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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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Louisville Ballot Issue 2A

Louisville residents have one issue on their ballot. 2A would clarify that the Louisville City Council is the authority regarding urban renewal district decisions instead of the Council-appointed Louisville Revitalization Commission. It would also require a fiscal analysis before any tax-increment financing plan could be approved, plus other ethics and oversight protocols.

This one has people confused, dismissive and some really fired up. The site PreserveLouisville.org is the source for all things pro-2A.

This one is tough because the arguments are apples to oranges - maybe. If you listen to pro-2A folks, the LRC and their authority is way beyond what a non-elected Board should have regarding millions of dollars and redevelopment decisions that will change the look of old town. Anti-2A folks have a message that 2A is redundant; Council oversight and approval of the LRC's decisions is already the case.

The rationale for 2A is based on distrust of the LRC's motives, members and accountability. After asking around, I see two ways to make your vote - you can wade into the morass of detail and conflicting assertions and get convinced by whoever screams the loudest and gets to you last. Or, you can choose which premise of government you ultimately want to drive your votes: healthy skepticism and distrust? Vote yes on 2A. Efficient government process with knowledgeable people making decisions with Council oversight? Vote no on 2A.

One caveat - if you voted for current Councilors who are opposed to 2A, have they done anything else to violate your trust in their judgement? If not, maybe they know more details as to why 2A isn't a good idea. Again - either trust or distrust will be your motivating factor.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lafayette Ballot Issues

In Lafayette we have five Questions and two Issues to decide. See their complete language here.

Ballot Issue 2A asks for $9.2 million worth of bonds to pay for street traffic and parking improvements. The bonds will be paid back through the city's general fund. Vote No. I'm not comfortable with that much credit card financing for roads as opposed to paying for such repairs with current funds. Which I know aren't available, and so major trade-offs must be discussed in 2008, or a tax increase. But tapping into years' worth of sales tax for traffic lights and signs today is not prudent. If the argument is that last winter worked over our roads, then a special assessment (a new tax) is the solution, not the credit card of bond financing.

Ballot Issue 2B asks for $980,000 worth of bonds to pay for Recreation Center upgrades for families, seniors and disabled patrons. The bonds will be paid back through the city's general fund. Vote No. In the realm of community needs and how to spend nearly $1million on the credit card of bonds, a changing room just doesn't rise to the status of crucial.

Question 2A asks for an extension of the 200/+50 residential permits per year limit for an additional six years. Vote No. The history of approved permit numbers combined with the general hand-tying of future Councils' ability to consider housing needs adds up to a no vote for me.

Question 2B is a Charter language cleanup item clarifying when ordinances must be enacted by City Council. Vote Yes. Housekeeping.

Question 2C outlines protocols for City Council actions re: Mayoral selection, meeting schedules and vacancy issues. Vote Yes. Slight improvements to process to avoid finger pointing down the road.

Question 2D will remove redundant language from the City Charter and place the language for fines in City ordinance instead of the Charter. Vote Yes. Housekeeping.

Question 2E will require City Council to create a code of ethics ordinance (as opposed to the current Charter language re: ethics). Vote Yes. I love watching the slippery slope of ethics debates.

Okay, what am I missing? Still plenty of days to change my mind.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Joys Of Blogging

For those readers following along with all the comments, I want to say my general philosophy is not to censor any comments. However, if they are direct slurs on an individual I am likely going to remove them. If they are comments about me posted by an anonymous source, I'm not going to spend time answering them. There's plenty of otherwise interesting debate happening here, the noise of the anonymous voices are just part of the deal with blogging...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Post/Comment Trouble

Ahh, technology.

I have seen the glitches with the new commenting system and been contacted behind the scenes by a couple people on this. I'm in touch with the Intense Debate guys and trying to learn how to correct the multiple comments and failure to allow other comments.

I've tried making a few comments and that part works for me. I'll keep working on it -

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Unclear Definition Of "Smart" Growth

A reader asked me offline if I had seen the flyer in the mail from "The Committee For Smart Growth." I have not, so my comments come from a conceptual point of view:

I love the name (note: sarcasm) - it implies nothing as to the philosophy of the group. Pro or anti? Specific development or general? A predictably self-important labeling by an interest group. Without knowing who is behind it, my guess is an anti-specific-development group of folks.

"Smart" growth to some equals "no more growth now that I'm here and have what I want". I look forward out of general curiosity to see what this flyer portrays as "smart". I'll hold off on any more speculation...

Signs and Lies

I remember the first time I saw the sign on Baseline Rd and Aspen Ridge Dr in Lafayette that said "No access to Super Wal-Mart". I was compelled to drive down the road and see what sort of cul-de-sac was created to stop this back way from being used. Turns out there IS access to Wal-Mart.

