Council Member Hopping Afraid of Citizen Vote

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Do you remember Ballot Initiative 300 on urban renewal which the voters of Littleton passed by 60%? It stated:

Any council action approving or modifying an urban renewal plan pursuant to Part 1 of the Colorado Urban Renewal Law must be ratified by the registered electors of the City of Littleton if the approval or modification of the urban renewal plan proposes the use of or change to eminent domain, condemnation, tax increment financing, revenue sharing or cost sharing. (my emphasis)

Obviously the residents of Littleton wanted to have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to use urban renewal. But just a few months before Ballot Initiative 300 passed, City Council decided not to wait and find out what the people of Littleton wanted and created four urban renewal plans. A bit of a slap in the face to those living in Littleton. Does the Council majority’s action, having designated those four areas, reveal that it wanted to push its will through, fearing the citizens vote to the contrary? Otherwise why not wait a couple of more months and learn the residents’ position.

So fast forward to today, almost two years later. Council is debating on repealing the urban renewal plans, after all it has cost the community $670,992 and not a single project has been proposed. Yes, not one.

Entity Urban Renewal TIF
Littleton sales tax $114,040
Littleton property tax $21,116
Arapahoe County $47,086
Parks & Rec $27,420
Schools $169,330
Littleton loan to LIFT $150,000
Riverfront carryover $142,000
Total Cost $670,992

At the City Council meeting last Tuesday, council member Bill Hopping, who wants to keep the urban renewal plans, does not want the Littleton residents to have a say in the matter even though the voters showed their desire to do just that with Ballot Initiative 300. He said:

“The insinuation by several people that if a project comes along that we like for urban renewal we’ll vote it back in, that doesn’t happen… It is very naïve to think that anybody would come to you and say, hey I’d like to develop an urban renewal project. I know you don’t have a system, but can you put it out to the voters? So let’s get it voted in. Let’s have that done. That is not going to happen. They won’t do that. What it does is it knocks the marginally feasible or infeasible projects out of the box.” (City Council Meeting 10/4/16 starting at 1:29:30 http://littleton.ompnetwork.org/shows/city-council-regular-meeting-10042016?iframe_mode=true)

You heard that correctly, the councilman does not want to repeal urban renewal plans because the people of Littleton will not vote any plans back in if given the opportunity.  Excuse me, but who is the servant of whom? Where I come from, that is called elitism.

Perhaps the councilman and any others that agree with him should review the Colorado Constitution which explicitly states in whom political power is vested:

Colorado Constitution,  Art. II, Sec 1 Bill of Rights, Vestment of Political Powers -In order to assert our rights, acknowledge our duties, and proclaim the principles upon which our government is founded, we declare:

All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government, of right, originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole. (http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/colorado/Default.asp)

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Public Works Collaborates with West Mineral Neighborhoods

collaboration

by Robin Swartzbacker

You may have noticed that things are changing on West Mineral Avenue by South Platte Canyon Drive. When you drive by there for the first time please be observant for lane changes and a speed limit reduction. These changes came from a several month process where Public Works was deeply engaged with the residents of the W Mineral neighborhoods. The project, entitled Provide a safe environment for all users of the Mineral Avenue corridor between Platte Canyon Road and Polo Ridge Drive was started because the people had voiced their safety concerns about this particular area. Together Public Works and the neighbors collaborated to define the users, purpose, and goals of the venture.

One of the first things done was the creation of a webpage on the city’s website where residents could stay updated on the project, a central location for communication. Aaron Heumann, Littleton’s Traffic Engineer, stated during his presentation to the City Council on September 27 (click here to view his presentation, starts at 1.11.50), “We engaged with residents early and often best we could.”

The process started by meeting with the residents last January to learn face to face what their issues and concerns were.  From community meetings, the webpage, emails, and phone calls solutions were shaped from the feedback provided by the people.  In fact, several of the potential solutions came directly from the neighbors. The final implementation strategy came after several rounds of discussion and feedback. It was refreshing to hear the city didn’t go into the project with a predetermined answer but instead first listened to the citizens and partnered with them to create the resolutions after much collaboration.

