BOB DYER — CANDIDATE FOR COUNCIL DISTRICT 4
September 26, 2011
by John Kiljan
Background: This interview was held September 14th and is one in a series of interviews with candidates for the Arvada City Council. The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community offered each of the candidates an opportunity to review a list of local CLRC issues and concerns and to comment on them in an informal discussion. The issues list was a short compilation of items brought up by our members at our February general meeting and local issues that have been raised since. The candidates were also invited to talk about any other subjects they thought were important. The interviewers were T.O. Owens and John Kiljan.
The Candidate: Councilor Bob Dyer is currently an Arvada City Council member representing District 4 in west Arvada. He is also the Mayor Pro Tem (deputy mayor) for the City. He is running unopposed for re-election to his seat.
Mr Dyer has served three terms on the City Council since the 1991 and has been active in many civic groups and community development efforts. Here is a short list: the Arvada Economic Development Authority (AEDA), the Arvada Council for the Arts and Humanities. the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority (AURA), the Arvada Fire Protection District, the Jefferson Economic Council, the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, the Arvada Jefferson Kiwanis, the Children’s Charity Foundation, the Rocky Flats Local Impact Initiative, the Wadsworth Cultural Corridor initiative, the Arvada Parks Advisory Committee and Red Rocks Community College.
Councilor Dyer first moved to Arvada as a child in 1959. He is a financial advisor by trade. In 2000 he earned a masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a masters degree in Public Administration, both from UCD, while serving on the Arvada City Council.
We were a little surprised when Mr Dyer agreed to take the time to be interviewed since he is running unopposed for re-election and his district does not include the CLRC neighborhoods. However, he said his first home was in our part of the City and that he has always felt like a member-at-large since he has a say on, and votes on, issues throughout the City. Indeed, what was to have been a short half-hour interview easily stretched to two hours as the local Starbucks’ staff wondered if we were ever going to buy more coffee. That’s too much material to report here and have it still fit into our news article format, so these notes just cover the highlights of our conversation.
On Ralston Road Pedestrian Safety and the Corridor Plan: The Ralston Road Corridor Study reminded me very much of what we got into with trash hauling. You start out with a simple idea. You want, in this case, to improve pedestrian safety. You want to beautify the area a little bit and make it look nicer. And you end up with something that goes way beyond, least in my opinion, what the original intent was.
In trash hauling, my intention was to see if there were a way to have trash haulers offer recycling to their customers, and we ended up with a study that looked at having one single trash hauler for the entire City. That was way beyond anything I had in mind. And it’s the same thing with the plan for Ralston Road. To me, there are a lot of potential problems. The unintended elements of the plan would have very dramatic consequences if we followed them.
And I haven’t had a chance to even discuss it yet with other Council members. I sent an email to the other members of the Council saying that I wanted to pull the corridor plan off of the agenda so that we could have a real serious discussion about some policy questions.
First, from south of 72nd Avenue, name any road in the City of Arvada that runs from Sheridan to at least Ward Road. Other than 58th Avenue and Ralston Road, there are none. Now, for me, the problem is — especially with the on-street parking part of it — you are going to create such a bottleneck on the segment from Kipling to Olde Wadsworth that people are not even going to want to use it.
The night the plan was presented to Council, I asked the question, “Where else do other cities do this?” For example, you don’t see Broadway in Boulder having parking on the street. One of the examples I was given was Longmont. They sent me a list, and the one I could see that was the most appropriate comparison to Ralston Road was Main Street in Longmont.
Well, I’ve gone along Main Street in Longmont and, yes, they do have on-street parking there. But first of all, that street is marked as 30 mph as opposed to 35 mph here, and traffic really goes at 20 to 25 mph because it just has such a congested feel.
Now, to me, the policy question is, “Does the City Council really intend to bottleneck Ralston Road from Kipling to Olde Wadsworth and for what benefit?” Is it to create more retail? Do we want people to stop and park? Or, is it to be a transportation corridor?
Because, if we’re going to bottleneck it, the unintended consequence, in my mind, is pretty simple: People who are trying to get through are going to just turn onto Independence and zip down 57th Avenue, or they are going to go to Grandview, or they might go the other way up Garrison because they might want to go up Carr Street. They just aren’t going to bother to stay on Ralston Road. I think they are going to go down the neighborhood streets.
And, when I brought that up with Deputy City Manager Bill Ray, he said that’s why we have a policy for traffic calming. So now we are going to create a problem on those streets. And then what are we going to do? Are we going to put speed bumps on 57th so people will be discouraged from using it? His response was, that it would be up to the neighborhood. But my question is, why are we creating the problem for them in the first place?
