Gene Wieneke

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Light Rail Delayed 30 Years


The RTD Board of Directors has sent all of the North Metro's light rail lines south; literately and figurative. To make the matter worst, revenues from the existing tax are being diverted from the original build-out, which includes ours, to projects designated as “future extensions”.


Why has the RTD Board, including our local Directors sold us down the river? Hundreds of millions of Private Money. An international construction company, Kiewit Infrastructure, offered to participate in the construction and operation of a rail extension along I-225. The Board is now going through the bidding formalities. Additionally, a private developer offered to split the cost of an extension to the light rail line along south I-25.

The first pitch made to the north metro area was that the extensions would come out of the additional sales tax that RTD was going to seek in an election plus our existing tax. The Board backed off on seeking the tax increase but not on the requested extensions.


In 2009, three counties and twelve cities in the north metro area created a transportation alliance to monitor and advocate on our behalf. The group is referred to as NATA. They have been in the forefront seeking light rail service for the north and northwest areas but the big money is down south.


There is only one group that can save our light rail service and you know who that is; us! Telling the Board not to use our revenues for the extensions is easy: 303-299-2303 or paula.perdue@rtd-denver.com

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Marijuana Ordinance An Emergency?

State law and local charters give cities the right to adopt emergency ordinances when circumstances demand that an issue or problem is addressed as soon as possible. An emergency, as defined by the charter, must be “for the preservation of public property, health, peace or safety.”

In considering a regular ordinance the charter requires that it be approved at two regular meetings. The public has the right to speak at a public hearing prior to the vote at the second meeting. By declaring an emergency the Council eliminates the residents’ right to speak at a hearing and the need for a second meeting is eliminated.

The Council has scheduled an emergency ordinance for the regular meeting this Thursday the 10th. The emergency? To regulate Marijuana Medical Dispensaries.

The City Attorney has been directed, and he will justify the emergency action. As you’ve seen the categories in the charter are broad and the final determination of what is an emergency is a legislative decision.

The owner of the Cricket store in the Garland Center is operating a dispensary out of a space connected to his store. For allegedly violating the city’s nuisance ordinance he has a court appearance on the 16th of this month. If a regular ordinance is considered, the second approval could not occur until the 24th.

Marijuana is legal in the State for medical purposes. Whether or not it should be dispensed in the city is the issue and it should be addressed as a non-emergency ordinance. The Council received the draft Tuesday evening and is expected to make the final decision in two days and one meeting without public input. For reference: citycouncil@northglenn.org

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Now to Spend more than you Receive in Northglenn

In 2009 the City’s General Fund annual revenues were expected to be 9.8% higher than the amount received in 2000. The Fund’s annual operating expenditures were budgeted to be 48.7% higher than in 2000. In my research I found a consistent pattern for the intervening years.

During the tenure of Manager Landeck the General fund’s capital outlays were paid out of the annual revenues. A typical amount was $2-3 million per year. When the new City Manager, Phil Nelson, settled in, he changed the method in which capital outlays were funded.

Starting with him and continuing today, capital outlays are taken from the original $20.8 million in savings built up by Manager Landeck. By switching the capital expenses to the fund balance, it freed up millions each year for new operating programs and additional employees.

Now that we are minus $15 million and at our minimum fund balance, what does it mean for today? Capital outlays must once again come from annual revenues or the residents must approve the continuation of an expiring property tax this November. Cancelling capital outlays is not acceptable.

As a small positive, when the current Council adopted the 2009 budget, we reduced the General fund’s operating expenditures by $1.3 million compared to 08. This year the economy convinced the Manager and all Council members to make substantial, additional reductions.

In my opinion you should not be satisfied until the Council reverses Nelson’s policy and pays operating and capital expenses out of current revenues.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2009 Budget Update

On February 8th I summarized the need for budget reductions as follows:

“We will be addressing the third error of $646,800 in the immediate future. A truly balanced general fund is only $1,523,449 away assuming the recession does not deepen and revenue projections hold. The Council and City Manager Simmons are poised and determined to make 2009 a successful year.”