In the beginning of the presentation to city council, Acting City Manager and Public Works Director Mark Relph stated they “would like to replicate this in other parts of the city and especially the citizen engagement.”  As Aaron Heumann spoke, he reiterated his desire several times for using this process of community involvement too.  Personally I have heard from a resident who participated in this process who is very pleased with it. Nice job Public Works.

Who’s First in Littleton–Citizens or Developers?

Recurring conversations among City Council members about private property owner rights—and by extension, those of realtors and developers—to maximize profits have become increasingly alarming.
The subject recently came up when Council discussed the question of building heights downtown.  That conversation concerned citizen desires to maintain downtown’s historic small-town character.  Councilmember Doug Clark suggested that heights could be limited to maintain that character.  But Councilmember Bill Hopping claimed that restricting building height would limit what he called the developers’ right to build a four-story hotel. He added that a limit would require the city to reimburse the developer for lost revenue–because it would be a “taking.”  The city attorney has already told the council that restricting the height would not be a taking of personal property rights.
It is alarming that Council believes that maximization of developers’ profits overrides the will of the citizens of Littleton and the community itself.
We ask, Why does as Council as a whole remain silent?  Why does it allow itself to be represented by  a few Councilmembers who are greater advocates for private developer interests that they are for the the citizens that they were elected to represent?
It is difficult to escape the impression that the silence of the rest of Council indicates an unwillingness to address this crucially important matter.
Unless this situation is rectified, citizens can expect further urbanization of our—still yet, at least in some parts—small-town suburban community character to continue, unabated.

Cool Gardening Ideas–Calming the Masses

by Betty Harris

A new study found that an additional ten trees on a given block corresponded to a one-per-cent increase in how healthy nearby residents felt.

“To get an equivalent increase with money, you’d have to give each household in that neighborhood ten thousand dollars—or make people seven years younger,” says University of Chicago psychology professor Marc Berman.

“The emerald ash borer, which has killed a hundred million trees across North America in recent years, offers a grim natural experiment. A county-by-county analysis of health records by the U.S. Forest Service, between 1990 and 2007, found that deaths related to cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses rose in places where trees succumbed to the pest, contributing to more than twenty thousand additional deaths during the study period. The Toronto data shows a similar link between tree cover and cardio-metabolic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. For the people suffering from these conditions, an extra eleven trees per block corresponds to an income boost of twenty thousand dollars, or being almost one and a half years younger.” –Alex Hutchison, Runners World columnist, author of Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise

Perhaps more interesting is that the greatest benefit appears to be where trees are planted in front yards and along sidewalks rather than back yards. Think about those rare times when you drive along a road or street and there are trees on both sides that shade the road. On Littleton Blvd between Bemis and Windermere the street is lined with mostly mature trees and it feels good to go that direction. Which just brings to mind the claustrophobic feeling some of us get where buildings are built right up to the sidewalk. Consider the different “feel” of walking on most downtown Denver streets compared to the feel of walking down the 16th street mall.

“Something deep within us responds to the three-dimensional geometry of nature, and that is where arguments of economic equivalence, however well intentioned, fall short. If someone offers you ten thousand dollars or ten trees, take the trees.” –Hutchison

The human brain which controls behavior (bad thoughts perhaps creates bad behavior?) responds positively to areas that have a higher proportion of green mass over that of gray mass (building, sidewalks, streets). Open spaces with grass to play and lay on and trees to create shade help humans relax. No amount of hard surfaces provides relaxation. Green spaces is one of the reasons that people want to move here. People want to come here because of our green spaces because it feels safer and calmer than the hardscape of Denver and other cities. Demand for houses in this area is strong and thus prices for houses are still strong.

When I moved out to Colorado in 1983 a friend who was living here was complaining big time about there being so few trees and was trying to push her husband to move away from here. Since 1983 many trees that were planted then and since have filled and softened the spaces between all that hard scape and my friend is happy and still here.

The soothing effects of trees on our psyches is perceived as a desirable character in a city. Maybe we should consider that developer’s desire to make more money by building right up to the sidewalk is detrimental to the citizenry as well as the desirability of a city as a place to live and work. It may also decrease the value of our properties as greater spans of concrete and steel and brick and mortar destroy the desirable character of a city of any size and create more agitated and unhealthy populations.

Besides trees help us breathe better along with all their other desirable qualities. Next edition we’ll talk about breathing more.