For reasons having to do with traffic congestion, this little white lie by the city is meant to help direct traffic to the main entrance to WalMart on Hwy 287. I can't recall seeing a city sign before that was so blatantly wrong, and wrong intentionally.

This is a bad precedent. The City instead should put up a sign saying "Want traffic lights here? Vote yes on 2A." Trying to be cute with false statements just annoys intelligent citizens.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Say It Loud And Proud

For the regular visitors of this blog, I am especially happy to describe to you the new comments function I've been fortunate to install from Intense Debate. As that name implies, this cutting edge blogging tool will facilitate more valuable commenting based not only on my posts but between yourselves as well. The point is to elevate online discussions to a whole new level.

In order to better organize the discussion, Intense Debate allows for comments to be threaded off of any given comment, not just the main post. You can provide more focused comments this way.

If you choose, you can create an identity that spans across all blogs powered by Intense Debate.

Why bother with an identity? Along with your identity is a reputation value, based on the
quantity and quality of the comments you make - quality as voted upon by other readers.
This voting serves to move the best comments to the top.

Plus your identity goes with you to all Intense Debated-formatted blogs, making it easy to track users across the blogosphere by providing email and rss notifications. In short, Intense Debate has completely transformed the commenting experience. I am proud to be one of their early adopters. (I am not involved in any way with them financially for you skeptics out there.)

Heard of Boulder's TechStars? They're one of them. Read more about them here.

Now that this capability is part of my blog, next comes the election predictions and endorsements. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Survey Says: We Want It, And Want It For Free

The Times Call describes some of the results from a Longmont citizen survey today, with a headline caveat of people wanting all sorts of things, until asked to pay. I found the reference to the noise from train horns interesting given our earlier FasTracks discussion: Forty-six percent said the horns are not a problem; 54 percent said they were a minor-to-major issue. Regardless, three-quarters said they would not be willing to increase the city’s streets sales tax to pay for $6 million in crossing improvements to eliminate train horns.

So, we can presume those closest to the rail corridors will demand Council pay for at-grade retrofits at crossings, and Council will have to determine the 1) number of people that truly aggravates and 2) their collective political weight. There's plenty of other places $6million could go to benefit a larger percentage of the city's population. Or it could help pay for LifeBridge infrastructure...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What Will They FInd...

Over the last two months scientists have been analyzing selected natural areas on undeveloped lands throughout Erie’s Planning Area to create a "Natural Areas Inventory". On Tuesday, October 23, 4:00 to 7:00PM there will be an open house at the Erie Town Hall to reveal the results.

The town's press release says: "The inventory will help staff implement components of the Erie Comprehensive Master Plan by evaluating development options on lands that have sensitive ecosystems or habitat needs. Staff will have alternatives and preservation recommendations to share with public and private developers to encourage land use that enhances Erie’s natural setting."

Is this the start of a new wave of growth control in Erie? More so, is there likely to be much land of ecological significance? As a member of LOSAC I'm glad to see such a proactive step being made on behalf of Erie's nascent open space program. To the extent this inventory helps prioritize and highlight areas best saved from development is should boost the town's ability to champion the cause for local open space.

I'm wondering if there will be results of dubious value, the proverbial "be careful what you wish for..." What if the inventory demonstrates only a minimum of "quality" habitat?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

2A In Louisville Becoming Petty, Ugly, Stupid

The folks behind the petition-spawned 2A ballot issue in Louisville are challenging the opinions of 2A opponents through apparently calling some anti-2A businesses and just politely - or threateningly - saying they won't shop their because of their views.

Bill O'Reilly would be proud.

So the pro-2A crowd says the Louisville Revitalization Commission is far too autonomous in its authority and 2A, if approved, would return the LRC's decision making capacities back to the Louisville City Council. Anti-2A'ers say the Council's structured oversight of the Council-appointed LRC is significant and appropriate, that the LRC is not a potential rouge, extra-legal entity and to just leave them alone. Trust the Council and the LRC is the message.

Ty Gee, a member of PreserveLouisville, says in the Louisville Times: “At the end of the day, I kind of wish I hadn’t talked to any of these people,” Gee said. “I realized in doing what I did, I raised the temperature unnecessarily. I’m regretful of that.”

I think what's missed in all this deabte over authority is the way in which the boundaries of the LRC's authority grew to include the King Soopers on South Boulder Road and other non-downtown/Hwy 42 area properties. That's where to ask more questions, regardless of who has authority over the District.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Power of Petition

I love it - the LifeBridge annexation is going to the voters after the Longmont City Council was forced to consider that option or repeal their earlier approval because of a successful citizen petition process.

