October 8, 2011
by John Kiljan
Background: This interview was held September 22th 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 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: Ed Tomlinson is a well-known long-time resident of Arvada (since 1951) and is a real estate broker with RE/MAX Alliance. He was raised at 5621 Brentwood. He has a reputation as a citizens’ advocate and is the author of a Colorado business bestseller, “Overtaxed! Your Guide to Honest Property Tax Reduction” (1991). The book is out of print, but widely available online from used book sellers such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Mr Tomlinson has personally helped over a thousand Arvada residents lower their property taxes. He helped initiate legislation for more equitable property tax assessments in Colorado and has spoken before the Colorado Legislature in support of those bills. He has also been featured in articles in Money Magazine, Time magazine and the New York Times on the same subject.
Ed has a history of being active in civic affairs, including involvement with the Arvada Fire Protection District (two terms as president), the Apex Park and Recreation District, Big Brothers Big Sisters Colorado, the Arvada Harvest Festival Parade (as chair), the Better Business Bureau (as arbitrator), the Jefferson County Housing Authority, the Children’s Community Fund (as co-founder and contributor), as well as several real estate trade associations.
This is his first run for a seat on the Arvada City Council. During our interview, we found Mr Tomlinson to be somewhat unconventional, just plain fun to talk to and passionate about the issues he sees as important to the City.
First, let me tell you about the three-foot bike lanes in my press release. This was in the early 90’s when there were bike lanes missing on several streets in Arvada where they were really needed such as Oberon Road, 52nd Avenue, 72nd Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard.
The bike lanes were badly needed, but it was going to cost about a quarter million to fund the projects and the Council was reluctant to allocate the money. I had canvassed the Council members beforehand and found that the votes weren’t there to get the item passed.
So, I made a pitch to the Council during the budget’s public comment time. I concluded by tossing a large body bag out onto the Council Chamber floor. I had borrowed it from a local funeral home and it was heavy — about 25 pounds. The echo of the thud of the bag landing on the floor is still remembered by the Council members who were there at the time. The Council then voted unanimously to include the bike lanes in the City budget. Those lanes are on our streets today.
So, this is my kind of approach to solving community needs: working behind the scenes and doing whatever is needed to get things done.
On Pedestrian Safety and the Ralston Road Corridor Plan: Yes, I read the list of issues and concerns that you sent out. Pedestrian safety is huge for me and I’m very familiar with the sidewalk issues. If I were on the City Council I would encourage the Council to instruct the City to put in the sidewalks along Ralston Road immediately. I don’t care if the City has to buy the property to get the rights of way, or if they should do it some other way. But, this is a huge problem and the City should do whatever it takes and do it now.
I’ve been trying to help a little with my real estate business. I have two properties listed for clients on Ralston Road that will have some of their frontage taken for the widening and new walks. I offered to let the City acquire that lot frontage now. It helps the buyer to know up front how much property they will have available to develop. But I was told it was “highly premature” for the City to speculate on the need acquire land for an undefined future project. That approach is unacceptable. Let’s get the sidewalks done and worry about all the rest later.
I’m familiar with the citizens’ capital improvement committee the Council set up in late 2007 to prioritize construction projects throughout the City. And I remember seeing the high priority for sidewalks along Ralston road. I know some funding is probably going in the 2012 budget for continuing the engineering studies. But what I want to see us doing is actually building sidewalks, and I don’t want to wait till 2018 to start doing that. I’m not just saying that because I know it is an interest of your neighborhood association.
At first blush, on-street parking along Ralston road doesn’t make sense. To me, it sounds like we’re creating a traffic hazard. As to traffic diverting from Ralston Road to side streets, we’ll get to that, but I think that 57th Avenue and Grandview are often already easier to get down than Ralston.
On Urban Renewal and the Redevelopment of the Triangle: If I had my way, I would ask that whole Triangle area would be one large business compound. It’s very simple. We can put in 2 or 3 or 4 stories, or whatever is appropriate, and just make the whole thing one big giant business campus. That brings jobs to the neighborhood. It brings people out for lunch and for dinner. It does wonderful things.
Second, I think the market should dictate what should go in there. For us to say we want a little house here or a condo there is not right. I really believe that the free market is a better solution to what business elements are included in the Triangle. Now we can’t let developers get carried away, but I think the free-market approach is a much better solution. The Outline Development Plan (ODP) layouts are more than just suggestions; they imply pre-approval for those plans.
I don’t know how much development in the Triangle will affect local traffic, either in the residential neighborhoods or on business streets,
On Local Recreational Needs and the New Park’s Design: I watched the recreational center being built in the late 1950’s. My father was highly involved in every component of the community’s development. In fact, he was one of the four or five people that started up the North Jeffco Park and Recreation District. Every day we would go down to watch the construction. He told me then that the building that held the ice rink, and now indoor soccer, was only supposed to be a temporary building.
