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Villager Newspaper: Candidates Share Visions With Residents

The Villager Newspaper – Politics – More about panache than policy: Cherry Hills Village mayor candidates share their vision to residents; election April 3

Mayor candidates Russell Stewart, Doug Tisdale and Joseph Poché speak to Cherry Hills Village residents at a mayor forum March 12 at Cherry Hills Elementary. Photo by Clarissa Crozier

By Clarissa Crozier When the three candidates for Cherry Hills Village mayor addressed residents March 13, it quickly became evident that they are mostly in agreement about what they feel citizens in the Village want. Even their methods for achieving progress are similar. In the April 3 election, either Joseph Poché, Russell Stewart or Doug Tisdale will take over the position of mayor. A total of 31 audience members met at Cherry Hills Elementary for the forum. The event was the result of efforts by Laura Christman, Planning and Zoning Commission vice-chair; Laura Smith, city clerk; and Debbie Welles, Blue Ribbon panel for Parks, Trails, Recreation and Open Space member. Welles read the prepared questions and each candidate was allowed two minutes to answer each question before the microphone had to be given up. They answered nine questions in rotation, taking turns being first to answer. The candidates’ first turn at the microphone was an opportunity to share what they like the best about living in Cherry Hills Village. Stewart talked about his childhood memories living in the city, playing along the High Line Canal and the city’s rich history. Tisdale pointed to the people whom he described as generous, caring, involved and inspirational. Poché talked about both people and the city environment. If you could change something in the Village, what would it be and how as mayor would you effect that change? Tisdale addressed property tax revenues and the recession’s impact on the Village. “We depend upon property tax revenues to provide all of the services we have, and for our ability to acquire additional open space and to take care of the space that we do have and are custodians of,” Tisdale said. “As [revenues] have gone down, we have difficulty trying to meet all of these wonderful services that we love. As mayor, I will help to stabilize property values by working with neighborhoods and associations for cleanup projects, adding underground utilities where there are none … and have new construction meet environmental sustainable models … expand open space where we can to stabilize property values.” Poché explained that in his work on the Planning and Zoning Commission he has seen traffic as a constant concern. He said he would use the Master Plan to work on transportation issues. Stewart also referred to the Master Plan and brought up the need to consolidate sewers in the city. “There is lots of disorganization … and sewers need to be consolidated and we need to bring the septic fields into our system,” Stewart said. He also talked about open space and burying power lines. In a period of declining tax collections, what are your capital expense budget priorities? In addition, what opportunities have you identified to keep both operating and capital expenses within budget? Poché said he has no preconceived ideas or thumbnail of the budget, but he represents a fiscally conservative position. He related his success in business as a leadership of “watching pennies, and the dollars will follow.” Stewart said his first priority is to finish and preserve the new fire and police facility on budget. Tisdale added his support for completing the safety facility and added implementation of the design for the rest of the Village Center, as well as acquisition of additional open space as priorities. How would you recommend citizens vote on the ballot amendment regarding parks? What do you see as the long-term implications of approval, including potential risks and benefits? All three candidates are in support of protection of parks and recommended a vote of yes. Stewart explained that the motivation for the amendment he penned was South Suburban’s putting a fair market value on parks and the Village’s separation from South Suburban. He also talked about the means that other cities use to protect their assets, but in the case of the Village, a City Charter change makes sense to protect the community value of parks. Tisdale verbalized the impact of the amendment putting present and future parks in public trust where not even City Council can decide their fate. “[This amendment] gives the citizens the right, should they choose in the future as a Village, acting collectively in a vote, to change their minds,” he said. “That is the way it would be done; not by a vote of six council members who do not have that power under this amendment.” Poché said the amendment supports the Master Plan and resident vision for parks. When a property owner comes before City Council seeking to waive existing ordinances, to the extent that the Council is permitted to take such matters into consideration, what weight should be given to neighborhood concerns, community input and applicant’s request? Tisdale answered first and explained the two roles that City Council plays: legislative (making laws/ordinances) and quasi-judicial (application of ordinance). He further explained that when council enters the quasi-judicial role they can only act upon the evidence that is presented. Decisions must be made according to the evidence in each individual situation. Poché expressed that this sort of discussion is common on Planning and Zoning. He said, “The role of dealing with this issue resides with council, not necessarily the mayor. Of course, the mayor votes in case of a tie, but he should exercise leadership. … Best answer is for the council to weigh the information. I have to believe the issue can be better adjudicated, the judicial part of it, with the Board of Adjustments as opposed to City Council.” He said in the mayor position he would listen to all evidence and help council balance the needs. Stewart said, “If we have an ordinance that allows the city council