As Councilor Doug Brown, a supporter of the annexation says in the Times Call: “More accurate and better information will get out there.”

We've debated this topic here and here. Plus check out www.whatsinitforlongmont.com. I will be interested to see the political marketing that happens now that the decision will move out of planning and council meetings and into the wild wild west of public propaganda. The soonest an election will happen is January - lots of fun over the holidays...

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo!

RTD has approved diesel trains for the Boulder to Longmont leg of the commuter rail that will be implemented withFasTracks over the next 7, 8, however many years. Once again the Camera provides a quote that makes an official look foolish: "If the objective of FasTracks is to minimize the impact to the community, using diesel does not meet that objective," said Judy Montero, a Denver city councilwoman.

What a twisting of rationale that statement is. Has there ever been a statement that FasTrack's objective is to minimize impacts to the community - in any way other than offering non-vehicular options for travel? FasTrack's rationale has nothing to do with reducing noise or other aspects of additional modalities. There's no way Fastracks could ever be presumed to be less impactful on a community compared to the status quo trending of traditional car-dominant transportation. What kind of straw man foolishness is that?

Camera version.

Anyway, I voted for FasTracks with no illusions as to the standard cost overruns, way-too-optimistic timetables and the rest that would be part of any massive government project. In the grand scheme I still feel the capacities for people moving the effort will provide will be worth it, even if we weren't told it will really be $15 instead of $4 billion. No surprise there.

Notwithstanding the train whistles and other "community impacts", what do you think of FasTracks? Does it matter in Superior, Erie and Lafayette, especially?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Small Town Feel /Massive Federal Raid?

I think the juxtaposition of having "dozens" of federal agents with equipment and vehicles swarm a local business here in Lafayette, a smallish, up and coming bedroom community is fascinating. Who knows what other seedy activities are going on right under our comfortable suburban noses? My mind reels with the possibilities, and it makes Lafayette seem somehow more hip in a dangerous, we're-on-the-feds-short-list kind of way.

This raid on Rocky Mountain Instrument, involved 50 vehicles and included agents from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service which investigates terrorism, computer crimes, illegal technology transfers and public corruption.

Here's the Camera's version of the story, and the Rocky Mountain News.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Texting, School, & The Man

I've been following the ACLU's charge of violation of privacy against Monarch High School: the gist is that some sophomore in trouble for loitering had his cell phone snagged by the school's security guard as it was a "distraction." The rent-a-cop then read his text messages, incriminating requests for dope to other students. The security guard then contacted those students via text posing as a student to see what else he could dig up.

That's shady. The kid's parents are of course worked up over the invasion of privacy, not the dope conversations. Regardless, where does privacy end at school? I don't recall ever imagining a sense of privacy at school growing up; maybe it was the first years in parochial school that got me used to (and subsequently hyper-sensitive to) other people presuming to be in your business all the time...

Read the ACLU's legal accusations here.

Conflict Of Interest Or No Big Deal?

IN Louisville, a member of the city's Revitalization Commission has been outed, as it were, as having purchased an investment rental property with in the area under the LRC's influence in the months following his appointment to the LRC over three years ago. The concern voiced by Ty Gee, a principal behind PreserveLouisville.org, is that LRC member Michael Reis has a conflict of interest sitting on a board making development decisions for an area in which Reis owns property. Reis says he'll recuse himself from any vote pertinent to his property.

Letter of the law - Reis is not in violation, it appears. But does it pass the smell test? No. But, once you know how the games are played, it's not tough to choose to play to your advantage. Is it even possible for an LRC member make a decision that wouldn't improve the general area and hence improve the general value of nearby property? The LRC's mission is inherently positive for any property within the boundary. If Louisville officials didn't make it clear at the outset you couldn't own any property within the redevelopment area's boundaries as a qualification for service, then this scenario was absolutely predictable. Who else has the motivation to join such a board if not an affected property owner?

I wouldn't waste time trying to get Reis removed, just watch for direct violations of a conflict of interest.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Screwy Quote For A New Board Member

So the article in the Camera implies the newly appointed Erie Trustee Colin Towner got the nod because of his status as a small business owner and is on board with and knowledgeable of the town's economic development needs.

So why on earth would he say, in response to the time commitment necessary to perform the duties of a trustee, that "As the owner (of my own business), I always have the option of closing the doors."?!

How about - "You dig deep and get it done," or "I accept the challenge" or "I'll find help if necessary" or something along those lines. "I can always close the shop" to deal with trustee duties doesn't sound like a committed business person to me.

