The Neighborhood Gazette is distributed to every door in Wheat Ridge, Edgewater and Mountain View. I invited the mayors of these cities to meet me for a conversation at Stylus and Crate, the Gazette’s official coffee house.
When I emailed them, I thought it would take some time before I heard back. I was wrong. The replies came back very quickly and with a tone of excitement about the opportunity to meet the other mayors in a more casual setting.
While the conversation lasted over an hour, the questions and answers just flowed and it became evident these three loved their jobs, loved serving their constituents and had lots to say after two years of living under COVID.
I asked them what they had learned from their experiences of living and serving in a pandemic.
Edgewater mayor John Beltrone spoke about mental health and how surprised he was of its importance. The world focused on helping failing businesses and shut-down schools, and didn’t really think about the short- and long-term effects of people living in isolation.
Town of Mountain View mayor Emilie Mitcham talked about her view as a citizen and her needs as opposed to becoming a mayor and living the hard reality of providing that same help to her citizens.
When I asked how we are better because of COVID, Wheat Ridge mayor Bud Starker was very quick to talk about the unusual opportunity we got for a complete reset, the higher value we now place on the simple connection, and interaction with others. Emily added that we now know all our neighbors and the sentiment of “we are all in this together.” John spoke of a renewed appreciation for the time he spends with others. Amen to that.
I asked the mayors about the inter-city cooperation for resources, labor and issues like homelessness. John was quick to bring up the Homeless Navigator he shares with Wheat Ridge and how unaffordable this would be if taken on alone. Emily spoke about the co-responder program and her police force acting beyond the city’s 12-block limit and how difficult it would be to attract officers should they not be allowed to travel outside her city.
I asked John about the newly built roundabouts in Edgewater. He shared that COVID forced some sidewalk bump outs and re-designed intersections, all funded by their marijuana sales, and how that just made crossing the street safer. There was definite pushback from some, but after six months, acceptance and support was back.
Naturally the Continuous Flow Intersection (CFI) on Wadsworth came up and Bud updated us on the project and shared that we’ll start seeing some shape in the next year.
I asked Emilie about programs and updates in Mountain View, as they have recently revamped their code enforcement program. Their focus is about communication and updating their master plan, which will define their values and priorities as expressed by their citizens. She stated that she did not want developers telling them who to be.
This of course opened the discussion on development, short-term rentals, housing and so much more. They all acknowledged the challenge between personal property versus the role of government. John spoke of zoning laws and keeping cities affordable. He stated that people should be able to buy a home and not have the house next door replaced by something that doesn’t fit the neighborhood. Emilie brought up conservation land trusts and how cities should consider buying parts of their city to control and make housing available and affordable for those in need.
There was a lively conversation about short-term rentals, with John sharing that he hopes to make Edgewater’s regulations easier to understand and eventually enforce. He thought their license fee a little high ($50), which brought on the comment that Wheat Ridge’s fee was $200 dollars to initiate and renew, the process easy to navigate and that it is seeing great success as a program. Emilie and Mountain View are still trying to formulate their own and she really appreciates the opportunity to learn from her neighboring towns.
Finally, a fun parting question: Where would you love to be mayor if your own town was not an option? Emilie immediately declined any other place on earth but her own. John was creative in suggesting a new TV reality show where he is whisked for a day to be a mayor of another town with a different culture. Bud chose the classic Paris, France, giving him an opportunity to learn French and sample fine foods and wine.
It was an absolute delight and privilege to spend an hour of in-depth conversation with these three leaders.
I’m looking forward to meeting the police chiefs, city managers and others very soon.