December 18, 2017

Let the Legal Wrangling Begin: the Beltway Lawsuit Gets Underway

The beltway lawsuits is off to a colorful start ...

The first of the proceedings in the lawsuit challenging the beltway proposal kicked off last week with a hearing on the lawsuit schedule. Scheduling conferences are usually dull affairs, but Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made it interesting: he made a highly unusual (perhaps unprecedented) bid to address the court as part of the hearing. It was a pretty strange move, since VIPs (even if they are cabinet secretaries) don’t usually get special opportunities to weigh in during legal proceedings, in addition to drawing even more attention to the backroom politics that have characterized the beltway and Rocky Flats issues from the beginning. Secretary Salazar withdrew his request before the judge ruled on it.

Check out the Denver Post article (“Jefferson Parkway opponents decry Salazar’s attempt to weigh in on court case“) for more details.

Golden, Superior, and two conservation groups (Rocky Mountain Wild and WildEarth Guardians) filed the lawsuit earlier this year, challenging the federal government’s attempt to sell land that is now part of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge for use as a toll highway. We

In the meantime, Golden resumed its discussions with beltway proponents about a potential agreement to the dispute. As far as I know, the City Council’s position hasn’t changed appreciably since January: a willingness to consider an agreement that truly protects Golden from transportation projects that might occur outside our city limits. One thing that has changed: Colorado seems to be moving more definitively toward a transportation funding regime that relies heavily on toll lanes and toll highways across the state. Councilor Fisher provided some useful context in his newsletter last week:

While it is quiet on the PR and communications front, Council is actively engaged in working with and expanding the conversation on a Beltway. At the same time, the changing landscape of Colorado road funding means big, big changes in how CDOT and surrounding counties look at transportation. Specifically, I’m starting to sense that Coloradans are about to see a lot of new toll and “managed” lanes in the state over the next 10 years on major roads like C470, I-70, and possibly highway 93 in sections.

The basic math is this: Nobody appears interested in paying taxes, so if any roads are going to be built or maintained it’ll require tolling. Unfortunately, we’re getting what we as a society have asked for. More to the point, however, it means there are a LOT more interested players in seeing roads in and around Golden and the Metro area affected and connected. I partially see it as our role to understand how not to get run over by this massive shift in road policy here in Colorado and ensure we do get the mitigations and protections that keep Golden connected as a single, small and unique community with safe, slow roads, pollution reduction, and neighborhood strengthening.

I strongly encourage everyone to keep an ear to the ground as this challenge continues to be on our radar even when it may appear to go on the back burner. It affects all of us, and the more folks aware and involved, the better the outcome we can craft.

Mayor Sloan’s Comments on the Aurora Shooting

Mayor Sloan published a thoughtful piece on her blog and newsletter yesterday; I thought I would just post it in full here:

Last night, as council’s study session was ending, many local homes had at least one family member excitedly preparing for the premiere showing in Aurora of “The Dark Knight,” the new Batman movie. Another metro resident was completing his hateful plan to take the lives of those innocent theatergoers. Shortly after midnight, he shot into the unsuspecting audience, killing at least 12 of them and wounding 50 more.

It’s unimaginable yet it happened. We will all learn more facts in the days to come and there will be much analysis. But the shock and deep sadness we feel today will not change. Our hearts go out to the injured victims, the bereaved family members, the traumatized Aurora community. Residents of the entire region, including Golden, will carry this terrible memory with us. Golden is also willing to do whatever we can to stand by our neighbors. Under our police department’s established protocol for mutual aid, Golden Police Officer Bob Wilson and his bomb dog responded to a call for assistance this morning.

Legislature Kills Max Tyler’s Bill to Prohibit Non-Compete Agreements

Should "congestion guarantees" for toll road investors be legal? (Photo by Flickr user Joming Lau.)


