Longmont/Firestone Dustup Pt.3

VIEWER WARNING: This piece is bound to really irritate some people. I’m well aware of the anger this will illicit, and your expected complaints have been considered. I try to be constructive when I criticize, but sometimes it’s nearly impossible. This is such a case. In the interest of completeness, and sharing this continuing story, I submit the following:

So far, I’ve reported on Firestone’s Trustee Board meeting, now it’s Longmont‘s turn. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot said about Firestone’s comments, but I suspect there will be as Firestone just approved the Firelight Park annexation.

But there was this…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZnG9kXAsnk

In it, Longmont City Councilmember Sean McCoy rips into Firestone’s Mayor Mike Simone over his comment ” LifeBridge was forced to “walk away” by the election of an anti-religious faction to the LongmontCity Council“. He also took offense to the ” immoral” description of Longmont made by Trustee Steve Curtis. He said he found it ” very unethical on this individuals part“, meaning Mayor Simone. He basically threatened a lawsuit for slander.

Where to begin.

I’ve been to ONE Firestone board meeting, and I’m not an elected official or anything, but even I know that they are a Board of Trustee’s, NOT a City Council. Members are called Trustee’s, NOT Councilmembers. I’m starting to agree with several people who have mentioned to me this constant habit of getting peoples names wrong (and I guess titles now) and how it shows a total lack of respect. In this case, it’s Firestone’s leaders. In other cases, well, you listen for it yourself.

Next, Mr. McCoy’s complaining of ” inflammatory” comments. Some of us about fell out of our chairs on this one. This is the same guy who called people he disagreed with (we’re talking citizens here, not elected officials) ” the lunatic fringe“. He also said in the same breath how Longmont shouldn’t talk ” smack” about Boulder, yet it’s alright for Longmont to do that to Firestone? Watch the 1/29/08 video again ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEo7ZF3eKYU ) and replace Boulder with Longmont, and Longmont with Firestone in the appropriate places and context. I know some of you hate it when I point out total hypocrisy like this, but it speaks for itself here.

Then this outrage over the ” anti-religious” comment. Here’s the problem: On 1/8/08( http://denver.yourhub.com/Longmont/Blogs/News-Politics/Commentary/Blog~412831.aspx), Mr. McCoy made the point of his detachment from the Lifebridge issue as he said he and the other new members of council didn’t vote on Lifebridge. So in essence, he’s saying the new council had nothing to do with what happened to Lifebridge. If that’s the case, then why would he take offense to Mayor Simone’s inference that an anti-religious faction was to blame when THEY HADN’T EVEN BEEN ELECTED YET AND OBVIOUSLY COULDN’T VOTE ON IT, as Mr. McCoy himself made clear as his closing point on 1/8/08?

Mr. McCoy tried to make the case that other factors caused Lifebridge to pull out (remember the ” 600% of Longmont residents” nonsense?). He must not have believed that nonsense himself, most people I know didn’t buy it, and obviously the Firestone Board of Trustee’s didn’t swallow that line either. His anger over this comment revealed that his 1/8/08 comments were a whitewash, otherwise why would this sting so much?

To be fair, is it possible Mr. McCoy was truly outraged over being called ” anti-religious? Absolutely. I assume most public officials are concerned with the image they put out. They wouldn’t want to be publicly called ” anti-religious“, true or not, for fear of alienating over half of their constituents. Then again, insulting constituents is getting to be a regular occurrence for Mr. McCoy. Let’s now add leaders from other cities and the press to the list, the same press ( Times-Call) he bought ad space from during his campaign. Very consistent and principled, not.

What’s the point of all this? I know I won’t be popular holding these officials accountable in this fashion when it needs to be done, and I find no joy in doing it. But these are our elected representatives. They should avoid embarrassing themselves, and the rest of us, and I’m hoping they might look at and listen to themselves, and learn from it in the future. And you wonder why so many people (not just in Longmont) are apathetic to the issues and these officials? I’m trying to get more people involved, this doesn’t help.

Longmont/Firestone Dustup Pt.2

In the previous story, I ran Firestone’s Mayor Simone’s comments he made in the 3/17/08 Firestone Trustee Board meeting. There were more comments by other trustee’s as well. You might recall that this meeting was rescheduled from the previous Thursday as not enough board members showed up. There was some speculation this occurred because there was disagreement amongst board members, some might be purposely boycotting the meeting, or maybe some cold feet. Based on the comments I heard at the meeting, that speculation was false.

