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December 11-17, 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org
• See Jim Hightower
• See Uncensored
(Re: “Losing the doghouse,” Cover Story, Nov. 27.) Thank you for your tragic, but accurate, article about the effects of our economic downturn on pets. I work with Rocky Mountain Newfoundland Rescue, and we have recently been inundated by Newfs whose owners have lost their homes and have had to downsize to apartments or condos. Although Newfoundlands can do well in smaller living situations, many times it’s just not a possibility for their owners to take them along.
This week we actually rescued two beautiful Newfs who were left behind, all alone, inside a foreclosed house after their owners had moved out. “Tom,” a mountain homeowner, is holding onto his gorgeous Newfoundlands until Dec. 19, when he loses his home. Then he is handing them over to us. Twelve-year old Teddie has become a permanent member of my family for the last days of his life after his guardian lost his Boulder home in September and had to face the sad choice of putting Teddie down or handing him over to rescue.
Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue. It is tragic for all involved. Most people are devastated to lose their four-legged family members, and not all dogs are lucky enough to be taken in by a rescue. I hope that as the holiday season approaches, everyone considers sending a small donation to the local shelters and rescues to help the furry victims of our bad economy. And please consider adopting from a local rescue or shelter if you have room in your heart for another pet. The Newfs available at Rocky Mountain Newfoundland Rescue can be found on www.petfinder.org, along with thousands of others pets in need.
Mixed up on mixed-use
(Re: “Let the people decide on mixed-use,” Danish Plan, Dec. 4.) I haven’t picked up a Weekly in at least a year, so it was simply (bad?) luck that I happened on the Dec. 4 issue and noticed that a Paul Danish column on mixed-use zoning would be inside. I figured — correctly as it turned out — that I could easily predict what Danish would say on the subject, but I didn’t expect that I would be the star attraction.
Before getting to the zoning issue itself, I first need to be very clear about a key Danish claim. Simply put — and trying to be as respectful as possible — his “quote” of mine that “I don’t have much use for democracy” is bullshit. Danish (and his libertarian soulmate Jon Caldara) has amply demonstrated over the years that he is neither encumbered nor constrained by annoying facts, and while this is just one rather minor example, it’s worth remembering.
Now, I might well have noted that I’m not fan of so-called participatory democracy, where voters are called on to decide most everything. While that does have its place — and probably does work better at the local level where the voters are at least closer to the issues — I’m a big fan of representative democracy, which I think works quite a bit better. And Boulder voters seem to agree, having blasted TABOR, turned down an opportunity to vote on every city annexation, and just recently strongly favored the statewide amendment that would have made it harder to petition constitutional amendments onto the ballot.
It must be noted, especially given Danish’s key connection to a voter-approved initiative on growth control, that such things quite often have unintended consequences. While I completely agree with the concept of growth management (and the far more important idea of a compact city that rarely annexes land; our Open Space “moat” is a vastly more important growth tool than anything else we’ve ever done), the Danish Plan was far too simplistic and exacerbated the loss of affordable housing, the creation of loads of poorly designed “limited living units,” and the disproportionate creation of jobs relative to population. Danish has continued to push for no growth, even as virtually the entire environmental movement has argued for targeted densification in already urbanized areas to enhance mass transit, reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and help control sprawl.
As for the actual issue of mixed-use zoning, that’s really a poor shorthand for the more comprehensive issues of allowing for higher-density development and a more urban city (and note that “new urbanism,” which Danish tosses in for good measure, is really more a stylistic concept that doesn’t belong here). I have indeed been a proponent of some additional densification (partly via mixed-use zoning, but that is just one technique), but only in carefully targeted areas. The rezoning of downtown that encouraged the mixed-use buildings we have seen was done by a previous city council, and it should be noted that, in fact, that action also reduced the maximum densities allowed in most areas.
Since my (re)election to council, I have pushed very hard on the concept of “community benefit,” feeling, as do many citizens, that we have not gotten enough back from many of the new, large buildings that have sprung up over the past several years. I am particularly concerned about affordable housing, public open spaces and design issues, among others. A full discussion of this would be far too long for a letter to the editor, but anyone who has been following this council will realize that we are quite concerned about the actual (and presumably unintended) results of the current land-use and inclusionary zoning regulations, and at our last meeting we directed staff to bring us some specific ordinance changes. It should be noted that the council has just “called up” for review an approval of a large mixed-use building on the south side of Canyon at 16th, and also has been heavily involved in the Washington School process (which is still to come to Planning Board before council can decide whether to weigh in).
Those of us who ran for council in November 2007 covered many of these issues quite thoroughly during the campaign. There have been numerous council discussions, along with significant citizen input since then, and I expect much more to come as we begin to modify our regulations. True, as Danish points out, there could be a large community-wide discussion — and perhaps that will be appropriate at some point. But I haven’t found those to be terribly useful or inclusive, and we need to move much faster than a year-long process will allow. And, as a believer in representative democracy, it shouldn’t be surprising that I think voters are quite capable of sorting this out when they vote in the next council election. Yes, charter amendments certainly have their place (I happen to be an author of the Open Space charter amendment, which is a critical component of our permanent protection of Open Space), but overly simplistic, reactive and short-sighted restrictions on the complex and interconnected issues of land use, the economy, affordability, transportation and regional implications will almost certainly yield serious unintended consequences that we may long regret.
Paul Danish would like us to believe that there is a tension between mixed-use development in Boulder and the will of the people. But our choice as citizens is not between mixed-use development or no development at all; the real choice is between higher density or more urban sprawl and traffic congestion.
