Refocusing a priority

Bill Christopher
Posted

It is most encouraging to observe a refocusing on a basic tenet of good government practices which involves our local area governmental entities. Thanks to the leadership of Westminster Mayor Herb Atchison and the support of the Westminster City Council, a new era has begun. It is not difficult. It is not expensive. Citizens and voters expect it.

Why there was a lack of emphasis on it over the past 10-plus years and especially during the Great Recession has been a real puzzlement to me. What is the refocus that has been rekindled? In a word, it is cooperation. It starts with an initiative by one party to another with a big batch of communications to follow which then opens doors to cooperative and collaborative opportunities. And guess what — everyone wins.

One of mayoral candidate Atchison’s platforms during the campaign was to re-establish cooperative opportunities with the other governmental entities which share constituencies with Westminster.

Just last week, he initiated a “first” by having Westminster host a joint meeting with all three school boards and superintendents at the table which serve the 38-square-mile area of the City. Adams 12, Adams 50 and Jeffco R-1 elected officials were there with their superintendents to first get to know each other better and to “open doors” for future exchanges of ideas, mutual problem-solving, cost savings and how to embrace a better holistic community. After all, our city leaders should strive for the success of the students in the three subject school districts as they are tomorrow’s citizens and residents.

An earlier joint meeting held was also Westminster’s doing to bring the two sets of county commissioners together with Westminster elected officials. Adams and Jefferson counties participated in this unique gathering. Again, the opportunity was created to share thoughts without a predetermined agenda and get to know each other better. It is always easier to pick up the phone or send an email to someone regarding an issue or idea when you already know each other.

Years ago, Westminster prided itself in the emphasis placed on intergovernmental cooperation. Over 100 intergovernmental agreements (IGA’s) were achieved on a wide variety of programs, projects and solving problems. For example, cost savings have been realized over the past 20 years by Adams 50 School District and the City. Diesel fuel purchases by the City through the District saved the City. Asphalt purchased through the City by the District saved the District a higher cost.

Westminster bought treated water from the City of Thornton for many years when initially Westminster needed more water for its Growth Management Plan in the 1980’s. The “Four-Way Agreement” with Farmers Reservoir & Irrigation Company, City of Northglenn, City of Thornton and Westminster distributed water operations costs and water storage in Standley Lake reservoir in an equitable way.

The rekindling of opportunities for cooperation and collaboration is overdue. While I know that cooperative agreements have been realized in the past 10-plus years, my point is there is a lot of room for expansion of this basic tenet of good government practices. It is exciting to think of what might come about with all interested parties sitting at the table with a common motivation on a variety of pending nagging issues and opportunities.