—Chris Lezama – Principal of Economic and Community Development
Incoming City Council-member Travis Bacon is no stranger to civic life. A native son of Green River, former U.S. Border Patrol agent, member of eight local community organizations, and manager at the River Terrace Inn, Bacon spends much of his time thinking about how to improve his hometown. Here are some excerpts from a recent conversation with the newest city councilmember.
CL: What would be the first things you look to address as a city council member this upcoming year?
TB: One of the reasons I ran [for council] was to examine and potentially lower the property tax. Not too long ago, we didn’t have a property tax in the city at all. It has generated a lot of revenue that the city needs, but I think the tax has gotten too high. Additionally, this year, our property taxes at the River Terrace were a lot lower than the year previous and I don’t know why. I’d like to be more well-versed in the property tax, know how it works, and know why it is so dramatically different from year to year.
Economic development is big for me, and it is the focus on almost every committee or board that I’m on. The [Emery County] Travel Board, Green River Improvement Team, and Trails Committee have an economic development component to them and are all interrelated. We need to embrace and foster more travel and tourism and extend our season. I’ll do everything I can to try to bring in new business and foster existing businesses, strengthening what we have with an eye for the future.
The second tenant of my campaign was active engagement. I’m not going to be the type of city councilman that just goes to council. I think it’s a more involved job. You have to have your finger on the pulse of the community, which is a big reason why I got involved with all the committees I’m on. You have to stay actively engaged to know the possibilities on the horizon and what we can do right now.
CL: There are some great possibilities for Green River; there’s also quite a few obstacles. What do you see as Green River’s greatest challenges?
TB: A current challenge is that our EMS system is in shambles. It’s ridiculous to call 911 and not have an ambulance. Maybe changing this entails the city taking it over with support from the county. When I was a kid, the EMS system was very good and you had a lot of really dedicated EMTs. Current staff are doing a great job, but the system is in a bad way. I’ve heard a lot about this issue from citizens and looked into it quite a bit myself; it’s something that needs to be remedied.
Another challenge is that we’re losing a lot of good people, pillars in the community, like the teachers who have left the past few years. It’s not a good thing. We need to have well-paying jobs that allow people to stay and for young families to come in. We have to remain economically viable and that requires us bringing in industry. We need to utilize what we have, but we have to diversify.
CL: Working within the government may offer its share of challenges as well. Which of the following statements is more in line with your political philosophy: “Good government helps fix problems” or “Government is more often the problem”?
TB: I think both of them could be true. As a conservative, I would say that government is more often the problem. Government involvement leads to a lot of red tape and does not foster invention or ingenuity. Too often, government gets in the way instead of helping out.
Good government, of course, has its place and it means being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, and limited taxation is a big part of that. I think there’re programs that help people, like CHEER, which supports the youth in town, and on a macro-level, government should be providing for the common defense for things like public services, law enforcement, or EMS.
CL: As a city councilman, what are your thoughts on what government could do to help shape Green River’s future economic and community development?
TB: The industrial park has a lot of potential. We need to do whatever we can to foster that. We don’t know if that takes the form of tax incentives or planning and zoning assistance, but we need to do what we can to help them get here. The trails system is going to be a good thing for the community; I think people are looking for alternatives to Moab, and Green River is well positioned to be that alternative.
CL: What kind of effort do you think the Green River community should be involved in to ensure that Green River becomes an even better place for people of all ages to live?
TB: Well, continuing to support community programs like PACT, CHEER, and soccer. And of course, the answer comes back to economic development: there needs to be jobs that allow kids to stay or allow kids to go to college and come back.
I’d like to touch base with Green River’s seniors so they can tell me what we can do to make it a better place to live for them. Green River’s population is aging, and seniors are a vital part and pillars of the community.
CL: After graduating from Green River High School, you spent some significant time living in different states, traveling the world. When you are away from Green River, what’s the one thing you miss about the town most?
TB: I lived in Palm Springs, and that’s a resort mecca; it’s a really a great place, but I wouldn’t go back for anything. Here, the people are incredible. They look out for each other, have genuine concern for one another. In a place like Palm Springs, you can’t stop in the middle of the road and talk to someone like you do here. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s an overall feeling. Green River is really relaxed and has a calmer pace of life than anywhere I’ve been. I really appreciate that.