I also watched the pool being built. I was in favor of the more recent bond issues to fix the pool. Both the pool and the recreation center were important to me.
Both the City and Apex have responsibility for recreation in Arvada. It is not only this neighborhood that is losing its recreational assets. The east side of the City is also not being well represented. Land suitable for recreational expansion does become available from time to time. We should take advantage of that when it happens.
So, I don’t have a plan for park and recreation expansion, but I do have a focus on bringing in more recreational opportunities to Arvada. Now. I’m not saying there is going to be another big structure, and I can’t imagine another pool in or adjacent to the park because of the financing needed to build and operate it.
As to the new park, the walk-ins are going to head to the park to use the fountain (or splash pad or sprayground or whatever it will be called). My concern with the fountain is when I heard a plan presenter say that they were only going to put 80 parking spaces in the park. Right now, there’s about 200 or 300 spaces there.
I said to the City Manager, “Craig, whoa, what’s going to happen? The fountain will serve the immediate neighborhood. But this is also going to be a huge attraction for people outside that area. It’s going to fill the neighborhoods south of Brooks Drive with parking.” He said, “No, no, no. They’ll park across the street at Garrison.” I thought, I don’t think so. First of all, it’s not convenient to cross over that street. And secondly, it is more convenient to park along Brooks Drive or on the other side streets than to cross Garrison Street. So, that’s still a huge concern of mine and I still have not heard an acceptable answer.
I do believe that there was a lack of public input into the park planning process. It’s never too late to change the park’s design. And because of the actual need, it’s not that goofy to consider realigning Garrison Street to provide more parking adjacent to the park.
Let’s go back to the recreational side down by Ralston Creek. Have you ever been over to Golden behind the library and watched the tubers? Why can’t we do that here? Yes, I’ve heard there may not be enough water to do that. But wait, is water volume the only problem? If it is, why don’t we get more water? We could work a deal with Denver water to do that. Or, perhaps, we can have pooling areas with steps where kids can walk down and play with their dogs in the water. I have to be convinced that these kinds of things can’t be done. And right now I’m not convinced.
And where is the ice-skating rink that was talked about during the park planning meetings? If I get on the Council, I will be pressing both of these issues.
On the Role of Neighborhood Associations: I’m very supportive of neighborhood associations. You know there is a cycle with Home Owners Association’s (HOA’s). They are popular during new construction, and ten years or so later they all start to dissipate. But now they are starting to come back — at least in your neighborhood and in a few similar neighborhoods. Whether it is an HOA or a neighborhood association, the purpose is to take the input from the group and to say to the City, hey, this issue is a concern for us, or we would like this or that thing done. Or, there is a specific problem such as speeding on Brooks Drive. So, instead of one person saying things like that you would be representing 5, 10, 20 people, or a hundred.
In the old days it used to be that nobody spoke out that way. Arvada and other cities did whatever they wanted to do. And now, as the City does what they want to do, people are beginning to rise and say, “Whoa! Whoa!” I want to talk to you about this first. I’m thrilled by that. My advice to your neighborhood association: stay involved, stay on top of the game and don’t dissolve. Your organization has got to stay together.
On Independence Street Traffic: The developments near the new Gold Line station near Arvada Ridge will increase the traffic on Independence Street. There is no doubt about that. Now, will the traffic increase to the point that it is more than was there before the new Kipling Parkway went in? No, I don’t think it will be. What are we going to do about that if it does become a problem? No, that’s not something that I’m going to be able to answer tonight. I really don’t know. That’s one we turn over to the City Staff and say, “What else can be done?” I can envision traffic lights, but not speed bumps and not traffic circles.
On Stabilizing Older Neighborhoods: I work in real estate, and in my profession we see a cycle in housing. When homes are new, everybody has got everything about perfect in their neighborhood. Then, after about 30 years, the rentals start to show up. And then there’s more rentals, and then more again. Then some of the landlords don’t maintain their properties, and the property declines. But the relative property values also become low enough to support first-time homeowners. They are buying those rentals and they buying up the non-rental homes as the older residents move away.
With the newer and younger residents coming in there is typically an upsurge in the neighborhood. The Highlands in northwest Denver is a perfect example. That neighborhood used to be kind of down and out. Now it is top of the line. The same thing happened in Denver’s Five Points. People move because their economic condition improves as they age. And as they age, they have more kids. Yes, things are a little different now. We did stay longer in our homes generations ago than we do now.