On March 6th the Council met in a retreat setting at the Recreation Center to discuss budget reductions. The numbers above were revised by the new Finance Director prior to the meeting to $181,226 in place of $646,800 and $926,649 in place of $1,523,449. Utilizing newer information he was able to correct some omissions and over statements in the projected expenditures and revenues.

On the revenue side, the accrual figures for Jan/Feb’s Franchise Fees were included and the Investment earnings were reduced. Net gain of $29,000. The net Sales Tax receipts were increased by $9,500 and smaller increases in revenues were added.

On the expenditure side, accrued expenses were added to the Finance, Parks/Recreation and Public Works accounts amounting to $94,000. Other accruals listed on 1/29/09 were reduced. The anticipated 08 carryover funds to the Capital Improvement fund were added for an additional cost of $1,032,000. All of these expenses were offset by grant funds that were not included on 1/29/09. They will be received in 2009 but credited back to 2008 projects. The grant reimbursements amount to $1,442,816.

The discussion on the 6th gave the City Manager some ideas as to where reductions might be located. He is to report back to Council in the near future. Finding the money to make up the $181,226 could be easy considering we have a general fund contingency of $200,000 that is tentatively marked for other activities but not committed. Hopefully he will find other expenses that can be reduced as a result of some increased efficiencies.

After these reductions are made we will be back to where we thought we were when the 2009 budget was adopted on December 13th. The big hit we’ve already experienced in Sales Taxes during January is yet to be addressed; as is whatever lies ahead.

My solutions? The City is over staffed. Additionally, even during these times, it is still taking a Cadillac or Lexus approach to most projects and services. Call it downsizing or rightsizing; but it must be done.

In the previous seven years the general fund was balanced only once and that was the year the entire street program was cancelled, the voters turned down the first recreation building project and the Mayor was up for re-election; 2005. I want a balanced budget now and every year!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

2008 in Review-The Disappointments

This week I would like to summarize some actions and policies that were not taken or instituted by the Council during 2008. Keep in mind that I have a much different perspective than the other members of the Council. At the same time, several share some of the disappointments.

The most recognized failure lies with the lack of development and return from the major investment in the vacant land between 120th and the recreation building. Two years ago, as a resident, I said that the firms the City engaged for the development were incompetent and did not have the horsepower. The City Manager and Attorney did not insert an end date in the contract.

What about the recreation building? Council hired the same company to analyse the building’s conditions for the third time. We’re still looking at over ten million dollars with no funding source available except voter approval of long term debt. The North Metro’s Fire Chief reviewed our report and issued a compliance order that will divert over $1.5 million from the general fund. More debt. An additional disappointment is that we haven’t even discussed what the long term plan is for the building.

Code enforcement still remains inconsistent and ineffective. We have a staff larger than either Westminster or Thornton and still, the big issue for years, remains. Staff works with residents in an effort to alleviate violations. Extension after extension has only led to frustration and anger from the neighbors. Council does not want to interfere with staff but when staff is ineffective, who can the residents turn to?

The Federal Community Development Block Grants are to be used for low-moderate income areas and individuals. The City receives $200,000 per year. During the last two years and this year we spent $100K in housing rehab with Brothers Redevelopment, a similar amount was used to pay salaries for code officers by the former city manager and $191K was given to NNDC for rehab work but returned.

The returned funds and balance of this year’s funds will be used to make elaborate improvements ($262K) to the Malley Street crosswalk and Highline Dr even though the traffic count does not even justify the passed over, $50K solution similar to what you see at the crosswalk on Huron, south of 112th. The last $150K will be used to hire a business to purchase and rehab one “empty” home for resale with the theory being that the process will be repeated from the profit. I offered several suggestions for the CDBG funds that directly benefitted low income individuals and neighborhoods to no avail.

All city charters, just like state constitutions, are adopted at a time that a particular body of thought exists with regards to its provisions. As the years pass, amendments are to be expected in order to address new issues and influences. Per State law the charter is created by an elected body of twenty-one residents. Last year we created a small review committee of half that number to evaluate provisions that might need revision and then sent them afloat without a compass or paddle.

