Contrary to what some, or even many, people may think, I don’t go out of my way to try to make some members of Longmont City Council look bad. They usually do it all by themselves. Problem is, most people in this city have no idea what kinds of things come out of their mouths, and if they did they would occasionally be appalled – or at least entertained.
On Saturday May 2nd, three councilmembers (Karen Benker, Sarah Levison, and Brian Hansen) hosted a town meeting along with members of city staff. The hottest topic that took up most of the meeting was the Twin Peaks Mall. Whenever the mall is a topic in the Times-Call, the comments from citizens are many, long, and heated. For the most part, people want something done with this failing piece of property. And yesterday.
Who needs theaters when you have Netflix?
Many of the comments by the above councilmembers were quite revealing. The most ridiculous has to go to Mr. Hansen. Most people in the city seem to be in favor of a new theater, the old one has lousy seating, along with sub-par picture and sound quality. It’s ugly and people go elsewhere, plain and simple. When asked about this theater situation, Mr. Hansen said that no one is going to theaters anymore, and a viable alternative is to stay at home and rent from Netflix.
Now, I love Netflix, use it constantly, both streaming and by mail. But how many of you relish the idea of sitting around the glow of your TV (and the warmth of your mercury-laden CFL bulbs) and staying home to watch movies? Keep in mind Netflix doesn’t have movies when they first come out, so you have to wait a bit for that new picture you want to see. Mr. Hansen also used the excuse of getting the flu or cold in theaters, which is possible anywhere you have actual interaction with live human beings. Who needs that, right?
It’s tough being green
Then the point of driving to the theater came up and how he can just walk down to the mailbox and drop off his DVD. This is not very eco-friendly when you take into account everything involved with multiple vehicles in the US Postal system getting that DVD to and from your mailbox. It’s a much smaller carbon footprint to drive a mile, or even several miles, to a theater. Or walk, or ride your bike, or take a bus – just about anything.
Then there’s the “benefit to the city” issue: What sales/use tax does Netflix bring to the City of Longmont? I’d guess ZERO. And Mr. Hansen is endorsing a service that competes directly with companies around town that rent or sell DVD’s who actually do bring revenues into the city.
His excuse was the improvements in flat panels and home theaters, and that the sound they offer is about as good as you’re going to get at a theater. How many of you would agree with that? It may be better than what Twin Peaks Mall theater has NOW, but not in a new stadium seating, Dolby Digital theater, which is about the bare minimum now in new theaters surrounding, but not in, Longmont.
How do you really feel?
But it wasn’t just the theater with Mr. Hansen. He said more than once he isn’t against the mall redevelopment, yet he has consistently spoken and voted against it. There is a contingent here in Longmont, and they always side with Mr. Hansen and the “Benker-wing” of city council, who have made it clear it’s just fine with them if the land where the mall now sits became one big Open Space with prairie dogs as far as the eye can see. It’s my opinion that Mr. Hansen’s above comments reveal his true feelings about the mall: let it fail, let it be bulldozed, let it be “returned to its natural state” (my term).
What was really infuriating was his comments that now is not the time to do this with the economy in the shape that it’s in, and that the city was in a “much better position to do something” prior to the downturn. I’ve been writing about this situation for well over a year, (see for yourself at this link) and the stalling game this council has played with the mall. There have been public meetings (which Mr. Hansen never attended), studies, a “charrette” – you name it, it’s been done ad nuaseam with this mall. And long before these “hard economic times”.
The most accurate thing he said was “they (Panattoni) are in the mall business, and I’m not. They’re probably more experts than we are.” You wouldn’t know that watching City Council meetings on this subject for the last year and a half. Karen Benker noted that “people are voting with their feet”, which is true, right into other malls and theaters in Boulder, Erie, and Loveland.
Council’s Mall hostility
Sarah Levisons continued apparent hostility towards Panattoni continued with her comments about “strip mall stuff like Harvest Junction”, and how inexperienced the company is. She also kept saying they could build any time they want – although there is the little issue of getting it through Planning and Zoning and a vote of council – which is a consistent NO vote from Ms. Levison.
Like I said prior, drive by Harvest Junction, is that (and the now planned hotel) the small, meaningless potatoes that some on this council pretend it to be? The question was asked, and Ms. Benker didn’t quite get it, so I’ll rephrase it: The pro-mall comments at this meeting notwithstanding, about a year ago you were more positive on the mall situation, something changed and as your support went south, the project stalled. Without using the excuse of the economy (your support fell prior to that), why did your support wane? Was it a shifting interest and prioritization towards Downtown? What has Panattoni done wrong, or differently, to warrant this negative treatment?
These things have consequences
Whatever the reason, all of the citizens of Longmont suffer over this council’s inaction, stalling, and stonewalling of this issue. If nothing happens with Twin Peaks Mall before November, regardless of your newfound and returned support, the stalling by you and the consistent non-support by your fellow councilmembers (Levison, Hansen, and McCoy) will be a major election issue. Count on it.
(Additional resources for this report provided by the Longmont Examiner)