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.