What is your view about the Jefferson Parkway project?
I have to confess that I don’t yet know everything I need to about the planning history of the Jefferson Parkway, why it is configured as it is, whether there are possible alternatives, why it is proposed without completing the beltway around the metro area, etc. Those are things I plan to study in more depth as a city council member to determine what development is responsible and prudent in the area. However, I really wonder why Arvada is putting millions of dollars into a project with no exits into Arvada, that doesn’t complete the beltway, and that may risk exposure to contamination as the construction digs deep into soil that wasn’t cleaned up to that depth. What is our benefit from this use of millions of our tax dollars? I also have concerns about the private-public partnership nature of the project.
I will have many questions that need to be answered to be sure that Arvada is not putting our city at risk should the parkway not pay for itself. I don’t believe it is ok at this point in time for the contaminated soil in the area impacted by Rocky Flats to be disturbed. We do not yet know enough to take the risks that disturbing the soil may bring. I find myself very much in alignment with Dr. Mark Johnson, the head of the Jeffco Dept. of Public Health, when he says of the controversy about Rocky Flats, “I do not know where the truth lies. There is credible science and support on both sides. What I do know is that two of the men who have seen the most evidence concerning the level of contamination at Rocky Flats, the lead agent for the FBI raid and the foreman of the grand jury, continue to advocate for the prohibition of public access to the site. This gives me great pause.” https://www.denverpost.com/2018/06/15/after-decades-of-secrets-rocky-flats-still-gives-me-pause/?fbclid=IwAR2JibDUYiKk-1l6LcfMYUafdB2A2lSj6e5FPseC8cRedVaAF_cSReaL5Ik
Until we have had sufficient testing, from unbiased and scientifically appropriate sources, to ensure the site is safe, we should hold off on disturbing more than the top few inches of the soil. That should include any of the areas where waste from Rocky Flats potentially could have been buried, or where radioactive contamination may have migrated offsite, including both airborne deposits and water drainage.
What are your views on the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority (AURA)?
I have many concerns about AURA, some of which have to do with the broad nature of Colorado’s urban renewal statutes, and some of which have to do with the policies and decision-making of AURA itself.
Colorado law authorizes municipalities to establish Urban Renewal Authorities (URAs) and provides them with tools to combat blight and slum conditions. However, the definition of blight is excessively broad, allowing URAs broad latitude in determining which areas they designate for redevelopment as “urban renewal areas”. The Candelas area was initially blighted due to open agricultural fields being assessed as meeting blight conditions. While Urban Renewal law in Colorado has been amended so that blighting agricultural land is no longer justified, a lot of property that has clear development potential without government subsidy and URA support qualifies to be blighted and redeveloped. Urban renewal projects can be funded with a variety of revenue sources, but most common form of urban renewal financing, however, involves tax increment financing (TIF). (see next question) Recently, Arvada has focused its urban renewal efforts on Transit Oriented Development.
Transit Oriented Development - The term “transit-oriented development” broadly describes various forms of mixed-use real-estate development surrounding or near transit stations. TODs strive to create compact, walkable communities that offer fair housing opportunities, provide easy access to amenities, and maximize access to public transportation. The unprecedented growth in TOD in the metro area stems almost exclusively from RTD’s ongoing FasTracks build-out. In 2011, DRCOG received $4.5 million in Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant funds, which it used for pre-development planning for TOD along RTD’s Gold Line and East Corridor. Arvada took advantage of TOD opportunities, leveraging them to shape Olde Town to fit Council and City Planners’ vision. TOD was supposed to provide funding opportunities for affordable housing units, but that apparently did not fit the vision they were going for.
The Board of AURA is appointed by the mayor, who has also appointed himself to the Board. (As mayor, I would not appoint myself to this position.) Although I cannot confirm it, I have heard that the Director of AURA is the highest paid urban renewal authority director in Colorado. Does Arvada’s level of slum and blight justify this expenditure of tax dollars? Urban renewal can have real benefit when conditions of slum and blight actually exist, particularly when used to support economic community needs such as affordable housing or the development of community services. However, these have not been the priorities of AURA. I believe we need closer council oversight of AURA.
What are your views on using tax increment financing (TIFs) as an incentive for businesses to develop in Arvada?