Among the many problems with privately financed toll roads is the frequent inclusion of congestion guarantees. The investors often insist that local governments take steps to increase congestion on local roads in order to push traffic onto the tolled roads in order to boost toll revenues. It’s a great deal for the investors but often a lousy deal for local residents. The agreement between the Northwest Parkway Public Highway Authority and Brisa (the Spanish company that bought out the Northwest Parkway, saving it from bankruptcy), for instance, requires Broomfield to compensate Brisa for any revenue lost as a result of Broomfield building or improving local roads within its own city boundaries. If they build or improve a road that gives their local traffic any sort of improved alternative to the Northwest Parkway, they’ll have to pay Brisa for every vehicle that uses it even if improving or building that road would have been good for Broomfield residents. And because the agreements often last decades (99 years in Broomfield’s case), communities with congestion guarantees are often saddled with restrictions like these for generations.

Golden’s representative in the Colorado State House, Max Tyler, introduced a bill this session to prohibit the use of “non-compete agreements,” which is one of way creating a congestion guarantee. As Representative Tyler explained in his newsletter, “For the proposed Jefferson Parkway, for example, this bill would have made sure that local governments would still have the option of improving Highway 93, as well as Indiana and McIntyre.” Despite his best efforts, however, the Republicans on the Transportation Committee voted against the bill and it died on a party line vote. Jefferson County opposed the bill.

FWS Toll Highway Hearing Thursday Evening

The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Here’s the city’s official alert about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public hearing Thursday evening. Please come if you can, and either way please consider submitting written comments by the October 31 deadline as well.

Citizens concerned about proposed Jefferson Parkway toll road can make their voices heard
Public encouraged to speak out at meeting on Oct. 13, submit written comments by Oct. 31

The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Act, enacted by Congress in 2001, requires that a corridor of land up to 300 feet wide along Indiana Street be made available for transportation improvements.

The City of Golden has proposed using this corridor of land adjacent to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge for a bike route. The Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA) has proposed a major new toll road and bike route for the same piece of land, packaging it as part of a land exchange.

The choice between the two will be a pivotal decision that will impact the entire Northwest metro region, including Boulder and Jefferson counties.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appears to be laying the groundwork to support the toll highway option, but there may still be an opportunity to impact that decision.
We believe a balanced and comprehensive review will demonstrate that Golden’s proposal is the better solution that will be more compatible with the region’s natural resources and transportation system.

The construction of the Jefferson Parkway, absent the mitigation proposed by Golden, would seriously degrade both the environment and quality of life in Jefferson County.

It’s important that Golden residents and others concerned about the potential negative impacts of the proposed Jefferson Parkway toll road make their voices heard in this process.

If you live in Golden or have opinions about whether this portion of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should be turned into a toll highway or a bikeway, please attend an upcoming public meeting and submit written comments.

We encourage citizens to comment as part of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Environmental Assessment process. If possible, email comments and attend the meeting.

· Email comments to RockyFlatsEA@fws.gov by Oct. 31.

· Attend the public meeting on Oct. 13 at the Westminster City Park Recreation Center.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., the meeting begins at 6 p.m. and continues until 8 p.m. The Westminster City Park Recreation Center is located at 10455 Sheridan Blvd. in Westminster. The meeting will consist of a presentation by Rocky Flats Refuge staff, who will provide an overview of the Environmental Assessment, followed by a period during which the public can provide comments.

· If you don’t use email, please send a letter with your comments before Oct. 31 to:

Mike Dixon, Ph.D.
Division of Refuge Planning
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486, DFC
Denver, CO 80225

and

Bruce Hastings, Ph.D.
Deputy Refuge Manager
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
6550 Gateway Road
Building 129
Commerce City, CO 80022

Here are some key points that you may want to include in your comments:

· The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should not consider the effects of the land exchange proposed by the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority without considering the full implications of building the Jefferson Parkway toll road.

· The proposed Jefferson Parkway toll road would create sprawl and worsen traffic, both of which would negatively impact the region.

