Shay Castle Profile picture
Oct 7 92 tweets 12 min read
OK, budget time. I'll try to pay attention.

Staff presentation:…
And a Twitter thread from the last discussion:…
To recap that, city council was pretty much OK with the budget as-is, but they wanted more $$ for alternative responses to trash and waste downtown, like more trash cans and bathrooms.
I am NOT doing a good job tweeting. (You take 1 month off and lose all aptitude.) But to be fair, I did cover all of what's been talked about so far in that story up there ^

TLDR: $18M in new spending this year.
Staff tonight is recommending adding $80K to that for what council asked for last month: Sharps containers, more dumpsters. No bathrooms proposed yet.
Downtown Boulder is working on a new / redone bathroom on Pearl, but I think that's a year+ out.
No new $$ above and beyond the recommended budget, but staff is reminding council how much the city spends on art ($2.5M) and basic human needs ($6.9M plus $900K in ARPA funds) bc council asked about those last time.
BUT staff is recommending $1.5M more for Fire Station No. 3 (new build, way over budget)

The base budget also needs amended bc Boulder is bringing in more hotel tax $$ than expected.
So not very much change from the recommended budget, and practically none in response to council requests.

That's unusual to years past, when elected officials have added (small) millions in for various things.
I covered this in my story: "extra" money was budgeted ahead of time, rather than giving council that discretion.

There is always a tension between accepting the budget as-is (it takes months of work from staff) and allowing elected officials to have some say.
Understandable on both sides: Spending city $$ is one of the biggest ways elected officials represent citizens.

At the same time, past councils' whims and lack of discipline have led to millions of dollars in unfunded basic operating needs and maintenance.
There is some sense from staff of trying to reign that in as the city tries to take a longer-term view of its financial health. As I've mentioned several times over the years: Our sales tax is not growing like it used to.
Council may get its change to spend $$ next year: Staff believe that 2022 revenue will be higher than anticipated. It will be added into the budget once 2022 is, you know, over.
Kara Skinner: We also may see savings from not being able to hire folks.

The city has budgeted for a certain amount of staff, but they might not fill all those positions.
Wallach asks about $$ for family homelessness.
Vicki Ebner of HHS: We didn't get the full amount we asked for. We're looking at ways to partner with the county on spending for those programs.
Wanna learn about family homelessness? It's a bigger issue than you (probably) think in Boulder.…
Brockett: Other cities have done programs that pay homeless people to pick up trash. Have we looked into those?
Joanna Bloom, of utilities: We don't have that in this budget, but we are looking at those and other innovative programs to manage trash.
Bloom: "We have a spirit of openness in terms of what we're looking at." We are looking at peer cities, and also what unique things we might do.

"For sure, I think we are open to investigating what would be successful and meet the needs of the community."
Folkerts: You've proposed up to 40 additional dumpsters on the Hill and 3 bear-proof ones downtown. Where would those go?

Bloom: The Hill ones would be temporary, for move-in and move-out. We'll work with CU on those. The downtown ones would be more permanent.
Still working on where those would go, but Bloom says they would go in the areas they are needed: Along the Boulder Creek corridor. Maybe the justice center, for instance.
Friend: "I think we need a much deeper bench in terms of an array of housing options" when it comes to formerly homeless. Things like group homes, options with more support.

Is one grant-funding position enough to capture the state and federal $$ available for this?
We heard Jonathan Singer, formerly a rep but now with the Boulder Chamber, say earlier that there was state $$ for homelessness just sitting there, waiting to be spent.
Mark Woulf: "Maybe. It might be enough," but we can discuss that with council.

NRV: There are folks already within the city who look for grants, including several in HHS. "If we see we need more support, we will come back to you."
Friend: "My understanding is this $$ is time limited."
Ebner: Regarding the specific homelessness grants, quite a lot of that is earmarked for "large campuses being put in regionally."
We're working with the county to determine what makes sense for who to apply for. We are going after money for the day center.

