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!
Latest Post:

Monday, April 30, 2007

Benefit Walk in Erie to Honor Ruth Schrichte

I had the chance over the years of writing about Erie's growth issues to speak with Ruth Schrichte, a person passionate about the community and a member of the Board of Trustees

Erie Mayor Andrew Moore sends along this detail to an event that may be of interest to some of you in Erie - Benefit Walk for the Ruth Anne Schrichte Scholarship Fund:

As many of you know Erie recently lost a community leader, mother, teacher, and former Town Trustee to cancer. Ruth Schrichte touched many in our town and left behind a legacy which includes our ethics ordinance, open space/trails, and strategic annexations on Highway 52.

On June 2nd, students from Erie High School have organized a memory walk and benefit for the Ruth Anne Schrichte Scholarship Fund. The memory walk will take place at the Erie High School track from 9am-9pm. More information can be found here or call Bonnie Portillio at 303.847.2022

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Is Grafitti By Permission Still Grafitti?

In Longmont there is a property owner that allows graffiti artists to paint on her property so long as they've been approved by her and can tell inquiring police officers the correct password.

Isn't the point of graffiti to be an anti-social, anti-authority message that only an inner circle of friends and foes can read? In the semantic battle of the definition of graffiti as art, this middle ground of permission gives presumably more talented "artists" a forum for their efforts. From the Daily Times-Call article today:

“How many 16-year-olds do you know who’ve been in an art show?” said student Tobias Lopez, whose GIA graffiti work was featured in the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center earlier this month. “We want people to see graffiti as art, not just names on a wall.”

Giving kids a place to display is a good idea but changes the point. Is this still graffiti? Is there any way it keeps other "artists from tagging other property?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lafayette Prarie Dogs: Unintentional Victims?

In the Lafayette News this week, the description of the removal of prairie dogs (read: poisoning - ugly but still legal) from a parcel along 95th Street included a curious comment attributed to the property owner Tom Garvin. Although the article quotes an exterminator describing what occurred on the property, Garvin says he did not know of any extermination.

Misquote, sarcasm or a renegade exterminator?

And what to make of the citizen complaints from people nearby whose homes obviously lie atop previous prairie dog colonies? The indignation can only be paper thin; any deeper has to be a delusional failure to recognize their own involvement in the oppression of the p'dogs by developers. "Now that I'm here, the killing must stop!"

Here's a rough image though: The poison used releases aluminum phosphite gas, which results in diarrhea, cyanosis, difficulty breathing, pulmonary edema, respiratory failure, tachycardia (rapid pulse) and hypotension (low blood pressure), dizziness and/or death.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

New Group to Address Erie's Economy

The Erie Board of Trustees has formed the Economic Development Ad Hoc Committee. This committee will assist the town’s consultant from Upstate Colorado Economic Development in preparing an Economic Development plan for Erie . The Board of Trustees will made appointments during their April 10th meeting; the group includes:
• Mayor Andrew Moore
• Trustee Tina Harris
• Don Huntress
• Phil Irwin
• Dr. Sally Towner
• Mark Gruber
• Brian Hognes Lewis
• Colin Towner

The committee appointment term is from late April 2007 until late fall of 2007.

I loved the application for the committee: "Why are you interested?" and that's really it. I'm not certain the background of the members but just having a discussion group focused on the topic means the AirPark residents will have someone else to yell at besides the Board of Trustees.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Immigration Issues On The Table This Saturday In Lafayette

Another chance to engage in rational and respectful dialogue on the most contentious issue other than the Iraq war will happen on Saturday in Lafayette. The organization Dialogues on Immigrant Integration will host a community conversation on immigration issues at Pioneer Bilingual School at 101 East Baseline Rd.

The organization's website says DII is a "coalition of community members and leaders seeking to build understanding in an increasingly diverse Boulder County and to support collaborative responses to the challenges of immigrant integration." The previous event in Longmont attracted about 70 people, according to organizer Leslie Irwin.

The free event is open to all and starts at 8:30 AM with food and registration; please RSVP to help with food preparations. For more information or to RSVP call 303-443-0419 xt 117 or email info@immigrant-integration.org. Free childcare and language interpreters will be available.

You can read some earlier postings on this topic from March too.

