Name: Al Mezarina
Candidate website: almezarina.com
Retired Air Force Officer: 20 years of leadership and management in a Public Works and City Management Capacity at four Major US Air Force Installations in the US and Europe
Director of Civil-Military Affairs, Iraq: Led the National-Building effort in 2 of 18 provinces. Worked with Department of State and International Coalition to set up a representative form of government.
What are the top three issues for Erie in the coming years? What is your plan for fixing/dealing with those issues.
1. Fiscal Discipline: Keep working toward a budget that builds economic reserves. Often you may hear folks talk about a “balanced budget,” who fail to realize that it does not necessarily mean we are being fiscally prudent. For instance, we could have a balanced budget and be fiscal fools by spending recklessly and borrowing too much. I plan to advocate for greater reserves based on the “pay yourself first” concept involving saving a portion of municipal receipts (income) prior to spending anywhere else. The majority of American households have had to redefine “needs vs. wants”, they have had to develop personal budgets that create savings, and they have had to learn to stretch the dollar further doing “more with less.” With our federal government getting further in debt, we need to plan for less support from them as well as the state, meaning we should be living under the same realities as the average American—save more, spend less, right size government to “do more with less” and secure a state of self-sufficiency for the town.
2. Economic development through deliberate marketing:
- Continue with residential development: partner with developers to help build out Erie using performance-based criteria vs. prescriptive code, which limits developer’s ingenuity and creativity. That means we guide developers based on performance-based requirements vs. telling them how to get things done.
- Attract commercial, specifically, professional businesses (architects, engineers, research, education, medical) by assembling a marketing team that visits all potential investors and businesses on a recurring basis and promotes our town. A team that is decisive and deliberately takes advantage of other’s lost or stalled initiatives like Boulder’s talks with Trader Joe’s, National Western Stock-Show’s search for land and accessibility, Presbyterian Saint Luke’s search for a northern campus, CU and CSU’s outreach to establish satellite campuses, among many others…
- Capitalize on Erie’s uniqueness. We need to make coming to Erie “worth the effort”: Exploit the historic and western/frontier aspects of Erie, the airport and its potential to attract aviation enthusiasts and industry, open-space trails for running and training, the velodrome and the potential “world-class” skate park will undoubtedly attract athletes and out-door enthusiasts of all kinds. We have the open space to create an outdoor sports complex that includes an inflatable dome for sports activities throughout the year. We can make Erie into a town that is characterized by these types of special attractions and more—the potential is definitely there but we must act quick!
3. Transparency and Inclusivity in all aspects of government. We have to continue to collectively and deliberately strive to keep the pulse of our citizens and this is done by being transparent, open to opinion and inclusive of all people, neighborhoods and causes. Today, it is easier than ever using social-media, internet based polls and surveys, telecommunication, forums in our Rec-cent and empowering municipal leaders under the city manager to reach-out to the community. Erie does a fair job at transparency, but we need to look for more ways to keep folks engaged, informed and involved. I am a firm believer of the fact that the comprehensive planning and review process is an exceptional tool with which to start getting folks to participate and buy-in to the plan, which outlines our town’s future since it requires input from all stakeholders: homeowners, developers, business people, Oil and Gas, investors, government, neighboring planners, etc.
Are you concerned about the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing in Erie? If so, what would yo do about it as a trustee? At this point most people realize that municipal government has very little influence over the Oil & Gas company operations since they are regulated by the state. This fact alone stacks the cards against us in this debate, requiring us to approach developers openly and honestly to express our concerns and to hopefully partner toward possible solutions. That doesn’t mean we side with every one of their recommendations….we advocate, rather, for those things that benefit the people we represent.
I have to say that I am glad to see the level and type of dialogue that is occurring; that people with concerns are educating themselves and asking questions. To date, we have chased down some answers, specifically regarding drinking-water, however, there are still many questions to be answered concerning air quality. I am concerned with, in my opinion is the greatest question of all: at what exposure levels do Factorization pollutants begin to impact health and quality of life? If an active and healthy life-style with great quality of life is central to the Town’s future, than wouldn’t these concerns be even greater for town leadership? In addition, I wonder why we aren’t using existing vapor-recovery technology to minimize emissions. We need to partner with industry to chase down these answers. We need to continue talks with outside third-party organizations to conduct studies and agencies to collect samples for the immediate safety of the population.
Where should old town Erie fit in the town’s economic development efforts? Specifically, what should the trustees do to ensure old town and its businesses thrive? I feel that old town is one of Erie’s many unique aspects that has a lot of potential! We need to continue developing its old-town charm, western frontier aspects, and mining character-traits. Stretching the town from its current center all the way to Erie Parkway would be ideal, and as Ronda Grassi has mentioned, anchoring it with a hotel exhibiting frontier décor at that intersection, would be a ‘home-run” for old-town.
A question that begs asking is what types of activities and businesses can make old-town unique enough to bring in folks from near and afar. People will patronize community activities that are, primarily, close and convenient. The greater the travel time to the activity the more exceptional the product or unique the activity needs to be. Take old town Louisville. For many years people would patronize the Melting Pot, coming in from all surrounding areas. Why, because it is unique. In addition, Louisville leaders had to think creatively to capitalize on that asset. It was our own Ronda Grassi, having connections in Louisville, that introduced the idea of extending re-locatable patio space to the streets, creating a pedestrian friendly town center (Unique!). This is what I mean about a “multi-front assault” on economic development: Creative citizens, enthusiastic and unique business, and government leadership all coming together to make things happen.
Ultimately, if a product or service is not of exceptional quality and/or unique, it will only garner nearby sporadic support and will open itself up to possible failure. Failed business gives a town a bad reputation so it is imperative that we help businesses with the skills and advice that will help them be successful; this especially important or our Erie’s old-town success.
Where do you stand on subsidization of the Erie municipal airport? Any municipal activity that brings value to the community may need to be subsidized (helped monetarily) at some point or other until it becomes profitable. In fact, I believe it is the duty of leadership to help stand-up activities that benefit community, although the help must be accompanied by very specific milestones toward self-sufficiency—take the community center for instance; it is very beneficial to the community, however, it needs to be helped until it becomes self sufficient. Concerning the Airport, I believe it is currently profitable and would not need subsidization (monetary help). In addition, as an enterprise fund, there are very specific limitations on the type of funds coming and going into its account and how the funds are used.
Two outcomes I will work for in my first year:
1. Take specific steps toward working with BOT colleagues to create a collaborative, professional and respectful environment ( Forming, Norming, Storming, Performing)
2. Help create a renewed sense of importance on the comprehensive planning process, its advantages to the town as a whole and to keep the plan central to our decision making and to the review of our Unified Development Code (UDC) in order to make it more performance based.