Time Flies!

One year.

365 days.

8760 hours.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

                                               -Nathaniel Hawthorne

One year ago, April 7, I was honTime Fliesored to be elected as the second At-Large City Council member for the City of Glenwood Springs.This anniversary, along with other prompts have caused me to reflect on this year, and the circumstances leading to my decision to run for office. In many ways, this year has flown by.  In other respects, it seems like a slow slog through knee deep mud.

Three words were prevalent in my campaign.

STRONG.  CONNECTED. COMMUNITY.

To me these words were more than an empty slogan. Although they were words that could be strung together in one sentence, they were meant to stand alone. Each word has meaning for me. They relay my values and what I hope I have brought to this position.  In looking over what I hope to accomplish while in office, words that were written as I made my decision to run, I see that some things are happening, but there is much more yet to be done.

In this series I will review some council accomplishments as well as some things yet to do.

STRONG

STRONG, RESILIENT ECONOMY AND A FISCALLY SOUND MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT

Development Code Re-write: Among my goals in this area was a revision of the city’s development code. The need for this became readily apparent while I sat on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Most land use applications that came before the commission had at least six variance requests and some came with many, many more.Yard_sign The lack of new “attainable” housing units, is a perfect example of why not only the code but the process needed to change. This is currently underway.

City Financial Backbone: The City has been using software from 1987, with the last upgrade done in 2003.  The issues included lack of integration, resulting in hours of manual entry on the part of staff. Time and attendance reporting are not automated or integrated, which requires about 70 hours of time per month. The public cannot pay for utilities, park fees, building permits, etc., on line. Reporting is slow and requires extensive staff time. We are currently underway with a new financial backbone system and it will be implemented in phases over the next two years.

Budget Process: Accountability and transparency are key in this area. Council must be good stewards of the citizen’s funds. As council liaison to the Financial Advisory Board, I have advocated for more involvement  by this group of financially astute individuals in the city’s budget process. Last year was spent observing the current process and the board is in the process of making recommendations to City Council on changes that could be made. Additionally, with the help of Interim City Manager Drew Gorgey, this board is revamping the city’s discretionary and tourism grant process to provide clearer direction and more accountability.

STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

Local and Regional Partnerships: Building these relationships will enable us to collectively solve regional issues. This council and Garfield County have a good working relationship — even if we don’t always agree. Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) has also been a great partner in our work to obtain a permanent 8th Street Connection and resolving some issues for residents in the Cole Subdivision. I sit as an alternate on the RFTA Board.

Bridge Move

Pedestrian Bridge Move

I have met with fellow council members from Carbondale and Rifle to discuss issues in our communities. The City’s relationship with CDOT has been one of cooperation. We are facing a long, difficult construction period and we must maintain a good working connection with CDOT and their contractors.

The city is continuing to work closely with the Roaring Fork School District on various school projects, including a land swap which enabled Glenwood Elementary to remain a central fixture in our core. Both city and RFSD are working to resolve an issue with the designated park lands and finalize the swap.

Additionally we have been working with a group that is interested in seeing a Detox facility built in or near Glenwood. Players include Valley View Hospital, Grand River Hospital, Garfield County, Mind Springs Health, law enforcement agencies from Rifle to Carbondale. Sadly it appears that this public/private partnership is in need of a champion to carry this forward. The city is currently at capacity, as I imagine are other entities. Any volunteers?

I am participating in Garfield County’s Economic Development Partners, Club 20 and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments as well as many Department of Local Affairs and Colorado Municipal League events.

Partners4Glenwood (P4G) is another group designed to leverage local knowledge and talent to bring a fresh approach to issues impacting the city and to lend a hand when possible.

STRONG DIRECTION

City Hall is in a transition period, which is not easy. It is not easy for staff, department heads, the public or council. City Council made some major changes in administration this year, which was not without pain. When you are dealing with real people, and making major changes it is extremely difficult. We currently have an Interim City Manager, Drew Gorgey, who is doing a great job and moving some key initiatives along. City Council is in the process of interviews for a permanent manager and we hope to have that accomplished by the end of June.

