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Home / Articles / Special Sections / Vote 2009 /  Longmont City Council breakdown
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Thursday, October 8,2009

Longmont City Council breakdown

Vote 2009

Incumbent Roger Lange, a financial advisor by profession, is facing two challengers in this election, businessman Bryan Baum and attorney Jeff Thompson.

Lange has lived in Longmont for more than 30 years and has served as mayor of Longmont since his election in 2007. Prior to that, he served on Longmont City Council for six years. His public service includes membership on a variety of boards and committees, including the Longmont Area Economic Council board; the Metro Mayor's Caucus; the Platte River Power Authority board; Colorado Municipal League board; the Boulder County Regional Transit Committee; the Cable Trust Board; the Old Hire Police and Fireman's Pension Board; the Highway 36 EIS Corridor Governments Committee; the I-25 Corridor Group; the North Area Transportation Alliance; and the Southwest Weld I-25 Corridor Group.

Lange believes his experience dealing with the financial concerns of US West has prepared him to guide Longmont's affairs. When it comes to facing Longmont's projected $4 million budget shortfall next year, he says he and City Council have been working to restrict city spending while at the same time continuing to provide human services for Longmont residents in need. Under Lange, in July City Council approved creating new fees or increasing current fees to help bridge the budget gap, a plan that has garnered its share of criticism.

To revitalize the city's economy, he favors the redevelopment of Twin Peaks Mall, as well as offering incentives to downtown businesses and contractors.

Public safety is another issue that concerns Lange, who lauds the Public Safety Tax, passed in 2006 when Lange was on council, for having contributed to a decrease in crime and gang activity in the city.

Lange favors looking for ways improve the city's environmental profile through increased energy conservation, as well as the expansion and improved use of open space, parks and local recreation opportunities.

As someone who believes in cultural diversity, Lange thinks it's important to build and preserve a sense of community in Longmont to maintain its "small town" feel as the city continues to grow. He cites the city's Multi-cultural Strategic Plan as an example of something the city has done to help foster cultural diversity.

Challenger Bryan Baum has lived in Longmont for more than 25 years. He owns his own firm, Baum & Blockhus Wealth Management Services, which has offices in both Longmont and Boulder. During his years as a Longmont resident he has volunteered for a number of organizations. He's a 28-year member of the Rotary Club, of which he has served as club president and assistant district governor, and where he is currently cochair of the Bell Ringers for the Salvation Army. He's also served on or been a member of the Quail Ridge HOA Board; the Boulder County Cultural Commission; the

Longmont Symphony Board, where he served two terms as president; Longmont Oktoberfest; American Cancer Society Relay for Life; St. Vrain Fatherhood Connection; Boulder County Partners; Alternatives for Youth; Boy Scout Regional Board; and the Longmont Chamber of Commerce.

Baum told Boulder Weekly he entered the mayoral race to fight for his community in the wake of division and lawsuits over the proposed development by LifeBridge Christian Church east of the city. He favors ending the lawsuits against Firestone over their annexation of the LifeBridge property because they pose a financial risk at a time when the city can't afford to waste money.

Running under the slogan, "Longmont is open for business," he says he would function like a businessman if elected mayor. He favors fast-tracking the proposed construction of a new theater at Twin Peaks Mall and supporting Panattoni, the development company that owns the mall, in moving forward with its development plans without unnecessary hindrance. He suggests that one way of improving the city's budget situation might be to turn to the churches in the community for assistance.

The third candidate in the mayoral race is local private-practice attorney Jeff Thompson, whose focus was negotiating contracts with private aerospace corporations and the federal government. A Longmont resident since 1998, he became active in community affairs in early 2003 when he participated in updating the Longmont Area Comprehensive Plan. Since that time, he has continued to be actively involved in Longmont. He ran for an at-large seat on the City Council in 2005.

Thompson has said that he feels many voices are marginalized in Longmont, and he wants to make sure those voices are heard by City Council. He believes the city leaders use taxpayer dollars to benefit private interests rather than the citizens of Longmont as a whole. Regarding the economy, Thompson favors working with other cities to change state law so that cities can move away from their reliance on sales taxes and property taxes and instead get revenues from state income tax.

Of the three candidates, Roger Lange is the one who appeals the most to us. We see the value in the balanced approach that Lange brings to city government. As a financial advisor, he's business-savvy and knows what it takes to balance a budget. But he also understands the importance of maintaining vital city services at a time when they're most needed, rather than turning to churches, as Baum suggests an idea that, quite frankly, reminds us a bit too much of George W's "faith-based" approach to helping the disadvantaged. We also like the fact that Lange recognizes the multi-cultural nature of Longmont as a city. And although we don't agree with every decision Longmont City Council has made over the past two years most notably its possible overuse of executive session to discuss the Firestone lawsuits we do appreciate our elected officials doing what they can to safeguard the city's investment in open space by protecting its eastern border and Longmont's status as a stand-alone city. Vote for Roger Lange for Longmont mayor.