Monday, April 23, 2007

When Empathy is All About You

From an editorial in the Camera today:
There's something fraudulent about this eagerness to latch onto the grief of others and embrace the idea that we, too, have been victimized. This trivializes the pain felt by those who have actually lost something and pathologizes normal reactions to tragedy. Empathy is good, but feeling shocked and saddened by the shootings doesn't make us traumatized or special — these feelings make us normal.

Some good points about vicarious trauma.

One More Chance to Comment on County Building Regulations

A citizen advisory board that will review and adopt changes to Boulder County's building code meets Tuesday to solicit public comment on the county's green building program.

The Boulder County Board of Review wants to know whether green building concepts should be mandatory and what they should encompass. Possibilities include deconstruction, recycling and reuse, use of sustainable materials, foundation and framing, water and energy conservation, and indoor air quality.

The Board is interested in public comment on the following issues:
* Should the BuildSmart program be mandatory or simply guidelines?
* What elements should be included in the BuildSmart program? For example, some of the possible elements include deconstruction, recycling and reuse, site considerations and site disturbance, use of sustainable materials, foundation and framing, water conservation, energy conservation, use of renewable energy, and indoor air quality.
* How should these various elements be weighed? Are there some items that should be mandatory for all new construction?
* Should the BuildSmart program follow the LEED for Homes model and allow for builders to have a certified third party verify that the structure meets LEED standards?
* Any other issues citizens feel are important in the Board's consideration of the BuildSmart program.

The Board may limit each individual speaker to three minutes so that they can hear from the maximum number of speakers. If you are unable to attend this meeting, but would still like to give comments, you may submit you written comments to Michelle Krezek at mkrezek@co.boulder.co.us. The meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. on the third floor of the County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Keith Olbermann Iraq - Iran

Trying out another blog strategy - linking to a video feed. This is just a short editorial on Iraq/Iran; I'll see how it looks (and check your comments).

Moore On Erie's Supermarket Developments

From Erie Mayor Andrew Moore:

Because of the extremely competitive nature of attracting retail development, I typically refrain from sharing much information about Erie's ongoing economic development negotiations. I am, however, encouraged by the positive news of late and I feel it is important to highlight some of the incremental progress.

First, we have a major grocer interested in commercial property at Vista Ridge at Bonanza and Highway 7. This development would help meet our adopted town economic goals while providing needed services to Erie and Broomfield residents. It will also provide additional long term revenue to Erie. Also, the first retail buildings are going through the planning and approval process for service and convenience retailers at Mountain View and Highway 7.

This development, at the request of a major drug store, has recently been enhanced to include the capability to accommodate such an establishment.This news was followed by a press release last week issued by Regency Centers (www.regencycenters.com) who have officially closed on the property immediately to the west of the Erie's future community center and library. Regency Centers is a national owner, operator and developer of grocery-anchored and community shopping centers.

In the press release Snowden Leftwich, Regency Centers Senior Vice President of Investments, said the company will develop the property as a grocer anchored shopping center. The plans anticipate a broad mix of retailers to offer service and convenience to residents and visitors around Erie's community center and library.

These developments have been in the works for some time, and there is significant work to be done before stores open. However, it is important to recognize the forward steps now coming to fruition. This news is further evidence that supports the Board of Trustee conclusion, from our retreat earlier this year, that achieving Erie’s adopted standards for high quality growth remains a successful economic development strategy for our community.

As we distinguish ourselves as a quality community, and remain a predictable place to do business for investors, our long term retail opportunities will continue to flourish.The data speaks loudly that Erie can have patience and continue to thrive on our journey to grow smart and not sacrifice quality for short term economic gains. We are in a good financial position with solid revenue streams, substantial reserves, robust long term economic development prospects and a game plan.

Best Regards,
Mayor Andrew Moore
Town of Erie

Read additional updates from Mayor Moore at www.mooreinfo.us.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wal-Mart Struggles

As Lafayette's sales tax income relies in part on Wal-Mart, here is another in my occasional series of rants against the company that stands to keep millions in excess sales taxes at its new Super location on Hwy 287, pending certain sales benchmarks.

The giant commercial titan is showing more cracks in its amour; that is in its business model with a focus on low prices period. With $345 billion in sales in 2006, wages have stagnated while costs of energy, housing and transportation have risen. Competitors such as Target, Kohl's, CVS, etc. are growing. Businessweek Magazine reports this week on Wal-Mart's Mid Life Crisis as their lead story.

