The best way to scare the ill-informed voting public is to start with tall tales.

Fibs.

Embellishments, really.

Or just make crap up.

A Ouray inn owner wrote a letter to the editor of the Ouray County Plaindealer last week, spouting facts as they best suit her argument for not voting for three candidates in the upcoming mayoral and council election.

The inn owner argues that if the election goes the wrong way, there will be a council full of business-minded individuals. Those three, she argued, will do nothing more than work to increase traffic and overnight stays in Ouray by not putting enough limits on short-term rentals.

OK. I know what you’re thinking. I just painted a picture of an inn owner who wants to limit STR stays in Ouray.

But not because STRs are competition for her business, mind you.

That would be too obvious.

Instead, because too many people in town will overrun Ouray’s infrastructure and natural beauty.

Ah, why didn’t we think of that?

The inn owner did not, however, offer to limit the number of rooms rented at her inn to help stem this deterioration.

Instead, she pointed out that certain members of the current council, and the possible new council if all of those she opposes are elected, are advocating a limit of 120 STRs in town.

This is a huge number, she tells.

Except, it’s been at that level for at least the past five years.

“Multiply that by four guests,” she wrote in the Plaindealer, “and now we have nearly 500 additional people in Ouray per night overusing the infrastructure...”

Them right thar are math figures.

Them figures ain’t right. But that’s not what matters.

See, the average dolt looks at that and does his or her own math: 500 people flushing toilets x 365 days a year = “Dang, we can’t handle all that s-s-s-stuff.”

But it’s not that many people. The inn owner doth exaggerate to scare the unwitting.

First of all, most STRs are occupied by the owners at least part of the year.

Second, the average AirBnB occupancy rate across the country is 48%, according to alltherooms.com, and 65% is considered rocking it. Those numbers are the same across other short-term rental platforms.

And, third, according to muchneeded.com/airbnb-statistics, 88% of reservations are for between two and four persons, and 7% are for one person. That’s not four persons on average.

Plus, from January through May room rental occupancy in Ouray averages about 25-30%, which any inn owner should know. But suddenly STRs are at 100% during that period?

More of that funny math.

Still, it’s true, vacationers do rent STRs. But, I’m guessing not at a rate high enough to scare the average, ill-informed voter. So why not throw out the biggest, fattest numbers you can make up?

The City of Ouray Planning Commission, three years ago, voted to recommend to council to increase the number of STR licenses to 139. This council chose a limit of 120, which is 14% less harrowing than the good ol’ days the inn’s letter writer pines for.

Imagine all the toilet flushing four people 365 nights a week in 139 STRs could do each day!

Whooosh!

There goes another bowl-full of math.

And, never mind that the current council has placed a vote on the November ballot to increase the tax on STRs to 15%, with half of that tax going to partially pay for upgraded wastewater treatment.

These three candidates, presumably, want to flush Ouray down the proverbial toilet, the letter writer contends.

Here’s a fact for you: a local Ouray inn owner is opposed to a mayoral candidate and two council candidates who aren’t running on putting enough limits on her competition in Ouray.

Scary.

•••

The thin-skinned trio of elected officials in Ouray County known officially as county commissioners, yet effectively as a single-minded voting block, decided this week to not spend approximately $200 three times a month to run their meeting agendas in the Ouray County Plaindealer.

They’re not required to do it by law.

No, not at all.

But the county has been doing it since 2007 when it was sued by then-Plaindealer owner David Mullings for not following state open meeting laws. Paying for and publishing the agendas was the county’s way of displaying open concession to its past wrongdoing, and to offer transparency to the residents of the county.

Ironically, just a few short weeks after the current owners of the Plaindealer rightfully called these three commissioners out on the carpet for – what else – violating open meeting laws, these three, without formal discussion in an open meeting, pulled the plug on running the county’s agenda in the local paper.

You want transparency?

It seems as clear as gin that the county commissioners are punishing the paper for having the gall to do its job.

Hello, Ouray County: 2006 is calling and wants its dark veil of secrecy back.

Alan Todd is a 35-year newspaper veteran who lives in Ouray County. He can be reached at alanrosstodd5@yahoo.com.