City of Durango releases video explaining 2022 budgetResidents can check on projects without having to read thousands of line itemsWith the city in the middle of its budget approval process for fiscal year 2022, city staff is working to demystify the massive document with an easy-to-watch video.“It was an easy way to give a snapshot to our residents,” said Durango City Manager José Madrigal. “They can go and see the video, and basically walk away with the gist of a budget without having to go through the hundreds and hundreds of documents and pages.”The video details some of the major projects and goals detailed in the upcoming year’s budget.Two big concerns Madrigal hears from residents when talking about budgets are worries about tax increases and questions about what new things the city is providing in the coming year.“When someone asks what they’re getting out of the budget this year, that’s always tough to show in the pages of the budget,” Madrigal said. “That’s what our video was really entrenched to say, is here’s what you’re getting and here’s why.”Much of what residents receive from the city’s budget has to do with the city trying to fund projects that meet the goals of the city’s strategic plan.Goals like enhanced livability, diversity and equity, and affordability and economic opportunity are highlighted in the video.“We’re looking at doing things like disability improvements in our Parks and Recreation areas and in our streets,” Madrigal said. “We need to figure out how we can allow those people with disabilities to safely use our services without fear of being hit by a car.”He said the big things coming up for residents are a number of capital improvement projects to update things like the city’s water and sewer infrastructure, improving Parks and Recreation amenities, and expanding transportation networks.A cost increase residents will notice is a $2.22 rate increase on water and sewage.“That’s to keep up with operation costs and fund some capital improvements that we need to accomplish so that we can continue to maintain and enhance our system, Madrigal said.The city’s budget video is one of a number of efforts city staff members are making to provide residents with more transparency of city operations.Another large effort on that front was the launching of the city’s OpenGov website earlier this year. OpenGov is a transparency tool that provides residents with real-time information about city spending.Madrigal said he hopes to continue to provide residents insight into city operations with the launching of a new video series where he will try to answer common questions he receives from residents.“We’re really trying to address any topics that come up where we get questions and see a pattern developing,” he said. “We can begin to put these videos up for residents so they can kind of learn a bit about city operations and why we do what we do.”email@example.com
Colorado Department of Transportation examines winter driving in video seriesDocumentary-style shorts seek to raise awareness about being preparedWith winter well on its way, the Colorado Department of Transportation launched an educational video series this week about safe practices for winter driving.The series is called “Winter Driving in the Wild.” The first video is narrated by a David Attenborough-esque voice.“The whole point of this campaign is to focus on driver behavior,” said CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes. “It’s driver behavior that is behind many of our crashes that happen. Whether it’s driving distracted or driving under the influence, or just driving unprepared.”CDOT released the first video in the series on Monday, and will continue to release more as winter approaches.The series will include videos about the passenger vehicle traction law, tire and snowplow safety, winter preparedness tips and a guide for winter driving resources.“Motorists who are unprepared for winter road conditions create dangerous situations for themselves and everyone on the road, not to mention the extended delays we see from spinouts, slide-offs and crashes,” said Andrew Hogle, CDOT public information officer, in a news release.In Southwest Colorado, CDOT recognizes five highly traveled mountain roads as major passes, including Red Mountain, Coal Bank, Molas, Lizard Head and Wolf Creek.Schwantes said Wolf Creek Pass is typically the most dangerous of the major passes in Southwest Colorado.“U.S. Highway 160 Wolf Creek Pass is very nice and wide in some areas, which makes the pass very deceiving for you to gain speed as you head down the pass from the summit,” she said. While not one of the area’s major passes, Schwantes said Hesperus Hill is another area that drivers should be mindful of this winter.“Hesperus Hill is 1,000 feet higher than Durango, so it will get double the amount of snow that the city of Durango will get,” she said. “Even heading 15 miles west out of Durango, folks need to be prepared for a change in weather and road conditions.”CDOT reminds drivers that having proper traction for winter weather is not just safe, it’s the law.When a passenger vehicle traction law is in effect, all drivers are required to have proper tires or chains for their vehicle.In a January 2020 study, CDOT found that 91% of in-state vehicles surveyed were in compliance with the passenger vehicle traction law, and 86% of out-of-state vehicles were in compliance.