This forum is a sounding board for a range of issues facing eastern Boulder County. I will prompt discussions with my posts and elected officials can tap into the concerns of citizens here, and explain their rationale on decisions. Follow along with the latest discussion by checking the list of recent comments on the right. You can comment with your name, a nickname or anonymously if you wish. You can become a contributor as well. Thank you for your comments!
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Subs Will Roll On

Silver Mine Subs in Lafayette must use the front door for all deliveries after 10:00 PM and the city will only consider violations ruled on by a judge as fodder for shutting them down in the future.

Bravo to the Lafayette Planning Commission in Lafayette for placing a defensible policy made up of metrics and logic around this land use issue.

That this arrangement had to become an agenda item instead of a face-to-face conversation with neighbors and staff shows there was a mixture of indifference and intolerance on both sides. This resolution should be a message to other businesses to be aware of their neighbors' concerns. It also raised awareness of nontraditional services and their worthwhile place in town - the fact that Silver Mine frequently serves emergency responders up late highlights a part of the town's activities most people don't think about.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Looking WAY Long Term for Open Space in Longmont

Okay, you all know I support open space. As I said before, since 1988 I haven't voted against funding it yet, whether in Boulder , Lafayette or at the County level. Five years working for BCPOS and my spot on LOSAC, those times pulling knapweed, Walker Ranch events, etc. - fun fun fun. So I'm not coming from a pro-development, anti-open space point of view on this one.

Longmont will have on the ballot this November a request to extend an open space tax until 2034. The current tax they wish to extend runs until 2020.

Now, the point of a sunset on a tax is to allow everyone to step back, take a breath, evaluate and debate the merits of the tax's implementation. Since the new tax wouldn't raise more money now (directly), this leap-frogging of the pertinent analysis is a bit over-reaching. Either ask for a new additional tax now and defend the merits, or just hold on a second and let the current tax play out for at least another decade. If this one passes it will demonstrate a generic support for all things open space I never perceived in Longmont before.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Search Function Update

The Ligit Search bar to the right has changed in its operation, I know many of you had used it earlier last week - I'm working with Ligit to re-establish its functionality. You'll be able to search for your name and/or any pertinent topics once that's done. I'll let you know.

Plus, I'm contacting the various candidates to offer them a chance to post a statement on this blog. I will offer each space for a 250-word posting of anything they wish to highlight. If you are a candidate reading this, contact me at budanddakota@yahoo.com.

And They're Off - The EastBoCo Races Officially Begin

Here are the candidates for various East BoCo races:

Lafayette has four open seats on the seven-member council, all at-large. The three top vote-getters will serve a four-year term, and the fourth will serve a two-year term.

  • Kerry Bensman (incumbent)
    Robert Brown
    Brian Herzfeld
    Stacia Lupberger
    Melinda Medrick-Nye
    Laura Oster
    G. Scott Penfield
    Frank Phillips, (incumbent)
    Jay Ruggeri, (incumbent)
    Alex Schatz

Louisville has four open seats on the seven-member council - one for each Ward in the city, plus the Mayor's spot.
Mayor's seat
Chuck Sisk, (incumbent mayor)
Randy Luallin
Ward I seat
David Clabots, (incumbent)
Annie Hughes
Ward II seat
Sheri Marsella (incumbent)
Ward III seat
Matthew Jones
Hank Dalton

Longmont has four open seats on the seven-member council - including the Mayor's spot.
Mayor's seat
Karen Benker (incumbent)
Doug Brown (incumbent)
Roger Lange (incumbent)
Ward I seat
James De Vore
Brian Hansen
Aaron Rawlins.
Ward III seat
Bonnie Finley
Sean Patrick McCoy
At-large seat
Sarah Levison
Gabe Santos
Paul Tiger

Monday, August 27, 2007

By Senators Request

(Since a good many of you Eastern Boulder County'ites live in this Senators district....)
I always encourage constituents to contact their representatives. In an editorial by State Senator Brandon Shaffer, he asked for his constituents to “engage in a dialog” with him on issues in the upcoming legislative session. Here’s one, don’t waste time playing games with the Electoral College (EC). It was attempted in 2004 with a ballot initiative that would split up the EC votes by statewide popular vote, and lost. It’s been tried behind voter’s backs in the Senate, throwing all of our EC votes behind the national popular vote, and lost. Senator Shaffer co-sponsored this and even voted to keep it off the ballot.

