Archive for April, 2006

What Ref. C Means for Colorado

April 26, 2006

State Representative Andrew Romanoff – the Speaker of the House – wrote a nice bit on the recent budget agreement between the Dems in the state House and Senate and Governor Owens. The long and short of it is that the governor will sign both the School Finance Act and the State Budget, and that is good news for education, health care, and transportation. I figured the easiest thing to do was reprint part of Representative Romanoff’s post here:

The package boosts funding for K-12 education, higher education, health care, and transportation, in keeping with the voters’ decision last fall. As Hank Brown put it in describing the first allocation of Referendum C dollars, this is a case of “promises made, promises kept.”

THE COLORADO INDEX

Here, in more tangible terms, is what the budget agreement really means (with apologies to Harper’s):

1. At-risk children who will be added to preschool and kindergarten rolls: 2,000

2. Children with developmental disabilities who will no longer have to wait for early intervention services: 613

3. Colorado seniors who will qualify for the Homestead Tax Exemption: 140,000

4. College students who will see increases to the College Opportunity Fund: 124,000

5. Estimated economic impact of tourism-related promotions: $2.6 billion

6. Low-income households that will receive help with heating bills and greater energy efficiency: 110,000

7. Transportation projects green-lighted: 36

8. Children who will receive improved instruction through special education: 80,000

9. Uninsured Coloradans who will benefit from investments in community health centers: 50,000

Ward Two Election Results: Joe Behm

April 26, 2006

The unofficial results:

    Joe Behm: 468 votes

    Brian Bookmyer: 23 votes

    Karla Conner: 280 votes 

Berm Work in Mountain Ridge

April 24, 2006

As Jim Smith reported and many of you probably noticed, the city worked out a deal with Scott Construction involving relocating about 35,000 cubic yards of dirt from their KB Homes construction site on the other side of Highway 93 to the berm on the east side of Mountain Ridge. Scott is moving the dirt for free, so the city’s only financial contribution consists of some traffic control and some shaping and revegetation. I think the general idea is that they will extend the height of the berm moving southward until they run out. It may not end up being the perfect solution but it should significantly improve on the noise problems in the neighborhood.

Ward Two Election

April 23, 2006

I have generally avoided getting involved in city council races (other than my own, of course) since I first ran and now serve on the council. I will end up serving with whoever is elected, and it doesn’t seem like a good idea to endorse folks for other seats when you might end up working with the person you opposed. 

Nonetheless, I’m a little disappointed that Marian Olson’s special election issue of her political newsletter once again misrepresents the truth to further her political ambitions, and think it’s worth addressing her latest claim about me.  Folks begin to believe lies when they are repeated often enough and I might as well address this head on.

Contrary to Ms. Olson’s assertion, I have no plans to run for higher office, nor have I ever had such plans, nor have I ever told anyone I had such plans.  I’m open to running for something else someday but have no idea if I ever will, nor – if I ever choose to run – what I would run for or when.

I ran for city council because I care deeply about this community and have made it my home, because I believed (and still believe) I can do a good job of representing the diverse views that make up our community, and because I wanted to contribute to making sure we protect our open space, carefully manage our growth, maintain a healthy economy, foster a thriving arts community, and keep local government open and transparent.
The thing I find most disappointing is that her newsletter could be a genuine and important contribution to Golden’s political conversation.  She and her contributors sometimes raise some legitimate questions and concerns.  But because they are usually so buried in mischaracterizations and lies they lack credibility and instead foster acrimonious and misinformed political debate.

I am hopeful that regardless of who wins the election on Tuesday we can work together to craft a shared City Council vision and then get on with the business of guiding Golden’s future.

Planning Commission’s Study Session on the 8th and 9th St. Neighborhood

April 23, 2006

The Planning Commission's study session last week seemed to go well. More than 20 folks from the neighborhood attended, and the PC folks I spoke with seemed pretty interested in moving ahead.

After the meeting ended I asked everyone I could if they thought there was enough energy in the neighborhood to follow through with a neighborhood planning process. Everyone I talked seemed to think it made sense, and my feeling is that enough folks are energized enough that it's worth making it happen. My advice to the Planning Commission has been to set up a clear process with a well-defined timeframe and explicit expectations of folks in the neighborhood who want to be involved so that everyone knows going in what to expect and what the process will look like. My biggest concern is that it happen in a way that is involved enough that we get a good product but not so lengthy and cumbersome that too few neighborhood folks participate. Of course it would be pretty easy to run a process with just a few folks – as someone who lives in the neighborhood I have my own views as well – but this only works, to my mind, if we can run a genuine neighborhood process that produces a neighborhood plan about which most folks can mostly agree.

In other words, I will facilitate and encourage and participate, but I think this will only work if folks in the 8th and 9th St. neighborhood are energized enough to follow it through.

I should also mention that the idea of an infill ordinance was among the options discussed. I think an ordinance that specifically addresses (and better defines) how we deal with infill would probably be helpful, but because it would presumably apply city-wide and only apply to questions about infill, I don't see it as a substitute for a solid neighborhood plan – driven by that neighborhood – that addresses density, traffic, parking, and pedestrian friendliness.

Planning Commission promised to compile the comments they recieved and offer their thoughts on how to make this work. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.  In the meantime, if you have any thoughts about the meeting or about what the process should look like, you can post them here.

Toll Road Bill Soars Thru Committee

April 20, 2006

SoapBlox reports on the hearing yesterday at the State Capitol on Representative Pommer’s bill requiring toll roads to go through the same sort of environmental review, mitigation funding, and planning that other kinds of highways must go through. CINQ worked hard to organize some turnout and bunches of folks came out in support of the bill. It sounds like went pretty well: the House Transportation and Energy Committee (on which our very own Rep. Gwyn Green sits) unanimously passed the bill. I believe the bill now heads to the House floor.

