City administrator considers state of community

Here in Salida our fiscal health and investment in infrastructure remains strong.  The City Council continues to reduce debt obligations and build reserves.  At the same time the city has been able to invest in infrastructure for the long-term benefit of the community.  Revenues for business are up as reflected in increased sales and lodging tax receipts in 2012.

So why, if Salida’s fiscal health is strong, is the emotional state of the community in such turmoil?  The voters have determined in strong numbers that the community will not pursue a home-rule charter.  For some this reflects a lack of trust in the current local government and for others constructive effort on a charter did not seem possible in light of the apparent anger and hostility.  Regardless of the reason for your vote the election is now behind us and we must now begin to focus on productive solutions and coming together.

Transparency seems to be a consistent theme of concern in the discussions about home rule.  This has been a concern of mine and as a staff, with support from Council, we have taken steps over the past few years to provide much information to the public.

Regular Council meetings, work sessions and Planning Commission meetings are broadcast live on Optimum Channel 10.  These meetings are replayed and are also available at the library.  Meeting packets, agendas and minutes are available in advance on the city website as are past meeting minutes and packets.  Citizens may sign up for an email notification of when Council packets are available.

We have a Facebook page, which also highlights press releases.  Department heads write columns each week for the Mountain Mail, Salida Citizen and the city’s website.  This is far more than any other government entity in Chaffee County provides and goes well beyond statutory requirements for Sunshine laws and public notice.

The Council welcomes productive input about the issues and challenges facing the city.  All members of the community are welcome to attend meetings, a schedule of which can be found on the city’s website at, or by calling City Hall.

What further suggestions do you have to improve transparency or relations between local government and the community at large?  My door is always open to the citizens of this community.  We have so many methods of communication available whether it be face-to-face, television, internet, newspaper, telephone, email, Facebook or skywriting.  There must be a method that works for you, please let me know what works best.

If you have concerns about transparency, please contact me with suggestions about ways to better communicate with the citizenry.  The Council will discuss the composition of the Natural Resource Center Board during its work session on January 22.  If you want to discuss the future direction of the city, please contact your Councilman or myself, or attend the comprehensive plan workshop at the SteamPlant on February 12.

This is a wonderful town in which we are all emotionally and financially invested.  Let’s come together and move forward in a way that celebrates the good things we all love about this community.


Dara MacDonald

City Administrator

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

21 Responses to “City administrator considers state of community”

  1. Cutler Ferchaud

    Great letter, Dara. I too was appalled at the lack of insight and extreme fear of change that the people of Salida showed last week. I thought our town was smarter than that. What everyone chose to ignore was the fact that this vote was simply to INVESTIGATE THE POSSIBILITY of home rule. NOT to actually vote on it. It showed, to me, a complete misunderstanding of the facts. Or complete stupidity. Either way, the dark ages still exist in our big government ruled town.

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  2. Wiggy

    I voted against HR because I felt this would open the door for activist government. Government from the Federal level down to the local is becoming more activist and the result is that it is costing all of us more either in taxes or increased costs of living related to increased regulatory burden. My suggestion, Dara is for local government to focus on the things that only government can do: police and fire protection, clean water and infrastructure maintenance. Leave the rest to the private sector which will address needs as the marketplace dictates.

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    • Trey

      Fair enough. Another perspective suggests that a "no" vote on home rule costs all of us more by limiting opportunities to make local government more efficient and more responsive to local needs.

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  3. Cutler Ferchaud

    Wiggy, you are exactly the type of uninformed, fearful person I was referring to in my earlier response. If you truly choose to be informed, which by your response, you aren't; you should talk to someone who is smarter than you and get the facts straight.

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    • Trey

      Let's try to avoid personal attacks and overly-broad characterizations, please.

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  4. Wiggy


    Name calling and hyperventilating won't move the discussion forward in this polarized atmosphere. Dara was wondering about the emotional state of the community. So am I.

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  5. Cutler Ferchaud

    If you think "uninformed" is name calling, then you should be concerned.

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  6. Larry Jones

    Mr. Ferchaud,

    Einstein once said "information is not knowledge".

    I am curious how your ego could be so enormous that in your mind you have the 100% correct view.

    Has it occurred to you that your life experiences, career, etc could possibly tilt your point of view on a particular subject? That someone else maybe had different life experiences that make them see things in a contrasting light? Does this make them wrong? Does a different point of view make them uniformed?

    Perhaps you should have a touch more humility, it would probably do you some good.

    In addition, when you came to Salida a few years ago...all of us uninformed, gun loving, rednecks must have done something right for Salida to be attractive enough for you to relocate here.


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  7. Cutler Ferchaud

    Facts are facts. Facts have nothing to do with intelligence, socio-economics, hair color or egos. The simple fact in this whole discussion is that the vote last week was simply to investigate the IDEA of home rule. Nothing else.

