Response to Denver Post Article-L. Knufinke

The Denver Post wrote a very negative article about Littleton last week.  It carried the same sentiment that several members of the C4LF group have been spouting.  To read the article please find the link on the right hand side of this page and click on Denver Post Article. 

Remember comments are always welcome.

 

RE: October 8, 2008 article Littleton’s growth forecast:  More “Sunshine,” with very little change

 

I have seen significant changes since the new Littleton City Council has been seated last November.  I disagree with your premise that there is very little change with “Sunshine.”  The new city council has taken a secretive, closed city government to a transparent government that is accountable to its citizens.  Planning Commission and added City Council meetings, including budget hearings and committee selection interviews, are now televised.  City boards and commissions are now required to abide by the state’s open meeting laws. 

 

With a new Chief of Police, a new City Attorney, and a new Director of Finance, the city has changed how it does business from “business as usual” to functioning as a dynamic city government accountable to its citizens.  Since the new police chief took over, morale has significantly improved and turnover has been virtually eliminated saving the city tens of thousands of dollars for the costly process to recruit and retain employees.  Because of the new City Council collaborating with the Police Department, the Police Department is at 100% employment. 

 

The new City Attorney’s commitment to transparent and open government as well as her comprehensive and inclusive approach to legal issues brings a fresh perspective on issues facing the city.  The new director of finance is overhauling the city’s finances to increase transparency and accountability.  Although the chief of police and the new director of finance were hired by the City Manager shortly before the new council took office, they demonstrate a commitment to transparent government.  If this isn’t change, I don’t know what is.  The city is finally moving forward, not backward.

 

Under previous city councils, the city’s financials were a mess.  The financials were kept under lock and key and the city tried to obfuscate how accounts were being used.  Since the new director of finance has been in place, I have seen significant improvements in accounting.  Monthly financial reports are now published on the City’s web site, general ledger accounts are being cleaned up, and the budgeting process now uses actual current year expenditures and revenues instead of budgeting off of the previous years’ budgets.  Timeliness of reporting has also been improved.  The City is required by law to publish any disbursements over $500 in a local newspaper.  Under previous finance directors, the disbursements weren’t published until sometimes more than five months after the disbursements were made.   

 

Before the new City Council came into power, the Business and Industry Affairs Committee (BIAAC) meetings were held behind closed doors without documentation of the discussions—a clear violation of the state’s Sunshine Laws.  A former member of BIAAC openly advocated ignoring the state’s Sunshine Laws.  Now, the meetings are open and provide the public opportunity to comment on issues facing the city.  Detailed and accurate minutes are now taken and posted on the web site for everyone to see.    

 

Here are some inaccuracies in your article:  

 

·        Regarding your comment that “developers and business go elsewhere” and “development has ground to a halt,” since the new City Council has been in place, the City Council has welcomed a new hotel and a new restaurant.  In addition, City Council has approved a new assisted living center.  Aspen Grove Shopping Center is expanding retail pods and the Residences at Nevada Place in downtown Littleton is selling upscale transit oriented condominiums.  Trammel Crow is also building a large apartment complex close to downtown on Belleview and Santa Fe.  Littleton is open for business. 

·        Regarding the defeat of a tax increase to build a new police station, this election happened years ago and had nothing to do with the current council or the current police chief.  The new police chief herself has said the city does not need a new police station.  City Council has stated the space needs of the police department are a priority and they are working on solutions with city staff. 

·        Big Box retail is not shut out of Littleton.  Littleton has two big box stores: Home Depot and Lowes. 

·        Transit orientated development has not been shot down by the City Council.  Since the new City Council has been in office, there have been no cases regarding transit oriented development before the City Council.  Mr. Jeff Kirkendall, a developer mentioned in your article, walked away from a transit oriented development project after holding numerous neighborhood meetings and finding no support for his project.

·        The Citizen’s Advisory Committee did not commission a study as stated in your article.   The Citizen’s Advisory Committee was tasked by the previous City Council to update the City’s Comprehensive Plan. I believe the study you are referring to in your article is a study by the BIAAC entitled “The Story of Two Littletons:  A Call to Action”.  The report has caused an uproar in the community for being biased and for segregating the city, effectively taking the city back to the 1960’s. 

·        Based on your article, you said the council “adopted a plan crafted in 1980.” The new City Council did not “adopt” the City’s existing Comprehensive Plan.  This was already adopted by previous councils.  Instead, City Council directed the Planning Commission to review the existing 1980 Comprehensive Plan and to create a new Comprehensive Plan.  

·        The city’s sales tax revenues are not flat as indicated by the requirement for the city to return excess Tabor funds to its citizens.  For calendar year 2007, it is estimated Littleton has a Tabor overage of 1.8 million dollars.  For calendar year 2006, the city returned 1.1 million dollars to its citizens because of Tabor overages.

·        In public meetings Doug Clark has mentioned his age as something other than 47 years old. 

 

Next time, please verify your accusations and facts in your article.   

 

Sincerely,

 

Linda Knufinke

Mayberry, USA a.k.a. Littleton, CO

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3 Responses

  1. […] Response to Denver Post Article-L. Knufinke The City is required by law to publish any disbursements over $500 in a local newspaper. Under previous finance directors, the disbursements weren’t published until sometimes more than five months after the disbursements were made. … […]

  2. I think this discourse is very informative and really displays the varying opinions that are out there. Similar to Linda I would like to provide some information that I believe is mis-leading in Linda’s comments.

    1. The comment about the new Council providing more transparency as a sign that they are “getting things done” is laughable. I have attended Council and Planning Commission meetings for years and there is no difference other than the new council thumping their chests and stating that the last Council held meetings akin to fraternity house seletions. City boards and commission shave always abided by the open meetings law. I have attended everything from P.C. retreats, to Museum and Arts Committee meetings. Why do you state this like it wasn’t done before?