Economic Development

While we have started the ball rolling, there is still much to be done in this area. Glenwood needs to continue working to keep our local businesses thriving and those, like Meier Skis, in town. According to Place Value, a report done by the people I now work with, Community Builders, there are new trends in economic development. It is no longer about seeking and courting the big dogs. Instead it is more about Economic Gardening and knowledge based jobs. It is about training people to do the jobs that need to be done. It is about the revitalization of downtowns, the core of the city.It is about making places that people want to live and work. We know the major problem that faces many of our workers  — housing. We must continue to work to increase the amount of attainable housing for our citizens

Stay tuned for CONNECTED & COMMUNITY and thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving you.

Update Sept 2015 – Budget, Homeless, and More!

I am five months into my four-year term of serving you as Councilor-at-large on Glenwood Springs City Council. It is a privilege to be a part of such a great city and I am honored to work with other city council members, city staff, local business and citizens to help guide Glenwood through the next three and a half years.  It is likely to be some of the best times that Glenwood has seen, as well as some of the most difficult. 

One of my election promises was better communication and I have not been as good at that as I had hoped.  So, to that end, as a start I plan to provide a monthly update that will include a brief description of meetings and events I have attended as well as a bit about one or more city departments.  Sometimes it may seem like nothing is happening and things do move more slowly than we all would like. But picture a duck on the Colorado River.  On the top, the duck looks calm and seems to be floating along, but below the surface, that duck’s feet are paddling like crazy.  So goes it with city hall.

Finance Department

Charles KeltySince we are deep into budget season, the first department I would like to highlight is the Finance Department, headed by Charles Kelty. Charles took over the reins from Mike Harman who retired earlier this year after 24 years as the Finance Director. Charles spent nine years as the finance director in Rifle and had a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Finance handles all of the city’s payroll, utility billing, tax administration, purchasing and building maintenance as well as making sure the city’s bills are paid and collecting funds owed to the city.

Staff includes Yvette Gustad, Assistant Finance Director; Ricky Smith, Purchasing Agent; Karen Bender, Janice Palacio, Linda Millyard and Candie Vandermark, all Senior Accounting Techs and Martha Gonzales and Elida Trujillo Solano the ladies who keep city hall sparkling clean. When you come to pay your utility bills or pick up a bus pass, these are the staff you see and are often the main contact for people dealing with city hall.

Taking the city through the budget process is no easy task and involves hours of the finance department’s time as well as a great deal of time from City Manager Jeff Hecksel and all department supervisors. Beginning Sept 29, the city will begin holding meetings with City Council, the Financial Advisory Board, and department heads to review the proposed budget, line by line. A schedule of these meetings is provided below. These are public meetings and the public is encouraged to attend.  A preliminary draft budget should be available on the City’s website when the budget work sessions begin.

Budget Work Session Schedule:

Sept 29 – 5pm -7 pm

Oct 8Special Meeting, DDA & Budget 6pm-9pm

Oct 154pm – 6pm

Oct 20Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Oct 29Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Nov 5if needed

All budget work sessions will be held in council chambers at city hall.

Monthly Update – meetings and events I attended

Grand Ave Bridge:  Met with representatives from Glenwood Springs Chamber, CDOT, DDA and city staff to discuss public information plans for the Grand Avenue Bridge Project August 27 2015.

Transportation Commission Sept 1, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this commission.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included the Blake Avenue Gate between Walmart and the RFTA BRT station on 27th as well as traffic calming measures on the residential streets in the downtown area.  Terri Partch, City Engineer and Geoff Guthrie, City Transportation Manager discussed the proposed multi-use path along Midland, from Lowes to Interchange 114, 27th Street Bridge and touched on RFTA’s Access Control Plan.  They updated on the Grand Avenue Bridge and 8th Street extension projects as well as discussing who will represent this commission on the Acquisitions and Improvement (A&I) tax working group.  The Transportation Commission is finalizing the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and determining next steps.  This commission always has a great deal to discuss and it seems like never enough time!

