This forum is a sounding board for a range of issues facing eastern Boulder County. I will prompt discussions with my posts and elected officials can tap into the concerns of citizens here, and explain their rationale on decisions. Follow along with the latest discussion by checking the list of recent comments on the right. You can comment with your name, a nickname or anonymously if you wish. You can become a contributor as well. Thank you for your comments!
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Friday, November 30, 2007

So Weird...

The comments under New Mayor For Lafayette demonstrate the saddest side of blogging. The open forum combined with anonymity has degenerated to an inane waste of time for all, and driven away the bulk of interesting commenters. To what end? Why bother pushing a debate forum to voluntary extinction? It's just so weird....

Update - I've removed the commenting function from Intense Debate, which removed the last couple weeks' comments completely. If you weren't reading then, you didn't miss anything valuable.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

County Building Regs Coming Around Again

The Boulder County Commissioners will be vetting the details to the new residential remodel/construction regulations next month; the Board of Review discussed the topic last night regarding the BuildSmart program. I support the zero waste aspects that will have deconstructed material reused if possible or otherwise recycled somehow. Homes over 3000 sq feet will need to produce 50% of their energy from on-site renewable energy sources; 5000 sq ft homes will need to produce 100% of their energy from renewable sources within a year (See page 5 here). The energy use standards are measured with the HERS standard.

So, is such an energy use/production requirement a de facto moratorium on large homes? I'm starting to change my mind, as builders describe the possibilities with current technology. But there's still a heavy handed and hence inappropriate feeling I get seeing the government require such aspects of home construction. It's the sense that there's a resentment over the size of the home itself, and the energy efficiency is the secondary but ostensibly primary reason for the rules. This is all just perception based on side comments I hear from supporters of the rules. A "Who needs a house that big?! Make 'em pay, then." kind of sentiment.

A public hearing on BuildSmart will be held at 5 p.m. Dec. 18.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Mayor In Lafayette

Last night the Lafayette City Council elected Chris Cameron as the new MAyor to replace term limited Mayor Chris Berry. David Strungis retained his Pro-Tem spot, after an initial tie with new Councilor Alex Schatz. A strong showing for a brand new Councilor, who was also up against incumbent Jay Ruggeri for the spot. In a three-way vote, Ruggeri received none?

What will Cameron's leadership be like? similar in tone to Berry's; that is I expect a calm respectful tone even in light of challenging topics and rambling public participation screeds.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Swapping Space

Tonight Lafayette's City Council will decide whether or not to approve a lease swapping agreement with the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber would move into vacated space in City Hall left by the Police Dept, and the City will get the Chamber's digs on South Public Road.

When this first was discussed on November 6 (election night) citizen Brian Herzfeld spoke in opposition to the whole deal; the perception of impropriety at least may be a violation of the city's ethics ordinance. I don't think it goes that far, and the City perceives the old town space it would gain as being a new option for community gatherings.

The Council can set up a legal, technically sound agreement. But the relationship with the Chamber will raise eyebrows in a way that may not be worth it politically. The whole set up will be described though the grapevine in less and less accurate, context-less ways: "Did you hear the Council gave the Chamber free rent in City Hall?" and all the presumably nefarious aspects of having business advocates so close to city staff. We'll see if they approve it; I hear that is likely.

Should Chambers of Commerce and a city have such a close relationship? Absolutely, especially in a town of Lafayette's size. Economic development concerns are going to be expressed to city staff and leadership wherever the Chamber is located, the terms of the lease aren't any kind of sweetheart deal, and showing support for the business community's collective efforts via the Chamber is a worthwhile effort. Take a look at the Chamber's membership. Is this a group of companies whose collective motives are at odds with Lafayette's small town feel?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Louisville's New Corporate Citizen Is...?

The speculation over who has purchased the StorageTek/Sun property in Louisville surrounds big high-tech names like Google and Apple. While the price of $60 million for the 440-acre campas seems to be accepted, I'm interested in how the Louisville Comprehensive Plan update process with address the potential of the property. Louisville has made it clear they don't want more residential development, and any commercial redevelopment will hear the screams of growth needing to "pay its own way" (as if residential even comes close to the same premise).

The current Comp Plan identifies the area as potential retail and commercial space, (known as the Southeast Plateau) and the sheer size of the development plus its great location is definitely of concern to Boulder's aging downtown space. To the extent FasTracks can become a factor (bus rapid transit is the option) this area has great potential for the city, if they choose to accept it.
I'm hearing Apple is a good guess. I'm curious if Crocs has an interest in such a location, even though their manufacturing is scattered around the globe. Or, it is some deep-pocketed Class A space developer with a long horizon. Much like Broomfield and Longmont used to pick off Boulder's discards, a Southeast Plateau development can tag onto Broomfield's focused recruitment efforts.

Outgoing and Re-entering

Today's Camera had an interview with outgoing Lafayette Mayor Chris Berry, who has hinted at further political aspirations at the state level. This isn't new info, just a reiteration of his interests in the civic realm. I would expect we will see Chris back in the public eye again within the year, unless the comfort of "regular" life outside elected office is stronger that he anticipated.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just Testing Ya

Swapping Chamber/City Hall leases in Lafayette.