Wal-Mart's flashy entrance into organics has busted, as its customers simply shop price alone and a slight premium is not part of their purchasing motivation.

News recently about Wal-Mart spying on shareholders, suppliers, vendors, critics, even its own Board. We're seeing a shift in this juggernaut that will be fascinating (like a car wreck) to watch.

Bring on the Target and Lowe's to Lafayette; Wal-Mart will not remain the same monster they've been.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Supermarkets Galore (In Theory) In Erie

While the hub-bub over a road connection request to serve a potential Safeway on the northeast corner of Hwy 7 and Bonanza Drive in Erie is still ripe, this week another shopping center proposal has been revealed. The northwest corner of Leon Wurl Parkway and County Line Road could see a supermarket too. Good thing a Rec Center's being built, and perhaps more open space trails too - looks like a lot of Erie's commercial growth is based on food consumption. What d'ya know - bigger servings must be good for the local economy!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lafayette Should "Just Put the Lowe's in the Old Albertson's"...

Having been told this comment from a Lafayette resident who voted against the annexation in February (because they could see the spot from their backyard) it strikes me that the detailed debate in the Viable Alternatives thread is simply lost on most people. I hear the notion of how a city should just put x in y location based on very little thought beyond the convenience of one hypothetical errand that may be run one day. You can see the confusion when you ask "If you had a business you wanted to locate where you saw the best opportunity for success, would you want the city to tell you you had to put it elsewhere because theyhave an empty plot they want to fill?"

The failure to get any traction on the Countryside Village site can be understood in this context that no matter what sounds nice, a market demand either presents itself or it doesn't. Without significant additional homes nearby or traffic from some type of South Boulder Road eastern extension, the Hwy 287 alignment has had it's predictable impact on the SBR/South Public Road corner. It had to have been foreseen. Championing SPR's "old town" charm is that stretch's best hope, I believe. I can't imagine any more dramatic architechure /commercial use being supported by the neighbors on either side of the road.

Update From Mayor Pirnack on Longmont

According to the Longmont Times Call, Longmont Mayor Julia Pirnack will give a 15-minute speech on the State of the City at the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce's networking event tonight. Of interest to me is the overview of the Focus on Longmont initiative, a huge visioning process that most communities have not pursued; instead leaving their various Comp Plan update processes to work as a de facto visioning process.

Following the visioning process, approved last year, comes the prioritization and sequencing of policies. More than a status report on projects(which the Mayor will mention as well), this topic should provide the most insight into where/what Longmont intends to be in several years.

Opposing Development Philosophies

Details aside, the County's Susutainability policies being reviewed at public hearings continue to bring up two concepts - mandating green building is necessary, period; and market forces should dictate such choices. These opposing philosophies are at the root of the discussions. Read a few more comments from yesterday's public hearing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Louisville Seniors Win Out

My comments last night re: Louisville ended up being off-base; the Louisville City Council tabled the idea of rescinding their property tax rebate for seniors until June. In the Daily Camera today, coverage of the meeting quotes Councilman Ron Sackett: "I'm sympathetic to the senior citizens, but I also think they reap the benefits of living in Louisville, and to operate a sound financial program here, we need to be fair to all people and share in the sacrifices."

Is that such as dramatic position? Is it poor policy to look at a strained budget and make choices? If I lived in Louisville I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the rebate. Since I don't, I'm just commenting as an observer. This rebate seems gratuitous, the kind of pork we all condemn on a national level as irresponsible.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Louisville May Boost Tax Breaks With State Funds

Tonight the Louisville City Council will likely repeal an ordinance that gives cash rebates on property taxes to the elderly. (Since 1973 anyone over 65 could apply.) But it's not as cold-hearted as it may first appear. The reason is that the state has reinstituted a similar tax break for seniors that pays much more than Louisville's program. The catch is that the state requires a person over 65 to have lived in, owned and paid taxes on the property for at least ten years. With Louisville facing budget cutbacks, staff estimates a savings of about $32,000 based on previous years' payouts.

