April 20, 2018

Some Responses to the Voice of Golden

The Voice of Golden has been deliberately spreading some wild claims about City Council, about me, and about Golden.  Every last one of them is misinformed, distorted, or fabricated.  Here are the facts.  As always, I’m happy to answer questions, provide more information, and share copies of all the documents.

Golden’s Energy Efficiency Program: A Responsible Bidding Process

The City of Golden adopted ambitious energy efficiency and other sustainability goals in 2007. As part of this Golden Sustainability Initiative, in June of 2007 the City of Golden published a Request for Proposals for companies interested in conducting an energy efficiency audit in the city and implementing the highest value energy efficiency projects identified by the audit. Six companies responded, four were selected for interviews, and the City Council unanimously (including Councilor Mary Weaver) selected the proposal submitted by the McKinstry firm. The project cost is $1,183,691, but Golden subsequently secured a $500,000 grant from the State of Colorado, dramatically reducing the total cost of the project. Some of the specific energy efficiency elements of the project include upgrading lighting inside and outside city’s buildings, installing a solar water heating system for the community center pool, and improving the city’s HVAC systems. Not only will these projects save Golden money every year, but within about twelve years we will have saved more than the entire cost of the project and we will continue to experience long-term energy savings and lower energy bills. In fact, because Golden received the half-million dollar grant, the payback period has been substantially reduced.

Golden’s Historic Museums: Fiscal Responsibility in Tough Times

The City of Golden owns three historical museums and contracts with non-profits to operate them.  The contracts were all up at the end of 2008, and the City Council conducted an intensive, thorough, and transparent proposal process.  After considering an independent audit of the museums, evaluations of each proposal prepared by a Technical Review Committee made up of museum and nonprofit experts, and considerable public comment, the City Council decided to unify management of all three museums under a single non-profit.  One organization is upset that they didn’t get their contract renewed.

Read more . . .

Golden’s Noise Mitigation Program: Reducing Highway Noise Impacts on Golden’s Neighborhoods

For fifteen years now, the City of Golden has had the goal of reducing noise levels in those neighborhoods affected by highway noise. The City Council crafted Golden’s noise mitigation policy with more than 3,000 citizen comments. Noise mitigation is difficult. Despite the significant challenges, including cost, topography, and the Colorado Department of Transportation, we continue making progress, such as the earthen berm along the west side of Highway 93. After years of wrangling with CDOT, the state finally granted permission to build a noise mitigation wall on the east side of Highway 93 near Virginia St. It is a fully-functional and permanent demonstration project that will substantially reduce the noise levels in nearby neighborhoods while incorporating materials that allow light to pass through parts of the wall so that the adjacent homes aren’t shaded out. Everyone in Golden will have a chance to see how the wall, with its translucent panels, works in a tight space like the one up there and see how it might work in other parts of Golden.

Read more . . .

My Home: A Straightforward Transaction

In September of 2007 I bought my first home in Golden. It’s part of a four-unit condominium complex and the two upstairs units are nearly identical. The builder sold both, one to me and one to a young Golden couple, for exactly the same price – $190,000. The Jefferson County tax records show that my neighbors paid $5,000 more. As our respective contracts clearly show, that’s because the developer paid $5,000 of their closing costs, which they consequently added to the amount they paid the builder above the $190,000 for the condo itself. I simply paid my closing costs directly. In other words, I paid exactly the same amount as my neighbors did for a virtually identical unit. I’m very pleased to be a homeowner in Golden and I love the neighborhood as well.

The Facts About City Council Executive Sessions

Nearly all of the Golden City Council’s business is conducted in open meetings. The meetings are televised and livestreamed on the web, they are archived on the web and at the public library, and anyone can attend in person any of these meetings. In rare instances and only on a very restricted number of issues, the City Council needs to meet in executive session. These nearly always have to do with personnel matters, taking legal advice from the city’s attorney, or discussing legal negotiations, where meeting in open session would either be illegal or would harm the community’s interests. In 2007, Councilor Mary Weaver sued everyone else on the City Council and the City of Golden, claiming that the City Council wasn’t following the proper procedure. She filed this lawsuit against the City Council (including herself!) without ever once having asked Council to consider making changes. We settled the lawsuit, agreeing to review and consider refining our procedures. City Council promptly did so, and made a small modification to our executive session procedures as a result, which we would have done had she simply asked. Councilor Weaver voted against that change and subsequently attempted to undo the settlement, going back on her commitment in the settlement agreement and costing the Golden taxpayers even more money than the lawsuit wasted in the first place.

Read more . . .

Support for my Golden Mayoral Campaign: Broad and Bipartisan

When I ran for mayor in 2007, I knew it would be a tough race. One of my opponents was the well-respected incumbent mayor. Incumbents almost always have the advantage, and I knew I’d have to work hard and raise some money to communicate to everyone in Golden who I am, my track record, and my values. Marian Olson and the Voice of Golden ran a candidate as well – Mary Weaver – and spent $23,000 supporting her. I sent a letter to all of my friends and family asking them to support my campaign. Many of them did, and I thank them for their trust and support. I also received an extraordinary amount of support from Golden residents. More than twice as many Golden residents made contributions to my campaign than both of my opponents combined. In both of my City Council races and in my mayoral race I earned the broad support of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike precisely because my politics are common sense and pragmatic. Although reasonable people will disagree on issues, including some of the most important ones, we should be able to work through our differences of opinion, make decisions, and keep Golden moving forward.

Read more . . .