So there’s a cycle. The question you are asking with neighborhood stabilization is, “Can we break the cycle?” and the answer is, “Yes, we can.” However, to break the cycle you are going to have to force things on the property owners through laws and code enforcement. And that’s when I start getting a little uncomfortable. When the government starts saying you can and can’t do this or that with your property, I get very uncomfortable.
Now, I’m comfortable with enforcing the common generic code requirements, but I’m wondering if we are going too far. The City now has six code enforcement officers. Their goal is to search the City every day looking for violations. Lakewood also has six code enforcement officers and they are 50% larger than Arvada is. So we have a huge focus on code enforcement and I have a concern that the rights of property owners are being stomped on.
In my real estate business, I list homes where the neighboring home is shoddy and needs true attention – not necessarily code enforcement attention — but it needs attention because it is adversely affecting my transaction. What I usually do is go and talk to the owner. Typically, it is a landlord with a tenant inside.
I’ve never had an owner who hasn’t fixed up problems right away after being asked. I’ve haven’t yet had a problem when I’ve said things like, “I’m trying to sell the house next door. It sure would be nice if you could move the sofa off the front porch,” or something similar. Citing homeowners is a little over the top for me. Eighty percent of the time, you’re going to fix the problem simply by talking to the owner. Time can also fix things in an older neighborhood. A new owner or a new landlord comes in and decides to fix things up on his own.
Where is that line drawn when we decide to tell the owner to fix up their home? What will the property owner have to spend? A thousand dollars, $5000, $10,000? Where’s that line? It could keep getting pushed higher with demands and more demands as the program grows.
Suppose there’s a homeowner in a rundown house. And suppose she’s 88 years old. And suppose she’s living from month to month and you need her to do all kinds of stuff — well, the City demands it. That’s exactly where the community comes together and paints the house or does whatever else is needed. That’s a normal free-American point of view.
Especially in your district you can have a lot of people who are over the age of 70 and who need the help. I know that the Arvada PD had a list of people who need to have their walks shoveled after a storm. They don’t do that anymore. But that’s exactly the kind of things that needs to be done.
Even the “National Night Out,” which is only a single afternoon/night a year, brings people together. That hour or two where people get out and meet their neighbors changes the complexion of the neighborhood.
Westminster forces their landlords, by law, to register all their rentals with the City and then requires the City to inspect the property every several years. Wow, you talk about big government! It’s a safety inspection, but they are gunning to make sure everything is perfect as far as codes and laws and all that other stuff. But there are already enough laws on the books and other resources for the tenants to protect themselves. And the tenants also have the right to move. What I see is the city eventually inspecting every home whether it is rented out or not to make sure it is safe and healthy. I am tantamountly against that.
I’m not there with this idea of Big Brother starting to look around your house for any issue where they can gain entry. So when someone in uniform from the City knocks on that 88 year old lady’s door and she is politely asked if they can come in, what’s going to happen? Are the inspectors going to say in court, as she appears for not fixing her code violations, ”Well, she agreed to let us come in for an inspection.”
And no, I don’t think we need things like having everyone get permits for garage sales. That would be going over the line. There are other ways to deal with people who run garage sales more than a few times a year and are effectively running a business.
I understand that the City is giving money to commercial property owners to fix up the exteriors of their buildings. Forcing a property owner to fix up the outside of his commercial building is unacceptable to me. That’s stomping on people’s rights. Even if it is a 25% participation grant where the business owner picks up the other 75% of the cost, it’s still your government taking away your tax money and giving it to the commercial property owner. I don’t accept that. And the same thing with the micro-loans – I don’t accept those either. The government is going to take your money and give it to someone else on a bet? It’s not where I’m at. I’m truly a believer in the private-enterprise system and in the capitalistic system.
On Running for Council: Our outgoing City Manager, Craig Kocian has made a huge and positive impact on our community that will last for decades. He also played a large part in my decision for run for the Council. He explained to me how city councils influence the decisions that city managers make.
I have three lives: my personal life, my real estate life and my community life. The community is my family and they are my children. And I think I’ve demonstrated that in decade after decade of public service.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
Ed Tomlinson can be reached at
or via email at
If you wish to make a contribution to Ed Tomlinson’s campaign, checks should be sent to Elect Ed Tomlinson, 13618 W. 63rd Drive, Arvada 80004.
Readers can find Ed’s press release announcing his run for office in a separate CLRC News article at
Note that the email address in that press release has changed to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Mr Tomlinson’s opponent for the At-Large Arvada City Council seat is Bob Fifer. Mr Fifer has also been interviewed for this series. That interview and more City Council election information will be posted on our neighborhood association website at www.RalstonCommunity.org.
You can also watch a video of the candidates for the at-large seat on Facebook at
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