The COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos in every place it has touched. That is true at all levels — local, state, nationally and internationally. We learn more about that impact and influence just …
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos in every place it has touched. That is true at all levels — local, state, nationally and internationally. We learn more about that impact and influence just about every time we pick up a newspaper or catch news clips on our smartphone or computer.
According to CBRE, a real estate services firm, the Denver metro leasing and development office market has been significantly impacted negatively. According to their report, the metro-wide vacancy rate rose to 18.8% during the second quarter of 2021. That doesn’t account for the still-increasing amount of sublease space hitting the market. There is now roughly five million square feet of technically “leased” space available to would-be second renters.
That is a huge amount of available space. However, during the second quarter, there was substantial new leasing, but clearly less than year-over-year comparisons.
Will office workers keep office leasing below par?
CBRE reports that construction activity is slowing down and “There is now 1.3 million square feet of office space under construction in Denver, an eight-year low.”
In Denver, there are no office groundbreakings on the radar for the third quarter. This leads me to the prior announcement of two seven-story office buildings to be built in Westminster’s New Downtown. While it is too soon to expect the developer to pull building permits for the first building, you can’t help but wonder if this development goes forward. The trend in office workers wanting to continue to work from home creates further uncertainty of the strength of the office market — both in the suburbs and downtown Denver.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It sure has turned a hot seller’s market into a growing buyer’s market for lease rates.
Advisory question on Westminster wards was muddled
Last fall, Westminster City Council unanimously voted to place an advisory ballot question on the November 2021 election regarding the concept of some City Council members being elected via geographic representation i.e. wards or districts.
Whoever drafted the two polling questions really muddled the wording. The first question produced a plurality response that was undecided about the concept. Even the second question which produced 65% support could have been written clearer.
It states “At this time, all City Council members in Westminster are not assigned to represent specific areas of the City like in some other places in Colorado. This proposal would mean that voters throughout the City would still have the opportunity to vote for each City Council member, but this Commission would study whether or not a City Council member should represent just one geographic area of the city. Knowing that, do you support or oppose creating a commission to study this issue further?”
Questions remain about ballot advisory question
The above wording is written too tightly to allow the Commission to explore different options/scenarios. The main example I would cite is the issue of who should elect those council members who would represent specific geographic areas? Should they be elected by ONLY those voters residing in that ward/district or should ALL Westminster voters select district area council members?
One reason to consider geographic representation in the first place is to achieve better and closer communications between the elected officials and their constituents. Having the entire electorate decide geographic representation overly dilutes and weakens closer connections. Also, the same language totally ignores the possibility of having a blend of at-large elected council members and ward/district council people. In my opinion, having all six council members elected from wards/districts would be a big mistake. A better balance would be three from wards/districts and three at large.
Mayor Seitz and council candidates said they favor the balanced approach. It is important to point out that each of the three wards/districts would represent approximately 38,000-40,000 citizens.
Masks on or masks off—that is the question
It’s challenging to keep up with the changes about required mask-wearing and required or not required vaccinations.
The CDC, the White House, Governor Polis, State Health Department, Tri-County Health and other county health departments have all been a blur in the orders and advisories they have cranked out recently. The Delta Variant of the COVID-19 virus, coupled with so many unvaccinated people, has caused a major shift in public health officials’ thinking. Don’t blame them! Blame the success of the delta variant on impacting those who continue to be in denial of getting the vaccine. This new crisis is especially scary with school soon to start and children under 12 not being able to get vaccinated yet. It puts school district officials in a tough bind.
Policy on masks for students
A quick recap of our local school districts shows Westminster Public Schools will require all teachers, staff and students to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status, as of August 3.
Adams 12 Five Star School District and Jeffco Public Schools are more relaxed in their policies. Adams 12 “strongly encourages students to wear masks but will not require them. However, face coverings are required for all staff members and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors.”
Jeffco Public Schools is “strongly encouraging, but not requiring, staff and students to get the vaccinations. Masks are required for students ages 3-11 unless the student is fully vaccinated. For students age 12 and above (generally 7th through 12th grades), masks indoors are strongly recommended for unvaccinated students and recommended for vaccinated students in alignment with the guidance from JCPH.”
I applaud Westminster Public Schools for taking a stronger position on this preventive measure. While it is a touchy and sometimes emotional issue to require students to wear a mask while indoors, it’s prudent to err on the safe side. Everyone needs to take the delta variant seriously.
North Metro artists studio tour
Come support 27 local artists, check out their artwork and purchase your favorite pieces. The no-cost studio tour includes Westminster, Broomfield and Brighton locations (16 locations) sponsored by the North Metro Arts Alliance. Dates are August 20th- 22nd. It’s a low-cost way of introducing art and artists to the community at large. For more details, go to http://www.paletteers.com and click on “Northwest Artist Studio Tour Form.”
State supremes provide help on census deadline
Thanks to the Trump Administration, the decennial federal census is behind schedule. In turn, it has pushed the Congressional and state legislative redistricting commissions in our state to seek Colorado Supreme Court help on the pending deadlines.
The state Supremes’ decision left commissioners and their attorneys scratching their heads. Both the Congressional and state senate/house districting plans are incomplete at this time. Due to the slow and incomplete work done under the Trump Administration, staff members are still crunching numbers and holding public input sessions. At least the Colorado Supreme Court gave deadlines to file briefs on the dilemma — October 8 for Congressional work and October 22 for state legislative input.
Per our State Constitution, the commissions were to finish their Congressional maps by September 1 and the state maps by September 15. Hopefully, the court will provide some additional time for the two commissions to complete thorough and well-thought-out district maps for the 2022 election. This could have been avoided!
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 email@example.com.
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