I know the Camera cherry picks comments that often raise eyebrows, but this is another Erie-related quote that make me shake my head in wonder.

Less Store, Same Deal?

Target's developers have scaled back the size of their intended store on Hwy 287 in Lafayette, yet the economic incentives hashed out earlier when they planned a SuperTarget were left unchanged by staff. The City Council asked for some time to review this for their Tuesday October 16 meeting.

I'm sure I can get the scoop on that from the faithful commenters on this blog. I'm not opposed to economic incentives; I would say I start from a place of considering them in general and scaling them to the project as opposed to not wanting them to start with. However to think that the terms of the construction would change - which I perceive as meaning a development that would not bring in as much revenue - and yet the incentives do not scale back proportionally makes me bristle as a tax-payer. Hardball negotiations are necessary! I look forward to Council's discussions and directions to staff next Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

LifeBridge In Limbo

Longmont City Clerk Valeria Skitt has verified enough signatures have been submitted to force the Longmont City Council to either overturn their approval of LifeBridge Christian Church’s project or send the issue to the voters.

We've chatted about this on the blog here, here and here.

Interestingly, Doug Brown also withdrew from the Mayoral race yesterday; he was one of the Councilors who voted to approve LifeBridge. Perhaps pro-LifeBridge is not a great vote to have on record as an incumbent candidate...

The anti-LifeBridge site What's In It For Longmont provides an exhaustive rationale, and the 4000+ signatures needed show its not a small group of people that are offended at the projects special terms.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Seven West Seized!

Just a sad recognition of another Lafayette food joint getting caught failing to pay taxes - 7 Est was a pizza bar in old town that has "seized" across the door this morning. Hopefully this prominent spot on old town's north end won't be vacant for too long. Hopefully we'll get a different menu than pizza in there too...

Wondering About Wards

The Times Call described various campaign efforts of the Longmont City Council candidates yesterday. The comments are broken out by Ward and at-large candidates. Louisville does this too; should Lafayette look into this option? What is the tipping point at which you have enough people that either 1) parts of town are so dissimilar they need more specific representation or 2)you have enough people that practically speaking there's no way a at-large rep could ever really represent a distinguishable majority of opinion?

I guess "small town feel" precludes wards. Why break up the city into competing districts?

East BoCo Readers Should Check...

I'm sure you're all on top of this, but it's worth verifying given all of our motivated interest - today is the last day to register to vote in the November election. To check your registration status, visit www.voteboulder.org or call Boulder County's elections office at 303-413-7740.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Louisville's Big X Factor

I hope Louisville's Council candidates now are asked to brainstorm on what they'd like to see - or be willing to approve - for the 400+ acre former StorageTek campus that recently sold for an undisclosed sum to an undisclosed buyer. (Camera and Hometown News versions of the topic.)

At this point there's no plan on the table, although the assumptions that Class A office space is the likely target of developers seems right on. Such a development would impact Boulder more than East BoCo, at least in terms of luring away substantial amounts of current businesses.

I am curious to hear the ideas from candidates, as that is really the last large parcel that could redevelop in Louisville; yet it isn't contiguous to old town or other neighborhoods in a way that grabs residents' attention; the discussion lends itself to more philosophical growth decisions. While Issue 2A is the front burner topic this election, StorageTek's redevelopment deserves to be discussed as well. For politicians, the topic is in that free-form area where you can pontificate about what would be nice, what you would like to see, etc. to appeal to your target demographic. Great campaign fodder without any threat of tangible consequences.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Costs Of Elections

Some astute visitors to my site voiced their concerns about the possibility of a costly special election to backfill a city councilmember seat. As some of you have probably read, three current council members are running for Mayor. If Roger Lange or Karen Benker win, their seat will become vacant and since there is a specified amount of time left in that position, another election must be held to fill it. This could cost between $50k and $100k at a time when we’re hearing about shortfalls in revenues and cuts in services in the city.

The third councilmember running is Doug Brown, who is being term-limited out of office. (Campaign Manager hat on: Doug, how often can politicians say they’ll save you money and/or save some city services if you “vote for me”, and really mean it, and can deliver on it? Okay, hat off). If Mr. Brown wins, basically the city saves a bunch of money. But there’s a two thirds chance we’ll be forking out for a special election. Since I’m sure it’s part of the city charter, there’s not much we can do about it. The only future options are to not allow current council members to run for Mayor, or to not backfill vacant seats, whether due to promotion (to Mayor), sickness, or death. I don’t see either of those options as realistic, so we’re stuck with what we have.