To me, the statement made during the plan’s presentation that it will not increase traffic on residential streets defies logic. There is no common sense to that statement.
Shelley Cook has said that a lot of these questions won’t really be resolved until we do the engineering studies in the next phase. But wait. First of all, I think we need to decide if we, as a city council, really want to pursue that plan at all — before we spend more money on more studies.
To me, it is really important that we decide if this approach really makes sense. Now, I don’t have a problem with having zoning capability in place that would allow for redevelopment of properties along that corridor. If somebody wants to tear down an old house that has been used as an office and replace it with an office building, I don’t have a problem with that. But, for us to go in with the idea that we are going to widen that street for some unknown and unsubstantiated reason, I do have a problem.
First of all, they brought up the thing about how hazardous it is for cars and some of the traffic accidents that are occurring there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been up and down Ralston Road, from Kipling to Wadsworth in the last 30 or 40 years. I do not remember ever coming across an accident on that part of Ralston Road.
I’d like to see the actual accident reports for the accidents. I know there are accidents at the major intersections such as Carr and at Garrison, but the thing they are coming up with is the rational for putting in physical medians because, apparently, there are so many cars running head-on into each other. One of the unusual things I found to be really weird is that they are going to put a median in so that people traveling east cannot turn into the entrance to City Hall. You’ve got to go down a block, or know to turn a block in advance, and then you’ve got to go around a block I don’t like that concept at all.
You know, if you look at University Boulevard in Denver from Cherry Creek Boulevard to the south, they have four lanes and no median. There are NO LEFT TURN signs that some people ignore, but usually the cars behind them will honk at them to move them on. I don’t see why we can’t simply put down double yellow lines with turn pockets at the intersections.
University is probably narrower than Ralston Road. I don’t know why we can’t have some intersections with no left turns and you just don’t leave a turn lane in the middle of the road. I think we can easily put painted turn pockets in the road all the way down without putting in physical medians. I don’t like the median concept in the plan.
I’m also concerned about the height of the buildings I saw in the plan elements and the density proposed for the corridor. We are putting in on-street parking and essentially forcing the buildings right up against the street.
It becomes very problematic in wintertime with that sort of thing. With the sun being so low along the south side of the street, ice will build up in the shaded lanes in the same way it does in front of Udi’s now during the winter.
The trolley idea is one that I’ve been battling since it first came up. I’ve had conversations with individual Council members to say that it makes no sense to have a trolley for one mile.
There is no way that we could afford to build it or maintain it. And it’s stuck in the ground. You can’t turn it around at the end, so we might have to turn it onto 57th Avenue to have it come back. That would create an even bigger problem for residents who should not be burdened with that. To me that makes no sense because there are so many better ways to do what the trolley is supposed to do. I’ll use Boulder as an example with their three Hop, Skip and Jump shuttle bus lines.
When we have 20,000 people down here at the soccer fields, why can’t we be running shuttles down to Olde Town? Why can’t we be running a shuttle bus system that can come from the Arvada Ridge Gold Line Station and down Oak Street past the new field houses for Apex and then down 58th to Olde Town and which can then go up Wadsworth to the Arvada Center?
With a shuttle, people could be coming from all over the Denver area and not needing a car to go to the Arvada Center. There are also a lot of things you can do with a shuttle system for special events. The thing I have a hard time understanding is why Councilor Cook, who runs a shuttle service to the airport herself, doesn’t seem to fully understand the potential of a shuttle bus in Arvada.
But the Gold Line and the Triangle redevelopment need to be up and running to make a shuttle work. If you could plan it right, around the years 2016 to 2018 there could be a lot of things going on at those two locations and at the Arvada Center that would make it work. To me, that would be great.
I don’t know why we can’t acquire enough of an easement for the sidewalks we need, compensate the owners, build the sidewalks and just be done with it. It would be so much easier. And, it’s usually easier to acquire an easement than to condemn property to acquire a right of way. And, negotiations with property owners for voluntary acquisitions should be easier than condemnations. After all we’re going to be making their properties look a lot nicer.
And, if we go with the proposed plan, I’m wondering who is going to maintain that furnishing strip (lawn strip) between the sidewalk and the roadway. It also looks like we will be taking out some city-owned landscaping. And then, what are we going to do with the Eggshell on the corner of Olde Wadsworth?