Moving forward with a street side recycling program has been doomed thus far because it has been tied in with the quest for a one-man, polycart only refuse collection program. I tried to separate the issues by suggesting that the best way to evaluate resident usage and to get the program moving was to retain a private hauler to operate a city sponsored test program. With no real consensus I did not force the issue by scheduling it for a formal meeting and should have.

If I send you to Washington, what are you going to do for me and the country? Well, I’ll listen to all sides, interest groups, lobbyist, and federal employees and make the best decision on your behalf. The only real difference between that and city government is that we generally only hear from the employees, friends and a few motivated residents. The Council was forced to make some cuts last year to meet our minimum fund balance. As I stated in my last posting, we have many more to cut now. All of the cuts we made were suggested by the employees. Council did not have any ideas of its own advanced. It appears that the employees’ interests and yours are the same.

Other Disappointments: Staff is still determining what issues will be considered by the Council and when with rare exceptions. Rough service and program priorities have been established but the budget has not been changed to reflect them. Council’s operational oversight of operations has only increased from non-existent to minuscule. The only answer to our capital and maintenance needs is new debt and lots of it instead of limited debt repaid out of current revenues.

Know that your Council members are working together to address municipal issues and problems even though we have different values and perceptions of what YOU want. Remember what and who we listen to and don’t be afraid to let all of us know your priorities. Neither the employees nor you have a trump card but each has part of the deck.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

2008 in Review-The Positive

After one year as a member of the Northglenn City Council, I would like to summarize a few actions taken by Council that I feel are a positive change from the culture that has existed since 2001. With the addition of Ervin Baker and me, the three existing members who frequently called for change now had a majority on some key issues.

In January we reduced the City Manager’s unilateral spending authority in half and prohibited the hiring of a new Deputy Manager. The latter decision saved the city $138,000 per year and the first required the Manager to obtain Council approval for expenditures over $25,000.

A couple months later the Council shook up the staff when some members read and questioned the staff’s recommendation to rehabilitate the shoreline of Webster Lake. Staff had received a sealed bid in the amount of $47,558 in early December but recommended awarding the low bidder a contract for $183,943 for a greatly enlarged project.

When I and others questioned the staff’s recommendation on new financial software purchase, a very public debate incurred in the press and blogs. We were successful in obtaining new bids. Staff got their vendor and Council’s actions saved over $300,000.

As the two examples demonstrate, staff is now aware that some members of the Council are reading and evaluating their recommendations or as otherwise stated; fulfilling their responsibility to the residents. Some members of staff have embraced the new scrutiny and some have voluntarily left. The quality of the recommendations and the thoroughness of review have made for better governance.

In the second quarter of the year the Council conducted a two day retreat that resulted in the subsequent adoption of a Code of Conduct and Protocols for our relationship with each other and with the staff. I think the two most important and successful norms have been to not question each other’s motives and to debate, decide and move on.

On August 28th we unanimously finalized an ordinance that took back a delegation of authority that should never have been approved years earlier. The Council is once again in control of employee wages and all benefits. The question for tomorrow is whether we will use it or defer to staff’s recommendations. Salary surveys and wage increases have occurred each and every year while the City’s ability to pay without adversely impacting projects and services has yet to be considered.

We were also dealt a few lemons that the Council and staff addressed in a positive manner.

The 2007 Council adopted a budget for 08 that intentionally over spent the general fund in the amount of $5.9 million. In addition, (1) The finance staff forgot to account for the sales tax incentive payments previously committed that enticed three major retailers to the city. (2) The finance staff over estimated 08 sales tax revenues. (3) The finance staff did not adjust the starting balance in the 2008 general fund to match the audited yearend balance from 2007. The three errors by the former Finance Director and Manager amounted to an additional deficit of $2.0 million.

On the positive side, when Acting Manager Allen learned of the shortage he took immediate action with the concurrence of Council to cut 08 expenses successfully. With his and then Acting Manager Hayes’s help Council was then able to draft and approve a 2009 temporary budget that only over spends the general fund in the amount of $876,649. Even with this deficit we will remain above our self-imposed minimum of a 25% fund balance. The third error was not known January 29th and will be addressed, along with the recession during February and early March.

