Newsletter 1


Welcome to the first issue of the “Your Front Row Seat” newsletter, featuring succinct, to the point, weekly content updates from my recently launched blog, “Your Front Row Seat.”

First off, please know that I greatly respect and value your time – THANK YOU for your interest in staying on top of, and in tune with, the dynamic issues and initiatives that impact all of us who call Durango home.

Over the next several weeks, I will highlight one cornerstone blog post per week. I will discuss why I chose to write about this topic and share relevant community updates and news. These initial cornerstone posts will provide the foundation for ongoing discussions. After I’ve introduced all my cornerstone posts, I’ll create new blog posts every two weeks.

Today I’m focusing on Durango’s Business Improvement District (BID) – an organization dedicated to supporting and promoting downtown Durango. I will specifically address BID’s initiatives to address downtown panhandling. You may have seen a pared down version of this post that I contributed as a Letter to the Editor in the Durango Herald on Sunday, August 21st. The Herald followed up with a September 6 article on the same subject by staff writer Mary Shinn, along with a September 8 Op Ed piece the subject. Panhandling affects businesses, tourists and locals, and as we reach the end of summer, I want to reflect on BID’s efforts to protect and maximize our city’s image as a vibrant and welcoming destination

I think we can all agree that Durango’s downtown district is charming and unique, a hub that should project the positive and progressive vibe of our community. We all know that first impressions matter. As locals and tourists began to fill downtown streets in late May and early June, BID proactively addressed the touchy subject of downtown panhandling – a practice that has grown precipitously in the past two years. An Outreach Coordinator was hired and Ambassadors were strategically placed on downtown streets, ultimately interacting with close to 3,000 visitors. Approximately $500 was raised to give directly to charities (as opposed to individual downtown panhandlers) through BID’s new Make It Count campaign.

On a personal note, my daughter Natalie served as a BID ambassador this summer. She thoroughly enjoyed her position, and learned a great deal about the opportunities available to all of us to be helpful and hospitable, to make visitors feel comfortable and warmly welcomed. I applaud BID’s strategy of placing both adults and responsible, service-oriented youth on downtown streets as part of this summer’s ambassador outreach program.

It is evident as you walk the streets downtown that the problem is not yet solved, but these initiatives that educate and inform the community deserve recognition.

Here’s to keeping the conversation going!

Melissa Youssef

Blogger, Your Front Row Seat

Focusing on issues and initiatives significant to everyone who calls Durango home.

P.S. I’ll be enabling comments on my blog after the cornerstone posts are delivered. In the meantime, if you have a comment to share, simply hit reply to this email, or send me an email at And please share this article if you like it!

I appreciate each one of YOU – my readers! I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring you news on issues of relevance to our community. To keep receiving my short, informative weekly updates, don’t do anything. If you’d rather opt out, simply let me know by replying to this email.

Published: September 13, 2016