This got me to thinking about another costly ballot situation: The Union/LifeBridge annexation issue. Here we’re being asked, no, told, that we must pony up somewhere between $60k and $100k to put on the ballot a question of overturning a city council decision to annex this development into Longmont. This is not an up/down decision on whether it should be built, just if it should be part of Longmont. That’s an important distinction. I’ll assume the petition gatherers made that clear to the people who signed it.

One of the petition gatherers said “the buck and a half it would cost per voter is a rare bargain to have the community speak on so significant a question.” Up until now I was pretty much staying out of this issue, but some of these people’s comments and tactics can’t go unchallenged (and no, I’m not a member of Lifebridge). Where to begin with this claptrap. First, 6,000 people signed this, that’s what, less than 10% of the population in Longmont? Yet they have the right to charge the rest of us a “buck and a half” for anything? Who died and declared you…well I better not say “God” that might offend them. How about we divide the fee amongst the 6,000 petition signers, that’s only somewhere between $10 and $17 each, what’s the problem?

Second, that’s not just a charge “per voter”, that’s something everyone who pays sales and use taxes will pay for. People complain about elected officials unfairly raising taxes, how about a small minority of unelected citizens? Is that okay?

Third, although I may at times disagree with council votes on issues, they were legally elected to represent us. How long has this been going through all the processes required? This wasn’t just sprung upon the poor, unwitting citizenry. And the vote wasn’t even all that close, 6-1. But some people didn’t like it. Well, I don’t like a lot of decisions they make, does that give me the right to force the rest of the city residents to pay for it? I don’t think so. Lastly, I suggest you Google “union annex”, and visit both sides’ websites and educate yourself. Check the maturity level, and if you’re easily offended, don’t bother. That is, unless they start deleting.

I’m not saying you should vote for or against this ballot question, I’m just pointing out that IF this makes the ballot, the damage’s already been done financially to an already weak city budget. I better not hear these same types complain when the city cuts another $60k to $100k worth of programs and services. At least we know in part who to thank.

Does Old = Blight?

Longmont City Council voted this week to spend $6,000 on a study of the Twin Peaks Mall to determine if it meets at least 4 of 11 metrics for blight. This would make the area qualified for tax-financed redevelopment. The new property owner is definitely psyched about that potential.

Any chance they will not find blight? I haven't been in that mall since early this year, and it is nothing special, however I don't recall anything blatant enough to consider the whole area that run down. But my impression doesn't mean anything; just skip to the urban renewal designation and say it now: we want a better performing economic development here, we're willing to fund current improvements off of future sales. Period. The blight designation is a semantic step, we all know where this is going.

What's more interesting is that Longmont declared the entire city an Urban Renewal Authority earlier this year, as opposed to, for example, Louisville's downtown/Hwy 42 revitalization district which has more limited boundaries (with its own interesting gerrymandering...) . So Longmont City Council acts as the Urban Renewal Authority Board and takes taxes from the entire city to fund projects in specific places.

Actually seems to make the most sense practically, so long as you agree with the mindset of the sitting Council.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Buck Stops Where?

Well, this is interesting. In the Lafayette News the spotlights on candidate Laura Oster and current Councilor/candidate Kerry Bensman include the now obligatory question of City Administrator Gary Klapahke's performance. While Laura admits to needing to learn the details, Kerry lays out a quick list of financial missteps that apparently put the city into crisis.

This is not sarcastic, but a real question I don't know the answer to: To what extent were Gary's decisions ones that required a Council approval? I know Kerry voted against some financial incentives; I still say if people chose for good reasons not to shop WalMart they wouldn't get any of the $2.3 million kickback, but that's just one topic. Other decisions on where to allocate money etc. - who signs off on it? How do such glaring issues slide through?

Kerry's points cannot be dismissed out of hand, although the primacy of this issue as a campaign strategy is unappealing enough for me to look elsewhere with my votes. It's not shooting the messenger, it's just asking who the message is really from.

So I'm just askin', as usual.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Are You Registered? More So, Are Elections Secure?

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall and the Boulder County Elections Division will host an Open House for the public, media and candidates on Tuesday, Oct. 9, from 5-7 p.m. in the County's newly constructed Elections Wing, 1750 33rd St., Boulder. Attendees of the Open House will receive a tour of the facilities and a walk-through of the election process. Visitors will also have an opportunity to ask questions and to meet Elections Coordinator Larry Beer and Chief Deputy Scott Thomas.

Tuesday, Oct. 9, is also the last day to register to vote for the November 6 election. Voters can check their registration status and registered address at www.voteboulder.org.

Given the unresolved concerns around the Lafayette special election on the Lowe's annexation and the various conspiracies I hear in Louisville and Longmont, skeptics may want to attend this tour and see how our democratic processes are safeguarded.