December 8, 2019

Jacob’s Golden Update: Fixing the Ethics Code Loophole

Jacob’s Golden Update: April 22, 2009
Happy Earth Day!

1. Fixing the Ethics Code Loophole
2. Eliminating the Campaign Finance Loophole
3. All-Ward Town Hall Meeting: May 5
4. Redeveloping the Area Across From the High School
5. Free Horizon Montessori Recognized as a High Performing School
6. Council Approves Golden Community Garden
7. Parks and Recreation Board Opening: Deadline April 30
8. Improving Disabled Access in Golden
9. Council Selects Plan for Pedestrian Improvements on Kimball and Crawford
10. Creating a “Moderate Housing Pool” Under the City’s Growth Limit
11. Other Upcoming Events
12. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, April 23

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1. Fixing the Ethics Code Loophole

One important step in City Council’s ongoing commitment to the highest standards for accountability and transparency is eliminating the potential big loophole in our ethics code.  Our code is already quite stringent (as it should be), but a quirk of the language could allow a member of the City Council to accept a gift of unlimited value so long as they accept the gift in their “personal capacity.”  To my mind, members of the City Council should not accept gifts from people that live, own property, or otherwise have interests in Golden (with some limited exceptions, like gifts from family members).  This principle seems very straightforward to me, yet our current code potentially allows anyone – say a developer who periodically asks Council for rezonings or variances – to give large gifts to members of City Council so long as they are “personal” gifts.  I want to fix this.

Councilor Weaver has been arguing that instead of fixing the loophole we should replace it with a “financial enrichment” criterion.  I think she is trying to make the case that she should be able to accept gifts if she doesn’t pocket the money but instead funnels it to some other purpose, but this sounds very much to me like replacing one loophole with another.  To my mind the principle is pretty clear: members of the City Council should not accept gifts from people whose interests are affected by City Council decisions.

We’ll be discussing this and potentially making a decision at the City Council meeting on Thursday night.  A few people have sent some thoughts on this issue already, and I’d welcome any other thoughts that anyone has.

2. Eliminating the Campaign Finance Loophole

Earlier this year we found one other loophole that needs fixing, this one in our Campaign Finance rules.  Our current rules impose limits on the size of contributions people can make to candidates for City Council.  The problem is that a candidate could avoid these limits by funneling those contributions through what our code calls a “political committee.”  The fix is pretty simple: establish contribution limits for candidate campaigns regardless of what sort of committee the check is written out to.  On Thursday night we’ll be discussing and potentially acting on a proposal to do just that.  Because the courts don’t allow contribution limits on “issue” campaigns, in order to do this we’ll need to clarify the distinction between “issue” committees and committees intended to help elect candidates.  The proposed ordinance does exactly this.

3. All-Ward Town Hall Meeting: May 5

The entire Golden City Council is hosting an all-city Town Hall Meeting on the evening of Tuesday, May 5th at Golden High School from 6-8 p.m.  It’s a great chance to meet and chat with your City Council representatives and with me.  It’s also a great opportunity to get updates and ask questions on the beltway, the city’s economic health, and any other city issues.

4. Redeveloping the Area Across From the High School

Now that the new high school is finished, we’ve seen increasing interest in improving the commercial part of town across the street that includes the bowling alley, the new bike shop, and some other businesses.  The property owners in that area asked the city to take the first exploratory step toward creating a new “urban renewal” area.  What does that mean?  Urban renewal zones rely on “tax increment financing” for a fixed period of time.  The Urban Renewal Authority is able to finance capital investments in an area based on the expected increase in tax revenues resulting from that redevelopment.  The major downside is that those increased tax revenues do not go to the local governments but, instead, are used to finance capital investments in that particular area.  The upside is that you have the ability to make good capital investments that you would not otherwise have had and that the city has an effective incentive tool to shape what the redevelopment looks like instead of being stuck with whatever the developers decide to do.  The premise is that there wouldn’t have been an increase in those revenues in the first place without the capital investments (i.e., an area wouldn’t simply redevelop on its own).

By the way, it is really important to recognize that extending the urban renewal zone in Golden to include any other areas wouldn’t change anything about the allowable land use.  The zoning, Comprehensive Plan, and city code always apply regardless of whether there is an urban renewal zone or not.  The main result of an urban renewal zone is the creation of a tool for financing capital investments in an area.  Those capital investments can be thoughtful and appropriate or not, but the land use limitations don’t change regardless.

