Municipalities Matter

Municipalities Matter

Municipalities Matter

Municipalities Matter ... And So Do Memories

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Municipalities Matter

And So Do Memories


My love for Chinese food is no secret. A fortune cookie from a recent meal hit a responsive chord: “Happiness lies in good health and a bad memory.” I have a few acquaintances who feel that if I am not lacking in a bad memory, I can tack toward revisionist history from time to time! 

As for happiness - I recently visited my doctor and got a clean bill of health. I am thankful for that. 

As for bad memory - forget it! All I have are good and powerful memories. And, to quote from that great George Gershwin tune, “They can’t take that away from me.” 

Forty years have flown by since my beloved predecessor and still close friend Ken Bueche (after whom CML's glorious building is named) asked me in my initial interview, “So, you’ve moved around a lot the past few years, can we count on you to stay a little while with us?” A fair question in the fall of 1979, though a tad intimidating. I think four decades does pass the statute of limitations on job-hopping. 

I’ll tell you the secret. I have been here so long because I am madly in love … with my wonderful spouse of nearly 28 years, Judith; our two sons, Elliot and Abe, of whom a dad could never be more proud; my beloved staff colleagues both past and current; great CML Executive Boards; and a tremendous membership of true leaders. But mostly, I am deeply in love with our dear and precious Colorado. 

I have traversed every square inch of this state, corner to corner, town to town, city to city - so many times that I bet I could do it blindfolded. I have been in every fire station, coffee shop, town hall, sewer plant, and rec center. I’ve driven slowly and cautiously through every speed trap you can imagine. Never, ever did I run a photo red! (Well, maybe once). I love the Western Slope, High Plains, Lower Arkansas Valley, San Luis Valley, Four Corners, Front Range, Southern Colorado… You name the spot in Colorado, I love it. 

Every community in our state exudes a positive and can-do attitude. You lead through problem solving. You see every challenge as an opportunity. Partnerships abound among and between local governments, as well as with the state and national government. 

You do not live on islands; you get out and about to see what is going on around you. CML is your home away from home. 

Every time I have visited one of our 270 members, I have never once felt I was a guest, but a member of the family. 

How blessed I am to have had this marvelous career at CML! So many nice things have been said about me over the past few weeks - it is humbling and deeply appreciated. But the true accolades belong to each of you. The work you do on a daily basis reinforces my core belief that public service is indeed the highest calling. 

It has been almost exactly six years since I wrote my first blog for CML, and now here is my last. I do not want to say goodbye, so for now I will just say that I hope to see you down the road. 

I wish you good health, personal and professional fulfillment, and only good memories.

Sam Over the Years

Municipalities Matter: Housing Affordability

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Municipalities Matter

Housing Affordability

Affordable HousingAffordable housing remains an enduring challenge for municipal leaders. Our recent State of Our Cities & Towns report reveals that 26 percent of respondent cities and towns answered that it was “somewhat worse” than 10 years ago, and 17 percent stated it was “much worse.” Only 3 percent said that it was “much better.” Focusing in on the past three years alone, not a single municipality responded that housing had gotten “much better,” and 56 percent selected “somewhat worse” or “much worse.” 

Respondents described the supply of housing as “insufficient,” “unattainable,” or “in disrepair,” while they described the need as “critical,” “significant,” and “desperate.” Overall, as one municipality reported, the picture is “bleak.” 

Given the severity of the state’s affordable housing crisis, it is not only starter homes that some communities are struggling to provide. Municipalities from the Front Range to the Eastern Plans mentioned the need for housing throughout the price spectrum. Multiple respondents lamented the high cost of water, shortage of skilled labor, and proliferation of short-term rentals exacerbating the issue. In addition, community response to municipal attempts to address the concern has ranged from tepid acceptance to vehement opposition. 

Mountain communities have watched housing costs rise out of reach of the workforce on whom their tourism-based economies rely, and these soaring prices affect the rental housing stock as well as homes for purchase. Rural cities and towns have reported difficulty attracting developers willing to build in their area even as the demand is growing, and many existing homes have been neglected or abandoned. 

A lack of affordable housing options has cascading effects. In one Front Range community, for example, fewer than 5 percent of City employees live in the City simply because they cannot afford to do so. Their commutes increase traffic congestion and pollution. In addition to these more visible impacts, a workforce that is forced to commute can make individuals feel like outsiders to the very community they serve, interfering with the neighborly interactions that can make a city or town feel like home. An inability to provide workforce housing also may lead to challenges recruiting and retaining workers in all sectors, which is already being felt by 53 percent of respondents. Ultimately, housing challenges can contribute to slower economic growth, as reported by 40 percent of respondents. 

The increase in housing costs also has had a noticeable impact on the number of homeless individuals within communities around the state. While only 20 percent of respondents reported an increase in homelessness directly connected to affordable housing challenges, 37 percent reported an increase in homelessness in the past three years due to any factors, with that number skyrocketing to 95 percent in municipalities with a population greater than 25,000. This increase has left municipalities struggling to find enough resources to provide services for homeless individuals. 

In the face of these challenges, municipal leaders are taking action. Forty-two percent of respondents either currently have a housing affordability plan or plan to create one in the next three years, and 61 percent work with a local or regional housing authority. Cities and towns are fast-tracking land use applications and waiving permit fees on affordable housing projects, zoning for tiny homes, and entering into agreements with developers to place deed restrictions on certain properties. 

The League is committed to facing the housing crisis head-on as part of our commitment to serving our member cities and towns. Our most recent Making The Municipal Connection podcast focuses on homelessness. And we just posted a video on the City of Wheat Ridge and one step they are taking to address the issue of affordable housing. In addition, this topic is the sole focus of the February issue of our Colorado Municipalities magazine

This perennial issue is one all municipal leaders need to think and talk about. I’d be interested in hearing what you are doing in your community.

Municipalities Matter: It's a Vision Thing!

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Municipalities Matter

It's a Vision Thing


Sam in DeltaRecently, I was delighted to facilitate a weekend retreat for the City of Delta, led by Mayor Ron Austin and City Manager David Torgler. I love working with cities and towns and talking about their dreams for the future. These dreams are a part of what it takes to be a good leader in your municipality. 

In Delta, we spent a great deal of time talking about the local and regional economy. Delta has its challenges. Coal extraction used to drive the economy of the area. It doesn't any longer. And an increasing number of retirees live in Delta, and this impacts the City's budget. 

There is a great deal of interest in hemp farming in the county, and recreational marijuana has become a major topic in town. 

Tourism development is an area on which municipal leaders really want to focus; in fact, the City of Delta received a grant from the state's tourism office to jump start these conversations. One thing to look for is more chatter about a major mountain bike race in Delta this spring. 

It is hard when you are in the middle of the two major economic centers of Grand Junction and Montrose, but Delta has tremendous potential. There is sound leadership amongst the elected officials and the staff. I anticipate a positive year ahead for Delta. 

May I also say it was great fun to facilitate this retreat. Maybe I am onto something once I retire end of March. Although my golf game sure needs improvement, and I can never get in enough ski days! To be continued … 

I would love to hear about your vision for the future.

The State of Our Cities & Towns

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Municipalities Matter

The State of Our Cities & Towns


State 2019For the 10th anniversary of the State of Our Cities & Towns survey, CML asked our members to reflect on the years since the very first report. Looking back, what lasting challenges did the Great Recession leave for their municipalities, and what were they able to accomplish in spite of them? Looking forward, what is next? 

Key findings of the report include: 


  • Most municipalities have better financial health today than just before the recession. The most common lasting impacts of the Great Recession are delayed maintenance of capital improvement projects and lagging economic growth; one-quarter of municipalities experienced no lasting impacts from the recession. 
  • Feelings about the local economy and municipal revenue have improved steadily since 2011. On average, municipalities thought their local economy was better than the benchmark of the previous year. 
  • The greatest challenges municipalities face are unfunded street maintenance and improvement needs, lack of affordable housing, tight labor markets, unfunded water/wastewater improvement needs, increased health insurance costs, and increased demand for municipal services. 
  • Major challenges have varied over the years. From 2008 to 2011, common major challenges were slow growth in tax revenues, adverse local economic conditions, declining state funding, and decreases in tax revenues. From 2012 to 2015, common major challenges included unfunded street maintenance and improvement needs, federal and state mandated expenditures, and decline in federal funding. From 2016 to 2018, common major challenges included lack of affordable housing, tight labor market, and increased demand for municipal services. On average, unfunded street maintenance and improvement needs was the most common major challenge across years. 
  • Most municipalities have a positive financial outlook for the next five years. Only one in 10 municipalities has a negative outlook for the next five years; these municipalities are all small or mid-sized. 
  • Budget constraints and housing affordability are the two most common challenges municipalities expect to face in the next five years. 


It is constantly inspiring to me to see first hand the on-going progress municipal leaders accomplish across Colorado in communities both urban and rural; smallest to largest; Front Range, Western Slope, and Eastern Plains. Municipal governments are major cogs in the economic engine of our state. The daily quality of life we enjoy is because of a vision and a commitment to sound municipal governance.  

Our 10th anniversary report stands the test of time in providing factual evidence that Colorado remains in good hands because of the thousands of problem solvers working in municipal government. It is a great way to celebrate the start of a new year, and as I reflect on my 40-year career here at CML, I take pride in saying that the League has played a strong role in that regard. 

Empowered cities and towns, united for a strong Colorado is our vision, and this latest State of Our Cities & Towns report proves the point quite clearly. 

I would love to know what you think.