Revenue Sharing Options narrowed in Boulder County.

Louisville's StorageTek property redevelopment.

Superior's mailbox rules (sorry, the best I could find...)

Erie's impact fees.

Longmont's lodging tax passes this time.

Any ideas? I've brought up the commenting function again; it has some bugs I need to work out. Please comment away!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm Not The Only One Wondering...

I found today's print edition of the Camera's editorial section very interesting, as both attributed and anonymous sources have commented on the issue of whether anonymous blog and other internet postings are helpful or hurtful to public debate.

Given my recent experience with my blog, I found a few articulate defenders of the policy of allowing anonymous posts. I also felt a few people nailed the reasons why on balance such posts are not worthwhile. A few samples:

"I post anonymously because some years ago, in a different online forum, someone took such umbrage at my comments (under my real name) that he figured out where I worked, and attempted to get me in trouble with my employer. None of the accusations he made were true, of course, but I still had to defend myself, take my time, and my supervisor's time, to address his charges. He later gloated that he could make my real life a mess - just because he couldn't successfully debate me online." - moniker: derecho64 .

"EVERYTHING on the INTERNET blogs/comment boards is "anonymous". It's the nature of the media. You'd have to be one deluded fool to believe that just because someone claims to be John Doe online, and asserts that John Doe is their true identity, that said poster really is John Doe." - moniker: Reality_Check.

"Blogging in general is addictive, and anonymity in particular is a crutch. To speak up anonymously is important for those in vulnerable situations such as working for a hostile employer or being targeted by a criminal. Anonymity is the game of the predatory minded when they go sniping — which is to harm someone from a position of cover. But for most, the risk of writing anonymously on a routine basis is to lure oneself into thinking it is done for personal or political “safety.” The ultimate face of anonymity is the hooded jihadist. Few bloggers, named or anonymous, are self disciplined. They give in to the haste that is the hallmark of blogging, and by misstating and then attacking others’ remarks, they put up straw-man arguments that ignite cycles of anger that go round and round. That’s addictive." (Read more by Anne Butterfield, a member of the Camera's editorial advisory Board.)

"The good side of this virtual war of words is stones don’t actually hit bodies. The bad side is that in this virtual world, victims still fall. Heading the list of victims is truth, fairness and civil discourse. Particularly when participants post anonymously but not solely when they do, discourse is much harsher and emotional rather than civil and thoughtful. Rules of decorum in only some places hold off ad hominem attacks, obscenities, lies and the like." (Read more by Shirley Scoville, a member of the Camera's editorial advisory Board.)

The Camera also provides several links to articles about the general topic of the worthiness of anonymity on the internet.

Now it figures with my new blog template I'm having trouble having the comment function re-activated. As I post this I'm going to be working on making this post a "live" debate as in the past with the comments function.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good and Bad in Lafayette

The Lafayette City Council is mulling the SWOT analysis presented by Community Development Director Bonnie Star last week which identified a range of issues affecting the city from an economic point of view. I would add to the Threats/Weaknesses column a point regarding the specific debt items guaranteed to earmark X percentage of the budget going forward in the face of uncertain tax revenue income. (this may be covered under "weak general fund budget", but that's a bit vague).

I like the idea of a SWOT analysis being presented to a "new" Council, although only Alex Schatz is new to the Council, and he's actually up to speed on most issues anyway. So the SWOT analysis should be full of surprises to the Council, and I'm curious to see if any substantial changes in Council goals will result. Outside of Old Town merchants and possibly some eastern edge residents, I don't perceive much concern about the city's future. The election would have been different if there was a rising tide of discontent.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just Wait Til FasTracks Comes Through...

While visiting the City of Louisville's website I see a homepage link for contacts for those concerned with airplane noise. For this to be on the homepage must indicate some level of priority status, and it made me think how unsupportive of diesel powered commuter trains residents around Old Town Louisville will be once that comes online.

FasTrack's commuter rail segment will be the impetus to all sorts of Old Town redevelopment, but the overall impact in activity, density and noise is not going to please everyone.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Erie Pursuing A Path Of Destruction?

Okay, getting back into it all, my sensational headline is meant to get your attention. Similar to the whole Longmont annexation issue that has a special website for that topic, there's www.neighborsforasaferoute.com all about the turmoil surrounding a proposed (threatened?) implementation of a Safe Routes to School grant the Town received from CDOT which would construct 3,200 feet of 8-foot trail along County Line Road trail from Telleen Avenue north to the railroad crossing and from Cheesman Street north to Erie Village.

