The case for Amendment 1

Full-time pay for Full-time work

 

In 2017 City Council pay was $9,480 per year. That pays for less than 10 hours per week. To do the best job, council is a 40-hour per week job. Half of the current council members have other jobs and can’t give 40 hours to council. The council members who do give 40 hrs per week are paid less than $5 an hour.

 

Council is responsible for:

·   Approving and supervising a $500 million per year budget.

·   Overseeing a 2,000 employee staff.

·   Answering to 161,000 constituents.

·   Making the decisions that shape Fort Collins

 

The Full-Time Council workweek looks something like:

·   15 hours - Researching topics from Advertising to Zoning.

·   15 hours - Official and community meetings.

·   5 hours - Meeting with individual constituents.

·   5 hours - Meeting with City staff leaders.

 

 

Area Median Income is a fair wage

 

The Fort Collins Area Median Income is about $60,000/yr, roughly the salary of a city bus driver, parks maintenance tech, police dispatcher, and librarian.

The money (~$550k) will come from savings generated not a tax increase. Council routinely over-funds projects without a thorough review of performance or need. One example is the $500k annually for solar rebates that are no longer needed. A professional City Council will identify these opportunities and save money.

 

Amendment 1 is not related to the tax question on the ballot.

 

For more information visit:  www.FTCFTCblog.wordpress.com

 

Community for Sustainable Energy supports Amendment 1 because:

 

Vital sustainability concerns are not being adequately addressed.

·      Cost of living is outpacing wages.

·      We are missing targets in the Climate Action Plan.

·      Creative solutions like solar for schools are not being pursued.

 

City Council is not responsive to CforSE members

·      It took over a year for council to adopt the 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030 goal despite widespread support.

·      Council has not adequately responded about solar policy.

·      Council dismissed calls to explore Amtrak to Denver.

 

A decent salary will allow council to spend more time on sustainability.

·      Council needs hours of education/research on sustainability.

·      Council needs hours to hear more from citizens and experts.

·      Council needs to know how to better direct City staff action.

 

A decent salary will attract better-qualified candidates on sustainability.

·      Trained professionals need (and deserve) a professional salary.

·      People who have to work for a living will be able to serve.

·      More diverse representation improves outcomes.

A Better Solar Policy for Fort Collins

In the past year CforSE has generated over 1,000 citizen letters to city council asking them to explore leasing roofs and parking lots to install City owned solar panels. This is the most affordable way for the community to maximize our solar potential without covering undeveloped land with panels. There are roughly three square miles of available roof/parking lots in town (the size of Horsetooth Reservoir). Last September council directed staff to explore the leasing idea.

 Seven months later staff presented little more than a request for two more years to research options. This might sound reasonable until you consider that they’ve had ten years to evolve the solar program and haven’t substantially changed a thing.

 The result of our ten-year-old policy is that lower income residents who don’t have solar are subsidizing a profit margin for residents and businesses that do have solar. The City could adopt policies now that fairly compensate solar owners and encourage solar development on parking lots, rooftops, and marginal lands like the landfill.

 The longer the City delays, the more “greenfields” will be covered with solar. In fact the City has already contracted with a project on agricultural land in north Fort Collins. You can see this project from the Horsetooth foothills. Imagine an area of solar panels the size of the reservoir. Those panels should be on rooftops and parking lots, not agricultural land and greenfields.

 As citizens, we need to hold the city council accountable to holding the city staff accountable to implementing policy that reflects our values. Your short email will make a difference!

Tell our City Leaders that you want City staff to move quickly to adopt solar policy that maximizes the potential for rooftop and parking lot solar.

Send your email to: cityleaders@fcgov.com

Please cc: cforse.fred@gmail.com

Thank you!

Rush Hour Commuter Rail Update

We’re making progress! It appears that letters from CforSE members are making a difference at the Boulder County Commissioners’ office. We will be sending letters directly to RTD now and keeping up the pressure on the county to continue to advocate for Rush Hour Rail.

Your help is needed! Please email the RTD Board of Directors barbara.mcmanus@rtd-denver.com. Ask them for their response to the letter from Commuting Solutions dated Aug. 21, 2018 concerning Peak Service Northwest Rail.

Let me know if you get a reply and we will do the same. RTD needs continuos poking to prioritize this project. Thank you!


