April 28, 2017

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Golden’s Economic Future Presents its Final Report to Council

During last week’s study session, members of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Golden’s Economic Future presented their final report to City Council.

I think the most important conclusion from the panel’s report is also the starkest: the cost of doing everything that we in Golden have identified as our vision for the future far exceeds the revenue we are likely to have available to pay for it. The city will presumably continue to find new efficiencies, and I’m sure we’ll continue finding clever ways to do more with less, such as the public-private partnerships that produced the Golden Community Garden and the Bike Skills Park. But the gap between what we want and what it will cost to provide all of that is in the tens of millions of dollars; there is no way to avoid the uncomfortable fact that in the coming years we will either have to scale back our ambitions, increase our revenues, or a combination of both.

Council’s direction to the group (I was one of the 11 members) was very explicit: brainstorm a wide range of ideas for reducing expenses, increasing revenues, and otherwise closing the gap between the cost of the community’s vision and the resources available to implement it. We were directed not to evaluate or prioritize those ideas, but instead just focus on creating a diverse list of potential options. The ideas range from modest to extreme, and from simple to very politically charged. The panel was pretty diverse in terms of politics and perspective, and we had some vigorous discussions about the challenges facing the city and some of the ways we might tackle those challenges, but in the end we agreed to present Council with an expansive list of ideas.

It’s important to emphasize that the panel isn’t endorsing any of the ideas we presented. In fact, our individual reaction to each of the ideas varied widely, and in many instances people felt they couldn’t evaluate specific ideas, anyway, without a great deal more information and analysis. City Council asked us to come up with a wide-ranging list of brainstormed ideas; that we did.

On August 16, City Council is scheduled to formally accept the panel’s report. The next steps are up to City Council, but expect they’ll take some time to digest it and then figure out a good way to kick off a bigger community conversation about these issues. Learn more about the panel and download the final report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Golden’s Economic Future.

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 Adopts 2011 Priorities

On Thursday night City Council formally adopted priorities for 2011.  This is generally a continuation of the priorities we established last year, but it’s worth formally identifying them to help us stay focused and help keep the community informed about what we are focused on.

We adopted five major priorities:

1) Protecting the city’s financial health and sustaining the community’s economic vitality.

2) Supporting and strengthening our neighborhoods (“The Year of the Neighborhood”), including implementing our new neighborhood grant program, completing pending neighborhood plans, and considering all of the policy recommendations in the adopted ones.

3) Maintaining our aggressive efforts to keep the beltway out of Golden and working to protect Golden from the impacts of growing regional through the Golden Plan or similar improvements.

4) Updating the Comprehensive Plan and revamping/updating the land use process to give neighborhoods a stronger voice in shaping their own future and to make the process less adversarial and combative.

5) Revisiting and updating the city’s long-term streets plan.

Other 2011 priorities include:

1) Making sure Golden is ready for light rail in 2013, including our own community bus.

2) Adopting a preliminary strategic transportation plan (in advance of preparing a thorough one in 2012).

3) Finalize our new performance evaluation system for the city and city manager, including performance metrics

4) Review and update the long-term plans for the city’s major recreational facilities.

5) Update the city’s economic development tools, structures, and strategies. This may extend into 2012.

6) Support the Quiznos Pro Challenge Professional Bicycle Race.

And some additional 2011 projects:

1) CSM Master Plan (although the timing is up to Colorado School of Mines).

2) Clear Creek Master Plan.

3) Evaluate and consider sewer/waterline insurance. DONE – Council decided to educate community members about the value of having this insurance but not to enter into a special agreement with any specific insurance providers.

4) Consider adjusting the cost of special use permits for chickens. DONE – Council reduced the special use permit fee for keeping up to six hens.

5) Evaluate and potentially update the strategy for managing amplified outdoor music.

6) Evaluate and consider updating traffic fine schedule.

7) Evaluate and consider updating leash laws.

8) Initiate long-term city financial health evaluation.

