Author Archives: fredkirsch

U+2, the Occupancy Ordinance

U+2 is the city law stating that no more than 3 unrelated people may live together. According to a new study, 78% of residents say that the law doesn’t affect them. So why should we care?

Even if this doesn’t directly affect you, there are two important reasons to repeal U+2:

1. U+2 is discriminatory against unrelated people who want to live together. Two couples can’t live in the same house. Four college students can’t live together. Four service workers working to make ends meet can’t live together. An elderly couple struggling to pay property tax can’t rent out 2 rooms. This law, intentionally or not, targets lower income earners and makes it more difficult to live in Fort Collins.

2. U+2 drives up the cost of housing. The same study, commissioned by the City, says that U+2 “increases rental demand and contributes to low vacancy rates (and thus cost increases).” Low vacancy rates impact home prices as well as rents.

By driving up rents, U+2 may have the ironic effect of attracting landlords who allow their houses to deteriorate and their tenants to become the neighborhood nuisance that U+2 is supposed to alleviate.

Oh, and then there’s Federal law:

Federal law says that, in general, landlords must allow at least two persons per bedroom. Landlords can be more restrictive only in rare instances. For example, a policy of only three persons in a two-bedroom unit might be acceptable if the landlord can prove it is truly based on the limitations of the plumbing system or some other aspect of the building’s infrastructure.
 (nolo.com)

The problem that U+2 is meant to address is neighborhood nuisance and excessive traffic and parked cars. We have nuisance codes that are effective in protecting neighborhood quality. Parking permits, car-sharing, and better transit can address the car problem. We don’t need to put landlords in violation of Federal law and tell people who they can and can’t live with.

What makes an “environmental candidate”?

I see that it is popular for candidates to talk about their outdoor recreation. I too like to play outside. Tubing the Poudre is one of my favorite June activities.¬†I think the City should do all that we can to stop NISP from taking Poudre water. ¬†As councilperson I will work to get the city of Thorton to extract their water downstream from Fort Collins. Save the Poudre calls this the greatest potential river restoration project in Colorado history. Maybe there are other opportunities to move irrigation diversion downstream. We should pursue “Cash for Grass”, a program where the water utility pays for residential xeriscaping because it’s cheaper than building a new reservoir. Even if I didn’t like to play in the river I would support and fight for these measures.¬†

I also like to walk Olive through Pineridge open space and behind the former Hughes Stadium. I hope to one day get up to Soapstone Natural Area and enjoy the $11 million that we’ve invested there. But my personal recreation habits aren’t why you should vote for me. My 19 year career as an environmental activist should demonstrate my dedication to environmental preservation. My creative and practical ideas about how to protect the environment and my network with other environmental activists are why I think that I’m the best candidate on environmental issues.

While other candidates talk about their concern for the environment (which is good), I’m the only candidate who has actively fought against fracking throughout the north Front Range, worked on Fort Collins climate change policy, been a part of the coalition for 100% Renewable Energy, pushed for energy efficiency programs, organized for a better Transfort, and am currently working on a plan to get solar on school roofs. I have put my passion for the environment at the forefront of my career and I challenge any other candidate who claims to be THE environmental candidate.

Adoption of 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030

Coloradoan Article for District 6 Candidates

Here’s the full text for those who don’t subscribe to the Coloradoan:

Northwest Fort Collins is losing two-term council member Gerry Horak to term limits but has three candidates to choose from for his successor.

Lori Brunswig¬†is an engineer with a background on the Sierra Club’s fracking committee and the city’s water board;¬†Emily Gorgol¬†brings experience at La Familia¬†and backing from many prominent public figures in the city; and¬†Fred Kirsch¬†is an environmental activist simultaneously pushing for full-time pay for council members.

Here are their views, presented in alphabetical order.

Experience

Brunswig: Avery Park and Rolland Moore neighborhood organizer who worked on quality of life issues that she tied to the update to U+2; two terms on the city’s water board.

Gorgol: Serves on the city’s women’s commission and is the special projects manager at the Family Center/La Familia.

Kirsch: Director of Community for Sustainable Energy, served on Climate Action Plan Citizen Advisory committee.

See¬†Brunswig‘s,¬†Gorgol‘s and¬†Kirsch‘s full answers to Coloradoan questionnaire.

 

The city’s role in affordable and attainable housing

Brunswig: Supports working with Housing Catalyst and supportive of developments with mixed housing levels and high-efficiency features. Says affordable developments and energy efficiency and solar energy need to be linked.