And So Do Reflections

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Municipalities Matter

And So Do Reflections

ReflectionsAs we approach the end of the year, and with the holiday season very much upon us, it is a good time to reflect and ponder. And I have been doing that quite a bit as I think about my pending retirement at the end of next March after 40 years on the staff of this great organization. 

These 40 years have flown by in an instant. While there will be other opportunities for me to reminiscence with you, I do have a few thoughts I would like to share that may be appropriate as we approach the end of 2018: 


  • On CML. What a great organization! I know I am biased, but for the size of our staff and our budget, I am constantly amazed and humbled at the quality of our work. It is always cutting edge, thoughtful, and impactful in your daily life as a municipal leader. We are on sound financial footing; we have a talented and committed staff; and have a great Executive Board, and have had for many years. Above all, we have near 100% of Colorado’s municipalities as members. 
  • On municipal governance. Colorado’s cities and towns are robust thanks to strong state constitutional municipal home rule since 1902; a proud tradition of the council-manager system; non-partisanship by state law for municipal officeholders; and an important reliance upon locally raised revenue to guide our own municipal fiscal destiny. I feel that municipal governance is resilient and its foundation unshaken. The last round of elections a few weeks back proved again that there is support for cities and towns as local voters said yes far more than no on a variety of investment questions. The defeat of Amendment 74 was in large part due to the collective voice and wisdom of municipal leaders speaking in a clear and precise manner about its impacts. All of this heartens me greatly. 
  • On our state-municipal partnership. We have a wonderful relationship with our General Assembly and Governor’s Office , and I anticipate no difference in this partnership with the new state legislature and Governor-elect Jared Polis. Within the legislature, we have 14 former municipal officials, many of whom were active in CML, now serving. House Speaker KC Becker, Senate President Leroy Garcia, and Joint Budget Committee Chair Dominick Moreno are great examples. Shannon Bird just left the CML Executive Board to become a new member of the House. These former municipal leaders are on both sides of the aisle, work well with each other, and are fine and decent people. 
  • On public service. I join with so many of you who mourn the passing of President George H.W. Bush, who I heard say that his family considered public service to be a noble cause. Those who serve at the local level do one thing better than most, you solve problems. You look for common ground for the greater good of your hometown. Public service at the municipal level is the highest calling. It is indeed a “noble cause.” You represent the best that there is. 


I will have much more to say about the past, present, and future in upcoming blog posts, but for now I would like to hear what your reflections are as we wind down the year. What sentiments would you like to share? I find inspiration in every conversation I have with each and every person who is involved with municipal government in Colorado. Let me know when I can come for visit. 

A wonderful holiday and all the best in the new year ahead is what I wish for you!

Especially on Election Day

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Municipalities Matter

Especially on Election Day

There was a lot going on this election cycle, proving once again that all politics are local. More than 150 municipal ballot measures in 80 cities and towns across the state – but there also were some key statewide ballot issues with the potential for significant local impact. 

On Amendment 74 – Property rights 

The overwhelming defeat of Amendment 74 is a testament to the voters’ trust in municipal and county leaders across the state, all of whom spoke in one unified voice about the overreach and unintended consequences of the measure. Kudos especially go to Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, as well as leaders in the Metro Mayors Caucus and the environmental community, not to mention a host of allied business interests such as the state associations of homebuilders and realtors. This was a very big CML win, very big indeed. 

Finally, we tip our hat to the Colorado Farm Bureau. We work on a lot of issues together at the statehouse and will continue to do so. The election is over; time to move on. 

On Proposition 112 – Oil and gas setbacks  

We were pleased to see 112 defeated. The League was among the first of several statewide associations to come out against it because of the preemption of municipal authority and home rule. We look forward to working with Governor-elect Jared Polis and the next General Assembly to continue to work on reasonable approaches enhancing municipal regulatory authority relative to oil and gas. 

We hope the industry demonstrates a willingness to do so as well. That remains to be seen. I am not real happy with the oil and gas folks at the moment. Maybe they might learn a thing or two from the old song about money not always buying you happiness. And, if they have that kind of money to spend, then maybe it is high time to have a knock-down, drag-out on raising severance tax rates and adjusting the ad valorem tax credit. Just sayin’. 

On Proposition 109 and 110 – Transportation funding 

The League opposed 109 because we were never clear how the bonds would be paid off and the impact this would have on the state’s general fund. We were pleased to see it defeated. This “I can get it for you wholesale” approach to funding critical infrastructure mirrors some of the same failed conversations in Washington. 

We supported 110 because it represented real dollars from a dedicated revenue stream to be shared with cities, towns, and transit. We were disappointed - though not surprised - by its defeat. We appreciate the leadership of the Colorado Contractors Association, and my pal of long-standing, Tony Milo. 

But remember, this past session of the legislature, a bipartisan measure was adopted to refer a $2.34 billion bond issue for transportation to the voters in 2019 with an identified revenue stream from the state’s general fund (the right way to do things, rather than the 109 approach) to pay off the bonds and also dedicate a portion of the bond revenue for state and local multimodal projects. This is a to-be-continued discussion. 

Municipal measures abound 

Voters in 80 cities and towns had 150 measures to consider across the state, and they covered everything important to our hometowns. 

Here is the “tale of the tape.” Voters continue to say “Yes” far more than “No” to local government investments that need additional revenue. The trust level at the municipal level remains high and it is robust. 

We look forward to continuing a strong partnership with the state via Governor-elect Polis and the General Assembly, which convenes in January. It likely will be led by two former municipal leaders, K.C. Becker as House Speaker (former Boulder councilmember) and Leroy Garcia as Senate President (former Pueblo councilmember). 

Everyone’s vote counts, and your leadership matters most of all. Onward and upward!

Municipalities Matter - Especially on November 6

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Municipalities Matter

Especially on November 6

November 6There has been a lot of chatter around Colorado about the 13 statewide ballot measures on next month’s ballot (and we at CML have taken a position on four – most strongly in opposition to Amendment 74). I would like to take a moment now to talk about the many municipal measures on the ballot.  

There are more than 150 questions being asked of municipal voters around the state – some related to marijuana, others to broadband, and several more to taxes and debt authority – but the common theme that runs through them is a desire for local leaders to commit to and invest in their community’s future. 

The majority of tax issues and requests for debt are being made to fund some of the most basic needs of residents, including roads, wastewater, and public safety. City councils and boards of trustees understand and appreciate their responsibility to build a safe and resilient community with high quality of life – and in Colorado, voters have demonstrated time and time again that they have faith in their local elected officials to do just that. Since 1993, the majority of municipal tax questions (61 percent) and debt questions (69 percent) have passed, and those percentages have been improving in recent years. Revenue retention measures also fare well, passing about 86 percent of the time.  

A recent Gallup poll confirms this confidence in local government: 72 percent of U.S. adults said they trust their local government, even if only 63 percent could say the same about their state government.

Broadband elections are another example of communities wishing to take their future into their own hands. So far, 93 out of 93 municipalities that have asked for voter authorization to opt out of SB-152’s prohibition on municipally owned or operated broadband infrastructure have received it. That’s right, 100 percent. This fall, eight more cities and towns will ask for authorization; I predict we will see similar results. 

Municipal elections are nonpartisan, issue-driven, and a beautiful example of representative democracy. I will be keeping an eye on a couple of elections that I think highlight Colorado’s penchant for local control. The first is Golden, where voters will consider whether or not to lower the voting age to 16 in municipal elections. The other is Castle Pines, where voters will decide whether to form a home rule charter commission. 

Ballots are long this year, which can mean an increase in excitement, but could also lead to fatigue. Voters will see multiple pages of federal, state, and county questions before they get to their municipal measures. Encourage your residents to vote their ballots to the end (or even start from the bottom up!) because we all know the best way to solve local problems is to implement local solutions. 

An outline of all of the municipal measures can be found here.

Municipalities Matter, Especially When It Comes to Water

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Municipalities Matter


Especially When It Comes to Water

I was asked to participate in a public policy forum where I talked about key issues facing our great state in the near term. Three were identified:


  • Affordable housing and the related issue of homelessness 
  • Tax policy, especially TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment 
  • Water funding 


Water WaitAt the moment, I think water is our most important challenge. We take it for granted when we turn on the faucet. Here is why we shouldn’t. 

Colorado, along with other Western states, is experiencing a near record drought. Lake Mead in Nevada is down to 38-percent capacity last I saw. 

Why should we care? 

If there is a call on the Colorado River Compact, the upper states will suffer mightily. We are a headwaters state, and 40 million people in the United States and Mexico depend upon a healthy Colorado River. Four of the eight fastest growing states in the country are in the Colorado River basin, along with 23 Native American tribes and 11 national parks. 

Climate change is real as rising temps decrease runoff and stress the rivers and waterways of the great Intermountain West. 

Lake Mead affects Lake Powell. Do you know how to say “Compact Call”? That is a dinner bell I do not want to hear, because Colorado will be on the menu. Think the Big T Project, Dillon Reservoir, Fry-Ark Project, Homestake, and snowmaking water rights - just to name but a few specific impacts. And, there is ongoing challenge concerning the health of our forests, and water quality issues. 

This is key to the resilience of cities and towns and our residents. 

So what is a worrier like me to do? I have some thoughts, and many can be implemented. But they are not easy. Nothing ever is. 

