My response then and now is: what constitutes a “majority of constituents”? As your representative, do I make a decision based on the majority of e-mails received from my constituents? Do I count …
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My response then and now is: what constitutes a “majority of constituents”? As your representative, do I make a decision based on the majority of e-mails received from my constituents? Do I count the opinions of the majority of people who speak at public meetings? Do I rely on positions determined in any number of ways by registered neighborhood organization boards? Do I need to consider neighborhood interests in light of the overall good of the city? Do I make judgments about the quality of public information disseminated through the Washington Park Profile, Life on Capitol Hill, the Glendale/Cherry Creek Chronicle, neighborhoods blasts, and my least favorite – anonymous flyers?
Yes, all of the above.
It’s tough. It’s a challenge, opportunity and grave responsibility. I don’t take that responsibility lightly. It’s an occupational hazard that tough decisions will generate opposition. And it’s an occupational hazard that as we receive information from lobbyists, city officials, subject-area experts, advocacy groups, and neighborhoods, we can begin to think we know more than others. We must strive to avoid being big-headed and frankly, in the end we have to trust our gut.
In my recent decision to oppose tax increment financing for Walmart at 9th and Colorado Blvd., my decision was based not solely on constituent response. It was not based on fear of traffic because any reuse will generate a fair amount of traffic. Mostly I thought about economic benefits – quality jobs, sales tax in the short term and in the future, and need for services. And my gut worried about the scale of development. For more retail, we need more residential and office density.
At the same time, saying no to the project as proposed meant potential loss of the second or third (who’s counting?) developer on the site and the potential that CU would further reduce maintenance of the property. The threat that lack of maintenance on an empty site would bring more blight was not to be taken lightly. But the fact was that we could not pursue any alternatives until it was clear that the current answer was NO. The fact of the matter is that the request for tax increment financing raises the bar for development beyond initial entitlements.
Similarly but differently, I’ve been emotionally invested for many years as both a community resident and leader and now council representative in the Cherry Creek area – an area facing development pressure rivaled only by the Denver Union Station area. While 9th Ave. and Colorado Blvd., just blocks north of Cherry Creek, is vying for tax-increment financing and while downtown received bond dollars for streetscape on 14th St., commercial property owners in Cherry Creek financed $18 million dollars of bonds (at no cost to residential owners in Denver) to improve streetscape. Recent projections and zoning requests indicate that 1,000 new residential units could be developed in Cherry Creek in the near future. Yet, how will we meet the traffic infrastructure demand there? Will the city and RTD invest in the appropriate solutions or just look to Cherry Creek to generate revenue for city-wide projects?
Back when I first ran for office, I said, “Economic development and quality of life in our neighborhoods go hand in hand.” It’s true – making our city stronger economically can provide more services to neighborhoods, but some of those services must return to the neighborhoods where the development occurs. If that does not happen, then we will continue to see neighborhoods pitted against development. Maybe I’m jousting at windmills, but we can do better. I look with excitement to new collaboration at 9th and Colorado and in Cherry Creek.
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