Council Workshop – 3 February 2018

Council Workshop             3 February 2018            Citizen Minutes

The meeting opened with remarks from Debbie Brinkman. There’s a perception that we are not open. Leadership drives the conversation and it becomes a very narrow conversation. We need to have a process for communication – when you have polarity you become myopic and fail to see the big picture. For instance on fire – has it been decided or is there a need for a broader conversation.

Each council member was asked to provide an expectation of the workshop

Carol Fey                    Positive Energy

Karina Elrod              Action Oriented

Jerry Valdes               Completion

Debbie Brinkman      Action, Completion and Policy Direction

Pat Driscoll                 Transparency, Great Communication and Resolution

Peggy Cole                 Doables that all are committed to

Kyle Schlachter         Forward thinking and open mindedness

They mentioned some of the past accomplishments

  •             The successful TABOR election
  •              Voice of the Community – they need to think differently how they engage the citizens
  •              Townhall – it was fun
  •             Downtown Design Guidelines
  •             Belleview Corridor

Long term capital funding – a deep challenge. Now that the TABOR question has been passed we need to focus on the long-term issue of funding the capital needs. This is the most central issue facing us….we have a financial crisis said Mark Relph.

COMPLAN

Jocelyn Mills then started to address the COMPLAN process. She began by passing out all the old plans – they filled a box. The point she was making was there are lots and lots of plans that were created by different departments but there really was no way to connect the dots. They want to be more cohesive. She asked why should they pursue a vision and Complan and illustrated another community that had four citizen initiatives and the question was asked how do we turn this around. The community created a vision and that process turned the community around.

Why do this – there’s new leadership on council, the need exists, lots of development going on in Littleton now and they have a chance to start an integrated multi-year process.

Mark Relph, city manager, said if they want to be successful they need a public process up front. You cannot short cut the public process and if you don’t do it well you will do battle. We do not have an adopted community vision – that’s where we fail. Kelli Narde, director of communication, spoke about the process, under Debbie Brinkman’s leadership, that was a visioning process that produced a large visual hanging in the council chamber but it was not a public process at all.

Jerry Valdes said they paid a lot of money for a pretty piece of artwork.

Mills continued, if we had had a community process to connect back to we would know where we are going and it would transcend the overlap of councils.

One of the main points she made was the fact that Littleton does not have a transportation plan which would frame economic development, financial sustainability, how communities interact and get around.   Her timeline in the process showed 9 months to collect the public input. Pat Driscoll asked her how she came up with nine months – he thought is was a long time. Relph said it took Golden two years. Driscoll then asked what percentage of the community they were looking for in the way of participation. Relph said this was not just an open house style of meeting – it is more about having opportunities – going to specific areas and engaging with citizens. Narde said the consultant will set up the process and strategies and we have lots of tools to implement the consultant’s plan.   This is planned for a March start.

Keith Reester, public works director, displayed a chart that showed all the plans that were necessary to support the Community’s Vision through a Complan.

  • *Transportation & Utility
  •   Public Safety
  •  Economic Development
  • *Housing & Neighborhoods
  •  Open Space/Parks & Rec
  • *Future Land Use/Zoning
  • *Facilities & Public Spaces
  • *Cultural & Community

*The asterisks denote plans that do not exist

Peggy Cole asked if their decision to start this process needs formal approval.

Financial Sustainability

Relph said there was a crisis in the Capital Improvement Fund. Tiffany Hooten, director of finance provided council with a presentation that included fire unification.

Staff has identified $93 million in unfunded capital costs, which includes things like curb and gutter, fleet maintenance throughout the city; technology advances, building maintenance etc. There have been some one-time monies – Water Fund, Denver Water Payment that have helped but the money is running out. It will take $200 million for Santa Fe alone and we will be expected to contribute 20%. The other major corridors in Littleton are not included in that number. There hasn’t been a good job in the past of planning the capital needs so they are implementing a five year fiscally constrained capital plan.

Fire

Chief Armstrong presented, once again, his reasons for unifying the fire department with South Metro.

He said Highlands Ranch would be going to their voters for their approval to unify and tax themselves to do so. Littleton would have to do the same but if the voters said no then the city has to pay the equivalent of 9.25 mills and that will impact the General Fund – it will come out of the operations or reserves budgets and is not practical. Hooten warned that they did not want to spend down their reserves too much as it would jeopardize their bond rating.

Council was shown a graph that depicted them relinquishing 4.662 mills of the 6.662 mills in property tax that the city collects. The 4.662 mills are equivalent to $4,000,000 and would be used to defray the cost of going to South Metro for the citizens. That would leave 2 mills or $3,100,000 in “savings” for the city (money they no longer would have to spend on fire) that could be used for other things. This scenario showed the impact to the owner of a $370,000 home to be an additional $120 per year. They had not done the work to show the impact on a commercial property owner whose property is assessed at 3xs the rate of residential thus a much bigger impact.

Karina Elrod asked about the question for the voters – would there be two questions or a single question. She was told one question.

The next discussion was about a communication strategy to convince the voters to support the ballot question. They will use their web page and other means available and run the campaign similar to the TABOR question just passed by the voters. They have from March to November to do this.

Long Term Financial Sustainability

Hooten presented three options to raise more revenue for the City.