TIF’s are used to generate capital by promising that any growth in property tax or municipal sales tax revenue will be used to repay bonds, or for other related purposes. A tax increment is defined as the difference between the base year revenue and the amount of additional tax collections after the TIF is established. This revenue from the growing tax base is called incremental revenue, and is used by URAs for debt service on the financing of the redevelopment project. In a URA, incremental property tax revenue is generally not available for counties, school districts, junior colleges, special districts, and other municipal revenue needs. This is particularly problematic when TIFs are used to redevelop areas that could have been developed or otherwise seen their tax revenues increase without the use of blight designation and urban renewal mechanisms.
My view is that TIF should only be used as a funding mechanism for projects that 1) could not be done without it and 2) meet a community need.
What should the city's role be for utilities such as zoned trash and recycling haulers and broadband internet?
The city can play an important role in solving community issues that the community and/or the free market cannot solve. When it does so without community input or involvement, things can often go awry. So understanding community issues, needs, and wants, as well as the attitudes that will impact implementation and utilization of services that are provided differently than people are used to, is a very important role for the city.
Sometimes community needs, and what individual citizens want, are different, and sometimes the long-term good that would result from changes in city services are not obvious to citizens thinking about now rather than the future. In cases like that, it is important for the city council to set policy to guide city actions that provide both short and long term benefits to the city and our citizens.
The current organized waste hauling effort offers a good example. A number of citizens support such an effort; there is another group who oppose it. The individuals who oppose organized waste hauling are currently “loud” and emotional in their criticisms and fears about changing how we do things. Right now the supporters are working hard to be reasonable and data based in their arguments. City Council members have to weigh numerous arguments and claims, and will ultimately have the difficult decision to make whether to put this to a vote of the people, or make a policy decision to implement organized waste hauling, or to back away from the issue entirely. It is too early to say what that stance should be as there is important information still to come in terms of the results of the RFP process. As a member of the Arvada Sustainability Advisory Committee, I sincerely hope that the proposals received from waste haulers show clear financial and environmental benefits to allow organized waste hauling to move forward.
What is your plan to help the city reach 100% use renewable energy by 2035?
A number of US cities have set goals to procure 100% renewable energy by 2035.
Arvada’s sustainability plan, Sustain Arvada, includes a number of goals that could help Arvada to meet this goal. However, the city needs to set this as a formal target. Many of the goals that are set are very general and non-quantifiable, and could be strengthened and made specific.
This plan was adopted in 2012, and has not been updated since then. The goals are good, but extremely general and they don’t go far enough. Clear and quantifiable targets with Council approval and backing and monitoring by city staff would be necessary to meet a 100% renewable energy target. Having this as an official goal, voted on by City Council and monitored and supported by City staff, would also help the city to put pressure on XCEL to make the changes they will need to make to meet the renewable energy target.
Some of the non-quantified goals in the current plan could easily be formalized, for example:
Set targets for reduction of energy consumption
Set goals for increased energy efficiency in new and existing buildings
Set a target for a reduced amount of waste send to landfills
Develop a plan to educate citizens about water conservation and distribution, optimum watering schedules, and indoor and outdoor water use management
What does the city need to do to address the needs of the homeless in Arvada?
Homelessness is a complex and multi-faceted issue that Arvada must address, while recognizing that there is no simple solution. The city should seek solutions to homelessness in collaboration with our neighboring municipalities and counties, our citizens, local community organizations, and the State, to enable us to effectively use resources within a coordinated and integrated system. It is vital to consider the diversity of people experiencing homelessness, both individuals and families, and to address their unique needs, providing paths to self-sufficiency and independence. An appropriate solution will benefit both individuals and the community as a whole.
Arvada needs a plan to combat homelessness that will address the multiple components of this problem. We need to collaborate with neighboring governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations and involve local citizens to commit to preventing and ending homelessness, as well as providing leadership in metro area efforts. Our planning must include strategies to increase access to stable and affordable housing for people experiencing or most at risk of homelessness. In addition to housing, attention must be paid to education and meaningful and sustainable employment for people experiencing or most at risk of homelessness, as well as programs and services to reduce people’s financial vulnerability to homelessness.
While issues of housing price and demand are beyond the city’s ability to control, there are definitely things the city can do to address the issue of affordable housing that is so urgent right now. Additional housing units and facilities are part of the solution and can make a real difference for homeless and at-risk families and individuals. Working together with the County, State, and human services organizations, access to housing options and support, including permanent supportive housing and Housing First for chronically homeless individuals and families, and rapid re-housing and transitional housing for people with fewer support needs, can be made available. Other things the city can do include supporting families and individuals to retain housing, helping people in voucher or rental assistance programs access existing housing, and allocating housing resources to maximize number of people served.