August 21, 2018

Mr. Doug Tisdale
Chair, RTD Board of Directors 1600 Blake Street
Denver, CO 80202

Dear Chair Tisdale,

Commuting Solutions and the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition communities of Adams County, Boulder, Boulder County, Louisville, Superior, City & County of Broomfield, Longmont, Lafayette, Erie and Westminster submitted to the RTD on November 8, 2017 a letter, requesting you proceed with further evaluation of the Option 1 Peak Service Northwest Rail as the preferred scenario. In addition, we urged the RTD to proceed with engaging the BNSF in the exploration so they could provide a cost estimate necessary to implement Peak Service Northwest Rail.

We understand RTD met with the BNSF in May 2018 to discuss the scenario and to ask for a cost estimate. We also understand a follow-up letter was sent to the BNSF in June.

We write today to ask that you expedite conversations with the BNSF, as it has almost been a year since we selected Option 1 as the preferred scenario. We wish to continue to partner with the RTD and explore creative options to deliver Northwest Rail sooner than the 2040 timeframe. Continuing the evaluation is of particular importance this year, as the state considers a ballot issue that could ultimately be used as seed funding to further the Peak Service Northwest Rail exploration. We are already receiving comments and concerns from the public as we begin our advocacy efforts for the ballot issue’s successful passage and would like to have recent information to provide in response to these comments.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

David Driscoll Board Chairperson

cc: US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition

Fort Collins Adopts Goal of 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030

By a vote of 6-1 City Council passed the resolution. Councilman Ross Cunniff appeared to be the most vocal proponent of the goal. Mayor Troxell talked about how this will help to shape our electricity systems. Councilman Horak said that any cost increases are likely to come from utility operations, not as a result of renewable electricity. Councilwoman Stephens and councilman Overbeck voiced support and thanks to all the citizens who worked to make this possible. Councilman Ray Martinez made several last minute wordsmithing changes and didn’t seem to know much about what was going on. Councilman Ken Summers voted no because he doesn’t want to make a promise that he might not be able to keep, although he says that he hopes that we can achieve the goal. Now maybe we can finally move on to the fun stuff!

Actions to support 100% Renewable Electricity in Fort Collins

Here is the exhaustive work done by City staff to develop the resolution.

Here are some ways that you can help:

  • Come to 300 LaPorte at 8:30 pm Oct. 2nd and wear our sticker to show your support (also wear a green shirt if you like).

  • Send an email to Cityleaders@fcgov.com to voice your support.

  • Call Mayor Wade Troxell and ask him to pass the resolution, 970-219-8940

Your ideas and heartfelt statements about the need for 100% renewable electricity by 2030 will have an impact on Council members. Here are some possible ideas that you can choose from to emphasize in your email or phone call:

● The effects of climate change call for urgent action, especially the conversion to clean energy.

● Achieving needed changes—like 100% renewables—requires setting goals (ones that, if necessary, can be adjusted in the future).

● A commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 supports the emissions reduction goals in the city’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).

● Conversion to clean energy will reduce air and water pollution in Fort Collins, the Front Range, and all of Colorado.

● Renewable energy has economic advantages, including decreasing costs.

● Fast-changing battery and storage technology will solve problems with intermittent energy.

● Exploding growth in Fort Collins and the Front Range requires more sustainable directions.

● A commitment to renewable energy will encourage forward-looking businesses to come to this area and remain here.

● Renewable energy will enhance the growth of solar, wind, and other clean energy businesses and employment.

● Your own reasons for supporting 100% renewables by 2030.

Thanks, hope to see ya there!

Get On With It Already!

For over a year now our City leadership and staff have been debating and deliberating over whether or not to adopt a resolution to set a goal of sourcing 100% of our electricity from renewable resources by 2030. The debates over resolutions, and goals, and long term plans drive me crazy! Ask anyone, “Do you think we should minimize pollution from energy sources?” Almost everyone will say “YES!” Ask, “when should we do it?”. The answer is “As Soon As Possible!”

How does it take a year to say that setting a goal, which everyone wants to strive towards, is a good idea? Adopting a resolution is like making a proclamation. It has no legal standing. It simply says, “We think this is a good idea.” This is the most luke warm thing that could possibly be done and our City has dedicated valuable staff time and resources for over a year debating this. Longmont took about a month in January to get it done. 80 other cities and two states have done it. The upside of taking so long to deliberate on this is that the community has been engaged. The outcomes of that outreach are completely predictable (the enviros support bold action, the Chamber of Commerce is afraid of change), but at least awareness has been raised.

