Mall-itics Pt. 4


I thought the title of this series “Mall-itics” was kind of catchy, and finally the politics of the mall came out during the Mall Redevelopment meeting of June 16th at the Public Works Facility. Too put it lightly, the fur was flying.
I attended this meeting, and the first meeting, and honestly I didn’t expect much in the way of fireworks. But there was a full house with Councilmembers Mary Blue and Karen Benker in attendance, along with city staff, the consultants, and quite a few of Panattoni staff. It was standing room only, may I suggest next time it’s done in council chambers?
As you may have seen, the previous three parts of this is about the politics brewing under the surface that weren’t getting much if any local media attention. I don’t usually send my articles on to city council members or the Times Call, occasionally, but rarely. Sometimes it feels like I’m writing into a vacuum, but occasionally I hear my words echoed back to me. Intentionally or by total coincidence, it doesn’t matter. Either someone read or heard what I said, or more likely, I tapped into a perception or a mood of the community.
For instance, in Pt. 1 I spoke of a perceived “bloc” on city council. I’m not shocked or surprised by much, but I was fairly a little of both when Mary Blue (who continues to impress with her version of the “Straight Talk Express”) let fly with her frank comments about other members of council. She started by apologizing that what she was about to say was ” definitely political“, and some of her comments were covered in the Times-Call article. But she also said she hadn’t heard anything contradictory from the developer and pointed out that she heard ” tremendous openness to your comments and your ideas” from Panattoni. But the three members who voted against the mall ( Levison, McCoy and Hansen), weren’t there and appear to not be listening.
Something Ms. Blue said may not thrill some people: ” It’s refreshing to come to these (mall) sessions because we’re not seeing the same gripers we see every week at council“, which got a good laugh from the crowd. And it’s true, and a point I’ve been trying to make for months. We have a faction here in Longmont, you should know who they are, I only write about them constantly, who offer nothing but whining and complaining and offer no solutions. The realities of doing business, and actually having revenues to sustain a city are not their priorities. Self promotion, street renaming, church slandering, pointless marching, tin-foil for cranial enlightenment and solar hair curling, questionable campaign activities, and constant meddling and name-calling with nothing constructive – those are their priorities. But I digress, but it was nice to see Ms. Blue recognize these people for what they are.
Ms. Blue said ” we are hearing the same arguments against this every single time and there’s no validity to it“, and asked ” where were they getting these ideas?” I was equally surprised when Ms. Blue named the three councilmembers against this project. I figured Ms. Benker would have to weigh in and defend the other three, and she did by saying they ” gave this a lot of thought, discussed it, and they do their homework“. Look again at Pt. 2 and Pt. 3, it does not appear they’ve done their homework at all on this, they show it with their comments and questions that they are ” not with clue“, to put it nicely.
What the Times Call didn’t say about the ” pit one part of council against other part of council” by Ms. Benker and Ms. Blues retort ” it already is, Karen” was the loud response via laughter by nearly everyone in the crowd. After that, there was one citizen who’s obviously against the mall redevelopment and suspicious of Panattoni, and no matter how much Ann Ricker or Will Damrath answered his questions, he wasn’t listening. I assume this is how the three councilmembers must go about their thought processes.
A question he asked, and in the form of a suspicious statement by others at other meetings was basically ” why did you buy the mall in the first place if you knew it was in the condition it was in?” Mr. Damrath answered ” It’s the best piece of real estate in Longmont. As successful as our Harvest Junction was, we still had retailers saying ‘I’m going to wait and see what happens at Hover and 119’ (the mall). That’s the place to be in Longmont. It’s where the traffic is, it’s where people shop.” Probably went in one ear and out the other, similar to what probably occurs with some of our council members. More on this meeting in Pt. 5.

Mall-itics Pt. 3

Next up in the antics of some members of the Longmont City Council at the June 10th meeting is some of Sarah Levisons comments. This was some fairly agenda driven questioning of Panattoni’s Will Damrath.