Are his constituents clamoring for this change? Or does he give more of his considerations to Majority Leader Ken Gordon, who usually spearheads this pointless, and yearly, exercise?

California is considering changing how their EC votes are split up, in this case by congressional district. To be consistent, Senators Gordon and Shaffer should throw all of their support behind this, why do I get the feeling they wont? Does it not benefit them or their party? What’s good for the goose and all that, right?

It doesn’t matter if California’s idea isn’t the same as what’s been tried here. Two other states, Nebraska and Maine, already apportion their EC votes by congressional district, how many do it the way our Senates tried? (Answer zero). We should all do it the same way, whether that’s abolishing the Electoral College, or some other idea. Cherry picking states for political gain, no matter who’s doing it, is not acceptable. But more to the point, why does Senator Shaffer continually beat this drum and who’s asking for it? Who does he really represent?

Senator Shaffer said he hopes he’s proven he’s "always ready and willing to listen to constituents." I know, I’m nobody, but this is an important issue, all that’s been proven to me is that he has staffers who can throw out talking points. I know everyone has staffers and they are required, but we didn’t vote for them. If their words are representative of his words, and if his votes on the tough issues, not the feel-good issues he often raises in his editorials, kowtow more to the senior leaders in his party instead of his constituents, then he shouldn’t get any of our future votes.

Is Erie Worth The Price?

The impact fees in Erie for development have been discussed here before, and further comparative analysis shows Erie is unfortunately skewed to being way more expensive than most of its immediate neighbors. As local Erie businesses start analyzing the cost of expanding within the town, they will find, as attorney Jennifer McCallum did, that staying just doesn't make financial sense. (Thanks, JM for the detail!)

Erie Impact fees:

Boulder $67,349
Broomfield $0
Dacono $0
Erie $71,810
Firestone $0
Frederick $14,809
Lafayette $5,450
Longmont $17,724
Louisville $17,000

Mid Size Retail
Boulder $119,444
Broomfield $0
Dacono $0
Erie $129,132
Firestone $0
Frederick $41,001
Lafayette $9,010
Longmont $67,514
Louisville $86,040

I have a lot more comparative data but creating a table in Blogger is like learning Mandarin Chinese. Suffice to say the single family home and supermarket-based retail, and other categories show Erie as a near last place choice if impact fees were the only factor.

They're not, but what is the critical mass at which the profitable tipping point is reached for development? Is the town hindering its options with such demonstrably higher fees?

The town does have a newer marketing focus on itself as a business development destination, it is "one of the hottest business prospects..." and "..most talked about exurbs in the western US."

I like the confidence. I'm interested to see if a tie between that confidence and self-imposed mechanisms to manifest that vision of that confidence. Does Erie have what it takes?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Silver Mine and Staff Silliness

The Silver Mine Subs scenario is one I want every Lafayette City Council candidate to comment on. The way in which a candidate perceives the scenario - starting with the extent to which they even investigate the details to their philosophy on the role of government - including the authority city staff and advisory Boards should have - make this a perfect case study to vett those who wish to sit in the leadership role of our town.

Here is the staff memo for the Planing Commission meeting on Wednesday. My impression is that this business is being unfairly restricted in its ability to provide a normal, desired, revenue-generating service to the community by the staff recommendation they must stop delivery at midnight as opposed to the historic 3:00 AM.

There must be noise violation and other code issues that are in place for anyone doing business, and an accumulation of violations would put their business license in jeopardy. However the blanket reduction in their delivery hours based on complaints of how many? residents - WHO KNOWINGLY MOVED IN BEHIND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT - is knee jerk, petty, robotic and an example of all that is wrong with the "small town feel" mentality being touted as a desired value.

