June 24, 2019

DRCOG Approves "Jefferson Parkway" Toll Highway Proposal

The DRCOG board voted 35-17 last week to add the Jefferson Parkway to the regional transportation plan.  The Jefferson Parkway is the plan promoted by Jefferson County, Arvada, and Broomfield to build a new toll road between Highways 128 and 93.  Their plan remains ill conceived, dumping nearly 40% additional traffic on Highway 93, with no improvements, making the highway even more congested and more dangerous than it already is.  Their plan depends on the taxpayers picking up the tab for hundreds of millions of dollars of additional projects just to make the toll revenues work.  And if they are able to secure financing for the project, it will almost certainly come with some steep taxpayer concessions, including congestion guarantees and probably a promise to backstop any revenue shortfalls with taxpayer dollars.  A free road this isn’t.

Building this proposed beltway section really doesn’t make sense.  It’s incredibly expensive, it doesn’t fix the actual transportation problems (and creates new ones), and it will lead to substantially more intensive development along the Highway 93 corridor and wrapping around the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.   And the studies have all been very, very clear: if you want to fix transportation across the Northwest Quadrant, improve the existing highways and major roads.

But there is an instinct shared by many across the region that Denver needs a beltway despite the evidence.  People really, really want to close loops.  And the facts haven’t been that important in this conversation.  “Every great city has a beltway” is one common refrain, which is both inaccurate and ignores that the most congested cities tend to have beltways . . . beltways induce sprawl and they induce traffic, predictably resulting in greater congestion instead of less.

There is some good news.  There is growing opposition to the Jefferson Parkway proposal because it not only fails to fix the problems but actually makes them much worse.  Seventeen communities voted against the Jefferson Parkway, which is roughly triple the number that voted against the last beltway-related issue at DRCOG.  Public opinion was overwhelmingly against the proposal (twice as many people opposed as supported).  Also, for the first time, we have built a proactive collaboration with other neighbors to solve the existing problems on Highway 93 and U.S. 6 from C-470 to Boulder.

In early February, the City Council will start discussing next steps, but Golden’s position is very clear.  Because of the narrowness of the Golden Valley, nearly every home in Golden is very impacted by what happens on the 6/93 Corridor within the city limits.  We remain open to a reasonable and fair solution that protects our community, but we will continue working very hard to protect against the impacts of the current proposed toll road project.

If you want to read more, here are a couple of newspapers from last week:

A Conservative Perspective on Transit

As FasTracks sorts through its financial challenges and as FasTracks lines get built out (including our own West Corridor line) over the next few years, I suspect we’ll see sustained coverage of the political fights over transit in the Denver region.  Of course those fights will heat up considerably when RTD asks the voters for additional sales tax to complete the buildout of the system, as I expect they’ll do in 2010.

I recently came across this interesting article about Paul Weyrich (a key conservative thinker and writer and a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation) and his views on mass transit.  His point in a nutshell: the “conservative” arguments against transit seem to be more about an ideological libertarian anti-transit view than based in either real world facts or mainstream conservative doctrine. [NOTE: The original link didn’t work.  I’ve updated it and it seems to work fine now.]

It’s refreshing to recall that support for FasTracks was decidedly bipartisan, and in fact it would not have passed without the uncommon alliance between the business community, local governments, and the environmental community.  And same sort of broad bipartisan support for FasTracks is evident at the Metro Mayors Caucus (composed of all the mayors in the Denver Metro region) and at the Denver Regional Council of Governments (made up of all the cities and counties in the region), Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike.  The politics have become a lot more complicated since that first FasTracks vote, and I don’t know if the coalitions will hold as they did last time, but I’ve been very encouraged that the coalition fissures have been about mechanics and equity issues, not ideology.

Elections 2008: Ballot Measures

This year’s ballot includes measures on funding for schools, labor and union issues, abortion, and plenty more. City Council took positions of support on three measures we believe directly and very significantly affect Golden: 3A, 3B, and Amendment 59. I offer here my thoughts on those and a few other measures, including measure 2A concerning Xcel’s franchise agreement with the City of Golden. Click on “read more” if you are interested in knowing more about these issues.

  • Amendment 46 (affirmative action) – NO
  • Amendments 47, 49, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 (various labor/business issues) – NO
  • Amendment 48 (definition of person) – NO
  • Amendment 52 (severance tax revenue for highways) – NO
  • Amendment 59 (education funding and TABOR refunds) – YES
  • 3A/3B (school funding in Jefferson County) – YES

[Read more…]

Elections 2008: Candidate Elections

There are plenty of important local and state races, not to mention the obvious presidential election. If you are interested in who I’m supporting in some of these races, here is the list. Click on “read more” if you are interested in knowing more about these races and candidates.

  • Ed Perlmutter for U.S. House of Representatives
  • Gwyn Green for Colorado House
  • Monisha Merchant for CU Board of Regents and Jane Goff for State Board of Education
  • Barack Obama for President
  • Mark Udall for U.S. Senate
  • Jason Bane and Sue Windells for Jefferson County Commission

[Read more…]

Committee Vote on Bill to Protect Schools From Air Pollution

Representative Gwyn Green’s bill to help protect school children from harmful air pollution caused by highway traffic is scheduled for a vote in the House Education Committee Monday afternoon. House Bill 1293 would require school boards to consult with the state health department on health risks for new school sites before building new schools new highways and roads and would require CDOT to also consult the health department before building new roads near schools. A recent study in California found that children attending schools near highways are at higher risk of developing asthma or other serious health conditions. The playground at Mitchell Elementary is a short 84 feet from Highway 93. If CDOT’s vision of a six- or eight-lane superhighway through Golden were ever to become a reality that distance could become even shorter. You’ll find more info at the Mothers for Clean Air web site, including a list of legislators on the committee. If you have a moment you might call them Monday morning and express your opinion before their vote. You’ll find a fresh news story on the News 2 web site.