In the mean time, the climate keeps changing and tangible solutions are out there waiting to be deployed. To be fair, the City is pursuing wind and solar options, but they are soooo slow and the actions they are taking are yesterday's news. Innovative they are not. We need to be taking bold steps to promote solar on rooftops and parking lots. We need to aggressively pursue electric vehicles. Maybe most importantly, we need to discover and develop our local energy storage solutions. 

CforSE is pushing for real, tangible, concrete actions. A resolution is nice but we have more important things to do. Dear City Council, Get on with it!

Electric Rates. Is this gonna be a problem?

The new Fort Collins electric rate structure is a big financial risk and doesn’t take in account our growing use of wind and solar.

The new structure increases rates during busy hours, or “peak hours”, of the day and lowers rates for the rest of the day (off peak). This is new to Fort Collins but other utilities have been doing it for years. The goal is usually to get people to reduce electric consumption (load) during peak times and shift their load to off peak times. This saves customers and the utility money.

Will you change the time of day that you use electricity to save money? You could blast the AC until 2pm and then turn it off to “coast” through the evening. You could run your appliances after 7pm. By doing just those things you could probably shift half of your load and save a decent amount of money.

That doesn’t sound too hard right? Well City Council doesn’t think you can do it. In fact, they are betting that people will not shift more than about 9% of their load. If they made a bad bet then our utility will not have enough revenue to meet the budget. This is a big risk. Our electric utility has been operating at a deficit for years. We already have 15% rate increases planned over the next 4 years. Customers of other utilities with time of day rates have significantly shifted load. If Fort Collins customers do the same then we will be facing even higher rate increases.

The Time Of Day (TOD) rate is soooo 2015! Back then coal and gas were the cheapest fuel for electricity and TOD made a lot of sense. Wind and solar are changing the electric landscape. In California electricity is now often cheapest when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. That is usually during peak hours. This will be the reality in Fort Collins before we know it. We will be getting over 50% of our electricity from renewable resources by 2021, and possibly 100% by 2030. Excel plans to get over 50% renewable electricity by 2026. There is a very real risk that wholesale electricity will be cheapest when our utility is charging us the most. It took Fort Collins Utilities four years to develop this rate structure. We need to get working on the next one now if we are going to ready for the renewable electricity reality.

What we want to do is set a rate that encourages a matching of demand to supply. This is often called “dynamic rates”. A simple dynamic rate can be timed to predictable wind and solar production times. If our wind and solar produces the most from 2-4pm (typically) then we set the rate low from 2-4pm every day. That wouldn’t change on a cloudy day, the revenue difference would be absorbed in the utility’s annual average. A “smart” dynamic rate would change every hour of every day depending on real-time wind/solar production. Electric cars could use this rate to micromanage charging times. A “smart thermostat” could turn the AC on and off to match solar production. Household batteries could charge during cheap times and discharge during expensive hours. You could micromanage your load and bill each day but it probably wouldn’t be worth the effort for the small stuff. And if you don’t have the cool new “smart”toys you will still save money compared to the TOD rate.

The point is that the Time Of Day rates are out of date because they will soon not reflect when electricity is cheapest. In addition, they could potentially cause huge rate increases. A few of us utility nerds have pointed this out and were basically told to shut up and don’t worry about it. If TOD goes as planned then I will be the first person to say that I am wrong. If it does turn into a disaster then I will be publicly calling for the resignations of those responsible.

What do you think?


100% Renewable Energy Update

If you became a member of CforSE within the past year then you are probably one of the 2,300 people who signed our petition calling on Fort Collins City Council to set the goal of generating 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030. It is a goal that over 60 cities around the country have adopted including Longmont. A handful of cities claim to have already achieved this goal. I say claim to because what they are doing is "net 100%". They are still using electricity generated by fossil fuels but are buying enough renewable energy to offset the fossil fuel usage. This is a great thing to do, but it is a little disingenuous to claim 100% renewable. 