I've become increasingly convinced that my neighbors who champion this "small town feel" of Lafayette are living in an idealistic lala land. They want the pastoral, mellow, no traffic, open space, no crime, everyone-knows-each-other-parts, but such essentially rural communities with those characteristics do not have huge libraries, their own police forces of any size, Rec centers, trails all over, etc. There is a disconnect between the amenities people want here and how they can be funded. They want all the nice mellow parts, plus the nice things larger towns have, but none of the attendant activities that pay for such benefits.

I support reasonable expectations of privacy or quiet, etc. I do not support absolutely no sensory experience of a neighbor's operation when their existence is otherwise legal - and desired. How loud can their operations be, really? What am I missing?

I moved in next to a school. In the summers, every morning at 5:45 AM, the sprinklers go off - big ones. If my window is open, it always wakes me up. Some days, it is really, really irritating - as many of you know, I'm not sleeping much with a 3-month old in the house. I cherish every second of sleep. But anyway, it never occurred to me to do anything other than SHUT MY WINDOW for the 20 minutes they run. Its part of LIVING IN A COMMUNITY as opposed to buying a trailer and living on 10 acres away from the rest of civilization because I'm so touchy about the sounds of the real world.

So, any candidates wish to chime in? This is a microcosm of the real-world issues we look for our leaders to articulate where they stand. I hope to hear from a few.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Power Of One Loud Mouth...

So Silver Mine Subs in Lafayette has apparently woken up somebody for dumping trash outside their store on South Boulder Road late at night. This complaint prompted a review of their use review which showed Silver Mine didn't have permission to make deliveries as part of its business practice. They currently are open til 3:00 AM. So the City has said he can't deliver after midnight - because, of course, there is a direct connection between deliveries and deciding when to dump trash. And besides, we didn't ever tell you you could deliver your food, anyway.

The owner says the loss of late night business will cause him to close. Regardless, this type of headache for an obviously solvable problem is an example of a robotic , complaint-based governmental process at work. Whatever the neighbor was upset about can be changed, instead it is the nuclear bomb reaction to trash dumping that may put him out of business. Require changes, heck, even fine him for going outside the original scope of the business plan, but it's obviously serving a community need. Nothing says "small town feel" like one grumpy neighbor putting a viable business OUT of business.

Read the Lafayette News' version of the story here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mayors - Who Should Choose 'Em?

Lafayette should elect a Mayor directly - true?

How about this analysis from the National Civic League:

"In many cities, particularly the larger ones, it is believed that [direct election] increases the potential for mayoral leadership by giving the mayor a city-wide popular support base. This is particularly important when all or most of the council members are elected from districts. A disadvantage of this method is the possibility that the mayor will be at variance with the council majority on some important issues.

"...in many other cities it is felt that local policy leadership can best function through a cohesive team of council members which chooses its leaders as mayor. In those cities, Alternative II, election of the mayor by and from the council, is used and the possibility of conflict between the mayor and the council majority is avoided. However, cities using this method should avoid particular practices which diminish the prospect of effective leadership."

What do citizens gain from direct Mayoral election? In a small town like Lafayette my concern is you don't necessaritly get just a "strong" Mayor, you get someone so grateful and enthused by their election they steer Council on their own path with less consensus. We don't need one person to feel they are any more the voice for the town than another on the Council. They are all elected and are all on the same level; from within that group comes a majority-chosen leader who, as far as I can tell, is pretty ceremonial in that role.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More Exposure For Erie's Commercial Coveting

No truth to any rumors I'm running for Council - not with more motivated folks and my life filled with a new baby and attendant scheduling issues.

Anyway, I love returning to the wired world and reading in a magazine about "Sustainable Erie Inc." Anyone know the principals? I see this excerpt from ColoradoBiz Magazine:

"It’s certainly not sustainable to be so heavily reliant on construction to pay the bills. That obviously can’t continue forever," says Brendan Ruiz, president of Sustainable Erie Inc., a nonprofit interest group.