So at first I thought that stinks for the seniors in town, who may see property taxes go up with property values while their income plateaus. Now, I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon (how old do you have to be to be a curmudgeon anyway? I don't think I've been around long enough yet) but Louisville's payback maxed out at about $100 per year. The state is going to max out around $600. Is this a necessary expenditure for the state government? And anyway, is that enough money to make a substantial difference in a yearly budget? If you own a home valued high enough to get the full $600, will $50 a month matter? It seems like a perk, a bone thrown to a special interest group. I'm not really against it in the grand scheme, I'm just sayin'.

Am I missing something here? Or is this my curmudgeon-to-be speaking out?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sustainability Incentives

Last week at the public hearing on proposed sustainability policy changes in the Boulder County Land Use Code a few people let the Commissioners know that incentives are the way to go. The next round of public input is on Wednesday at 7:00 PM at the Boulder County Courthouse.

These are great meetings to attend; the one I went to I was one of 8 people. The meeting last week had a couple dozen. You can count on having your opinion heard directly if you go.

The Land Use Coalition is a local group championing the concept of tax incentives, etc. to encourage green building as well as the removal of any absolute size limits to residences in the name of property rights. The absolutist tone of their arguments at least beg the question of why such heavy-handed regulations may be necessary. The Commissioners have been clear in their belief that they have the right and the obligation to do something about construction that uses a lot of energy. Something about it just doesn't sit well though.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nothing Going On In Longmont - Yet

On Friday Longmont cancelled the April 17 City Council meeting. I mention it only because it stands out: they also cancelled one last month. I don't notice such cancellations from other East BoCo communities; perhaps such flexibility is a good thing.

I was looking to see if the Council had approved another $27k survey for 2007 at their meeting last Tuesday, and here's an article today about it.

I mentioned the potential opens space tax extension last week - this survey may ask about such an issue and gauge it's importance to residents. Getting a more scientific analysis of issues will be helpful for the Council, as well as any Council candidates that may run for the seats that will be up for election in November. Mayor Julia Pirnack and Councilors Doug Brown, Marty Block and Fred Wilson's terms all end this year.

Four out of seven new faces? Or more of the same?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Prairie Dogs And Nazi Bombings

From Robin Maitlin, Letter to the Editor:

"I share in the recent dismay at the prairie dog unhappiness west of 95th. On the
day after the plowing, there were two plump little creatures nosing through a
furrow, seeking their once-snug home. I was reminded of people groping
through rubble after a 1940 air raid. "

Is this an appropriate analogy?

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Where's The Dope?

What is the status of the great marijuana Lafayette City Council Study Session? I'm asking because I know some readers of the blog may have both the real answer as well as interesting side comments about this.

The hub-bub about the topic and the back-burnering of it strikes me as an implicit acceptance that the issue was not a major concern beyond the initial handwringing and posturing some people feel obligated to do whenever marijuana is mentioned, and that other topics were recognized to deserve more attention. At the very least I hope it means staff has been instructed to spend the time rounding up statistics to show a trending that warrants action.

I'm not pro-pot, just pro-government-out-of people's-lives-unnecessarily.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Longmont May Go Long For Open Space Funding

Not satified with a 13-year horizon, the Longmont City Council is considering asking voters in November to approve an extension - of as yet undetermined length - to the city's open space sales tax beyond 2020.

If they're thinking of this kind of unecessary question this early, there must not be too many other pressing issues that will vie for voters' taxes. Conventional wisdom is that too many tax requests on one ballot tends to sink them all. If they bring back the hotel lodging tax, for example, then this open space tax just makes that more worthy tax less likely to pass. Without the urgency of other requests, this open space tax is ahead of its time. Way ahead.

Boulder County Buffers Itself With A Slow-Growther

Former Erie Mayor and Planning Commissioner Barbara Connors was appointed to the Boulder County Planning Commission. Her slow (or anti, depending on your own values) growth mindset defined her terms on the local Boards; she'll likely be quite happy with Boulder County's sustainability policies we've discussed here and the constraints they will have on people's options. Read a blurb about it here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Erie Neighbors May Sue Over "Promise"

Some Erie Airpark residents say the Town Board promised them in 2000 they wouldn't see their neighborhood connected to Vista Ridge, which is now being discussed by some newer town leaders. This is a quandry to cause deep distrust and resentment, for the town needs the commercial revenue the connection could help support yet to snub the neighbors over their promise claims will be bureacracy at its worst.