Ride-along with GSPD Sept 4, 2015:  I was privileged to be able to ride and walk with several officers from the police department  from 6 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m. It was a great experience, one I hope to do again. You can read more about my thoughts here.  My thanks to Officers Noel, Crawford, Cole, Gobbo, Miller, Dietrich, Yorty,  and Lawson as well as Code Enforcement Officer Springer, Detective Sergeant Hassell, and Patrol Sergeant Prough for putting up with all of my questions and taking the time to talk with me.

Colorado Municipal League (CML) District 11 Meeting in Silt Sept 9, 2015:  CML provides  training and information on issues of concern to counties and municipalities.  It is also a great chance to talk with other staff and elected officials from other communities in our area. Mayor Rick Aluise presented a wonderful powerpoint on the accomplishments that have taken place in Silt in the recent year.

Roaring Fork Transit Authority Board Meeting (RFTA) Sept 10, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this board.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included a presentation of the first draft of RFTA’s 2016 budget and an update of the Rio Grande Corridor Access Control Plan.  License for access to the Rio Grande Trail was granted to ACES Rock Bottom Ranch

Take Back Your Power Sept 10, 2015:  At the invitation of Marilyn Shettel, I attended a screening of a documentary “Take Back Your Power.”  It raised some interesting questions and I will be talking more with Ms. Shuttle in the near future.

We’ve Got Your Back!  Sept. 11, 2015:  This was a hastily thrown together “thank you” to area law enforcement and first responders in our region from Aspen to Parachute.  For being planned in less than 36 hours, it was well attended.  I have received requests from community members to turn this into an annual event and make it bigger. We’ll work on that!

Club 20 Fall Meeting Sept. 12, 2015:  This was my first Club 20 meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on things happening statewide and nationally. I also received lessons from Henry Sobanet, Governor Hickenlooper’s Budget Director on Colorado’s fiscal challenges and from Mark Hermundstad on water regulations and impacts on Colorado’s Western Slope. The networking was also wonderful!

Garfield County Economic Development Partners Sept 16, 2015:  This is a group of staff and elected officials from various entities throughout Garfield County that meet quarterly to review what is happening in Garfield County. RFTA presented their 2015 Travel Plan Study.  The roundtable is particularly useful to know what other communities are working on and to provide opportunities for partnership and coordination.

In addition we have had two City Council meetings which included a work session on the Confluence Area and a work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

***MARK YOUR CALENDARS***

Community Discussion: The Effect of the Growing Homeless & Vagrant Population in Glenwood Springs

Monday, October 5, 2015

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Glenwood Springs Community Center

Coming up this week: 

Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22

City Staff Employee Picnic Friday, Sept 25 – City Hall closed from Noon to 2 p.m.

Fire Department’s Open House Saturday Sept 26!  The Fire Department’s Open House is always fun for all ages so come on down from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the downtown fire station at 8th & Cooper.

Board and Commission Openings:  apply here!

Planning and Zoning:  1 Alternate

River Commission: 1 Alternate

Victims and Witness Assistance & Law Enforcement Board (VALE): 1 Alternate

Board of Appeals: 1 Alternate

Parks and Recreation: 1 Alternate

Old Library . . . new ideas

Glenwood’s downtown is an award winner!

Last Thursday,  Downtown Colorado Inc. announced that the Downtown Development Authority was one of four winners of “Best Group Effort” Award for Downtown Excellence.  What a wonderful accolade for Leslie Bethel and the DDA and the City of Glenwood!  The energy and momentum for Glenwood, not only downtown, is exciting.  When my family and I went to dinner last Friday at the Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, the downtown streets were alive with people of all ages enjoying the evening and bringing strength to Glenwood’s economy. 

Problem in Paradise

Old Glenwood Springs Library

Vacant former Glenwood Springs Library Building at 9th and Blake.

