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An open letter from Mayor Duckett to the leaders, stakeholders, and citizens of Farmington:
On July 24, 2018, the City Council published intent to adopt a 5/8% GRT increment to be dedicated: 1/8 Public Safety (Police & Fire), 1/8 Public Works (street paving), 1/8 Hold Harmless reimbursement and 1/4 Community Transformation & Economic Diversification. You will find a presentation with much more information regarding this entire proposal here: 2018 Strategic Financial Planning Presentation. In this letter, I am addressing specifically the vision and plan for the 1/4% tax that, if passed, will be dedicated to “Community Transformation & Economic Diversification”.
Public Process, Urgency, and Current Investment in Economic Diversification
Currently, Four Corners Economic Development (FCED), which is the regional economic development agency for the City of Farmington, all the other regional governmental entities and private sector, has a total operating budget of only $380,000. If we are serious about investing in the creation of new jobs and diversifying our economy, that investment should be more than 10 times that amount. I proposed this new dedicated funding source precisely because, while lots of great foundational work has been done, frankly, no one has stepped up to fund economic diversification in a meaningful way. If this proposal is passed by the Farmington City Council, we will be dedicating over $4 million dollars a year to economic diversification and transformation.
I, and many others, believe this is a defining moment for our City and regional economy and there must be a new urgency to addressing our future economic viability for our citizens and businesses. I have urged my fellow elected officials to join me to “put money where our mouth is”. It’s time for substantial, strategic, and measurable action.
On August 14, 2018, the second public hearing was held on this proposal. The input was essential to the process of engaging our public and listening to their thoughts on the future of our city. An overflow crowd filled the Council Chamber, voicing their opinions. The sentiment expressed that night, and through other forms of feedback, has been overwhelmingly in favor of this decisive action. Many of those who showed up have given a lot to the regional effort to diversify this economy. We are talking hours and hours over years of time of personal sacrifice, money, engagement, meetings, outings, etc. Why? Because their livelihood, and our livelihood, depends on it. We have 4 years before the next potential major economic hit comes to our doorstep with the potential closure of San Juan Generating Station (SJGS) and San Juan Mine.
How do we collectively reimagine and reinvent our community for a new economic reality?
I offer today more detail on our plan for accountability and prudent investment of this money. First and foremost—the tax revenue will be dedicated and accounted for separately, in an earmarked fund. The revenue will NOT be commingled with the City’s operating general fund. We will continue to vet, modify, and prioritize this plan through doubling down on our many, already involved, community stakeholders and existing partner entities—such as Four Corners Economic Development (FCED), the Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative (ORII), the Chamber of Commerce-retirement location committee, the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau (FCVB), Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency (MRA) Commission, Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs (PRCA) Commission, Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), State and Federal economic development agencies, and our other regional governmental and private sector partners. FCED will continue to be a vital partner and indispensable link to the private sector. All projects and expenditures will be strictly vetted on a basis of accountability for best return on investment for community transformation and economic diversification. The Farmington City Council, who is directly accountable to the public, will maintain control over these funds.
Transformation through Placemaking
Community transformation and placemaking is a philosophy and a process. It is a comprehensive approach to capitalize on and expand our strengths and engagement of community members and stakeholders who live, work, play, and visit here to understand their needs and aspirations for the future of Farmington. This process will require input and collaboration as a region on a level that has not been tapped here yet. Past work that has been done has laid important groundwork for this moment, and now it is on us to follow through with more action and less planning to fund these well thought out and vetted ideas to create jobs and grow our economy. For more information on community transformation through placemaking, please visit https://www.pps.org/.
Immediate Action Steps and Considerations
The plan includes a long list of examples of projects that have been presented to us by our many stakeholder focus groups. To be clear, all of these projects have not been fully analyzed by our economic development professionals and community stakeholder experts to ensure the best projects are prioritized to create a return on investment for job creation. The final vetting is to follow. We surely won’t be able to do all of these and there will undoubtedly be new ideas added. However, I do think this list adds a level of specificity to our plan that our citizens have asked for.
I want to reiterate that this is a representative list of the input we have received thus far. There are active economic development committees working diligently to identify the “gaps” in facilities and operations that need to be addressed to attract new business, and expand our current ones. This plan is not perfect and it certainly is not complete. It is, in fact, adaptable and changeable. Our community has developed plans in the past, only to see them sit on the shelf and become outdated due to a lack of funding for implementation. Many of the projects listed above come from these plans or existing committees. We are seeking the opportunity to secure funding and then finalize a plan that can be timely, relevant, impactful, and implemented in order to transform our community.
Enough talk! It is time to act.
Thank you for your time and interest in the future of Farmington and our surrounding larger community.
Mayor of Farmington