Funding for Jefferson County Schools

The City Council occasionally weighs in on regional or statewide issues when we believe the issue impacts Golden in a direct and significant way. For this reason, the City Council this fall passed a resolution in support of two bipartisan school funding measures. Both measures had widespread support from Democrats and Republicans, the business community, teachers, parents, and many others. The funding would have been used for school repairs, renovation of older schools, improving safety within the school district, expanding job skills and technical training, expanded math and science offerings, and other related expenses. The quality of our schools is a critical issue for Golden residents: many of our residents have kids in the school system and care a great deal that our schools are adequately funded, our property values are closely tied to the quality of our schools, the quality of neighborhoods is directly affected by the quality of our schools.

How do the city councilors treat members of the community with a wide diversity of perspectives?

Members of the city staff and the City Council work hard to treat everyone professionally and respectfully. Every regular business meeting of the City Council has a public comment period where anyone can make comments about any issue. If there are a larger number of people who wish to speak, I will usually adopt a strict time limit so that everyone gets an opportunity to speak and has the same amount of time as everyone else. City Council and City staff take all comments and suggestions seriously, and seriously consider all opinions offered by members of the community. However, on many issues, any decision that City Council could make will have support from some people and opposition from others. Most people will disagree with at least some of the decisions that the City Council makes, but our decision making is always transparent and respectful. The City Council and city staff’s obligations include listening to everyone who wants to weigh in, carefully considering all of the available information and all of the perspectives, and then using our best judgment to make decisions that are good for Golden even when members of the Golden community don’t agree on what the best answer is.

Does everybody always get what they want from city council?

Most people won’t agree with every single decision the City Council makes. On most important issues, in fact, the community itself is divided in its views. The City Council must carefully consider everyone’s perspective, but on most important decisions there will be people who agree with and disagree with the outcome.

My Day Job

I’ve worked in the non-profit world for about fifteen years now. I am currently the executive director of a small philanthropic foundation that supports education and conservation work. I work half-time and have a great deal of scheduling flexibility, which makes this a great day job to go along with my role as Golden’s mayor. Prior to my current employment, I founded and led a conservation group based in Denver. After nine years of growing the organization, creating jobs, and working to protect wildlife habitat across Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, I transitioned to my current job after become mayor.

The Voice of Golden’s Old Grudges

Marian and the Voice of Golden love to dig up their old grudges. Some of them have merit and some don’t. Either way, things that happened years ago don’t have anything to do with the current City Council.

Golden Vision 2030: Charting Our Own Course

The coming year will include a particularly important community process: Golden Vision 2030. We’ll be asking the entire Golden community to answer a deceptively complicated question: “What’s your vision for Golden in 2030?”

Why is this important? For one thing, despite our 1% residential growth limit, Golden will continue to experience growth pressure, both inside Golden and in the areas around our community. The Golden Vision 2030 process is a critical opportunity to shape those changes rather than have those changes simply happen to us.

Over the past couple of years we’ve already done some work that will help form the basis for our new Golden Vision 2030, such as our neighborhood plans, our Sustainability Initiative, and our Walkability, Bikeability, and Housing Affordability Task Forces. But most of the hard work is still ahead of us, and we’ll need to weave all of this together along with our commitment to sustained economic vitality, our social and cultural elements, and land use.

With financial support through a $100,000 grant from the Orton Family Foundation for our community visioning and planning process, we will energetically invite participation from everyone in the community. We are also creating a diverse “Local Advisory Committee” to help guide the process, which includes someone from the Chamber of Commerce, the Golden Cultural Alliance, the school district, Jefferson County, Colorado School of Mines, and a representative from each of most of the city’s boards and commissions.

If you have any opinions at all about the future of Golden – what you want Golden to be like in twenty years – then please participate in this important process. Stay tuned . . .

The Facts About City Council Executive Sessions

I have always strongly supported open government.  I believe the government should do its business transparently.  I was an advocate for televising City Council meetings, putting the entire City Council packet each week up on the city’s web site, and providing regular email communications to constituents to help keep folks in the community plugged in to what City Council is doing.  Nearly all of the Golden City Council’s business is conducted in open meetings – they are televised and livestreamed on the web, they are archived on the web and at the public library, and anyone can attend in person any of these meetings.  There are a very limited number of instances where the City Council needs to meet in Executive Sessions, nearly always having to do with personnel issues (which we can’t legally discuss in an open session) and taking legal advice from our attorney or discussing legal negotiations (where discussing the issue in open session would hurt the community’s interests).

The State Constitution, state law, and the City of Golden municipal code establish very strict rules on how City Council may enter into an executive session and very strict limits on what can be discussed during an executive session, and since I have served on the Council we have taken those rules and limits very seriously.  We are required to clearly indicate in advance what subjects the executive session will cover, for example, and are prohibited from discussing anything else at all.  And a judge can always review the tapes of an executive session to ensure that the City Council complied with these rules.

In 2007, Councilor Mary Weaver sued everyone else on the City Council and the City of Golden, claiming that the City Council wasn’t following the proper procedure.  She filed this lawsuit against the City Council (including herself!) without ever once having asked Council to consider making changes.  We settled the lawsuit, agreeing to review and consider refining our procedures.  City Council promptly did so, and made a small modification to our executive session procedures as a result, which we would have done had she simply asked.  Councilor Weaver voted against that change and subsequently attempted to undo the settlement, going back on her commitment in the settlement agreement and costing the Golden taxpayers even more money than the lawsuit wasted in the first place.