  1. Increase sales tax – Littleton currently collects about $83,000,000 in sales tax annually. An increase of .25% will net $2.9 million, an increase of .5% will net $5.8 million and an increase of .75% will net $8.7 million. The extra sales tax raised could be limited to be used for capital projects.
  2. Hotel Tax – we have four hotels that currently charge 3% tax. Adding an additional 3% would conservatively net $400,000 per year.
  3. Bond Measure – This money could target specific projects. When asked how much staff responded $180,000,000. A bond measure would have to be backed by an increase in taxes to pay the debt.

Elrod said she was cautious to do sales tax and a bond measure now but the hotel tax would be easier to do.  It was pointed out that the $400,000 was not going to solve their problems.

Cole mentioned raising the taxes on marijuana. Kyle Schlachter thought they needed to see what the tax rate for hotels and marijuana were in surrounding cities.

Brinkman said we need the sales tax increase but when do we go to the voters? She wanted to know what the ballot was going to look like.

City Council Relationships

Brinkman talked about how she attended the Metro Mayor’s meetings and, at times, has to vote and she votes for the city even though the council has not voted on the issue. Elrod, who is the liaison to DRCOG, said they can’t do everything individually and asked how they divide and conquer and get the right person to the right meetings.

Carol Fey said it starts with council and she strongly suggested that the divisive language stop. She referred to page 13 of their document that stated:

“Citizens that are engaging are people that are complaining. Creates a defensive environment. Council needs to rise above it and set an example. Need to show the council is working together to move the city forward. Council behavior needs to model what is expected in the environment. It would be a failure if this council does not change this. Sunshine group lost because of the negative campaigning. As a city and society, don’t want the negativity. Need to change our council culture.”

What this is saying is that council does not want to hear from those that complain. We won’t succeed in hearing the citizen’s vision if we think citizens speaking is complaining. She said she was blown away that Sunshine and the campaign was still important. Someone in the group made this statement and it tells us where we are and who we are. Sunshine didn’t lose by very much. The margins were small and you can’t write of a segment of the population. Brinkman won by 167 – not a land slide. In the newspaper it referred to a mandate yet the difference between Kyle and Doug was 108 votes and 216 was the difference between Doug and Karina. If, as a council, there’s a group of citizens that we don’t want to listen to because they were severely trounced and we march forward – that would be the wrong assumption to make. I see people shutting down but if I didn’t bring this up the barriers will continue. I am associated with Sunshine. What is written hear means that at least one person in the group believes that Sunshine lost – but I didn’t loose. I won. And if we believe this we believe in an untruth. I met with Kent Bagley and he told me I needed to lose the connection with Sunshine, as it will only hurt me forever – that I couldn’t function as a member of this council. Wow! The people who came to this meeting today are primarily Sunshine. They are here, not because they are negative, but because they care about Littleton and when they come to council and speak they come because they care. They have 3 minutes at council – Peggy keeps telling us to be positive but there’s no time to be positive. Fey asked council to find a way to see her differently. She was not negative – she went to Sunshine when her council rep refused to help her.

Brinkman said she wanted this discussion over. Fey said “but it isn’t”…..look at page 13. Brinkman did not appreciate it being brought up how little some members of council won by. The majority wins and it is a disservice to all who have served to bring up the numbers. The vote is over – we need to work together. Brinkman thought it was important to share the information that each of the council members shared with the facilitator during their one on one conversations. She agreed that the 3 minutes in front of council was difficult and there are other ways to have better conversations with council – we are all available. Then Brinkman said she did not like using citizen’s names in their conversations.

Changing the subject Brinkman mentioned a phone call she received from Jocelyn Mills about a new developer for Columbine Square – Frank – who also developed Littleton Village. He is an awesome guy.

Relph said leadership is the key and the challenge in front of them is an opportunity to think of community engagement differently.

Driscoll said he attended a Sunshine meeting and he did not think Doug Clark told both sides of the story and his challenge to them and Sunshine was to get the facts straight.

Accountability

What does council need from Mark Relph?

Brinkman – honesty about what’s not clear or when there is over reach. She needs it in the moment and not two weeks later.

Driscoll – nothing. Staff is doing a fantastic job making his job easy. He takes the staff reports to heart.

Valdes – wants to get things done.

Fey – more reality checks and to be outspoken – never hesitate to point out reality.

Elrod – yes to all above. Reality checks are important. Foster measureable actions and what we get out of the action.

Schlachter – wants to know the long-term (20 to 30 years) impact of decisions

Cole – budget is important – fears a recession

Brinkman – wants the pros and cons in the staff reports and ask council when you need something – there’s a lot of work ahead.

What does Mark need from council?

The Pros and Cons – he recognized that they haven’t been good about that – it is a culture change for staff.

The current practice is to have agenda item questions in advance by Monday morning but that doesn’t always happen. Staff wants council to be successful and they need time to be prepared for the meeting.

If after a meeting your expectations were not met – call him – do not do it from the dais

Wants to meet with each of them once per month

He will need to realign the organization to accomplish the workload in front of them. He wants to create a strategic plan for the organization.

He has no goals set forth for his appraisal – he needs them to lay the groundwork for his evaluation.

Schlachter told Relph to think outside of the box to move forward. Relph responded that he is an engineer and likes to minimize the risks. He has been part of some very innovative work and it is fantastic but he has to know the plan and details.

Next Steps

Randy Young, deputy city manager, said they just got the first draft of the SM contract. There’s not a whole lot to negotiate.   There are operational agreements but that will be a separate piece. Can’t go way outside the boundaries of the other three agreements SM has made with the other three fire departments that recently unified with them.

Steve Kemp, city attorney, said the timeline has moved up – both first and second readings need to be completed in April.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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