COVID’s impact looms large during Golden's Ward 4 council seat forum

Candidates also talked housing, budget in virtual discussion

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/14/20

The two candidates for the Ward 4 city council seat vacated by Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg discussed their ideas for the city during a forum that was anything but typical on April 7. For one, …

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COVID’s impact looms large during Golden's Ward 4 council seat forum

Candidates also talked housing, budget in virtual discussion

Posted

The two candidates for the Ward 4 city council seat vacated by Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg discussed their ideas for the city during a forum that was anything but typical on April 7.

For one, candidates Stacy Fowler and Bill Fisher talked not in-person but via a Zoom call that residents tuned in to watch from their own homes. For another, COVID-19 and its current and future impacts on the city were mentioned in almost every response.

Moderator Ron Benioff began the debate by addressing the crisis head-on via a question to the candidates about what they would like to see the city take to help businesses and residents reeling from the virus and its fallout.

Fisher said that while he applauds the city’s recent efforts to deal with the crisis he feels the city could do more, including considering a faster rebate for the Golden’s senior citizen tax rebate and additional opportunities for the Downtown Development Authority to use more of its $2.5 million operating to help the business community stay afloat.

He also suggested that the city do more to help connect residents to information about housing and food resources, particularly since many residents currently facing those challenges have never faced them before.

“I think offering options for housing insecurity information is probably the number one thing we can do right now,” Fisher said.

Fowler, who said she is currently out of work herself, said she the city should look to work with organizations both inside and outside of Golden to get financial help to those in need. Fowler said she would also make it a goal to create an emergency preparedness task force to help the city prepare for future community health crises and their fall out.

The specter of COVID-19 also hungover a discussion about the city’s budget as both Fowler and Fisher emphasized the need for the city to take a more conservative approach to budgeting in light of sales revenue decreases that will come from the disease.

“I love things like the Heart of Golden but I think right now we have to hit the pause button and avoid the frills and just take care of people in our community,” Fowler said.

Fisher also touted the need to avoid costly projects and expressed concern about the current city council’s decision to allow its budget reserves to be reduced. However, he also argued it made sense for the city to now have plans in place for “shovel ready projects” in the community in order to take advantage of Federal stimulus dollars that could help pay for those projects if they become available.

One percent growth cap a priority

During a discussion about the direction development has been taking in Golden, both candidates expressed support for the need to strengthen the city’s one percent growth limit and eliminate loop holes, including one that has allowed units without kitchens to be exempt.

“It’s not that they don’t want growth, they want smart growth so if we are building density projects let’s make them affordable and let’s make it so that we are not just building density that is expensive homes but we are building some that are places are teachers and tradespeople can live in,” Fowler said.

Fisher said that in addition to putting teeth into the zoning code, the city council could also eliminate the challenges posed by loopholes by writing the visions for development mentioned in Golden’s neighborhood plans into its zoning code.

“Ultimately, if we build in what we want to see in town we are going to get the right type of development,” Fisher said. “If we tell developers what we want to see in town they will follow it.”

The candidates also attempted to draw contrasts between their backgrounds with Fisher touting his experience serving on the council from 2008 to 2014 while Fowler argued she would bring a fresh perspective.

“If Bill does get elected he lives on one of the smartest streets in Golden because if he gets elected three of the city council members will all live on the same small cul-de-sac in Golden,” Fowler said. “I want to represent all the areas of Ward 4.”

But Fisher took issue with Fowler’s argument in his own closing statement.

“I think it would be unfortunate if it turns out I was the right candidate but I lived on the wrong street,” Fisher said. “I urge you to understand my advocacy for Golden and in this time of uncertainty I will continue to support our neighborhood values and can hit the ground running on day one. There is no learning curve.”

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