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Home / Articles / News / Vote 2013 /  Longmont City Council and mayoral candidate questions and answers
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Thursday, October 10,2013

Longmont City Council and mayoral candidate questions and answers

By Boulder Weekly Staff

Below are Boulder Weekly's five questions for Longmont City Council and mayoral candidates, and their answers.


Question 1: What are the three most important problems confronting the City of Longmont? Please list them in their order of priority and briefly describe how you would attempt to solve your highest priority issue.

MAYOR

Bryan Baum

Declined to reply

Dennis Coombs

Clearly the most pressing problem facing Longmont is getting the thousands of logs out of Ralph Price Reservoir. This is our primary water supply, and we don’t want these logs to get water logged and then sink to the bottom of the Button Rock dam. This would plug up or damage our outlet piping and we would lose 75 percent of our water supply. We are working with the county to get overland access on a fire road to bring in heavy equipment so we can begin rebuilding the main access road from the top down, while also working on rebuilding that road from the bottom up.

The need for short- and intermediate-term housing for the displaced community members from Lyons and our river corridor is also a big concern. With our current rental availability of less than 1 percent, this does not have an easy immediate solution. I think this next council needs to take a serious look at the possible funding options laid out by the “Affordable Housing Task Force Committee”

Our last major immediate issue is what to do with the St. Vrain River. The river is now on a completely new path well away from where the irrigation ditch heads are located. Do we bring the river back to the ditches or the ditches over to where the river is now located? Most of the time, Mother Nature knows best solution. We will probably end up with a combination approach depending on the grade from the ditch head to the river location and the particular stretch of the river. This is a very complex problem that requires coordination of FEMA, Boulder County, City of Longmont, City of Lyons and the Army Corps of Engineers.

AT-LARGE

Trisa Baxter

A. Economic opportunity for all Longmont citizens; we need to invite companies that pay a living wage to be part of our community. Longmont is an amazing city and there is no reason to not relocate here.

B. Budget; it is important that the city lives within its means, while providing services for its citizens.

C. Downtown development; have you noticed that a new business will arrive in the downtown area — only to disappear a short time later? The city, in cooperation with the land owners, needs to build a parking structure. This will help downtown businesses stay in business.

Polly Christensen

Jobs, education, public infrastructure and services. We need to actively recruit quality, sustainable, forward-thinking businesses with more jobs and living wage jobs. We need a better strategy for connecting the unemployed with businesses that need good employees. We must continue to support local education, from preschool through adult education, in order to have a higher quality of life for our residents and attract better employers. Without higher quality jobs and quality education for all, we cannot maintain our tax base to protect the fine city infrastructure and services that make Longmont the place we choose to live. Individuals and businesses will not come here; individuals and businesses will not stay.

Ron Gallegos

Economic development, quality of life, vision for the future.

Redevelopment of the Twin Peaks Mall, the plan as currently configured is a no-starter. The citizens of Longmont should get some more than another Walmart, grocery store and enhanced movie theaters ... these kind of opportunities only come around so often. Mitigation of the St. Vrain in terms of flood but also a master plan for economic development towards an eye to tourism ... river walk with shops, restaurants, galleries.

This ties in with the quality of life component and a grand plan or vision of the future.

Alex Sammoury

1. Flood recovery — once damage has been fully assessed, we will need to prioritize repairs to the city’s infrastructure, such as water, sewer, streets, bridges, parks, greenway etc.

2. Economic development is always a priority since it enables job creation, improving infrastructure, reducing red tape, evaluating incentive offerings are all integral to the city’s ability to retain and attract new corporate and retail businesses that create jobs.

3. Redevelopment of the mall, attracting new retail to the community, reducing leakage and increasing sales tax revenues that can be re-invested in maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure such as water lines, sewer lines, parks and trails.

Gabe Santos

Did not provide answers by press time

WARD 2

Rick Accountius

I don’t view the issues facing Longmont as problems. I view them as challenges. The three most important challenges facing Longmont are: flood recovery, jobs, mall redevelopment. First, I would like to commend Longmont’s city staff, the current City Council and all first responders for their efforts during the flood. They all did an outstanding job. Now, as we begin to recover and rebuild, we need to consider both the human toll and the damage to our infrastructure. Countless citizens were displaced, and many people are in need of simple luxuries. City Council should work with the non-profits they support to insure human needs are being addressed. This should be done in parallel while working with city staff to identify and repair those areas in our infrastructure that were most damaged. Finally, the city should continue working with various government agencies to complete more flood control projects like the one recently completed in Southmoor Park. This project saved perhaps hundreds of homes from flood damage.

Jeff Moore

Recovery from the flood is the highest priority issue for Longmont. The current damage estimate of $148 million may not include the cost of additional upgrades to improve protection and add developable land. I would want additional measures to fortify flood control structures to reduce the impact of future flood events. Additional funding for infrastructure projects may be required and is a reality that we need to consider once all of the costs are tallied.