· The proposed multi-lane toll road would have a much bigger and much more negative impact on the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge than the bike route proposed by Golden.

· The Fish and Wildlife Service should not rely on the 2004 federal Rocky Flats Environmental Impact Statement, which is a dated document that does not reflect the current Jefferson Parkway toll road plan. That document did not consider the broader regional effects of the toll road, including noise, traffic and sprawl.

· The Jefferson Parkway issue is so integral to the future of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge that the Fish and Wildlife Service should consider it as part of its Environmental Assessment.

West Corridor and FasTracks Update

West Corridor bridge over 6th Avenue at Indiana (RTD Photo)

RTD and some of the polling folks involved with FasTracks provided an in-depth briefing yesterday morning at the Metro Mayors Caucus meeting.  The FasTracks construction update is very encouraging: 48 miles of new rail lines now under construction, 8 projects under way, and the West Corridor to Golden is 75% complete.

 

The update on the latest public opinion research is even more interesting.  Some key findings:

  1. Mass transit and FasTracks remain very popular with voters.
  2. Voters really seem to get the value of a full buildout of FasTracks system, including the DIA line.  This is true even among people who themselves aren’t frequent travelers and won’t themselves use FasTracks.
  3. Voters blame the FasTracks budget challenges on the economy; they don’t blame RTD.
  4. Public support for a tax increase to complete the FasTracks buildout increased as the size of the potential tax increase grew.  In other words support for a 4/10 of a penny increase in the FasTracks tax was substantially greater than support for a 3/10 of a penny increase, which was itself substantially more than support for 2/10, and so on.  In fact, support for no tax increase was about 35% (and opposition to not increasing the tax was about 65%).  With respect to FasTracks, Denver Metro voters really value time (the length of time before the system is built out), even more than money (the amount of the tax increase).

RTD will make a decision soon about how much of a tax increase they will ask the voters to approve to complete buildout of the FasTracks system, so expect to see a lot of media coverage over the next couple of months.

The Denver Post has a story on that meeting.  This is one of those where the story isn’t quite accurate (MMC actually didn’t make a decision because we act on consensus and clearly didn’t have that, especially with the Littleton mayor), but the characterization of the gist was probably fair (most of the mayors expressed support for 4% because it means the system gets built out so much quicker and because voter support seems so much higher with that proposal than with lower proposals).

Governor Hickenlooper's Transportation Vision

I’m really pleased to report that I was appointed to the transportation committee of the Governor-elect’s transition team. It’s a diverse group: some other mayors, county commissioners, transportation experts, Front Rangers and West Slopers, folks associated with other stakeholder groups like the construction industry. It says a lot about Golden that we are represented on the transition team. We had our first meeting last week, a listening session in Frisco on Saturday, and another meeting coming up on Thursday afternoon. I would welcome any and all ideas about the Governor’s transportation agenda for the next four years. The specific questions:

  • Do you have ideas about what the new governor’s transportation agenda should include?
  • What “action agenda” items he should consider in his first 100 days?
  • Who the next CDOT director should be?

Please shoot me an email (jacobzsmith@gmail.com) or add a comment on my Facebook page if you have any thoughts. I need them by Thursday at noon.

Heading home from the listening session in Frisco on Saturday.

Governor Hickenlooper’s Transportation Vision

I’m really pleased to report that I was appointed to the transportation committee of the Governor-elect’s transition team. It’s a diverse group: some other mayors, county commissioners, transportation experts, Front Rangers and West Slopers, folks associated with other stakeholder groups like the construction industry. It says a lot about Golden that we are represented on the transition team. We had our first meeting last week, a listening session in Frisco on Saturday, and another meeting coming up on Thursday afternoon. I would welcome any and all ideas about the Governor’s transportation agenda for the next four years. The specific questions:

  • Do you have ideas about what the new governor’s transportation agenda should include?
  • What “action agenda” items he should consider in his first 100 days?
  • Who the next CDOT director should be?