While the bill wouldn’t outright ban the use of eminent domain by private tolling authorities to build toll roads, it at least forces proponents to go through the same process as everyone else. More importantly, because Rep. Pommer took the time to negotiate with the Governor at some length on the bill language, the Governor might just be willing to sign it (unlike last year’s bill, which he vetoed).

The Rocky Mountain News reported on it today as well.

8th and 9th St. Neighborhood Planning

April 18, 2006

At tomorrow night’s regular Planning Commission study session, the PC will devote the entire agenda to neighborhood planning for the 8th and 9th St. areas. The primary purpose, as I understand it, is to discuss and explore neighborhood preferences regarding infill, redevelopment, and density.

I believe the meeting will include some of the following:

  1. An interactive photo preference survey for residents to provide input on density, architectural standards, and possible capital improvements;
  2. Brochures describing possible code amendments regarding infill;
  3. Information on recent decisions regarding proposed development;
  4. Information regarding plans for the future expansion of the Community Center;
  5. Handouts on the current efforts underway for the downtown plan and architectural standards; and
  6. Code enforcement representatives from the Police department to answer questions.

If you live in the 8th and 9th Street Neighborhood I encourage you to spread the word among your neighbors. I know we've seen a number of unpopular projects approved in the neighborhood and this is perhaps the best opportunity to shape what sort of development occurs in the future. The problem from the City Council perspective, at least my own Council perspective, is that we are required to consider any particular project proposal in terms of the existing zoning, Comprehensive Plan, and other city code. We are legally prohibited from turning down projects simply because they are unpopular or undesirable. We can only reject a project if it is clearly inconsistent with the zoning, the Comp Plan, or other parts of the code. Through this neighborhood process we have the opportunity to adjust the zoning and/or Comp Plan in a way that better defines the sorts of projects, density, and character we all want to see. This meeting, by the way, is in response to requests by neighborhood residents, and I offer my appreciation to the Planning Commission for taking the time and especially the neighborhood for pushing the city to think about these neighborhood planning issues.

The official Planning Commission Agenda is available online.

Golden Moves To Protect Lookout Mtn. Open Space

April 13, 2006

Today's Denver Post reports on Golden taking another step towards acquiring the proposed HDTV tower. In a perfect world we wouldn't pick fights with adversaries that have pockets as deep as Lake Cedar Group's, nor would we pick fights with adversaries that control the media (or, as in Lake Cedar Group's case, actually are the major television broadcasters).  Despite their nasty and deceptive tv ad campaign and their strange comments in newspaper articles like these (contrary to what they said in today's paper, Lake Cedar Group has made clear they have no interest in negotiating), the facts are on our side and a large majority of folks in Golden want to protect this unprotected part of our greenbelt as open space.  Lake Cedar Group can build their tower on an alternate site that's actually zoned for towers (this one isn't), that does provide for solid HDTV coverage (KBDI is currently broadcasting HDTV from one good alternate site), and won't result in problems with shadows if they use low-power repeater stations (a problem they currently deal with on their current Lookout Mountain antennas).

City Council Webcasts Are Online

April 12, 2006

It took them a little while longer than expected but the webcast is now on the city's web site. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page. I haven't had a chance to do anything but skip around for a few minutes but what I saw looked and sounded pretty good. Now I know why everyone jokes about my talking with my hands!

The whole point of this cablecasting/webcasting program is to make City Council more transparent and accessible, so please send in your comments and thoughts after you've had a chance to look at it so we can make sure that this works as well as possible. We've already heard some good suggestions.

Community Meeting on GHS Parking and Traffic

April 11, 2006

Tomorrow night we are having a community meeting at Golden High School to discuss both student parking issues (during the part of the construction period when the high school lot will be unavailable) and the future of the intersection in front of the high school (24th and Jackson streets). On the latter, there seem to be two basic options: a) create a large, conventional intersection with traffic lights, or b) create a large roundabout. Like many folks, I've generally been a fan of standard intersections but in the course of these discussions have been looking at the research on roundabouts and am now a lot warmer to them then I thought possible. Strangely enough, roundabouts tend to reduce traffic accidents, injuries, fatalities, travel speeds, and pollution, while at the same time improving pedestrian safety and travel times (even though you drive slower you don't have to stop as often or for as long).

Our own roundabouts on South Golden Road are a case in point. As the graph shows, our accident and injury rates dropped substantially after we installed the roundabouts.

Roundabout Stats
This is the first graphic I've inserted into the blog, by the way, and I realize you can't see it too well (I'll work on my graphics insertion skills), but the bars are showing accident and injury rates on South Golden Road before (the left half) and after (the right half) the roundabouts were installed.

Other studies across the United States and elsewhere seem to show the same pattern. According to RoundaboutsUSA (which offers a nice primer on roundabouts and their use), "roundabouts have been shown to reduce fatal and injury accidents by as much as 76% in the USA."

AAA has a background paper on their site citing an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report concluding that roundabouts have been shown to reduce crashes at intersections. You'll find similar articles and info in New Urban News, at the Maryland Department of Transportation web site, and undoubtedly other places as well.

I haven't researched the issue extensively, but have so far only seen two significant concerns identified in the literature: a) that multilane roundabouts may be less safe for bicycles unless separate bicycle or multi–use paths are provided around the outside of the roundabout; and b) that visually impaired or blind pedestrians may have difficulty when trying to judge gaps in traffic across entries or exits with more than one lane. I'm hoping city staff can clarify how those concerns might play out at this particular intersection. If you have thoughts on whether we should go with a conventional intersection or a roundabout in front of Golden High School please attend the community meeting, post your thoughts on the blog here, or send your thoughts to City Council.

The community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, April 12) at Golden High School.