Erie’s budget estimates 2007 tap/impact fees will have plunged by half in just two years, to $13.1 million in 2007, from $17.2 million in 2006 and $26 million in 2005. That $26 million represented almost 55 percent of all of Erie’s revenues, while this year’s projected $13.1 million in tap/impact fees would add up to just 26 percent of this year’s $50.4 million in revenue.

The housing market meltdown that's already started will stagnate any future residential growth anyway; if commercial development hasn't seen a critical mass to locate in/next to yet they probably aren't going to be rushing in any time soon. Erie is caught in the inevitable position of relying on impact fees yet said fees make them less attractive to dwindling interest. Doh!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Offline For A Couple Days

I'm not going near a computer for three days as a brain break with the family. I'll return to posting on Monday. Watch for new candidate announcements in the Council elections, and you know, talk amongst yourselves. Chat with you soon -

Forever Tax Is History

The County Commissioners decided Tuesday to drop the "forever" tax for open space, and instead ask for a 20-year extension. This was smart - the forever aspect would have brought forth a much more vigorous debate on the impacts and value of open space, one that I believe would have shown a support for maintenance over acquisition.

Instead of taking the chance of losing the all-or-nothing battle, in 2007 the sentiment around open space is still vaguely positive (people don't understand the wider housing affordability impacts it creates) and this is a good time to request an extension before more people truly understand the cost-of-living impacts of a successful open space program.

I think a forever tax for maintenance is compelling. But this wasn't the angle being argued. It will be 20 years before the earmarking of sales tax for County Open Space becomes subject to thorough analysis, at least for purposes of a political campaign.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Longmont Is A Special Island, Says Times Call

Erie's Board of Trustees has voted to chip $7,000 towards the cost of hiring a consultant tasked with identifying and developing methodologies related to regional revenue sharing among Boulder County municipalities. This effort is coordinated by the Boulder County Consortium of Cities, and the Times Call had supportive, cautious endorsement of the program yesterday that revealed the persistent resentment at Boulder's proclivity to champion - and force cooperation - with its ideals.

The editorial ends with the dig on not letting Boulder run the show, but also describes the melting of southeast BoCo communities into each other as being more likely to benefit from revenue sharing than Longmont ever could. Longmont is "relatively isolated from other cities in Boulder County" and anyway, more revenue isn't worth it if Boulder's telling us what to do.

The seeds of discontent are already being sown...

By the way, Broomfield's been asked to join in and hasn't answered yet.

Erie's State Of The Town: Looking Long-Term

Mayor Andrew Moore is hosting a State of the Town meeting tonight in Erie, and earlier this week the Erie Board of Trustees approved not only $114,900 to "identify land with environmental significance according to specific criteria", but they also approved buying into the revenue sharing study. Once they find the land of significance, then what? The Natural Areas Inventory was a stated 2007 goal that will help prioritize land for protection from development, with no significant financial method of protection available. Perhaps the impact fees can be raised. (That's sarcasm. More below on that)

Unfortunately I can't tell you where the State of the Town takes place; my MooreInfo email update didn't say and neither does the town's website. Probably town hall. Maybe the porch at Mina's or in the shadow of the re center's foundation.
6:15 - 6:30 Networking, Pre-meeting Refreshments
Meeting Officially Starts
6:30 - 6:40 Community Leader Intros
6:40 - 6:50 Erie Facts, Pre-submitted HOA Questions
6:50 - 7:00 Traffic Safety, Library, Community Center Updates
7:00 - 7:15 Economic Development Update
7:15 - 7:20 Accomplishments 2004 - Current
7:20 - 7:25 In Progress/Future Projects
7:25 - 7:30 Erie Awards
7:30 - 7:35 CAPP
7:35 - 7:40 Tree Program
7:40 - 8:30 Q&AMeeting Officially Adjourns
8:30-9:00 Additional Individual Q&A as Needed

I notice the longest chunk of time- at 15 minutes - is set aside for Economic Development discussion.

