January 23, 2020

Jefferson County Education Funding on the November Ballot

The ballot in November will include a new education funding measure for Jefferson County schools, including a modest property tax increase and bonding. The estimates I’ve seen project an increase in property taxes of $1.23 per month per $100,000 of home market value.

In the face of the recession and the ongoing state budget disaster, Jeffco Schools have been really aggressive in cutting costs while trying to hold the line on the quality of the classroom education. But in doing so they’ve run through their reserves and I don’t think they have much else to cut without doing real long-term damage.

Jeffco Schools have also been more open than many school districts to experimenting with new approaches to teacher evaluation and compensation.

I’m pretty sure the school funding system is broken – schools rely largely on a state funding and property tax system that basically requires they go back to the voters on a regular basis for tax increases – and I’m hopeful that within a few years the state will tackle the larger dysfunction in the way we fund schools. In the meantime, though, Golden’s quality of life and property values, not to mention the prospects of our children, depend a lot on how strong our public schools are. I support this funding measure and hope the voters give Jeffco Schools a much-needed revenue stream.

You can get more info at the Citizens for Jeffco Schools website. Also, stayed tuned to Radio Golden; I’m guessing we’ll have a guest on this topic sometime before the elections.

And, by the way, huge congrats to Jeffco Schools for achieving the third best graduation rate in the country among the 50 largest school districts.

The June 7 City Council Meeting Agenda and Other Upcoming Events

June 1, First Friday Street Fair
It’s summertime in Golden … from 5 – 10pm in historic downtown Golden you’ll find inexpensive food, beer, music, kid-friendly entertainment, horse-drawn carriage rides, and more.

June 2, Coffee With a Councilor
You’ll find City Councilors from District 1 (South Golden), including Saoirse Charis-Graves and other members of the City Council at Read, Write and Brew starting at 9 a.m. It’s a great informal opportunity to chat with your City Council representatives about issues on the City Council agenda or whatever else is on your mind.

June 7, City Council Business Meeting
City Hall at 7 p.m. The agenda tentatively includes Economic Development Commission and Community Marketing Fund Stakeholder Committee appointments, design of the city’s new official flag, and potential changes to the rules on special permits for animals. You can view the agenda about a week before the meeting and watch the live screencast on the city’s website.

June 14, City Council Business Meeting
City Hall at 7 p.m.

June 22, Golden Schools Foundation First Annual Golf Tournament
This fundraiser for Golden Schools Foundation is up at Fossil Trace with breakfast and registration starting at 6:30am and the shotgun start at 7:30am.

Through June 29, U.S. 6 Closure
U.S. 6 through Clear Creek Canyon is closed now every Sunday night through Friday morning for a fiber optic cable installation and work on rockfall issues. The project is scheduled to run through June 29.

Radio Golden #5: the beltway, Golden’s charter schools, tobacco, & more!

Episode 5 of Radio Golden is in the wild … I wasn’t able to join this time, but Pamela and Matt covered the beltway bill, what’s happening at the community garden, the tobacco regulation measure that City Council just passed, and more. They also had an interesting and provocative conversation with Jami Boarman, the principle of one of Golden’s public charter schools.

On the Next Radio Golden: An Interview With Retired Golden High Principal Mike Murphy

Radio Golden episode #2 is coming … we are recording at the end of the week and should have the episode online by Saturday morning. Our guest: retired Golden High School principal Mike Murphy. We’ll chat about what’s going well at Golden High, the challenges ahead, opportunities for the city to support Golden’s schools, and some of the persistent challenges around drugs and alcohol. Tune in through the Radio Golden website.

All right, so you can’t actually “tune-in” exactly, since it’s not a live-stream (yet), but you can listen directly on the Radio Golden website after it’s posted, you can download the mp3s, or you can subscribe to Radio Golden through iTunes.

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.

The Golden Municipal Election 2011: My Recommendations

It’s that time of year . . .