On October 23rd Mayor Novak and I sponsored a resolution recognizing the uncertainty of the economy and its potential impact on the City. With the recession at hand, the majority of Council members knew the budget we would be approving would require substantial modification in early 2009. In the resolution the employee pay plan and individual pay steps were frozen. Additionally, all hiring was frozen pending Council exceptions for budgeted positions and Council agreed to revisit the soon to be adopted budget during the first quarter of 2009.

We will be addressing the third error of $646,800 in the immediate future. A truly balanced general fund is only $1,523,449 away assuming the recession does not deepen and revenue projections hold. The Council and City Manager Simmons are poised and determined to make 2009 a successful year. Meanwhile, next week I’ll look back on the negative side of 2008.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Garner Abusing Staff and Residents Again


If you haven’t read the bilge published by Rosie Garner in YourHub first, please do since the following is in response the bilge.

The City of Northglenn does not have financial problems. City employees providing residents with expected services are not going to be laid off. The Council is cooperating with North Metro Fire to correct the deficiencies in the recreation building according to North Metro’s schedule. Senior staff positions are being covered and will be filled.

Why do I begin with this damage control? Because,” the most vicious person at the city” is terrifying the employees and residents in an attempt to restart her campaign for next year’s mayoral election. The quote comes from a former member of the City Council. I became aware of it last year and personally heard it this year. Rosie Garner is not now on the City Council but the viciousness remains.

The former City Manager is responsible for the senior staff vacancies; not the City Council or any of its members. In fact, he is now with the City of Sheridan as Interim City Manager and personnel are quitting right and left. Unfortunately one of his lieutenants is here and spreading terror among the employees under the pretence of “knowing the truth, (wink).” That should be a crime for what it is doing to morale.

Speaking of finances, what do you think of this plan? We will start using 100% of our annual revenues for operating expenses and pay for all capital improvements out of our savings account. Rosie’s City Councils did that every year starting in 2003.

We’ve now hit the absolute bottom in savings so what do you think the new Councils have to do? In general, we need to reallocate the annual revenues to cover maintenance, operating and now capital expenses. The solution lies in the details and lower revenues are not going to make the choices easier.

Speaking of police vacancies, you’ll have to ask the Chief and the former Manager as to why they exist since Council has not taken any formal or informal action and the two of them were fighting constantly. I’d like to see many of the positions filled from within using the surplus promoted personnel.

Finally, Rosie made the specific allegation that the Council majority will circumvent the fire code violations that currently exist. First off, the Fire Chief admits that the deficiencies in the building have existed for many years and his inspectors are at fault for not noting or reporting them to the city earlier. Second, as far as circumventing the violations, shame on you for making the vicious, false allegation. What could you have hoped to gain.

Friday, July 04, 2008

City Council is Changing Direction; Slowly

Would you intentionally plan on over spending your annual salary by 23% percent each year just because you had the money in the savings and didn’t want to give up any of your “feel good” activities? The City of Northglenn has for years. I’ll finish up with some surprising numbers; but first.

The City Council experienced a change in direction during the first six months of this year. I hope those of you who follow city activities are pleased with the progress thus far. There were several five to four and six to three votes early on but the consensus building continues.

There will be more split votes as we face some hard financial decisions. Individual members, just like residents, have their own set of core values and differences will continue, but we will be professional in our deliberations. Whenever there is change there is generally conflict but we will continue working through it for the good of the residents.

Here are some decisions that I feel are in keeping with your wishes. Term limits on the members of the appointed, advisory commissions and boards was killed. Council increased it oversight of expenditures by decreasing the manager’s unilateral spending authority from fifty to twenty-five thousand dollars per purchase. A ballot issue was authorized for this November which will eliminate further controversial decisions by lame-duck councils as happened last November.

It took some split votes and shocked a few staff members but we’ve saved a few dollars. Three examples: The prior Council’s $500,000 budget to beautify the soon to be reconstructed 104th Ave. bridge and approaches was cut in half. By directing that the position of Deputy Manager not be filled, a $100,000 was saved. Temporarily blocking the staff’s request to purchase Springbrook’s Software until Innoprise Software was fairly evaluated saved $440,000.