Through its Open Space program, Boulder has made a conscious decision to preserve the quality of life here by restricting development in a broad swath of land surrounding the city. This quality of life is exactly what makes people want to live and work here. Without a plan for urban infill, such a policy simply pushes people like Danish into neighboring towns like Longmont, and forces them into cars for their daily commutes.
Mixed-use developments like Holiday and the Steelyards lead to vibrant communities and provide an alternative for lower-income families and young people who may not have been in Boulder when land prices were reasonable enough to buy a house. The exorbitant land values are a direct consequence of the growth restrictions, but mixed-use neighborhoods are proof that we can maintain our quality of life by filling in rather than building out.
If the City Council decides to do anything to its development plan, it should actually extend the “density bonus” program to other areas of Boulder. Otherwise, the vitality and diversity of this city will gradually disappear into the suburbs, and the new debate will be what to do about gridlock on the roads.
Travis Metcalfe and Cherie Goff/Boulder
It’s too bad Paul Danish has alienated so many with his warring ways. His latest column brings up two important points:
1. Returned City Councilman Appelbaum is contemptuous of democracy. In a September 2004 opinion column he said voters helped “run the asylum.” In the ’90s he was busted for reading under the council table while citizens were addressing council. Soon, in yet another expensive redecoration, the under-table view was blocked off. Matt famously resigned from council at just the right time to deny voters the power to elect his replacement. He then conspired with other council members to appoint his replacement. Only a citizens’ ballot initiative stopped this.
2. “New urbanism” sounds good as theory, but in practice it’s the newest PR effort of developers. It’s based on the unscientific claim that “density” means “high-rise” buildings. Every scientist knows that density is something (living units in this case) per cubic measure, not per square measure like acres. Real density and energy efficiency doesn’t mean stacking up luxury units, but smaller units for people who “live simply that others may simply live.” (Gandhi) Developers and tax-dependent politicians don’t want people who live modestly.
The worst thing is that misleaders like Appelbaum promote this neo snake oil in order to try to make buses a viable mode of transportation. RTD’s own figures show that the Boulder local buses run so empty (seven riders on average on a 43-passenger bus) that the system gets less passenger-MPG than the car system, while burning far more polluting diesel. Worse, as every pavement engineer knows, road damage increases as the fourth power of vehicle weight. So, our 32,000-pound Orion buses, weighing about 10 times the average car cause not 10 but ten thousand times the damage of a car! When I explained these facts to Appelbaum, he merely said, “I like buses.” Heavy traffic should ride on steel rails.
Since General Motors was complicit in buying and tearing up America’s city trolley systems in the ’30s to get us in their cars and buses, instead of giving them a bailout the U.S. should nationalize the company and use the assets to restore trolleys, the most efficient local transportation except the bicycle.
Green lights not a go
(Re: “Fighting back,” Letters, Dec. 4.) I have to say that the Green Light Project, suggested by Gene Ira Katz to offer safe haven at night for women who feel they’re being followed is the worst idea I have ever heard for protecting women against rape. Every rapist in town would go out and get himself a green light bulb. How convenient! They wouldn’t even have to leave their homes to commit rape anymore. They could just sit around their living rooms, drinking beer and waiting for women to knock on the door. Nice try, Gene.
(Re: “Affordable nukes,” Danish Plan, Nov. 20.) It was interesting to read Paul Danish’s article about the Hyperion reactor in the Nov. 20 issue. However, he made one error. The Hyperion reactor was not invented by Hyperion, but by Los Alamos Labs, a (gasp!) government-funded facility. It was only licensed to Hyperion for commercial sale.
Here is a line from Hyperion’s own website which Mr. Danish must have overlooked: “Invented at the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory, Hyperion small modular power reactors make all the benefits of safe, clean nuclear power available for remote locations.”
Another example of your tax dollars at work.
He’s done it again. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Mr. D conveniently ignores the 800-pound gorilla in every nuclear application: radioactive waste. Nothing can detour from this reality. Danish places a good deal of confidence in hydride ions. These do not prevent uranium from generating products like cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium. If it did, then the uranium would generate no energy. These products must go somewhere; that they are “dug up” with a spent tank does not change that fact. It has to go somewhere. Just where, oh world-without-limits advocate?
You missed us
(Re: “A guide to giving green,” Special Edition, Dec. 4.) I was sorry to see that you overlooked my favorite local “green” clothing company in your “Green gifts” piece this week. Goddess Gear (www.goddessgear.net), based in Longmont, has been designing and selling women’s clothing in natural and organic fibers for 10 years now. They sell online, and have a couple of trunk shows a year, where you can get great bargains. Not only are they designed locally with “green” materials, but they are manufactured locally, too, in Denver. Please include them the next time you cover local businesses or green issues — their styles are unique and flattering, and your readers deserve to know about them!
Lauren Emery/via Internet
Cranberry is easy
(Re: “Holiday dinner emergency kit,” Holiday Entertaining, Nov. 20.) I read your article about making entertaining easier. Among the ideas is the suggestion to buy certain foods rather than making them yourself, including cranberry sauce.
Advising someone to buy cranberry sauce to make preparation easier is like telling them to buy bottled water instead of using the tap. Gravy I can understand. It takes a bit of effort and skill to get it right. Pie? Same thing.
But cranberry sauce? Toss cranberries, water, and sugar in a pan and boil for five minutes. Voila, cranberry sauce. It tastes better, has no extraneous ingredients and doesn’t use up a can. If you’re really feeling brave, you can add cinnamon or other spices. Again, it’s not rocket science. Homemade cranberry sauce is so easy and tastes so good, it’s a wonder people ever thought to put it in a can.
Lara Gardner/via Internet
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