Plus next Tuesday, August 21, the Board will have a study session on the impact of Impact Fees. They have an impact - mostly negative. If they're markedly higher than neighboring communities, and you don't have anything significant to make people think your town is special, impact fees are not helping your cause. It isn't about covering cost of service, that's myopic. It's one of several factors at play when enticing and retaining revenue/job/service providers for your town. Want the means to acquire the "natural lands" the study finds? Don't worry about impact fees and entice sales tax generators to your town. That or pass the hat for straight-up donations.

Hopefully their meeting will last about as long as it took to write this.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

At Least they Did Their Job

Longmont City Council approved the LifeBridge annexation last night, 6-1, with the opposing vote wanting to send the issue to the ballot. I am glad to see the Councilors took their role seriously enough to make a decision, although the article in the Camera doesn't provide much in the way of rationale. When $200 million of the $610 million total land value is approved for tax-exempt development, they must have solid reasons for making such a concession. If a majority of Longmonters feel this was inaccurate representation, they'll vote them out of office.

Of those voting in support, Doug Brown's Ward 1 term expires in November and he has filed to run for Mayor. He can answer why he supported this during his campaign; the four open seats (including Mayor) will bring out at least a dozen candidates and this decision should be revisited as a campaign forum question each time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No, Kerry Didn't Take Over The Blog

Before you get all worked up, the string of 25 comments attributed to Kerry is another recurring glitch with the comments widget I use - my email box was flooded with exact replicas of comments from Kerry and others over the last few days, hence my reference to the new commenting function I'm testing now.

Get ready, your comments will be ranked and you can easily spin off into side conversations with each other. Oh yeah, it will be sweet.

WIll The Real Bonnie Star Please Stand Up?

Okay, I am correcting my correction. It has been pointed out that Bonnie Star is indeed the Director of Community Development for Lafayette, not the asserted Economic Development Director.

I plead baby brain. No sleep + poor judgment & gullibility, with a dose of wanting to believe. From now on all info I post can be assumed to be my truths, with no reliance on any of yous guys!

This WalMart Will Help Everyone Prosper

The Camera tries to put the new Lafayette Super WalMart into some kind of context today, with this interesting reference to Bonnie Star, community development director for the city: the article says she said there's no sense in trying to predict what the Supercenter's effect will be on the nearby grocery stores after only a week in business.


I would have thought this prediction would have been made way back when the development was approved, or at least made during construction. Or whenever Council wanted budget projections. Such an estimate must've happened sometime, right?

The article goes on: "but she said the existing stores should survive and even prosper."

This in reference to the nearby King Soopers and Safeway. (No one believes Albertsons will "prosper".)

"There's likely to be some effect, but there is a lot of demand for groceries in this area," she said. "The demand in total and the sales in total have continued to grow."

Without massive residential developments within a 5-mile radius of the WalMart, the assertions here just don't make common sense. Where will the aggregate demand for food come from? Are there that many growing families in Lafayette? Perhaps the demographics are more in flux than I realized.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Big Annexation In Longmont: Will They Or Won't They?

I love this kind of public policy, land use and community vision decision Longmont has on tap for Tuesday night. The City Council will make a decision (hopefully) on the Lifebridge Church's proposal for a huge mixed use development that either will or will not be annexed into the city. An interesting aspect of staff's documentation to Council is a reference to Lafayette's agreement with Exempla Hospital for a payment in lieu of tax-exempt development.

See, they did it over there! We should do it too! Any fallout from the Exempla agreement they should know about?

I wonder if they will punt and put it to the voters - a lame move that denies their rightful role as representatives. A political campaign vs a thoughtful, contextual decision on land use - what will a politician choose?

My gut leads me to believe that the hard-nosed business sensibilities of those pushing for this development are still just a layer of values on top of even deeper religious values, and that this entire development does not envision itself as a truly integrated new neighborhood of Longmont. There are vested interests at work to ultimately have a development that meets various deeply-held standards, and that's fine, I just don't think a secular government needs to be an enabler.

