confronting Virgili over the signing of the 2011 contract. On public record, the city returned to the contract the more rigid requirements and accounting mandates for the 2011 contract that had previously been imposed, then removed to soothe ruffled feelings by the tourism board. Those accounting mandates held to a placing of the bookkeeping into the hands of private and tourism board/city controlled hands as of April 1, 2011. Where is that accounting? Does it finally include forensic accounting of past year's records?
What is our call on these issues?
a and b) Forensic accounting of legal strength and standards needs to be done on all public funds passed through GSCRA to date. If the dogma defense that it is more important to maintain the popularity contest stature of our council and chamber still prevails, then fall back on city charter and law that mandates good stewardship, not guessing games, of public funds.
If any type of forensic look of any type of legal strength and standard is being done already, then control the press release that divulges that information and let the people know. The people of 81601 are struggling mightily and working hard to prosper, they need to know exactly where the money is, where it has been spent and how it has been accounted for.
c) The public focus on Virgili has been proven, time after time, to have nothing to do with one individual. Yet, our esteemed council, our city administration and our law enforcement have now put many levels of 81601 in legal jeopardy from failure of their duty.
The citizens who ultimately have to pay for that loss and not just in monetary ways, deserve to have their minds put at ease that the time of blindly stumbling about making governing judgments from the foundation of gossip are over. To alter a legal contract, given by us as a people in good faith and then attempt to shove that contract into signature was an outrageous showing of contempt for our community. As shown in our last municipal election, the people no longer tolerate the abuse of power from anyone, including our elected officials.
Our call? Announce publicly that the city has proven smalltown7 wrong on every point. If that cannot be done, then begin the painful process of telling the full truth publicly.
- Strawberry Days. 81601 needs every dime of tourism related revenue we can get. Before our esteemed council even tries to run a new attractions tax by us, they need to get control over all the loose ends in tourist related revenue we have. Our biggest event of the year is Strawberry Days. And it used to be a fund-raising civic event. We just blew another $9,000 in bailout money for fireworks, on top of the tens of thousands we bailed out the grant fund in 2010 when the chamber ran that dry. Strawberry Days should not be a Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. fund-raising event, it should be returned to the City of Glenwood Springs control.
The city either needs to show the public, through council, the contract for the turning over of Strawberry Days to private controls or take it to the people on whether or not the event should be returned to city controls. Including the money generated, which would be a great source to fund our discretionary grant spending. If it should turn out that the event and all monies it has generated over the years is just another one of those 'whoops' of being asleep at the wheel by our elected officials, then the chamber needs to provide an accounting.
- Sunshine. Since when does our community sit back and allow a few in positions of power make the kind of governing decision that the public should be kept in the dark? Obviously, since our own council members have remained oblivious to what the common man on the street has known for months; we have a very real concern that our leaders are possibly deliberately keeping themselves blinded.
Get it all out in the open and make certain there is no twist or spin on the content. Otherwise, the citizens of 81601 are not going to trust where they are being led.
smalltown7 keeps talking.