Mayor John Gates
What’s Great about Greeley
Greeley’s Forestry, Natural Areas & Trails was presented with the Columbine Award from the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA). This award acknowledges the pioneering approach to natural areas management that Forestry, Natural Areas & Trails has instituted through its commitment to “managing natural areas naturally.” (Find out more about Greeley’s Forestry, Natural Areas & Trails here.)
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked Greeley’s 2017 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 6thin terms of fastest growing metropolitan statistical areas. Sectors of Greeley’s economy which showed the greatest amount of growth included finance, insurance and real estate. Growth in natural resources, mining and construction was also notable.
Tonight’s public input opened with an address form Mayor John Gates. A very large crowd came out for tonight’s meeting, and the Mayor wanted to lay some ground rules for how tonight’s public input would go. The issue that drew so many here tonight was Greeley City Council’s consideration of a resolution opposing Proposition 112. Gates informed those present that he would be alternating between those opposed to the proposition and those in favor, as speakers were asked to indicate their stance on tonight’s speaker signup sheet. The public input portion of tonight’s meeting, Gates indicated, would be extended so that everyone would be heard from. Finally, Gates said, “as a matter of decorum, I don’t ask for a lot, but I’m going to ask for a few things this evening: no clapping, cheering, or booing.” And with that, Gates opened the meeting up for public input.
(Greeley Indie has decided to present the words of each speaker in full to allow everyone’s views to be heard exactly as they were stated. Because of the fact that people have been threatened over their stance on this issue, no names will be used to denote individual speakers. However, names of companies and organizations who sent representatives to speak on their and their workers’ behalf will be named.)
Speaker 1 – Greeley resident
“This morning I had the opportunity to lead a bunch of college students from CSU on a field trip. They came to Greeley not to see ‘Greeley Unexpected,’ but to see, unfortunately, Greeley expected. Greeley has the most egregious examples of close-in residential drilling in the state of Colorado. Close to schools, close to residential areas, close to recreational areas. We know and we live with close-in residential drilling. For [Greeley City] Council to consider coming out against a setback resolution being sent to the [state] legislature is egregious. From a citizen’s standpoint it's intolerable. So, I thought I'd share that with you. Thanks.”
Speaker 2 – Greeley resident
“I do understand that you might have concerns for the City’s income and for the citizens’ jobs and their income. I urge you to look at this issue with a wide-angle lens as the industry you want to support has little concern with these worries of yours. The industry has hopes to double its production by reducing the workforce in half in the near future. It is exposed to the boom and bust the price for oil on the world market creates and it is based on a finite source. The jobs are dangerous and temporary, often requiring out-of-state stay and provide work for out-of-state workers. It exposes its workers to toxins, demands regular overtime, counting on 24/7 availability without consideration of life quality.
Yes, those paychecks are fat when you work long shifts and 70+ hours. But family, political interest, community participation, education, all this has no place in such work life. Accidents occur at work and on the road, and happen more so to overworked and exhausted men.
The oil and gas goes to Asia, the profits get sent to the stockholders and the losses are carried by the community. The losses and the costs are plentiful and there are daily impacts: Our lungs are challenged, our roads are damaged, our precious water gets poisoned and taken out of circulation, our national park and ski slopes are affected, our community becomes attractive to very undesirable industry, as sex and drug traffic increases around oil and gas production. On top of this is the danger and cost of accidents which we have seen plenty at the industrial sites and on the roads. We pay the bill already, and we will in the future. I'm asking you to support Proposition 112. Thank you.”
Speaker 3 – Greeley resident
“I think I'm going to start with this: I received, yesterday, a piece of hate mail which concludes with sort of a veiled threat. It was in reference to a letter to the editor that I had written, and the veiled threat says, ‘. . . stay away from squirrels.’ Well, not so much for me, but the people who live in my household are young people, and I worry about them. I worry about the fact that this hate mail came by traditional mail and has my address on it. So, I thought about saying something.
What does it say about a society that has become so polarized that one faction, looking after the health and safety of community, is so bullied and threatened by another faction? And when did might and bullying ever make for a better world?
So, I have 52 seconds, and I wasn't going to talk about this, but I think I will. So, in the process of gathering signatures, I approached one young man who clandestinely said, ‘I'd like to sign that petition.’ And he said, ‘You can tell my story, but don't ever mention my name.’ This person worked in oil and gas, and he said to me, ‘You know, I love animals, and some days I would go to work and I would see at the polls a dead coyote or a dead fox or a dead raccoon.’ And he said this under his breath as I said, ‘Can I repeat this story?’ He said, ‘Yes, I told you, you could repeat this story.’ And so, I'm saying this [today], and here was a person who worked in gas and oil. I want to thank you very much for this opportunity to speak.”
