(Cross-posted from Jeffco Pols)
The completion of a Denver-metropolitan “Beltway” has been as long of a process as it has been contentious. Opening shots were fired nearly 40 years ago, when then-Governor Dick Lamm famously vowed to drive a “silver-stake” through the heart of the project.
Since then, of course, most of the Beltway has been completed, with the exception of what has been called the “Jefferson Parkway” — a stretch of road just north of Golden that would finally, some sixty years after the project was first discussed, loop a belt around the waist of the Metro area.
Former Golden Mayor Jacob Smith was elected in 2007 in part because of his pledge to obstruct the Beltway’s completion. Golden has always opposed the construction of an arterial road so close to home, citing fears of congestion that would forever change the dynamics behind the city’s small-town charm. Negotiations on the issue between Golden, its neighbors, and the county broke down in December.
Since then, the issue has lingered over much of Golden’s relationship with Jefferson County, just as it has for the better part of the last two decades.
Lingered, that is, until last week, when a mysterious piece of legislation popped up under the Golden Dome. Fox 31’s Eli Stokols has the story:
DENVER – Legislation now being drafted to create a government board with the power to complete a toll road beltway around the metro area over the objections of local town and cities is unlikely to go anywhere during the current legislative session, which ends in a few weeks.
“This bill hasn’t even been introduced yet,” said Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, who’s considering sponsoring the legislation if it can be introduced this year. “I haven’t even seen a draft yet, and I have some concerns of my own. So it’s not looking realistic that we can do this in a few weeks.”
But even if the legislation isn’t an imminent threat, the cities it would affect are sounding the alarm over what they perceive as a sweeping extension of the government’s ability to invoke eminent domain.
“The legislature, over the last five-to-10 years, has been limiting eminent domain,” Mike Bestor, the city manager for the City of Golden, told FOX31 Denver Monday. “And now here is this huge grab for dominant eminent domain.
“People want to build this high-speed tollway through our little valley here with no concern for the impact on the quality of life for our homeowners, for our citizens.”
What Bestor is calling a “secret attack” marks the latest impasse in a long-running battle between the city and Jefferson County over the proposed “Jefferson Parkway”, a toll road that would connect C-470 from where it ends just south of Golden north to Colo. 128 in Broomfield, essentially completing the beltway encircling the Denver metro area.
Golden has attacked really the entire region and the state by walking away from the negotiation table. They thumbed their nose at the Governor, [and] at CDOT. They didn’t negotiate in good faith…when you look at it, they started it. I hate to say that, but in essence, I want to complete the road and do the best job possible…I do not believe the citizens of Golden have been given all the information. I don’t believe the City Manager, nor has the Mayor been transparent with them.
Rosier’s comments, of course, make this complex issue seem nothing more than a schoolyard fight. “YOU started it!” “No, YOU started it.” Is this kind of dialogue really what we expect from elected officials? With back-and-forths like this, you have to wonder whether or not Jeffco has a little crush on the City of Golden.
The Beltway has always really just been talk — it’s never once come close to becoming a reality. This particular piece of legislation, for example, is doomed to fail: no legislator has stepped forward to sponsor it, but even if they did, it would no doubt die an ignominious death. The Jeffco delegation would likely vote against it — excepting Senator Boyd, who is term-limited and has no plans for future office — and would be joined in their opposition, no doubt, by small government Republicans playing lip-service to “local control” and railing against eminent domain.
Still, you’ve got to appreciate the sheer ballsiness Jeffco is displaying in drafting this bill. Rosier’s basically saying “see what you’ve made me do, Golden?” in attempting to push this project at the state level. Indeed, the county has shown that it wants this project completed no matter what the cost. The commissioners — all Republicans, mind you — will use big government to trample small communities if they have to.
Jeffco’s unprecedented aggression in pushing the Beltway’s completion should be a major cause of concern for Golden officials. By opposing the project at every step of the process, Golden may be left having no say if and when the Beltway does come to fruition.
“No Means No” is a great strategy for opposition, but it’s downright terrible for negotiation. When Jeffco finds a way to get its Parkway completed without any support from Golden, it’s pretty safe to say that Golden’s not going to get anything that it wants out of the deal.
If Jeffco continues to act so brashly, the question for Golden administrators needs to go from “How can we stop this?” to “What’s the best we can get out of this?”