Monthly Archives: January 2006

Steamboat close to adopting inclusionary zoning

At their Jan. 24 meeting, the Steamboat Springs City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an inclusionary zoning ordinance.

If it receives final approval on second reading, the ordinance would require that most types of new residential developments include 15 percent affordable housing. Half of that housing would be for those who make 80 percent or less of the county's annual median income, or AMI, and the other half would be for households that make 120 percent or less. The annual median income for a family of four is about $72,700.

If adopted Steamboat, will join several other Colorado jurisdictions (Aspen, Boulder, Basalt, Carbondale, Crested Butte, Glenwood Springs, Longmont, Snowmass Village, and Pitkin County) and a growing number of cities across the U.S. using inclusionary zoning to require a new developments to include a certain percentage of affordable housing.

Further south and over a few mountain passes, Gunnison County is having a heated discussion on a inclusionary zoing ordinance that would require 30% of the home in a new development to be affordable and deed-restricted to residents meeting area median income levels.

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Denver schools resegregate

Denver schools have resegregated sharply since the end in 1995 of court-ordered busing to integrate students, according to study by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.

Denver Public Schools' student population is 57 percent Latino, 20 percent white and 19 percent black, says the study, commissioned by the Piton Foundation in Denver. But individual schools don't hold to those demographics.

The average Latino student attends a school that is 71 percent Latino. And in a district that is one-fifth white, more than one-third of white students attend schools where they are in the majority.

In 1995, 14 percent of white students attended schools where they were in the majority. Within two years, the number doubled – 31 percent of white students were attending schools where white students were the majority.

In 1973, Denver became the first northern city ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to desegregate after a lawsuit alleged that schools in the Park Hill neighborhood were intentionally segregated to separate white students from minorities.

The challenge is to draw middle-class families into the public school system," said Alan Gottlieb, education program officer for the Piton Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to improving education in Denver. Several schools in the district have high percentages of students on free and reduced-price lunch programs and are heavily minority, yet the surrounding neighborhoods are "getting more gentrified all the time," he said.

Read the full article . . .

Garfield County leads in drilling permits

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved 4,363 drilling permits in 2005 – an all-time high for the state and a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

There were 28,944 active wells in Colorado at the end of 2005. That number is expected to increase to 31,000 wells producing by the end of 2006.

The biggest surge in drilling permits came out of Garfield County, home to the lucrative Piceance Basin in western Colorado.

In 2005, the commission approved 1,508 permits to drill in Garfield County, or about 34 percent of all permits issued in Colorado. The number of permits for 2005 reflects a doubling in activity from the previous year.

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Profile of the uninsured in Colorado

The Colorado Health Institute's (CHI) second annual profile of uninsured Coloradans finds that Colorado’s uninsured rate has not changed significantly in the last five years. Unfortunately, this still means that about 770,000 people (17.1%) lacked health insurance in 2003-04. Colorado continues to exceed the national average of 15.7 percent.

The CHI study also shows that young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for the largest proportion of uninsured Coloradans – 39.5 percent — in 2002-04 and that three-fourths of Colorado’s uninsured adult population between the ages of 18 and 64 had jobs at some time during the year.

Perhaps in response Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Colorado is offering – a low-cost plan that provides coverage to residents who are 19 to 29 years old. Premiums cost $96 to $132 a month, at least $20 a month less than comparable individual health-insurance plans. The plan has already attracted attention in other states such as California.

The insurer's three plans (thrill-seeker, part-time daredevil, and calculated risktaker) uses x-gen lingo to speak to the under 30 crowd and attract attention.

Not everyone is trilled by the effort.

The insurance chief in Tonik's home state of California, however, sees little more than an insurer (Wellpoint) trying to pad its profits.

"It's a slicing and dicing of the marketplace to identify those individuals who are willing to buy a policy and are not likely to need it," California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi said. "It's called cherry-picking."

Garamendi said the PPO products within WellPoint's Blue Cross of California, which includes Tonik, have a profit margin of roughly 25 percent. At the same time, he said, people who need more comprehensive coverage are finding it harder to get as many employers cut or reduce benefits because of higher costs.

"It's a process that will ultimately lead to a further decline in the entire health systems," Garamendi said.

La Plata takes next step on health district question

More than 350 people filled the Extension Hall at the La Plata County Fairgrounds for public comment on the La Plata Health Services District.

The district, which would cost the owner of a $250,000 home $39 a year, would fund more preventive-care programs, increase mental-health services and work to attract more primary-care providers. (Studies show that La Plata County is 5.6 physicians short of its needs.) Proponents estimate that the tax would raise about $4.2 million annually. The district would be governed by a publicly elected board of directors.

The La Plata County Planning Commission has already unanimously voted to recommend the District ballot question to the La Plata County Commissioners.

County Commissioners are planning to hold a second session for public comment and to vote on the proposed La Plata Health Services District on Jan. 17. If approved a public election would take place on May 2.

Read the full article . . .