Speaker 4 – Greeley resident
“I live on the east edge of Greeley, very close to Bella Romero school and the 24 wells and 18 tanks that are going in there. I feel that because tourism generates more income for Colorado and even for the Greeley area than does oil and gas that it is inappropriate for [Greeley] City Council to take a stand either for or against this proposition. From what I am seeing this close to this drilling operation is that the size and the number of the drilling sites is increasing rapidly in our county and is damaging our neighborhoods, the health of our children and the [attractiveness of Greeley] from a tourism standpoint. Thank you very much.”
Speaker 5 – Greeley resident
“I'm a mother, a grandmother and an early intervention specialist who worked with young parents and children for 30 years. So, it's my god given value to protect and nurture. And so, for the love of children and their well-being, I want to make sure that they have a safe and healthy environment to live and to go to school. And, therefore, I am supporting Proposition 112, and I beg of you to think about this issue. Thank you.”
Speaker 6 – Greeley resident
“I am worried that we as a system, political and economic, [have] failed us. We have people worried about their jobs because we have an economic system that gives limited options. You have to agree to trash the environment or to do other nefarious things, or oil and gas will cut your job. We have a political system that has made it intractable, because of the large amounts of money in politics, to have even modest reforms. I've been at the capital, many of the people in this room have been at the capital, and even minor adjustments to allow for accountability have been shot down. And that's why [Proposition] 112 was advocated for by citizens. I urge us to take steps to hold oil and gas accountable, but to also have a system where people don't have to worry about losing their jobs if we want to clean up our environment. That is a matter of political will to have well-paying jobs that don't pollute, that our children can live safely, that our community can be what they say: from the ground up and ‘Greeley is great.’ Thank you.”
Speaker 7 – Greeley resident
“I have a document here called . . . it is the encyclical by Pope Francis, who is trying his damnedest—excuse my language—to keep the church together. And it's a powerful document. This is another one, here’s the Pope again, ‘worldliness is the very heart of the Catholic Church’s crisis. Fossil fuel is the very heart of the world’s crisis.’
We had 70 inches of rain in South Carolina this year. Last year, we had 54 inches seven miles from where I was raised, in Kingwood, Texas. People there, millionaires have to leave their homes because they had 54 inches [of rain] caused by fossil fuel.
I am for [Proposition 112]. I don't want my grandchildren and your grandchildren saying, ‘How could my grandparents have let that pass? To do that to us?’ Because what's going to be left? We keep pumping chemicals into the earth, eventually the chemicals [are] going to come back up, just like they did in Love Canal and just like they did in the projects in south Chicago, where they actually built those projects on top of landfills.
And I say, we need to save the earth. The Pope’s on my side, okay? And I'm on his side, and all people of good reason are on my side. We need to stop the madness! It's about money, but it's more than that. It's about saving the earth; it’s about saving Mother Earth. It says here, ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.’ Think about that. Think about your grandchildren. Think about your children. Please.”
Speaker 8 – Representative for the Greeley Chamber of Commerce
“I guess I should first do just a little shout out, because Greeley was number one according to WalletHub in job growth. So, another diamond in our tiara tonight for Greeley, because Greeley is a wonderful place to be.
I have to share with you, the Greeley Chamber is really proud to support the opposition of [Proposition 112]. And we join in hand with other chambers across the state of Colorado and economic development organizations. It's important that we continue to meet the increased demand for energy by wisely developing resources because it's critical to our continued growth in our economy and the fiscal health of our community. Weld County contains the most significant portion of Colorado's future energy resources. Weld County will help meet the need of the growing demand for energy. And I have to tell you, we’re really unapologetic about supporting the industry because it's about supporting the economy and it's about supporting jobs. As we say at the [Greeley] Chamber [of Commerce], we’re energy proud, and we encourage the opposition to [Proposition 112]. Thank you.”
Speaker 9 – Representative for the Colorado Petroleum Council
“The Colorado Petroleum Council is a national trade organization representing all facets of the oil and natural gas industry. Our role is to ensure safe and environmental development of natural resources across the state of Colorado.
