A letter to city council written by two citizen action groups was discussed at the Feb. 7 Arvada City Council meeting as council prepares for its annual strategic planning retreat. In the letter, Arvadans for Progressive Action and Arvadans for Social Justice lobby council for increased transparency, affordable housing, diversity and for a halt to development near Rocky Flats.
APA’s letter comes as council prepares for its annual retreat – slated for March 4 – which focuses on “Setting the vision for the city,” according to Deputy City Manager Laurie Gillis. Councilmembers have until Feb. 11 to submit pre-retreat surveys to the city team.
The letter has a strong focus on sustainable development and growth, as well as an emphasis on protecting the city’s environmental interests. Eleven APA members spoke during the public comment portion of the Feb. 7 city council meeting, advocating for council to consider the letter’s suggestions.
APA Leader Rebekah Hernandez said that the group – which includes 500 members, in addition to Arvadans for Social Justice’s 500 Facebook group members – drafted and redrafted the letter over a three-month period while gauging imputes from group members and others that live in the community.
“Throughout this letter writing process, I was in complete disbelief at just how many residents you represent brought forth ideas,” Hernandez said. “We hope that by presenting you this letter, we’re building a bridge and tackling each of these issues in a unified way.”
APA Member Bruce Morrison said that his family has lived in the city for 33 years and stated that a family in a similar financial situation could not afford to buy a similar house in Arvada today. APA’s letter urges a formation of a Housing Advisory Committee with members from different fields to address the “housing crisis in Jefferson County.”
“(I urge you) to take seriously the issues raised in our letter. All of the recommendations in the APA letter are very doable and should be pursued with a real sense of urgency because they are important to the future of Arvada,” Morrison said.
Arvada Mayor Marc Williams said that asked Gillis to ensure that a copy of the letter was delivered to councilmembers before the deadline for the pre-retreat survey.
“I think it would be beneficial for us to have that as prepare… to get a sense of where people stand, at least from that group we can have their perspective and decide what of those things we want to prioritize as part of our strategic planning as well,” Williams said.
Other members of APA who spoke at council discussed other points of the letter including the Jefferson Parkway, a suggestion to hire a staff member to help apply for affordable housing grant money and the proposed disbanding of the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority.
“I’ve long been concerned about AURA not only due to the large amount of our tax revenue that are at the disposal of an unelected board but also because of the coziness with big developers that I’ve seen,” APA member Joyce Richardson said. “I feel that AURA should be incorporated into Arvada’s city structure for better oversight or disbanded altogether.”
Kathleen Flynn, also an APA member, urged council to abandon the Jefferson Parkway project – a proposal to complete the Highway 470 beltway that’s been in the works since 2008 – due to environmental concerns with continued development near Rocky Flats.
“Plutonium has a half-life of 24,110 years, so if you postpone the plan until then, it would be safer for all of us,” Flynn said. “High winds are common across the Rocky Flats site, and small particles of plutonium when disturbed in the soil can attach to very small particles of dust and be blown across Arvada and our neighbors in Westminster and Denver.”
APA’s letter also praised the city’s work on creating a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce and urged the city to launch the group in the first quarter of 2022, though other public commenters disagreed with that suggestion.
“I’m here tonight to express my frustration with the council’s intention to hire a firm to conduct a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion audit in our city,” Chelsea Canda, a District 1 City Council Candidate in 2021 said. “I’m not sure this is an appropriate use of city funds… When it comes to city employees, the only thing that should matter is whether or not the person hired is qualified.”
APA’s letter closes with a request that the city implement the suggestions over a two-year period. APA’s letter can be accessed here.