The short version, in my view: urban renewal can be abused to support really dumb projects, but it can also be used to promote good, thoughtful, sensitive redevelopment.  It can be a good tool and it’s worth considering where we want to help shape redevelopment.

City Council discussed this proposal as well as some of the other redevelopment tools that are available to cities, including Downtown Development Authorities and Business Improvement Districts.  A number of folks in the surrounding residential areas expressed concerns about the proposal, I think largely because they didn’t know what it would mean or how it would impact land use.  City Council agreed that we should first figure out what our vision for that area is and then decide on the best way to make that happen.  The next step:  we’ll figure out some sort of good community process for figuring that out.

5. Free Horizon Montessori Recognized as a High Performing School

Congratulations to Golden’s Free Horizon Montessori for their recognition last week by the Jefferson County School District as a “High Performing School.”  Hats off to Principal Jami Boarman and all of her faculty and staff, students, and parents for the hard work and commitment to a quality education.

6. Council Approves Golden Community Garden

Last week City Council approved a proposal to create a new Golden Community Garden on part of the old city shops property west of the Golden Community Center and south of the Briarwood restaurant.  The garden, which should open in May, will offer 10’X 20′ plots to individuals and families or groups.  This is the product of a terrific group of tenacious, creative, and energetic community volunteers and some great work by city staff.

The City (through the Sustainability Advisory Board) is contributing some funding, but I know the new garden will need quite a bit more for garden infrastructure, irrigation, soil enhancements, pathway construction, signage, and raised beds for gardeners with special needs.  Please consider making a financial contribution or an in-kind donation of topsoil, tools, and other equipment as well.  You can learn more or get involved by contacting the group at goldencommunitygarden@googlegroups.com or by attending one of the weekly meetings (Friday mornings at 7 am at Windy Saddle and Monday evenings at 8 pm at the American Mountaineering Center).

7. Parks and Recreation Board Opening: Deadline April 30

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board provides guidance to the City Council on the City’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan, capital improvements, the city’s parks and trails, and other issues related to our parks and recreation system.  They meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.  We will make four appointments to this board, including one alternate, all for four-year terms.  Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 30.

8. Improving Disabled Access in Golden

One of the city’s priorities is ensuring that folks with disabilities can get around town easily and safely.  We recently appointed an Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator and are currently in the process of appointing a citizen ADA advisory committee.  In some cases, especially where the terrain is too steep or the city’s right-of-way is too narrow, it won’t be feasible to make a particular trail wheelchair-accessible, but on most projects in Golden we are able to do this.  The City of Golden always complies with the ADA, in any case, and we’ve also arranged for an independent audit by an ADA expert to help us identify any problems we don’t know about.  The City Council agenda on Thursday night includes awarding a bid for this independent audit.

We still have openings on the new Accessibility Committee, by the way.  The group will provide input on the accessibility aspects of designs for City of Golden construction projects.  The Committee will also play a role in developing a new Accessibility Master Plan based on the findings of an accessibility audit to be completed later this year.  If you are interested, please contact Dan Hartman, the City’s Public Works Director (dhartman@cityofgolden.net or 303-384-8150).

9. Council Selects Plan for Pedestrian Improvements on Kimball and Crawford

At our meeting two weeks ago the City Council selected a basic design approach for pedestrian improvements to Kimball Avenue and Crawford Street.  Both streets are scheduled to be repaved this summer, so we are taking advantage of needing to work on the streets anyway to widen the sidewalks, slow down traffic, and in other ways make it easier and safer to walk or bike to Shelton Elementary.  City staff put together a range of options and we received a bunch of public input on those ideas.  Based on the community input, City Council selected a pretty moderate option that will help improve pedestrian safety without making things too difficult for cars, either.  We selected one of the two options that received the most support, which will involve narrowing the street a bit and widening the sidewalks.  This project should help quite a bit on our goal to make sure all of our kids can walk or bike to their neighborhood school.

