No wonder we’re broke. Pundit Romey Glenn ponders the reasons why.
by Romey Glenn
Feb 25, 2009 | 1464 views | 23 23 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GUEST COMMENTARY

If our public servants want to make budget cuts that do the most long-term good for this valley, they should cut all four subsidies they hand to realty tourism. Realty tourism drives up the cost of everything, for everybody. Besides, subsidies are notorious for promoting complacency, mediocrity and an overriding concern for self-perpetuation.

A) Stop paying the airline bribe. If the realtors want more prospects, or Telski wants help flying in its ski ticket customers, let the private sector figure it out. The newspaper said last year that realtor Lucarelli, for instance, got about some $350,000 for flipping some carbon-wasting mansion (a one-fourth share on that deal; it puts TAR’s paltry $24,000 bribe payment this year in perspective: what’s that, a half-hour of work?). Let these ingrates pay for the bribe. Remember, before the developer takeover (The Awakening Giant, 1981ish), we were a media darling, and airlines favored us. Since it was the land speculators who perverted our brand, let them pay to lure the airlines back. And how about holding Telski to its word for once: remember when this realtor promised that once it reached 300,000 skier days it would no longer “need” support? It’s now 450,000! Why does council let the pro-grwothers so use and abuse us? Town is not a newspaper, which the realtors can boycott and run out of business.

Moreover, since one person flying round trip from London to Sydney, for instance, consumes the same amount of carbon the average human uses in a year, how can our elected officials in good conscience force caring, thinking Telluriders to partake in this planet-destroying airline bribe?

B) Apply Telluride’s business license fees towards diversifying the economy, not paying for land speculator advertising. “Come for a Night, Stay a Lifetime” is not just the 8-year ad headline of these subsidies’ chief benefactor, it has been the principle strategy of TCRA/TVS/TMI for 24 years, when Benchmark usurped Telluride’s marketing. No longer were repeat summer visitors Telluride’s target audience. Instead, our money is used to target indoorsy, newly rich second home buyer prospects. At swear-in, our councilpeople pledge to promote a “diverse and sustainable” economy. With these realty tourism subsidies, they’re doing the exact opposite.

C) End the 2 percent retail tax. The realty tourism industry just uses our money to lure investor types to town, pitch them at check-in (perhaps 90 percent of regional beds are owned or managed or partnered with a real estate operation), and then sell them some piece of something at inflated prices. Realtors work 40 hours a week driving up home prices, forcing out good Telluriders, cutting down our already imperiled aspen and evergreens, and erecting (and flipping) planet-destroying mega-houses. They add not one cent to the value of anything. The foks who champion luring more humans here to live such carbon-spewing lifestyles must all be barren—why would they bring children onto a planet their daily work is destroying? Fact: if all people consumed on the pace of Americans, we would need the natural resources of four planets right now. If all people consumed on the pace of MVers, that’s probably ten planets right now. Twenty, thirty? Moral Telluriders must not be forced to partner-up with this value structure.

[Though it seems to me a death sentence, Mountain Village appears determined to go for the opulence niche. For things that burn carbon, worldwide scorn today is a fraction of what it soon will be. Heck, even Al Gore’s house has been called out in national media for consuming “50 percent more electricity every month than the average American does in a year.”]

D) End the 2 percent lodging tax. Miramonte’s Lodging Panel just dedicates it, with no strings attached, to the realtors who own and/or run virtually all the lodges, whose outreach targets home buyers and spa users, not the sophisticated, affluent adventurers who flocked to Telluride before the dentist came here with his strange notion of what’s classy. When we hand the real estate folks this extra $800,000-odd each year, they’ve got that much more money to advertise their wasteful mansions. So by subsidizing realtor tourism, our commissioners make good Telluriders guilty, too, for disasters like ozone holes and the dismantling of the northern boreal forest, which is cut up for realtor-type mailings.

Besides eliminating these damaging subsidies (totaling about $2,300,000/year), we trim our budgets if we simply make growth pay its own way. Unless Pryor/Fraser/Betts, Inc., rewrote Telluride history when I wasn’t looking, we voters have insisted that growth pay its own way. A mandate is a mandate. So when will our 10 public servants step up and show some backbone? No more subsidies of private industry; huge road impact fees on all pro-development trucking use of the spur; bigger development fees to cover staff time; fewer staffers to handle these developers, so it will take longer for them to chop down our imperiled forest, erode community, etc. Bigger employee housing requirements for new condo projects. Anything and everything. Mandatory solarizing everything, no grandfathering. House sizes down to 6,000 sq. ft. Moratoria on job creation, housing starts, population increases. Mandatory carbon offsetting credit purchases.