9) Evaluate and update medical marijuana regulations.

10) Update noise mitigation priorities.

11) Complete the City of Golden web site revamp.

12) Further development, testing, and training on the new Emergency Operations Plan (primarily staff).

13) Plan for major software updates (finance, planning, police, fire, courts) (primarily

14) Major public works projects: South Reservoir and office building reconstruction (primarily staff).

15) East Downtown Vision and Plan (potentially).

Golden Vision Community Summit: Wednesday June 9

The Golden Vision 2030 project is our best shot at shaping change in the community rather than simply having change happen to us. We’ve seen an incredible community response so far to the project, with many hundreds of residents weighing in with their thoughts about community values, growth, parks and open space, sustainability, and just about everything else. At this next community forum on Wednesday evening, we’ll focus on a number of specific areas including:

  • What would you like the South Golden Road area to look like in ten or twenty years?
  • What are your priorities for the city’s budget? If some of the financial initiatives on the ballot in November pass, we are likely to see drastic budget cuts in Golden. If that happens, what should we keep? What should we cut?
  • What is your vision for the area near the new light rail station? How do we protect the nearby residential neighborhoods? What sort of development might be appropriate on the nearby undeveloped land? How we make sure the light rail station best serves Golden’s needs and interests?

The evening lineup includes keypad polling, a chance to meet your neighbors, and refreshments. Please join if you can at Golden High School from 6 – 9 p.m.

Golden Vision 2030 Wins Silver Award for Community Engagement

At an awards ceremony on Wednesday night, Golden and our Golden Vision 2030 process were recognized by the Denver Regional Council of Governments with a Silver Award for the quality of our community engagement. It’s been an amazing effort so far guided by a simple premise: instead of asking the community to come to City Hall, city staff and City Council went out into the community. Some highlights:

  • More than 800 community members attended eight neighborhood block parties last summer, and hundreds more provided input through other non-traditional meetings with city staff.
  • We recorded more than 350 video interviews of Goldenites sharing their thoughts about the community and its future.
  • Neighborhood block parties connected residents with free services, such as bicycle tune-ups and veterinary care, while also providing opportunities for neighbors to make connections.

Special kudos go to city staffers Steve Glueck, Theresa Worsham, and Nancy York for their hard work and creativity, and to the Orton Family Foundation for their expertise and support.

I made a video with my mobile phone of the very short (42 seconds) presentation on our community engagement award:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/11341622]

Golden Vision 2030 Community Summit Rescheduled: May 11

Although we had a surprisingly good turnout at the last Community Summit given the weather, we had to send everyone home early so that folks wouldn’t get stuck in the parking lot. We’ve rescheduled this important event for May 11 from 6 – 9 p.m. at Golden High School. What should you expect at the Community Summit?

  • innovative hands-on tools . . . keypad polling . . . fun and results-oriented activity
  • experiencing the wisdom of the crowd . . . every voice counts
  • identifying Golden’s “heart and soul” values
  • organizing the incredible amount of community input we’ve already received during the Golden Vision 2030 process

And did I mention that many of Golden’s best restaurants will again be providing free food?

Jacob's Golden Update: Mountain Bike Skills Park and Other News

Jacob’s Golden Update: March 16, 2010

1. Mountain Bike Skills Park Gets the Green Light
2. Golden Vision Summit: March 23
3. Jackson Street Corridor: Additional Refinements
4. City Council Supports Renewable Energy Bills
5. 2010 Census Kicks Off
6. Shelton Elementary’s Big Heart
7. i-Neighbors: Beverly Heights
8. Jacob’s Golden Blog Roundup
9. Other Upcoming Events
10. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, April 8
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Jacob’s Golden Update: Mountain Bike Skills Park and Other News

Jacob’s Golden Update: March 16, 2010

1. Mountain Bike Skills Park Gets the Green Light
2. Golden Vision Summit: March 23
3. Jackson Street Corridor: Additional Refinements
4. City Council Supports Renewable Energy Bills
5. 2010 Census Kicks Off
6. Shelton Elementary’s Big Heart
7. i-Neighbors: Beverly Heights
8. Jacob’s Golden Blog Roundup
9. Other Upcoming Events
10. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, April 8
[Read more...]