How do existing city policies encourage gentrification? Will you support a zoning plan that has an emphasis on affordable housing?
As the demand for housing has grown, Arvada neighborhoods that have long served as a home for low and moderate-income households are now seeing an influx of higher-income households. This often means that they are experiencing displacement of the residents who have called them home for many years. It also means they are becoming gentrified.
Frequently, this can mean an influx of developers wanting the greatest profit from their investments, pushing out the people who live in the neighborhood to be replaced by higher income folks who can afford the greatly increased rents or home prices. Recently, there is a new school of thought that gentrification does not have to push out current residents. It can bring needed investment to neighborhoods that benefit current residents, as well as adding housing stock and making them attractive to new residents as well.
Arvada needs to do some very thoughtful planning to ensure that our affordable neighborhoods stay affordable for the residents who have called them home for so long. We also need to develop enough new housing – at all price points, not just high end – so that middle income families do not force the lower income residents out. Hopefully it is not too late to stop this vicious cycle. Zoning is a part of it, and I would definitely look at the impact of zoning on affordable housing and support positive changes, but it is going to take more than the right zoning codes to solve this one.
Walk-ability and bike paths are increasingly popular, what are your ideas to increase the walk-ability of neighborhoods and assist the ease and safety of riding bikes?
Studies have shown that mixed use neighborhoods increase walkability – because residents have something to walk to! So the city can implement zoning that supports mixed use.
Safe places for pedestrians to walk must be a priority in street planning, and the safety of bicyclists must be prioritized as bike lanes are developed. A key to safer walkability is slowing traffic wherever feasible. There are various components of street design that are key here. And rather obviously but importantly, sidewalks in disrepair must be repaired or replaced.
Planting trees makes walking more pleasant, and the shade ultimately helps with cooling on hot summer days, as well as removing CO2 from the atmosphere, preventing storm run-off, and absorbing air pollution.
A viable strategy for improving bikeability at a reasonable cost is to develop identified bike routes that share the road with cars on low traffic, low speed roads, and use the resources available to improve safety and connectivity through higher speed higher usage area
How will you promote fair and equitable treatment of diverse and marginalized communities in terms of fair policing, economic advantages, and employment?
I value diversity and believe that a community is made stronger by that diversity. My work with the mentally ill has been based on including them in the community whenever possible, rather than serving them in separate facilities or housing. Such an approach enriches the community as well as enriching the individuals. Other diversity – racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, etc – enriches us as well. I will work for equality where it doesn’t exist.
Two areas where marginalization needs to be addressed in Arvada that I have already addressed above include our dealing with the homeless (some of the discussions I read on Facebook are awful), and lower income citizens who are being priced out of living in Arvada.
I believe policing is an area where Arvada has some bragging rights. Arvada requires that officers have a college degree, and has a community policing approach that includes implementing a co-responder model with Jefferson Center for Mental Health to assist in dealing with individuals with mental health and substance use problems. We have also not had police misconduct lawsuits like other jurisdictions have.
Tell us about your involvement with city issues, City Council, and city staff. Have you worked for any progressive, local issues, and how did you champion them?
I moved to Arvada in the late 1980’s, and have lived in both of our residential historic districts. I love Olde Town, which is the heart of our broader Arvada community. In the 90’s, I started getting involved in community planning efforts for Olde Town. As the city prepared in anticipation of the Gold line, I testified about quiet zones, attended planning meetings and comprehensive plan sessions, etc. I was also one of the neighborhood leaders working to rezone Stocke-Walter to protect it from inappropriate development.
What really pushed my involvement into high gear was learning that a five story modern apartment was to be built between the Stocke-Walter historic district and Olde Town. And although I had signed up to get information about development in Olde Town so I could participate in planning for its future, I knew nothing about this plan – and it was too late to stop it although I tried as best I could. I became aware that I had to step up and get more involved. So I started attending Council meetings whenever I could, and seeking out other opportunities to get involved. I was appointed to the Citizens Capital Improvement Planning Committee, and later to the Arvada Sustainability Committee, and I have continued to be a regular attendee at Council meetings. I now believe it is time to step up further and serve my community on the City Council.
I am currently also involved in working with APA, the city of Arvada, Jefferson County, and Jefferson Center for Mental Health, to develop affordable housing resources for Arvada.