We need to develop a statewide awareness among our good citizens from the Eastern Plains to the West Slope about water scarcity. It starts with Gov. John Hickenlooper’s State Water Plan issued in 2015. It identifies a number of suggestions, and to summarize 400-plus pages in a quick blog cannot be done. I can say this: The plan correctly identifies a funding shortfall of $20 billion over the next 30 years. Currently, only one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s budget goes toward natural resources, including water project loans. 

Our next governor and General Assembly need to step it up a notch and really come to grips as to how to address this. I come from the view that we will have thoughtful folks toiling under the Gold Dome starting to do this in earnest next January and beyond. 

There is an important nexus between land use and water planning. By 2050, Colorado’s population is anticipated to double. That means a lot of new development approvals. We have been working with a number of outside groups and state agencies to educate municipal leaders about this relationship. We have worked on state legislation, and It is an area where cities and towns are starting to lead by example. 

I wish we could also do something about urban level sprawl in unincorporated areas of counties, and address the proliferation of metropolitan districts. But those are two windmills I will ask others to tilt at. Not I for the moment! 

Water conservation is always an important element to the conversation. Municipalities have done an admirable job; it is time for other sectors of the state’s economy to match our success. 

I wish the permitting and regulatory process at the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment would undergo an examination of where efficiencies can occur. Each regulation comes at a cost, and it is certainly something I hear about frequently in my travels across the Centennial State. Flexibility sometimes need to go hand in hand with firmness. 

Water treatment plant operators are in high demand, as a lot of retirements are occurring. This is an important aspect of workforce training we need to continue focusing upon, especially through our great community college system. 

I rely upon some key water big brains to help inform my thinking on this key public policy issue.  

However, none of these folks are more important than you as municipal leaders! I would love to hear from you and what you think. 

Happy Fall and Go Rockies!



Municipalities Matter: To Our Residents, Especially

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Municipalities Matter

To Our Residents, Especially

Co-written by Executive Director Sam Mamet and Municipal Research Analyst Melissa Mata


2018 Colorado Community Report CardLast year, Colorado Mesa University (CMU) in Grand Junction released its “Centennial State Survey,” which tracked Coloradans’ perceptions on social, economic, and political issues. We were very impressed with the results – and so eager to learn more – that we committed to partner with CMU on their next endeavor, the just released “2018 Colorado Community Report Card.”

Colorado Counties Inc., Colorado Association of School Boards, and Special Districts Association of Colorado also signed on to learn what Coloradans think, as did the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. 

We have been part of the team supporting the research, and we are proud of the results demonstrating what the League has said more than once: Coloradans love where they live, and they have a high trust in local elected officials. 

Seventy percent of respondents reported being satisfied with their municipal government, as opposed to 62 percent who are satisfied with the state, and 39 percent with the federal government. Though municipal elected officials work closely with and rely on great relationships with our state and federal partners, we suspect the lack of partisanship at the local level is one thing that helps municipal officials stay focused on working hard for their constituents, and residents can see the successes stemming from that work. 

In addition to letting municipal officials know their work is being seen and appreciated, this survey lets us know that there is still work to be done.  

While access to recreation and open space are rated quite well by residents around the state (80 percent of respondents rated it an A or B), access to affordable housing was rated poorly, with just more than half of respondents giving it a grade of a D or an F. CML has also heard concerns about affordable housing around the state, and this month, we mailed out our own annual State of Our Cities & Towns Survey. In this year’s survey, we ask our members to look a little deeper at the affordable housing issue in their community. We will release our survey results in January 2019. 

Access to decent-paying jobs received a mixed score, highlighting one way that Colorado municipalities are experiencing different post-recession years. Residents in Larimer/Boulder and the Denver area were both much more likely to grade job access with an A or B than residents in areas outside of the Front Range. 

Transportation is also a mixed bag: Just 55 percent of respondents answered they have access to quality transportation options. We have certainly heard concerns around the state, which is why we have chosen to feature a discussion of attempts to address the issue at both the local and statewide levels in the next episode of our podcast, Making the Municipal Connection, to be released in a few weeks. 

While not all topics covered in the survey are within the municipal realm, local leaders can better serve their constituents by understanding the nuances of a broad range of issues. This survey gives city councils and town boards reasons to be proud: for creating what most respondents see as safe places to live, a good place to raise kids, and a good place to start a business, as well as for providing a good value for their local tax dollars. 

The results also give councils and boards direction for where to direct future energy: in addition to the concerns about affordable housing, transportation, and high-paying jobs, as well as 60 percent of respondents are concerned about future water shortages. CML recently released a Knowledge Now on the concerns about creating a resilient economy – whether the local economy is tourism-based or agricultural based – in the face of weather variability and corresponding water shortages. 

CML, CMU, and our partners in this project hope to continue similar work in the future in order to better understand the issues facing the state’s residents and to inform policymakers at the state and local level. 

We hope you look at the survey and share your thoughts with us. Our work with CMU is truly a partnership for which we are quite pleased, and we hope you are as well.

Municipalities Matter: Balancing the Playing Field

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Municipalities Matter

In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states and local governments can require vendors with no physical presence in the state to collect sales tax in some circumstances. In a 5-4 decision, the Court concluded that Wayfair’s “economic and virtual contacts” with South Dakota are enough to create a “substantial nexus” with the state allowing it to require collection. 

As the Court pointed out in its majority opinion, it is estimated states and local governments lose anywhere between $8 billion to $33 billion annually because they haven’t been able to collect sales tax owed on purchases from out-of-state sellers. 

By way of background, in the 1967 case National Bellas Hess v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, the Supreme Court held that per Commerce Clause jurisprudence, states and local governments cannot require businesses to collect sales tax unless the business has a physical presence in the state. Twenty-five years later in Quill v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the physical presence requirement but admitted that “contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence might not dictate the same result.” Customers buying from remote sellers still owe sales tax, but they rarely pay it when the remote seller does not collect it. Congress had the authority to create a solution that would overrule these cases but has yet to do so. 

A number of state legislatures, including our own Colorado General Assembly with the active help of the League, passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax in order to challenge these decisions. South Dakota was the first ready for Supreme Court review. 

In an opinion written by retiring Justice Kennedy, the Court offered three reasons in abandoning the physical presence rule: “First, the physical presence rule is not a necessary interpretation of the requirement that a state tax must be ‘applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State.’ Second, Quill creates rather than resolves market distortions. And third, it imposes the sort of arbitrary, formalistic distinction that the Court’s modern Commerce Clause precedents disavow.” 

Justice Kennedy noted that 41 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia joined an amicus brief asking the Court to overturn Quill. It is remarkable to get so many state attorneys general (from different political parties) to agree to the same position on any issue. Our own Attorney General Cynthia Coffman helped to coordinate this effort. Kudos to her and her staff.  

While the four dissenting Justices, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, would have left it to Congress to act, Justice Kennedy opined the Court should be “vigilant” in correcting its error: “Courts have acted as the front line of review in this limited sphere; and hence it is important that their principles be accurate and logical, whether or not Congress can or will act in response.” 

States and local governments truly are the laboratories of democracy, and we collectively moved the needle just ever so slightly to level the playing field for home grown Main Street business. I am proud of this effort. Colorado has been in the forefront of this issue, and I appreciate the efforts of all of those involved. Now the next chapter awaits as to future developments to further the resolve of this important victory.

Municipalities Matter: Particularly with Ballot Measures This Year

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Municipalities Matter

Particularly with Ballot Measures This Year

No PetitionsLots of folks are focused on the end of the month primaries across the state. While those are surely important, CML has been monitoring a number of statewide ballot measures having potential impacts upon cities and towns.  

Proponents circulating a change to the Colorado Constitution need a minimum of 2 percent registered elector signatures from all 35 state senate districts equaling a minimum of 98,492 registered elector signatures statewide. Those initiating a change to a state law rather than the constitution also need a minimum of 98,492 registered elector signatures; however, the signatures are not required to be gathered statewide. In the case of many proposals, paid circulators are being used. These paid circulators generally have little clue what the details of a measure really are, and will hit you up with a catchphrase such as: “Sign here to protect your property rights.” As I have learned over many years, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. “Decline to sign” is generally my mantra this election season.

The following brief summaries outline some what CML is monitoring.

Transportation Funding 

Two competing measures are circulating on transportation funding. 

One proposes a $3.5 billion bond issue for certain specified Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)-only projects. The payback on the bonds would presumably come from “reprioritizing” the state’s general fund. This is going to be a nasty fight once folks realize the cuts that must occur to generate the revenue to pay off these bonds. It is an “I can get it for you wholesale” approach to addressing a serious problem. And there is no shared revenue for cities, towns, and counties. 

The other measure proposes a state sales tax rate increase for CDOT projects, a municipal-county share back through the Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF) formula, and funding for multimodal projects. We supported a similar measure in the General Assembly in 2017, and will be taking a close look at this one. How this impacts municipal sales tax reliance is a key matter for the League; however, I feel it is pointed in the right direction.  

I want to commend the legislature for its work this past session in starting to address comprehensive transportation funding for state and municipal needs. Kudos to all the lawmakers involved on both sides of the aisle. 

Oil and Gas 

Certain sectors of the oil and gas industry are proposing two measures and are actively circulating one of them now - they are both disingenuous and deceptive. There will be others speaking in support of these, but make no mistake about it, certain oil and gas companies are dumping big cash into these efforts, and they will come at the expense of your taxpayers.  

The first measure would totally preempt state and local government oil and gas regulations. There is a challenge to this measure pending before the Colorado Supreme Court, and the League is helping to pay for the costs of the challenge. This measure is being sold as a constitutional protection of local control. Trust me, it is anything but that! 