    2. Your comment about the new police cheif creating a change from business as usal to a “dynamic new system” has no valid evidence…just because you state like fact does not make it true. You state morale has improved, but I have two friends in the department who have told me otherwise. While I am sure the new Chief is a great person, do not state opinions for facts. You also infer that the past Council did not work with the Police Department and the new one does? Who are you and where have you been the past six years as the past council and current council have both worked with the department to improve it’s efficiency and service. Your assertions borders on outlandish.

    2. You go on to state that the new finacial director is working to improve the City’s transparency but disgarded the fact that the previous administration brought them in with sweep of your hand…objective? I think not. Give credit where credit is due.

    3. You again talk about the City’s financials as previously being a mess. Due to poor creation of new sales tax revenue over the past 10 years the City’s budget has been diffuclt to maintain and thus upgrades in software and staffing to provide quality accounting have been lacking. Ask the new director and he will tell you how poor our accounting technology is? Please don’t act like our accounting is so superior now. Maybe better with better ideas coming from a director who was hired by the previous council?

    In response to your comments about innacuracies in the post article.

    1. You state some facts about new development that has been approved by this Council. To be clear…Aspen Grove Pads were approved in 2000 by the previous Council. Any new development pad development is a use-by-right and cannot be overturned by Council. The Residences at Nevada Place were approved under a PDO by the PREVIOUS Council. If that were today for sure they would be denied as the current Mayor has disdain for the PDO process and has stated so many times before. Density is a bad word to people with suburban mindsets and thus surely would have stopped the redevelopment of the old school site. You act as if the transit oriented development was a current council charge???? Obviously you have missed the past 2 years of the sunshine group dismissing transit oriented development concepts in honor of maintaing failed single family, big lot development that is in dire straights across America. Big lots, cul-de-sacs, seperation from the ability to walk to retail have created homegenous suburbs that do not hold their value during down economic times.

    Trammel Crow’s development was negotiated and vetted through the past Council. The newbies at the City essentially just passed a vote in their first month. The fact that not a single housing unit is adjacent to this site is the only reason the affirmed the approval. If a few homes would have been adjacent this council would have folded like a deck of cards.

    2. Next you say big box is not shut out of Littleton and reference Home Depot and Lowes. Well, the Home Depot was approved by a past Council and the Lowes was situated on land that did not require the council’s approval. The time and effort it took to put that land deal together was monumental and will not lure new developers to this City because of the anti-development cry of the new Council and the lack of sites with nobody around them. We are an infill City and must adapt to the need to redevelop failing buildings and subdivisions before it is too late. Big boxes will continue to be built adjacent to Littleton and Littleton residents will continue to spend their tax dollars in Sheridan and Higlands Ranch and JeffCo. The wholes in the retail market will be filled and Littleton will need to wait for 20 years when new big box will need to be developed to replace the ones being built now. This is capitalism at its finest for better or worse. Don’t fool yourself by stating Littleton is open to big box development, they aren’t, just pony up and ask for higher property taxes to supplement the lost taxes from the retail boxes, I am okay with that.

    3. Your comment on the Police station is laughable also. Nothing need to be said other than to take a look at the hallways in the City building that have officers desks lined up in a area previous used as a “Pedestrian Hallway”. If you beleive City services haven’t changed since 1950 then I guess we wouldn’t need a new building.

    4. In reference to your statement that “Transit Oriented Development ” has not been shot down since none has been proposed is unbeleivable. Show me another City with two great light-rail stops that are not receiving multiple applications for development of the future? Oh yeah, the Mayor is on record stating that Transit Oriented Development is not what the city wants. They Council wants outdated large home, large lot sprawl that contiues to proliferate the use of the automobile. The Mayor even references this mantra like it is generally accepted by all residents of Littleotn. Except me I guess. The downton needs built in customers to survive and profit.

    5. Lasty, the statement about the tax revenues not being flat is ignorant. Linda must be some kind of accountant officiando since the City”s BIA Director and Director of Finance have told us they were/are. Just because we have a surplus does not mean revnues have increased. It just shows that our base line has descreased in some years thus requiring the City to ask to keep the excess to maintain the previous year’s revenue baseline. (This is the negative of Tabor and was not forseen when it was inacted because we were in boom years and did not think about a time when revenues would decrease.

    Lastly, as it appears you are an ardent supporter of the Sunshine Council let’s make some things clear.

    1. While Councilwoman Brinkman did oppose the Walmart Rezoning please rmember that her and others consisitently stated that the proposal was adjacent to a park (which it wasn’t), that the City was giving them a detention Pond for the Littleton Citizens to maintain, (which we weren’t per City Engineer and Public Works and Planning). Win at all cost is definately American just don’t let this Council woman sway you into thinking she does everything on the up and up.

    2. How about Councilman Trujillio and the fact that he constantly blasted the previous council for their lan use decisions but silently works out a “deal” with the Public Works Director to place a off-site parking lot for his restruant on Alamo that is in zoning non-compliance. All commerical lots must be paved and provide water quality for the run-off. Councilman Trujillo is both work back room deals and polluting the environment, but as seen as some sort of savoir from the past “bad” Council. Also, ask him when he is going to give that restaurant a face lift so it doesn’t perpetuate the blight in some buildings downtown (i.e. Jack Randll’s buidings). Put some paint on that sucker.

    So, as you stated to the post writer, please verify your facts and accusations..

    Good luck Littleton, you’ll need it.

  3. Hey, nice tips. I’ll buy a glass of beer to that person from that forum who told me to visit your blog 🙂

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