Ward II

Vote for Karen Benker

Karen Benker is running for re-election to her Ward II seat against Katie Witt.

Benker was first appointed to Longmont City Council in 2005 and then won her seat later that same year in the municipal election. In 2007, she ran unsuccessfully for mayor but retained her City Council seat.

Now retired, Benker works as a part-time contract administrator with Metro Denver

Economic Development Corporation. She has served on or been a member of a host of boards and committees, including the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board, where she served for eight years; the Colorado State Manager's Association, of which she was once president; the Colorado Finance Manager's Association; Longmont Area Economic Council (LAEC); the Longmont Downtown Development Authority (LDDA) board; and the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). In addition, she co-founded the Morgan Humane Society. She is the former director for the Eastern Colorado Workforce Centers and once worked as budget director for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, as well as a senior budget analyst for the Governor's Budget Office.

Benker says she wants to see City Council move forward with development plans for both downtown Longmont and the Twin Peaks Mall, though she would like to see a multi-use approach to redeveloping the Twin Peaks area. Benker especially wants to support locally owned businesses and was a part of garnering city support for the Shop Local Longmont campaign. As a member of the LDDA board she has been working with the Longmont Theater Company to refurbish the old theater on Main Street and make it a hub of local activity. She plans to spearhead efforts to create a Clean Energy Business Incubator, a nonprofit that will house start-up companies working on clean energy technology in Longmont. Because Longmont owns its own utilities, Benker sees a great deal of opportunity for making Longmont "greener" and more affordable for residents.

Though she's been criticized for her opposition to the LifeBridge development east of town she was the lone "no" vote when City Council approved plans in 2007 to annex theLifeBridge property she believes it was her responsibility to protect the multi- milliondollar investment Longmont taxpayers havemade in open space in that area. If the

LifeBridge development is permitted to go forward, she fears Longmont will eventually be indistinguishable from neighboring towns, like many of the towns surrounding Denver.

Katie Witt ran unsuccessfully against Brandon Shaffer for the state Senate last year and for Boulder County Commissioner in 2000. A community activist and mother, Witt has lived in Longmont for 15 years. During that time she's served on the Longmont Housing and Human Services Advisory Board and been a facilitator for the Longmont Community Justice Partnership. She's volunteered her time for the Great Strides for Cystic Fibrosis Walk, and as a den mother and soccer team manager. In addition, she's been active with the Longmont Rotary Club.

On her website, Witt advocates creating stability and certainty for Longmont businesses, with a special emphasis on downtown Longmont and Twin Peaks Mall. She also says she wants to make the city's budget searchable via Internet so that the city can be held accountable for how it spends money.

Further, she says she wants to work with other municipalities to safeguard the needs of residents.

In this race, the choice is clear. Karen Benker has much more experience that Katie

Witt when it comes to local governance and is more open about what she hopes to accomplish.

Her caution when it comes to the LifeBridge project is to be commended.

Though we're not certain that mixed-use development is viable at the Twin Peaks Mall site and we trust Panattoni to know more about successful mall development than anyone on City Council, we do applaud Benker's efforts to promote green industry in the city.

Witt, on the other hand, offers only a vague outline of what she hopes to do. Not present on her website is information about how she once worked as the statewide coordinator for the Coloradans for Marriage campaign, a measure pushed by the Christian right which won passage of an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. A lot of people might like that about Witt; we don't. Vote for Karen Benker for Longmont City Council.

City Council At-Large (pick two)

Vote for Bill Van Dusen

Edward Dloughy is a carpenter. During the four years he's lived in Longmont, he has worked as a victim advocate with Longmont Police Department, volunteered with tree planting and wilderness restoration projects and for Habitat of Humanity.

Kaye Fissinger is a retired secondary teacher and businesswoman whose work experience includes doing market research, sales analysis, strategic planning, communication, writing and editing for a solar energy magazine with worldwide circulation, and serving for several years in the health care industry as administrator to a hospital governing board and as marketing administrator for medical laboratories. Having moved to Longmont three years ago, Fissinger has been active in City Council issues since taking a leading role in the grassroots effort to halt the LifeBridge development in 2007. She says she has attended almost all City Council meetings since 2007, as well as the Council's 2008 and 2009 retreats. She also participated in the two-day workshop to determine the long-range vision for the Twin Peaks Mall redevelopment and attended the Twin Peaks Mall Urban Renewal Plan reviews, contributing to the final version of the plan.

Among her stated goals are developing stable sources of revenue for the city; balancing the various economic needs of the community; attracting renewable energy businesses to the city; preserving and enhancing the city's natural environment; promoting openspace acquisition and wildlife habitat; branding Longmont as Northern Colorado's "green city"; and enhancing quality of life through respect for diversity, mixed housing and job and recreational opportunities for all Longmont residents. She's committed to preserving the natural environment of Union Reservoir and Longmont open space and to protecting the city's eastern border from development.

