2013 May 7 Littleton City Council Study Session – Citizen Minutes

Citizen Minutes

Littleton City Council Study Session

14 May 2013

 Box lunches for the council – thank you taxpayers!

The meeting started with the interviewing of two law firms – I will report on the interviews separately with all four firms represented at the same time.

Economic Development Continued

Phil Cernanec and Bruce Stahlman prepared a power point presentation on Economic Development.

The highlights, in my opinion, are:

Cernanec – The “torch” has gotten ahead – economic gardening, which has been the approach to economic development for the past several years if not decades, is no longer enough.  The council has not done enough in communicating to the citizens. There is some tension – what do we preserve and what do we change?  Council is looking at how to advance economic prosperity for the City and ways to broaden the tax base.  As the council looks to the future they need to focus on economic sustainability.  Bruce Beckman said he had a problem with the word sustainability – it is problematic.  Peggy Cole suggested “vitality” as a substitute.  Cernanec said that Littleton’s property values have held as compared to other areas in Arapahoe County.  Beckman said that plays two ways.  For those of us here it is good but for others it is difficult for them to get in – that’s the good and the bad news.

Stahlman stated that citizens are asking why the council is doing all this – referring to the several meetings with other area mayors, Inspire Littleton, Civic Canopy, Our Iceberg is Melting, Urban Renewal 101, and Public Opinion Polling in addition to other outreach efforts.   Today we have a much better tool box.  (This refers to the Economic Plan that was approved at the meeting the prior week that includes an Urban Renewal Authority in Littleton, Tax Increment Funding, Public Improvement Fees, Sales Tax Sharing Agreements, Permit Fee Reductions, Revitalization Incentive Grants etc. as “tools”.  You can go back to the minutes of the May 7th meeting and read the Economic Plan for more information.)   The tool box allows us to have productive conversations – what we should do as a community.  People have property rights.  What should we do to incentivize people to do what would be a benefit for the whole community (in their opinion) using the “tools” which is really taxpayers dollars.  But there are no guaranteed outcomes.  The risk cuts both ways.  There is risk in doing nothing and risk in doing something.

Cole said another question is – what should we not do?  There’s as much risk in doing something as doing nothing.

Stahlman said they all heard the concepts presented and all seven of them have their own ideas of those concepts.  How do we communicate better with each other with those differing ideas of the concepts?

Beckman said there is a concept he is accustomed to as a former policeman and government employee – action imperative.  When there is nothing going on there is the desire to do something.

Cernanec said there is always something happening – we have a population that is aging but there are younger families moving in.  The city’s revenue is based on taxes  – he is looking forward to the city’s share of the fair market place revenues.  (The internet sales tax bill that passed this year in the state legislature.)   Not making a decision is making a decision.

Jerry Valdes said change is always occurring – we don’t have to get in front of the change – we could mess it up – we don’t need to be the ones to change.

Stahlman said “change” is in a negative light.  We need to look at change and opportunity – opportunity to be taken advantage of or missed for all the right reasons.  In a changing environment we have opportunities we can act on or not act on.  The decision will have consequences down the road.  We once had an opportunity to annex and we did not – that set us down a different path.  (This refers to Sterling Ranch – Jim Taylor was beating this drum almost constantly but the majority of the previous council said no.  It may not be over with yet thought.  This council is discussing annexation in executive sessions.  The only area left to annex is west of the city and south of the city on the west side of the river.)

There needs to be next steps.  We are getting asked why are you moving so fast.  We all interact with a variety of people on a daily basis and we need to communicate and get on the same page.  Is there a project without a huge risk of exposure and with a positive outcome that we can use as a demonstration of the momentum and build on it.  That will make it easier for people to see something tangible.  It is time to fish or cut bait – do something or not do something.  We want to do a better job of telling the story that is Littleton.

Cole said Michael Penny, city manager, said things are “popping” around here – things are happening more than what is obvious.  She did not feel the urgency to do something.  More needs to be done on the city’s web site showing what is happening in Littleton.

Stahlman said the issue is always about revenue – it is perceived that all we do is revenue driven – it is not revenue for revenue’s sake.

Museum Fees

Tim Nimz, Museum Director, presented a memo with 6 different scenarios for charging fees to Littleton Museum.  To make the long story short only one scenario met the challenge of raising six figures through admission fees which was/is the desired outcome.   Valdes said he did not understand the numbers and needed more investigation.  Jim Taylor said Littleton is not in a crisis and he thought charging fees would create more aggravation than the $150,000 it would raise and he was not interested in charging a fee.  Stahlman thought that the museum experience contributed to the quality of life for Littleton residents and was not interested in charging admission fees.  Cole suggested taking a few months and survey the community on the issue.  Brinkman thought an outreach might be appropriate and budget time, in September, might be a better time to discuss the matter.  $150,000 is not going to bankrupt the city.  (Nobody mentioned cutting the museum budget by $150,000 to get the desired outcome.)

The discussion of the lodging tax, marijuana tax, the direct election of a mayor and charter clean up changes that were on the agenda were postponed to a future study session.

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