It’s easy to spot agenda driven games like this when the answer is more or less ignored, and when an answer is given the questioner quickly moves on to another subject. I noticed much of this wasn’t covered in the Times-Call, but as usual you can see the video on the city’s website.

First, Ms. Levison compared the mall to Target in her “extraordinary cost” line of questioning. Mr. Damrath rightly pointed out that her analogy was flawed, that Target owned its own property, as in just one tenant, they are a large public company and Panattoni builds for tenants, where Target builds for itself. That being said, Mr. Damrath said Target could’ve applied and been eligible for a special metro district.

Next was the question of rent going up on tenants due to the Tax Increment Financing, or TIF. The answer was NO, that those taxes are paid in sales taxes by people who shop there. Shouldn’t Ms. Levison already know this?

Ms. Levison made the claim Panattoni only owns 24% of the 41 acres in question, based on some conversation with a Boulder County Assessor. Mr. Damrath said 5 separate LLC’s own that, which are made up of Panattoni employee’s or investors, in other words they control 100% of that land. Again, homework not done.

Ms. Levison asked how the racetrack configuration of the ring road helps the blight conditions. Mr. Damrath said there are legal agreements with the other land owners when it comes to that road and their access. On this subject, Sean McCoy asked why the traffic pattern is the same as it is now. I saw this map in the packet, anyone can tell the map he was looking at was the current configuration, which Mr. Damrath had to point out the obvious. How embarrassing.

This next part seems a little, well, dishonest, and City Manager Gordon Pedrow stepped in on this one. Ms. Levison was asking how much city staff time and resources this whole mall thing taking up. She should’ve stopped there, but went on and said the owners at the flour mill want to get moving on their project and want to have a ” shovel in the ground in November“, and asked if there is enough staff for two projects like this at once. Mr. Pedrow answered more or less that staff wouldn’t commit to something they couldn’t handle, but more to the point of the flour mill, that her comments were contrary to what the city is aware of. He said the city hasn’t had discussions that those owners are moving that rapidly. Ms. Levison didn’t linger on this topic long, as Mr. Pedrow basically questioned the “truthiness” of her claims. Since these so-called conversations between Ms. Levison and the flour mill owners are open record, I’m sure she can provide that information.

Then Ms. Levison called someone up to the podium about a “private conversation” they had about the malls “underlying financial viability” (sorry, didn’t catch the name). I got the distinct feeling he didn’t exactly answer the way she wanted. She was trying to make the point how risky this is, to which he answered that “there is business risk in every project. Metro districts to a large extent mitigate some of the developer risk, but can’t eliminate it, that is embedded with risk.” Sounds like she had some agenda driven questions for him before the council meeting, shouldn’t that be public record, too?

Are you getting the picture of this council’s habit of time wasting? This went on for almost 30 minutes. It’s fine to ask questions, but most of this should’ve already been known by Ms. Levison, and this was just a witch hunt anyway. The only honest statement I heard was ” at this point I don’t feel that I have full confidence that I have understanding of the complete process. It’s pretty complicated actually.”

On the “extraordinary need” question, Mary Blue made the point that people are leaving Longmont to shop and go to theatres. That Longmont is viewed as a “honkey tonk” town that can’t support a theater. This got some laughter, but the sad part is that it’s true and it was nice to see Ms. Blue sift through the others feeble attempts to cloud something that is so simple.