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    • Cory Scheffel

      Last week's vote was also to elect members to a commission to create a charter that would form the foundation of our city government. I applaud the candidates for their sense of civic responsibility.
      The biggest issue for me was the differing perceptions of their role. They were required to solicit public opinion, but what they did with it was vague.
      Some saw themselves as solicitors of public opinion and others saw themselves as representatives of public. (I also wasn't clear as to their intended role.)
      As solicitors, I wanted to know exactly how they were going to solicit public opinion and how they would take the differing opinions and roll it into a charter.
      As representatives, I wanted to know what positions they represented and what they hoped to accomplish with the charter.
      As we've seen with the Nestle' and the ATV debates. Soliciting input is just the first step. What you do with it next is the difference between a solicitor and a representative.
      Yes, we had the opportunity to vote on the charter in the end, but with such varying perceptions of the role, with the divisions it was already causing in our community (your comments reinforce this fact), and with 130 years of statuatory rule helping make a community I am proud to be a part of, the vote seemed fairly straight forward.

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  8. Trey

    Dara asked:

    What further suggestions do you have to improve transparency or relations between local government and the community at large?

    I think that Salida could benefit from a program similar to Leadership Golden, which gives people an opportunity to learn more about local government through monthly seminars.

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  9. Cutler Ferchaud

    I agree Trey, knowledge of the facts is what we are all after, I hope.

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  10. Cutler Ferchaud

    Trey. That is EXACTLY what home rule is all about. FACT

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  11. Cory Scheffel

    The feeling of transparency (or the lack there of) seems to stem from the handeling of the Resource center. Implementation can ruin the best laid plans. (You never get a second chance to make a first impression.) There seems to be a feeling among some of our community members that this fairly major decision was done using a loophole and didn't represent the true feelings of the community. I personally see alot of good that can come from the center, but I can also understand the feeling that if it's important enough, you do it in a way that shows the highest integrity. I think the "how" you get info to the community laid out above is comprehensive. I also think the "how" the city council pursues it's objectives must also be looked at and the consequeces of any action on public opinion. If it could be done all over again, I think a vote of the citizens on the development could have eliminated alot of the feelings of "lack of transparency".

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  12. Joseph Hewes


    Thanks for so accurately capturing and portraying the prevailing attitude of our city council in order to demonstrate exactly why 75% of voters voted against giving them more power.

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  13. Trey

    Let's focus on the topics raised in the post. Should the city be more transparent? Differently transparent? Do you have any concrete suggestions for how we move forward from here?

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  14. Earle Kittleman

    Dara asks how can the City be more transparent and how do we move forward. She answered that question on behalf of the administration, but we never heard from City Council as to why it proposed Home Rule and financed an election to get the ball rolling and then never advocated for it. Council apparently believed it should be impartial. This left citizens scratching their heads as to what motives lay behind the proposal. Distrust grew because our elected representatives could not, or would not, tell us what they wanted from home rule or how the City might be better off. I know of no law that bans elected officials from expressing their opinions on matters such as this. I wish ours had been more outspoken.

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  15. MCS

    It would be a help if someone ( possibly The Salida Citizen ) interviewed a Council member and asked some of the questions that have been posed in the ongoing discussions about the entire Home Rule subject . How about talking to Keith Baker to see where he stands on this issue . After all , he has been on the Council for awhile now , and I'm sure , has a stance on this issue . Come on Keith , let's here what you have to say .

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  16. Billy Carlisle

    Trey had a good idea about that Golden program. Sounds like a boot camp on local city government. I had planned to contact a councilman directly and ask , can you point me in the right direction. What is the crash course on municipal government 101. The more I hear and see the more I realize there is to know. Obviously you can't know it all, so where do you start and what would be a good list of priorities. Dara might be able to come up with some sort of orientation type outline. It might be a guide to information that is already on file in the library. I hope I am not talking to the wind here. I will do some research, but I am all ears if anyone has some ideas. The question is, what should an informed citizen know about Salida City Government? A person cannot learn all that in a day so what are some priorities to work on?

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  17. Billy Carlisle

    Here are some ideas for change. What do you think of these, or do you have some of your own to offer?
    Here are several ideas worth debating and considering. Most would require ballot initiatives and that is not as complex as you might think. 1) Form an election commission. There are plenty of blueprints for that in the statutes under which Salida governs itself (state statutes include models for this). An election commission would be a balanced body that reflects various groups but which is not accountable to the council or administration. An election commission composed of community volunteers could run elections cheaply and with a minimum of controversy. 2) Why not have a ballot initiative that limits the ways in which the city can sell or acquire property. 3) There is no reason in the world why the city should not hold public hearings on water rates. The outcome should not be pre-determined but the effect of the higher rates on the poor and seniors should and could be addressed. 4) What is going to happen with the pool? I am shuddering as I think of the cost of the upgrade idea that seems to be bubbling to the surface. I am half way expecting an initiative in that area that does not take into account the views of the citizens. Can we have a series of public hearings on the pool issues before the city council starts drafting ordinances? 5) The council is recently talking about transparency and I welcome that. I have, however, found that some decisions and actions by council will slip by if you are not vigilant. Shouldn’t we be asking for some specific initiatives from the city to increase transparency? This could include more public meetings and better posting of public meeting times and locations.
    Best regards, Billy Carlisle

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