Friday, March 21, 2014

The State of Ned Address

Location: Nederland, CO 80466, USA
Mayor Gierlach giving the
State of Nederland Address

This 'State of Nederland Address' was given at the very end of the Nederland Candidates Forum on March 12, 2014, recorded by Planetmind Radio, and broadcast on the internet.
[Click here for the live recording.]

The State of Nederland Address was also printed in the Mountain Ear in its entirety as part of the Mayor's Report for March.

Denver State of the City Address
As Mayor, I have the opportunity to attend ribbon-cuttings and ceremonial events around the region. For all practical purposes, it is impossible to attend everything I get invited to. However, I do make the effort to listen to Mayor Hancock's State of the City Address in Denver each year. It is always inspiring to watch the mayor of one of the most important cities in the country (perhaps the world) lay out his policy direction.

So, I'd like to take this opportunity to give the State of Nederland Address, and pull some of the 'greatest hits' from the NederMayor blog.

The Board of Trustees (BOT) basically is responsible for three things: 1. We approve a balanced budget. 2. We hire and evaluate the Town Administrator. 3. We set policy.

The Going Concern Assumption
On the day that I was sworn-in (in 2008), our auditor gave the BOT a report saying that the auditors may have to drop the 'going concern assumption'. This is accounting speak for, "They can no longer assume that we are still going to be a town in the future, thus increasing risk, and our interest rates."

The BOT introduced several measures to correct this, like the cash handling audit, quarterly budget reviews, and re-aligning the water funds, Mud Lake fund, and the General Fund. The BOT also has tried to keep programs, like operating the Community Center, financially self sustaining so that the General Fund is not expected to subsidize programming.

The question remained in my mind, "How did it get that way?"

I sat in my first town budget meeting as the board was going line by line, questioning the police chief on things like, "if he needed to buy that many bullets." Truly a Barney Fife moment. Anyone could tell that prior boards had to make serious budget cuts. I found out later that in the past, they were $200K over budget, and made so many cuts that they ended up $100K under budget. 

Orchestration of Talent
Those $300K major cuts to Police and Public Works not only had a devastating impact on our failing infrastructure, but it was also apparent that making those cuts had destroyed relationships between the BOT and town staff, between the BOT and our citizens, and between the BOT and our own advisory boards, like the Planning Commission, or the DDA.

We had also pretty much cut off any relationships with our regional partners that we had.

I was on the Board of Trustees, when we developed liaisons. I was the first chairman of the newly formed Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB). We needed to heal wounds and develop relationships with our Advisory Boards.

Arm Wrestling the Administrator
In the wake of that toxic environment of the past, most of Town Staff had turned over. We went through many hiring processes, and selected the best people for the job.

We knew that we needed to reestablish a working relationship between the BOT and Town Hall, even though we were mindful of the check and balance component to the exchange between the BOT and Town Staff and our role of oversight.

We quite literally tore down walls, and made Town Hall a welcoming place for all our citizens.

Envision 2020
So, with no money, crumbling infrastructure, and destroyed relationships, the Board of Trustees, made the decision to engage in the year-long process of bringing our community's vision to the surface and make that our guide to our decision making process. It was called Envision 2020, and here is one of the nine vision statements:

"In 2020, Nederland's elected leaders are qualified, competent and representative of the entire community. They are committed to open and clear communication with town staff and all citizens. They actively encourage connections between residents, service providers, businesses and government. Critical information is easily accessible to all, and residents feel included and have a sense of responsibility and ownership in the governance process."

I cannot imagine a time in Nederland's history when this was more true.

It is also interesting to note that after a year and a half of polling our community, one of the top priorities was representative open government. Let's think about that as we vote for this year's candidates.

Seasonal Changes
Three years later I became our mayor. My first two Action Items were approving Envision 2020 and the Sustainability Resolution. The first thing I did was hang a giant poster at the Community Center with the full Envision 2020 text. There it is on the wall. I also began writing the NederMayor blog. We were essentially healing from miscommunication wounds. We revamped the town's website, and town staff began producing consolidated staff reports, which are still on line today.

We aligned our board goals to our budget to ensure that there were no "unfunded mandates" and so that our town's expenditures were predictable, sustainable, and fiscally responsible.

Mayoring Regionally
We were able to reconnect with our own community, but also reconnect within the larger region.

We received help from our regional partners like Boulder County, Gilpin County, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), The Colorado Municipal League (CML), the U.S. Forest Service, the State's Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), the Department of Transportation (CDOT), even the State Legislature. We've also partnered with the InterMountain Alliance (IMA) and other communities in the mountains like Gold Hill, Jamestown and Lyons.

The Peak to Peak Climb

My expectation is that the Board of Trustees that we elect will represent our town with these regional partners.

For example, with help from our regional partners, we were able to take steps towards meeting our transportation vision from Envision 2020 with resources we could never hope to accomplish on our own. – Having the EcoPass funded for two years, introducing the shuttle to the Hessie Trail in the summer, and bringing back the Peak to Peak Climb.

Ribbon Cutting for the Canyon
Collaborating with our regional partners was also extremely important when the flood hit. We were the first contract written by CDOT, and we were the first canyon road reopened after 22 days.

