Name: Ty Keel
Occupation: Educator/Current Mayor Pro-Tem Cortez
1. How do you define freedom of information, and what three action items would you introduce to guarantee the peoples’ right to know?
Freedom of information in this era has to be viewed through a very different lens than previously. The “New Normal” doesn’t always allow the level of privatization that we were once entitled to. There are already many ways in which people can freely access information. The Freedom of Information act is the failsafe to allow citizens to gather public information.
2. Describe the biggest mistake of your professional career. What lessons did you learn?
Since my career is still in session, hopefully my biggest mistakes are behind me. I think so far my biggest mistake has not been to seize opportunities when they arise. I have always given a lot of thought to the decisions I make, and in the past that may have limited my opportunities, but I cannot dwell on those things. One must look forward.
3. Describe the greatest accomplishment of your professional career. Who is your mentor and why?
I am not sure if I can quantify this with a standard answer. I often feel that my greatest accomplishment in my career is who I am as an educator and a current City Council member. Dependable, prepared and thoughtful are ways I would use to describe myself. As far as a mentor is concerned I would have to say my mother. Her compassion and selflessness are things I admire and would love to emulate.
4. What are your top priorities as a councilmember? Please explain your vision for the city’s future.
Forward thinking is a good way to describe it. To continue to be progressive in our approach to fiber optics, renewable energy, solid infrastructure, beautification, fiscal responsibility, all while keeping the taxpayers best interest in mind are all priorities. I am very proud of these past four years and what I have helped to accomplish as a City Council member and would like to see things through.
5. What is the best thing about Cortez, and what is the worst thing about Cortez?
This is my home town. I grew up here, left for a while and came back to raise my family. There are many reasons to love Cortez. Cortez is a gateway to outdoor recreation. The mix of beautiful cultures is important in all our lives. It makes us better people. We also have a great parks system. The most important are the people. The city of Cortez is a community made up of wonderful, thoughtful people. I think a lot of people would say it can be a hard place to get to quickly. Personally, if that is the “worst,” fine by me. Nothing wrong with being a little out of the way.
6. The city recently partnered with Osprey Packs to create jobs. Describe your blueprint to spur additional economic development?
We were very fortunate that Osprey, decided this is where they would like their corporate headquarters to be. We need to be realistic in what kind of businesses are attracted to this area. I would say a focus on light industry, tech-based companies that can work from home or a small office space and outdoor recreation are all areas that could help with economic development.
7. In recent months, there’s been a debate about over the former Montezuma-Cortez High School building on 7th Street. What would you suggest to remedy the issue? And what would you do to bridge efforts with other government/agencies to reduce blight and beautify city corridors?
The city has already stepped up its efforts to combat blight within our community. We have code enforcement that helps us beautify the city. The process is a little time consuming, but well worth it. I would like to see a joint effort between the City and the County Commissioners in dealing with blight in and around our community. Recently we had a positive meeting with the commissioners. In order to work together on issues, we would need to continue having open, honest discussions with them.
8. Many in the community have been upset with the city’s response in clearing snow from the roadways. What updates to the city code, if any, should be made to alleviate future grumblings?
Well, growing up here I can tell you our city does a pretty incredible job, given the amount of hours the crews have to put in, the amount of roads that have to be cleared and the lack of space we have to deal with these abnormal snow years. We have primary, secondary and tertiary roads to maintain, and our city does a good job with snow removal.
9. The city appears likely to approve outdoor dining and alcohol sales. What additional measures should the city examine to boost and support downtown business owners?
The beautification of downtown is essential in increasing the flow of foot traffic to local downtown businesses. Flowers, creative ways to help divert and lesson the flow of traffic and appealing storefronts are all things that appeal to the customer. Cortez has already made huge strides in making our downtown more appealing. The Sunflower Theatre brings a very progressive artistic feel to Cortez. All of our incredible eating establishments give diners a variety of choices that you will not usually find in towns this size. The Cultural Center is a great place for tourists and locals to experience the richness of different cultures from around our area.
10. The governor recently declared the Paths to Mesa Verde project a top priority for 2016. What would you do to ensure that trail way becomes a reality this year?
Cooperation between the City, County and surrounding communities that would also benefit from the path would be the first step. Secondly, access to funding from GOCO grants and possible DOLA grants would go a long way in making the path a reality.
11. The Paradise Village infrastructure improvement project is behind schedule. How would you ease tensions among the frustrated residents that live in that area, and what financial steps should be taken now to ensure future infrastructure improvements?
Communication is the key to dealing with these types of issues. I would urge anyone who is feeling frustrated with the delay to come and speak with us at a City council meeting. The financial steps are already in place through budgeting.
12. The city has passed marijuana legislation. Should those laws be rescinded or expanded? Please explain.
First, the state passed an Amendment that legalized the sale of recreational marijuana, then inconveniently left it up to the municipalities to decide if they wanted to allow it. At times a councilperson must remove themselves from the actions that require their approval or denial and base their decision on what is allowed by law. I believe in civil liberties, and regardless of my personal opinion far be it from me to deny someone their right to own and operate a legitimate business according to the law. That being said, we must take into consideration the size of Cortez and the locations of the stores and enforce a limit on this particular industry.
13. Recent studies have indicated that affordable housing coupled with a living wage are needed in Cortez. Would you support a city ordinance setting a $15/hour minimum wage? If not, list other proposals to address the issue.
The state would surely have some say in what type of wage we can mandate for our city. The focus should be on affordability. Can our small businesses afford such a hike in minimum wage? What would that do to our community? If we can attract more small businesses and increase our tax base, that might help in getting wages increased.
14. Water rights are king in the west. Should the city council take an active role to promote conservation, and what proposals would you submit to help promote water conservation?
We are already conserving water through our new more accurate metering system. The parks department already implements water saving measures as well. Currently we do not use all of the water we are allocated, which is a testament to our ongoing water conservation measures.
15. Law enforcement and mental health advocates argue that a detox center is needed. Do you support that initiative? What would you do to make it a reality?
I would suggest that they come and speak with City council about what exactly that need is. In the past four years that I have had the pleasure of serving this community as a City Council member, we have continually helped those in need. Donations to philanthropic organizations, an increase in fees paid for driving related tickets that directly supports the Bridge shelter and a willingness to always find ways to help our community have been one of the cornerstones of City Councils missions. I would welcome a discussion about this issue.