Monthly Archives: July 2006

Rubber sidewalks go where concrete fears to tread

We all know a place in our community where tree roots are busting trough a sidewalk or paved trail. What to do? Hack the tree roots and risk killing the tree? Move the side walk or trail?

How about rubber sidewalks?

Don’t laugh.  Some 130,000 square feet of rubberized sidewalks grace about 60 North American cities, giving local governments an alternative to concrete and its attendant pitfalls, such as rising prices, exorbitant trip-and-fall lawsuits, and a trail of chopped-down urban trees.

Although the rubbers pavers are a 2.5 times the cost of concrete, they can be tree savers. And in places concrete in Western communities, where trees grow slowly, if at all, some rubber pavement may be just the solution for the conflict between rooting and footing.

Read the full article in the Christian Science Monitor . . .

Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform gets nod from Gov.

On June 2, Governor Owens signed Senate Bill 208, which “creates the blue ribbon commission for health care reform (commission) for the purpose of studying and establishing health care reform models to expand health care coverage and to decrease health care costs for Colorado residents.”

The commission is an acknowledgement that health care has reached a critical jucture in the state, and statewide policy reform might be an appropriate response. Colorado joins a number of states (Massachusetts, Maine, Illinois) and working on health care absent action at the federal level.

As with any ‘blue ribbon commission” there is no guarantee that the commission will fully explore all the issues relating to health careor that any recommended reforms will work or even be acted on by state legislators. However, the commission is an opportunity to engage residents, providers, and the medical commuinty how to increase access to and reduce the costs of health care in Colorado – an approach the state has not taken before.

Early-childhood tax to appear on Eagle County ballot

The Eagle County Commissioners voted to put a early-childhood tax proposal on the fall ballot. If approved, the tax would raise $2 to $3 million per year for projects aimed at “early childhood,” or kids between birth and six years old.

The proposal comes out of a recent study that found study that a quarter of county’s households have no health insurance. The study also found that there are nearly three times as many kids between six weeks and six years of age as there are licensed child care spaces.

The Eagle County tax question follows on the heels of a similar ballot issue that passed last year in Summit County. Other governments around the state are also looking into finding money for early-childhood services.
Read the full article in the Vail Daily . . .

Summit struggles to fund affordable housing efforts

The Summit Housing Authority (SHA) board of directors decided this week to pursue placing an initiative on November’s ballot in order to fund a countywide multi-jurisdictional housing authority, despite less than encouraging results from a survey of county residents on a potential tax question.

The move is spurred, in part, by the expiration at the end of this year of the of the existing intergovernmental agreement between the towns, the county and the ski resorts that funds the the authority. Even without the expiration of the IGA, SHA needs more money to tackle the formidable task of finding the 3,000 additional units of affordable housing, which a recent needs assessment predicted Summit County will require by 2010.

Funding for a countywide affordable housing entity could be obtained from tax sources, if approved by voters. Possibilities for financial support for a housing agency include impact fees, sales taxes, property taxes or some combination of the three.

A recent survey asked respondents about their support for possible tax combinations that could provide the housing authority with anywhere between $1.3 million and $5 million per year. The combination of a new sales tax and impact fees – fees assessed on new construction based on square footage – was the most popular scenario among respondents, but garnered support from only 47 percent of those surveyed.

SHA last went to county voters in 2002 to request a sales tax which would have raised about $400,000 a year for affordable housing, but the measure was defeated bt a seven-to-six margin.
Read the full article in the Summit Daily . . .

The Biofuel Illusion

Julia Olmstead writes an interesting peice on the peirls of the new found love affair with “biofuels” and its potential to address global warming. She makes a number of points about the focus on producing more biofuels rather than encouraging more energy efficiency, including:

  • The United States annually consumes more fossil and nuclear energy than all the energy produced in a year by the country’s plant life, including forests and that used for food and fiber, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Energy and David Pimentel, a Cornell University researcher.
  • To produce enough corn-based ethanol to meet current U.S. demand for automotive gasoline, we would need to nearly double the amount of land used for harvested crops, plant all of it in corn, year after year, and not eat any of it. Even a greener fuel source like the switchgrass President Bush mentioned, which requires fewer petroleum-based inputs than corn and reduces topsoil losses by growing back each year, could provide only a small fraction of the energy we demand.
  • Improving fuel efficiency in cars by just 1 mile per gallon – a gain possible with proper tire inflation – would cut fuel consumption equal to the total amount of ethanol federally mandated for production in 2012.

George Monbiot has made similar points in his columns about the disasterous affects of increasing biofuel production on the world stage.

The focus on producing more energy overlooks the current technologies and designs we could implement today to reduce energy demand (such as with more efficient appliances, heating and cooling systems, cars, land use patterns). Doing more with less energy input has never been more possible or more imperative.

You can read her full essay in the Denver Post and the Prairie Writers Circle.

Local government as housing developer

The lack of affordable housing in mountain communities has some local governments taking a more active role in the development process – add another to the list:

The Town of Mountain Village, near Telluride, is in the process of purchasing four lots in Mountain Village’s Timberview subdivision and just added property in Ilium Valley. The property in Ilium Valley is already zoned for development and can shoulder 13 affordable housing units.

 

“We’re not land-banking it waiting for some sort of strategy to emerge,” Mayor Davis Fansler said, alluding to the Village’s failed attempt to purchase some 100-plus acres in the San Miguel River Canyon earlier this winter. “we’re trying to chip away at the issue.”

The village will pay $65,000 per unit, or $845,000 in total for the land, which is expected to close in late July.

 

The funds for both purchases will come from the Mountain Village Housing Authority, though the Mountain Village Homeowner’s Association $500,000 as a donation toward affordable housing.

The Timberview property in the Village will cost the town $510,000.

 

Read the full article in the Telluride Daily Planet . . .