Until I get an actual tape or transcript of the meeting, here were some notes I jotted down from comments by some of the trustees: Butch Walb talked about the Longmont hoped-for buffer, that Longmont was basically saying “we don’t build, neither should you”. Sharon Falcone talked about enclaves and that buffers aren’t always good, using the example of some of Weld County‘s Mixed Used Development (MUD) areas that are not very attractive and were poorly planned, and have and could in the future be in areas cities might like to serve as buffers.

Charlie Thomas was for the extension of the Master Planning Area to the west, and that Longmont should’ve done more up to this point if they were interested in this area. Dennis Berton was also in favor of the Master Plan and didn’t want any more ” checkerboarding” of cities and enclaves. Steve Curtis was against Longmont’s buffer concept, and called it ” obscene” and ” immoral“. He was also in favor of the updated Master Plan. Julie Crowder was not present.

Mayor Simone was last to speak with the previously posted comments. Although he stuck pretty closely to those comments, he delivered it with the anger and outrage fitting the words. The comment ” LifeBridge was forced to “walk away” by the election of an anti-religious faction to the Longmont City Council” had the most visible impact as a couple of people stormed out of the meeting immediately after hearing it. While those people milled around in the lobby for the remainder of the entire meeting, and some of them after the meeting was over, they never returned to the meeting itself.

Something I didn’t expect was the ” swearing in” of citizens who spoke at this meeting. They had to answer “I do” or something similar to the question by the Mayor ” do you swear to tell the truth, so help you God?” or something like that. I’d just never seen that before. The other thing I noticed, which I thought was great, was the public reading into the record of emails and letters sent to the city about the item on the agenda. Granted, a city the size of Longmont may not have the time to do such a thing at their council meetings, but it was refreshing nonetheless.

I link to Tri-Town Online on my website, but rarely comment there, and it seems most of those people have a great deal of dislike for Mayor Simone and this Board of Trustees. I had forgotten that the print edition of YourHub for Longmont also goes to residents of Firestone (which surprisingly it and the other Tri-Town cities don’t have their own Hub), and I’d just recently written a story (” Hesitate To Emulatehttp://denver.yourhub.com/Longmont/Blogs/News-Politics/Commentary/Blog~438770.aspx ) that apparently got the attention of some of the members of the Trustee Board. While I didn’t get up to the podium at this event, and kept a low profile in the very back of the room, turns out I had some readers (and fans) in the crowd and on the board. That was different.

Up next, one Longmont city councilmembers angry response to this Firestone meeting.

Longmont/Firestone Dustup Pt.1

I was fortunate to have been one of only a couple people who attended both the 3/17/08 Firestone Trustee Board meeting and the 3/18/08 Longmont City Council meeting. Both were very interesting and will take a few parts to cover it all.

First up, the Firestone meeting. Mayor Mike Simone gave quite a speech, eliciting applause from most, but also outrage by others. I met Mayor Simone and told him Longmont residents should have a chance to hear his thoughts. Suspecting the Times-Call would probably not print what you are about to read, I offered to publish it, to which he happily agreed and sent me the following. This is a response to a 3/11/08 Times-Call Editorial entitled ” On leadership and land grabs“. The bold print is Mayor Simone’s responses. The underlined words were emphasized by Mayor Simone as well.
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Firestone’s move to snag 74 acres on Longmont’s eastern border is a shock. It’s not a surprise. (No, it’s not a surprise–our board has been consistent in calling for towns and cities in this area to expand their master plans so they have adjacent borders, effectively leaving urban development to the municipalities and not Weld County. It was Longmont who decided not to participate in the Weld County Partnership group–a group dedicated to dealing with the problem of uncontrolled urban development by Weld County)

After all, Firestone’s the town whose leaders held school district money for ransom last year (the money was not the school district’s but was unethically extorted from new homeowners by bullying municipalities into serving as their middle men). The town caved and coughed up $186,000 in development fees (no, unethical impact fees) to the St. Vrain Valley School District after the district threatened to sue. Then town leaders threw a tantrum and decided to no longer collect $645 per house from developers (let’s be correct-homeowners) whose homes help overfill the schools. (again, unethical and possibly illegal extortion of money from new homeowners by trying to work around the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision that school districts cannot mandate impact fees).