10. Creating a “Moderate Housing Pool” Under the City’s Growth Limit

One proposal under consideration by City Council would create a new “moderate housing pool” within Golden’s 1% growth limit.  The growth limit basically establishes a maximum number of building permits that can be issued each year, and this proposal would not change that limit at all.  It would simply allocate a portion of the total number of permits each year to projects that meet certain housing affordability criteria, namely that the homes built would be affordable to moderate-income families.  Any of these permits that don’t get used for moderate-income projects would then roll into the full pool.  This is a pretty straightforward way of incentivizing developers to build more affordable projects.  This proposal is one of the recommendations made by the Housing Affordability Task Force and relies on clear definitions developed and used by Jefferson County and the federal government.  It probably won’t have any impact while the economy is so weak, but as development pressure on Golden grows again and building permits become more difficult to get, it should create a real incentive on developers to build more affordable homes.  This proposal is on City Council’s agenda for Thursday night.

11. Other Upcoming Events

* First Friday, Historic Downtown Golden, May 1.  Many of the downtown shops, stores, and restaurants stay open late, often with treats and specials.  You’ll also find entertainment and free horse drawn carriage rides (weather permitting).

* Community Pride Days, May 1-2.  This annual City of Golden event is your chance to get rid of unwanted items and debris for free.  You can drop off construction materials, scrap metal, electronics and computers, tires, and other rubbish at the City Shops facility on the north end of town (1300 Catamount Drive).  The April Informer has all the details as well as coupons for a free appliance pickup and a free hazardous chemicals drop-off.

* North Golden Neighborhood Meeting for Golden Vision 2030, May 2.  This is the first of the Golden Vision 2030 neighborhood meetings.  The focus will be on folks that live in the Mesa Meadows and North Ford Street areas, but anyone and everyone is invited.  This is a great chance to weigh in with your thoughts about what you want Golden to be like in twenty years.  The event will take place near 1st Ave. and Tucker Gulch and will include tents, BBQ, and a bounce castle for kids.  As Judy Denison says, “this will not be your average neighborhood meeting.”

* Golden Health & Wellness Alliance Week of Service, May 4-8.  The Golden Health & Wellness Alliance is sponsoring a Week of Service, and its members are providing health and wellness services free of charge to community members for the entire week.  I’ve posted a schedule of their community events on my blog.

* All-Ward Town Hall Meeting, May 5.  The entire Golden City Council is hosting an all-city Town Hall Meeting on the evening of Tuesday, May 5th at Golden High School (701 24th St.) from 6-8 p.m.  It’s a great chance to meet and chat with your City Council representatives and with me.

* North Golden Neighborhood Meeting for Golden Vision 2030, May 16.  This is the second of the Golden Vision 2030 neighborhood meetings.  The focus will be on folks that live in Bible Flats, Canyon Point, and on or near the numbered streets, but anyone and everyone is invited.  This is a great chance to weigh in with your thoughts about what you want Golden to be like in twenty years.

12. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, April 23

Our next city council meeting is a regular business meeting on April 23 (this Thursday).  You can download that and review minutes and videos of previous City Council meetings on the city’s web site.  The agenda includes the following issues

* A Proclamation recognizing National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day.
* Earth Day Awards presented by the Sustainability Advisory Board.
* A number of measures required to move forward with the proposed noise mitigation wall in north Golden.
* Resolutions allowing the city to go forward with proposed repairs and restoration of two historic structures in Golden, the Armory Building and the Cambria Lime Kiln.
* Discussion and a possible decision on an update to our Ethics Code to remove the “official capacity” potential loophole pertaining to gifts to City officials.
* Discussion and a possible decision on an update to the city’s campaign finance rules to clarify the distinction between political committees and issue committees, impose a limit on contributions to political committees, and eliminate a loophole that could allow a candidate to avoid campaign contribution limits.
* Awarding a bid on an Americans With Disabilities Act audit of the city.
* Presentation of the city’s First Quarter 2009 Financial Report.
* Consideration of a proposal to create a separate pool under the City’s 1% growth system for affordable housing projects.
* First reading on a proposal to waive building permit fees for solar photovoltaic and solar water system.
* First reading on a proposal to update our outdoor lighting standards to reduce light pollution and light trespass.

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Jacob Smith, Mayor
jsmith@cityofgolden.net
(303) 216-1680
www.SmithforGolden.org