I do want to start by thanking you all tonight—I know this is a long Council meeting and public service isn’t easy. [I] also want us to thank [City] staff for putting [in] the time. So we want to thank all of you for your service. And I always love to do this: I love to thank all the oil and gas employees [who] come out. They spend their [weekday] night coming out. They work during the day, and so I just want to say thanks to each and every one of you for coming out—this is why we do this. So, mine included—my wife works in oil and gas. So, thanks to all of you.
We're here today to support [Greeley] City Council’s resolution to oppose Proposition 112. [Proposition] 112, if ultimately enacted, will define the state’s economy for generations to come. From Colorado’s earliest beginning, oil and gas has been a part of this state’s rich history. Nowhere is this truer than right here in Weld County. Weld County contains not only the largest area of production in Colorado, but is also home to over 10,000 oil and gas employees who generate over $750 million in wages. The economic impact of Weld County’s energy economy cannot be understated. Proposition 112 will change the outlook of hundreds of thousands of Coloradoans, including many right here in [Weld County]. The [Colorado] State Land Board has said that $230 million would be cut from education. A non-partisan study has cited hundreds of thousands of jobs will be cut across the state, not even related to oil and gas—those that are supported directly and indirectly. We support over 6.5% of the state’s workforce. We just want [Council] to consider all those numbers when you're considering a resolution today. I want to say, I'm proud to stand with the oil and gas industry, I’m proud to stand with these workers and we'd appreciate your support in opposing Proposition 112. Thank you, and have a great evening.”
Speaker 10 – Greeley resident
“Evening, Mr. Mayor, councilmembers and [City] staff. Thank you for allowing me time to speak tonight, I appreciate your time. I came today because I would like to stress the importance of the oil and gas industry to the City, but also to tell you what it means to my family. I have worked in the oil and gas industry going on eight years. I have seen firsthand the benefits the industry brings to my family and my community. I go to work every day knowing that what I do creates the building blocks for a better society. I could tell you about [the] economic impact of this proposition and what it would mean for the state, city and my family. But today, I really want to focus on why a setback like this is just unnecessary to begin with. Every day, my goal is the safety of my community, my fellow coworkers and myself. I am proud to work in Colorado because I know that mine and my community’s safety and well-being is the state’s and my number one priority. Agencies like the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission] (COGCC), [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] (CDPHE) and local governments ensure that energy is responsibly produced.
We have a lot of work to do. We want to be the best neighbors possible when providing the resources we do for the state and this country. It is my job, and my pleasure, to listen to the concerns of community members—that's what I do in my oil and gas industry job—and work together to find solutions. It is this cooperative spirit that really is the Colorado way, not an initiative that would all but ban future oil and gas development. I'm proud to say that I work in the oil and gas industry, and I would appreciate your support. Thank you.”
Speaker 11 – Greeley resident
“Good evening, Mayor, councilmembers and [City] staff. . . . My husband . . . and I have lived in Greeley for over 20 years. We were quite surprised when after an intermittent cough and congestion this past winter [the speaker’s husband] was diagnosed with asthma. Neither of us have ever smoked, and so it is unusual at our age.
Is this related to fracking in Greeley and Weld County? Well, of course, we can't say for sure. We can say there are many health studies that point to an increase of asthma related attacks in the areas where lots of fracking is taking place. This information is contained in a 266-page report by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility. Quoting [Kathleen Nolan,] one of the doctors [in the report], ‘substantial scientific evidence now leaves no question that drilling and fracking cause serious harms to public health. . . . [And] it is abundantly clear that the practice is not safe and that no set of regulations can make it safe.’
No doubt, oil and gas has been good for the economy and will continue to contribute. But oil and gas resources are not going to last forever. There is increasing encroachment on populated areas, indicating that the supply is decreasing. We do need jobs, and I think we can have it both ways. Currently, there are more new jobs coming from the renewable sector, solar and wind, than from fossil fuels. I encourage [Greeley City] Council to promote these jobs here in Weld County and in Greeley. This is the way of the future. To fail to act is to be left behind. Thank you.”
Speaker 12 – Greeley resident
“Mayor Gates, councilpersons and [City] staff, thank you very much. I looked on the web and saw that your task is to maintain and improve Greeley's quality of life. And that is an incredible responsibility for you. Economic development is a very important part of that. In this politically charged time of people for and against [Proposition] 112, a lot of signs have bloomed: ‘Jobs matter,’ ‘Don't set Colorado back.’ Then there are the flyers that come out. And when I read this particular one about voting ‘No’ on Proposition 112, it said, ‘If this passes, 7 out of 10 jobs will be lost.’ Well, that sounds an awful like we're approaching a company-town, a company-county, a company-state. And I wonder, is that the best way to look at economic development? Diversity in nature makes it healthier. Doesn't diversity in economic development mean as much? So I'm wondering, there is a boom-and-bust cycle, as was mentioned before, when the bust cycle comes and we are 7 out of 10 workers in oil and gas, what happens to them? What happens to our town?
