Election 2018: Longmont City Council, Tim Waters

Ballots have been mailed for a special election to replace Brian Bagley who was elected in November 2017 to the position of mayor of Longmont, leaving the Ward 1 position vacant.  The February 27 election will seat a new council member from a list of three candidates.

Joshua Goldberg, Russ Lyman, and Tim Waters are hoping to sit in that council seat after the election.  On Tuesday, The Nation Report caught up to Waters to speak about his platform.

Longmont City Council Candidate Tim Waters says that had he been asked a year ago of the odds that he would run for council, he would have said there was zero chance.  But after serving as Treasurer for the Longmont City Council candidate Marcia Martin campaign – who won her seat – he became more and more interested in the issues facing Longmont.

One of those issues was the Chimney Hollows Project, a 90,000 acre-foot reservoir, proposed to be located southwest of Loveland, west of Carter Lake.  A 1980 water rights arrangement is guiding current appropriations.  A lawsuit challenging the proposal, cites potential and irreparable damage to the Colorado River.

Waters questions why council would ignore a staff recommendation about evidence and data and why it seemed city council was ignoring scientific expertise about the project.  He said he would depend highly on data and scientific evidence in coming to decisions under his leadership, “We should go to the evidence.  What are the data?  The first question is ‘What do we know?’  Or alternatively, ‘Are these the problems we ought to be solving?'”

Having listening skills is another quality he says he offers.  As he moved through the process of the Martin campaign, Waters says he saw that people in power positions were not listening and were “talking past one another.”  He was moved to seek a council seat over time while sitting in on council sessions, “The more I learned, the more interested I got.”  Because he felt that local leadership positions have the greatest impact on an individual, that he could have a positive effect on a “macro level what’s happened politically in the country.”  He adds, “This is where we need maturity, leadership, and courage.”

Regarding “maturity” Waters says he brings a set of life experiences unique to himself  that would be of value to the city of Longmont.  As a 24 -year resident of Longmont he said, “I bring clarity on where I stand.  I think I am transparent on how I arrive to a conclusion.”  He said he brings forty plus years of leadership experience as a past teacher in K-12, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent.  He has been an education policy adviser to Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, and from 1995-2014 he was President and CEO of McREL International, an education research, development, and service organization.  He served under Governor Romer on the Colorado Commission on Education among other boards and commissions.

Waters maintains that his idea of courage will be needed in addressing new development.  He says that always keeping in mind future generations while developing goals is important to him because these future generations will need access to the same facilities that the current generation is developing.  He said,  “Our descendants will need the current generation to have had foresight about what their needs might be.  The sequence will be important to our long-term future.”

In this respect, Waters raised the issue of restoration of the St. Vrain Project, “There is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this right.”

“Resilient St. Vrain” is a 100-year flood mitigation plan following the devastation caused by the 2013 flood in the area.  Around $120 million has been marked for reparations, restoration, and prevention.  Waters is bracing for developers who will vie for land along the corridor that is proposed to escalate in value after the land is removed from the floodplain, “The council must ensure that no new development occurs in the corridor until Longmont has completed its St. Vrain Blueprint to protect the health of the creek and the local wildlife, as well as landowners,” referring back to his respect for data, “We’re not going to run development ahead of the sound data that the Blueprint can provide.  The sequence will be important to a long-term future.”

Waters questions what happened with the set of “quality” benchmarks that the Longmont City Council used in making decisions for new development coming out of the Great Recession, “The City abandoned the use of those benchmarks, and I’m trying to recall why they gave those up.  We need those benchmarks to be reinvigorated first, then updated.  We need those to guide development decisions.”

A once-in-a-generation opportunity also exists for a transportation hub and having the vision to imagine the needs of future generations, “This Council should resume the work once undertaken by an earlier Council to adopt and use benchmarks for guiding decisions about where and when to approve new large-scale development projects. One of the benefits to Longmont residents of successful economic development should be state-of-the-art infrastructure that precedes the development of new business and residential centers.  A transportation hub of the future would take into consideration students of maybe a community college built within a transportation hub so that students wouldn’t need to own a car to go to school.”