The second measure, actively being circulated by the industry through a group called “Protect Colorado” would amend the state constitution’s clause dealing with property rights by adding the words “fair market value.” Any government regulation affecting the “fair market value” of private property would be halted and the property owner compensated. This one is as bad an amendment to the constitution as TABOR was in 1992. And, much like TABOR, I know what it says, but I surely do not know what it means. 

Both of these measures would be changes to the Colorado Constitution. 

A group of citizens organized through “Colorado Rising” also is circulating a change to state law to establish a 2,500-foot setback. This would preempt existing memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between operators and producers. However passionate the proponents may be in their antipathy towards the oil and gas industry, this measure, with the greatest of respect, falls far short of the mark and will create numerous unanticipated problems. It is drawing the ire of extreme elements of the industry and has generated the anti-local government stealth attacks described in the measures above. It is a dangerous game of chicken, and I wish they would all go away. 

There also is an initiated statute proposing to increase certain severance taxes. This may not be the right vehicle, but a review of the severance taxation structure in this state is long overdue, especially as it relates to the ad valorem property tax credit. But that is a discussion for another day. 

Housing Growth Caps

Another measure would impose a growth cap via the number of building permits that can be issued annually, and cover a large portion of counties and municipalities along the Front Range. It is proposed as a change in state law and establishes some troubling preemption of home rule authority, as well as appearing to grant counties some explicit authority over municipal land use policy. If you believe in home rule, affordable housing, and good land use planning at the municipal level, then this one is not your cup of tea. 

Education Funding 

Proponents for greater funding for the state’s school finance act are circulating a constitutional change that establishes a graduated income tax, raises certain corporate taxes, earmarks this revenue to the school finance act, and freezes the Gallagher residential ratio only for schools. It is this last point that is of particular and direct municipal interest. This freeze does not cover cities, towns, special districts, or counties and likely exacerbates the issues around Gallagher for local governments other than school districts. Frankly, I am pretty troubled by the fact that the education establishment did not engage the local government family in a broader discussion of Gallagher. It does not address that issue in a comprehensive manner and, for that reason alone, I am pretty upset with the proposal. 

Sanctuary Cities 

There may be a measure being circulated affecting local governments and their local law enforcement policies relative to immigration enforcement, with sanctions placed upon those that have certain policies. With the greatest of respect, I still do not know what a “sanctuary city” is as a matter of law, and am confused as to which cities and towns in Colorado qualify as such. I am skeptical of this one for that reason.  

In Conclusion

These measures must be submitted by 3 p.m. on Aug. 6 to the Colorado Secretary of State (except for the severance tax alteration, which must be submitted by July 7). 

My problem with the statewide initiative process is that the effects on interests of cities and towns are far more negative than positive, and we are not always in control of our destiny. The devil is so very much in the details. 

If you do not like signing blank checks, I would be wary of most of these - so think before you ink. Encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same. 

I would love to hear how you feel.

Municipalities Matter - Especially During Infrastructure Week

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Municipalities Matter

Especially During Infrastructure Week

Infrastructure FlorenceEveryone in government seems to be having week-long celebrations recently: Public Service Week, Economic Development Week, Municipal Clerks Week… The League’s lobbyists are celebrating sine die week for the rest of 2017, since the General Assembly does not go back into session until next January! 

I want to mention a week’s celebration happening right now: Infrastructure Week. 

The group championing it in Washington is Building America’s Future (BAF). Marcia Hale is its CEO; she served as head of intergovernmental affairs for President Bill Clinton when I first knew her, and she has spoken to CML many times when we have been in DC. One year, we were able to get former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who is a co-chair of BAF, to address our municipal leaders. He is one of the nicest and most thoughtful guys you will ever meet in public service, and he gave quite a knock-out speech. I remember him saying that as far as infrastructure is concerned, “America is one giant pot hole, and we need to fix the problem.” 

This just-adjourned legislative session did fund a useful down payment to address transportation needs. The legislation also recognizes that this money should be shared with cities, towns, and counties through the Highway Users Tax Fund formula ($48 million for municipalities over the next two years), and there will be additional funding for transit and other multimodal projects. This will be coordinated through the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Kudos to the General Assembly for crafting this bipartisan approach. 

You may see some ballot measures this November further addressing infrastructure. One will raise the state sales tax by some amount yet to be determined. This revenue would be split with local governments and transit. Another proposal would float around $2.5 billion in bonds for CDOT-only projects. We will have more to say about each of these proposals over the weeks ahead should they secure placement on the statewide ballot. 

During the session, the General Assembly - also in a bipartisan manner - generated additional revenue for our ongoing broadband build-out efforts around Colorado, largely due to the leadership of municipal and county leaders and strong support from Gov. John Hickenlooper. We thank our partners at the statehouse most sincerely. 

President Donald Trump earlier this year rolled out his national infrastructure plan. It is around $1.3 trillion, and addresses a variety of initiatives. The “pay-for” is the tricky part, since a major portion of its funding will fall back upon the shoulders of the states and local governments. His plan, while certainly comprehensive, does not seem to be gaining much traction on Capitol Hill. It places a fair amount of emphasis on public-private partnerships, known among government types as P3s. We have used this model for the successful managed lane project along the Boulder Turnpike, as an example. The question always arises as to how well they could work with smaller projects, especially in rural areas of the state. 

A major unanswered question is how to fund and implement many elements of Gov. Hickenlooper’s most thoughtful and comprehensive state water plan. This two-year-old document was written by the Colorado Water Conservation Board with input from hundreds of groups and individuals, including the League and dozens and dozens of municipal officials. I currently am honored to be part of an informal group looking at how to develop a funding proposal for the plan. It is far too soon to predict what we will come up with. I do think water has been left out of the infrastructure equation in our state. It is Colorado’s lifeblood. It is our obligation as good citizens and stewards to protect and preserve this precious “liquid gold,” especially as a major headwater state. It is an issue that touches the interests of municipalities, agriculture, business, environmentalists, and individuals on a daily basis. To sum up my feelings on water, I find myself inspired by an op ed-piece in the Glenwood Post-Independent written by some business owners in Carbondale - I could not agree more with their sentiments. Water funding and addressing this via the governor’s state water plan has to be a high priority. 

So during this week, reflect upon the challenges we face , and the opportunities that may arise, in the infrastructure policy arena. I would love to hear from you as to how you are addressing all of this in your own community.

Municipalities Matter: Promises

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Municipalities Matter



PromisesThere is a very interesting story in The Denver Post about the E-470 Public Highway Authority phasing out a special motor vehicle fee to help build out the road. The road improvements have been completed and the fee no longer needed, so the authority’s board, composed of local elected officials from the jurisdictions covered, voted to eliminate the fee. John Aguilar, the reporter who wrote the story, always does a great job covering interesting local government items, and this story was no exception. 

His story got me to thinking, "How many other local governments have done this sort of thing?" Well, I received some interesting responses from a recent posting on our municipal managers listserv:


  • Lamar ended a quarter-cent sales tax after public improvements to the downtown city library were completed. 
  • Ridgway ended a property tax-based general improvement district when the public improvements were finished. 
  • Limon swapped out fire service delivery from the Town to a fire protection district and ended the property tax the Town previously levied for such service. There are similar examples of this, such as in Evans a few years back. 
  • Snowmass Village let a property tax expire for open space once a major parcel was acquired and the tax no longer needed. 
  • Steamboat Springs let a quarter-cent sales expire two years ago that was levied as an airline subsidy. 
  • Fraser eliminated its property tax altogether after the Town paid off all of its debt. Very impressive indeed, I would say.


What does all this mean? At the municipal government level, we make and keep promises. When we approach voters for support to fund a specific public improvement or enhancement, there is an understanding that the “ask” will be fulfilled. And when it is completed, and the tax or fee is no longer needed, it will be gone. 

Promises made, promises kept. Isn’t that how trust is earned? 

On citizen survey after citizen survey, trust in our level of government is so high. Any wonder? 

 I’m interested in hearing from you on how you have worked to earn trust in your community. Let me know. It’s why Municipalities Matter!

Municipalities Matter: Engaging Youth

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Municipalities Matter

Engaging Youth

Brush SchoolsThe family of local government (cities and towns, counties, school districts and special districts) provides essential programs and services to residents all across Colorado that impact our everyday lives. They also serve as a model for students to learn effective citizenship. 

Connecting young people with local leaders and local issues provides a focus on services and issues rather than personalities and politics. These characteristics make local government ripe for teaching effective citizenship skills. The list of local issues is sure to spark interest among students - parks and recreation, homelessness, recycling and sustainable practices, curfew laws, police relations, bike lanes, water quality, animal control, etc. Almost any aspect of daily life is touched by local government. 

More than 120 municipal elections took place statewide recently, with voters making numerous important decisions. In addition to electing city council and town board members to represent them, voters decided on tax increases, broadband, marijuana, and more. 

Teachers and parents should talk to young people about the importance of these elections and why it is essential to be engaged in the electoral process and know what is going on in their communities. A quick visit to any city or town website can reveal numerous opportunities for involvement, as well as the latest news or community event. 

Find a way to “make government real” by having students interact with leaders, teaching them that these are real people who live down the street or are their best friend’s aunt. Often students are surprised to learn that many municipal leaders are volunteers or are minimally compensated – they are true public servants. 

They also discover local government offers a vast array of career opportunities such as first responders, engineers who build and operate a city water system, teachers, librarians, attorneys, managers, museum curators, and so many others. 

