Strategic speaking: Is Westminster still the ‘next urban center’?

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 8/11/20

Like most of us, I’m always looking for a silver lining in any situation that tends to be negative or lacks much hope or improvement. Well, a silver lining came out of the recent Westminster City …

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Strategic speaking: Is Westminster still the ‘next urban center’?


Like most of us, I’m always looking for a silver lining in any situation that tends to be negative or lacks much hope or improvement.

Well, a silver lining came out of the recent Westminster City Council strategic planning and budgeting weekend session. (However, you will not find it mentioned on any of the city’s communications tools — like their web site).

Thanks in part to some public emphasis and recited factual data from the 2020 Citizens’ Survey results, the council decided to drop the “next Urban Center in Colorado” project from the Westminster’s revised Strategic Plan.

In their action of acknowledging the voters’ dislike for the high density/intensity type of development at the former Westminster Mall site, some of them must have been looking ahead to the November city election.

Don’t break out the champagne just yet

I was delighted to learn of this decision by City Council. It shows that if enough concerned citizens let their opinions be known — along with sufficient factual information— it can sometimes even sway Westminster elected officials. (Remember the trash hauling issue?)

You might read my previous columns recapping the survey results and the public’s clear message on idea of being Colorado’s “Next Urban Center” — high density apartments, increased traffic congestion without funds to rectify the problem, lack of Open Space tax dollars being spent on land acquisitions and more.

However, there is still more to the story and we shouldn’t break out the champagne just yet.

When they were asked about what would be the next steps, it seemed unclear what city leaders think the next step might be to enforce dropping the New Downtown concept of multi-story apartment buildings and high-rise office buildings. Or perhaps the game plan at City Hall is simply to placate the public with dropping the “Next Urban Center” in name but plowing ahead with more development at the subject site. Give it some thought!

Yet another chapter to the story

You can count on the duo of City Manager Don Tripp and Mayor Herb Atchison pushing hard to keep going forward with additional apartment complexes and office buildings for their remaining time with the city. The “New Downtown” plan is their baby. It’s their pride and joy. It’s their envisioned legacy. They birthed it and they believe it is the way to go in spite of the public’s opinion and the amount of precious water resources it is taking.

So, at best, I see another 4-3 vote whenever any action item would come before the council on more dense development projects with Atchison, Seitz, Skulley and Voelz being in support at the former Westminster Mall site.

However, there is yet another chapter to this story. Seitz will definitely run for mayor in 2021 since Atchison will be term limited, but she will have at least one strong opponent. Plus, all three incumbent council members whose terms are up (DeMott, Skulley and Voelz) will seek re-election or election in the case of Voelz.

For DeMott, it is easy as he has pushed to change the “New Downtown” plan previously. However, for Skulley and Voelz, it could be quite problematic. Do they stay in Tripp’s and Atchison’s “corner” supporting more dense development or are they leery of what the voters might do per the Survey results?

Interested citizens might want to ask Seitz, Skulley and Voelz where they stand.

Both Democrats and Republicans fail to respond to Americans’ basic needs

Regarding the foot-dragging by Congress on another Coronavirus relief package, I’ve cited Nero fiddling while Rome burned before. Unfortunately, it isn’t a set of buildings at risk here. It is American people who found themselves unemployed overnight due to the Coronavirus without a safety net.

While Pelosi/Schumer versus McConnell/White House continue to posture and complain about the other side’s position, Americans are getting evicted from their homes and have little money to live on.

I think House Democrats are demanding too much with their $3 trillion package as well as sticking with the $600 per week unemployment relief. Let’s remember the national debt is already out of control.

On the other hand, the Senate Republicans are short-sighted with their $200 per week unemployment proposal which is too little.

The Democrats should drop the funding they want for schools and local government and both sides should focus, focus, focus on what Americans need most now. Plus, renters and homeowners need more time on paying their housing bills.

Finally, ignore President Trump’s idea of payroll tax deduction waivers. Time is critical and Congress is planning on going on a month’s vacation. Good Lord folks, can’t they come down from their lofty pedestals and relate to the needs of average Joe/Jane citizens?

Is there a hiring freeze or not during Westminster’s financial crisis?

Last week, I mentioned that Chief Financial Officer/Deputy City Manager Larry Dorr told City Council the city is experiencing a “financial crisis”. However, not a single employee has been furloughed. City management apprised city council that they had supposedly imposed a “hiring freeze” to save funds.

However, if you check the job opportunities on the city’s web site under “Employment” this past week, you will find a couple of full-time benefited positions which contradict what city council was told. First, the city is recruiting for a Communications and Marketing Officer.

The position pays $103,730-$129,663. Also, a Digital Media Specialist position is open for applications. This position pays $58,162-$72,702. Both positions are in the City Manager’s Office. Neither are public safety positions.

Why are these unfilled positions exempt from the hiring freeze? Is there really a hiring freeze or not? Where is the credibility at City Hall these days? Plus, are these additional marketing and public relations positions really germane to the city’s core services?

A date to remember: august 14, 1945

August 14, 1945 is a date which I hope will long be remembered after the last World War II hero has passed. It is the date when Japan accepted unconditional surrender and people celebrated worldwide.

President Truman observed, “This is the day when fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.” Nazi Germany had surrendered earlier on May 8. The official surrender by Japan was signed in Tokyo Bay on board the U.S.S. Missouri on September 2, 1945 and is known as V-J Day.

Let us give thanks for all the American and Allied forces who fought and many who made the supreme sacrifice so that we here today might enjoy our freedoms.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at


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