“The Traction Law is activated for safety and efficiency purposes,” Hogle said. “If everyone on the road has adequate tires and tread, then we’ll see fewer crashes and reduce delay times.”Before traveling this winter, CDOT recommends checking weather conditions, planning a route in advance, checking tires and knowing the laws.While on the road, CDOT asks drivers to make sure headlights are on, and keep speeds consistent with visibility of the road ahead. It’s illegal to pass a snowplow when it is operating its lights, or when it’s operating in a tandem formation with one or more snowplows.CDOT has a number of online resources for drivers to stay up to date on things like road conditions, travel alerts and scheduled lane closures. firstname.lastname@example.org
Polis releases budget proposal focused on crime, homelessness and business recoveryColorado governor unveiled $40 billion plan for 2022-23 fiscal yearGov. Jared Polis wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars next fiscal year to ease the financial burden of government fees on businesses, reduce homelessness and combat rising crime.The Democrat, who is heading into the final year of his first term and preparing for reelection in 2022, unveiled the wish list Monday as part of his $40 billion budget proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The plan incorporates state tax revenue and federal coronavirus relief dollars and calls for an 8.5% increase in discretionary spending by the Legislature, which will determine how much of Polis’ plan to pursue.Polis said the budget “doubles down” on his previous initiatives and is “our response to the call of the moment” as Colorado works to recover from the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.“These are proposals that Coloradans will see and feel in their everyday lives,” Polis said.The governor’s proposal also calls for major investments in efforts in education and to combat climate change and pollution, including the hiring of 50 new staffers for Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division and spending $150 million to purchase electric school buses to replace their diesel-guzzling counterparts.One of the largest line items in Polis’ plan is $600 million to address the state’s $1 billion unemployment insurance trust fund deficit. The $1 billion is owed to the federal government, and businesses will have to pay a surcharge to help cover the tab.Half of the $600 million will go toward buying down the debt while the rest will be distributed to lower the employer surcharge.Polis wants $100 million of the $600 million to come from federal coronavirus relief dollars the state received earlier this year. State lawmakers haven’t committed to that spending, though Republicans would like to see as much federal aid money go toward the deficit as possible.Another $50 million would be spent under Polis’ plan to prepay six months of fees businesses will owe to implement Colorado’s new paid family and medical leave program. Voters approved the program in 2020 through the passage of Proposition 118.“It would push (businesses’ payments) out closer to when the benefits kick in,” Polis said.There’s also a $51 million proposal to help businesses hire workers, including through job-training programs and apprenticeship programs. There would also be tens of millions of dollars set aside to increase child care options.The governor wants to spend $113 million on public safety. The dollars would go toward grants to reduce recidivism and boost forensic and investigative resources. Polis also wants to spread initiatives where behavioral health experts respond with police officers, which have been successful in Denver.The spending plan also includes $200 million to reduce homelessness, spread across drug and alcohol treatment investments, intervention strategies and community response efforts.“Homelessness has risen to the level of state priority,” Polis said. “We can no longer just say ‘Denver, you deal with it, it’s your fault. Colorado Springs you deal with it. Aurora you deal with it.’ I think it’s become an issue that affects all of us. ... We can either keep doing the same thing, which is not working, or we can say, ‘You know what, cities can’t do this alone. The state needs to step up.’”Crime and homelessness are two areas that Republicans are already attacking Polis on heading into the 2022 election. The issues haven’t been spending priorities for the governor in prior years.One new proposed program the governor unveiled Monday would pay local transit agencies to offer free fares on high ozone pollution days. This year was the worst in recent decades when it comes to ozone pollution for the northern Front Range.“It can play a role in changing habits and support long-term increases in ridership,” Polis said of the proposed program.Polis also wants to spend $10 million for an environmental study for the potential buildout of a Front Range passenger train system and direct money to help drive down energy-use in cannabis cultivation.Finally, the governor’s budget proposal calls for setting aside $1.8 billion for future budget obligations, including for schools, transportation and affordable housing, as well as $2 billion as a reserve for future economic downturns.The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.