January 6, 2020 STUDY SESSION Council developing a Communication and Conduct “Creed,” In progress. To enlist...
BY DORIS B. TRUHLARGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER Centennial City Council Monday night approved a 2020 mill levy, and a...
BY DORIS B. TRUHLARGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER Councilwoman Candace Moon told the Centennial City Council, during th...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER In the days following the Nov. 5 election, questions were raised about so...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER When the numbers were all tallied, 1,484,523 Coloradans voted on the ques...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER The state’s outdoor recreation office (ORC) was created by former Colorad...
BY BOB BAKERFIRE CHIEF, SOUTH METRO FIRE RESCUE It’s been roughly 10 months since South Metro Fire Rescue and...
BY DORIS TRUHLARGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER Some residents of the South Metro Fire Rescue District will receive tax...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER At its meeting on September 3, the CHV city council began a discussion ab...
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER Ten members of the Arapahoe County Long Range Planning Commission joined...
BY DORIS B. TRUHLARGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Centennial City Council Monday night approved a 2020 mill levy, and also authorized amendments to the 2019 budget, with the nine-member body agreeing unanimously to all actions taken during the meeting.
City staff explained that all real property is appraised every other year, in odd-numbered years, including 2019. Appraisals of residential properties are up 16 percent, with commercial properties increasing at the rate of 10.5 percent since the appraisals in 2017.
The increases in property values will cause an additional $12.4 million to come into the city’s coffers during 2020, staff stated.
City Manager Matt Sturgeon stated that certain Intergovernmental Agreements for calendar year 2020 will allow open space to be preserved utilizing grant funds. Additionally, the council has approved a budget containing $7,500,000 in expenditures for improvements to roads and streets. There also was approval for $950,000 to build sidewalks on South University Boulevard.
Carrie Penaloza, who is retiring from her District 2 council post at the end of 2019, thanked the city staff for going through the various expenditures, stating that she realized the expenditures used to be on the agenda as items that would not be discussed. She said it was helpful to have some explanation and discussion. Penaloza expeditiously ran most of the meeting in the absence of the mayor.
Councilwoman Candace Moon said she would like the streets that will be repaired to be listed, for the information of the neighborhoods, as well as for the council members.
Sturgeon said the street repair funds will be utilized for both asphalt and concrete roadways. He also said that there will be a number of contractors from “throughout the city” working on the various projects.
In his report to the council, Sturgeon informed them that Chief Troy Jackson, South Metro Fire District, died of a rare type of cancer. Councilman Ron Weidmann asked whether the city would fly its flags at half mast, to honor Jackson. Sturgeon said he is in the process of trying to find out whether it is permitted for the city to lower the flags to half mast. State and county governments will lower their flags to half mast, he said.
Councilwoman Candace Moon told the Centennial City Council, during the time dedicated to reports of council members, that she attended a meeting of the Tri-County Health Department and learned valuable information about air quality and also immunizations.
Moon, who recently won re-election in a close battle with Ron Phelps, said the meeting of Tri-County Health Department was interesting and informational. In other reports, Michael Sutherland reported that he attended the Recovery Court graduation of the 18th Judicial District, which serves Centennial as well as other areas of Arapahoe County. Sutherland said the graduation was “inspiring.” Councilwoman Marlo Alston agreed, stating that the program helps offenders get back into a crime-free life. Alston said the program is a “great thing.”
Councilman Ron Weidmann, who was attending his final meeting after being appointed by the council to serve out the mayor’s term when she was elected mayor two years ago, said he had really enjoyed serving, but is ready to go back to being “at home” with his wife, Carol. “I’m glad I’m moving on,” he stated.
Also moving on and leaving the council are Councilwoman Carrie Penaloza and Councilman Ken Lucas.
BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
In the days following the Nov. 5 election, questions were raised about some of the actions of Joan Lopez, who was elected county clerk last year in a Democratic wave in Arapahoe County.
Arapahoe County Republicans, through their chair Dorothy Gottlieb, have called on Lopez to “resign immediately” in order to “restore the faith of Arapahoe County voters in the integrity, credibility, and fairness of the election process,” as a result of issues they have with how this election was run.
.A flyer that was distributed prior to the election by the clerk’s office encouraging residents to register and vote was titled, “VOTE. Your vote is your voice.” It contained the statement, “Registered? Great! Vote early and vote often. Check the reverse side for important dates regarding upcoming elections.” The phrase, “vote early and vote often,” is a tongue-in-cheek political motto of Chicago (where I grew up). It sarcastically refers to the reputation of illegal activity in that city decades ago that supposedly allowed people to vote more than once. No one knows for sure if it ever really happened.