Please shoot me an email (jacobzsmith@gmail.com) or add a comment on my Facebook page if you have any thoughts. I need them by Thursday at noon.

Heading home from the listening session in Frisco on Saturday.

Jacob's Golden Update: 2010 Election Special Edition

I keep the electoral politics to a minimum on my blog and in my newsletter, but federal and state election outcomes can have a huge impact on Golden, so I’ll share my endorsements and recommendations for this 2010 election.

The ballots are out, by the way: the sooner you mail yours in the sooner it’s out of the way. Mailing your ballot in promptly should also mean that the political phone calls and door knocks drop off, since most campaigns are constantly updating their call and knock lists based on who’s already voted (so they don’t waste time bugging folks who have already sent in their ballot). However much you agree or disagree with my recommendations, be sure to vote!

Max Tyler, State House
Max is the small businessman who succeeded Gwyn Green in the state legislature when she retired a year ago. He has been a great advocate for renewable energy and for green jobs (he was the lead sponsor on a successful bill last year that will dramatically increase renewable energy production in Colorado and create 10,000 new renewable energy jobs), a strong opponent of the beltway, and a stalwart supporter of Golden and the Golden community. In addition to my endorsement, Max has the support of the Denver Post, Ed Perlmutter, Moe Keller, and many more.

Cheri Jahn, State Senate
Cheri is running to fill Moe Keller’s seat in the State Senate (Moe is term limited). She grew up in the Golden area and has been a steadfast Golden supporter on transportation and beltway issues. She’s also got a great track record from her time in the State House on issues that matter to me like jobs and conservation. I’ve seen her here in Golden often – a good sign that she cares enough about the community to show up – and I believe she’ll represent us well.

Ed Perlmutter, U.S. House of Representatives
Ed knows Golden and Jefferson County like no one else, he works harder than everyone else, and he is as focused on practical problem-solving as they get. He’s been a great champion for renewable energy, for NREL, and for financial reform. His position on the beltway is very reasonable: whatever happens needs to be done in a way that protects Golden. He and his staff are here in Golden all the time – at events, at Ed’s Government at the Grocery office hours, and at fundraisers for community organizations – and Ed and his staff have a reputation for being extremely responsive to constituents. I strongly endorse Ed Perlmutter.

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senate
Michael is one of the smartest, hardest-working elected representatives I know. After meeting him or seeing him speak, most people I know walk away impressed with his intelligence and his thoughtfulness. I like him in part because he brings a very different sort of perspective – a mix of both private sector and public sector experiences – to the table: he was very successful at rescuing failing businesses, he knows the challenges that municipalities face after having served as Mayor Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff, and he has a deep commitment to public education (including his tenure at the helm of Denver Public Schools). His opponent holds what I believe are very extreme views on some threshold issues, including opposing abortion even in the case of incest and rape. Bottom line: I think Michael Bennet is doing a really good job and that he’s got the potential to be a great Senator. I will be voting for him.

John Hickenlooper, Governor
John is an unusual politician: aside from shooting commercials while skydiving and showering with his clothes on, he is both a political moderate and a strong visionary on important issues like renewable energy and sustainability. He gets the critical importance of good jobs and a healthy business community, he’s been a tireless champion of transit and FasTracks, and he’s been an energetic supporter of K-12 and higher education. He has my support. John’s Lieutenant Governor running mate is Joseph Garcia.

Cary Kennedy, State Treasurer
Cary is incredibly intelligent, articulate, and capable. Her management of the state’s investments have resulted in positive gains and a continued strong credit rating despite a recession that hammered many state portfolios. She’s been a champion of government transparency and accountability (I borrowed the idea for Golden’s bi-annual Community Accountability Report last year from her own statewide version), including cutting edge tools for giving taxpayers access to state revenue and spending information. Cary has also been an ardent and successful advocate for K-12 education and higher education, and she is playing a lead role in tackling the state constitution’s fiscal dysfunctions, including a critical role in the passage of Referendum C.

