October 20, 2018

Jacob's Golden Update 11/17/08: City Council Votes to Keep Holiday Displays and Other News

 1. City Council Votes to Keep Holiday Displays
2. North Neighborhoods Plan Meeting This Week
3. City Council Expresses Support for FasTracks and for South Golden Neighborhoods
4. City Asks Courts to Resolve Museum Ownership Disagreement
5. Americans with Disabilities Act Review
6. Golden Fire Department Receives National Award
7. Campaign Election Board Vacancies
8. Other Upcoming Events
9. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, December 4

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Jeffco Candidate Forum on Transportation Issues: Sept. 25

In case you hadn’t already heard, Plan Jeffco, CINQ, and a host of other groups are hosting a Jefferson County Candidate’s Forum on Transportation issues on Monday, September 25 from 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. The invited candidates include folks running in gubernatorial, county commission, congressional, and state legislative races. Issues on the agenda include the proposed superhighway through Golden, the I-70 mountain corridor, proposed toll lanes on C-470, and mass transit issues. You can also read the candidates’ responses to PLAN Jeffco’s transportation questionnaire on the PLAN Jeffco web site [although I can’t find it on their site, so if anyone has the direct link please post it as a comment to this blog post]. Some of the confirmed participants include Ed Perlmutter and Rick O’Donnell (running in the 7th Congressional District, which includes Golden) and Kathy Hartman and Dave Auburn (running for County Commission in Jeffco).

The forum is at the American Mountaineering Center (710 Tenth Street) in Golden. Admission is free.

DRCOG Annual Retreat

Diane Chesbro and I attended the annual board retreat of the Denver Regional Council of Governments this weekend (Friday evening and Saturday).  I serve on the board and Diane is Golden's board alternate.  The board, as you may know, is made up of one elected representative from each of the cities and counties in the region.  One of the more interesting discussions had to do with finding funding for key transportation needs in the Denver Metro region.  One of the more popular ideas is the creation of a Denver Metro Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).  This would basically be a special district created for the purpose of imposing a new tax specifically to raise money for transportation projects.  Of course the residents of the special district area would have to vote in favor of creating the RTA, and Jefferson County residents don't seem especially supportive of new taxes (except for open space).

That said, if the proponents could clearly identify the specific projects to be funded and if the voters thought those projects were important enough maybe they would approve it.  Of course our major concern in Golden would be ensuring that none of these funds could be used for the superhighway, but I think I would also want to see a reasonable proportion of the funding allocated to transit projects (additional light rail stations, improved bus service, and the like).

Other ideas discussed by the DRCOG board included increasing the state gas tax, creating some sort of "miles traveled" tax, improving Colorado's share of the federal transportation pie (or getting more earmarks for key Colorado projects), and tolling.  It will be very interesting to see which of these ideas get the most traction and how they begin to take shape.  My role on the DRCOG board is to both promote good regional solutions to regional challenges like transportation but also to ensure that Golden's interests are protected.

The Jefferson County Commissioners, incidentally, are considering doing a county-wide RTA.  I believe they will soon be asking Golden City Council for our support.  I don't have a position on it yet, but can say definitively I would not support an RTA that didn't include a legally-binding assurance that the funds could not be used for the superhighway.

Open Space, Ref. C, and Bus Terminals

Late last week I attended a briefing, hosted by the Transit Alliance, on the Union Station project in downtown Denver. I will tell you I think it's an amazingly cool project which will integrate local city buses, regional buses, light rail, Amtrack, Greyhound and other bus services, and every other kind of transit you can think of under one roof. Although I will be sad to see all the open space of the South Platte Valley (near LoDo in downtown Denver) vanish, if they pull this off it will be urban infill done right, and the entire Denver region will benefit from the incredible transit center that Union Station becomes. They just released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in case you want to dig into the details, but if you are more interested in the quick overview of what it will all look like I suggest RTD's power point presentation.Union Station has a lengthy history, and as best I can tell the project will do a good job of preserving its historic character and the large, open plaza despite the substantial expansion of the building and the complex.

This week I attended the TransitWest meeting and learned more about efforts on the I-70 corridor to push CDOT to consider something other than their typical "maximum asphalt" solution to congestion.

