Archive for June, 2006

Biking to Denver

June 30, 2006

Thanks to everyone for the route suggestions. I ended up taking 32nd to Youngfield and then missed the turn to head down to 26th or 20th so rode in on 44th (to Lowell, 32nd, and Speer). Not the best route – lots of potholes and no shoulder – but it worked fine. It was fun, as well, and you notice all sorts of things you don’t notice in the car or on the bus, like the hills and the creeks and the kids playing in the tiny little corner parks.

Before leaving town I stopped by Higher Grounds and Peak Cycles. Both were buzzing with free coffee and snacks and free tuneups by the Peak Cycles mechanic.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments, which sponsors Bike to Work Day, estimates that 20,500 bicycle commuters participated, nearly a 10% increase over last year. Some of their other statistics:

  • 691 companies participated in Bike to Work Day by offering information and assistance about the event at their workplaces.
  • 114 breakfast stations around the region offered bicycle commuters energy-boosting snacks (and coffee!) before heading into work.
  • The average bike commute was 9.95 miles one-way (I think mine ended up being about 17).
  • The bicycle commuters who participated reduced the vehicle miles traveled in the region by a total of 132,600 miles (I would love to see that number converted into pounds of carbon dioxide emissions or the amount of other pollutants that we avoided releasing into our air).

I think the main point of the event is to make it easy for folks who don’t normally bicycle commute to try it see how well it works. I don’t think I can bike all the way in very often (it took me an hour to get there) but it certainly made me think I can at least bike instead of drive to the Ward Road Park and Ride (which I do whenever I don’t need my car during the day).

If anyone else has thoughts about their Bike to Work Day experiences I’d love to hear them.

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Colorado Municipal League Annual Meeting and Conference

June 26, 2006

I took three days off of work and headed up to Breckenridge for the annual meeting and conference of the Colorado Municipal League. If you don’t know, CML provides resources to local communities like ours and advocates for the interests of local governments at the state legislature and elsewhere. I find the annual meetings valuable (I went last year and now this year) in part because of the speakers and panels. I am very interested in learning and improving on the skills required to be effective as an elected representative and CML is a good opportunity to do that.

The issues covered in sessions I attended sessions included:

• ethics and ethics standards for elected representatives.
• open meeting laws and rules
• economic development in small towns
• quasi-judicial processes
• municipal budgeting and financial management
• climate change and municipal climate change action plans

I already wrote a bit about the climate change panel, and I wrote a bit about the Ethics in Government Initiative, one of the subjects discussed during the panel on ethics.

One of the lunch speakers was Jim Hunt, a City Councilor from Clarksburg, West Virginia and the president of the National League of Cities (the national version of the Colorado Municipal League). He focused on building inclusive communities, and speaks from the experience of serving a community with a long history of deep racial divisions. He is encouraging local communities to commit to becoming more inclusive, with a particular focus on two themes:

  • Promoting equal opportunity and fairness.
  • Promoting citizen participation and engagement.

The City Councils in Brighton, Lafayette, and Lakewood at least one other city – I think Lakewood but don’t remember for sure – have all adopted resolutions commiting to improving the inclusiveness of their communities. I strongly support these goals and look forward to exploring ways we can forward both of them.

The other reason I attend CML is for the opportunity to continue building relationships with elected representatives from other communities across Colorado, especially our neighbors in the Denver Metro area. As I’ve written and said many times before, some of our most important challenges in Golden are regional challenges, and we can’t hope to succeed without good relationships with other communities in the region. We have almost no chance of improving Golden’s air quality unless we work closely with the neighboring communities where so much of the air pollution is generated. The same is true if we hope to continue improving on the region’s transit system. Of course the fight over the superhighway fits into the same category: to defeat the proposed Billion Dollar Boondoggle and instead make real improvements that actually benefit Golden and the region we have to work closely with our neighbors across the region.

CML and Climate Change

June 22, 2006

Today was the second day of the Colorado Municipal League’s annual meeting and conference. One of the interesting panels I attended today focused on municipal climate change action plans. The coolest thing about it (pun intended) is the extent to which reducing our contribution to global climate change overlaps with long-term cost savings on energy. Given the likelihood of increasing energy costs across the foreseeable future, these kinds of steps seem worthwhile for fiscal reasons alone.

CNN today ran a story reported on the new National Academy of Scientists climate change study, requested by Congress, which concluded that “recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia.”

On a side note, although I’m having lots of conversations about tolling and Tom Norton’s misguided transportation policy obsessions, lots of folks have also wanted to talk about the supertowers. Most folks are suspicious of what they’ve heard from Lake Cedar Group, and when I take a few minutes to explain the controversy most express their support.

Ethics Initiative

June 21, 2006

It's been a little while, friends. I'm writing now from Breckenridge, where I and most of City Council is attending the Colorado Municipal League’s annual meeting and conference. Today I attended a useful session on economic development and another on ethics in government.

