Tag Archive for council

Council Not Serving Citizens

Katie Witt, poster girl for council's confusion.

Katie Witt, poster girl for council’s confusion.

Longmont City Council seems to be floundering again on city planning.  It’s a familiar story.  They cozy up to a company that wants to have its own way completely in what it does to Longmont.  Whether it is oil companies or mall developers, they make deals that do not reflect the thoughts or preferences of the people of Longmont.  Then they paper it over simply by declaring that their own bizarre decisions are “what the people want,” or “what the people have asked for.”  Listen up, City Council!  The people of Longmont didn’t ask for fracking wells in the city, or fracking wells surrounding Union Reservoir, but it took a public referendum and official vote to make that clear to the Longmont City Council.   Even so, the City Council seems less than enthusiastic about enforcing the ban on drilling that the people’s vote now mandates.  Instead of listening to the residents of Longmont, the City Council seems distressed at the thought of conducting themselves as the representatives of the people who elected them.

The recent disputes about how to redevelop Twin Peaks Mall involve tactics that are similar to the push for sweetheart deals with the oil companies.   City Council members have again shown their eagerness to bend over because the failed cinema wants to extend its failures into the future by using Longmont tax dollars. The existing mall has only one major survivor at this point, a large department store that found a way to stay in business, despite the disastrous mismanagement of the mall.   And what does City Council want to do with it?  Taking a wrecking ball to it, of course, and declare that this is what the people have asked for.  On the contrary, the people have already voted with their dollars to keep this department store.  There is no other store like it in Longmont, and no other store with their survivor skills in today’s market.  You’d think the City Council would be consulting the department store about what would be needed for a viable mall.  Instead, they have courted one of the worst cinema chains, whose appeal is largely to teenagers and small children, and made this the cornerstone of their redevelopment.  This theater habitually screens the cinematic equivalent of fast food.  There are other cinema chains that would be far better choices for redeveloping the mall.  Boulder has found them and so has Denver.  Why can’t the City Council take its blinders off and do the same?  Do they really think that the weekly allowance of twelve year olds is what it takes to make a new mall financially viable?

And aren’t these the same Council members who moaned and complained about the expense of law suits when it came to standing up for citizen’s rights against the encroachments of oil companies?  Now they have decided to initiate legal action to try to condemn the only viable store at the present mall.  This strategy seems like a very long shot, and a ridiculous misuse of Longmont tax dollars.  It will cause serious delays in the mall redevelopment and will drive away many new tenants who might otherwise want to be in Longmont.

If the deal with the current cinema can’t get the wrecking ball, then choose something else for another anchor.  Why not revitalize the conference center, and give it more variety and visibility in the possible uses for it.  Add a performance hall to it, for example, like the one that Arvada has.   Put a new multiplex cinema on Hover or Ken Pratt Blvd or upper Main St. or Pace St.  Apparently the present cinema only has a deal for the present location.  The cinema for Longmont could easily be relocated, and could attract a film distributor that would provide us with much more variety and quality.  And finally, why rebuild the entire mall when only parts of it need to be changed?  Has City Council never heard of remodeling?

The City Council needs to change its approach, and in fact put the needs of residents first in their considerations, not last.  Longmont residents have shown that they will not stand for a flagrant misuse of tax dollars to underwrite sweetheart deals with companies that have no interest in the well-being of Longmont.

HeavenFest: A Reality Check

Union Reservoir - March 2010 - Photo by Doug Wray

Imagine for a moment that an organization approached your city and requested use of one of its facilities to hold a rally involving up to 50,000 individuals. Imagine that the proceeds from this rally could reach over $2 million but the sponsors offered nothing but payment of a $50 permit and a promise to tidy things up after the event.

Imagine a city council which accepted this offer and instead of negotiating a piece of the gate worth (modestly) at least $100,000, buried the decision for permit approval in the bowels of its bureaucracy where various unelected officials made the decision for them. Public input fell on deaf ears and was not encouraged. Virtually no debate was held by council.

Welcome to Longmont and the HeavenFest concert where rumors of untold riches are rife, all to be generated by throngs of visitors spending wildly in restaurants, hotels and the hundreds of tee shirt and souvenir shops dotting downtown (OK – that does require some imagination).

Reality check: With 918 hotel rooms- most of which are routinely filled on weekends and every restaurant packed with locals, we are to believe that these hordes of visitors will somehow manage in one or two nights to contribute as much as $900,000 in new tax revenue.

