Archive for August, 2006

Preserving the Brickyard Manager’s House

August 25, 2006

Last night we made a tough call in choosing between two options for the preservation of the Brickyard Manager’s House at the north end of town.  As I said during the meeting, all things being equal the Golden Landmarks Association proposal would be the preferred option, since it would place ownership of the property in the hands of a local, community-based nonprofit.  All things were not equal, however.  Although the Ewers Architecture/Baseline Engineering proposal would have meant less public access and that a private company owned the property, they were also bringing a clear capacity to make the project work financially.  Unlike GLA, they have a lot of cash flow, assets, revenue, and an untapped (and large) line of credit.

In other words, if the only goal here was to save the building then the Ewers/Baseline proposal would have been a no-brainer, since they would almost certainly be able to raise the funds needed to stabilize the structure this autumn, before the building suffers yet another winter of water damage.  But there is also a lot of value in supporting our community historic preservation organization, and if they can pull this project off then I think the end result will be better for Golden, so the decision essentially came down to being willing to accept a higher risk of failure (i.e., that GLA doesn’t raise the money quickly enough to prevent the building’s collapse) in exchange for being happier with the outcome if the risk pays off.

Also, while I greatly appreciated the amount of thoughtful public comment on the issue (both beforehand via email and during the public hearing), most of the comments just replicated the quandary:  the thrust of most people’s comments was for preservation of the building.  But of course everyone, and both proposals, agreed with that.  The question, rather, was whether to accept a higher risk of failure in order to end up with something we like better.

And that’s how I and four others (in a 5-2 split) voted:  to accept the greater risk in exchange for what I believe will be, if the risk pays off, a better outcome.

Incidentally, the toughest decisions since I’ve been on Council have consistently been on historic preservation issues, and almost always for the same reason:  a complicated mix of pros and cons.

Neighborhood Parties

August 17, 2006

I had a great time last weekend dropping in on the Mountain Ridge picnic and the 12th St. block party.  Both were really well attended and I had a chance to visit with lots of folks I hadn’t seen in a while.  I love that we have real neighborhoods and always want to be supportive of things that facilitate and encourage it, including the upcoming neighborhood planning processes.

It’s also great that we also have such a strong sense of a larger Golden community.  This is one of the reasons I chose to make Golden my home, as I know is the case for so many other folks.  The Vanover Park celebration on Sunday felt very much like the larger Golden community coming together.  I was impressed with the turnout and the speakers and all the hard work by the Parks and Rec. board, Golden Landmarks Assn. folks, and others.  It was a great way to celebrate the life of huge and very old cottonwood.

City Council Adopts Smoking Ordinance for Golden

August 12, 2006

A brief recap: the new state law basically prohibits smoking in indoor areas open to the public, such as bars, restaurants, and other businesses.  It also creates a 15’ radius buffer zone around the front entrance of these businesses, the point of which is to ensure that folks can enter and exit without having to walk through a cloud of smoke.  While most of the state law is non-negotiable, the one significant opportunity for local governments to make adjustments is in the size of the buffer zone, so that’s where our discussion centered.

Three folks on Council favored either eliminating the buffer zone altogether or reducing it to something like three feet.  After some discussion, it seemed that the other four – myself included – favored adopting the state standard in our own city ordinance.  The state standard has problems, not least of which is that on a street like Washington in downtown Golden, because so many entranceways are so close together, we’d end up with a series of overlapping buffer zones and then a bunch of generally small, difficult-to-describe areas where smoking would be permitted.  I was willing to support this because I thought it was better to have some sort of buffer rather than none, and I didn’t think we were going to get four votes on something that would be easier to enforce but still provide a reasonable buffer zone.

As I said when this issue first came up (right after I was first elected to Council), I support the statewide ban on indoor smoking in publicly accessible areas.  A statewide solution ensures a level playing field in a way that diverse local ordinances can’t.  I also support the state law’s intent to create smoke-free areas around the front entrances as well (even though the state law is poorly-crafted in this regard).  I think government has an obligation to protect customers and employees from significant health hazards, including disease caused by unclean restaurant kitchens, workplace injuries resulting from unsafe conditions, and exposure to a deadly toxin (tobacco smoke).  Cigarettes and other tobacco products are unusual in that – even when used as directed – they kill, and the significant and severe health effects are not limited to the user but also affect anyone else that inhales the second-hand smoke.