Second, I would balance economic development and growth to enhance the quality of life for Longmont’s citizens.

Third, the fracking ban and drilling regulation lawsuits.

Question 2. Explain your position on the city’s hydraulic fracturing ban and your level of commitment to defending Longmont from the resulting lawsuits.

MAYOR

Bryan Baum

Declined to answer

Dennis Coombs

My personal opinion on the fracking ban is totally irrelevant. My job as your mayor is to do what the majority of the people want done. The 60/40 vote in favor of a fracking ban in our city is a crystal clear message from our citizens as to what they want me to do. I answer only to the majority of the citizens of Longmont, which is what all elected officials should do.

AT-LARGE

Trisa Baxter

Owners of mineral rights should be able to harvest those materials but not at the risk to others, so until there is a way to harvest those materials safely without the use of chemicals and excess water than I am against fracking. The citizens of Longmont have said that there will be no fracking — so if elected I will stand with the citizens.

Polly Christensen

The city should stand firm in defending the decisive 60/40 citizen vote of a modest ban on no fracking inside the city limits. Longmont's city charter grants us home-rule status, and these suits are a direct attack on our home-rule status. The residents of Longmont have a right to protect the health of ourselves and our children, conserve our water, and protect our property values within the limits of our city.

Ron Gallegos

We saddled that horse [citizens' inititive] and now we need to ride it to the end. The citizens told us what they wanted; now we have to defend to the end.

Alex Sammoury

The ban on fracking is imbedded in the city’s charter, as a sworn city council person it is my duty to uphold and defend the city charter, and that is exactly what we as council are doing and intend to continue doing.

Gabe Santos

Did not provide answers by press time

WARD 2

Rick Accountius

The fracking ban in Longmont is law and part of our city charter. City council members, new and old, are obligated to defend it.

Jeff Moore

Unfortunately this issue is about money, without regard to local control and land use policy within planning areas of affected cities. The health, safety and quality of life impacts from drilling and fracking are risks the citizens of Longmont should not have to live with. The city needs to continue to vigorously defend against the lawsuits and look out for the best interest of its citizens, not the oil and gas companies. The City Council needs to defend our rights as a home rule municipality and exercise local control to protect our citizens from the many hazards associated with fracking.

Question 3: Should Longmont be limiting its growth in any fashion? Why or why not?

MAYOR

Bryan Baum

Declined to answer

Dennis Coombs

Yes, we have a plan for build out of our city, and we should basically follow that comprehensive plan.

AT-LARGE

Trisa Baxter

Growth will limit itself as the city reaches build out. What I would like to see is in-fill. Encouraging small local builders to build custom homes on those lots in existing neighborhoods. Also, I would like to see repurposing of existing buildings to serve dual purposes. For example, the redevelopment currently happening in Longmont mid-town, the new buildings there will have shops on the bottom floor and apartments on the top floors.

Polly Christensen

Our city comprehensive plan is a good model for the future. We do need to re-examine and rethink it periodically, but we cannot continue to grant exemptions to every private developer who bought restricted land at a cheap price and then seeks an exemption to the comprehensive plan so he can make more money. We have to be able to firmly stand by our decisions for the overall good of the community.

Ron Gallegos

Thoughtful growth with a mix of building types and price ranges. Something that will allow for convention trade and general tourism.  We're nowhere near the total carrying capacity of our city.

Alex Sammoury

Longmont will be reaching build-out in a few years, so growth will be limited to redevelopment, similar to what has happened in neighboring communities. Currently Longmont is experiencing a shortage in single-family housing as well as rental units, creating a demand for additional development. The market, in my experience always corrects itself based on the basic rules of economics “supply and demand.” As we reach build-out, growth will be self-limiting.

Gabe Santos

Did not provide answers by press time

WARD 2

Rick Accountius

No. Over the past several years, growth has slowed naturally due to the economic downturn. Consequently, there is no need to limit growth at this time.

Jeff Moore

Growth needs to be managed to maintain the character of Longmont as a place companies and people want to move to. Schools, roads, city services and housing need to keep pace with development to prevent deterioration of our quality of life.

Growth within Longmont’s planning area is limiting sprawl while preserving open space and agricultural land. The Longmont Area Comprehensive Plan predicts build out in 2022 at our current growth rate. That can adjust up or down with different rates of development, land use changes, infill, and re-development. The plan is 10 years old so an update is needed.

Question 4: Are you in favor of Ballot Question 2A regarding the debt increase to finance wastewater system improvements? Why or why not?

MAYOR

Bryan Baum

Declined to answer

Dennis Coombs

I fully support the sewer bond issue. We are mandated to meet the new federal wastewater ammonia standards, and if we don’t we will be fined $10,000 per day. If the bonds are not passed, we still have to fund the project in near real term, and this would be done by doubling or tripling our current sewer rates. Passing the bonds would be the best solution for people on a fixed income.

