The race for Longmont mayor is already proving lively, as the two candidates have been taking jabs at each other over a variety of issues.
But the Longmont City Council races haven’t gotten nearly as nasty as they did in the last municipal election season two years ago.
Back then, an out-of-state conservative group (represented by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler) poured money into an attack ad campaign against a liberal council candidate, and an online comic strip showed a Braveheart figure preparing to behead several left-leaning council members depicted as chickens.
Mayor Bryan Baum, who is running for re-election and who has been painted as a member of the conservative “Old Guard,” is now describing himself as purple.
“I look at what’s best for the community. I don’t look at red or blue,” he says, pointing to his support of nonprofits and environmental initiatives like recycling and city-owned hybrid cars. “If you want to go radically right or radically left, I don’t fit either of those two.”
Baum says that, as city officials launch a search for the successor to departing City Manager Gordon Pedrow, Longmont needs an experienced mayor like himself, not his opponent, Dennis Coombs.
He accuses Coombs of waffling on a couple of issues, including the discontinuance of affordable housing requirements for developers and the future of the wilting Twin Peaks Mall. According to Baum, Coombs originally was in favor of having the city take over the mall, but has now flip-flopped.
Coombs acknowledges that after talking to Brad Power, the city’s director of economic development, he is in favor of enticing developers with tax-increment financing. But he doesn’t view changing his mind after gathering new information as a weakness.
“If I don’t know something, I’m going to find out from the experts,” says Coombs, who is a co-owner of the Pumphouse Brewery. “If I make a bad decision, I’ll take a step back and re-evaluate. That’s what good leaders do.”
As for Baum’s claim about the lack of experience to hire a good city manager, Coombs says he’s hired plenty of managers for his brewpub business.
“I have 80 employees, and I know how to pick winners,” he says. “How many employees does he have?” Coombs also says his skills and personality are better suited to effective leadership, citing his 30-year engineering background and his ability to get people to work together successfully.
Coombs, who says he leans left on national social issues but is conservative financially, claims he has a skill for “putting the right people on the bus” but isn’t afraid to “kick some people off the bus, too.”
He says Baum, on the other hand, tends to harass people, including his own allies on the council, like Katie Witt, who he says was crosswise with Baum on the city’s contract with healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente.
“You shouldn’t treat people that way. You can’t be a bully,” he says. “We have to lead this city with civility. … I think I’m a different type of leader.”
Baum opposed continuing the affordable housing requirement for developers, given the economic decline and the negative effect such requirements can have on luring new development.
Coombs, while acknowledging that the program was seriously flawed, is opposed to scrapping it entirely, and he alleges that the council members who voted for its discontinuance may have had obligations to Realtors, banks and developers.
Coombs asks why Baum supported the elimination of the city’s fair campaign practices committee.
“I supported the elimination of the Election Committee because the committee wasn’t needed and was costing the city thousands in attorney’s fees every time a violation complaint was filed,” Baum replies. “Our city clerk’s office and local judicial system have the necessary tools for the oversight of the election process and can handle alleged violations without the need of a quasi-judicial board.”
While it is heartening to hear Baum describe himself as purple, and while these council races aren’t supposed to be partisan, on the issues at hand we support Coombs for mayor.