We are talking about group homes and transitional housing, Ebner says.
Ebner: "We deploy a divide and conquer" strategy. "The county applies for some, the city applies for others, and in some cases the nonprofits apply themselves."
Omg 21 folks for the public hearing! Ya'll are doing me proud :)
Safer Boulder folks turning out tonight, based on the first few names.

Brooke Harrison, supporting the $1.4M for the encampment removal program that has not reduced the number of camps. That's not the point, Harrison says. It's to keep our public spaces clean.
In that regards, she says, it's working. They've removed a ton of trash.

Does not want $700K for a day shelter. Put that $$ to drug treatment and mental health, she says.
Lastly, Harrison is "dismayed" at the "below-inflation" increase for police dept spending. We have a growing crime problem. We're not as bad as Chicago or SF, but let's not wait until we are.
The persistence of encampments is not a failure of this program, she says, but of our approach to homelessness. And yet no one advocates for defunding those services.
I keep missing the names of the speakers. But we're at No. 5 and they've all asked for more $$ for police.
LMAO someone just straight up saying Five Points is the worst place in Denver, as if that's not massively racist (historic Black neighborhood). The historic business district (which is the area he is referring to) is beautiful and wonderful.
People mad AF. Straight up shouting at the public hearing right now.
Thank god for the return of in-person public comment. It is entertaining as hell. True performance art.
I finally caught a name: Linda Quigley. "I think there's this pent-up desire to talk to you, because you've felt like our stealth council for 3 years. I'm not saying you intended that, but we write emails that go into a black hole."
Quigley: "God bless you for caring about people who have lost their homes. But you cannot lose core services like safety, bike paths for all of us who built this beautiful town. We can't lose those."
LMAO. "There's only 2 major problems with our budget," Timothy Thomas says. "Putting it together, and spending it."
Missing the names again, but lots of comments about Boulder High and the encampments near there, and feeling unsafe walking and biking on the creek path.
"To ask that my kids can get to school safely seems like a very basic ask," says Jennifer (sorry I missed her last name!) "and the city is failing."
Lisa Spalding, on behalf of Uni Hill Neighborhood Association: "Residents of the Hill are terrified by the growing gun crisis in our neighborhood." Two shootouts up there, and students reporting armed conflicts at parties.

The police need more $$, Spalding says.
Lila Hickey: Thanks for funding alternatives to police response for mental health crises. We know these interactions can turn tragic and fatal, and these programs have worked well elsewhere.
Angelica (again missed her last name): We need to allocate more $$ toward alternative programs. "We must consider science, not just feelings, in preventing crime." We need methods that have been proven to work.
Re-upping this piece that discusses (albeit at a basic level) the complications of crime and policing.…
Joshua Pollack, owner of Rosenberg's Bagels and Sherry's Soda Shop on the Hill and in Five Points, says he will close them permanently and won't be back "because the police do not have the funding they need" to maintain a presence there.
Joseph: I'm hearing we are down police officers, that we can't hire them, then I'm hearing we need more $$ for hiring. Which is it?
Woulf: Police have $1.5M more than last year (not adjusted for inflation). There is some $$ for staffing, but we will do more of that as the police master plan is completed in coming months.
Chief Maris Herold: "Right now we are down 29 police officers. I think what you're hearing tonight is the natural breakdown of a police dept that has been down officers the past 2 years. We desperately need to get those numbers up."
Herold: "We have an aggressive recruiting strategy. Just today we had 20 applicants come in." But it takes awhile to train and get them operational.
"I didn't hear anything tonight that wasn't true" from the community members, Herold says.
Brockett: Can you address coverage on Boulder Creek or near the high school?
Herold: It's a matter of prioritization. We do send officers to patrol the paths when we can.
Everywhere is having a tough time recruiting officers, Herold says. This is national.
"Everybody is going through the same thing."
Yates: How do we compare, salary-wise, to other Front Range cities?
Herold: We are very competitive. We're talking about other things we can do, bc "I am competing against every agency in Colorado."
A lot of places are downgrading their qualifications right now to fill those spots. "I refuse to do that," Herold says; "it's too important of a role."

