Speak Your Mind

by Osman Parvez

I attended the CBS4 sponsored Community Forum at Boulder High School on Tuesday night. It was a very interesting presentation of ideas from the community and the CBS4 people did a great job moderating the discussion. It reminded me a bit of Nantucket's Town Meetings, but with a little less drama and no voting.

A resident of Mapleton Hill spoke out for something to be done with the closed Mapleton Elementary School. School Board President Helayne Jones was present to respond, noting declining enrollment as the primary factor driving the 2003 school closings. Also, according to Jones, the district currently has 57 facilities and preliminary cost estimates run between $200MM and $300MM to bring these facilities up to date.

Interestingly, Jones talked about the district's open enrollment policy noting that 25% of non-charter school students go to schools other than the one for their neighborhood. If charter schools are included, the figure leaps to 40%.

The air pollution being emitted by the Lyons Cemex plant as it burns tires for fuel was a big concern for one local resident. According to her, the plant burns 700,000 tires each year and there are toxicity concerns as the self regulating plant has reported thousands of "upsets" (violations) of controls/regulations each year. Boulder County apparently found no cause for health concerns when regulations are followed. Here's the Scorecard for the plant, and sources for the scorecard data.

As I've mentioned before, I have strong feelings when it comes to protecting our natural resources. Clean air and water are critical to the sustainability of our world, and this region in particular is attractive because of its incredible quality of life. So I agree with the concerns of those that spoke about the Cemex facility.

By far, I thought the most intriguing message were presented by state representative Alice Madden. She warned of the possibility of a Citizen's Initiative Ballot sponsored by powerful developers who want to "do away" with all zoning laws. She spoke of a similar measure that recently passed in Oregon.

I looked for the Oregon zoning law change, and a measure did indeed pass in November 2004.
By a majority of 61 percent, Oregon voters approved a ballot initiative, Measure 37. It states that the government should compensate property owners when government-imposed land-use restrictions reduce the value of their property. If the government cannot or will not pay, property owners can develop their land as they see fit. In the words of the ballot initiative, "Governments must pay owners, or forgo enforcement, when certain land use restrictions reduce property values."
Because the state has set aside virtually no money to pay landowners, Measure 37, it is feared, will lead to a rash of suburban-style subdivisions outside Oregon's urban boundaries. (source: perc.org)
As Madden noted, Colorado is a very strong property rights state. This type of measure could indeed sway the voters resulting in a reversal of local efforts to control and shape growth. I agree with Madden's one word assessment. She called the prospect, "Terrifying."

I should also mention there were residents who talked about Smart Growth and the Comprehensive Plan, specifically taking issue with the fact that it appears as if the only legal challenges can be exercised by either the County or the City, and neither is likely to challenge the other.

A high school student also spoke (with startling clarity, passion, and conviction in my opinion) about the many positives community contributions of Boulder Preparatory High School, a local charter school.

In the future, if you have an opportunity to attend one of these events, I highly recommend it. The conviction of Boulder residents to sustain and nurture our community was highly evident. If nothing else, it'll give you an opportunity to learn about what's important to the people in your community.

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