In response to our question about what the clerk’s office actually intended in using that turn of phrase, Winna MacLaren, the public information officer, told us that it was she who created the flyer and that she “was unaware the phrase had negative associations. The intention was to encourage voters to vote in all of the upcoming elections listed on the flyer and to do so prior to each Election Day, if possible.” Lopez has previously apologized for the error, noting that her staff was young.
On the issue of delays in counting votes, for which the clerk’s office was also criticized, MacLaren told us that of the total 163.594 ballots received in Arapahoe County, 33,738 or 21 percent were received on November 4, the day before the election, and 61,150 or 37 percent were received on election day, November 5. The ballots received on those two days constituted 58 percent of the total, which explains why preliminary vote totals available on the night of the election were subsequently revised.
When the numbers were all tallied, 1,484,523 Coloradans voted on the question, “Without raising taxes and to better fund public schools, higher education, and roads, bridges, and transit, within a balanced budget, may the state keep and spend all the revenue it annually collects after June 30, 2019, but is not currently allowed to keep and spend under Colorado law, with an annual independent audit to show how the retained revenues are spent?” 54 percent of those who cast a vote said no, compared to 46 percent who approved.
That is the opposite of what Magellan Strategies, a highly respected local Republican pollster, reported after conducting a scientific poll in August. Back then, they said that 54 percent of those polled planned to vote yes, 30 percent were no’s, and 15 percent were undecided. That means that all the undecideds in August voted no and one-sixth of those who planned to vote yes changed to no’s.
According to published reports, Referendum CC proponents raised $4.45 million in contributions (all private) and spent $4.12 million. Opponents reported donations of $1.75 million and expenditures of $1.68 million. One never knows what affects voters, but there was a very clever cartoon television ad by opponents of the plan, that ran frequently in the days leading up to the election. It had a dog representing “pet projects” portrayed as eating up the unrefunded extra tax money instead of using it for education and transportation, as promised.
Magellan’s David Flaherty points out that the key to the loss lies with unaffiliated voters, who are unpredictable, compared to major party members who generally follow their party’s lead. Like many issues, this one found most Democrats on one side (yes) and most Republicans on the other (no).
As of Nov. 1, active Colorado voters affiliated with the two major parties combined, comprised only 58 percent of the electorate (28 percent are Republicans, 30 percent are Democrats), while 40 percent of all active voters were unaffiliated with either of the two major parties. Historically, unaffiliated voters have been less apt to participate in off-year elections like this one. Compared to the off-year election held in 2015, fewer Republicans and fewer Democrats voted this year, while 4 percent more unaffiliated voters participated. The actual number of unaffiliated voters who made themselves heard in this year’s election was 502,011.
In Colorado, the older someone is, the more likely they are to vote, and the less likely they are to approve a tax increase. Of the nearly one-third of all the people who voted in the Nov. 5 election and were unaffiliated, nearly half of them were over age 55. It is easy to see how that contributed to the defeat of Proposition CC.
The measure had been passed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature with some Republican support. The continuing struggle to pay for education and transportation is shared by state legislators of both parties. Colorado’s strong economy is inconsistent with its low ranking for state spending on education, especially higher education, and the $9 billion backlog of road projects.
In the aftermath of the election loss, coupled with the losses in 2018 of two competing ballot issues to fund roads and transportation, the legislature is going to have to take a fresh look at how these needs can be addressed. Who knows? Maybe the Democrats and the Republicans will even look together.
The state’s outdoor recreation office (ORC) was created by former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. It falls under the office of economic development and international trade. Its purpose is to support business and make sure that business supports the outdoors and the environment. So said Samantha Albert, ORC deputy director, to a gathering of 50 leaders of business and government in a South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce (SMDC) economic development program held at the offices of AAA Colorado, Inc. at 6061 S. Willow Drive in Greenwood Village on Oct. 11.
Albert told the attendees from the fields of banking, finance, insurance, energy, and government that 92 percent of Colorado residents participate in outdoor recreation every year. She further explained that the outdoor recreation economy in Colorado annually accounts for $28 billion in consumer spending, ten percent of the state’s gross domestic product, involves 19 percent of its labor force, has a $62 billion total economic impact, and supports 511,000 direct jobs. Six Colorado colleges and universities, including the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, now offer degrees and certificates directly related to the outdoor recreation industry.
Chris Castillian, executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), told the SMDC economic development group that in its 27 years of existence, GOCO has invested $1.2 billion into projects that built 900 miles of trails, added over 47,000 acres to the state park system, helped support 43 endangered or threatened species of wildlife, protected more than 1,000 miles of rivers, and employed 9.400 young people through the Colorado Youth Corps Association.