Then, natural gas is composed mainly of methane, a greenhouse gas. Is there a tipping point beyond which we can't recover from the results of climate change or disruption? Can we afford to be complacent? The signs on the western slope say, “Water is our future” because they're in a terrible drought. And recently, on our side of the mountain, hundreds of dead fish were found along the Poudre [River]. And then, there's an algae bloom that's formed in a reservoir near Gunnison. One theory is that the water is too warm and too shallow. Forest fire seasons are longer, air alerts come along, spill reports reveal accidental spills, holes in pipes, release of benzene and incidents where water of the Colorado [River is] threatened or impacted. As you consider how to maintain Greeley's quality of life, I hope you ponder what encourages a strong and diverse economy and also protects the air, water and food supply of our city; and protects that for others who might want to move here. Thank you.
Speaker 13 – Greeley resident
“Good evening, [Greeley City] Council and Mayor and [City] staff. I'm here to also voice my approval of [Proposition] 112. As for jobs, you hear that a lot, we all remember 2014 when, again, this is a globally traded commodity and Saudi Arabia threw a curveball and the rigs went out of the county. And I remember, we boasted about how we didn't have unemployment. I know in the school district—I work for the school district, as does Mayor Gates—and, you know, we haven’t had bus drivers for five years. So, I guess I'm not as worried. I think if you want a job in Weld County, you will have a job in Weld County. It may not pay that overtime, but you will have a job in Weld County.
And again, as Scott Prestidge of [the Colorado Oil and Gas Association] (COGA) said a couple weeks ago: 88% of the oil we're producing is going as an export. I'm not willing to risk my health so someone in China can have cheaper oil. And as for education, all the money—we’re in the heart of the Wattenberg, and our school district was ranked, last year in per-pupil funding, 174th out of 178 counties in the state. We are not rolling in money because of oil and gas. Yes, we've gotten a little. Nothing that would cover any of our economic woes.
Also, I would like to say that the school district made a resolution in January, in alignment with Colorado Association of School Boards, that our school board wanted oil and gas setbacks of 2,000 feet from the boundary of the building. And, I do think, Mayor Gates—you and I have been on the same [side of issues] so much the last 26 years that I've been an educator, and I do honor your service—but I kind of think this is a conflict of interest. You do work for the school district and after the Stromberger fire . . .? The idea of putting highly-pressurized, toxic, flammable fluids in an industrial site 700 feet behind a school is unconscionable, unwise and immoral! Why would you put other people’s children at risk when they have no choice but to go to that school? . . . Thank you.”
Speaker 14 – Greeley resident
“Thank you for allowing me to speak. This is so sad! This is so sad. I try to put my feet in someone else's shoes, and I'm not going to repeat what everyone has said, but who am I to force somebody else, because I want to work in a particular industry, to force somebody else's children, not just the children but other vulnerable people, all of us, to be breathing in, drinking water that's problematic as well, the air, the earth? It just, it boggles the mind.
I was reminded the other day about this 2,500 feet—there was a reason why it was 2,500 feet: no one in their right mind would've thought that a mile would ever fly. And that mile has been repeated in research [and] data that's been peer-reviewed—there are over 900 peer-reviewed studies that attest to the fact that one mile for health is the minimum. The 2,500 feet, which I haven't read much of anywhere, but I came to find out is the case, that's the explosion zone. That's what 2,500 feet is. It's considered to be the safe explosion zone. The mile is the health zone.
My time’s almost up. It is emotional. It's emotional for everybody. But so many people have covered what's really important to cover. I think of the little boy who was just up here, and like so many other little boys and girls their brains aren’t formed, their immune systems aren't fully formed, their lungs, and they have to breathe this stuff. They don't get to vote, they don't get to come up here and talk to you, or cry before you, or rage out there or even threaten someone with death. They don't get to do that. They just get to live their lives and get sick. Thank you.”
Speaker 15 – Representative for SRC Energy
“Thank you, Mayor and Council. I speak here tonight on behalf of the 20 SRC [Energy] employees who live in this wonderful city, some of them who are behind me here tonight. I’m here to speak about what [Proposition 112] could mean for just this one local company and the 150 employees that are employed by the company. One hundred percent of our operations are right here in Weld County. Our field office is located in your city, as are several of our wells, and we work with [City] staff almost every day during our operations.
