Hopes for the Year Ahead
2016 is just around the corner, and a new year offers the opportunity to think about the future, and reflect upon the recent past.
Internationally, and here at home, we have dealt with horrific acts of violence, the reasoning of which I cannot fathom or understand. Colorado Springs will be healing for some time to come. Looking to its future, I know the Springs to be a city whose spirit is strong with great leaders and citizens alike. That gives me hope.
Paris also recently saw a horrible attack. Yet it also recently hosted an event to give us all hope for the future. Almost a thousand municipal officials from across the globe, including Boulder Councilmember Matt Appelbaum and Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, witnessed their own leaders from nearly 200 countries sign a treaty addressing many issues affecting the climate. There are a number of municipalities all over the world working on this locally, and these efforts were acknowledged over and over again at this conference.
Looking at this through a Colorado prism, I watch with great concern natural resource production declines in a number of regions where our cities and towns are getting hit hard, such as the North Fork Valley, Craig, and very recently Clear Creek County. I hope we can continue to examine ways in which the state helps to mitigate these serious disruptions. However, I can tell state policy makers what not to do: Please do not appropriate severance tax dollars away from the Department of Local Affairs and impacted local governments to help balance the state general fund. CML will once again most vigorously oppose that.
Speaking of natural resources, I hope that we can embark on a strong federal-state-municipal partnership to address the hundreds of abandoned hard rock mines we have around Colorado. The Animas River spill was a terrible incident last summer. It drew a light on a major challenge facing many states in the West. We have to do a better job of examining solutions in a partnership manner.
I am encouraged by the dialogue going on to accomplish just that, and the League will play an active role.
I am also encouraged by the continuing support for cities and towns solving issues locally. The November elections are illustrative of this. In numerous municipalities across Colorado, voters overwhelmingly said yes to infrastructure ballot measures involving debt and tax increases. This has been a consistent theme at the municipal level for an historic period of time here. It tells me that citizens remain bullish on investments in their own communities and have a high level of trust in city and town officials to get the job done. Most convincingly, look at the incredible number of votes approving municipal broadband entry. Not one of these questions received less than a 70 percent approval. If this isn’t a demonstration of trust, then I don’t know what is. CML and Colorado Counties Inc. staffs have been meeting to think about next steps that our two organizations can embark upon together.
As our General Assembly enters another session next month, I hope that one of the issues state lawmakers will tackle is Gov. John Hickenlooper’s excellently produced water plan. While many parts of it are aspirational rather than prescriptive in nature, this historic document will allow the state to examine an important component of its partnership with municipalities and other local governments around water policy. Kudos to all of those individuals involved in the writing of this report.
Speaking of the legislature, I hope we can get a comprehensive fix to a simply terrible law enacted last session affecting urban renewal. Just addressing the applicability of the new statute doesn’t cut it. This bill remains a real problem affecting real projects on the ground right now. I remain so very disappointed in the rancor around this issue generated by other local government interests. Municipal efforts involving urban renewal and downtown redevelopment are major cogs in the economic engine of Colorado. Legislative interference encouraged by other local government interests significantly challenges that partnership. I hope we can fix this mess.
CML has been meeting with TABOR proponents to see if we can accomplish any constitutional change to the language in the amendment dealing with how emergencies, such as the floods of September 2013, can be better addressed. I have appreciated the manner in which those discussions have been proceeding, and I hope we can accomplish something in the months ahead.
The League has been involved in a herculean effort focused on continuing to simplify basic elements of our sales tax self-collection system for nearly 70 home rule cities and towns. It has been a collaborative effort between business and municipal interests. The dialogue has been very positive, and the success of this effort will come to fruition over the months ahead. I also hope the state can continue to improve its own sales tax collection program for those local governments overseen by the Department of Revenue.
This past year, CML celebrated our first ever Municipal Heroes Award program. It was a smashing success acknowledging people in our communities who are making a big difference. I am looking forward to meeting our next round of heroes to be announced in June at our annual conference in Vail. I hope you will be there as well.
The CML Executive Board just revised and adopted a new strategic plan for the organization. I am so pleased with this effort. While you will hear more on the plan over the weeks ahead, it focuses on advocacy, member engagement, training, research and information, and leadership. As was pointed out during the board’s review of this, at its core, CML is a coalition of cities and towns large and small; Front Range, Western Slope, and Eastern Plains - all parts of our beloved Colorado united in the goal of sound municipal government and governance.
2016 becomes my 37th year with the League, the past 11 years as executive director. I am blessed to work with my wonderful colleagues on the CML staff and to have such outstanding leaders on our CML Executive Board. Most of all, it all turns on you as our vibrant membership of 268 cities and towns.
I love working for each of you, and hope to hear from you on your hopes for the coming year. I wish you all the best!