Now you say, "Joe, that's all the past, what about the future?" Here's the rub. We could easily have another flood, only this time it could shut down the canyon for three months. What would happen if our businesses had to close for a few months? We would painfully have to cut about a quarter of a million dollars from our budget, which could then trigger similar problems that we experienced in the past.

So, in the wake of the flood, how can we address the impacts of Climate Change? Charles Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."

NedPeds Planning
We can use our EcoPasses to reduce our carbon footprint, We could build bioswales along our roads and design storm water drainage systems to reduce flood damage. And we can do these things in our own Nederland way. With the help of the Nederland DDA, we've approved the unique NedPeds project which should be completed his summer. We changed our Municipal Code to allow for electric golf carts in town. Fortunately, the road map is right there in the Envision 2020 statements:

"In 2020, Nederland continues to focus planning and economic development activities on efforts that address; non-motorized travel in town, alternatives for building and the use of sustainable materials, and connections to the outdoor environment providing active, healthy lifestyles for people of all ages."

Top 5 Ned Energy Bright Ideas
We can take advantage of the EnergySmart Program to insulate our homes, or add renewable energy.

To make it easier, last year, we became a Solar Friendly Community as a step towards realizing Envision 2020 which reads:

"In 2020, Nederland's economy is local, community based, self-sufficient and is characterized by diverse and essential products, services and jobs that both support the local community and are mindful of potential impacts on the environment."

"In 2020, Nederland supports its local businesses and works to attract new businesses that enhance local services while supporting local values, qualities and the 2020 vision."

Well, how did we do? Since I was elected, we have a couple of new marijuana businesses, another liquor store, two breweries, a music store, a costume shop and seamstress, an outdoor gear store, a coffee and bike shop, a candy shop, plus many local artists, and musicians contribute to our local economy.

Events in Ned

We've started the NedWEB Shop Local program, the First Friday art tours, reopened the Visitors Center, and brought back holiday lighting for the first time in over 20 years. We will continue to discuss the impacts of events, and how they relate to our local economy.

Now there are rumors of some light manufacturing and distribution companies, and we've begun discussions on co-working office space and a business incubator concept.

A Lumberjack, a Doctor, and
a Tree Hugger meet in a Bar
After more than a decade of trying, we collaborated with the U.S. Forest service and closed the old Nederland dump site to shooting in order to to give our residents peace of mind, and reduce forest fire danger.

We need to continue to address forest health with programs like Saws and Slaws. Partnering with Boulder County with the Nederland Sort Yard. Updating our Building Code to address flood and fire risk. We need to continue developing our emergency preparedness plans, and get a back-up generator for our Community Center (and evacuation center). We need to improve our communication plan for emergencies, and to inform home owners on how to reduce their risk.

And we start right now, by electing the best of these seven people right here.

Wastewater Treatment Facility
By doing all the things I mentioned so far, repairing our town's financial situation, improving communication channels, strengthening our locally distinctive economy, and working with our regional partners to address climate change, we can now focus on repairing decades of neglect on our infrastructure. Again, we will do it in our own distinctive Nederland way that follows Envision 2020, and respects the environment.

Here I will highlight completing the Wastewater Treatment Facility. The most fuel efficient of its kind on the Front Range, which saved our taxpayers $8.9 million dollars.

We have completed the town's Comprehensive Plan, the Master Infrastructure Plan, and we are now completing the Sustainability Action Plan.

Expanding social services in Ned
With all of these things in place, this is the first time in our recent history, that we've had the luxury of addressing low income housing and human services. Two years ago, we started the Mayor's Task Force on Housing and Human Services.

The Board of Trustees approved facilities for the Nederland Area SeniorsNederland Food Pantry, the Clothing Closet, and for NedCompost. Envision 2020 states:

"Nederland is a complete community guided by a shared vision reflecting community values and priorities. It is a place where our children thrive and people connect; neighbors know and care for one another, and community members are proud of their town, their deep and rich history, and a quality of life that is both deliberate and second to none."

We have already partnered with Boulder County and expanded social services in the mountains, but now we need to get serious about affordable housing, and the lack housing in general.

In conclusion, while you are voting for the best three candidates that meet our Envision 2020 statements, I am going to ask a favor, that you also vote to pay them something for their effort. It isn't easy being on the Board of Trustees. We've dug out of our financial crisis, so we can afford it, and it brings us in line with the other cities and towns in Boulder County.

Why?, The answer comes straight from the first sentence in Envision 2020:
"In Nederland, our greatest assets are our residents – the diverse people who live, work, play and contribute to all aspects of our unique mountain community."

Thank you for your time, and thank you for caring about your community.

This 'State of Nederland Address' was given at the very end of the Nederland Candidates Forum on March 12, 2014, recorded by Planetmind Radio, and broadcast on the internet. [Click here for the live recording.]

Because I originally became mayor somewhat by accident, and because all the candidates in the forum mentioned that they were also not carer politicians:

This is an excerpt from Chapter 28 in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams:
"It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job."

[Here is a Video Valediction] Now that I have developed relationships with so many politicians, here is Canadian songwriter (and ASPCA supporter) Sarah McLachlan performing Building a Mystery from her 'Surfacing' album (1997) on SIRIUS XM Radio's The Coffee House[What is a Video Valediction?]
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