Ballot issues coming your way with some tax increases

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 8/23/21

While waiting until the very end of the deadline to get ballot issues on the November 2 election, Westminster city staff recently sought City Council’s direction on five possible propositions. They …

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Ballot issues coming your way with some tax increases

Posted

While waiting until the very end of the deadline to get ballot issues on the November 2 election, Westminster city staff recently sought City Council’s direction on five possible propositions.

They include the advisory/geographical council representation question, an increase of the Public Safety sales and use tax, a 20-year extension of the existing Parks and Open Space sales and use tax, the authorization to sell marijuana in Westminster and authorizing a special 5% tax on such marijuana sales.

One can only speculate the late arrival of the ballot language ordinances coming for first reading of ordinances for the August 23 council meeting.

However, the looming effort of the Fraternal Order of Police’s intent to seek collective bargaining ballot authority has to be heavy on the mind of City Manager Don Tripp. While he readily went along with council members who were pro-union on the firefighters’ union recognition ballot effort, he is showing reluctance when it comes to police personnel’s desire to unionize. Why? Doesn’t the old cliché “what is good for the goose is good for the gander too” not apply here?

Why more debt?

City Staff is proposing more debt for Westminster taxpayers. I am not necessarily opposed to more debt, but I certainly want to know exactly what I am paying for with my taxes. I imagine you do too!

With the 15/100 of 1% Public Safety tax increase, what would specifically be included both for operating costs, as well as the $20 million new debt? Also, the Parks and Open Space tax extension would include authorizing $15 million in additional debt. I question if there are enough legitimate land parcels to be acquired using existing open space criteria. Staff has mentioned buying land to prevent development and thus save water. Shouldn’t the Water Fund pay for such acquisitions? That’s an interesting policy question.

No ballot issues from the cities of Northglenn and Thornton

Things are pretty calm with the Cities of Northglenn and Thornton regarding any tax increases, debt issues or advisory questions on the November 2 ballot. No one is getting recalled nor are the respective city managers faced with potentially being fired.

Their respective staff members tell me that no ballot issues are “in the pipeline.” Both cities will have council candidates for their voters to consider. So, no ballot issues to squabble over this go around in these Adams County cities.

Mark your calendar

The City of Northglenn has announced Saturday, Oct. 9 as the grand opening date of its new Recreation Center, Senior Center and Theater. Their newsletter says there will be “fun, free activities for all ages from 1-7 p.m..”

Plus, they will top it off with a fireworks display at 7 p.m.

The facility will be the pride of all Northglenners and rightfully so. Northglenn is “moving on up” with their new city facilities. The city has unveiled some of the entertainment which will perform this fall at the new Parsons Theatre. I am really excited to learn that FACE will perform on November 5. They are an outstanding five-man a cappella group celebrating 20 years of performing. Check them out! You won’t be disappointed.

City of Thornton pursues water-wise landscapes

The City of Thornton is “on the ball” as it addresses alternative landscaping approaches on high-water and lower-use city parks and other city-owned properties. Known as “Naturally Thornton”, the focus is to save water while still providing sustainable, attractive landscapes.

With its 140 miles of trails and over 2,500 acres of parks and public areas to enjoy, the city is the largest water consumer among all water consumer categories. This provides the opportunity to cut back some water consumption.

The new program will convert 13 locations with the transition of each area taking up to five years to complete. Staff indicates that “the process includes replacing existing ground cover with low-water grasses, planting new grass seed and replacing water-thirsty Kentucky bluegrass with more sustainable grasses such as Western Wheat, Green Needlegrass, Sand Dropseed, Buffalograss and Sideoats Gramma.

Other cities (including Westminster) which have their own water utility are in the early stages of evaluating and planning the change-out of higher water-consuming landscaping at city-owned sites including the lush lawn at City Hall.

Low-water consumption landscaping makes sense

Given the severity of the drought in the western United States and the recent action by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cutting the 2022 water allocation for the Lower Basin states of the Colorado River, actions like Thornton’s are certainly appropriate. While reducing water demands on public landscaped and turfed land is not a “silver bullet” action, every amount helps in reducing water demand and consumption.

Along with this sea change, municipalities are and will need to shift their thinking on the amount of lush landscaping required of private development. For decades, cities and counties have mandated trees, shrubs and grass for commercial and retail developments along with residential developments of all types. These old mandates warrant a re-thinking to shrink water demand as well. Here in the high desert and the semi-arid region in which we live, our collective attitude has been slow in adapting to more drought-tolerate landscaping plans. We Midwesterners love our Kentucky bluegrass. Now, we need to go full force as our communities scrap for every acre-foot of water savings.

Growth and water resources can work together

Of course, there is another option that smart people could implement. They would implement true growth management. That practice would match up water resources and both water and wastewater treatment and transmission capabilities with growth demands.

This would produce a “pacing” of a specified amount of new residential construction. Such a practice would be especially wise for Colorado municipalities, counties and water districts, given the global warming we are experiencing and the diminishing water yields.

Colorado elected officials all the way up to Governor Polis, the State Legislature and our Congressional representation need to face the reality that water resources are in decline. There are no “magic wands” to make this dilemma go away.

Instead, a paradigm shift is needed whereby governmental leaders embrace managing the amount of growth, maximize existing water resources and implement new, but not Draconian water conservation measures. If we are to eliminate our grassy lawns and install gravel, we might as well live in Phoenix, Las Vegas or Timbuktu.

More vaccinations in arms

A quick shout-out goes to the Westminster Presbyterian Church’s food bank for hosting a COVID vaccination clinic recently. They got the word out ahead of time to their clients and neighbors which resulted in 108 newly vaccinated folks. That’s what we need. What church, non-profit or corporate sponsor wants to be next to host a smaller scale, convenient vaccination clinic?

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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