But neither Thornton nor Brighton, the homes of HeavenFest ‘09, found any significant increase in revenues related to the event. Why? In part because the attendees stayed in their campsites, or came for one day then went home. Most importantly, with venues already filled to capacity with locals, there was nowhere to spend new money. Longmont’s council and its boys in the back knew this- or should have. It’s called due diligence and objective analysis; both were AWOL when this deal was struck.

Enough- let’s get off the road to Oz and examine the facts:

Fact: HeavenFest is an arm of non-profit Worship and the World Movement (WWM). The announced purpose of this organization is (in part) to; “Proclaim God’s Word through worship and teaching at over 70 events” and; “Support an orphanage in Venezuela”. (source: 2008 IRS Form 990 tax return).

Fact: The gross income of WWM in 2008 was in excess of $300,000. That year it donated about 4.3% of declared income, or $12,923. to Miami-based “Home of Refuge” which runs the Venezuelan orphanage. Based on figures published on their web site, it can be assumed that WWN’s 2009 revenue was well in excess of $750,000. Orphanages received $35,000 or perhaps 5% of income.

Fact: WWM is not a charity and does not claim to be one. Its mission is to grow exponentially in order to reach ever growing multitudes. Let’s be clear on this; how they make and spend their money is their business and no one else’s. I have no bone to pick with WWM and no interest whatsoever in their business model.

Fact: Had a similar request for such a rally been made by any other musical group it would have been rejected out of hand- or subjected to rigorous negotiations for a share of the gate. Even then, council would likely have met a storm of protest and one can be sure there’d have been ample public debate. How then did HeavenFest slide in and walk away with a permit?

Damned if I know, but what is clear is that Longmont is in effect making a six-figure donation to a religious organization. Were this money going to a recognized charity it might be forgivable, but again-WWN is not a charity and consequently should not have received any special consideration. But it did.

Think what $100,000. (or perhaps double that amount) could do for Longmont’s homeless, its food banks, shelters and support groups. None of these will receive a red dime from this event because Longmont’s council ducked its responsibilities. Council has shown an appalling lack of objective leadership and essentially tossed away the opportunity to share in what could be a $2 million plus gate.

HeavenFest may yet prove to be a boon to Longmont and may leave Union Reservoir in better shape than it is today. Then again it may prove to be a monumental irritation to its citizens and an environmental disaster. Regardless the outcome, what happened on the road to a $50 permit should never be allowed to again occur.

Related article: HeavenFest, A Briefing

City Council Retreat, January 22-23, 2010

http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/city_council/retreat/2010/documents/overview.pdf

To view the documents, just click on the links below to view the PDF files for the Council Retreat. IMPORTANT: You MUST have the Adobe Acrobat Reader on your system prior to selecting an item on the agenda in order to be able to view these files.

City of Longmont
2010 City Council Retreat
January 22-23, 2010

Xilinx Corporation

3100 Logic Drive
Longmont, Colorado

(Map and General Information pdf, 201kb)

AGENDA

Friday, January 22

  1. Arrive/Continental Breakfast (8:00 a.m.)
  2. Welcome and Overview of Retreat 179kb (8:00 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.)
  3. Legacy Building Exercise (8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.)
  4. Break (approximately 9:15 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.)
  5. Envision a connected City – Telecommunications 74kb (9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.) Attachments 1.1mb
  6. Lunch on site (11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.)
  7. Prosperity to End Poverty 224kb (12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
    Attachment 1
    109kb / Attachments 2-4 858kb
  8. Break/Snacks (3:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.)
  9. Economic/Fiscal Sustainability 69kb (3:45 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.)
    Attachments A-I
    4.8mb / Attachment J 340kb / Attachments K-M 129kb
  10. Public invited to be heard and adjourn (upon break from last topic)
  11. Retreat Dinner at the Callahan House (6:00 p.m.)

Saturday, January 23

  1. Arrive/Continental Breakfast (8:00 a.m.)
  2. Economic/Fiscal Sustainability (8:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.) (see links above)
  3. Break, Teambuilding and Photos (11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.)
  4. Lunch on site (12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.)
  5. Open Space 37kb (1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
    Attachment A
    8.4mb / Attachment B 56kb / Attachment C 4.1mb / Attachment D 13kb
  6. Develop Work Plan (3:30 p.m.)
    A. Discuss with Staff Regarding Workload Impact and Resources Needed
    B. Finalize Action Items and Timelines on Work Plan
  7. Review of Retreat/Input Regarding Future Retreats
  8. Public invited to be heard immediately following last item
  9. Adjourn

Additional Information:

2009 City Council Workplan Update pdf, 94 kb

2009 City of Longmont Accomplishments pdf, 95 kb

2010 Major Work Items pdf, 69 kb