Think that Dr Slizeski’s building at the Wellness Center at Carr and Ralston is a good example of what can be done on the corridor. He replaced a really ugly building with a nice southwestern-style office building.
On the Redevelopment of the Triangle: The real question should be, are apartments really going to be put in the development? Right now apartments are very easy to finance because apartment vacancy rates are low. But everything turns in the economy. I don’t know when or if the housing element is going to get built. I don’t know if any of it is going to get done. But let’s assume that you have a few hundred residential units. Typically you are not going to have much more than two residents per unit. So maybe you’ve got 700 people and probably less than 700 cars to go with them. So, how many trips will that generate and what roads are they going to use?
I don’t see it as a big traffic load on 57th unless we mess up Ralston Road. I see the new vehicle traffic mostly using the main roads such as Ralston and Kipling. I also think the Triangle’s ODP estimates for housing units are a little high.
The pool had just been built when my family moved here. As a little kid, it was like heaven. We had the pool, burger stands and a traditional soda fountain at the drug store — all within walking distance. And no one worried about a ten-year old wandering around the area by himself.
I understand why Apex had to take out the pool. My goal would be to continue to work with Apex as we have been to get some more things in that area. We’ve done a pretty good job of working with Apex. The ice rink hasn’t been there for years, but they’ve replaced the one indoor field now with two nearby and that will give them a lot more revenue to do new programming. I would like to work with them to find more opportunities than just the splash deck that’s going in the new park.
And if we can do that inside the urban renewal development area, so much the better — especially for recreational activities that are held indoors. I think we need to start thinking of partnerships. We can’t just do it all off of property taxes like the old days. In the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s, Apex’s revenues kept increasing because of population growth. When I moved to Arvada, the population was maybe 19,000 or less. That jumped to 70,000 in the late 70’s. The City grew rapidly and revenues were just flowing in. The same thing for the fire district — and they didn’t even have the expense of full-time fire fighters. Things have definitely slowed down since then.
We have a verbal commitment from Apex’s board members that there will be more for central Arvada when Apex goes back for a vote to renew its bond issues in a few years. But the board could change and the attitudes might change. But I think with a good relationship between the City Council and with Apex’s board members, they are going to be very interested in putting something in this area because it just makes sense. I think they will be doing both Secrest and this central area with their next bond issue — that would be my guess.
On the Role of the Neighborhood Associations: I’ve discussed promoting neighborhood associations with the City Manager, but its never gotten very far because it’s not something you can really drive from the top down. It has to come from the bottom up. Every year. my wife and I go out to San Diego for a couple of weeks to visit our timeshare on the beach. One of the neighborhood models I like a lot is San Diego’s. The city has really well-defined neighborhoods, each with their own neighborhood councils. Each of those neighborhoods also has what amounts to a small planning commission.
Now, it makes our City Staff people take notice when you talk like that, and it makes some our Council members nervous because they think they are being asked to help build their own opposition. And I say, “No, no.” I think for most people, they just want their neighborhood to be nicer and they just want to have a voice in local government. I think the development of neighborhood groups is very encouraging, because it helps me get closer to the idea of formally establishing recognized neighborhood councils and, perhaps, planning groups for those neighborhoods that could benefit from them.
Admittedly, San Diego is huge — probably a couple of million people where we are only a hundred thousand. Most of their neighborhoods are probably bigger than the whole City of Arvada. Participation is not mandatory like it is in an HOA. For example, there are the Pacific Beach Neighborhood Association, the Ocean Beach Group, the Mission Beach Group, the Hillside Association, and these are all very different neighborhoods. They even have different city street signage. The idea seems to be to make people feel like they are in a little towns of its own.
There are many different ways of approaching things. For instance, the Chamber and AEDA are now offering their Leadership Arvada program whose participants meet once a month for training. It’s fairly expensive, but if you can identify some people from the neighborhoods who have the time to do it, perhaps we can fund a scholarship for those who can’t afford the money. I think that would really help some people understand all the aspects of local government: it isn’t just the City, there’s the fire district, the recreation district, the Chamber, the service clubs, and it’s how they all interrelate.
One of the dreams I have, and I have been trying to get going at the Chamber of Commerce through their Development Committee, is bringing the service clubs, faith groups and business organizations together on a regular basis to talk about common problems. And one the problems to talk about is community leadership and how do we get people more involved as leaders. How do we train them? And how do we not have things like overlapping fund raising events? It needs to be an effort on the part of a lot of different organizations that continues to build the community.
