Saturday, October 7, 2017

Who is trying to "Save Our Village" - and from What?

Who’s Trying to “Save Our Village,” and From What?

Last week many voters in Greenwood Village received a mass email endorsing a slate of candidates for City Council from the “Save Our Village” campaign. It expressed a desire but inability to “reach everyone … to talk about our issues and values” and asked for help in “urging your neighbors to vote for our candidates.” Yet, the one important piece of information it lacked is any explanation of “Why?” An online search for Save Our Village revealed a bare-bones website, which contained no members’ names, no platform, and no list of issues. In fact, the tab for the organization’s “Vision” contained no information at all. So what are those issues and values, and who exactly is Save Our Village?

As informed community members, we should question why an anonymous PAC is sending a mass email promoting candidates with no explanation of their experience, platform, views, or positions on pertinent community issues. In fact, there is no mention of any specific issue on the agendas – past or future – of Greenwood Village City Council. Most voters know the previous Save Our Village group was organized on one specific issue – the proposed re-zoning of the Orchard Area. Clearly, voters voiced their opinion on that issue, and it’s now time to move on and return to discussion of numerous issues facing the Village in coming years. Yet, if the websites of some candidates are used as a measure, Save Our Village seems to be reigniting the divisiveness of that vote and pursuing election based on a fear of property development.

The phrase Save Our Village also requires greater clarity from this group and candidates. Certainly, many residents know the original platform opposed changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan to allow mixed-use development, including space for residential units, small businesses like restaurants and shops, and community space. Yet, many residents believed the vote was about allowing one “high density housing” plan, and they rejected it based on that assumption. Voters expressed fears about subsequent traffic congestion, though traffic is far more impacted by the 70,000 commuters to DTC than it is by residents. Voters also expressed concerns about overcrowded schools, though no data supports that claim, especially west of I-25. In fact, no one seems to acknowledge that the Landmark Towers are “high density” housing, and no one connects them to school enrollment problems. All these concerns are valid, yet far too many are based on misinformation. And candidates or PACs who warn of “high density urbanism” and pledge to uphold “Village Values” should be careful with such hyperbole and loaded words.

Additionally, if candidates are directly involved in the organization, voters deserve transparency on those associations. Currently two SOV-promoted candidates seem to be directly connected. Specifically, the address on the email for the group appears to be Dave Kerber's house, and Jerry Presley had directly responded to emails to the group. Thus, it appears Kerber and Presley may have organized what seems to be a third-party PAC which they in turn use to anonymously endorse themselves. Now, that may not be illegal or unethical in some people’s views, but it certainly seems a bit suspect to an average voter. At the very least, it lacks the necessary transparency desired by voters and promoted by candidates.

Voters might also consider greater scrutiny of the candidacies of Dave Kerber, Jerry Presley, and Anne Ingebretsen over the precedent it would set. Each of these people is a long-standing community member who has served on City Council. Yet, as most voters know, Greenwood Village has term limits for the Council and Mayor’s office. While a loophole allows the law to be circumvented for candidates to serve non-consecutive terms, that is hardly the spirit of term limits. Granted, these three individuals have experience in public service. However, in a city of fifteen-thousand people, voters should be able to find new, qualified voices to help the Council stay fresh and avoid the downside of unchecked incumbency.

Voters should be curious about who SOV is. Are they connecting the election to the referendum? If so, how and why? What is their ultimate goal? What are those “issues and values?” What is this yet undisclosed “Vision?” Will they disclose who the organizing and leading members are? Will candidates and members make themselves available in public forums? Village voters deserve some transparency.

NOTE: A shorter version of this commentary appeared this week in The Villager 

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