There are numerous examples of Colorado students spreading their citizenship wings and being empowered by their involvement with local government:  

  • Girl Scouts in Aurora recently orchestrated a new ordinance banning smoking in cars if someone under 18 is present. This effort was even featured on CBS News. 
  • Students in Boulder worked with municipal officials to create a safer, more attractive street corridor near their school. 
  • High school students in Longmont published letters to the editor calling for greater sustainable environmental practices. 
  • Elementary students in Denver researched and proposed a one-to-one technology program for their schools. 
  • Berthoud High students organized a suicide prevention program.  
  • High school students across the state monitor water quality and watershed health, and use the data to educate fellow citizens and inform decision-makers about the condition of Colorado’s water.   

These students are practicing the civic mission of schools, and you cannot measure that with some standardized test. 

Lessons on Local Government is a joint venture between CML and the Special Districts Association of Colorado to bring civics to life in the classroom. It is a small way to help our young people explore the world of local government and become informed and active citizens. If you have not been in a classroom lately to speak with students, please do so. This website and a related video can give you all sorts of tips. Be a resource to a local social studies/civics teacher in your own school district. Finally, sponsor a local government day in your town or city. 

Let me know about any programs you have established locally. I would love to hear from you!


Municipalities Matter: All Politics Remain Local(1)

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Municipalities Matter

All Politics Remain Local

On April 3, folks across the state will be voting for questions, candidates, or both in at least 120 cities and towns. 

I have made it a career to examine municipal elections; it is where true representative democracy exists. The elections are nonpartisan, issue-driven, and focused on solving problems. Yes, there can be divisions, and my experience is that they eventually disappear once folks settle in and focus on the one item that matters – ensuring a vibrant quality of life. 

We will have a variety of issues facing municipal voters: broadband, marijuana (taxation and sales), term limits, tax and bond issues, legal publication requirements, and a host of other things

I predict that most of these questions will pass, and this is because of the consistent high trust level in municipal government. Poll after poll bears this out. 

More than 1,800 men and women serve as municipal elected leaders in the Centennial State. We call them mayors, councilmembers, trustees, and, in the case of Georgetown, aldermen and police judge! To those running for the first time - and to those trying to get re-elected - good luck. Remember, on April 4, the election is over and the hard part - governing- begins. 

Public service is the highest calling, and I want to thank some long-serving elected leaders who will not be running again: Hotchkiss Mayor Wendell Koontz, Granby Trustee Greg Mordini, New Castle Councilmember Greg Russi, Westcliffe Mayor Christy Patterson, Fowler Mayor Chuck Hitchcock, Kersey Mayor Bob Kellerhuis, Orchard City Trustee Tom Huerkamp, Gypsum Councilmember Dick Mayne, Carbondale Trustee Frosty Merriott, Severance Trustee Mike Kinney, Aguilar Mayor Pro Tem Leland Gulley, Morrison Trustee Allen Williams, and Lone Tree Mayor Pro Tem Susan Squyer. I know many of these folks personally, and very much have appreciated their work and dedication.

Municipalities Matter - Especially Initiatives

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Municipalities Matter

Especially Initiatives


While political pundits have their focus on candidates for office now, of equal importance are proposed statewide ballot initiatives with municipal impacts. Following are personal opinions on a few of these, reflecting my views based on extensive experience with ballot initiatives. And let the record reflect: I do not - do not - favor the initiative process. Never have, and never will. I believe in representative democracy; the initiative process is its antithesis. 

No PetitionsBackground 

Citizens, as well as the legislature, have the right to propose changes to state statute and to the Colorado Constitution through the initiative and referendum process. It is a state constitutional right and has been since the early 1900s. At least half of the states (mostly in the West) have this process. 

All citizen-initiated measures must go through a vetting process, which includes a substantive policy/legal review, fiscal analysis, and writing a summary and title - all of which are subject to legal challenge before the Colorado Supreme Court. One such challenge, but certainly not the only one, is whether a measure violates the “single subject” rule. This governs the scope of a measure to ensure it covers only the topic at hand and does not “log-roll” other topics into the proposal. 

An initiated statutory change requires 98,492 registered elector signatures (5 percent of the number of all votes cast for secretary of state in the last election). An initiated constitutional amendment requires a requisite number of 2 percent of the registered electors in all 35 state senate districts, and can only be approved with a minimum of 55 percent of the votes cast. Right now, portions of this new signature requirement are being challenged in federal court. 

If the legislature wants to refer a change to the constitution, it requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber (24 in the Senate and 44 in the House). Referred statutes require a simple majority of votes (18 in the Senate and 33 in the House). 

Proponents of initiated measures have until early April to go through the vetting process and, unless otherwise noted, until early August for signatures to be submitted to the office of Secretary of State Wayne Williams for verification. 

General Assembly Proposals
It is too early to predict what the legislature might put forward. However, one measure that the League is endorsing is a measure to “de-Bruce” severance taxes. This will protect things such as the Energy Impact Fund, water funding, and parts of the budget for the Department of Natural Resources. 

There has been talk about changing the Gallagher Amendment this session. This would be a constitutional amendment to address the residential ratio decline that is severely affecting local governments, especially in rural areas and including municipalities, heavily dependent upon property taxes as their prime revenue source. We have got to tackle this issue; however, the political hurdles are daunting. 

Citizen Proposals

Here are some proposals with municipal implications: 

  • Disposition of government fines – This proposed state law would require, starting this year, that all state and local government fines, fees, and surcharges would be directed first “in restitution to an actual victim” or “to a registered and legitimate charity” of the victim’s choice. Proponents have until March 28 to submit their signatures (98,492) and have them verified by the Secretary of State’s Office for submission onto the ballot. This is a terrible idea because of the fiscal impacts on cities and towns. It also is poorly written – it is not even entirely clear who is a victim in the language. 
  • Transportation funding – Two competing statutory measures are surfacing. One would raise the state sales tax rate for the Colorado Department of Transportation, county, and municipal needs, including transit. It will be similar to legislation supported by CML last legislative session. Another proposal authorizes raising $3.5 billion in revenue bonds from “reallocating priorities” in the existing state budget. The League has been heavily involved in the crafting of a meaningful funding solution. I don’t know where this is all going to wind up. 
  • Takings – This would require just compensation for any state or local government regulation that has the effect to “reduce the fair market value of property for uses allowable at the time the owner acquired title.” This is a constitutional amendment, and it is plain awful. I put this in the category of TABOR - I know what it says, but I don’t know what it means. 
  • Oil and gas setbacks – This statutory measure would require that new oil and gas development not on federal land be located at least 2,500 feet from an “occupied structure or vulnerable area.” There are some local government requirements embedded in the proposal. I think there are some serious local control preemptions we need to be careful about here. 
  • Severance taxes – This state law would alter the oil and gas severance tax by eliminating the ad valorem property tax credit and by reducing exemptions for certain types of wells. It also would change the distribution of existing revenues to some new state-administered accounts directed to K-12 and to medical care for people suffering “negative health impacts” from oil and gas production. I have felt for a long time that we ought to have a serious discussion about our severance tax rates, especially the ad valorem tax offset; however, in this proposal, I am seriously concerned about the fiscal impacts upon the Department of Local Affairs, Department of Natural Resources, and our direct distribution formula. All of that needs further and serious examination. 
  • Growth caps – This change to state law would impose residential housing limits on Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, and Weld counties, and the municipalities within those counties. There is a single subject challenge pending before the Colorado Supreme Court. Taking a whack at growth in this sloppy manner is fraught with peril - Ugh! 

The CML Executive Board will consider positions on these when and if they certify. 

For now, if you are approached to sign a petition, just remember this. Do you like to sign blank checks? 

Think before you ink! As I was once told by a former governor, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Municipalities Matter: The State of Our Cities & Towns

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Municipalities Matter

A New Vision for CML

Co-written by Executive Director Sam Mamet and Legislative & Policy Advocate Meghan Dollar


Each year about this time, CML releases our State of Our Cities & Towns report, and this year we focus on public safety. Key takeaways include:  


  • Police and fire agencies are providing services with even greater efficiencies, most notably through numerous cost-sharing arrangements. 
  • Fire departments are focused more than ever on wildfire threats and mitigation. 
  • Fire mergers are becoming more evident. 
  • New technology, especially body cameras, continues to change policing. 


These trends appear to be as relevant in large agencies as they are in smaller departments across the state. There does not seem to be any urban-rural divide. 

One area in particular that jumps out at me is police recruitment. 

A majority of cities and towns in Colorado are experiencing challenges in recruiting new officers. Seven out of 10 Colorado police departments report recruitment challenges, and in the larger cities that figure rises to 93 percent. Why? 

The statewide survey conducted in 2017 found that in small- and mid-sized towns, the challenges are rural location and inadequate pay; larger cities face the issues of current public perceptions of police and the demands of shift work. 

The survey clearly revealed that public perceptions are often at odds with the important work police officers perform every day to keep our communities safe. Different approaches to policing may help bridge that gap. Police departments across the state are accelerating the implementation of programs that better connect police officers with the community. Dedicated community policing programs have been adopted or are planned by three-quarters of police departments in the state. Community policing programs foster cooperation among police, residents, and businesses. 

Sergeant Jim Creasy serves on Grand Junction’s Community Resource Unit, which works closely with businesses and residents in the downtown area. The local Downtown Development Authority helps fund the unit that combines school resource officers, neighborhood watch, and crime prevention through environmental design, homeless outreach, and dedicated patrol officers. One of the major accomplishments of the unit, according to Officer Creasy, is the personal contacts that result in “the public feeling comfortable coming to us.” The results in Grand Junction are impressive: the program has reduced police calls in the downtown area by 59 percent. 