Mall-itics Pt. 1


There was more than enough fodder at the June 10th Longmont City Council meeting having to do with the Twin Peaks Mall that it will probably take a couple of articles to cover.
First, to the dynamic of the council members themselves. There is a perception, a fairly true one in my opinion, that there is a “bloc” of councilmembers, often referred to the “Benker Bloc” after Councilmember and Mayor Pro-Tem Karen Benker. Whenever one of these four members votes outside of the other three (the others being Councilmembers Levison, McCoy, and Hansen) you’ll hear their surrogate Kool-Aid drinkers point out their supposed “independence”.
There was always hope that once they got in, reality would set in and these new councilmembers would become more objective and have a hard time constantly siding with their other like-minded members and show some independence. Especially when those other members are just wrong. But that’s assuming some honesty and decency exists there, an assumption some may not be willing to give. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and have mentioned positive things they’ve said or done. That doesn’t mean truly ignorant comments don’t emanate from them once in a while, as they do.
At this meeting, Karen Benker was consistent with her support of the Twin Peaks Mall and its redevelopment. I’ve read her comments about it in the paper, I’ve seen similar comments at City Council meetings and Mall citizen meetings. A comment was made on the Times Call website that this proves there is no “bloc”, which of course is hogwash, as one instance doth not make a pattern. It’s an example of where in this instance she’s just right, and the other three are just wrong.
There is another dynamic, although I don’t believe it weighs heavily in Ms. Benker’s position on this, but should be considered: Ms. Benker is the only of these four to be up for re-election (or another run at Mayor) in 2009. The other three aren’t up until 2011. There’s some safety in the knowledge that if you royally screw up this Mall decision, you’re safe from the voters wrath for quite a while longer. By the way, all four of the councilmembers who have consistently voted in favor of the mall redevelopment are up for re-election in 2009. The three who have consistently voted against it aren’t up until 2011.
I’m not one to call for re-calls, and I’ve been asked to be involved and turn those requests down. But this issue is a big one for Longmont, bigger to Longmont’s future than the Lifebridge development. If this is mishandled and derailed by a couple members of city council with an obvious agenda, they shouldn’t feel so safe in that full term if we see a boarded up fiasco where the mall sits. We’ll know exactly who’s to blame, and that is a cause I could get behind.
Those that are up for re-election in 2009 take a considerable risk as more than likely at that time the mall area will be less than 50% redeveloped, and it could be a bunch of dirt and construction with little revenue generation. In other words what they call “black” (but I think they mean “dark”). It won’t be in the “black” for a while after that, but at least the public will see something going on, some hope for the future. Not this stalling, bleak, do-nothing, no plan plan that three of our councilmembers are adamant in shoving.
In the next part, I’ll mention the disingenuous tactic of ” just wanting more answers” some are attempting when their questions are clearly agenda driven and the answers they get make absolutely no difference in their decision making. And of course their flat out misrepresentations of the truth to make a point.

Mall-itics Pt. 2

I’m sure the final paragraph of Pt. 1 got the attention, and ire, of some. So why not use it as a starting pointfor Pt. 2.

During the June 10th Longmont City Council meeting, and this goes to the previous “truly ignorant comments” reference I made, Councilmember Sean McCoy said about Twin Peaks Mall owner and redeveloper Panattoniwe have a willing owner, but we have a very inexperienced owner.” Sorry if that was one long sentence, but the inclusion of “ignorant”, “inexperienced”, and Sean McCoy was key. I know I’ve been hard on this guy with his style of speech, but this was a prepared and thought out slam against this corporation. And it was a fairly misinformed comment, as I’ll show below.

Regardless of how ignorant this comment makes one of our representatives appear, the bigger problem is that he’s willing to throw up against the wall this misinformation hoping it might stick. Of course, there will be those that will lap up this nonsense as the red meat they occasionally require, free thinkers that they are, NOT. But it just lowers the bar even further of what is acceptable behavior in and out of council meetings. Whatever helps the cause, right?

Perhaps this new thing called the Internet is still unknown in some councilmembers households, but a quick check of www.panattoni.com shows that they’ve done a little more than just Harvest Junction here in Longmont, a project in itself that isn’t all that small. And a fairly recent project at that, or did Mr. McCoy miss that? I could see how Lowes and Best Buy on our newest boulevard could be overlooked.