One of the speakers at the ethics panel described a statewide initiative aimed at cleaning up some of the biggest problems at the state legislature. Colorado Common Cause is leading the initiative effort, known as the Ethics in Government Initiative, which would have three major components:

1) The initiative bans gifts from lobbyists to state legislators. Right now there are no limits on such gifts, and in 2005 lobbyists and others gave over $300,000 worth of meals, sports tickets, tickets to cultural events, and other gifts to legislators.

2) The initiative requires that state legislators wait at least two years after finishing their service as elected representatives before becoming a lobbyist. Right now there are no such restrictions, and in fact state legislators can apply for and negotiate lucrative lobbying jobs while still holding public office and making decisions that affect their potential new clients.

3) The initiative would create an independent ethics commission for the state legislature to prevent the inherent conflict that occurs when some state legislators are forced to evaluate ethics complaints against other state legislators.

I am supporting the initiative.

Another Ozone Pollution Violation

June 14, 2006

Another day, another ozone pollution violation in Golden (recorded at the NREL monitoring station).

The Economics of Kayaking

June 14, 2006

Coyote Gulch posted a link to a Rocky Mountain News report on how Salida turned its whitewater rafting and kayaking into a major economic driver.

Town Meeting Report

June 13, 2006

This evening we had our "all-Ward town meeting" at the Community Center.  There were probably fifteen or twenty from Ward 4 that joined our corner of the room at various points during the evening.  I offered an update on the superhighway fight, answered lots of questions, and had some really good conversations with folks about development, noise mitigation, renewable energy, Golden's light rail line, the supertower, and other issues.  I really enjoy these meetings because it gives everyone with questions an easy way to ask them, everyone who shows up gets to learn what their neighbors are thinking and concerned about, and I learn a bunch about what's on everyone's minds.  It is democracy at work in the best sense – neighbors getting together to talk with their elected representatives about their communities.

We structured the event a bit differently this time, inviting everyone to meet on the same night and putting the four wards in each of the four corners of the room.  I think it worked pretty well except for the noise level, which is something we should be able to fix next time.

Thanks to everyone who was able to participate and thanks to the many city staff who organized the event and made themselves available to answer questions.

Air Pollution Worsens in Denver and Golden

June 7, 2006

Todd Hartman of the Rocky Mountain News wrote a lengthy article in today's paper describing recent air quality violations and the Denver Region's worsening air pollution:

Tuesday, for the sixth day in a row, the Regional Air Quality Council issued an Ozone Action Alert, encouraging residents to limit driving, painting, mowing and refueling during the hottest daytime hours.

Sadly, Golden too is suffering harmful levels of air pollution:

On Sunday, a pollution monitor at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden registered levels above federal health standards for ozone – the first such reading of the season.

The pollution is the result of a combination of explosive growth in oil and gas drilling, especially in Weld County, continuing increases in traffic across the Front Range, and other sources.

We used to have an air quality monitor in town but I don't remember why it was removed. Does anyone recall?

So what do we do about these air pollution problems in Golden and throughout the Denver region? Here are a few of my thoughts (and I welcome any other contributions):

  • For one thing, make sure your City Council is working with other communities across the Front Range to plan for growth and transportation management that reduces air pollution, not adds to it. This is one of the main reasons I represent Golden on the Board of Directors of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, and one of the main reasons I spend so much time in meetings working with our neighbors to solve some of these challenges.
  • For another, ask those people running to represent you in the state legislature and in the Governor's mansion what they are going to do about our worsening air quality. The Governor gets to appoint some of the people that make key decisions, like how much to regulate oil and gas wells. A governor who prioritizes clean air and the health of our kids will probably do a lot more to deal with our air quality problems than someone who doesn't.
  • Finally, consider not driving to work or to the store whenever you can avoid it, especially on the really hot days when ozone levels are particularly high and particularly hazardous. Bike, bus, carpool, vanpool, or walk if it's at all possible. And hang tight, because in another five years we'll have our very own light rail station to help those with a commute to other parts of the Denver Metro region.

Softballs and Windshields = Trouble

June 6, 2006

As those of you who live along 10th Street near the softball fields know well, late spring brings softball teams, cheering fans, and broken windshields. I’ve never actually seen a car get hit but some of my neighbors have, and I’ve seen balls land squarely in the street and seen the damaged cars after they’ve been nailed. I’ve been talking with Rod Tarullo, the Parks and Rec. Director, about various options for minimizing the number of balls that escape the fields and damage cars parked on the street. They’ve already taken some useful steps, like scheduling the older players at other fields, and are now exploring various options for reducing the risk even further. At a minimum, I’m aiming for signs on the fence that clearly warn folks of the danger, but it might also make sense to heighten the fence or do something similar to make it that much more unlikely. I’ll keep you posted.

The Skinny on Recycling: Addendum

June 6, 2006

Chris Naber at the city graciously pointed out a small error in my most recent post, namely that Coors and Ball sponsor the recycling center at the Splash but that the city sponsors the bins at Parfet Park and at the US Bank at 19th and Jackson. All of the other bins are provided by other entities. He also pointed me to the Rooney Road Recycling Center web site, which has a bunch of other useful information.