Bob Wilson, RTD Board of Directors
RTD has a tough job ahead: manage the completion of the FasTracks system under challenging circumstances. I’m supporting Bob because of his experience with transit and transportation issues, his extensive engineering background, and his clear commitment to responsible transportation solutions. Bob’s opponent, a former 24-year member of the Arvada City Councilor, has been one of the most vocal supporteres of the beltway.

A few additional thoughts:
Pam Anderson is running for reelection as the Jefferson County Clerk, and seems to be doing a really good job.  Kathy Hartman is running for reelection as a Jefferson County Commissioner, and while I don’t agree with her on a lot of issues I think on the whole she is doing a solid job as well.  Bernie Buescher is currently the Secretary of State and has also done well with a very tough job.

Ballot Initiatives: Vote No on Everything

There are three issues on the ballot with huge implications for Golden and for the state: Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 (often called the Bad Three or the Ugly Three). There is broad agreement among Republicans and Democrats and among the business community, civic leaders, and community groups that these three measures would be lethal to Colorado’s economy. They would kill most state funding sources for repairing crumbling bridges and roads. They would overturn hundreds of local votes across the state to fund school districts, libraries, fire districts, and other local service providers. They would overturn the decision by Golden’s own voters to “de-Bruce” the city budget. They would cause a huge loss of revenue, forcing deep cuts in public safety, road maintenance, and other vital community services. And they basically eliminate every public financing mechanism in the state, making it near-impossible to construct community buildings like schools, fire stations, and water and wasterwater plants.

The other measures on the ballot range, in my view, from terrible to unimportant, and I’ll be voting no on all of them.

Jacob’s Golden Update: 2010 Election Special Edition

I keep the electoral politics to a minimum on my blog and in my newsletter, but federal and state election outcomes can have a huge impact on Golden, so I’ll share my endorsements and recommendations for this 2010 election.

The ballots are out, by the way: the sooner you mail yours in the sooner it’s out of the way. Mailing your ballot in promptly should also mean that the political phone calls and door knocks drop off, since most campaigns are constantly updating their call and knock lists based on who’s already voted (so they don’t waste time bugging folks who have already sent in their ballot). However much you agree or disagree with my recommendations, be sure to vote!

Max Tyler, State House
Max is the small businessman who succeeded Gwyn Green in the state legislature when she retired a year ago. He has been a great advocate for renewable energy and for green jobs (he was the lead sponsor on a successful bill last year that will dramatically increase renewable energy production in Colorado and create 10,000 new renewable energy jobs), a strong opponent of the beltway, and a stalwart supporter of Golden and the Golden community. In addition to my endorsement, Max has the support of the Denver Post, Ed Perlmutter, Moe Keller, and many more.

Cheri Jahn, State Senate
Cheri is running to fill Moe Keller’s seat in the State Senate (Moe is term limited). She grew up in the Golden area and has been a steadfast Golden supporter on transportation and beltway issues. She’s also got a great track record from her time in the State House on issues that matter to me like jobs and conservation. I’ve seen her here in Golden often – a good sign that she cares enough about the community to show up – and I believe she’ll represent us well.

Ed Perlmutter, U.S. House of Representatives
Ed knows Golden and Jefferson County like no one else, he works harder than everyone else, and he is as focused on practical problem-solving as they get. He’s been a great champion for renewable energy, for NREL, and for financial reform. His position on the beltway is very reasonable: whatever happens needs to be done in a way that protects Golden. He and his staff are here in Golden all the time – at events, at Ed’s Government at the Grocery office hours, and at fundraisers for community organizations – and Ed and his staff have a reputation for being extremely responsive to constituents. I strongly endorse Ed Perlmutter.