But here are some other Retail projects of Panattoni: Piemonte at Ontario Center, Ontario, CA – Oak Valley Shopping Center, Beaumont, CA – and Raley’s Shopping Center, Elk Grove, CA. They did these Office projects too: Gold Pointe Corporate Center, Sacramento, CA – Cedar Ridge Business Park, Southlake, TX – Beltway 8 Corporate Center, Houston, TX – and the CalSTRS (that’s California State Teachers Retirement System) Headquarters. Flex projects include: Cornelius Pass Corporate Center, Hillsboro, OR – Broomfield Corporate Center, Broomfield, CO – and Laguna West Business Center, Elk Grove, CA. And there’s Industrial projects, too: Plainfield Business Park, Indianapolis, IN – iPort 12, Carteret, NJ – and Rainier Park of Industry, Sumner, WA.

I could see how they could be viewed as “inexperienced”.

On their partial client list, here are some names Mr. McCoy probably has never heard of: Ace Hardware, ADT, Allstate Insurance, Amazon.Com, American Red Cross, AutoZone, Ball Aerospace, Bank of America, Blue Shield, DeVry University, ETrade, Fidelity Title, Hartford Insurance, ITT Technical Institute, MITRE Corporation, Raytheon, Snap-On Tools, Wachovia Bank, and the list goes on and on.

So how does Mr. McCoy’s experience and clients compare? Normally I wouldn’t ask this, but he opened this door with his ridiculous comment. It took all of a few minutes of internet surfing to find that information. If Mr. McCoy can’t put much serious thought and effort into this elected position, maybe he should just stick to pointless pontificating and abstain from all serious discussions or voting.

LA009: Twitter, Skype, Think Local, killing a website, and Relay for Life

LA-w-ChrisJune 8, 2008 Show

Fuzz by Lords Of Fuzz

Website updates and Twitter
Skype explanation
Think Local First and Best of Longmont
www.thinklocallongmontfirst.com
www.bestoflongmont.com
Grocery Tax Repeal repealed
George Marxmiller Update Continue reading…

LA008: DNC ’08, grocery tax repeal, Twin Peaks Mall, and the Transition movement

LA-w-Chris

June 1, 2008 Show
Fuzz by Lords Of Fuzz

Shout Outs
Jake at Border To Border Radio Podcast
www.bordertoborderradio.com
Jack at Lithuanian Out Loud Podcast
www.lithuanian.libsyn.com Continue reading…

City Council Cheap Shots

At the May 27, 2008 Longmont City Council Meeting, Councilmember Sean McCoy took a couple of swipes at Lifebridge Christian Church (without saying their name). Here is the YouTube video, which can also be found at the Longmont Advocate YouTube Channel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffiExb7rzYk

He mentions a ” 40 year vesting“. The previous City Council approved 3/5/15 year vesting for residential, commercial, and civic/religious respectively. Or are new councilmembers not only throwing away past decisions, but ignorant of them as well?

He mentioned ” height restrictions” requests from a different church requesting to be annexed into Longmont. Lifebridge didn’t ask for height restrictions, but height exemptions, slight difference. And guess what they just got from Firestone? An exemption higher than what Longmont had approved during those negotiations. This is but the first example of what many of us were warning would happen if Longmont didn’t move forward with the annexation – looser standards, and of course less permit fee’s, and property and sales taxes.

The issue of height restrictions was something the anti-annexers were saying, but Mr. McCoy reminded us this current council had nothing to do with Lifebridge pulling out, yet he’s echoing these people, and of course his pre-election unfavorable comments about this annexation.

He mentioned ” low income housing exemptions” and ” million dollar homes“. The master plan calls for three housing districts; one primarily for seniors consisting of detached and attached homes, plus duplexes and triplexes; another area of general single-family residential homes, and a third district (on the north side of site) of custom homes. It is conceivable some of the custom homes could cost $1 million or more, but this is a very small percentage of available housing planned for Union. By contrast, Lifebridge will fully comply with the city standard of 10% low income affordable housing with no special exemption. So his “million dollar homes” is an obvious intentional exaggeration to anyone who looks at the actual plan.

He mentioned ” huge retail complex“,another gross exaggeration. He makes it sound as if it’ll be Harvest Junction East when there’s clearly no room for such an endeavor. Of course there will be some shops, but not this big-box haven he makes it out to be.