Just about half of our 150 employees live in Weld County, right where our operations are, and their voices are no less important than anybody else's. And our employees have proved how dedicated they are to these communities, to this community, each and every day. Proposition 112 would put in jeopardy the jobs of many of these 150 employees. But it's even worse than that. It would put in jeopardy the livelihood of 150 families. Families, not just the employees. Sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, grandparents and aging parents. It would put in jeopardy the ability of these people to care for all of these family members.
When confronted with this very real issue, the supporters of [Proposition] 112 either immediately dismiss it outright as unimportant, which you heard one say that just a little while ago, or they say we can simply retrain these employees—you heard one of those not too long ago—but they never provide any specifics on how this retraining can be successful and in under what time frame. To negatively impact the lives of so many Colorado families in such a harsh manner [and] with such dismissive attitudes [towards] these real and awful consequences to so many families and human beings, to do this is not only reckless, but that is what is immoral. I strongly urge you to pass this resolution to oppose [Proposition] 112, to support Colorado families and your neighbors. Thank you, Council and Mayor.”
Speaker 16 – Greeley resident
“Mr. Mayor, councilmembers, thanks for hearing me speak tonight. I only have a couple things. And I want to echo what [Speaker 6] said. Tonight represents a failure of leadership. It’s a failure of [Greeley] City Council, of our [Board of Weld] County Commissioners, our state legislature and our Governor. We should not have to be here, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, choosing between health and safety and jobs. We should’ve planned for this, we should've had the setbacks long ago. We shouldn't be voting on this, this should've been a matter of policy from the beginning. I want [Greeley City Council] to step up tonight and be the leaders that we need and bridge this gap. We can do this, trapping methane; we can do this with safe setbacks; we can do this [while also] making your job site safer. And all of those things can be done with more jobs, not less.
And I want to address that point. A lot of you guys have shirts on with energy companies. None of you work for energy companies. You work for commodity companies. Energy companies measure their success in kilowatt hours; the commodities companies measure their success in barrels of oil and cubic feet of natural gas. So, I'm going to tell you right now, Weld County sits on one of the biggest oil shale formations in the entire country. You work for commodity companies that need that commodity. As long as there is a nickel of profit to be made, they will do it. They will be here, they will extract, they will drill, they will get their commodities and they will make their profits. So, we can make it safe, we can make it healthy, we can protect families, we can protect workers and we can protect jobs, but that requires leadership. And I'm asking for [Greeley City Council] to be those leaders that we need tonight. Thank you.”
Speaker 17 – Representative for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA)
“Good evening, Mayor. Good evening, councilmembers. Good evening [City] staff. I am a community outreach coordinator with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA). We are the state trade association for the oil and natural gas industry, representing approximately 300 companies that work here in the state. Thank you for the opportunity to comment in front of you this evening, and thank you, especially, for considering the resolution before you tonight to oppose Proposition 112. I would like to echo [the Colorado Petroleum Council representative’s] statement earlier, and thank the individuals from the industry who came out here tonight. Those are the faces of the industry, and those individuals live and work in the communities that we operate in. So, Greeley is the heart of Weld County and [COGA] appreciates the City’s business, friendly attitude and willingness to work with our industry. . . . Proposition 112 is not only bad for our industry, but it’s bad for Greeley and it's bad for Colorado. Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake and the livelihoods of many people I'm proud to call my coworkers and friends are at stake as well. On behalf of COGA and our members, I urge you to vote to oppose Proposition 112 tonight. Thank you.”
Speaker 18 – Greeley resident
“I'm studying environmental economics, so I want to talk about that. The oil and gas industry in Colorado is taking desperate measures to ensure that [Proposition] 112 does not pass. The only argument that the industry has provided is that [Proposition] 112 will negatively impact Colorado's economy. This is, in part, because the oil and gas industry cannot deny the explosions, the spills, the health hazards or the deaths that have happened at the expense of the expansion of oil and gas development. This goes to show that the only real thing that matters to the industry, at this time, is money.
And while it is true that money is a necessity for families, a plethora of other expenses are not being factored into the equation. Fracking negatively impacts the economy that each of us is so heavily dependent on through numerous externalities that are not always obvious to the untrained eye. Let's talk about water, not just as an essential building block of life, but also as an economic good—the language of the industry. Take Greeley and Weld County, for example, which is home to over 24,000 oil and gas wells. Greeley is a community that is known for its water-rights, for its spectacular agricultural roots, and it has recently been nominated for the award of best tasting tap water in the country. Why, then, in this community with the best tasting tap water are locals concerned? For starters, most of our water-rights come from upstream. Even so, all one must do is take a stroll along the Poudre Trail to see that the industry is even making its way near our own water supply.