A Longmont resident for 15 years, Alex Sammoury is the executive director of the Longmont Entrepreneurial Network.

During his time in the city, he's been involved in a variety of business-related organizations, including Longmont Area Economic Council (LAEC); the Longmont Downtown Development Authority, which he chaired from 2006 to 2008 and which he's been a member of since 2004; Workforce Boulder County, of which he is currently board chair; the Longmont Chamber of Commerce's Public Policy Committee, which he has chaired since last year; the FasTracks Citizens Advisory Committee; the 10 percent Shift

Committee; the Economic Vitality Committee; and Focus on Longmont, in which he was a 2005 participant.

Sammoury points to his proven record of success in business and job creation as one reason voters should elect him to City Council. He is critical of the current City Council for devoting too much time to studies and not enough effort to implementation. He wants to improve city governance by listening to all the stakeholders in the city and creating an environment conducive to collaboration. He looks at public/private partnerships as a way to move forward with the redevelopment of downtown Longmont and Twin Peaks Mall. He also wants to preserve the city's ethnic diversity and create an inclusive environment that nurtures Longmont's youth and its seniors.

Incumbent Gabe Santos has been a Longmont resident for eight years. In January

2008, he was elected to one of Longmont City Council's at-large seats. During that time, he's served as the council's liaison to the following city boards and committees: the Asset Forfeiture Committee; the Library Board; the Museum Advisory Board; the Old Hire Fireman's and Police Pension Boards; the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board; and the Transportation Advisory Board.

Other civic experience comes from his work as a member of the North Front Range I-25 Corridor EIS Study Group; treasurer of the Hispanic Education Foundation Board; logistics chair for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Longmont; a congressional aide in the United States House of Representatives to Tom Delay; a legislative aide in the Colorado House of Representatives; a Focus on Longmont participant; an Education Summit participant; and a member of the Rotary Club of Longmont. Santos' website offers a critique of certain current City Council members, accusing them of micromanaging; listening to the advice of those who agree with them while shutting out more experienced voices; acting on personal or political agendas; and wasting time and, thus, taxpayer dollars, on studies that haven't resulted in action.

He promises to listen to all points of view, to act on the city's behalf and not based on a personal or political agenda, and to do the public's business in public.

Bill Van Dusen has lived in Longmont for 21 years, working as an attorney who specializes in "tax controversy matters." His previous political and civic experience includes serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Longmont from 2000 to 2006; serving on the Multi-Modal Transportation Planning Committee for the City of Longmont; chairing the North Boulder County Environmental Health Task Force; coordinating the Governor's Job Training Program; directing the Veteran's Upward Bound Program for the Community College of Denver; implementing the "Ask-

A-Lawyer" day for Longmont's El Comite Organization to offer free legal services for the Longmont Latino Community; coordinating the Teen Court for the City of Arvada; serving as a deputy district attorney and an assistant city attorney; and holding the post of assistant attorney general for the state of Colorado.

Van Dusen says he's running for City Council with five goals in mind: to create sustainable jobs in Longmont so that the city doesn't become a bedroom community that requires people to commute to their jobs; to support developers in the redevelopment of

Twin Peaks Mall and the downtown area; to support local business by, among other things, offering adequate parking, protecting public safety and managing traffic effectively; to promote green growth by factoring sustainability into all new development in the city; and to build coalitions that bring people from diverse backgrounds together to work for the benefit of the entire city.

This was a tough race for us not because there were lots of great candidates, but for the opposite reason. Gabe Santos once worked for disgraced politician Tom Delay. Because he hasn't denounced Delay, that rules him out.

Also, the "Issues" page on his website still says "Under Contruction." Shouldn't it be finished by now, given that ballots are in the mail?

Edward Dloughy simply doesn't have enough experience to be effective on City Council.

And though Kaye Fissinger came very close to earning an endorsement from us her civic spirit is to be lauded she's got little in the way of experience in local government and hasn't lived in Longmont for long. We can't endorse her simply because she's progressive.

Alex Sammoury has lots of great experience, but the buzzwords on his website made it clear that he'd fall in the category of those who are attempting to force the pendulum to swing to the right, where it's hung in a kind of stasis for a very long time.

That leaves Bill Van Dusen, a longtime Longmont resident who stands where we stand on the issues and has lots of great experience he can bring with him to City Council.

His professional expertise, combined with the broad range of issues he's been involved with over the years, give him a moderate and balanced view of Longmont's challenges. So despite the fact that voters will be choosing two candidates to fill the at-large slots,

Boulder Weekly can only endorse Van Dusen. Vote for Bill Van Dusen for Longmont City Council's at-large seat.

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