This website has a lot of info that is difficult to filter into a quick argument. Without clearly articulating the problem, it is still obvious that some people are incredibly bitter that the town of Erie may force the creation of this path, with the Erie Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday November 13 set as the next round of, well, something tense, I guess. Check out the text of an August "speech" at the Trustee meeting. Clarification to follow...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Election Musings

I admit the County's ballot issue returns surprised me - while I supported both 1A (open space) and 1B (transit improvements) the notion that the transit tax extension would grab nearly 70% of the vote to open space's 60% shows a preference for a tax that conventional wisdom holds would never get more than 55 or 60% of the vote. There were 500 more votes cast overall on 1B, meaning people actually cared a little bit more about it one way or the other too.

Similarly, in Lafayette, 72% of the vote supported the credit card financing of road improvements through bonding. 72%!! The roads are apparently the biggest common denominator out there. So how do the bonds get paid back? Sales tax revenue. How do you get more of that? Commercial development. Who shops there? Nearby people with X needs for goods. So why the disconnect in Lafayette - which voted to renew a residential housing permit cap for another 6 years? This is a reduction in potential household shoppers who will help chip in to repay the bonds voters approved. Lafayette doesn't "need" more homes, I suppose. We're a good size now, and the pace of permitted construction is not blistering anyway. But I'm curious to see this support for increased bills and opposition to bill paying mechanisms.

Louisville's development question 2A was more divisive and failed narrowly, I believe the opposition hit the tipping point with Mayor Chuck Sisk's opposition well known. Sisk was re-elected with 81% of the vote, and I bet his clout on 2A helped sway just enough people. The final tally was only about a 200 vote difference with about a 50% turnout. Louisville's Ward 1 vote had an 11 vote difference out of 1683 total votes- a great example of why every vote counts. Ward 3 had only a 64 vote spread.

Longmont passed the tourism tax to tout itself as the hub for day trips elsewhere into the state. A similar tax failed lst year, but they nailed 54% of the vote this time. The out-of-towners-pay-this-tax message resonated with enough people who probable also recognize the need to drive outside Longmont for fun too.

In general, East BoCo feels pretty good about the status quo. New taxes are supported, no major leadership shifts, incumbents hitting high totals, and support for maintenance and open space. Ahh, paradise.

What's that? $100 a barrel? Iran? If only we could just do our thing here without being disturbed...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Goin' For The Transit Tax

You know I support the County's Open Space ballot issue 1A, and I've been reading, asking around and pondering the transit tax (issue 1B) and this weekend I decided to call the County's bluff and vote for the tax extension.

Why describe it that way? The merits of what the money would go towards I found to be somewhat less than compelling. Good ideas on their own, but somehow not hitting me as crucial. In fact the scope of future transit improvements demand a larger-than-Boulder-County regional scope and funding mechanism. However, unlike the Lafayette transit improvement issues which I opposed for fiscal policy reasons, I see the extension of a current tax as being more practical. These projects and improvements will happen as money comes in as opposed to being financed on credit.

That said, the County is taking a step towards tax saturation with this one. In another couple years when some other issue needs more money and people see how much they're already giving the county, this will make any new tax harder to sell. By supporting 1B now I'll be more skeptical of a new tax later. So quite intentionally I'm looking at 1B in a vacuum, accepting the County's rationale that it's needed, and not weighing it against likely future demands. On their own those projects will be "nice to have" while debatably more crucial issues lurk around the corner, below the horizon. I'll play their game - and call their bluff.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Where Have All The Good Times Gone?

You can see I've shut this all down except for my posts. If you were visiting over the last week or so, you know why. I'm making this a one-way online journal for now, thanks for checking in. I look forward to worthwhile discussions in the future.

Phillips, Schatz, Bensman, Oster

That's how I intend to vote in Lafayette for City Council. If you haven't voted by yet, you're probably open to suggestion, so let me throw these names out:

Frank Phillips, Alex Schatz and Kerry Bensman have shown a deep commitment to analyzing complex issues, willingness to put up with the frustration that is podium-pounding/well-meaning/often not completely informed citizens (my words, not theirs) and ultimately that admirable mixture of civic duty with just the right amount of confidence(arrogance?) to believe they can make an impact on Lafayette's future I trust their voices and minds on Council as part of the overall group.

Notice I didn't exactly say the other candidates lack these attributes. Fans of the others, I simply don't see them as being as strong as these three.

In particular, Frank shares my interests in the challenges facing Lafayette's current growth (It's not all bad by my point of view) and is an effective and knowledgeable force within numerous niche issues; Alex's LOSAC and Planning Board background has demonstrated an encyclopedic grasp of our policy decisions' consequences and he has great skills at weighing impacts of decisions; and Kerry has been a staff and budget watchdog sharing insights with me for years - his sober skepticism has a place on a Council that is often too trusting (busy, disinterested, naive?)to recognize conflicting details, or lack of detail in staff reports. Caveat - I'm not supporting the boot Klaphake platform though.

Laura Oster will be a new voice on Council and I like what I know of her current involvement and understanding of issues. New faces have a steep learning curve but can also bring an unjaded view point to offset some of the knowledge of hard realities Frank, Alex and Kerry can't escape.

Anyone willing to put in the time Council roles require is someone I respect. My journalist/activist role has educated me enough to know the job is necessary but largely thankless. I hope to be able to thank these four for their work very soon.