AT-LARGE

Trisa Baxter

Yes, I am in favor of the improvements to be made to the wastewater system. It is important for the city to have a strong/reliable waste water system, and improvements need to be made from time to time. I am most excited about the recapture of methane gas and its use to operate the plant.

Polly Christensen

Passing this measure will allow us to begin upgrading our wastewater plant more quickly and less expensively. Longmont needs to upgrade the wastewater plant in order to be compliant with ammonia regulations and also to prepare for the increased burden in the future. Our plant did well in this flood, while other cities plants failed. We need to keep our infrastructure sound.

Ron Gallegos

Yes, I favor Ballot Question 2A. We must maintain the viability of our asset and keep up with the technical advances being made in water and wastewater systems. We should always have an eye toward improving the system and its processes.

Alex Sammoury

The city must make the improvements to meet federal standards and regulations. If the bond issue does not pass the city will have to find other ways to pay for the improvements.


Gabe Santos

Did not provide answers by press time

WARD 2

Rick Accountius

Yes. This ballot initiative will allow Longmont to meet the federal and state unfunded mandate to reduce discharged ammonia levels. It will also allow us to upgrade our waste water treatment facility to meet our future needs. These goals will be achieved without raising taxes, and there will be no additional rate increases associated with this bond. Failure to meet permit levels for ammonia could result in penalties and fines. And finally, having a quality infrastructure is a necessity when attracting businesses.

Jeff Moore

I am in favor of Ballot Question 2A. New regulations controlling wastewater will be in effect in 2016. The alternative is to pay fines and raise rates. To me this is not an issue of an unfunded mandate, but our responsibility to discharge clean water into the environment. This is funded by user fees, so no tax increase is attached to this bond issue.

Question 5: Are you in favor of Ballot Question 2B regarding the debt increase to finance fiber-optic improvements that will allow the city to offer high-speed broadband service? Why or why not?

MAYOR

Bryan Baum

Declined to answer

Dennis Coombs

I fully support the broadband fiber bond issue. No city that owns its own electric company, and that is using this technology, and this implementation plan, has ever failed. This will be a big benefit to our citizens, and our local businesses. It will also be a major economic development driver for our community. We have to do this because Kansas City is doing this, Chattanooga is doing this, Champaign is doing this, Lafayette, La., is doing this. … Only the people who choose to use the service will be paying back the bond debt. The private sector providers are still free to provide our citizens with less quality for more money.

AT-LARGE

Trisa Baxter

Yes I am in favor of the fiber-optic improvements. This is a win/win for the citizens of Longmont. This is forward-thinking on the part of Longmont citizens. One hundred years ago the citizens of Longmont approved its own electric company. Now Longmont has one of the most reliable and least expensive electric services around.

Polly Christensen

I am completely supporting of this debt increase, as it will allow us to finish building out our fiber-optic network years earlier. This network was wisely installed years ago. It is crucial to not only the future of our citizens but will also enable us to attract the sort of innovative, far-thinking businesses that will provide the quantity, quality and diversity of jobs needed to give opportunity to all Longmont residents and support and expand our fine city infrastructure and services.

Ron Gallegos

Yes, I was on the council that purchased the loop in 1997. I've always thought it could provide a competitive advantage in attracting high-tech and start-up businesses. It's an asset to the community and an amenity for our citizens. We can provide more bang for the buck than corporate providers.

Alex Sammoury

I am absolutely in favor of 2B, the fiber-optic improvements, 60 percent of the voters approved the first step of allowing the city-wide use of the fiber. It is a great asset that has been underutilized since it was built in the late ’80s. Many large and small businesses locate in Longmont to take advantage of the city’s competitive utilities pricing, highly educated work force, good school system and wonderful quality of life, fiber will be one other arrow in the city’s quiver when it comes to attracting new businesses, as well as providing enhanced Internet access service to Longmont residents.

Gabe Santos

Did not provide answers by press time

WARD 2

Rick Accountius

Yes. Our fiber-optic loop has been in place since 1997. In 2011, Longmont citizens voted to allow the city to utilize this asset. With passage of 2B, the city will build out the fiber-optic network to bring high-speed Internet and voice services to our citizens and businesses. With this bond, subscribers will pay off the debt service, and not the taxpayers. Subscribers will receive roughly twice the speed at half the cost, and the revenue will stay in the city. Having the broadband fiber network built out prepares Longmont for future technology changes, and will benefit both citizens and businesses alike.

Jeff Moore

I am in favor of Ballot Question 2B. This bond is financed with user fees and will not raise taxes. Having world-class gigabit broadband service will be a differentiator in attracting companies and jobs to Longmont. Managed by Longmont Power and Communications, the infrastructure to maintain the system has been in since 1997. Within three years of voter approval, every household and business in Longmont will have access to Internet service 10 times faster than speeds currently offered, at about half the cost. 

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