However, empty buildings and storefronts in the downtown area present a problem.  They can become unsightly due to lack of maintenance and they present a less than vibrant image.  Glenwood is fortunate to have less empty space than many small towns, but what does exist  still presents a problem.

Front entrance to old library building

Last Thursday evening, City Council had the second reading of an ordinance authorizing the sale of the vacant library building at 9th and Blake and referring the question to voters in November.  Although the city has not committed to putting the building up for sale, the discussion continues as to what should be done with this building.  I commend City Council for asking the question, and, according to the Post Independent, many ideas were presented at the June 5 Council meeting including a senior center, a new museum, or a concept similar to Carbondale’s Third Street Center.  Others suggested a joint use by several non-profits for meeting space, office space and programing needs.  Use by the Salvation Army was put forth as well.  The Salvation Army made a second request for use of the building for, as I understand, offices and a distribution center at the July 17 City Council meeting.  

Careful Consideration

Determining the best use for this building or parcel should be done thoughtfully and deliberately.

It might be wise for City Council to use the City’s Comprehensive Plan as guidance in this matter. The  Comp Plan was the fruition of many meetings with stakeholders in the community as well as citizen charrettes and brainstorming sessions, and I believe, distills the wishes and values of the community. 

Comp_Plan_CoverrThe Comp Plan lists nine goals:

1. Promote long-term, sustainable, diverse economic development

2. Maintain Glenwood Springs as the regional tourism, retail, commercial and governmental center of Garfield County

3. Preserve the small town character while maintaining the livability of Glenwood Springs and increasing the vibrancy and commercial success of the Downtown

4. Address transportation needs and provide multiple convenient travel choices

5. Direct development to locations and building forms that are cost-effective to serve

6. Provide housing for the entire community

7. Support social diversity

8. Preserve cultural resources

9. Preserve natural resources

Historic Residential Area near old library 9th & Blake

Historic neighborhood surrounding former library building.

The area at 9th and Blake is a difficult, transitional area as part of the downtown area and the surrounding  historical residential area. The use of that building could have a tremendous impact on the downtown and those neighborhoods nearby. 

Best Use?

The use of the building by the Salvation Army, Lift Up, Feed My Sheep or a host of other similar groups may be altruistic, but it does not  fit with the goals identified in the Comp Plan. However, some non-profit uses could fit well into this area  Downtown Glenwood Springs has the momentum to make Glenwood into even more of a destination resort than ever.  The use of the old library building must be weighed very carefully. Even a temporary use of the wrong kind could be an enormous mistake.  Once a use is in place, it can be very difficult to change.

Blake and 9th looking south

Looking south on Blake from the corner of 9th and Blake

The RIGHT non-profit could be a perfect addition to that area.   Whatever the use of that building or parcel, it must contribute to the vitality and economic development of the downtown and insure that Glenwood Springs is a regional hub for tourism and retail.  It should also fit the small town character that so many want preserved. Maybe . . . just maybe . . . the best use for that building has not even been envisioned yet.  Glenwood Springs folks are a creative bunch – so perhaps it is time to get even more creative.

I urge City Council to act very carefully if they choose to keep and lease this building. Any use is going to have a tremendous long-range impact. Let’s find a use that moves Glenwood’s economy forward. I agree that the Salvation Army needs a new home, but not this building.

 

Getting to YES on 7th Street!

YES!In the early 1980’s Roger Fischer & William Ury authored the best-selling book, “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.”  It has been used in countless negotiations, from those at Camp David to those in the bedroom.  The main concept is “bargain over interests rather than position.”   Interests can be defined at the “why” while position is the “what”.  