I was intrigued to read a letter to the city from Richard Yale (see p. 13 in the PDF) that challenges the city's right to only consider financial implications of the annexation (straw man?): "The amount of wealth for the city a project creates is not a Constitutional reason to vet an application.." He goes on to blame "secular progressive pressure" is convincing the Council to deny the application because it has been brought forward by a religious organization. Darn separation of church and state getting in the way again...

On balance, what does Longmont stand to gain compared to the financial responsibilities it takes on? That is for the Council to decide and justify their decision against. Plus this all happens in the beginning stages of a November Council election. The issue will be re-hashed for voters no matter how it goes. Fun fun fun. I'm fascinated watching the process unfold.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Superior Considering A New Zone

The Superior Board of Trustees will consider a new "Open Space and Natural Spaces District" on Monday, with the draft to the Board including the point that no public input has been received. (starts on page 16 of the PDF document).

The proposed revised ordinance language says the new zoning definition will be used to "preserve the open space and undeveloped character of those properties within the district. Land within the district is protected from development but low-impact improvements to the land such as trails, trailheads, flood control facilities, and reclamation may be allowed pursuant to a Special Use or Conditional Use permit as set forth in the Schedule of Uses in Section 16-189. The Open Space and Natural Uses District may be comprised of both public and private lands."

Apparently there are no private properties proposed for inclusion at this point, but the zoning definition would still allow this in the future. It appears to be a way to pre-empt any demand for significant access or recreational use on Town- and Jointly-owned properties by describing them as being in this more restricted-use zoning. (No basketball courts or dog parks, etc. is how I read it.)

My understanding was that the government had to purchase land for open space if they want to so severely limit development. I'm a big supporter of open space taxes for just such purposes. But his ordinance creates defacto open space to any property it is applied to. The Lastoka and Verhey properties are the only ones listed for inclusion now, they're owned open space. Perhaps this won't ever be an issue because it won't be applied to private property. But their request to approve such language makes me wonder why they need this authority....

A public hearing will be held Aug 27 anyway, so we'll see if this causes any concern.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New Posting Mechanism In Testing

Hello everyone: I'm investigating a new system that allows posts and comments to be rated by visitors and sorted by commenter , so you can collectively rate what a given person has to say, both individual comments and in general. This is an open forum, so people can say what they want, however I've learned of technology that makes the commenting more valuable.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Erie Has The Purest Board Of Them All

Okay, I'm willing to accept that the newspapers look for the juiciest quotes but this one is a dig on fellow BoCo communities from Erie Mayor Andrew Moore. Regarding the decision to remain one of two BoCo communities to offer no compensation to their elected Board members, Moore is quoted in the Camera saying:

"They're up there because they want to be up there; they're up there for the right reason," Moore said of his fellow trustees. "They're not up there because they are trying to make a car payment."

Have you ever heard anybody over the years say they wanted the brain damage of a political campaign and subsequent commitment of a Council or Board seat because they need the money? What sort of comment is that?

Pick any random town, stay for an entire Council meeting and imagine doing that dozens of times a year for several years. Tell me you would do it for $5000, or even $10,000 a year.

People run for various reasons ranging from pet peeves to civic duty to megalomania. There is no deeper quality brought to the table because Erie doesn't pay Board members.

I bring this up because of the quote Mayor Moore had in the Camera about Erie's higher impact fees: “Quality has a price. We are not trying to be Lafayette.”

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Open Space Trade-Offs

So I support Open Space taxes, always have. M post on the impact on housing affordability in the wake of a staunch OS program has led me to be aware of another trade-off being exposed on the County level. County transportation staff have told HOAs in unincorporated Boulder County they need to take over their maintenance expenses, according to this letter by Greg Klinkel in the Camera:

Wake up, residents of unincorporated Boulder County! Although the county may own your streets and sidewalks, they want you to pay for their maintenance through special assessments in addition to the property-tax dollars they collect for that purpose.

That's right. When the county accepted subdivisions such as Gunbarrel and Heatherwood, they accepted the responsibility to maintain the streets of those neighborhoods. In fact, the county owns those streets, and it is the county's responsibility to maintain them.