Airpark residents who don't actually live on Bonanza Drive will have to fight symbolically, as the purported traffic increases won't be actually in front of their homes, But the folks along Bonanza Drive may end up taking one for the team, as it were, (meaning for the good of the town's budget) even against their will. Before that happens though, there's already lawsuit talk.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Ex-Superior Town Manager to Be Honored With Fake Grass

I like to think I'm often more pragmatic than idealistic, however I can't really get past the idea of fake grass for ballfields as opposed to regular grass and dirt. More maintenance and irrigation costs, I know. But it's REAL. Feels real, smells real after a rain, makes cool green stains when you make a dive on a play.

This week the Superior Observer describes how a new synthetic grass field at Community Park is being rolled out, and it will be named Williams Field in honor of Bruce Williams, the former long-time Town Manager who died in a car accident in December. Great idea; too bad he couldn't be honored with something that grows instead of plastic.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Erie Oil, Groceries & Homes On The Rise

Another reminder of our, ahem, western heritage (and the profitability of more domestic oil productions): Last night the Erie Planning Commission approved special-use permits for three new drilling sites within town limits. While the Board of Trustees has the final say over EnCana Oil & Gas' applications, they have no legal reason to deny them the permits.

One of the wells will be just east of Bonanza Drive, the area where residents are also telling the town and Safeway to back off any ideas of connecting Bonanza to Vista Ridge Parkway.

Oil rigs, commercial growth, giant annexations, Erie's got it goin' on!

East County Gangs

There's an interesting spotlight on Longmont's new full-time police gang unit in the April Yellow Scene that describes the rise of the average-looking suburban white kid as a more frequent, if not more likely, gang member.

An excerpt:

Earlier this year, Baldivia convened a meeting of what he hopes will become a Boulder County gang task force. While Longmont has the largest problem—more
than a dozen known gangs and 450-someodd documented members—other county police units are seeing activity rise. Because this isn’t just a Longmont problem. It’s a Boulder problem. A Lafayette problem. A Westminster problem. And, yes, even an issue in small communities like Erie, Dacono and Frederic.

Another harbinger of the impending loss of "small town feel?" Taking the kid outlined in the article as an example, it becomes more difficult to make sweeping assumptions about the problem being confined to minorities or poor communities.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lafayette Brainstorming Bonds

As I write this the Lafayette City Council may be approving a recycling contract with a trash hauler and would have brainstormed the idea of putting a bond issue on the November ballot to fund various city projects and the Rec Center. I hope the recycling contract gets approved and the multi-issue bond funding idea deserves healthy skepticism. Unless you consider this to be a type of "growth paying its own way" scheme - that is, tapping current sales tax to pay what amounts to credit card bills to run a city's current demands. Street repairs may be worthwhile, but a park and rec center improvements appear to be indulgences.

To Councilor Cameron's point, what would I do to fix the issue? Increase user fees at the rec center to accurately reflect the cost of the service. Lay out trade-offs of other city amenities with a new park as an option in lieu of another amenity. Have Council decide and take blame/credit as it may be (or bump it to the voters like the annexation issue). Road repairs are like a special assessment; in this case a bond issue for them may be the best way to pay.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Viable Alternatives

Thought I would start a new thread on this because some of the others are getting very long.

The challenge I want to pose is this:

If someone thinks that a decision that is being made, or that was made in the past, is a bad one – he or she suggests a viable alternative rather than merely hyper-analyzing the situation.

If it is a past decision, talk about how you would “fix” it given current conditions. If it is a decision that is currently in the works, make alternate, realistic suggestions.

I think we all know that every decision made in a political arena has risks and benefits. The best decisions are made by putting the relevant information related to those risks and benefits on the table and taking the road with the greatest potential to minimize the risks while maximizing the benefits.

There is always some element of forecasting/prediction/uncertainty that is undertaken with some level of pessimism/optimism. Many of our differences seem to lie in where we fall on the pessimism/optimism spectrum. Interesting how we all seem to think that our view is "realism."

Of course, there are still political and philosophical differences that may lead us down different paths (e.g., different personal values about affordable housing), but those don’t have to interfere with working together and accepting others’ ideas when they are good ones.

Where do you want to start?