An Unwise Use of Sharebacks

In May of 2013 city council approved an economic development plan. The plan provides for incentive agreements to attract desirable businesses to Littleton. One month after the plan was approved by council, the recently fired city manager, Michael Penny, went before council asking for the approval of a $300,000 incentive package for the already approved Breckenridge Brewery (March 2013.)

The deal was made, the brewery was sold and now Anheuser Busch is the recipient of a sales tax share back agreement. I guess they needed the money more than the City of Littleton even though council is considering asking the taxpayers for more tax dollars in order to maintain our infrastructure.

At the time councilwoman Brinkman said, “This $300,000 investment is not money out of our pockets.  Quite honestly, this is money that hasn’t even come to our pockets.”  She could not be more wrong.  The sales tax shareback is indeed money that belongs to the City.  The City will collect the sales tax and then write a check back to the brewery for their portion of the shareback agreement.

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Littleton Fire Rescue May Not Respond the Way You Need

Guest Contributor Juan Lopez

When you call 911 in Littleton with a medical emergency, an ambulance may not come. When you call for a fire engine, there may not be enough firefighters to enter your building. Read on for why.

Before Littleton Fire Chief Christopher Armstrong’s 2013 arrival, Littleton had shared fire and rescue with South Metro Fire Rescue (Arapahoe and Douglas Counties) and somewhat with West Metro Fire Rescue (Jefferson County). If Littleton did not have the closest unit, the closest of the others would respond. And vice versa. Statistically Littleton received more aid than it was giving. The obvious explanation was not having enough resources to manage the volume of calls in Littleton.

But when Armstrong became Fire Chief, closest unit dispatching stopped. Even if a South Metro or West Metro fire engine or ambulance is just around the corner from a Littleton resident who needs help, it will not be sent.

In mid-2014 Chief Armstrong developed a pet project called a “Quick Car.” This is a concept being abolished by most who have tried it–due to inefficiency. Quick Cars are light duty pickup trucks, outfitted with medical equipment and basic tools, and staffed by a paramedic and a firefighter. The most recent two units cost the taxpayers $160,000 and only one is being used.

The Quick Car backfills empty stations when the engine or ambulance usually assigned there is gone. That means your emergency response may be a pickup truck with no water or hose. Littleton is the only fire department in the metro area that does this.

Furthermore, if a Littleton resident calls 911 for a medical emergency, a Quick Car—which cannot transport the sick or injured–may respond rather than an ambulance. This is even though we know from the Littleton Fire Rescue that 88% of all medical calls in Littleton require ambulance transport to the hospital.

Chief Armstrong’s Plan A staffing model for the Quick Cars will cost $667,539 even though the service cannot put out fires or transport a person to the hospital. The money to purchase these vehicles and staff them is wasteful spending.

Littleton is also the only metro fire department not pursuing the National Fire Protection Association recommendation of staffing all fire engines with four firefighters. Littleton first sends an engine of three fire fighters, followed by four which arrive statistically three minutes later. That three-minutes delays fire suppression and searching for potential victims. And it increases the price of fire insurance.

Littleton’s 2015 strategic plan online states all of this, even about how they need four firefighters before they will go inside a burning building, but only staff fire engines with three. The Chief’s bad decisions are risking our safety and survival.

I’m fearful of not having an ambulance or adequately-staffed fire engine to help me.
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Who Are the Sunshine Boyz?

Fifteen years ago three citizens got together to in response to the grocery tax in Littleton.  With a mission to shed light on what was going on in Littleton city government, they called themselves the Sunshine Boyz.  As a result of their efforts, the grocery tax was abolished. But the Sunshine Boyz—now often referred to simply as Sunshine—still meets.

Sunshine meets every Friday morning 9:00 to 10:30 at Connections, a meeting space provided by the South Fellowship Church, 6560 S Broadway, just south of the Solid Grounds coffee house.

Sunshine originator Marty Bolt describes the meeting as an open community forum about local government and events.  It’s made up of every political persuasion, yet politics are never discussed.  What attendees have in common is concern about Littleton from the common citizens’ perspective.

Local issues are discussed, sometimes enough that citizens venture beyond Sunshine and initiate citizen ballot measures. Or they get involved with other groups such as Citizens for Rational Development that have formed to work on specific issues.  Some of the citizen efforts passed are:

Citizens for Rational Development sponsored ballot initiative 301 limiting the use of executive sessions.  It passed by 73.9%.

Citizens for Rational Development sponsored ballot initiative302 that requires a super majority approval for controversial zoning changes.  It passed by 59.3%.

Your Littleton Your Vote sponsored initiative 300 providing citizens the right to vote on certain urban renewal plans approved by city council.  It passed by 60.2% in a special election held March 3, 2015.

Advocates for Littleton is a citizen group suing the city over the lack of due process in city government’s approval of the 160-unit apartment development called The Grove.