It is important that people understand what is actually happening during police interactions with the public, and a new tool - body cameras - provides some insight. The CML survey shows that half of Colorado’s police departments have adopted the use of body cameras. According to Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey, police officers have come to appreciate the cameras because they show what they are doing - following policies and laws. Additionally, he said that the video record can be used as evidence in prosecutions, for internal affairs investigations, and for training purposes. While the camera footage does not generally tell the whole story, they are effective in prosecuting cases and demonstrating officer behavior by showing much of what happened. 

Public perception is more important than ever for our police officers. As Evans Police Officer Rob Wardlaw puts it: “The hardest part of being an officer for me right now is just watching the media, seeing the way we are portrayed, the way that a lot of officers are being attacked - physically and through the media. We are out trying to help people, trying to do our jobs. We are able to help people who can’t always help themselves, and that is important to me.” 

I hope in some small way our report recognizes those numerous outstanding public servants in the public safety arena and the daily good work they do for our cities and towns. Your thoughts about this are always welcome and appreciated.

Municipalities Matter: A New Vision for CML

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Municipalities Matter

A New Vision for CML

Co-written by Executive Director Sam Mamet and Deputy Director Kevin Bommer


CMLIn his book Start With Why, condensed into a TED Talk, Simon Sinek challenges leaders and organizations to “think, act, and communicate from the inside out.” 

He reminds us that we often do the opposite by first saying what we do, then how we do it, and ending with why we do it because it is going from the “clearest thing to the fuzziest thing.” Sinek says that inspired leaders and organizations start first with a crystal clear vision of “why” to determine the “what” and the “how.” He calls it communicating from “the inside out.”  

For years, people have seen “The Voice of Colorado Cities and Towns” as part of CML’s logo and in email signatures. It represented one of the core functions of the Colorado Municipal League — advocacy — which is to be a megaphone in the state capitol, in the press, in Washington, and anywhere else where the message “keep home rule at home and local control local” needed to be heard. Yet that is only one of the many things that CML does — a “what” and not a “why.” Indeed, the League is considerably more active on behalf of our members, and it was clear that this tagline did not capture what CML does nor why CML exists. 

In 2016, the CML Executive Board and staff identified that the League’s existing vision statement was ponderous and unwieldy — that it did not clearly communicate CML’s aspirations in service of our member cities and towns. Throughout 2017, our board, chaired by Northglenn Mayor Carol Dodge, and our great staff engaged in conversations that challenged us first to think about why CML exists before we think about what CML does. The end result is a new, concise vision of the Colorado Municipal League: 

“Empowered cities and towns, united for a strong Colorado.”  

In essence, the vision does not begin with CML’s existence as the voice of our members. Rather, if we started with “why,” and we came to the conclusion pretty quickly that CML should work for our 269 member cities and towns to empower each one to carry out their daily goals in a united fashion to make for a strong state. This frame of reference gives CML the ability to shape our goals (what we do) to meet our purpose (why we exist). 

CML’s goals and objectives supporting our vision were updated by staff and approved by the CML Executive Board on Dec. 15. The goals are listed on CML’s website

Our day-to-day activities support the core functions of the League — advocacy, information, and training. Each core function, like the legs of a stool, shares equal importance in ensuring municipal officials can count on CML to serve their needs and that they have knowledge to affect change locally, regionally, and statewide. 

The vision of CML is now crystal clear. When every municipality is stronger, the state is stronger, and this vision will drive all decisions going forward as to what CML does and how CML will do it. 

We are interested in your thoughts on this new vision moving forward. We predict an exciting 2018 for CML, and wish you all the best in the year ahead.

Municipalities Matter: Reflections on the Year

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Municipalities Matter

Reflections on the Year

New YearThis is the time of year when we reflect. What have we accomplished? What are our hopes for the year ahead? 

Let me share a few things, in no special order. 

I am just so proud to be associated with my wonderful staff colleagues here at the League. It is amazing what they produce for you to help you be great leaders. Examples include the summer conference, as well as excellent and practical and cost-efficient training all year long; Colorado Cities & Towns Week; our State of Cities and Towns report; lobbying at the Capitol, and cutting-edge research for you through Knowledge Now reports. Not to mention the behind-the-scenes stuff, such as making sure that you are greeted properly and always promptly directed to who or what you need. Our organization is on sound financial footing, and the physical state of our building is always tip-top. Wait till you see our newly remodeled old library area with the new Main Street Meeting Room! 

On a personal level, I am proud of my wife Judith and all of her artistic accomplishments, as well as what our sons, Elliot and Abe, are up to. A dad could not be prouder of his boys than I am of our two guys. 

I look at your accomplishments. The recent election and the ballot measures that passed across Colorado are impressive. I say, “Wow!"

The trust that Coloradans have in you as municipal leaders is as high as Pikes Peak. You earn it daily, and deservedly so. I see improvements everywhere I travel across the four corners of the state. (And do I travel!) 

I am thankful for all of this as I reflect upon this year. 

Now, what do I hope for in the coming year? Well, I will make it simple. 

I want to see a comprehensive statewide solution to address infrastructure, including transportation, transit, multi-model, water and wastewater, and many other community needs. I would like to see a conversation that engages all of the cities and towns of Colorado. Opportunities for CML will occur, and we will be there. I know the leadership exists locally, I just want to see some push from under the Gold Dome starting in January. We have a number of good and decent state lawmakers who want to do the right thing. Let’s give them the support they deserve to do just that. 

I also want to continue to see vibrant and healthy municipalities. Your steady hand on the wheel of municipal governance will make this so. Our partnership with each of you is so important, and I value it. 

We are wrapping up revisions to our current strategic plan. Between League staff and Board, we have developed a new vision statement: 

Empowered cities and towns, united for a strong Colorado 

This is our new mantra, and I love what it symbolizes for the year ahead. It will be our focus day in and day out here at CML. Expect to hear more about our updated strategic plan over the weeks ahead. 

For now, I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season, and the very best in the new year ahead.

Municipalities Matter - Especially on Election Day

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Municipalities Matter

Especially on Election Day

Vote YesVoters want to control their own destiny in our state's great cities and towns. That is my key takeaway.  

In each of the 17 municipalities where a broadband question appeared, voters approved it overwhelmingly. In Fort Collins, the telecom lobby spent close to a half million dollars to defeat such a question - they were given the bronze boot (if you follow CSU football you will understand). So now there are 86 of 86 cities and towns where voters have said yes, and never once, no. Fort Collins voters approved $150 million in debt to move forward with implementation. 

Voters trust their local leaders. In many municipalities, where voters were asked multiple times for tax increases or debt authority, all of the questions received a thumbs up. Examples of this include Boulder, Denver, Lafayette, and Longmont. 

Approved bond proposals total more than $1.2 billion! Denver is a huge chunk of that, but even without counting Denver and Fort Collins, bond proposals still total more than $150 million. Voters are telling their municipal leaders to continue investing in the future. 

Further proof that voters trust their local leaders - extending taxes that were set to expire. In Lafayette, this is an open space tax; in Louisville, historic preservation sales and use tax; and in Boulder, community culture and safety sales tax and utility occupation tax.  

In addition, five of the six cities that asked voters to retain TABOR restricted revenue – either generally, as in Canon City, Leadville, and Salida, or within specific parameters, as in Greeley and Littleton – received approval.  

Voters recognize that local taxes mean local improvements and increased quality of life. Common themes for approved tax extension/increases or bond approvals include: public safety (tax: Durango, Firestone, Longmont, Pueblo; bonds: Denver) and road improvements (tax: Fort Morgan, Rocky Ford, Northglenn; bonds: Denver, Idaho Springs, Lafayette, Lochbuie). Longmont and Hayden approved debt for water improvements. 

Look at the whole range of elections from last week. I am impressed. 

Municipal leaders solve problems, and it is evident once again that local voters trust what Colorado's cities and towns accomplish every day of the year. 


Municipalities Matter: Shift and Shaft

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Municipalities Matter

Shift and Shaft

Back in the day, when I was still lobbying for CML under the Gold Dome, there was an old parlor game I used to have to play. It was called “Shift and Shaft.” The game was pretty easy to follow: The legislature would try to pass something either preempting or restricting the ability of cities and towns (that was called The Shift), and then municipal leaders would be left holding the bag (that was called The Shaft). People attributed the term to me, and I am happy to take credit. Fortunately, it does not play out as much at the state Capitol these days. We have a strong and positive partnership with state lawmakers. I, for one, appreciate that. A dozen lawmakers at the moment once even served as municipal leaders, and many were active within CML. 

Dark Skies Over CapitolHowever, in Washington, I am sad to say, the game of shift and shaft goes on a lot more, this time under the guise of tax reform. 

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee released its long-awaited “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act” plan. The proposed tax reform plan aims to streamline the U.S. tax code and create some tax relief for middle- and low-income Americans by reducing the number of tax brackets and marginal tax rates, while expanding family tax credits. 

Unfortunately, these cuts are paid for on the backs of the state and cities and towns in Colorado. Here are five things you need to know. 