I also attended a briefing sponsored by the Bell Policy Center and a large bipartisan group of state legislators. They offered the clearest explanation of the state budget process I've ever heard, and made very clear that they are honoring their promises during the Ref. C campaign regarding how the legislature would spend Ref. C funds. The take-home message was pretty clear: Ref. C is allowing the state to tread water with respect to many critical programs like community colleges and other higher education funding needs, services for the mentally ill and the poor, transportation projects, K-12 education, and health care. I asked the distinguished panel (which included Senate Majority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald, our own State Senator Moe Keller, and our own State House Representative Gwyn Green) where in this process they would establish reasonable sideboards on their transportation funding to ensure that CDOT appropriately prioritizes funding for transit and appropriately considers the needs of local communities before ramming careless, ineffective, and expensive projects down their throats. No one had a particularly satisfying answer ("this is just the appropriations process and those are policy questions"), although to Representative Green's credit she did politely point out the way in which many in the state legislature defer to CDOT's arm twisting. I think decisions about appropriations are policy decisions, and the legislature has a responsibility to ensure that CDOT and all other state agencies spend the taxpayers money appropriately.

Finally, this evening I attended Plan Jeffco's annual banquet, which was in part a celebration of the protection of the Ralston property and some adjacent land owned by the Mt. Vernon Country Club. Lots of folks deserve credit for pulling off the deal, including the Northwoodside Foundation, Clear Creek Land Conservancy, Jefferson County Open Space, Mt. Vernon Country Club, and of course Plan Jeffco. I like celebrations, and celebrating the protection of important open space is particularly satisfying.

Save Money on Gas . . .

If you commute or drive your kids to school you may be interested in knowing more about DRCOG’s “RideArrangers.” RideArrangers offers help arranging vanpools, carpools, and schoolpools (to share the responsibility of driving your kids to school). They help businesses develop telecommuting programs allowing employees to work from home full-time, a few days a week, or once in a while. Finally, for folks who participate in these programs, RideArrangers also offers the Guaranteed Ride Home program, which guarantees a free taxi ride home from work if an emergency arises on a day that you carpool, vanpool, or use transit.

RideArrangers also sponsors Bike to Work Day (this year on June 28).

To get information on bus and transit routes, schedules, and fares, visit the RTD web site.

The Denver Region Comes Up Short on Transporation Dollars

This morning I joined Mayor Baroch and Councilor Karen Oxman at the elected officials briefing sponsored by the Colorado Department of Transportation. CDOT staff gave updates on some west side projects although most won’t have any direct impact on Golden. More interestingly, Jennifer Schaufele, the executive director of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, sparred a bit with CDOT director Tom Norton over the allocation of transportation dollars across the state. When CDOT started spending money on highway projects at the beginning of the fiscal year (last fall), CDOT staff apparently forgot about their obligation (through Memoranda of Understanding with DRCOG and other regional planning organizations) to equitably distribute transportation dollars across regions of the state. They also seem to have forgotten about their legal obligation to allocate 10% of Senate Bill 1 funds to transit projects. The result is that they are now likely to short the Denver region on transportation dollars by as much as $30 million, and are proposing to allocate the transit dollars (more than $20 million) by cutting that out of the Denver region as well. Jennifer was very clear that DRCOG is unhappy with coming up short by as much as $50 million, and Tom Norton was equally clear that he didn’t much care. As Lorraine Anderson of the Arvada City Council, who sits on the COG board, pointed out during the briefing, COG seems very willing to be flexible (e.g., accept a shortfall this year if CDOT makes up for it next year), but Norton and CDOT seem pretty fixed on violating the agreement that was supposed to ensure a fair sharing of transportation dollars.

Of course there is always a concern about CDOT getting enough money to fund the beltway, but it’s in tension with some very real transportation needs including transit projects. I’ll write more on the beltway fight soon, but suffice it to point out for now how interesting it is that CDOT is picking real fights with Aurora, Douglas County, and communities on the I-70 corridor over what seem to me to be essentially the same issue: CDOT deciding it wants to build something and insisting on making it happen regardless of how it affects the local community, or what the local community’s transportation needs actually are.

DRCOG, if you don’t know, is made up of representatives from 52 local governments across the Denver Metro region. Although its highest profile role is regional transportation planning – most federal transportation dollars to the Denver region have to run through the DRCOG planning process – it also runs strong programs on regional growth planning (the Metro Vision 2030 plan), water and air quality, services for older residents of the region, and public safety programs. I represent Golden on the DRCOG board of directors and serve on the policy committee (known as the Metro Vision Issues Committee).