I want college educated, I want diverse candidates.
"We are getting older applicants" in Boulder bc of our police master plan and the improvements and reforms we are making, Herold says.
Benjamin asks a q and Herold clarifies: The department has $$ to pay for all 29 vacant officer positions.

Benjamin: So money is not the issue?
Herold: We have the budget.
Winer: What can we do about crime in affordable housing?

Herold: The instances that have been mentioned (chop shops, drugs in affordable housing) were undercover investigations. We spent a ton of $$ on that, and we're working with BHP on a strategy.
Winer: "Housing first isn't enough. It's great, but we're at a point we have so many other issues." We need better support.
Herold: "Crime is stabilizing in a lot of areas. I'm just struggling right now bc I'm down 20% of my workforce."
The FBI just released numbers showing crime flattening out after 2020 increases, but of course that's not local. (I'll look for local #, and also you gotta take this data with a HUGE grain of salt.)…
Speer making a very long request of some sort, but mentions folks paying for groceries in installments, which reminds me I wanted to share this NYT story from early September bc WTF. This is late capitalism dystopian horror show.…
Still didn't quite get the gist of Speer's request, but it's more $$ for basic needs, using ARPA money.
Wallach wants more $$ for family homelessness. "I tend to think we underfund family homelessness and we can do better there."
Speer: That is basically what I'm talking about, to use that ARPA $$ for. Family homelessness sis one of the biggest risk factors for future homelessness.

Our community partners are telling us "folks are in a worse place now than before the pandemic."
Benjamin wants "a couple hundred thousand" for the arts community.
Basically, there's another $500K in the ARPA $$ that hasn't been directed yet. It's coming back to council next month. These are the things council wants to spend it on; they're cool with the 2023 budget as-is, sounds like.
Woulf addressing why there was no $$ for bathrooms, as council requested: "It's pricey." We didn't have $$ for it this year. We'll leave it "for a broader conversation."
Joseph: I was v surprised as well by the $80K for the trash and bathrooms that we wanted. Why are we paying for dumpsters for CU students? Why isn't CU helping with that cost?
Woulf: Bathrooms cost $1M over 10 years, or about $100K per year, in addition to the cost to build them.
No direct answer to Joseph's point about paying for dumpsters for CU students.
Benjamin: The $80K was driven by data, based on how much stuff CU students are leaving behind. It's trying to work *literally* upstream to reduce trash, much of which ends up in the creek.
Folkerts: "I think to the extent we can have things not go into the trash stream at all is really the direction I would like to see us move." I'd like to see more than just $$ for dumpsters and talk about where to put them.
Friend: "It sort of feels like we are just tossing out fantasies, so I'll give one as well."
When I visited the encampment removals, I noticed how the team knew many of the individuals. Couldn't we use those individuals to better our approach? Gather data on folks who are waiting for housing, who are keeping their camps clean and not causing problems. ...
... and see if we can do something to speed up their wait for housing, or to otherwise improve our approaches? That's my fantasy for $500K.
Kurt Firnhaber: Residents who are on the housing track and close to housing are put in hotels.

(Still taking years to get close to housing for many, and months to get into it once you've "won" the lottery.)
Speer: When we started the encampment removal strategy, we didn't tie any outcomes to our homelessness strategy. I don't want to approve an extra $1.3M without real, measurable metrics for success.
I'd like a plan that
- Integrates encampment removals with our homeless strategy
- Identifiable measures of success beyond just trash removed
- How many connections to services
- How many people are relocating
Forgot to say in my coverage that the city is not tracking how many of the camps it's removing are duplicates — that is, the same camps they've paid to "remove" before. I asked; they didn't know.
Speer: We're spending $2.8M on encampment management. That's a large amount of money. I want real metrics.
NRV: We are working with IT to get some of that data. We hope to share it soon

(after the budget is approved, probably...)
Speer: I know these things are happening. We need to be more explicit about it.