  1. The overall municipal bond exemption appears not to be affected, BUT. There is an exemption for municipal bonds in the federal tax code. It is a top priority for Colorado municipal leaders to protect it. Currently, the overall tax exemption for municipal bonds is not altered. But ... 
  2. Other types of bond financing are seriously threatened. The tax exemption for newly issued private activity bonds (PABs) is eliminated. This includes financing for important qualified projects and programs, such as affordable housing, economic development, hospitals, educational and cultural facilities, single-family mortgage bonds, single and multifamily housing, and much more. They help spur private investment and allow you to harness the private sector’s experience and engage in numerous public-private partnerships. Part of the PAB annual allocation is overseen by a committee within the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), and the Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) oversees the allotment of multifamily and single-family housing PABs. The plan also repeals the advance refunding of bonds which are done to achieve interest savings. This makes no sound fiscal sense. 
  3. Pass the SALT I: The property tax deduction survives, but is capped. The National League of Cities (NLC) was able to convince the House leadership from proposing a complete elimination of the state and local property tax deduction (SALT, state and local tax deduction). The plan right now proposes permitting a deduction of property taxes up to $10,000. NLC maintains that any reduction to property tax deductions hurts local taxing control. This could hurt property tax dependent local governments in Colorado, such as school districts. 
  4. Pass the SALT II: Deductions for state and local income and sales taxes (the rest of SALT) is axed. Colorado is not now, nor has it ever been, a high tax burden state by virtue of every statistic available. However, we are a high local sales tax burden state. Cities and towns rely more on the sales tax than municipalities in most other states. We are able to levy the sales tax at a rate higher than the state’s, and for many municipalities on a base more expansive than the state base. It is why we rely less on state-shared revenues. This proposal hangs us out to dry, period. 
  5. Some key tax credits for cities also are eliminated. The Historic Preservation Tax Credit (HTC), which encourages the redevelopment of historic and abandoned buildings, is slated for elimination, along with New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC), which are used to increase the flow of capital to businesses and low income communities by providing a modest tax incentive to private investors. CML supports the preservation of key tax credits such as HTC and NMTC that help revitalize communities. The federal HTC is leveraged with a Colorado HTC, and often is coupled with the historic preservation grants program keyed off of limited stakes gaming in Colorado. Historic preservation programs throughout the state will be dealt a serious blow. The NMTC has been used by several cities in the state to leverage local revitalization efforts through their urban renewal programs. 


This is a 429-page bill, the devil is very definitely in the details and fine print. Colorado’s tax base is coupled to that of the federal base. One of the things being altered is the estate tax, and this could have revenue implications for the state’s budget. 

And remember, we have TABOR to contend with as far as addressing revenue losses that might be caused by federal tax modifications. The House Ways and Means Committee (no member of Colorado’s delegation sits on this committee) will likely finish mark up by the time you read this. A vote in the U.S. House is likely during the week of Nov. 13. And, that same week, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to markup and report its version of tax reform. Sen. Bennet is a member of that committee. December will be a critical month to reconcile differences and then to attempt to pass something to President Trump. 

So welcome to Washington’s version of Shift and Shaft. I don’t like it, and neither should you. Please contact Sens. Bennet and Gardner and the members of our House delegation: Reps. Buck, Coffman, DeGette, Lamborn, Perlmutter, Polis, and Tipton. Go to the federal issues link of our web page for their contact information.  

Keep me posted on the results of your contact, and let’s hope we can shelve Shift and Shaft for another day.

Municipalities Matter - Especially on Nov. 7

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Municipalities Matter

Municipalities Matter, Especially on Nov. 7

For fun, I read municipal ballot questions. 

I pretend they are homework assignments, written by cities and towns and graded by voters on election day. My guess most of them will get an “A” on Nov. 7. 

Support for municipal government in our beloved Centennial State remains quite high. It is all about problem solving, and that is what city and town leaders in Colorado and across the nation do best. 

You want to fix a road, repair a broken water treatment facility, build a trail or bike path, or address affordable housing? You will wait a while at the Statehouse, and it will be an eternity in Washington. 

But, at the local level, you will get an answer pretty quick. That is what election day is all about. 

We have nearly 80 cities and towns with ballot measures before local voters. Here are just few interesting ones I am watching (in no special order): 

  • Talk about thinking big - The more than $900 million bond package proposed by Denver for infrastructure and citywide public improvements is huge. Citizen participation and tremendous Mayor Michael Hancock–City Council collaboration framed this issue. 
  • This is matched in importance, though not in size dollar-wise, by Dillon. There, voters will review a $5 million bond issue for workforce housing. This is a critical issue up in the high country. 
  • Then there is just the plain interesting: Should Pueblo keep the council-manager system or go with a mayor-council system? Should a mayor be directly elected and a change be made in how councilmembers are elected in Castle Rock? Will term limits be eliminated in Red Cliff and Wray? Should Boulder continue its pursuit of municipal electrification? The fate of a tax measure may determine the outcome. 
  • Every one of the 69 times since 2005 when asked about municipal broadband, voters have said yes, with rarely below 70 percent in favor. My guess this election day, we’ll see another 16 of 16 pass. Telecom lobby, can you hear me now? 
  • Colorado Springs has struggled mightily to address its stormwater issues involving Fountain Creek. I admire the leadership of one of our state’s best mayors, John Suthers, working with his wonderful council to put forward to voters a modest fee increase to address this significant challenge. He did it with a sales tax increase for streets, and I predict resounding success this time around for stormwater. 
  • While many measures are placed on the ballot via the efforts of the municipal governing body, others are done with citizen initiatives. One example is in Denver, where voters will deal with “green” roofs and solar energy requirements for certain new construction. 

Now, let me vent, and let me thank. 

First, the venting. 

There are a lot of nefarious outside interest groups trying to hijack some of our municipal elections. Municipal governance is about non-partisanship (state law says so) and doing what is right for the community with a broad leadership vision (that is what CML stands for at our core). I wish these groups with narrow interests on both sides of the political spectrum funded by who knows who would go back to where they came from and stay there. Ugh! 

Now, more importantly, to the thanking. 

I have a number of pals leaving the municipal family. I am going to list a bunch of names, and surely will have forgotten a few (apologies in advance). These are women and men who have served with distinction, often anonymously, without aspiration to higher office or for partisan or personal gain. Public service at the municipal level is the highest calling. It has been a pleasure to work for these folks and be on their team. 

So, thank you and a tip of my Rockies baseball cap to: Don Allard (Arvada councilmember, a quarter century!), Steve Nawrocki (Pueblo council president, and a leader in southern Colorado), Kim Dykes (Brush councilmember), Chuck Schonberger (Brush mayor), Walt Magill (Steamboat council president), Bob McWilliams (Fort Lupton councilmember), Rene Bullock (Commerce City council member, the party never starts until Rene has arrived), Dick McClean (Brighton mayor, kind and decent), Tom Norton (Greeley mayor, a political mentor), Bruce Beckman (Littleton mayor), Dallas Hall (Sheridan mayor), Patrick Lawson (Sterling councilmember), Val Vigil (Thornton cpuncilmember, and one of my best friends), Mack Goodman (Thornton councilmember, and we see eye to eye on everything!), Brad Pierce (Aurora councilmember, gentle soul indeed), Barb Cleland (Aurora councilmember, past CML president, a leader, and my pal of very long standing), Gabe Santos (Longmont council member), Dennis Coombs (Longmont mayor, with the best smile in the state), Glenn Michel (Crested Butte mayor), Cathy Noon (Centennial mayor, and “Leader" is her middle name), Matt Appelbaum (Boulder councilmember, my teacher on many things), Lynn Horner (La Junta mayor), Jeffrey Huff (Castle Pines mayor), Alberto Garcia (Westminster councilmember, bleeds Westy through and through - I love it!), Joyce Jay (Wheat Ridge mayor, what a legacy on good things for the Carnation City), Shakti (Lakewood councilmember), and Tom Bishop (Greenwood village councilmember and one of the best investment bankers I have worked with). 

Good luck to all those running for municipal office on Nov. 7. We will have preliminary results on ballot issues soon thereafter. CML newly elected official training will get underway in early 2018. 

I love municipal election day, and I hope you do as well. Please vote.

Municipalities Matter: A Case for an Online Sales Tax

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Municipalities Matter

A Case for an Online Sales Tax

This is a guest post by Lisa Soronen, State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) executive director. SLLC files U.S. Supreme Court amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Big Seven national organizations, including the National League of Cities (NLC), representing state and local governments. This first appeared in CITIES Speak blog series by NLC


Online SalesFor years, local authorities have tangled with online retailers over sales tax collection within communities. But this fall, a new development in a blockbuster Supreme Court case could force the issue into the national spotlight. 

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. Now, the state of South Dakota has filed a petition in South Dakota v. Wayfair asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to its law requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. 

In March 2015, Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion, stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center stated in its amicus brief. Specifically, Internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 — and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors.  

Following the Kennedy opinion, a number of state legislatures passed legislation requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax. South Dakota’s law is the first to be ready for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In September, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and that it is up to the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule it.  

Ruling in South Dakota’s favor will require the U.S. Supreme Court to take the unusual step of overruling precedent. In its petition, South Dakota explains why the court should agree to hear this case and rule in its favor: Quill clearly needs to go. 

When the court considers overruling its precedent, it looks to whether the existing rule: (1) is constitutional or statutory; (2) has engendered reliance interests; (3) has been undermined by changed circumstances; (4) has been consistently criticized as inconsistent with broader doctrine; and (5) has proven “unworkable” or “outdated” with experience. 

Quill fares poorly on every measure. It is a severely criticized, constitutional holding that itself warned when decided that it might later be reconsidered. It is also, in Justice Gorsuch’s words, a “precedential island … surrounded by a sea of contrary law.” And after 25 years of technological progress and economic changes, it has proven entirely out of date. 