The Council has also taken some major steps to upgrade staff performance in the procurement process. Last November staff obtained a low bid on a project for $49,000 and asked Council in March to use the bid to award an expanded contract amounting to $180,000. Council thought it was unethical and sent it back to staff for rebidding.

On another project, the specifications were so loose that one company bid $87,919 using one technique for cleaning and sealing arterial fences and another bid $217,615 using different techniques. Both met the staff member’s specifications. Council sent it back to staff for new specifications and bids.

Deficit Spending: The 2008 budget adopted by the old Council shows general fund revenues of $21,466,156 and expenditures of $26,478,933. The deficit of $4,932,987 is covered by the year-end fund balance. At the end of 2001 the fund balance was just over $17.1 million. At the end of last year it was down to $9.5 million. If the budget is followed, it will be $4.6 million at the end of this year. Next year? Help!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Council Agrees on Issue Priorities

The Council Members spent two days together in early April for the purpose of discussing their working relationship and a joint approach addressing various municipal issues. For the last two months you have seen one result; meeting decorum. This last Saturday we met with staff and shared our priorities from the April retreat.

TOP PRIORITY
120th Development—Recreation Center—Street Funding—Water Rights and Services—Empty Grocery Stores

HIGH PRIORITY
Comprehensive Master Plan—Solid Waste Collection and Recycling—Prioritization of City Services—Code Enforcement—Water and Sewer Infrastructure—Financial Software

MODERATE PRIORITY
Northglenn Neighborhood Development Corp—Foreclosures—Marketplace Long-Term Strategy—City Cost Reduction Plan

For the Top and High Priorities the Council has already identified Key Issues and Work elements to be pursued. It should be kept in mind that the prioritization was based on current circumstances and thought at the time.

While members of the Council will differ on the ways and means of accomplishing the desired outcomes, I believe we will do so in a collaborative manner. You will see the above information, with more detail, on the City web page in the very near future.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Manager's Departure Draws Mud


On the evening of May 22nd the Council met in two executive sessions for the purpose of discussing two unrelated subjects. The following morning AJ Krieger agreed to submit his resignation effective that day after a settlement agreement was negotiated. The two previous managers resigned in early 2001 and February 2006.

Former Council member, Rosie Garner, was a participant in the 2006 resignation and directly involved in issues surrounding Mr. Krieger last fall. In a letter to the Northglenn-Thornton Sentinel and in a mass email, she is back on the campaign trail again. This time she is evidently claiming a bad memory. Let me help.

Come on, Rosie, you are summoning residents to the June 12th Council meeting to object to an action that you, yourself, took in February 2006. Then as it is now, the Council united in a super majority for the purpose of requesting a resignation from a sitting manager.

On the 12th the Council will listen to residents; some of which you have incited to heap accolades on Mr. Krieger while condemning us. Questions: Would you have formed an opinion after discussing all the details in private and then break faith with the other eight because of an orchestrated public protest?

Would you have taken the confidential information at your disposal and made it public? You didn’t and We will not either. Your current mudslinging is no different or anymore accurate than it was last fall so keep pitching into the wind. The members of this Council want to move forward together. Try helping instead of campaigning.

From what I’ve read, Rosie has a good idea of why Mr. Krieger is resigning. Since she personally fought to increase the amount of severance pay that can not be the reason she is rallying people to attend the meeting.

Due to her admiration for certain members of the staff, including Mr. Krieger, she cannot be encouraging him to withdraw the resignation. It makes no sense for him to take a termination without health insurance. Since she voted for Nelson’s resignation package in 2006, it can’t be that she doesn’t understand the process.

Less than a month after the residents turned her out of office, and a month before I took office, she started her public campaign to regain it through a recall election. She needs to distort the record and create justifications for the petition. She also needs to demonstrate her power to motive residents while testing the waters. The shoe does fit.

Questions on any subject? gwieneke@comcast.net or (303) 457-0858