Aaron Huckstep’s full Answer

Economic Sustainability
This is a broad concept, with many different components.  The overriding theme of initiatives supporting economic sustainability is to feed the economic engines of Crested Butte and the upper valley:  tourism, recreation, the arts and education, and agriculture.  Initiatives within this area are as follows:

1.    Creation of a pilot program with restaurants and bars (on a voluntary basis) to report sales tax on a weekly basis.  Right now, the Town’s businesses report Sales Tax on a monthly basis only.  Citizens, community leaders and event sponsors are left to guess why Sales Tax increases or decreases, without any truly tangible information regarding the relative success or failure of a particular event or timeframe.  By collecting Sales Tax data at a weekly level, the Town can assist in planning future and existing events, and in recruiting new events into certain timeframes within the Town’s calendar.  Once kinks are worked out of the pilot program, this could be rolled out across other sales tax reporting categories.  This will only be done on a voluntary basis.  (Skeptics would say that the Town doesn’t review Sales Tax data in a critical manner now.  They may be right.  But that is no excuse not to act – by taking a step in the right direction, we will all be moving forward.  That momentum is needed and welcome to many members of our community)
2.    Creation of a pilot program for reporting Occupancy Information for lodges in Town.  The Downtown Lodging Association has been a very successful – and needed – development over the past year.  Although many would say that the members are competitors, they have done a great job of working together to ensure their mutual success.  There is no greater predictor for the short-term future than occupancy rates:  businesses can use this information to plan purchases and staffing, the Town can use this information for staffing purposes (i.e. for the Marshal’s office), the Town’s citizens can understand their guests better (i.e. are they short-term planners or long-term planners?) and event promoters can understand what to expect and the relative success or failure of their events.  Perhaps most importantly, by understanding where occupancy gaps arise, the Town and its citizens can adapt by identifying new attractions for guests.   

3.    Investigate the best method or model to market Crested Butte.  We currently have three entities that share some portion of responsibility for marketing Crested Butte as a destination:  the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Association and Crested Butte Mountain Resort.  County Commissioner Paula Swenson is leading an initiative to create a fourth entity, an Economic Development Council focused on promoting commerce (i.e. job-building) within the greater Crested Butte area.   Are these entities working (or will they work) in harmony and with a consistent message?  The Town must get engaged in this discussion to determine the most appropriate and most efficient manner to market Crested Butte to the outside world.

4.    Protect the health of our watershed.  I suppose this is not a new initiative, but it is one that I would like to continue moving forward.  Without the assurance of clean drinking water, our entire way of life and the culture we enjoy will be put at risk.  

5.    Promotion of the Gunnison-to-Crested Butte Trail.  One trip to Salida and a ride on the Monarch Crest can demonstrate how a destination trail can positively impact an area economically.  Our mountain bike heritage is second to none, and this trail would be another marquee destination trail for Crested Butte.  This trail is being championed by local nonprofit trail advocacy groups that have a strong track record of successfully contributing to improvements in our trail system.  We should support the conceptual Gunnison-to-Crested Butte trail, and the organizations attempting to get it done, with a focus on making it happen in the coming years.

6.    Establishment of High-speed Internet Access for Citizens and Businesses in the Upper Valley.  Across Colorado, businesses, schools, hospitals, municipalities and citizens are demanding more and more bandwidth to meet their daily information needs.  As a business owner dependent upon information, I’ve experienced this need firsthand.  A local initiative to provide high speed internet – supported by the state and exhibiting potential financial benefits to the Town – is gaining steam in Gunnison County.  The benefits to Crested Butte, including its guests and its businesses, would be tremendous – extended stays by second-homeowners, increased efficiency for existing businesses, and an increased guest experience are just a few of many.  The Town should collaborate with Mt. Crested Butte, Gunnison and Gunnison County to ensure that this project continues to completion.

Communication and Collaboration

1.    Participate in Frequent meetings with the Mayor and Manager from Mt. Crested Butte.  Over the course of the last few years, the communication breakdown between Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte is evident to guests and locals alike.  Regardless of past history between our communities, the future of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte is tied closely together.  I will foster a better relationship between our two Towns by engaging the Mayor of Mt. Crested Butte and its Town Manager to meet with myself and Susan Parker on a regular basis to discuss issues of mutual concern.  Our intention will be to develop a better relationship with Mt. Crested Butte and to foster a level of trust between our two communities.  A better working relationship between the communities will benefit all of us.

2.    Participate in frequent meetings with Crested Butte Mountain Resort.  Similarly, and especially with the recent leadership change at CBMR, the relationship between Town and CBMR could use some attention.  I have already met with Ethan Mueller to discuss CBMR’s future plans, and we have agreed to keep those conversations ongoing.  Keeping in mind that summer sales tax numbers are well above winter sales tax, the Town should be willing to help CBMR achieve success in the winter by bringing more guests to Town to ski.  We have a wonderful asset in CBMR, and we should strive to work together to achieve mutual success.

Fiscal Responsibility

Given my accounting background, fiscal responsibility is a key area of concern for me.  The Town’s Finance Manager Lois Rozman has demonstrated that she is a very valuable asset to the community.  She and I share a sense of fiscal conservatism, and have worked successfully on a number of projects.  The initiatives below are designed to supplement and build on the good work she has done as Finance Director.

1.    Execute the Atmos franchise agreement .  The failure to execute this Agreement represents an estimated $33,000 loss to our Town at a time when the budget is tight.  Although we have the potential of crafting a new Right-of-Way Licensing Fee, I do not believe it is the best option because (1) it requires additional time and effort expended by the Council, the Town Staff and the Town Attorney that may be unnecessary, and (2) it may result in an additional cost to local contractors associated with their work in the public right-of-way.  From a purely practical perspective, if a catastrophic accident happens, all parties will be suing each other regardless of the contract terms in the Atmos franchise agreement.  The most efficient manner to deal with this situation is to execute the proposed Franchise Agreement and move forward.  

Get on with the Business of Town
The current Town Council has “parked” a number of items and issues for the new Council to address.  I would like to see these items addressed in the near future.  They are as follows:
1.    Creation of a service grant policy
2.    Amend the Medical Marijuana ordinance to handle transfers of existing licenses and to restrict certain forms of marketing
3.    Develop a cohesive and consistent plan for signage on Elk Avenue
4.    Amend the existing Town Fee Schedule to differentiate between fees for local and nonlocal individuals

I am not naïve enough to think all of these initiatives will work perfectly, or will happen in a span of two years.  The purpose in creating and sharing this information is to share my vision for my term as Mayor.  I also recognize that I am one of seven individuals on the Council, so I cannot force these initiatives on anyone.  These initiatives reflect my own priorities that I am hopeful will be adopted by a majority of the Council.  Over time, the priority of these projects will likely shift, and other projects or initiatives are bound to reveal themselves.  When that happens, the new Council will take action as necessary.

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