Ballots for this year’s election are in the mail, and many folks around Golden have already received them. For your ballot and your vote to count, your ballot must be received by 7pm on Tuesday, November 1. I think it’s safe to mail it until October 27, but after that I strongly recommend that you hand deliver it to either Golden City Hall or the Jefferson County Government Complex.

You can drop your ballot off at Golden City Hall (911 10th St.) anytime from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. on Election Day (Tuesday, November 1). You can drop your ballot off at the county building 24 hours a day until 7 p.m. on Election Day (during the day you can drop it off inside, and the ballot box drive-through is accessible 24 hours a day.

If you are registered to vote and don’t receive your ballot within a few days, you can either visit one of Jefferson County’s Service Centers or call them at 303-271-8111.

Golden residents get to vote on five issues: the mayor’s race, one City Council race (which one depends on which part of town you live in), two School Board races, and Proposition 103 (school funding).

My recommendations:

Mayor of Golden: Marjorie Sloan has my unequivocal, energetic, and enthusiastic endorsement. Marjorie has lived in Golden with her husband Dendy for 35 years, she’s found an impressive balance between embracing the new while respecting Golden’s rich historical legacy, and she has an exceptional track record during her time on the City Council. During the four years we’ve served together on the City Council, she has distinguished herself as hard working, thoughtful, and deeply committed to protecting Golden’s quality of life. She will make a great mayor.

City Council, Southern District (District 1): I am supporting Saoirse Charis-Graves in the District 1 City Council race. As everyone who knows Saoirse will tell you, she is passionate about supporting the Golden community. She has established herself with an impressive record of community involvement and volunteerism. Saoirse has also worked hard to become knowledgeable about the myriad issues facing Golden and City Council – you’ll often find her at City Council meetings and community events – so she’ll be able to hit the ground running in January. Finally, she’s been a strong champion on sustainability and on government accountability and transparency, issues that I care a great deal about.

City Council, Northern District (District 2): I recommend voting for Marcie Miller. Marcie has a long family history in Golden, has owned small businesses in Golden for decades (including the Higher Grounds coffee shop before Jeff bought it), and is a long-time supporter of arts and culture in Golden. I know her opponent, Steve Gallant, and believe he’s done a good job on the Historic Preservation Board, but that’s his only real community service that I’m aware of. Marcie, by contrast, has a long list of community volunteer contributions over the years, spanning organizations like Golden Landmarks Association, the Jefferson Symphony, and Foothills Art Center, not to mention her previous service on the City Council.

One issue of particular importance to me is the Golden Sustainability Initiative. We’ve made strong progress in some areas since we adopted the Initiative in 2007, but as I wrote in the Golden Transcript a week ago we have some work still to do.

I’m pleased to say that all three of the candidates I’m supporting – Marjorie Sloan, Saoirse Charis-Graves, and Marcie Miller – unequivocally expressed their support for the Golden Sustainability Initiative crafted by Golden’s residents and formally adopted by the Golden City Council. Steve Gallant emailed me to express support generally for sustainability and reducing energy use by the city, which I appreciate (although it’s not the same as supporting the community initiative). I asked the same question of the other two candidates but haven’t heard back yet. Also, for all the right reasons, the Golden Transcript endorsed the same three candidates: Marjorie Sloan, Saoirse Charis-Graves, and Marcie Miller.

Proposition 103 (school funding): Proposition 103 would result in modest, short-term tax increases directed at improving funding for our K-12 schools. The changes really are modest (state sales tax would go up from 2.9% to 3.0% and state income tax would increase from 4.63% to 5%) and they would expire in five years. I’ve spent a lot of time in Golden’s schools during my four years as mayor, working with our teachers, principals, parents, and students to support their important work and to understand better the challenges and solutions faced by our K-12 system. Although I don’t believe that improving funding for schools is a panacea – the challenges facing our education system are bigger than just funding – it’s still clear that continued school funding declines are making it extremely difficult for even our best teachers and principals to give our kids the education they deserve. My recommendation is to vote yes on Proposition 103.