He wanted to make sure ” we were all onboard“, well, yeah, some people are, on a ship of fools.

LA007: Butterball, inappropriate city attorney, water restrictions, and Global Warnings

LA-w-ChrisMay 25, 2008 Show

Oxygen by Dusty Hughes

Update on Clyde Ioerger vs. Butterball
at Transportation Advisory Board and
Planning and Zoning Meetings Continue reading…

Inappropriate Conduct

At the May 13, 2008 Longmont City Council Meeting, there was a snafu during the Public Invited To Be Heard portion. For some reason, one of the speakers who signed up to speak, Richard Yale, was not called up at the appropriate time. To his credit, Mayor Lange, once made aware of this mistake, stopped the council meeting and re-opened Public Invited to correct this, and Mr. Yale had his turn to speak.

During Public Invited, people can speak to just about anything they wish, including green cheese on the moon if they like. Recent council meetings have been long, and often entire agenda items are postponed. While it is best to speak to a public hearing item during that hearing, given the recent nature of meetings, and the possibility people have lives and can’t stick around all night, there is nothing stopping someone from speaking on an upcoming public hearing item during Public Invited.

In this situation though, one mistake was already made in regards to Mr. Yale’s ability to address City Council. But when he did speak he clearly stated he was in favor of the public hearing items they were to discuss later, and wanted to address a different issue. The parcel of land he spoke to was not the same as the land that was part of the public hearing to be held later. He made it fairly clear he was talking about the land near Weld County Roads 5 and 26, which he read into the record the Weld County Commissioners letter talking specifically about this land and this annexation. There is a point to this, read on.

How often after Public Invited do you hear a councilmember reference the speaker? Not very often. It’s rarer still to hear City Attorney Clay Douglas do it. But immediately after Mr. Yale spoke, Mr. Douglas laughed a little and said: ” Your rules and procedures say that you talk at public invited to be heard on any item that’s not scheduled for a public hearing. And the last speaker basically just talked about something scheduled for a public hearing. A better time to do that would be when the public hearing begins.” Mayor Lange responded with “you’re right” or “you’re correct”. Well, no, he isn’t.

If Mr. Douglas can’t tell the difference between the land that was part of the public hearing (that’s south of Hwy 119), and the land Mr. Yale spoke of and the Weld County Commissioners wrote the city about (that’s north of Hwy 119), well, that would explain the needless stalemate the city is in with Firestone, Lifebridge, and Weld County. And like I said, Mr. Yale made the effort to say he was in support of the vote they were about to take, and took. I didn’t hear Mr. Douglas complain about 5 speeches in one night about prairie dogs (by the same person), why would this be any different? Well, there is a reason.

Mr. Yale was one of the ones who pointed out Mr. Douglas’s inappropriate behavior with the anti-Lifebridge annexation folks at a recent Firestone Board of Trustee‘s meeting, and I’m pretty sure Mr. Douglas is aware of this. But he picked the wrong time and the wrong issue to get some payback. How often do you see someone from City Council or Staff publicly try to humiliate a citizen during a televised council meeting? Don’t just take my word for it, it’s on their website if you want to witness it for yourself at http://209.128.123.166/PPPortal/agenda/webcast.aspx .

I wrote the City Clerk about this and asked that it be forwarded on to Mr. Douglas for a public apology to Mr. Yale. I wasn’t asked to do this; it’s just the right thing to do. And it’s a subtle reminder of who he works for, which isn’t some fringe activist group (who don’t all live in Longmont). He serves at the pleasure of the City Council that Longmont citizens like Mr. Yale elect in or out of office.

LA006: The bands we play, Twin Peaks Mall, Firestone, and anti-LifeBridge

LA-w-ChrisMay 18, 2008 Show

1st segment
Fuzz by Lords of Fuzz

Recap of first 5 Podcast Shows
Discussed all bands/artists played Continue reading…