Gorgol: Wants a more aggressive approach. Supports higher density where appropriate as well as infill and redevelopment. Wants more incentives and requirements for affordable housing units in large developments and mixed-income housing opportunities. Supports down-payment loan assistance and possible expansion of the city’s land bank program.

Kirsch: Encourages more variety in housing, including small-lot development, auxiliary dwelling units and building codes to allow more variety and affordable building materials, like straw bale construction.

The occupancy limitation ordinance (U+2)

Brunswig: Supports keeping U+2 in place, saying it is protection for neighborhood livability, reduces market pressures on people buying homes and has increased production in apartment developments.

Gorgol: Isn’t convinced a “one-size-fits-all” policy is fair to homeowners, landlords and renters. Says it has good intentions¬†and doesn’t support revoking the policy without something in place to maintain neighborhood quality.

Kirsch: “The idea that the city can tell you who to live with is immoral, discriminatory and possibly a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act.” Says nuisance codes and parking permits can protect neighborhood livability.

Homelessness and disruptive behaviors (rightly or wrongly) associated with that population

Brunswig: Would look to experts and organizations on solutions.

Gorgol: Supports solutions like Redtail Ponds’ permanent supportive housing. Wants a balanced approach toward disruptive behaviors, including increased visibility and proactive community engagement by law enforcement along with¬†pulling away from punitive and aggressive prevention¬†to protect individual rights and¬†businesses while discouraging disruptive behavior.

Kirsch: Wants to explore Salt Lake City’s “Housing First” program and work with the Homeless Coalition and service providers for solutions. Says disruptive behaviors need to be addressed regardless of the housing status of the perpetrator.

Traffic congestion and emissions

Brunswig: Notes poor air quality in District 6 and its dense population. Supports mass transit improvements.

Gorgol: Wants to explore emerging technology such as ride sharing, electric vehicles and artificial intelligence for traffic signal timing. Wants to build on MAX’s success to expand transit options and encourage less driving with residential and commercial development and redevelopment.

Kirsch: Would explore an independent regional transit district; is excited for new transit possibilities from a possible partnership with ride share services and Transfort. Wants greater public participation in the city bike plan to avoid situations like residents who are unhappy with the Mulberry Avenue bike lane near City Park.

The city’s Climate Action Plan/2030 carbon-free goals

Brunswig: Commends the city and Platte River Power Authority for their goals but would like to see even faster development, if possible.

Gorgol: Supports the plan and wants the city to encourage other Platte River Power Authority customers to similarly support the goal.

Kirsch: Says we need “a lot more ‘action’ in the Climate Action Plan” and more accountability from city staff.¬†Suggests looking at leasing roof space for utility-owned solar panels.

Density and growth

Brunswig: Warns that growth in some areas of the city is already at “unsustainable levels,” leading to traffic and parking issues and poor air quality. Says the city’s transit-oriented development skimps on parking and forces the problem into the neighborhoods.

Gorgol: Wants to ensure smart growth and growth that pays for itself. Higher density developments where appropriate will allow for smarter transit solutions.

Kirsch: Wants to slow growth and increase density. Suggests helping other communities achieve Fort Collins’ quality of life, including possibly alleviating “immigration pressures by sharing our experiences with communities throughout the Americas.”

Utility rates and time-of-day pricing

Brunswig: Wishes the city communicated the pricing change better and says it makes it hard for many people to use energy when it is least expensive. Hopes residents can adjust schedules to benefit.

Gorgol: Says time-of-day pricing takes a market-oriented approach to encouraging energy conservation and can help residents save money. Acknowledges possible hardship on some families and supports income-qualified vouchers for electricity.

Kirsch: Says time-of-day rates will be out of date in 2021 and dynamic pricing needs to follow solar and wind energy production. Wants the city utility and Platte River Power Authority to provide energy storage for intermittent energy sources, like solar.

Addressing future water needs

Brunswig: Calls Halligan Reservoir expansion necessary but difficult to support because it supports population growth. Supports city encouragement toward water conservation and protecting peak flows in the Poudre River.

Gorgol: Encourages a regional approach to meeting water needs while encouraging conservation, water efficiency and protecting local resources. Supports incentives for water-efficient fixtures and xeriscaping. Encourages more mitigation investment if the Northern Integrated Supply Project is built; supports Halligan Reservoir expansion as having minimal environmental impact compared with new projects.