Jefferson County School Board: Unfortunately, the School Board race in Jefferson County has become an extremely ideological fight, and from my perspective the choice is really clear. I strongly encourage you to vote for Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper. I know them both and can report that they are thoughtful, pragmatic, and committed to educational excellence. Their opponents, on the other hand, seem intent to advancing an ideological agenda modeled on the recent fight in Douglas County. I think if Jill or Lesley don’t win their races, the odds are quite good that we’ll lose Cindy Stevenson as the Jeffco Schools Superintendent (which would be a tremendous loss for Golden’s schools and Golden’s kids) and that Jeffco Schools will end up in a nasty, expensive, and protracted legal fight much like what’s happening in Douglas County. I am a strong supporter of improving our public schools . . . improve accountability, improve governance, improve resources . . . but I also believe in keeping the ideological fights out of our school board, instead focusing on pragmatic solutions to improving education for our kids. I am supporting Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper.

The Emperor v. The Weavers: A Victory for Education

The view from the judge's bench of the many proud parents in the courtroom.

Jury duty isn’t usually something you look forward to, and it’s usually solemn rather than fun, but a week ago I participated on the jury of an unusual trial that turned out to be a highlight of the week: Kyffin 6th graders played the part of the prosecution, defense, judge, and bailiff in the case of the Emperor (who was upset about parading naked while he thought was was wearing a magic suit) v. the weavers (who manufactured this suit). Rep. Max Tyler and I and a bunch of parents made up the jury. Verdict: we found the weavers not guilty on the count of theft, but the jury hung on the count of fraud (we couldn’t reach unanimity on whether the weavers were in the clear because the Emperor accepted the suit, or was he deceived). The kids did a tremendous job, and my hat is off to their teacher, to Kyffin, and to my fellow jurors.

Entire Golden Community Honored for Backpack Program

Last week I had the exciting privilege of accepting a District Rotary Club award on behalf of the entire Golden community for our exceptional Backpack Program.  The Backpack Program tackles head on a rarely discussed but critical problem: if kids are hungry or undernourished, they aren’t likely to perform as well in school.  My view on this is pretty simple: every kid ought to have a fair shake at success in school and in life.  What they do with that opportunity is up to them, but as a community we should work to make sure they all have a fair shot.  It turns out that hundreds of kids in Golden area schools live in homes with low enough incomes that they aren’t able to get enough – or nutritious enough – food.  Enter Peggy Halderman and many of her Golden Rotary colleagues, who catalyzed the program now providing 250 Golden area kids with supplemental food.  Peggy received a Mayor’s Award for Excellence last December for her incredible work building the Backpack Program and organizing such a broad community response, which now includes support from dozens of volunteers, the Golden Family of Churches Health Ministry, and others.

At our City Council meeting on Thursday night, we’ll take a few minutes to formally recognize this new award and for City Council to formally accept it.

Town Hall Meeting on Jeffco School Funding

Golden’s delegation to the state legislature – Senator Moe Keller and Representative Max Tyler – held a town hall meeting at Golden City Hall a week ago. They were joined by Jeffco School Board members Laura Boggs (Golden’s representative), Dave Thomas (the chair of the school board), and Jane Barnes. Some key points:

  • Many local schools avoided closure on this most recent round of budget cuts but there are very steep cuts still ahead.
  • Jeffco built up very strong reserves, but they are now faced with the difficult choice of spending down the reserves to keep schools open and retain class size (which only works if the economy recovers quickly, before the reserves are entirely spent down), or making more cuts now so that the reserve last longer.
  • In addition to tackling the budget cuts, Jeffco is focusing heavily on retention and graduation rates.

Golden's State Representative Max Tyler.

Jeffco School Board President Dave Thomas.

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 . . .