January 23, 2018

The City Manager’s State of the City: 2012

City Manager Mike Bestor presented his annual “State of the City” address last week to the Chamber of Commerce. The short version of Mike’s talk: the city is in great shape.

He spent some time highlighting city efforts from last year that he was particularly proud of, including the Golden Police Department’s role in breaking open a very difficult multi-state serial rapist case (the rapist was recently sentenced to 327 1/2 years, an outcome for which GPD gets a lot of credit). His highlights included the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (40,000 visitors in Golden!), wrapping up the Golden Vision 2030 project, and the national recognition earned by multiple city departments (including the Parks and Recreation Department’s “Gold Medal” award).

He mentioned some issues that are likely to take some time later in the year, including medical marijuana, the beltway fight (“a legal rodeo that will go on most of this year”), and the Blue Ribbon Panel’s upcoming work on Golden’s economic future.

Nothing particularly controversial and no surprises.

City Council’s Retreat: Setting the Agenda for 2012-2013

The first priority on City Council's list for 2012-2013 is supporting Golden's schools and libraries.


The Golden City Council held its biannual retreat earlier in February, focusing on their work plan for the next two years. They identified nine general areas they want to focus on: (1) supporting Golden’s schools and libraries; (2) improving public space; (3) promoting a healthy community; (4) moving the ball forward on key transportation issues; (5) strengthening Golden’s neighborhoods; (6) fostering a strong relationship with Colorado School of Mines; (7) supporting a strong economy; (8) improving on the city’s capital improvement plan; and (9) meeting the city’s sustainability goals. It’s a great list but also a pretty expansive one, and I’m looking forward to learning more about how Council is planning to prioritize among those goals.

An Economic History of Golden

A little side project: tracking Golden’s economic history. Google has a very cool tool called Gapminder (which they bought from the remarkable Hans Rosling) that’s ideal for displaying complex data over time. Based on a simple dataset (sales and use tax generated by commercial district in Golden, total sales and use tax, and total general fund revenus), and with some help from someone savvier than I at databases and code, and with help getting the data from Golden’s rock star Finance Director Jeff Hansen, I created a visualization of change over time in the importance of each sales district to Golden’s overall economic health.

The visualization shows how Golden’s commercial districts have changed in relative economic importance over time between 1994 and 2009. It’s pretty simplistic because of the data I had to work with, and because the city’s overall sales and use tax revenues track pretty closely to overall general fund revenues the bubbles all move in a very linear fashion over time. But even this very simple visualization shows some interesting things, like the change in importance of outside dollars, the rise of South Golden Road, the rise of Corporate Center, and the relative stability of Downtown Golden as an economic center over time.

I couldn’t figure out how to make the visualization itself accessible on the web, so I created a screencast showing each of the elements. The screencast first shows you the normal Gapminder display, which is very cool. Then it shows you the underlying line graph. Finally, it shows you two versions of the bar graph visualization. The entire video is about sixty seconds long.

You could do some really interesting things with these data and this display, like swapping out either the x- or y-axis with other data like the number of business licenses in each district in that year or the overall city population (which has grown steadily at times and unevenly at other times), treating sales tax and use tax independently from one another, or tons of other approaches that I haven’t thought of. You’d probably see some different and interesting relationships.

This little project underscores the value of making the city’s data as readily available to community members as possible. It’s trickier than you might think, since much of it isn’t digital and isn’t stored in the most accessible manner, but the city has a lot of data that might be of interest or of use to community members, and there are tons of people in Golden cleverer and more skilled than I at doing interesting things with data, so I’m hoping City Council and city staff will start looking for more ways to push these datasets out and see what folks come up with.

Golden's Good Economic News

May sales tax in Golden (collected in June) was up 3% (compared to a 6% decline during May of last year). Our year-to-date numbers are up by about the same amount (compared to a 10% decline year-to-date during the same period last year). Downtown Golden saw a substantial increase of more than 7%, and Corporate Center (where Home Depot and Kohls are) and North Golden both saw significant increases as well. Another favorable sign is that spending at restaurants – a good sign of consumer confidence – went up by more than 7%. We seem to be on the road (albeit a slow road) to economic recovery.

Golden’s Good Economic News

May sales tax in Golden (collected in June) was up 3% (compared to a 6% decline during May of last year). Our year-to-date numbers are up by about the same amount (compared to a 10% decline year-to-date during the same period last year). Downtown Golden saw a substantial increase of more than 7%, and Corporate Center (where Home Depot and Kohls are) and North Golden both saw significant increases as well. Another favorable sign is that spending at restaurants – a good sign of consumer confidence – went up by more than 7%. We seem to be on the road (albeit a slow road) to economic recovery.

Jeffco Foreclosure Rate Growing

According to Jefferson County Trustee Margaret Chapman, the foreclosure rate in Jefferson County in the first quarter of 2010 increased 4.3% to 966.