Telluriders claim two core values: environment and community. Both values have as their chief threat additional growth. We must insist our governors fight to keep Telluride smaller longer. Telluriders have defined “quality of life,” and it’s about community fiber and connection with the natural world, not about money or fancy stuff. And certainly not about propping up a morally bankrupt private industry.
Comments
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tbar
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March 10, 2009
Dear MRH

I have never been a trust funder and never will be. I've worked three jobs at a time while living here more than 33 years and I'll probably be here another 35. I,ve known Romey 33 years and know he rents out his house and lives in his car at the 20 million dollar library. I also know the only reason any of us are here is because this was a mining town where people used to work hard. Now all the pundits like Romey and the users with their stupid economic ideas run the town and look where that has gotten us. The fly rod shop never made money here,thats why they moved to montrose. My neighbor is a writer and is never home-never here to spend money.Eco tourism is a sham-why invite a bunch of people here to trample and crap all over our trails and streams.

You may want to go to the next realtor meeting -no one is renewing their dues- they are dropping like flies. I make this town work for me because I get up everyday and do my job. What I see doesnt matter what I do does matter. Getting a big dose of economic reality has nothing to do with greed -its all about planning. Save for a rainy day and we will prosper. Squander your earnings and you end up with nothing.
small things
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March 09, 2009
As we all suffer from the downturn due to the sins of the greediest among us, at least we can take joy in the small benefits. One nice benefit is that many of those who flocked to T-ride in hopes of making some easy money on out-of-control real estate price escalation will move on to greener pastures. Ciao guys.. please don't come back.
SellMeYourHomeRomey
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March 09, 2009
Romey,

As the proud owner of real estate in Telluride (that being you), I am wondering, if you could explain to us any special benefits you received from owning at least one home in an affluent ski town? Do you charge market rate for your rental? (ie: Market rate that is influenced by the real estate community) From what I've noticed, you're not much of a "hard-worker"...I've always wondered, while the rest of us are hard at work, you're either playing tennis or complaining about Telluride.

Also, I am considering buying real estate in Telluride, possibly you would be interested in selling me the home you own on North Spruce Street? (The white-house diagnal from the church)

Since you have such strong moral character and a clear opposition to the affects the real estate community has on property values, the price would be equal to the price you paid plus a modest return (Your return would be VERY "modest" at best. Wouldn't want people thinking you are a "real estate profiteer")

But, you're probably not interested. I've heard you're not selling the Spruce Street home until the value hits a certain water mark. Sort of funny how you write this letter and are behind the scenes playing the "real estate game" (Why else would you buy that house?)

Love the CAVER's. Hypocrisy is a common character trait.

FaceOnMars
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March 08, 2009
Jimmy, while it's great that you take a very civil approach in your comments, and the fact that you use the word "sustainable" in conjunction with tourism, I have to disagree with your assertion that Telski is the "hub of our wheel". IMHO, it's more like an enlarged single spoke on steroids. I believe it got that way based on a false assumption that putting all our eggs in one basket (or spoke) will make the wheel go around much better or faster.

Since the single spoke has been receiving all the care & energy, the others have atrophied. When the big spoke fails, the others will not provide sufficient support to keep the wheel moving due to instability from not having received any attention or care. I don't think the issue is simply real estate vs. tourism; rather, it's about sustainable tourism in the context of economic diversification.

Believe it or not, there ARE other businesses in the area which create and provide quality goods & services. There are two bakeries, a producer of chocolates, custom ski/snowboard manufacture, former fly rod manufacturer, plenty of writers, internet based businesses & telecommuters (many require support staff), etc. I've only touched upon the surface of current non-tourism commerce in the area, let alone what is possible.

I'm not saying to ignore tourism. Instead, we need to consider the fact that we've been traveling on a very narrow economic pathway at the expense of economic diversification and ultimately the health of the local/regional economy.
Jimmy A
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March 08, 2009
Both sides of this argument seem to have some valid points, yet, both sides seem to be embellishing the reality a bit to suit their purpose.