New Partners for Smart Growth Conference

Last week I traveled on my employer’s dime (not the city’s) to Seattle for the annual New Partners for Smart Growth conference. The conference participants generally included government staff and elected representatives, private sector planning consultants, and non-profits. The conference spanned a range of issues, including transit, walkability, Safe Routes to School, better land use planning, integrating land use and transportation planning, and community sustainability.

I already mentioned HUD’s $100 million grant program on my Facebook page [http://bit.ly/bR3YKR]; here are some other highlights:

A panel of folks from small towns discussing some of the strategies they’ve used to deal with growth, including widespread “zombie subdivisions” (subdivisions with high foreclosure rates and lots of empty homes, and subdivisions where the project goes under before the roads, homes, and infrastructure are completed).

A “Safe Routes to School” panel highlighting projects across the country. Some recent findings:
• Substantially more parents drive their kids to school in the morning than in the afternoon, meaning there may be a good opportunity to increase the number of kids walking and biking in the morning.
• The highest levels of walking and biking occur among 5th and 6th graders.
• The two biggest issues are the distance to the school and safe crosswalks.
• The biggest distance threshold seems to be in the ¼ to ½ mile ballpark.
• Photo radars for speeding in school zones often make a big difference.
• Some communities have a “Walking School Bus” where kids and their parents all walk to school together.

Golden has a Safe Routes to School program, and we’ve made progress in recent years with projects like the Kimball/Crawford pedestrian improvements. We’ve got more to do, though, with the Jackson Street Corridor project queued up and the North Washington project (to improve safety for schoolkids crossing Washington north of the 58 bridge) after that.

More and more communities are doing regional food system studies, looking at how much of a community’s food is produced locally versus imported from more distant areas and how to make it easier for local agricultural producers to sell in local markets.

A local Seattle group called CityLab7 tried an interesting collaborative experiment: they invited conference participants to join them at Pike Street Market, they purchased food together (spending a lot of time talking to vendors to understand how and where the food was produced), and they prepared supper together with the help of a nearby deli. They had more food than they needed, so they invited passers-by to join as well, and had what sounds like a wide-ranging discussion about sustainability, climate change, and food.

I’m not enamored of the “smart growth” moniker, and the term’s accumulated baggage doesn’t help either (for low income communities and for communities of color smart growth often means gentrification). But there are many, many communities around the country dealing with challenges that are similar to ours, and the underlying ideas of the Smart Growth community are important: how do we preserve the character of our neighborhoods and our downtown even as they change, how do we help ensure that communities stay vital and healthy, how do we make sure our land use and our transportation planning complement each other, how do we ensure that neighborhoods are effectively connected with one another and that communities are connected with other communities?

Too often communities like ours end up reacting to changes within and in the region instead of having our own vision for our own future, and we end up reacting to proposals by developers instead of the other way around. Our Golden Vision 2030 process and our neighborhood plans are fundamentally about making sure that we are clear about our vision so that we can chart our own course.

Jacob's Golden Update: Golden's New Transit Feasibility Study and Other News

Jacob’s Golden Update: November 28, 2009

1. Golden’s New Transit Feasibility Study
2. Jackson Street Corridor Project in the Works
3. New Email Newsletters Serving Golden
4. Council Adopts 2009 Building Code Including Radon Protections
5. Golden Vision 2030: Listening to the Community’s Stories
6. New State Transportation Funding
7. Rocky Mountain Deaf School Wins Approval for New High School
8. Adopting the 2010 Budget
9. Cindy Stevenson Awarded “Superintendent of the Year”
10. Other Upcoming Events
11. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, December 3

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