Pueblo Mayor: What the city is up against fighting COVID-19?

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The Mayor of Pueblo Nick Gradisar expects the city could see a loss of revenue as high as 50-percent because of how damaging the stay-at-home orders will be on the local economy.

Mayor Gradisar spoke with John Rodriguez of PULP Colorado for a wide-ranging interview on the difficulties of running a city under a pandemic, the expected hardships coming and building hope through a social media campaign of #puebloshines.

Interview Highlights

In terms of the healthcare crisis, what are you asking the governor or our federal delegation to bring to Pueblo?

What we want to make sure of is that if there is a crisis in Pueblo that we have adequate medical facilities and medical machines to take care of people. Fortunately, we’ve been pretty lucky in Pueblo.

Have you had any word from the governor on when you can see more test?

I think it’s still a fluid situation. I’ve had some conversations this week with some private healthcare providers in Pueblo and their distributors are saying they’re going to be some tests approved by the FDA antibody tests that we’ll be able to get in our [City] office.

I think these things are starting to roll out now not as quickly as I would like it because I don’t think we’re going to be able to loosen the restrictions or open up until we get some of that testing available. So that, as I say, we can identify those people who are ill, uh, and identify those people who.

Let’s fast forward to the end of April. How do you open the city up again?

We’re going to be able to flip a switch and things are going to be back to normal. I think the hard reality of this is we’re going to be living in a different world until we develop a vaccine for this virus.

I don’t think you’ll have the bars and restaurants open by the end of April or early may. We had a meeting today with the health department and it’s likely that. The golf courses are going to reopen next week with different standards.

You’re well aware that this is going to have a huge impact on the city. I think estimates are between five and 15% on city, on municipal budgets across the state.

Um, five and 15% or 50?

It’s going to be a lot different than 2007 there’s going to be a, a dramatic impact on our revenue. How, how big it is? We don’t know yet. I mean, obviously we’re a couple of months behind in terms of our sales tax returns, but, uh. Well, we expect that there’ll be a, a large drop in revenue. One of the things we’re hoping for is this and this new federal aid package that they’ll have some revenue replacement programs for, uh, cities, uh, of our size, so that it can help sort of replace that.

Pueblo has had 40 years of a stagnant economy. How do you get the get businesses and everybody ready so that it is not waiting until October or 2021 for our economy to return.

One of the things you’re going to see as a recommendation from me to the city council and to the Petco board of directors, that we repurpose a portion of the half cent sales tax fund and make that available to local businesses that they could use to sort of ramp up, again, use it for inventory or to pay their rent or their mortgage so that when, uh, businesses are ready to reopen, you know, they sort of have a jumpstart and they’re obviously suffering just like the city’s going to be suffering.

And it’s not enough to make everybody whole, but we’re hoping that it will help fill those gaps in those federal aid programs for some businesses.

In the clearest possible way because this is a very complex issue. Why should move to a municipal utility?

Because it’s going to be in the best financial interests of this community to do that in the long run. Uh, and the question that Puebloans have to decide is, do you want to be served by an investor on utility?

Was profit-driven, is not located in the city of Pueblo, or would you rather that utility be owned by a public entity who is located in the city of Pueblo? I served on the Pueblo Board of Waterworks for 14 years – that’s the organization that would head up this utility department that would have water and electricity.

The board of waterworks has done an exemplary job. We have the best municipal water supply in the state of Colorado and the lowest water prices on the front range. There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t do that with electricity.

You started public shines every night at 8:00 PM people go out and shine a light into the sky. What many people outside of Pueblo What made you do PEBLO shines and, and, and what’s your feeling when you see someone post online like that.

My staff came to me and said, Hey, mayor. We think this would be a good idea. It’s a little bit Corey, but what do you think? And I said, no, I think that’s a good idea.

Let’s do it. And we’ve done it and the community has gotten behind it.

I think the community has really taken to it. And it, it just sort of gets across that message that, you know, we can be together even though we have to be a part right now. I mean we can pull together here, but was always pulled together as a community.