Now Firestone’s up to new tricks. They’re working to crash Longmont’s eastern gates, even after Longmont and Boulder County spent millions preserving land east of Longmont. (Longmont and Boulder County has and has had the ability to buy whatever land it wants for a buffer. Firestone has never annexed any property whose property owners didn’t ask to be annexed. Testimony in front of Firestone’s Planning Commission and e-mails I’ve received from current property owners appear to make a case that Longmont has held its neighboring property owners hostage by not giving them a hearing–essentially “taking” their property to maintain a “free” buffer.)

Firestone made a plan to reach down Colo. Highway 119, almost to the Boulder County line, and annex the 74-acre Fairview Estates property. (Firestone began reevaluating its current master plan well before Firestone was aware of Fairview or LifeBridge Christian Church. Our reevaluation began when Weld County approved almost 4000 homes on our northern border. Firestone never “made a plan” to annex Fairview Estates-that comment is just a bold faced lie– They came to us and asked us to annex them-I’m not aware of anyone on this board who contacted anyone from Fairview Estates). Coincidentally, the Fairview property would make a terrific stepping stone if Firestone wanted to grab (Firestone has never “grabbed” anything whose owners didn’t ask to be “grabbed”) LifeBridge Christian Church’s Union development next door. LifeBridge, you’ll recall, walked away from Longmont after the Union annexation was set to go before voters. (LifeBridge was forced to “walk away” by the election of an anti-religious faction to the Longmont City Council.)

Establishing clear boundaries around municipalities is a useful practice. It helps give each an identity and preserves land on the periphery. (The only way you can ethically “preserve land” on your periphery is to buy it) Longmont attempted to create a buffer to the east. Firestone decided it didn’t care. (Firestone also thought there was a buffer around its town but Weld County‘s current policy eliminated that possibility. Firestone understands to create a buffer it will have to buy property or property rights. Longmont is naive if it thinks it can create “free” buffers in Weld County.)

That’s typical of the Firestone leaders’ Wild West approach to intergovernmental relations. (This is an interesting comment. It seems to echo Mr. Auer and his “Longmont First” slate of candidate’s ill informed and incorrect comments about intergovernmental relations. I guess this is a continuation of the T-C’s biennial attempt to influence Firestone’s elections by now trying to prop up and give legitimacy to Mr. Auer and his “Longmont First” slate of candidates.)

Does Firestone want a reputation for being a rogue town that bends over backwards to snatch land from its neighbors? (Very misleading T-C. Nobody is “snatching” anything. Frederick and Longmont have changed their master plans and annexed property outside their growth boundaries. Firestone is considering doing the same. You can’t “snatch” property that you don’t own. Longmont may think they “own” property outside their borders but I suspect the affected property owners think differently)

That uses development fees as a bargaining chip instead of using them to improve the schools that serve its children? (the school board is a governmental agency with the power to tax its residents. Instead of trying to work around your voters by trying to impose unethical impact fees, ask your voters for a tax increase. If you can’t justify it to the voters, you don’t deserve it.)

We hope Firestone residents will consider that question when they consider who should fill four open seats on the board on April 1. (The T-C’s attempt to affect Firestone’s election continues again this year–but of course they will try to make you believe they are an “unbiased” journalistic entity. A man, who I have never met, walked into my office this morning and was concerned about the T-C’s obvious bias in favor of Mr. Auer. I explained to him they are a private company and can do what they want. I also related how the Times-Call has decided they don’t want to print any editorials “they believe” are “personal” concerning a candidate-this only applies to the “Longmont First” candidates it appears.

Well, where have they been for the past 6 years? The only editorials I can remember the T-C printing concerning me and our town board are nothing but personal attacks-including the one I just read. Let’s review their words about this town board from the editorial I just read-snag, ransom, caved and coughed up, tantrum, tricks, crash, grab, Firestone decided it didn’t care, Wild West approach, rogue town, and snatch. )

So there you have it in one editorial. A Boulder County media outlet doing what they can to convince the voters in Firestone to allow a Boulder County school board along with the newly elected Longmont City Council, to run our town.
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Up next, further comments on the above statement, more reporting on this meeting, and Longmont City Council’s reaction.