Rest of council +1s that.
Winer: "I think you're right, it's not solving the problem. But if we didn't have it... " There's plenty of trash that needs picked up.
Brockett: it's not just trash. It's human waste, it's needles sometimes — things that do constitute public health issues. I do think additional funds for clean up makes sense. "Is it ending homelessness? No."
We do have to keep work on ending homelessness, but we have to keep a minimum level of cleanliness while homelessness is ongoing, Brockett says.
Wallach: I have no illusions that these removals will get at the root causes of homelessness. But we have to do it. It's a "down payment", a first step toward safety and cleanliness for residents "who are seeing things they ought not to be seeing."
Speer: What ppl are saying tonight is the same stuff they were saying in March 2021. What did that $3M get us? And what will that extra $1.3M do? My approval for this is conditional on observable metrics for success.
No majority support for taking that $$ out of the budget (or even part of it) so it stays in, as does the $80K for extra dumpsters and trash containers.
So the budget as proposed will be passed on first reading. Reminder: There is another public hearing at prob 2 more votes before this is final.

I'll see you Oct 20 — the next public hearing!
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More from @shayshinecastle

Oct 7
Open comment speaker tonight asking for "full presumption of innocence" for the Twelve Tribes surrounding the Marshall Fire.

He's going through a list of other past mysterious fires.
Last time I checked, no official cause had been determined, but the Tribes were one of the leading theories. They were allegedly burning trash on their property.

And of course, given their controversial, cult-like practices, there's a tendency to blame them.
I say cult-like bc I'm not sure if they've officially declared a cult, but.... it's problematic, to say the least.

Of course, that doesn't mean they started the fire.
Read 4 tweets
Oct 6
Stone cold sober, as a matter of fact. The witch is back: To tweet a city council meeting!

Tonight we've got the first public hearing on Boulder's proposed $513.5M budget for 2023.…
Also a public hearing on the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan. Great writeup from Boulder Housing Network, a group advocating for more housing in the city:…
And a brief discussion on possibly eliminating sales tax on necessities like menstrual products and diapers.

We already discussed doing this for food, back in the day, but it was decided that brings in too much $$.…
Read 8 tweets
Sep 8
Hey, Boulder! It's been a while, but it's budget time and I'm back to live-tweet a city council meeting to you.

Starting in 15, we'll be discussing the city's $513.5M spending plan for 2023.…
No decisions or public input tonight — that's scheduled for Oct. 6 and Oct. 20. Mark your calendars!
Like I said, this is a $513.5 million total budget
- Operating budget: $354.2 million
- Capital budget: $159.3 million

1,540.09 FTE
- 48.38 FTE more than last year
- 65 FTE more than pre-pandemic staffing (2020)
Read 76 tweets
Jul 29
Not a long enough break, but moving on to a plan to buy streetlights from Xcel and convert them to LED.…
It will cost $7M
- $3.6M to buy 4,540 streetlights from Xcel
(City total is ~5,100, so Xcel owns ~89%)
- $3.4M to convert them to LED
This will reduce GHG by 1,057 metric tons each year, via a 2.3M kWh reduction in energy use — 70% less than current use.

That will save the city $$, too: about $13.6M in 20 years. It will take 9 years to pay for conversion and acquisition.
Read 23 tweets
Jul 29
Next: Police reform.

This is really an overhaul of the police master plan, last updated in 2013, but it was used instead to implement Reimagine Policing, an Obama Foundation effort.…
There have been several period of public input on things like, what do you want your police dept to look like and do? Tonight we have a look at the draft plan in its entirety for the first time.
It will be followed by one final public engagement period, so if you've got Thoughts you haven't shared yet, now is the time.

Council will adopt this plan in December.
Read 112 tweets
Jul 29
First up: The city's noise/nuisance crackdown on Uni Hill.…
BRL did a great story on what the city is planning/doing up here, which includes giving cops more discretion to ticket for noise, including during the day, and removing plea deals for some of nuisance charges.…
Uni Hill is a hot spot for noise/nuisance complaints, as one might expect. These issues are not new, of course, but a couple things put this back on the map: The March 2021 riot, and a letter from the Uni Hill Neighborhood Association.
Read 60 tweets

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