Hesitate To Emulate

I know, and you know, there is a contingent here in Longmont that wants to be Boulder Jr. Some of these seem to feel Boulder can do no wrong and that they walk on water. We also have a councilmember who works for the Boulder Valley School District who tells us we shouldn’t speak ill (” smack?”) of our neighbor to the southwest. But if some of us are going to look up to this city and their ways, we must also acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them, and not repeat them.

Previously, I mentioned the Twin Peaks Mall, and the path that it is on, which is similar in some ways to what happened in Boulder. Are we going to follow that example and see a slow bleed, years of dormancy, and a resurrection that was long overdue? Or are we going to learn from Boulder’s mistakes and avoid losing years of sales tax revenue, along with an eyesore in a high visibility area?

Another somewhat similar scenario is developing on Longmont’s eastern boundary. The “no growth” or “slow growth” seems to be more of a Castle Longmont mentality. Instead of a moat of water and alligators, or burning oil, this wished-for version is untouched, undeveloped, open space. Boulder County even tried to take land from Weld County as open space (paid with Boulder County taxpayer money, but not technically IN Boulder County) to stop development and continue this hoped-for buffer.

This concept costs a lot of money. This is prime real estate on a heavily traveled highway between I-25 and Longmont. It also takes a lot of influence on Weld County, which Boulder and Longmont don’t seem to have. Longmont turned away a large development ( Lifebridge), preceded by public trashing of the present and future Super Walmarts, and the message was sent that Longmont is somewhat closed for business and has gone protectionist and isolationist.

The message was heard, and Firestone’s (or Mead’s or anyone else in Weld County) reaction is the consequence. ” You turn them away in a prime area? We’ll be more than happy to fill the void“, was basically the response. A “void” is exactly what some in Longmont wanted, at the expense of landowners in Weld County who sit on solid gold along Hwy 119.

Mission accomplished, Longmont could easily now be cut-off and isolated, but probably not in the way some had wished. How is this similar to Boulder? Think Broomfield. Think FlatIron Crossing.

There is much to like about Boulder, but it isn’t infallible in its decisions and policy making. Try as some may to emulate Boulder, there is a huge difference that shouldn’t be overlooked: Longmont can’t afford to make the same above mistakes Boulder made; we don’t have the finances, influence, or political capital to blunder on their level.

I’m hoping that in 6-7 years we aren’t looking at a boarded up, fenced-in mall, and booming financial activity just OUTSIDE our sales tax collecting grasp. All sectors of the city will suffer from the choices that bring us to that. The time to realize it and act is NOW. Those on council or committees (past and present) may be term-limited out by then, but some of us will never let people forget who brought us to that point.

Time to choose your legacy.

Longmont And Its Future

In the previous story I talked about the Twin Peaks Mall and its shaky future. In this I’ll widen out the topic to include possible changes we could see in Longmont‘s short and long term future. These are not necessarily things I wish for, just the way I see things progressing based on trends both here and in other cities.

Six years ago, if I told you that just beyond McDonalds and the car dealerships near Hwy 287 and KenPratt Blvd would be a whole new multi-lane boulevard with stores and restaurants galore, where currently empty land sat, you probably wouldn’t have believed it, right? Around the same time if I told you that there would be a Super Walmart on Hwy 287 and Hwy 66, that seems to always have a fairly full parking lot, you probably wouldn’t believe that either.

Well, Harvest Junction and the beginnings of commercial development along Hwy 66 are here, and I expect more of the same, if Longmont wants to thrive and survive. Those two locations sit on two freeway exits from I-25, one a gateway to Boulder, the other a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And both are gateways to Longmont.

The area east of Hover, where the mall and the older Walmart stand, is a different story. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it blighted, but it’s seen better days. I suspect that Walmart will close, especially when the new Super Walmart is built on the east side of town, and the mall will continue to languish. I just hope the same mistake Boulder made isn’t repeated here with a fenced in and boarded up shopping center in a high visibility area.

What to do with that land? I heard and liked the idea of a new theater, that’s a start. How about something more than a movie theater, how about a performing arts or possible concert venue? Make that area the entertainment center of the city, maybe of the region? The loss of shopping won’t be much of a loss with all of the stores right across the street on Hover, and may even lessen some of the competition on some of the businesses on Main Street.

Longmont needs a nice movie theater and is losing money to those cities around us who have wised up and put in state-of-the-art theaters with stadium seating. While I’m not sure Longmont could support something along the lines of the Budweiser or Broomfield Event Centers, I think the citizens could and would support a new performing arts complex. And I think non-citizens would come here for movies, plays, and concerts given the right circumstances.

Fair Access For All

A local subject near and dear to my heart is access to local government, as written a few months back here, and in appearances before city council. My main beef was the reduction in access with restrictions put on speakers during “public invited to be heard”. So you’d think I’d be ecstatic about council member (currently running for Mayor) Karen Benker‘s comments in a story titled ” City needs to listen more” with quotes like “I think government hasn’t been listening like it should.” “Sometimes it’s a matter of respect, listening to folks…” Well, you’d be wrong. Here’s why.

I was somewhat a regular at city council meetings, not always speaking, but occasionally. If someone spoke to my issue in a coherent way, I didn’t bother getting up as to not waste anyone’s time. I made phone calls and sent emails, and while I always acknowledge that these people had lives outside of council, I was usually responded to with the same respect I showed them. Then things started to change, and while I had my suspicions why, I was never quite sure until recently when an unnamed source within the city verified my suspicions.

As I suspected in an earlier piece, it was our local cabal that floats from action to action that brought on the change in policy. They’d go on and on for an hour or so, repeating themselves, tying up meetings, and shutting the rest of us out of our access to our representatives. Sure, they’ll cry their ” freedom of speech“, but what about ours? Does theirs rate higher or something? I think not.

You pick the topic: Walmart, anti-growth, Walmart, Lifebridge Annexation, and of course, Walmart. And usually they’d be on the losing side come vote time, as would Ms. Benker. That’s no coincidence; this same group is backing Ms. Benker for Mayor, as well as candidates Levison, Hansen, and McCoy, the “block” of candidates sharing ad space you may have heard of. So what’s the answer to being on the losing side of votes? Shut down meetings with these tactics. Very democratic, not.

I’m not asking for less access or speech for anyone, just equal and reasonable access without some ulterior motive. Since it appears Ms. Benker is the undeclared leader of the above mentioned group (recently referred to as her “noisy supporters”), there’s no way I could ever consider voting for her or the others above if they share this twisted version of representative government.