Mayors from Arvada, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Golden and Westminster gathered Nov. 16 at the Arvada Chamber of Commerce's Third Friday Breakfast to share their thoughts on issues that affect all …
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Mayors from Arvada, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Golden and Westminster gathered Nov. 16 at the Arvada Chamber of Commerce's Third Friday Breakfast to share their thoughts on issues that affect all communities.
Growth was the first issue tackled.
“I think when you look at growth plans, you have to look at the services you need,” said Arvada Mayor Marc Williams, adding that when Arvada is built out to full growth it will be home to 160,000 people.
Westminster Mayor Herb Atchison said it's about looking and the land the city has left and how to use it for quality growth while understanding the limitations.
Balance between residential, commercial and government infrastructure is that Golden Mayor Marjorie Sloan said is most important, Golden being one of the communities with little land to expand.
“In Golden we changed from growth to redevelopment,” Sloan said. “What we're looking at is the bet way to increase the efficiency of our land use and still maintain the character and community feel. Easy to say, difficult to put into practice.”
An increased amount of residents experiencing homelessness is something all communities in Jefferson County and the surrounding areas have experienced over the last couple years. At the forum, mayors were asked about the best solution for tackling the issues and whose responsibility it should be.
“The best solution is to involve city, county, state and federal government in partnership with businesses, with nonprofit community groups, with faith groups —with everyone essentially,” Sloan said. “True solutions will focus on causes including wages, physical and mental health as well as the cost and availability of housing, transportation and all the other livability factors. The responsibility falls to all of us and I believe all the mayors up here have recognized that responsibility because no one community is going to solve it.”
Wheat Ridge Mayor Bud Starker agrees with the collaborative approach and said the key is a continued conversation and education around affordable housing options and wrap-around services.
“This is an issue that not only transcends our cities and counties, our state, but it is a nationwide issue,” Starker said.
Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul steered the conversation toward the approximately 3,000 students in Jefferson County Public Schools who are identified as experiencing homelessness in some way.
“That's not OK,” Paul said. “We pay into an animal shelter in Jefferson County and we make sure our animals are sheltered. We have zero permanent beds in a community of 600,000 for our homeless community. How do we fix that … There are many people in Jefferson County who are working and have jobs and can't afford to live.”
Williams agreed that the invisible homeless — people living in cars and couch surfing — are a concern and said that Arvada will be working with the city of Wheat Ridge to determine if a transitional housing opportunity exists between the two cities.
“That's going to be an interesting discussion because of the NIMBY issue — people not wanting it in their back yards,” Williams said. “But we can't just ignore the problem. We have to address it and continue to work.”
With growth and homelessness among the issues that create strong opinions, the mayors were asked how they work to increase civility in their cities. The answer was respect and face-to-face conversations.
“Say what you mean, but don't say it mean,” Paul said. “I think with the appetite of social media, it's created a platform for people to have anonymity and that's not helping the conversation.”
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