to regulate it, I don’t think those are good.” He said that if written code is good, follow it, if not, legislatively change the code. “Everyone should be treated equally … When people do come in, over the last six years, council does listen. With some things we just have to say ‘here are the standards, and we have to side with the standard’ and public comment can’t really help with that decision.” Bridle trails have been a historic part of Cherry Hills Village, what should their future be? Poché said the trails are not in jeopardy because the Master Plan outlines their value to the community. “The Village spoke clearly in the development of the Master Plan and what they wanted to do with parks and trails,” Poché said. “They need to stay.” Stewart also referred to the Master Plan but added his vision to expand and increase the trail system. “The ballot issue talks about parks only, it doesn’t talk about trails,” Stewart said. “The reason for that is because there are times when the trails were given to us by property owners and they don’t go anywhere, but we take them hoping to extend them in the future. We do need the flexibility to negotiate and to incorporate sometimes. … The trails are a high priority. The trail system is what people talk about when they talk about the Village.” Tisdale said in humor, “I wish my opponents had said ‘What we need to do with the trails is asphalt them, stripe them and use them for parking.’ This could have been such an easy election.” Getting serious, he said, “None of us would ever dream of taking away any portion of the system of trails. We have the orphan trails that Russell [Stewart] was talking about, but either you can link it or you can trade it and that is why you want to keep all [the trails] you can. But the future of the bridle trails is good and the future of the bridle trails is that we will always have them with us.” Council’s time can be consumed by many short-term issues. How will you work with Council to assure long-term issues facing our community are addressed? Using the Master Plan and city budget is how Stewart would set priorities. He explained that the question precludes that some issues are perhaps less important than others and said he felt all issues are important. “Clearly, to make sure we have a long-term plan it is remembering to implement the Master Plan,” Stewart said. “It does have a guideline of what we need to do. … Everything must be done within the budget, but certainly if we have a priority its on the Master Plan.” Also deferring to the Master Plan, Tisdale said, “The Master Plan had its genesis in two particular things that you are probably familiar with. First, the original master plan, a very simple document for simpler times, had an elegant statement relevant to what we were trying to achieve. It served its purpose. Then we organized the Blue Ribbon panel to give us input relative to what we should be doing, and that was the impetus for the new Master Plan. We had just begun the process when I went off the council in 2008 and the new council carried it forward and did an exceptional job of bringing that [document] forward. … Every time a short-term issue arises we must hold it up to the Master Plan.” Listening was the key point Poché made. “The people are important as is the land and the value of the land. I can’t think of an issue that is trivial or small enough to be insignificant. … There is nothing that is small; we have to look at everything. Council and the mayor must listen to what people are saying. Listen. Listen. Listen.” Many people in our community think there is a stark choice between spending on open space or a new Village Center. As mayor do you agree or not and what do you think is in the best long-term interest of the community? Starting the conversation, Tisdale said he felt the Village could have both. “Do we want to do Phase 2 of the Village Center conceptual plan or do we want to acquire more open space? I believe that, in fact, ultimately we can have both. Some of that requires creative financing. We’ve explored some of these [financial options] in the past and implemented only a few. We have relied upon the philanthropy of others, there are other roads available.” Poché said his priority lies with open space because the current Village Center works. “Open space is THE priority of the community. I’ve lived in Colorado a long time and I’ve visited a lot of small towns – I know that the staff complains about the Village Center and it would be nice to have something more modern, but if our priority is with open space, it makes sense to use what you have [current Village Center] if it works.” Stewart explained that when CHV separated from South Suburban, the discussion of what to do with the money that would be saved was to spend it on open space. “Part of the anger over a new Village Center was that it was going to take money that should have been used for open space.” Over the last six years council preserved the open space priority without spending any money. Property was acquired by donation and Stewart says there are more options available. Other than as tiebreaker, what do you view as the primary role of the mayor in a municipality such as ours? Poché said he sees the mayor as a decision maker in concert with council and staff, a facilitator, a city PR person and liaison with other jurisdictions. Stewart was quick to commend term-limited Mayor Mike Wozniak and the work he has done behind the scenes with personnel and litigation. Based on Wozniak’s term, Stewart then outlined the role of mayor as setting the city agenda, providing legal guidance, and working with human resources. Using the term “bully pulpit” Tisdale said the mayor should, from his bully pulpit work with other communities to the benefit of CHV, set the tone of the council, offer leadership and maintain the vision for the city. Following the nearly an hour of questions the audience mingled with the candidates and asked questions of their own. Ballots must be received at the Village Center by 7 p.m., April 3, to be counted for this year’s municipal election.

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