New Wind Turbine Jobs Coming to Golden

Some great news for Golden on the jobs front: A Danish company called PMC Technology is moving to Golden.  The company builds hydraulic components for the wind turbine and other industries and will locate in the Coors Technology Center just east of North Table Mountain.  They expect to create about 40 jobs within its first five years of operation.  One key reason PMC is landing in Golden is our proximity to Vestas in Brighton, which is PMC’s largest U.S. customer (one of many, many spinoff benefits that Vestas brings to the Denver Metro region).

You’ll find articles in the Denver Business Journal and InsideRealEstateNews.com if you want to read more.

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Vancouver's Ambitious Vision

The city of Vancouver, British Columbia is getting some attention for its new Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future city strategy and vision document.  Their new vision statement eloquently highlights the links between environmental and economic health:

We envision a bright green future that couples economic prosperity, health, and happiness with decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. We envision less pollution and cleaner air, less machine noise and more birdsong, less pavement and more green space, fewer sick days and healthier people. We want to send a clear and compelling message to the world: prosperity and environmental stewardship can be partners, not opposing forces. We can meet the challenge of climate change in ways that will improve the quality of life for our children, and our children’s children.

Their new city plan sets a high bar for community visions:

  • Create 20,000 new green jobs.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 33 percent from 2007 levels.
  • All new construction is carbon neutral.
  • Improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings by 20 percent.
  • The majority of trips in the city (more than 50%) are by foot, bicycle, and public transit.
  • Reduce per capita solid waste going to the landfill or incinerator by 40%.
  • Every person walks within a five-minute walk of a park, beach, greenway, or other natural space.
  • Plant 150,000 additional trees in the city.
  • Reduce per capita ecological footprint by 33 percent.
  • Always meet or beat the strongest of B.C., Canada, and World Health Organization drinking water standards.
  • Reduce per capita water consumption by 33 percent.
  • Always meet or beat World Health Organization air quality guidelines.
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of our food by 33 percent.

In case you haven’t looked at it in a while, I inserted our own Golden Sustainability Initiative goals below.  Vancouver is definitely setting an ambitious bar, but the comparison is encouraging because ours goals, while they are ambitious, are pretty moderate by comparison.  The Sustainability Advisory Board will be reporting to City Council in the near future on their progress toward meeting our goals.  We’ll figure out where we are at and what adjustments we need to make to help the board, city staff, and community groups keep the ball moving forward.

Golden Sustainability Initiative Goals adopted Aug. 2007

Vancouver’s Ambitious Vision

The city of Vancouver, British Columbia is getting some attention for its new Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future city strategy and vision document.  Their new vision statement eloquently highlights the links between environmental and economic health:

We envision a bright green future that couples economic prosperity, health, and happiness with decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. We envision less pollution and cleaner air, less machine noise and more birdsong, less pavement and more green space, fewer sick days and healthier people. We want to send a clear and compelling message to the world: prosperity and environmental stewardship can be partners, not opposing forces. We can meet the challenge of climate change in ways that will improve the quality of life for our children, and our children’s children.

Their new city plan sets a high bar for community visions:

  • Create 20,000 new green jobs.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 33 percent from 2007 levels.
  • All new construction is carbon neutral.
  • Improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings by 20 percent.
  • The majority of trips in the city (more than 50%) are by foot, bicycle, and public transit.
  • Reduce per capita solid waste going to the landfill or incinerator by 40%.
  • Every person walks within a five-minute walk of a park, beach, greenway, or other natural space.
  • Plant 150,000 additional trees in the city.
  • Reduce per capita ecological footprint by 33 percent.
  • Always meet or beat the strongest of B.C., Canada, and World Health Organization drinking water standards.
  • Reduce per capita water consumption by 33 percent.
  • Always meet or beat World Health Organization air quality guidelines.
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of our food by 33 percent.

In case you haven’t looked at it in a while, I inserted our own Golden Sustainability Initiative goals below.  Vancouver is definitely setting an ambitious bar, but the comparison is encouraging because ours goals, while they are ambitious, are pretty moderate by comparison.  The Sustainability Advisory Board will be reporting to City Council in the near future on their progress toward meeting our goals.  We’ll figure out where we are at and what adjustments we need to make to help the board, city staff, and community groups keep the ball moving forward.

Golden Sustainability Initiative Goals adopted Aug. 2007

Times are Tight

Council Bill Fisher has a nice post on his blog about some of the things the city and the City Council are doing to continue thoughtfully managing the financial climate.  For instance:

Last year we approved a tight budget for 2009 – and we’ve stayed on target. Tax revenues are down and so is spending. Cities like Denver are taking drastic action as they face $160 Million shortfalls. In contrast, Golden remains in great financial shape. Recently, one of our bond ratings got even better. Why? Ratings agencies know we watch the bottom line like a hawk.

Read the entire post.