Kirsch: Supports conservation first and says city should adopt a “least intensity” policy for irrigation that promotes xeriscaping. Any water storage projects, such as the Halligan Reservoir expansion, should include “a strict conservation prerequisite.”

The topless ban ordinance and appealing its enforcement to the U.S. Supreme Court

Brunswig: Calls the¬†appellate court’s decision that it is unconstitutional “unfortunate” but doesn’t believe costs of an appeal to the Supreme Court would be justified.

Gorgol: From a “purely equal-rights perspective” suggests the law may have good intentions but be unjust and unconstitutional. Finds it regretful that the city continues to spend time and resources defending it¬†when “we have a lot bigger issues on our plates to deal with.”

Kirsch: Says it is “ridiculous” and hopes city money isn’t being¬†spent. Says if women are required to cover their nipples, men should be as well.

What else?

Brunswig: Wants to address minimum wage issues, equity issues faced by minority groups, mental health treatment and a lack of diversity in city management positions.

Gorgol: Says her focus isn’t on a single issue¬†but “supporting the needs of all community members, especially those who have not historically had a voice in local government.”

Kirsch: Wants greater transparency and accountability from the City Council, city manager, planning and zoning department and other key leadership. Proposes council members make monthly activity reports and the city manager and planning and zoning board host biannual a “public accountability session,” while city departments provide quarterly reports of budget-funded programs.

 

I really enjoyed meeting with the Cops!

One of the perks of running for City Council is the opportunity to meet with various constituent groups. We often talk about how well the City of Fort Collins is working for them and how I might be able to help if elected. I recently met with the Fraternal Order of Police and it turns out that we share some of the same concerns about City Council.

I met with Chris Renn of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) at the Old Town Library¬†to discuss the relationship between the FOP and City leadership. The FOP is the local police officer’s union and lobbyist for police officer issues.

They are working to get City Council to add a conflict resolution clause in their compensation contract negotiations. Through conflict resolution an independent arbitrator settles irreconcilable differences. If the arbitration is rejected, then the question can go to Fort Collins voters to decide. Conflict resolution is the norm in negotiating public contracts. Poudre Fire Department has conflict resolution with the City. By not having conflict resolution with the police, the City maintains an unfair negotiating advantage.

Chris said that, in individual conversations, the City Council members support conflict resolution but they can’t seem to get it done.¬†I experience this all the time working with City Council.¬†A Councilperson will claim to be a champion of an idea but go silent in the face of complication or adversity.¬†If Council can’t address the issue, then the FOP will have to go out and get voter signatures to put conflict resolution on the ballot. That would put the City at odds with the police in a very public way that would rightfully undermine confidence in the City Council.

If we don’t appropriately value our Police Services then we run the risk of losing the ability to attract and retain good police officers. That’s when people get hurt. And that’s when the City gets sued. In the end it is cheaper and more effective to¬†fairly¬†negotiate from the beginning.

I support the FOP’s efforts to get conflict resolution in negotiations. I support their work (and others’) to reduce violent police encounters, and to protect the officers and the public while the police do their job of protecting us all.

Keeping Thornton water in the Poudre River

The City of Thornton is claiming their right to take Poudre River water for their growing population. At question is whether they will take the water out of the river above Fort Collins or below Fort Collins. If they take it out above town, the river through Fort Collins and recreational opportunities will suffer. If they take it out below town, it will be more expensive to bring the water to drinking water standards. I suggest that the two cities partner to keep the Poudre River clean so that Fort Collins can have our river and Thornton can get clean water.

(Please excuse the shirt. It was a long night!)

LEED certified Police Training Center

At issue is the shared police training facility planned for Fort Collins and Loveland. Loveland doesn’t want to pay for added efficiency and/or solar improvements. Here’s an idea to resolve the problem.

 

Gerry agrees! Thanks for the shout out Gerry.

 

Here’s the whole meeting video:

https://fortcollinstv.viebit.com/player.php?hash=Sp0NwmmKWe1A#

Representing CforSE members

On Tuesday Oct. 2nd I had the opportunity to speak to City Council three times during public comment. I spoke about 1) the dismal Council response to constituent letters and emails, 2) organization of budget offers and transparency, and 3) the 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030 goal.

Asking Council to respond to constituent letters and emails. 120 seconds.

Suggesting a different organizing style for the budget. 60 seconds.

Speaking in support of Renewable Energy. 60 seconds.