Budget Season: And That’s a Wrap! 

Every Fall begins City Council’s work deciding on the next years spending priorities.  Its starts as conversations within the Budget and Audit Board, it then transitions over to the full body of Council for approval in late October.  As the Chair of the Budget and Audit Board, and as one of your Council members, I’m putting together this blog to share with you, the answer to one of the most common questions I’ve heard from our community.

 “Where is the money is actually going?

The 350 page budget book very much, feels more theoretical than specific.  It posts numbers for each department but it’s not easy to see how and where that spending trickles down within the departments. 

Before I go into some of those specifics, l’ll throw in the caveat that this is not an exhaustive list, the list below includes some highlights that coincide with the requests and priorities that we’ve heard from you.   I’ve broken these spending highlights into four categories, categories that, over the last year, we’ve heard requests from our community the most.  (Spending obviously extends into many more categories, but for brevity’s sake, I’m hitting here on what I see to be the big four). 

First, homeslessness Response:

  • This budget includes a new, interdepartmental Homelessness response that includes the public works, parks, police and planning departments in addressing the needs of our unhoused and improve our response and clean-up efforts. 
  • It also includes allocating funds to establish a housing navigation center that will be both housing, and wrap around services to help our unhoused residents find pathways to self sufficiency.  This navigation center will include both short term temporary shelter space, and longer term supportive housing that will help our unhoused residents get off the streets and back on their feet. 

Second, public safety

As our communities needs from the police department have broadened, this years budget responds to that.  It starts with expanding what we do within the police department and adding to staff in a way that takes some of the administrative tasks away from our sworn agents so they are more available to address the crime and public safety that they are specifically trained for. Some of the budget items here include:

  • Adding several new support roles for our sworn agents to better tailor our responses and increase efficiency. 
  • Increase the number of our Co-responders in mental health and medical, and increasing victim advocate support.
  • Moving into the third year of the LEAD program.  This is a program that increases the efficiency of our court system and is host to a number of collaborative partnerships between law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, and treatment providers aimed at getting residents treatment they need when agents are responding to calls arising from substance abuse, mental illness and extreme poverty.

Third, safety on our streets:

In supporting our communities goal of improving connectivity and safety on our streets.  Some of the items included in this budget are:

  • Pedestrian upgrades at numerous traffic signals that are being replaced
  • Increasing sidewalk connectivity with an additional 4.4 miles of sidewalks and/or shared use paths to be completed or begin design, in 2023.
  • Projects around the city to improve safety for all users of our roads.  Including in some locations like on the Light Rail W Line bike path adding lighting, and installing raised tabletop crossings.
  • And while it is not included in the 2023 Budget I thought it worth mentioning that city staff is also working on developing concepts for future design of protected bike lanes on Garrison from Alameda to Colfax

And fourth, sustainability.  This budget includes:

  • Continuing to convert our streetlights to LED’s for energy and cost efficiency
  • Vehicle electrification: 2 vehicles were ordered this year, and 7 have been identified to be replaced with EV’s when they are due in 2023.
  • Full time staff dedicated to ensuring the city is not overwatering in our parks
  • Continuing to grow the tree canopy project increasing the health of our local environment and reducing energy use. 

For anyone looking to get more context on specific projects across the city, there is a list available online called the Capital Improvements and Preservation Plan that does a deeper dive.  This document is also included in the Council Questions and response sheet on Lakewoodspeaks.org here.  

In closing, I’d like to do a huge shout out of appreciation to our Lakewood residents that have reached out this past year with thoughts, questions and requests, as well as our Budget and Audit Board community members that donated their time to this process, and finally to our Lakewood staff that has been working for months trying to dial all of this in.  While no budget is ever going to be perfect, it takes us all working together to make it the best that it can be.  And next year…..we’ll try again! 

LINK: CIPP = https://www.lakewood.org/files/assets/public/finance/pdfs/2022-2023-cipp-sheets-all-projects.pdf

LINK: Lakewoodspeaks.org/October 17 meeting https://lakewoodspeaks.org/meetings/446

And just like that, I’m on Lakewood City Council…

Wow, what a whirlwind! 

While I love our Lakewood community and have spent over half my life working hard to improve the world around me, I’ll be honest, having this job was not something that I had on my radar…until 2020. 

I’ll be candid, my decision to run for this role was incredibly hard to make.  I’ve seen the stark realities of our present-day lack of trust in our government & leadership, the division, and the spite that is often unjustly directed at people that are truly in good faith working on our behalf. 

Did I really want to become part of that fray?

Did I want to put my own mental health on the line?

And subject my family to it?

It was hard to get to yes. But as you know now, I did.

I did because we all deserve good human beings that are working hard to make sure our city is moving in the right direction. In the end, while there were some hard times and critical voices, I felt so blessed last year during my campaign to come across so much humanity:

People who thanked me over and over for putting myself out there.

People who offered me water at their door.

People who opened up and shared their stories, their challenges, and their love for our Lakewood community.

These are the stories that do and will continue to come into my mind as I vote on the issues that are presented to me this year. 

In my term on council, I look forward to continuing to proactively reach out to members of our community to learn not just the opinion of the very vocal few, but also the opinions and the needs of those of you that may not as actively reach out to let me know how you are feeling. As residents and small businesses, you are the backbone of our community. 

I believe each and every one of you have the right to know the truth, and about the people who are up there on that desk voting on topics that will inevitably at times affect your everyday life. 

So, with that in mind, it is my intention to use this blog so you can learn more about me, more about the challenges of the job and more about the people and goings on here in Lakewood.  I know this may be a heavy lift at times on top of the responsibilities of this already big role but my hope that with this, that you as voters and residents can feel comfortable that I have our community’s best interests at heart, and that I’m in this role for the reasons that you want me to be. 

I would also like to extend an invitation to you to please reach out to share your thoughts. My work here is to serve as a funnel, a collection point of information, the feelings, and the thoughts of the people. Its listening to multiple perspectives, researching each topic and then voting my conscience.

As we enter 2022, and the first full year in my term, I am beyond excited to meet you and to represent  you who live here in Lakewood, and most especially those of you in Ward 5.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity you have given me to serve our community, thank you so much and I look forward to keeping you all updated on the workings we have yet to come.

Spring Cleaning? Help Me Flood the Action Center!

It’s time to clean out our closets to help our neighbors. Do you have something you could donate that someone could use if they were living in their car?

This doesn’t have to cost a cent.

Do you have a blanket in your house you no longer use? Or some of those hotel mini hygiene items tucked away that you now think was a mistake to bring home?

These are things I’m looking to collect:

• **Can openers**

• Personal hygiene items, especially disposable diapers (for all ages), feminine products, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc., etc. • Clothing: Coats and socks for all ages and both genders. (clean and washed. excluding summer items, torn or damaged clothing)

• Athletic Shoes and Boots (We CANNOT accept heels/sandals)

MENS CLOTHES, there is an especially high need for men’s clothes.

• Blankets/Sleeping Bags, Towels, & Sheets (Clean only please)

A collection box will be available through the end of the month at The new Geek Out Café. www.geekoutcafe.com

If you would prefer to skip spring cleaning and donate cash directly online, they will gladly accept that too! https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/JeffcoActionCenter/makeagift.html https://theactioncenter.org/

I’m hosting this drive in our Westgate and Southern Gables neighborhoods to amplify the awesome work being done by our own South Lakewood Business Association. Thank you Gordon for the inspiration! https://slba-co.org/