All that said, as we were about to vote I finally understood something I hadn’t realized earlier, namely that under the state law any business owner is legally liable for any violations that occur within the buffer zone regardless of whether the owner has anything to do with the violation.  In other words, if someone lights up while they are strolling down Washington, the police can cite both the smoker and the owner of every single business the person walks in front of within the buffer zone.  It essentially puts the enforcement burden on every single business owner in Golden (i.e., to be safe every business owner would need to station an employee outside full-time to ensure that no one smokes in front of their business), and that just doesn’t seem fair to me.

I think it’s one thing to adopt a law that you only plan to enforce on complaint, which is basically what we were planning to do with the buffer zone, but it’s quite another to adopt a law that is fundamentally unfair.  The only way for us to avoid this problem without violating the state law was to zero out the buffer zone, which is what we did.  I’m hopeful that the state legislature will fix the problems with this law next year, and in the meantime we can see what actually happens in Golden and make adjustments to our ordinance if it seems appropriate.

Golden Informer Wins National Award

August 7, 2006

From a city news release today:

The City of Golden’s monthly newsletter, The Golden Informer, will again be recognized among the best in the nation at the City and County Communications and Marketing Association’s Savvy Awards competition Oct. 13 in Texas.

This is the second year The Golden Informer has been a candidate for one of the top three awards in the category for “Printed Publications – External Newsletter” in communities with populations of up to 45,000 people. Last year, it was awarded the prestigious national first place Savvy award.

The Informer is published monthly and mailed to 9,750 residences and businesses in Golden. It is also posted online at http://www.cityofgolden.net for those who live outside the city limits or prefer to read it electronically.

Each year, the number of entries in the 3CMA awards competition grows in quality, array and scope. This year, 690 entries were received. The program reflects the growing skills of local government professionals, as more and more governments and agencies embrace and employ the concepts of enhanced marketing and communication with citizens.

“We frequently hear from citizens about how much The Informer helps them stay informed about goings-on in their community. This national recognition reaffirms that governments can be successful at communicating effectively with citizens,” said Golden Communications Manager Sabrina Henderson. “It is an honor to be nationally recognized for the second year in a row after having made significant efforts to improve The Informer over the past several years.”

It is 3CMA’s policy not to advise finalists of the exact award they have won until the Savvy Awards Dinner at its annual conference. Finalists have been notified that they will receive one of three awards: the prestigious Savvy award, the Silver Circle or the Award of Excellence. This year’s event will be Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Westin Dallas/Fort Worth hotel in Irving, Texas.

Golden’s Trees

August 3, 2006

Dave High, the city’s Forester, told me back in February that we’ve averaged about 155 trees planted per year over the past four years, including trees planted along streets, on public lands like parks, and by contractors hired for special projects.  Since we only remove an estimated 23 trees per year, we are doing really well.  Trees provide shade, they reduce air temperature and reduce energy costs (keeping nearby buildings cooler in the summer), and they improve air quality.  It’s also just nice for have lots of trees throughout the community.

Rod Tarullo, our Parks and Rec Director, compiled a list of some of our tree-planting efforts in Golden that I thought I’d share with you:

  • We have been Tree City USA since 1990.
  • We attend to replace all trees that for whatever reason had to be removed in parks and along streets.
  • Our annual Capital Improvement Budget for trees is approximately $20,000.
  • We have planted many donated trees that are designed to eventually replace the large old cottonwoods (such as in Parfet and Lions).
  • We use budgeted dollars and donations to increase the tree canopy in the cemetery and make potential burial sites more attractive.
  • We have planted hundreds of trees on medians, islands and curbsides along N. Ford  St., S Golden Rd., Earl Johnson Rd., 19th St., Illinois St. and downtown in beautification and traffic calming projects.
  • We have instituted an employee memorial tree planting program.
  • We conduct the annual small tree sale to encourage area residents to plant trees on their properties.  This program has added 1861 new trees on private property in Golden over the last 5 years.
  • We use Forestry division funds to transplant many larger trees onto public lands as well as the use of the City of Golden-owned tree spade to transplant many smaller trees from our nursery at the cemetery and numerous donated trees.
  • We conduct an Arbor Day ceremony held annually to encourage youth to value the trees in their environment.
  • Prior to Mayor Hickenloper’s announcement about increasing tree plantings, our own City Manager Mr. Bestor asked us to prepare information for the 2007 budget that would give costs and numbers to significantly increase tree plantings in 2007-08.  These figures will be submitted with our budget information for review and consideration.