The amount of passion exhibited by both sides shows people do have their hearts in it and most likely, quite simply, do have the similar end goals in mind, plus or minus the amount of continued second home development. Everyone wants prosperity.

So, why can't we just find an amiable, mutually beneficial, "equitable for all" solution? A solution that does away with special interest subsidies that may now be outdated. A solution that adds more balance to the economic engine ofthe community.

Quite frankly real estate and development have contributed immensely to the local economy, but have also been on the receiving end of lop-sided special interest considerations and subsidies. Perhaps now it is time to balance the scales and focus on the developing tourism to it's full sustainable potential.

If hotels and rental condos were running at 90% year round average occupancy as opposed to 50%, the added traffic for community businesses of all types would offset any potential loss in real estate sales... wouldn't it?

If our region's tourism entities were fully vested, and running consistently at a sustainable peak, wouldn't everything else fall into place? Wouldn't the real estate sector benefit by revitalized interest in residential resales? We do not need to continue building second homes to survive as a community. Let us stop and take a breather for a while.

Rather than continuing on business as usual, we should be setting sustainable tourism standards for resort towns everywhere. Without the area's natural beauty and the pristine gifts of nature we are fortunate enough to live with everyday, Telluride and MV would just be another Rico. No offense intended to Rico.

The point being, we should be putting the protection and preservation of nature first, but be realistic about it. We should have the strongest environmental standards for new construction, LEEDS Platinum and beyond, and then let the market sort itself out. Anyone who does not care enough about our values can go elsewhere. I am betting plenty of people will care.

One statement is very well put: "...let's nurture sustainable tourism like our wonderful festivals and attractive amenities like Bear Creek and the Valley Floor." But, I would absolutely add skiing to it. While Telski is not perfect, the ski area is the hub of our wheel.

Cheers.

MRH
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March 07, 2009
tbar, so are you a funder like Romey or are you actually interested in seeing this town prosper?

Actually, the number of Realtors is down by 14%, according to the Telluride Association of Realtors.

tbar
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March 04, 2009
The problems of Telluride are fixing themselves- the amount of realtors has been cut in half and will be cut in half again. The economy is deciding who will stay and who will go. THe RET will be 10% of what is budgeted by the council and whether they want to make the hard choices or not ,the money just won't be there. We'll go back to a town of a bunch of lazy trustfunders like Romey who think we can all live off of the hard work of our parents and grandparents. The users and the takers will move on to greener pastures elsewhere -where they can say their non profits are an essential part of the community-there is a sucker born every minute and they'll have their pockets wide open. This used to be a town of hard workers -now we have a town council saying nonprofits are the lifeblood of our community-there is no free lunch-get used to it !
Which grownups?
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March 02, 2009
You mean the same grown-ups that continue to put all their eggs in the realtor/developer basket even though these industries are going south faster than the polar ice caps?
Don't bother
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March 02, 2009
Matt: Why waste your breath with these morons. The grown ups know you're right. Romey could not be more of a fool. Let 'em be.
A-non-a-moose
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March 02, 2009
A knowledgeable critic beats a dozen on the band wagon.
Romey's right
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March 02, 2009
Sorry Matt, but the easy money real estate commissions have given way to the new economy and we must adjust accordingly. Rather than putting all our faith in becoming servants for the ultra-affluent or crying over the halcyon development days of the 90s, let's nurture sustainable tourism like our wonderful festivals and attractive amenities like Bear Creek and the Valley Floor.
FaceOnMars
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March 02, 2009
In the context of diversification, smart growth & sustainability, yes, I'm on board with such a moratorium (provided it's not explicitly targeting the free market). In particular, government subsidized growth related programs need to be halted (i.e. lift 7).
MRH
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March 02, 2009
I just noticed the moratorium Glenn proposes on job creation and population increases. Really? Well, I guess that's quite a convenient assertion for a funder like him.

Mars, are you on board for those proposals too?
FaceOnMars
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March 02, 2009
I'm not asking for you to do research, rather to simply back up what you claiming to be true.

You have clearly failed to do so, which simply means you're espousing your opinion. This is all fine & dandy, but don't make it sound as if your opinions are facts ... all while trying to rebut other's assertions.

