Making Durango Better for its Citizens: City Council Q and A

Katie Rydz, Reporter

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into the small town of Durango, and the City Council directs the majority of it. Melissa Youssef, Mayor Pro Tem Sweetie Marbury, and Chris Bettin are three of the five city council members. Youssef is a new councilor, elected in April along with Bettin. She first got elected to city council in 2011, and became mayor in 2014, running for re-election in 2015, and will become mayor again in 2018.

“The former city manager wanted to sell Brookside Park to Wendy’s. I thought this was a bad idea for the children of the neighborhood and our community. I worked hard with many other folks who played at Brookside as children to convince the city council not to sell the park. I attended so many meetings that I recognized I was a city council junkie,” said Marbury.

Marbury has been in Durango for 43 years, but before she fully invested herself in City Council she was a school teacher and participated in many projects such as the Parks and Forestry Board. In 2010 she started knocking on doors in her neighborhood to raise campaign money for ads, radio, yard signs, and so on. A candidate gets elected by Durango citizens and serves a four year term, but must first get 25 resident signatures to be on the ballot.

“It was 20 below in February of 2011 and I was out at night knocking on doors after school and on the weekends,” said Marbury.

There are many issues arising in Durango that the council is struggling with. But the council members plan to fix these issues to the best of their ability once they see what the public wants. Dick White is the current mayor of Durango and will be succeeded by Marbury.

I hope that the Council, because we work together well, can have good planning, more affordable homes, more infill,  and more jobs for our residents,” said Marbury.

Marbury and Youssef believe that we need to make housing more affordable in Durango. Their  main initiative in 2018 is to create a vision to identify the communities needs, then build off of them to improve the town. This is especially important because the city council can’t do anything without community approval.

“Durango faces a decline in the sales tax from folks shopping on Amazon and at other sites. Going to Farmington and shopping does not pay for the library, hiring more police, paving streets, and running the city like a business. The Transportation funding from the state will be gone in 5 years. The staff has promoted many meetings and surveys with the public to find out what is important to you and if you want to pay for it with declining  revenue,” said Marbury.

Youssef prioritizes transportation. According to Youssef, a survey was conducted in 2015 that showed that 17,818 local and regional people used transportation in Durango. 73% of them use it on a daily basis, and 67% make less than 25,000 a year, so all they can afford is the Trolley. Transportation such as the trolley is a necessity for a lot of residents of Durango.

“I think we need to work hard in everything we do to protect the quality, life, and character of our town,” said Youssef.

As Durango’s population steadily increases, it is becoming increasingly clear that issues like funding difficulties, the homeless population, affordable housing, and a multitude of other ailments plague our small town.

El Diablo reached out to all five City Council members for an interview.