Created in 1992 and funded solely by the Colorado Lottery to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces, GOCO’s 17-member independent board, appointed by the governor, awards competitive grants to serve its stated goals. Our state constitution requires that GOCO splits its grant awards equally between 1) outdoor recreation, 2) wildlife, 3) open space, and 4) local government projects.
One of GOCO’s current goals is to connect bicycle trails throughout the state so that riders will one day be able to ride from Denver International Airport to Grand Junction on their bikes.
GOCO is currently focused on the Generation Wild movement, a $30 million statewide campaign to get children and their families in underserved communities all over Colorado outside to reconnect youth to nature.
Castillian told the SMDC economic development group that Fishers Peak Ranch in Trinidad has just been announced as the future home of Colorado’s 42nd state park, which will be comprised of 20,000 acres.
BY BOB BAKERFIRE CHIEF, SOUTH METRO FIRE RESCUE
It’s been roughly 10 months since South Metro Fire Rescue and Littleton Fire Rescue consolidated. We want to thank our citizens for their continued support and the healthy dialogue that we have throughout our newly-expanded district.
Following the consolidation with Littleton, SMFR’s permits and fees took effect and now apply to all events that are within our District. We’d like to take this opportunity to help answer some questions regarding our event review and inspection process, fee structure, as well as how we are governed as a special district.
South Metro serves three counties (Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson), 12 municipalities and 540,000 residents within our roughly 300 square miles of the southern metropolitan area of Denver. We are classified as a Special District, which is governed by Title 32 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. We have a board of directors who are elected by our constituents throughout our district and who oversee the overall operations of South Metro – including our annual budget, fee schedules, spending, strategic growth, and more.
The SMFR Board adopts the overall permit fee schedule, which includes special event permit fees, effective across all partners and municipalities throughout the district. The SMFR Board thoroughly vets this process and works with the Fire Chief, as well as the SMFR Fire Marshal and Chief Financial Officer, to analyze the information and then determine if the fee structure and associated process will be adopted. To see the latest SMFR fee schedule, please click here.
Throughout the past 10 months after consolidation, we do recognize and understand that the fees, event permit submittal process, and procedures associated with events in the legacy Littleton Fire Rescue (LFR) District vary from what was done in the past within LFR. Because South Metro is a Special District and not a municipal fire department, our fee structure is different than LFR’s and the fees are applied to recover costs associated with those permits.
Specifically, South Metro permit fees are based on the Fire Marshal’s Office (FMO) administrative processing, plan review, pre-event inspections, and if necessary, inspection oversight during the event. For pyrotechnic displays, the permit also includes oversight during the display, suppression unit standby, and post-event inspection the morning following the display. South Metro does not issue permits to make a profit, but rather we go through this process to ensure events are compliant with the adopted International Fire Code (IFC), and most importantly, that these events are safe for our citizens to enjoy.
The IFC is a comprehensive fire code adopted throughout the U.S., which establishes minimum regulations for fire prevention and fire protection systems and is designed to meet these safeguards through model code regulations to protect the public health and safety in all communities, large and small. We are obligated to enforce the fire code as adopted by each of our geo-political entities.
It’s extremely important to South Metro, your Fire Chief, and the elected SMFR Board that we adhere to fire codes that are designed to reduce the risk while keeping our citizens safe. There are provisions in the adopted fire code that are specific to regulation of special events, which is what our FMO adheres to while reviewing and inspecting such events.
It is also our goal to work very closely with the event’s organizers to ensure that the permit process is smooth. Over the past 10 months, we have received constructive feedback on our processes, and we will continue to make improvements to ensure our customer experience is as smooth and helpful as possible.
South Metro is dedicated to being good stewards in our community. We remain committed to partnering with our citizens, businesses and municipalities to ensure all events are safe as well as successful. And, we expect the 2020 special event season to be better than ever.
BY DORIS TRUHLARGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Some residents of the South Metro Fire Rescue District will receive tax cuts in the coming year, according to a report made to the Centennial City Council by Jerry Rhodes, Assistant Chief of that district, at a council meeting earlier this week.
Rhodes said that the recent unification of the Cunningham Fire Protection District and Littleton Fire Rescue with South Metro will result in a decrease in the property taxes.
The newly created district has grown to serving about 540,000 residents within about 285 square miles, according to Rhodes. The three district merged beginning at the beginning of 2019.
As of the end of this year, plus any time needed to obtain an order from the District Court, Cunningham Fire District will no longer exist, Rhodes said. He also predicted that the mill levy of 9.25 will be in effect for five to ten years. Additionally, Rhodes said there had been three unions prior to the unification. There is now only one union. There will be a seven-member board running the district, he said.
Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko said she is “impressed” with the merger and called it “beneficial” to residents of the district.
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