The Northern Colorado Partners for Clean Energy (of which we are a part) are pushing for 100% generated renewable energy by 2030. The difference is that we need to store excess energy generated by wind and solar for use when the sun don't shine and the wind don't blow. Storage technology isn't quite there yet to make this happen in an affordable way but is expected to be by 2030. Nay sayers say that we shouldn't set this goal because we don't have a clear path to achieving it. To which I quote President Kennedy. In 1961 he wanted the U.S. to go to the moon by 1969. We didn't know how to do it, but we set the goal and we got it done. Our goal is much more attainable.

In May we (Fort Collins Partners for Clean Energy) presented a draft resolution for city council to adopt this goal. Mayor Troxell balked at the idea of a "grand statement" claiming that the goal was only a political statement. Council directed staff to research the idea (see above). The funny thing is that to achieve our climate action goals we almost certainly have to achieve 100% REx2030. The Mayor loves the "grand statement" of our Climate Action Goals and touts it all across the country. 

You can help by writing Mayor Troxell and City leaders (cityleaders@fcgov.com) and asking him to adopt the 100% renewable energy by 2030 goal.

Fort Collins City Council fails through obfuscation and delay

Overall our City government performs very well, as evidenced by our many awards. However, there are... areas of opportunity. One such area is communication and accountability between council and staff. Council is supposed to give staff clear direction on a topic. Staff is supposed to follow that direction. Unfortunately the process frequently breaks down. This has happened recently with our campaign for the City to set a goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and with our "rent your roof" campaign for the utility to rent roofs/parking lots for solar panels. 

Obfuscate - (verb) render unclear, obscure, or unintelligible

Regarding "Rent your Roof", council gave very confusing and weak direction to staff. One council-member timidly asked for a feasibility study, one asked for a scoping study, and the Mayor confused everything by asked for a study of all distributed energy models.  There was no consensus of what council was asking. The City Manager said that the direction was clear but gave no confirmation of what that direction was. To no surprise, the staff action plan was vague and mostly off topic. Council didn't correct staff, probably because they didn't know what it was they had asked staff to do. 

Delay - (verb) make something late or slow

This topic was assigned to a January work-session, then delayed to February, then delayed until May. Finally, after 7 months, staff presented the results of their work to council. This presentation would not have passed my undergrad classes at CSU back in the '90s. It was incomplete, inaccurate, and off topic. I know it was inaccurate because I pointed it out and staff made a correction. But council didn't understand what they were looking at because after all that delay we were back to our old friend, obfuscation. The result? More delay! Council gave staff another two years to do more of whatever it is they did and there is no expectation of concrete results. Staff could come back to council in two years with the same thing.

In the case of 100% renewable electricity by 2030 the direction was a little more clear, "Study the feasibility of achieving the goal". Staff delayed by waiting for a "Net Zero Carbon Study" from PRPA (our power provider). In this case they obfuscated by hiding their work behind the PRPA study and mixing it in with a Climate Action Plan update. No to worry, council wasn't upset. They simply asked staff to come up with something in a month's time. So staff got to work. They presented a set of obfuscated questions and topics to two citizen boards and spent the majority of time talking about the definition of "renewable electricity". Their report to council was due last week and it appears that they will ask for council for a... delay!

So what the hell are we gonna do about this? Well after 12 years of being on the citizen side of the podium, I've had enough! I've decided to run for City Council District 6. I'm running because I believe that I can help fix the process problems that are limiting the City's progress on a range of important issues facing our community. 

To deal with the obfuscate and delay problem I will require the City Manager to recite council direction when given. This will allow council to clarify any miscommunications right from the start. Next, the follow-up memo from staff should be signed off on by all council-members. Delays happen, but need stronger justification. When the topic does come up for discussion the original direction from council will be on the first page. Council can ask, "How does your work address our original concern?" These steps should provide clarity and accountability for staff and for council.

This problem is one symptom of a root problem of council not having the time and resources to do the best job that can be done. Right now council members are paid for about 7 hours of work per week (less than $10k/yr). Many people familiar with the council role say that to do the best job possible requires 40 hours per week. To address this root problem CforSE is advocating to make city council a full-time position paid at Area Median Income with reporting requirements so that citizens can see that their elected (and paid) officials are doing their job.

You can help in a few ways. From August to November we will be circulating a petition to get "Full-Time City Council" on the April ballot. We will need about 8,000 signatures. We would love to have your help gathering signatures, fundraising, or just signing the petition and spreading the word!

Thank you again!