And, because Sunshine has been around so long several, people who attend Sunshine helped overturn council’s approval of WalMart years ago.

Original Sunshine Boy Marty Bolt believes that Sunshine has lasted—and has grown—for 15 years because of some simple rules:

  •     The purpose of the meeting is to share information about local government and           events
  •     There is no membership, leader, or dues
  •     There is no agenda
  •     No partisan politics are ever discussed
  •     Each person who wants to speak raises a hand to get on the list
  •     Each person’s comments are heard with respect
  •     Full breakfast is $3, coffee only is $1
  •     Humor among attendees is encouraged

New people are always welcome, and Sunshine invites everyone to attend!

Spaces and Spacing

by Betty Harris

Observation is vital to successful gardening because it shows you what works and what doesn’t and gives you ideas on what to try and what to try again.

My daughter in law asked what was wrong with her potatoes and when you should plant them and how long it takes for them to mature. Based on where she lives in Texas I didn’t know when the right time to plant was and suggested she look online for information for her area. She starts gardening in February and said she has gotten two crops on some vegetables already. When she asked about harvesting potatoes I asked if hers had bloomed yet and she said yes but they dropped the blossoms. So she had noticed this but thought that they should form seeds and retain them. Then she mentioned that the plants look a bit yellow and like they might be dying. So I told her it is time to dig around the based and look for potatoes. I didn’t say anything about the blossoms because as you may have noticed few people allow you to finish a sentence if you pause for a nanosecond to finish forming a response.

But we were talking about spaces and spacing, right? Drive around town and observe other people’s gardens and lawns. You will notice many places where plants look kind of sparse and widely spaced apart. Newly planted gardens often have this look if there are young plants that will quickly or slowly fill the space. You may also notice that some yards look overgrown, especially if there are trees with lots of undergrowth which is what nature does when we don’t interfere.

Around town you will see many ash trees and if you stop for a nanosecond you’ll also see that some of them are covered with seed pods. Anyone living within a block of these trees will spend next summer pulling up little ash seedlings from their lawns and flower beds. Those that do not pull them up because they don’t recognize what they are or are not physically able to bend and pull will find in a few years masses of undergrowth or overgrowth of seedlings and saplings in their yards and gardens. Watching this happen gives you some kind of understanding of how nature replaces growth that humans insist on preventing. When all this happens all the spaces between what you plant in your garden is taken up by seedlings and small trees if you don’t prevent it.

Depending on the stage of your garden and landscape plans and what seeds are allowed to sprout and grow you may have wide spacing between landscape plants and flower areas. Some people like to have wide spaces between garden plants. My personal take on this is that one needs some area to work around landscape plants or flowers at various times of the year but maybe not as much as one might think. In early spring when the tulips bloom there is lots of space around them. As other perennials come up which have died back in the winter they take over the area where the tulips have finished. I’m of the opinion that one needs enough room to work around plants to pull bind weed mostly or dig up perennials that have gone to seed and give these to friends or make new friends by giving them away.

But I don’t think we need to leave large walkways between landscape plants unless we plan to give garden tours where people will be traipsing through the landscape examining all the foliage. Denser planting like nature does, with some control for personal taste reduces erosion, keeps the environment cooler by shading the soil, beautifies the area and can provide food for humans and animals.

A Master Gardener friend in our town has replaced her lawn with landscaping that is mostly edible and the area around all these plants is covered with some form of ground cover such as various forms of thyme with different blooming times. So while there are larger spaces between her currant bushes so she can harvest the fruit the ground is covered with plants to keep it from drying out or eroding. It is also beautiful all year round because the thyme stays green in winter and does its job of holding the soil without any time off. Also it seems the thyme doesn’t mind being walked on for that short time that berry harvesting takes place.

I’m not a Master Gardener, I learn by observation and experimenting since plants and flowers are different here from where I grew up. When I bought this house my friends came over and brought me plants saying, “Here, you don’t have one of these.” Being gracious and thankful I accepted, not knowing what they were particularly. We were busy renovating the house and I was digging out the invasive plants where the new deck was going to be built so I cut a hole in the barrier cloth out front under the boring bark mulch and dug a hole and put the gift in the ground and watered them and waited to see what they were. If they turned out to be very tall plants and I had put them too close to the sidewalk I had to move them the next year. Over time my garden looks like nature’s play ground with few spaces between the plants and is a riot of color all summer. I don’t feel the need for lots of spaces between plants and prefer to have all soil covered with plants or mulch to keep the moisture in and the soil from eroding. Wide spaces in lawns are only needed if you insist on mowing, fertilizing, watering, mowing, fertilizing, watering all summer.

So depending on your own situation and personal tastes space plants for their benefit and your own and plan some spaces to sit and enjoy it all summer too.