At this point, the only thing South Dakota's petition asks the U.S. Supreme Court to do is agree to hear its case. U.S. Supreme Court review is discretionary; four of the nine justices must agree to hear any case. If the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to do so, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruling that South Dakota’s law is unconstitutional will stay in place. 

It is possible the court could hear this case this term — meaning it would issue an opinion by the end of June 2018.

Municipalities Matter: Wildfires Are a Community Design Problem

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Municipalities Matter

Wildfires Are a Community Design Problem

This is a guest post by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Yucel Ors of the National League of Cities (NLC); this first appeared in CITIES Speak blog series by NLC

Wildfire Outside Colorado SpringsEvery mayor or city manager has read an article or watched a news clip focused on a community ravaged by wildfire. Many have even witnessed firsthand the economic, environmental, and social implications that wildland-urban interface fires can create in unprepared communities. Every year, these images grow more widespread and familiar. 

For American communities, wildfire should no longer be considered an exception — it is a fact of life. 

Nor should government officials mistakenly assume that wildfire happens only to other communities and not theirs. We should approach the threat of wildfire as a "when" concern, not a "what-if". 

When wildfire enters a community, its path of destruction is fueled by overgrown, diseased, and drought-stricken vegetation. It destroys animal habitats, affects air quality, and quality of life. When wildfire encounters what is called a wildland-urban interface — such as the wooded edge of a populous suburb — it can alter course, burning through homes, businesses, and infrastructure.  

Each of these impacts comes with a price tag, which can quickly add up to tens of millions of dollars. But even more important than structures and money, wildfire may cost the lives of citizens, visitors, and firefighters/first responders. 

The most dangerous kinds of wildfires, which attack communities adjacent to and surrounded by wildlands, are not unique to the West or specific to the Rocky Mountains, as is commonly thought. Most recently, fires in the southeast have become frequent and severe — a glaring proof of threat for every city in the nation. For this reason alone, it is essential that leaders of communities containing wildland-urban interface zones take immediate action.  

Moreover, wildfire damages more than just what lies in its path: the aftermath of a burn is capable of contaminating or incapacitating watersheds. The deposition of ash, soot, and debris in reservoirs, streams, and water supplies for remote communities can prove catastrophic.  

Contaminated water means a temporary or even long-term loss of water supply — which can cripple a community economically. The significant expense of cleaning and rehabilitating, as well as any related lawsuits, is funded primarily by taxpayer dollars. 

Worse, deforestation from so-called "crown fires" can sterilize the ground — leaving soils unable to collect and retain rainwater. This can increase the severity of flash floods and landslides for years. Mitigate or deflecting the damage is costly, and it requires committing both resources and personnel over extended periods of time. Over time, this issue can also cause subsidence issues with existing infrastructure, bridges, and buildings.  

Simply put, fires that reach the wildland-urban interface are bad news. But when a community is prepared, the worst impacts can be avoided. Preparedness and planning are key to mitigating the damage — and community leaders should develop strategies to address the challenges these events impose. 

City leaders can prepare by following simple steps like these: 

  1. Planning and practicing evacuating, as recommended by the Ready, Set, Go! Program
  2. Discussing and planning with local fire and law enforcement officials. 
  3. Examining risks and developing strategies to lower risks. 
  4. Engaging and leading the community in Firewise® strategies, as already described through FireAdapted Communities
  5. Recognizing that fire is part of our natural environment. It is a method utilized by nature to clean and control forest and range lands. Fire is an essential component for the rejuvenation of forests, grasslands, and prairies. As such, similar to how the nation prepares for other natural forces and events, we must respect wildland fire’s power and learn to adapt.  

Strategic wildfire planning does not have to mean clear-cutting or obliterating forested land. It does not necessarily involve unsightly or cost-prohibitive building regulations But it does mean developing awareness and exposing risks, as well as identifying what outcomes are achievable through recognition, preparation, and dialog. 

Properly preparing community leaders for their roles in wildfire planning and development is an essential goal to National League of Cities. There are many resources available to assist.  

About the authors: John Suthers was elected the 41st mayor of Colorado Springs on May 19, 2015. Suthers brings decades of experience in government and management to the City of Colorado Springs. Before being elected mayor, Suthers served as attorney general of Colorado from 2005 to 2015.

Municipalities Matter: Managing Meetings for Civility

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Municipalities Matter: Managing Meetings for Civility

Jon Stavneya guest blog by Jon Stavney, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments executive director

In a recent editorial "We are neighbors not enemies," the Vail Daily praised Town of Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver, who did something quite unusual before a contentious hearing. 

It was a developers' second attempt in 2017 following a hearing Carver later described as full of "hatred and unruly people that just didn't start off good." That first proposal was denied on a 3-3 split vote. Unable to attend that first meeting, Carver, as owner of Big Steve's Towing, was occupied on Vail Pass that winter's night. This summer, the developer adjusted the project by reducing the density and reapplied. That this developer manages some very large rental projects in Avon from which some opponents were proud to have moved their families away from into homeownership in Gypsum, didn't help their case. 

Carver, when interviewed said, "I told the crowd there would be no bad mouthing or cussing; don't address the crowd, the developer, or staff, address the council."  

"In short, the lines were drawn and the meeting was ripe for confrontation," noted the Daily, but before the hearing started, the four-term mayor did something he had never done before. He asked the crowd to take five minutes, stand up up, and introduce yourselves to your neighbors. 

Public hearings, the right to testify, the right to due process for an applicant in a transparent, public process are hallmarks of our civil society that get a regular workout in our local jurisdictions. Yet on many levels, we seem unable to interact without name-calling. Community leaders have a golden opportunity to facilitate that increasingly rare thing - a civil discourse.  

Learning to do so can take learning from painful experiences. How do we respect each other and the process when the decision has no right or wrong answer? The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments had a taste of that challenge recently in Grand Lake where they presided over a complex "208 water quality" hearing with a room filled with well-prepared residents. The attendees showed up on behalf of a single outcome-clearer water in Grand Lake - but with widely varying opinions about the course of action to best achieve that outcome.  

CivilityCivility is also a question contemplated by the City of Craig Mayor Jim Ponikvar who spoke recently at the CML conference about how desperately his community needed to "change the culture and the conversation," which they did through an extended public conversation about an iconic book called Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community, by Doug Griffiths and Kelly Clemmer.  

Back in Gypsum, Carver's Five-Minute Method provided a coup de grace to incivility at one hearing. 

With the tone of the conversation at fever pitch in social media and in places such as Charlottesville, Virginia, navigating toward civility may just be a local leaders' most important role.

Municipalities Matter: Especially in Washington

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Municipalities Matter

Especially in Washington

U.S. Capitol

I am very concerned with the package of budget cuts proposed by President Trump. Either we have a solid partnership with Washington, or we don’t. Domestic budget priorities always reflect the mood of the White House and Congress on how fairly cities and towns, and their residents, should be treated. 

Let me highlight some spending reductions that really concern me at the moment: 

  • Elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). Colorado’s 17 municipalities that receive direct disbursements, known as “entitlement communities,” shared some $27 million in 2015, while the state received nearly $8 million for disbursement to non-entitlement local governments. Cities and towns use CDBG dollars to fund both municipal programs as well as contracting services through nonprofit entities. Housing programs are the major focus, but city council decisions on where to spend CDBG money reflects local needs. Among the wide variety of programs that benefit: public housing, homeless facilities, homeownership assistance, food banks, mental health services, child care services, and senior citizen services. 
  • Reduction of the EPA Superfund program budget by 30 percent. Seventeen Colorado cities and towns are directly impacted by the 25 Superfund sites in the state. 
  • Reduction of Amtrak funding by $630 million to eliminate long distance routes including the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief that serve Colorado. Coloradans board Amtrak trains in Fort Morgan, Denver, Winter Park/Fraser, Granby, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad. The state is working with local governments and Amtrak on plans to expand service to Pueblo.  
  • Elimination of the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes passenger flights to rural areas. Cortez, Pueblo, and Alamosa would lose passenger air service.  
  • Elimination of TIGER transportation grants that have funded such projects as railroad crossing quiet zones in Windsor, Southwest Chief track improvements in southeast Colorado, and North I-25 improvements impacting Johnstown, Loveland, Windsor, and Fort Collins. 
  • Reduction of funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development programs such as the water and wastewater loan and grant program (recent projects include Wiggins, Crook, and Del Norte) and the rural single-family housing direct loan program. 

There also is a threat to the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. The greatest impact Congress can have on improving our nation’s infrastructure is by retaining the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Local government investments in infrastructure financed through municipal bonds are two-and-one-half times that of all federal infrastructure investment. Eliminating or reducing municipal bond tax-exempt status would drive up the cost of financing infrastructure both for municipal budgets and for taxpayers. 

Elimination of the state and local government tax deduction on federal tax returns would result in double taxation for American taxpayers. In Colorado, one-third of taxpayers use it with an average deduction of $2,796. It is not just the top tier income levels making use of the deduction – 40 percent of taxpayers in the $50,000 to $75,000 bracket take the deduction, which has been a fundamental element in the federal income tax code since its inception more than a century ago. 

These are a few items at the moment on my mind. If you agree, I hope you will contact the members of our federal delegation during this summer recess. I have a strong suspicion Sens. Bennet and Gardner and Reps. Buck, Coffman, DeGette, Lamborn, Perlmutter, Polis, and Tipton want to hear from you. 

Let me know the results of your contacts. A continued Washington-municipal partnership is vital.