Not letting the Regional Transportation District (RTD) off the hook for a promised light rail system is part of Water’s platform.  Voters approved a tax increase to pay for a light rail system in the “northern corridor,” but only the southern corridor, and other metro corridors have seen light rail.  Buses have continued to be the mode of transportation that RTD has provided for Boulder and Broomfield Counties causing a public uproar of northern corridor taxpayers.  Waters says, “As a City Council member, I will hold the RTD Board accountable and continue pressing for solutions to regional transportation needs. Our Council must explore every available option and press for solutions to current and future needs even as it demands the RTD Board honor every commitment made to Longmont voters in 2004.”

Waters admits he has a “ton to learn about sustainability,” but backs the concept of 100% renewable energy by 2030, “[I] will join the Mayor and other Council members to work with the Platte River Power Authority on clean energy generation and storage.”  Part of that learning curve means taking into account best practices throughout the nation and in the world he says, “I’m anxious for Longmont to lead in what it means to exemplify sustainable development.”

In moving on to the topic of affordable housing, Waters says he’s against maintaining the status quo, “Affordability in housing is one example where we’re going to need courage and leadership and commitment.  The recession and the residential housing crash put communities all over the country behind the curve in terms of affordability.”  Waters compared Longmont to Boulder, where the median income and the cost of housing translates into a majority of the population finding itself unable to afford to live close to where it works.

“We need to accelerate construction of additional affordable housing stock so a portfolio of options is available when individuals and families are ready to rent or purchase. This is possible when developers and businesses invest in the community. The Council must reestablish fair but meaningful sources of revenue for growing Longmont’s affordable housing fund along with zoning and permitting decisions that ensure sufficient inventory of affordable homes for our diverse community.”

Waters supports an incentive for people who own raw land to move it to market, and doesn’t believe that developers should shoulder the entire burden, “The solution is bigger than just the developers.”  He would rather that each sector of the population view affordable housing with the same lens that it views the educational system, “It’s all about the common good having every child well-educated because it’s in everyone’s interest.  Affordable housing falls into that category because it’s in the interest of the community, of our common good that all backgrounds are able to prosper and contribute to our economy for decades.”

About fracking,  “My position from the beginning is that I think it’s the council’s job to protect citizens from toxins.”  Waters referred to the more than dozen explosions that have occurred in the past several months in the state.  Although the explosions have involved more than just the flowlines that were to blame in the April 2017 fatal explosion in Firestone, Colorado, he said that the blame goes beyond just the flowlines, “Local jurisdictions have more authority to regulate flow lines and collection lines than this city council has taken on or considered.”

Waters wants further discussion of regulation and the collection of fees for extraction, “If they’re going to drill horizontally, we ought to be regulating those lines and they ought to be inspected.  The fees ought to be stiff enough to cover this.  We ought to be able to inspect and regulate and collect so citizens will at least benefit.  I wish I could wave a magic wand to give cities authority to decide what happens on the surface and underneath.”

Waters admires the vision and courage that former councils used for the purchase of open space to create a buffer zone from development.  The option for property owners to stay on the land to farm, and the requirement for these farmers to arrange with the city if they would like to change the agreement is fair according to Waters.

This vision and courage is what Waters said he would bring to Council including a “higher level of accountability.”

“I think we have good people on Council.  I don’t think there’s a successful or effective leader anywhere who doesn’t listen.  It’s about leading people to achieve.”  When asked if leadership would mean simply arriving to decisions, he disagreed, “There are autocrats.  There’s a big difference between that and leadership.  It means listening to a lot of people.  I think I’ve been pretty good at that.  We accomplish things that none of us can accomplish by ourselves.”

To finalize, Waters gave his last statement:

“I’ve been clear about where I am on the issues.  I’ve been transparent about how I got there and where I want to go with it.   As a CEO of a nonprofit, we prided ourselves on transparency.  Our staff and our sponsors knew what the data showed and how we arrived at the conclusions.  This builds confidence and credibility.  I’ve lived my life where we had to be really clear on where we wanted to go and using an approach to that that epitomized accountability, laying out what our strategies were, and using data to determine whether you’re making the best project possible.”

Joshua Goldberg and Russ Lyman have been contacted for an interview, but have not responded to The Nation Report as of this publication.

Ballots need to be returned to the City Clerk’s Office by February 27 at 7 p.m.

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