Interest vs. Position

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website designed to explain the art of negotiations to students explains this very clearly with an illustration I will paraphrase. Two chefs were arguing over the last orange. Both needed the orange to complete their recipe.  As a compromise, the chefs agreed to cut the orange in half.  One chef squeezed the juice from his half of the orange into his recipe.  It was not enough, but it would have to do.  The other used the orange zest from her half in her recipe.  It was not as much as the recipe called for, but again, it would have to do.  orange

http://web.mit.edu/negotiation/www/NBivsp.html  

Clearly, if the chefs had talked about their interest – why they needed the orange, rather than the orange itself, both would have had a much more satisfactory result.

Yes to Vitality

Last Thursday evening the negotiations and discussion ran quite late regarding the proposed outdoor seating policy and the 7th Street Sidewalk Expansion.  In the end, City Council got to “Yes” and gave their blessing for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to move forward with plans to widen the sidewalks on the south side of 7th Street between Blake and Grand to 18 feet.  This will allow restaurants along 7th to provide the option of outdoor seating for their customers.

Juicy Lucys 6-15-13 with roof deck - smaller

I do not think there was a person in that room who had an issue with the “why” of this project.   Glenwood needs to do whatever it possibly can to continue to create a vibrant, active downtown, which will benefit the entire community.  Wider sidewalks that create a pedestrian friendly district, further enhanced by landscaping and appropriate lighting will serve to bring people into the downtown. The outdoor dining will make them want to stay and linger.   The sticking point was the “what.”    The what, in this case, was the raised patio that may be needed by the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company, as well as others, to create a level seating area as this concept is expanded.

Due to the severity ofBrew Pub expanded sidewalk the slope, it is possible that at least one of these patios would need to be permanent which is causing City staff as well as at least one council member some heartburn. The issue became whether public funds should be used to create an amenity that is used by a private business.   In the end, it was the “why” – the need for an energetic downtown that was the priority over the “what” for Council.  The vote was six to one, with Mayor Leo McKinney casting the only dissenting vote.

Caution and Assurance

Only one person, Jon Zalinski, owner of TreadZ, cautioned council members that a line should be drawn and all business owners given a similar opportunity.  From comments that were part of the public meeting,  as well as discussions during breaks and after, it was clear that the intent of both the DDA and City Council is to continue to make improvements throughout the downtown area to help those businesses attract customers. To paraphrase what several council members said;   benefits to the businesses in the downtown would benefit all of Glenwood Springs.   Areas that were specifically discussed were Cooper Avenue, 6th Street and the areas along 8th and 9th, east and west of Grand Avenue. 

As Leslie Bethel clarified in her response to my previous post, approximately half of the $800,000 from the county will still be used for improvements to the parking area south of the fire station as well as streetscaping along Cooper from the new parking structure to the library building.  

Trust Issues?

In an article on Forbes.com, Keld Jensen, a Forbes contributor who “writes about negotiation, behavioral economics and trust” maintains that in spite of 30 years of using the “Getting to Yes” theory, negotiations and collaboration flounder.  

 http://www.forbes.com/sites/keldjensen/2013/02/05/why-negotiators-still-arent-getting-to-yes/

He states that our biggest problem in negotiations and collaboration is a lack of trust in other people.   The citizens of Glenwood Springs as well as the business owners must now trust the DDA and Council to do the right thing and continue their work to make downtown Glenwood the crown jewel of the city.  Don’t let us down!

What else can be done?

Café_de_Flore jpg

 

Cafe de Flore, Paris. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Let me know what you think of this decision.  Besides relocating SH 82, what else would you like to see done in the downtown area to improve vitality: Street vendors, more street markets?  Do you think the current Street Design Standards of an eight foot pedestrian walkway are excessive?  Could sidewalks that are eight to nine feet also serve additional uses, like outdoor seating or merchandise display without truly creating a safety issue? Would Glenwood be wise to lose additional on-street parking to widen sidewalks in other areas?  Keep the discussion going to make sure your voice is heard!

Why we don’t get economic development . . .

Since I am feeling a bit under the weather and have not been able to finish my latest rumination, I wanted to share something I read recently on another blog.   Interesting.

http://wiseeconomy.com/why-we-dont-get-economic-development-we-dont-really-want-it/