We can talk about the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Optimists Club — there are a lot of service organizations that I think really need to add members. Some of them are getting down to a really small number and they need new blood coming in and getting involved in community projects. I would suggest the CLRC send a couple of people the next time the Chamber holds one of its Community Development Committee meetings and get to meet some of the people there. At its peak, that committee had people from many non-profits as well as all of the service organizations. Often 30 or 40 people would show up at the meetings. The committee faded in early 2000 but was brought back last year when my wife chaired the Chamber.
On Independence Street Traffic: I’m very aware of the history of traffic on Independence Street. I saw the Presbyterian Church being built when I was kid. At first the traffic wasn’t bad, but it picked up as the area south of the cemetery was built up. I’ve talked to a lot of the people who live along that street about the traffic problems. But because of the railroad tracks, there doesn’t seem to be any easy access to Ridge Road for people who will be living near the Arvada Ridge station. Realistically, I think that people who live in that development will be using Kipling instead of going down the hill on Independence.
On Helping Neighborhood Stabilization: Regarding un-maintained properties, I know the attitude of some is that we should just slap the owners down with code enforcement. But I’m not a big fan of doing that. Can’t there be a kinder, gentler way of helping people keep up their properties? Do people not paint their house because they really like it that way? I don’t think so. To me that goes back to the community development vision and the efforts such as those I see a lot of the local churches doing and the City’s know-your-neighbor program.
Is there a way instead that we as a community can work to help each other? For example, my mother is too elderly to shovel the walks in front of her house, but usually by the time I get over there to do the job after a snowstorm, I find that the neighbors have already shoveled her walk for her and her driveway as well. People look out for people they know. We get criticism for spending a $100 to fund neighborhood block parties so people can get to know their neighbors. But I don’t think that is a waste of money. If it encourages people to get out and meet each other, so much the better. Isn’t it a community we’re trying to build?
To me, code enforcement would be my last option, not my first. Yes, I know that the City surveys show that people want more code enforcement. But people also don’t like big government, and they don’t like government imposing on them.
The City can’t take care of everything, but the City can help to facilitate many things and it is often as simple as being the intermediary for volunteer organizations such as churches and the City saying, “Here’s the help number for a volunteer organization, or we can call them and ask them to get in touch with you.” That’s a concept that we can promote with things like KATV and by having community fairs.
Talking with Councilor Dyer reminded us of drinking from a full-on garden hose. He provided us with far more material in the interview than we could use. But it may be useful here to list some of the other subjects he brought up during the interview. Here’s our list of what we had to leave out:
– the value of micro loans to local businesses,
– Colorado Enterprise Funds,
– AEDA and how it was formed,
– programs to improve facades and landscaping along Ralston Road,
– other AEDA programs to spiff up the appearances of businesses,
– sign replacements along Ralston Road,
– stealing good ideas for community revitalization from Wheat Ridge,
– house buying programs in Wheat Ridge that didn’t work out so well,
– the value of Habitat for Humanity,
– the value of the City’s service organizations and religious groups,
– ideas to form a small army of volunteers for civic projects using a community development committee,
– the role of City seed money for major volunteer events to fix up homes,
– why it’s important for citizens to have at least some control over their government,
– even more about forming neighborhood planning groups,
– the example of Denver’s Capital Hill United Neighborhoods,
– why the Councilor doesn’t run for Mayor or an At Large seat,
– why Council District 4 residents should be concerned about other parts of the City,
– the benefits of the Arvada Center to the whole City,
– why he is such a strong proponent of the Arvada Center,
– why the Arvada Center’s financial model should be revised,
– the potential for public-private partnerships to operate the Arvada Center,
– why the Center should take its theatrical productions to other metro cities,
– the potential for using the open 16 acres of land next to the Center for cultural exhibits,
– the concept of a mile-long Wadsworth Cultural corridor that creates an artist-friendly environment,
– possible changes to SCFD funding for the arts in Arvada,
– the possibility of making Arvada a tourist attraction and relocating the visitor’s center,
– the local history of Red Rocks Community College, and
– a short history of Arvada’s business development, opportunities lost and opportunities that paid off over the years.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
Because he is running unopposed, Councilor Dyer does not have a campaign website nor a campaign email address. However, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at his regular City email address at BDyer@arvada.org and at 303-456-4646 (h) and 303-423-8080 (w).
You can see a video of Bob Dyer addressing the Arvada Chamber of Commerce at
John Kiljan, CLRC News: 303-423-9875 or email@example.com
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