I hardly hate this place. In fact, I love it so much I'm willing to keep taking the pot shots and mud you sling my way if it helps to disclose the truth about what's really going on!
MRH
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March 02, 2009
Mars, it is not my obligation to do your research for you. Not that you'd read the facts anyway. I am very familiar with your history of jumping on the band wagon of any CAVE argument; if you hate this place as much as you say, just leave. And take the rest of the CAVE with you!

FaceOnMars
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March 02, 2009
MRH: you go on and on about facts, yet you fail to provide a single fact in support of your rebuttal.

Please re-read your post. A general reference to Crested Butte circa 1981 & "many multiples" (donated by individual rEALTORS) are hardly specific "facts" but general ideas you have in your own mind. Please be more specific and cite specific data when talking about CB & their airline guarantee program. What is the precise multiplier for invidual rEALTOR donations?

On the contrary, Romey's commentary uses facts in support of a very cohesive argument that essentially the Town of Telluride has slowly but surely subsidized the real estate / tourism market at the expense of the greater economic system.

Unfortunately, many have become conditioned to "go with the program" as being acceptable to everyone's best interest in town, yet it's essentially a glorified racket. It's almost akin to paying "protection" (but we can now see what happens when the ONLY market we've paid protection to is unable to deliver). At this point, I'd rather be paying the mob ... at least we'd be guaranteed great pizza.

What's happening now is that those who've traditionally benefited from the siphoning the town's resources for a very myopic vision (at the expense of diversification) will kick & scream as if the sky is falling when their revenue streams are threatened by sensible economics. As far as I am aware, nobody is looking to "destroy the town" ... it just may seem that way if you ONLY look at the town as a conduit to sell real estate or increase development ventures further.

MRH
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March 02, 2009
Perhaps calling Romey Glenn a moron was a bit harsh; however, I have a hard time with people spouting lies and false data to support their point of view.

-The Airline Guarantee Program is essential for our economy; case in point, take a moment to familiarize yourself with what happened in Crested Butte when they dumped their program. It was a perfect case study for our own market. It only took CB about a year to realize the mistake they had made, but the damage to their economy in that year was substantial. The airline business has changed a lot since 1981 Mr. Glenn; you may want to brush up on that too.

Furthermore, Realtors in the Telluride market give quite a bit more than $24,500 per year to the program; that is just the amount given by the Telluride Association of Realtors and does not include the substantial donations by individual Realtors and real estate brokerages. The total is many multiples of the number that Mr. Glenn uses falsely.

I honestly don't have the time to battle everyone of Glenn's useless and baseless arguments, but they are all just like the above; based on lies, falsehoods, and poor or contrived data.

You cannot ignore the FACTS. Get them, before you accept what folks like Glenn bark about as the truth. These folks would destroy this town and our ecomony if they had their way; they are bitter people with battles dating dating back way before most of us moved here that they still try to win at the peril of the working men and women that call Telluride and the surrounding area home.

Al Heirich
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March 02, 2009
Great analysis, FaceonMars and Romey. Telluride does indeed need economic diversification. The wise portfolio never dumps all their eggs in one (or two) baskets.

The repercussions from our dependance on Real Estate will affect most of us in town. The arts, the local newspapers, non-profits, commercial rentals and the service workers will all suffer as we as a community finally realize that the economic crisis will continue into mid 2010 and Telluride is ill-prepared to deal with it.

I have serious doubts that our current Town Council and Town Manager Frank Bell will be able to stem the tide of falling revenues. The only two Council members that seem to have a grasp on reality are Thom (please forvige me Lord) and Bob.

On the subject of the Airline Guarantee Program: I agree it is a waste of money. While we are fed reports about the wonderful passenger numbers on flights, no analysis is offered on whether these numbers are translating into revenue for the Town. I would guess that these airline passengers are second home owners who rarely shop locally and have cut back on dining out. We need a current study on the return on investment of the AGP.

We are in for a long, hard haul here in paradise.

Sincerely and with Respect

Al Heirich
Totally lame
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March 01, 2009
Underdog, even if MRH's comment was juvenile, your comment was far worse. Saying such cr*p only undermines your position. Try to say something intelligent if you want to contribute.
anonymous
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March 01, 2009
So, it's ok for you to call Romey a moron but you can't take it can you, dwarf?

I have nothing against gays or anyone else that stays civil. But you opened the door.

It would be more accurate to say the I don't like the stupid people. That would be you.