Vote ‘yes’ on city charter amendments

Durango voters should have received mail-in ballots proposing two amendments to the City Charter. To count, ballots must be received in City Hall no later than 7 p.m. Tuesday. If you are a registered voter and did not receive a ballot, contact the City Clerk’s Office at 375-5010.

The amendments address two issues: expansion of the electorate for votes on utility franchise agreements and naming of the official responsible for managing such an election.

The substantive issue concerns who votes in franchise agreement elections. In April, when voters narrowly rejected the proposed franchise agreement between the city and La Plata Electric Association, one concern was the City Charter specification that only property taxpayers were eligible to vote. That provision disenfranchised the many registered voters who are renters, most of whom would pay the proposed franchise fee on their electric bills. It also disenfranchised others, such as my wife and me, for whom legal ownership of their property resides in a trust.

The primary purpose of the July 31 special election is to correct this unfairness and remove the associated objection to approving franchise agreements in the future. In particular, the City Council is very likely to bring back to the voters in November a new franchise agreement with LPEA. Without the revenue provided by such an agreement – essentially rent of city rights-of-way for delivery of electricity – the city will have to cut nearly $1 million from future annual budgets. Such a cut would come on top of the significant downsizing that took place during the recession. At public meetings in May, attendees overwhelmingly preferred restoring the franchise agreement to further cutting city services.

The second City Charter amendment is a housekeeping issue, naming the city clerk as the official responsible for managing franchise elections, in preference to the city treasurer, a position that no longer exists.

Please vote “yes” on both City Charter amendments.

Dick White, Durango City Council