Air Quality Rules Strengthened

The Colorado Air Quality Commission voted yesterday to improve smog reduction requirements for oil and gas drilling operations in the Denver Metro area (yup, as a matter of fact there is a lot of oil and gas drilling in the Denver Metro area, mostly in Weld County) and across the state. This is a major deal: it’s not every day that clean air advocates overcome vigorous opposition from the oil and gas industry to help reduce pollution.

Back in October I successfully encouraged the Denver Regional Council of Governments to strongly support the proposed air quality improvements. As I’ve pointed out many times, Golden suffers from some of the worst air pollution on the Front Range, and most of it is the result of traffic congestion and industrial emissions elsewhere in the region. I am really pleased that the Commission voted as they did.

A new citizen group called Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action led the effort, and they write more about it on their Denver Ozone blog.

Denver Post: Amendment 41 is a blueprint for ethics

In case you didn’t see it, the Denver Post today editorialized in favor of Amendment 41, the Ethics in Government amendment.

When Colorado’s 100 state lawmakers gather each year under the Capitol’s gold dome, more than 1,000 paid lobbyists are there to bend their ears. Lobbyists lavish officials with gifts – about $1.6 million a year, ranging from Broncos tickets to golf outings to overseas trips, according to their filings with the secretary of state’s office . . .

The measure would ban lobbyists from giving gifts or meals worth more than $50 to state and local officials and employees or members of their immediate families.The measure also would close the “revolving door” that allows just-retired lawmakers to lobby former colleagues by requiring a two-year cooling-off period . . .

We urge voters to approve 41 . . . 

Opponents have raised some theatrical concerns – that the ban could prohibit school scholarships for children of janitors and other non-policymaking employees, for one example, or criminalize an auto dealer’s recreation league sponsorships, for another. We’re confident no one will interpret the amendment in that way, and even if they did, 41 creates an ethics commission that would surely reject such frivolous claims.

Douglas County Wins Key Lawsuit Strengthening Local Government Rights on Highway Projects

Douglas County won a very important lawsuit last week clearly affirming that the county has the right to regulate Colorado Department of Transportation highway projects within its boundaries.  State law allows local governments to adopt what are known as “1041 regulations” to govern state projects under certain circumstances.  CDOT argued, however, that they should be exempt from such regulations.  In short, the court found that CDOT does not have exclusive control over all aspects of state highway construction and that Douglas County’s 1041 regulations were legitimate.

What does this mean for Golden?  While the decision specifically addressed Douglas County, we believe that it is likely to apply in Jefferson County as well.  It means that CDOT will probably be required to abide by our regulations pertaining to the site selection of major highways within our community so long as our regulations are reasonable and consistent with the authority granted to us by the state legislature.  This is yet another blow to CDOT and their obsessive insistence that they should get to build whatever they want, wherever they want, and without any regard for the needs of the local affected communities.

Independence Day

I went up Arapahoe Pass in the Indian Peaks Wilderness this morning. While holiday weekends make for crowded trails, I love that so many folks celebrate Independence Day by hiking in Colorado’s magnificent wilderness areas and national parks. I also love the Lions Park part of 4th of July as well, and I’ve got no complaints about the BBQs everyone I know seems to be having later this afternoon. Independence Day is about community and family and celebration, and Golden surely rises to the occasion.

I also think Independence Day begs reflection on what it means to live in a free society governed by a constitution that enshrines so many fundamental human rights. I appreciated Bill Winter’s blog post this morning on Daily Kos. Winter – who is running to unseat Tom Tancredo in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District – quoted from the diary of a soldier killed at the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. Major Sullivan Ballou wrote:

The freedom that I so often take for granted, the government that I occasionally curse, and the rights from which I so richly profit every day, have all been provided to me, at no cost to myself whatsoever, by sacrifices that I cannot begin to imagine, made by men and women that I will never know!

There is no way that I can ever repay that debt except to be prepared to offer that same sacrifice if I am ever called upon to do so!

I can’t help but think of the men and women that are today serving our country in Iraq (and in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world), risking their lives, and all too often dying. Several weeks ago we passed another horrific milestone in Iraq: 2,500 American military personnel dead. Nearly 20,000 have been wounded, and I haven’t any idea how Iraqi civilians have died. I don’t know what the answer to this quagmire is, but the Bush Administration’s current approach, what blogger georgia10 calls our “stay the course until we drive off a cliff strategy,” ain’t working.

I know there are some who believe that it is unpatriotic even to ask questions about the war in Iraq or the President’s war strategy. I think that’s wrong, and instead believe that it is our obligation as citizens to ask hard questions, to hold our elected representatives accountable to their decisions, and to use democratic and civic processes to fix the things that are broken. In this case, you don’t need to believe that beginning the war was a mistake in order to recognize how abysmal the Bush Administration’s prosecution of the war has been.

I want to honor our soldiers’ sacrifices, and the countless sacrifices of their families at home, and I never want to forget that the values we so cherish and often take for granted must sometimes be defended with blood, but not every war fought in the name of defending America makes sense. I am one of the large and quickly growing chorus of Americans who are insisting that Congress and the Bush Administration figure out how to end this tragic debacle.

CML and Climate Change

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.