A representative of the Boulder County Transportation Department recently attended my homeowners association meeting to give us the message that the county would not pay to maintain their streets in our subdivision. They want us to form a Local Improvement District for this purpose, the costs of which would be borne primarily by "special assessments" to the residents. How special! By the way, this is the county's plan for all such residential subdivisions, not just Gunbarrel and Heatherwood.

Read the rest in the Camera.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Longmont's Call On Revenue Sharing

Tonight the Longmont City Council votes on whether or not to contribute $7000 to a study on the feasibility, the concepts really, of regional revenue sharing. Lafayette, Louisville, Boulder, Superior and Boulder County have all said okay; Longmont is next and Erie considers this next week.

We debated this topic before (52 comments actually!) and I'm wondering if Longmont will go for it. Actually, Erie may be the holdout with so much of their community outside of Boulder County.

If Boulder County competed as a huge economic entity with cheap transit an housing options funded by the sharing, there appears to be a perfect world" potential. But, with peak oil, open space driving property values and plain old pride in the mix, the study may articulate the impractical aspects of the notion. But hey, lets check it out - more information can't be bad. Creative solutions may hit the table.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Races Begin

Tuesday is the first day for collecting signatures for the various city Councils in East BoCo. Longmont has a Mayoral race with a few interested incumbents, Lafayette and Louisville have several seats open, and the County will throw in a few tax questions on top of the races.

Any early predictions or favorites?

As the bios of candidates come forward, it will be interesting to see the backgrounds and motivations of newcomers. It intrigues me when people who have been below the radar suddenly get all civic-minded. It sure makes things interesting because they're in such a different place from incumbents and citizen board members.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Lafayette Councilor Suggests Staff Ouster As Campaign Message

In Lafayette's November City Council election, Councilor Kerry Bensman has told the Lafayette News the removal of City Administrator Gary Klaphake is a key part of his campaign message. Kerry is a stickler for details and he has been dissatisfied with the staff for years. Is this a viable campaign message?

I don't think most people associate municipal performance issues with the top administrator, they comment about their elected Council. The "throw the bums out" angle works on elected officials, not on bureaucrats. As a voter I look to hear about a candidate's leadership, vision, passion, etc. Big picture stuff, not personal rancor.

Mostly I'm surprised this is a newspaper article at all. "Incumbent says voters want change" is the subtitle - can you run on change as an incumbent? Seems more like an editorial. I won't put too much weight into any given quote because I known how that works, but to say “This is an opportunity for voters to send a message to city hall,” means Kerry believes what I have agreed to on this blog earlier- that staff holds the true power in a community. But I don't think that message resonates with voters. More cynically, I don't think people want to hear descriptions of the problems, they want to be told the solutions they want to hear (whether they're truly feasible doesn't matter). Personnel matters are off most people's radar.

Kerry is tenacious and studious regarding the city's finances, and he raises numerous questions about how information and decisions filter from staff to Council. I am still likely to vote for him again as his detailed and watchful eye is necessary and far too often missing part of Council. But the personal vendetta angle is troubling.

I'm sure this will be an interesting conversation here...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Open Space "Forever Tax" An Investment For Property Owners

I see the open space acquisition decisions repeatedly endorsed by voter approval as a factor in the free market, as Alex has suggested. That the land purchased, easemented (the word is in GW's dictionary) and otherwise taken off the table for development add to a quality of life allure that in turn is subject to supply and demand. For people who support open space to wring their hands about the rising property values/taxes, and how tough it is for some people to afford to live here I find to be on a continuum from naive to denial to disingenuous. Sure, it stinks to contemplate it, sucks even more to be directly affected by it, but supporting open space makes housing affordability worse. This point is lost on most of the lamenters. (thanks again, GW.)

Long-term housing "affordability" would require an equal amount of housing to a given amount of demand. By making Boulder County relatively more attractive through open space purchases we are guaranteed, by very purposeful, voter-approved design, to have less housing than would be demanded by the rest of the spectrum of humans walking the earth who may decide BoCo is THE place to live. This common sense, on the table, can't-be-any-other-way-about it policy for land use serves most those who got in the property ownership game way back when open space purchase programs got started.