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senate
Michael is one of the smartest, hardest-working elected representatives I know. After meeting him or seeing him speak, most people I know walk away impressed with his intelligence and his thoughtfulness. I like him in part because he brings a very different sort of perspective – a mix of both private sector and public sector experiences – to the table: he was very successful at rescuing failing businesses, he knows the challenges that municipalities face after having served as Mayor Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff, and he has a deep commitment to public education (including his tenure at the helm of Denver Public Schools). His opponent holds what I believe are very extreme views on some threshold issues, including opposing abortion even in the case of incest and rape. Bottom line: I think Michael Bennet is doing a really good job and that he’s got the potential to be a great Senator. I will be voting for him.

John Hickenlooper, Governor
John is an unusual politician: aside from shooting commercials while skydiving and showering with his clothes on, he is both a political moderate and a strong visionary on important issues like renewable energy and sustainability. He gets the critical importance of good jobs and a healthy business community, he’s been a tireless champion of transit and FasTracks, and he’s been an energetic supporter of K-12 and higher education. He has my support. John’s Lieutenant Governor running mate is Joseph Garcia.

Cary Kennedy, State Treasurer
Cary is incredibly intelligent, articulate, and capable. Her management of the state’s investments have resulted in positive gains and a continued strong credit rating despite a recession that hammered many state portfolios. She’s been a champion of government transparency and accountability (I borrowed the idea for Golden’s bi-annual Community Accountability Report last year from her own statewide version), including cutting edge tools for giving taxpayers access to state revenue and spending information. Cary has also been an ardent and successful advocate for K-12 education and higher education, and she is playing a lead role in tackling the state constitution’s fiscal dysfunctions, including a critical role in the passage of Referendum C.

Bob Wilson, RTD Board of Directors
RTD has a tough job ahead: manage the completion of the FasTracks system under challenging circumstances. I’m supporting Bob because of his experience with transit and transportation issues, his extensive engineering background, and his clear commitment to responsible transportation solutions. Bob’s opponent, a former 24-year member of the Arvada City Councilor, has been one of the most vocal supporteres of the beltway.

A few additional thoughts:
Pam Anderson is running for reelection as the Jefferson County Clerk, and seems to be doing a really good job.  Kathy Hartman is running for reelection as a Jefferson County Commissioner, and while I don’t agree with her on a lot of issues I think on the whole she is doing a solid job as well.  Bernie Buescher is currently the Secretary of State and has also done well with a very tough job.

Ballot Initiatives: Vote No on Everything

There are three issues on the ballot with huge implications for Golden and for the state: Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 (often called the Bad Three or the Ugly Three). There is broad agreement among Republicans and Democrats and among the business community, civic leaders, and community groups that these three measures would be lethal to Colorado’s economy. They would kill most state funding sources for repairing crumbling bridges and roads. They would overturn hundreds of local votes across the state to fund school districts, libraries, fire districts, and other local service providers. They would overturn the decision by Golden’s own voters to “de-Bruce” the city budget. They would cause a huge loss of revenue, forcing deep cuts in public safety, road maintenance, and other vital community services. And they basically eliminate every public financing mechanism in the state, making it near-impossible to construct community buildings like schools, fire stations, and water and wasterwater plants.

The other measures on the ballot range, in my view, from terrible to unimportant, and I’ll be voting no on all of them.

First Time Homebuying Tax Credits

I get pretty regular questions about tax credits for first time homebuyers.  While the City of Golden doesn’t sponsor any tax credits of our own, there is at least one other program that might be particularly helpful.  The program, administered by the Colorado Housing Assistance Corporation, doubles the amount of first time homebuyer mortgage assistance you can otherwise get in Jefferson County.  Funding comes through the Community Development Block Grant program, and I believe the maximum income for this program is 80% of Area Median Income (based on household size).  You should be able to find out more directly from Colorado Housing Assistance Corporation.