It may not have been so conscious a decision, but any time we voted for more open space bonds, we were doing our part to complement the good schools, employers and other attractive variables of our communities that would create more demand for housing here than could be met.

Is it fair to renters? Define fair. This is the voter-approved system in this County, has been for decades. I believe the support for Open Space goes beyond resource protection, recreational options , etc. Support belies an intentional savvyness on the part of many officials and residents over the years to of course create a County that is, in the long run, simply a good place for property investment. Those of us who voted for open space taxes all those years we were renters - I haven't voted against one in 20 years - knew we were preserving open space but probably didn't realize we were on a path to vote ourselves right out of the County if we didn't buy soon.

On its own merits, and philosophically speaking, I believe in funding open space. Even if I still rented I would vote to tax myself to continue to acquire and maintain open space. But understanding its impact on the affordability to live here means accepting we've created a property value and rental rate/housing price monster. We did it, can't stop it, indeed we continue to vote to feed it. So lets stop pretending we don't like it's consequences - expensive land values, rents and displacement of poorer people.

To be comprehensively fair, an open space tax should have a corresponding affordable housing tax. But that just has never been part of the discussion.

Open Space maintenance deserves a forever tax. It is simply a cost of living expense here that ultimately results in equity appreciation. A forever OS tax is an investment for those fortunate enough to own.

Superior's Rec Center Ideas Implode

Last fall the ball got rolling against funding a library in Superior in part because some residents insisted the community would be better served by a Rec Center. Turns out Superior residents are no more interested in paying for a library than they are a Rec Center and the Town Board killed plans to ask for a bond vote this fall that would have paid for it.

Not only are people not interested in paying a new tax -58% opposed both of two proposals in the survey - they actually aren't interested period. Of more than 4,000 households in town, with surveys mailed to each known address in the community, only 618 responses were received. That's just a little more than the number of people showing up for movies this summer in the Rock Creek HOA. With the HOA dues and relative amenities provided by HOAs, it appears Superior residents aren't looking for too much more from the town govt.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Funding Needs That Last Forever

Given the recent discussion on the logic to funding municipal maintenance issues with bond funding - (I like the analogy by docktorbombay that it's like a company using long-term credit to fund payroll) I have been reading more about the County Commissioners' brainstorm to place a "forever" tax on open space on the ballot this fall. The logic is 1) as always, buying the property at today's prices is better than waiting, so lets get another pile of cash to do just that, and 2) the known maintenance costs of indefinite property ownership by the county will simply require this anyway.

Last month at the Lafayette Open Space Advisory Committee meeting I asked BCPOS Director Ron Stewart if he perceived any areas of the Dept. that would be limited in their resources. I posed this as a way to gauge how Lafayette could perceive the chances our requests for joint purchases had of success. But his response surprised me somewhat - he indicated no sense of future limitations to various programs. I expected some sense of a cap on what could be achieved, but that wasn't what I heard. Perhaps I wasn't clear - some readers of the blog were there and could challenge my take. But frankly I expected - not knowing this forever tax was being thought up - some comment on how at X level of funding there's only so much we can do.

Much like the discussions happening in Boulder, the notion of X percent of a budget absolutely going to open space while other areas are debatable underfunded, the County needs to recognize the aggregate effect of taxes. For this forever tax, it means forever open space and never something else. Open Space isn't the only thing the County wants money for; a forever tax has a bit of arrogance to it.

I'm a supporter of the County's Open Space program, and I would seriously consider a forever tax because I happen to like the issue it funds. But giving an earmark for our money forever - that just doesn't resonate. I look forward to the discussion on this.

I think on principle a forever tax is not good policy. Even when it's every ten or even 20 years, as sunset allows the discussion of performance to be brought up. The fact it is being asked for indicates at the least a sub-conscious sense of certainty that the program is and will always be "the right thing" - and that crosses over into the realm of not having accountability.