Two to eight billion gallons of water are used to frack a single well, so what is the big deal when agriculture uses millions of gallons of water every day? The difference is that, on average, five to ten different chemicals are used in the injection process. After this water is used it becomes contaminated and undrinkable. The industry, of course, proclaims that its workers are environmentalists [and] that they recycle the fluid, but it is only recycled for further oil and gas production.
If voters look at water as an economic good . . . it becomes clear that the oil and gas industry is also a threat to the agricultural market. Essentially, everyone is pulling water from the same well. The industry has . . . offered compensation to farmers for use of their land and mineral rights, but how long can that monetary compensation aide in a farmer’s yield during water shortages? Colorado is an arid desert, already prone to droughts. And fracking continues to further deplete the agricultural resources that this community was built on. Even if our own community is protected from these contaminants, what about the folks living downstream of this oil and gas promise land? When the well runs dry and our children are thirsty, I suppose we can say we had their best economic interest at heart.”
Speaker 19 – Greeley resident
“Thank you for having us today. And I am voting ‘Yes’ on [Proposition] 112. I want you to know that I feel very overwhelmed just going down the street or in my neighborhood [by] vote ‘No’ [on Proposition 112] signs. I haven't seen any [vote] ‘Yes’ [on Proposition 112] signs, but I have a little one I ran off my computer because, you know, we don't have money. And it's the cost of all these signs, you know, they bother me, because of the money that's behind them.
But I'd like to say just a few words, as far as, the future of jobs is renewables, wind and solar. And I’d just like to say that we have to look forward [to] what is the future. And as my T-shirt says, from Gandhi, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ And I say, if not now, when are we going to do this? Thank you.”
Speaker 20 – Greeley resident
“Mayor Gates, [Greeley] City Council, thanks for allowing me to speak tonight. I don't have a prepared statement, so if I jump all over the place, I apologize. First of all, I am not employed in oil and gas, I do not have any direct family members employed in oil and gas, but what interests me is every day when I drive down the street and I see buses that our city school district has because oil and gas has donated those to the school district. Or I see athletic fields because oil and gas has helped build those athletic fields for our school district. The Greeley school district gets almost $2 million a year in direct revenue from drilling that is happening on their properties in the school district. I see all the advantages and all of the benefits from the oil and gas industry to our community, and I just want to talk about it for a second here.
In 2013, when we were hit by the flood that we got, I just want to read some statistics that oil and gas did for our community.” (The resident went on to quote directly from an article in the Greeley Tribune by guest columnist Douglas Rademacher. Found here https://www.greeleytribune.com/opinion/rademacher-oil-gas-industry-steps-up-in-aftermath-of-floods/.) “They provided more than 200 portable toilets in Evans, they fixed a fence to repair a cattle enclosure, they assisted in hauling 15,000 tons of riprap to Weld County for road repairs, they continued to assist local ditch companies to restore ditches that were destroyed by the flooding, they distributed 57,000 pounds of food to the Weld Food Bank, they distributed 585 flood relief boxes, they served meals for five days for the Red Cross in Greeley and Evans, they volunteered with the Red Cross to distribute cleaning supplies in Evans, Milliken, Greeley and Longmont, they volunteered for the Red Cross telethon which raised more than $1 million for our community and they facilitated flights for elected officials and community leaders which provided aerial views of the damage for impact and assessment. This list goes on and on and on with [what the] oil and gas community has done for our community, our county [and] our state.
And I urge you wholeheartedly to vote ‘Yes’ on this resolution. I think it is very important that we take a stand in our community and we tell the oil and gas industry that we do support them. And we weigh it out, and we go from that. Thank you.”
The last individual to give public input wished to comment on Greeley City Council’s possible resolution to oppose Amendment 74. Jerry Shepherd, a local attorney, said she would support a resolution from Council opposing Amendment 74. “[Amendment] 74 is way extreme,” Shepherd said. The attorney said while she agrees with paying compensation to private property owners whose property is taken by government, this law would go too far.
The public input portion of tonight’s meeting was then closed. Mayor John Gates acknowledged that every person who signed up to speak (21 individuals) was heard. “I cannot thank each and every one of you enough,” Gates added, “for your professionalism and passion.” Despite being such a heated issue, all of those in attendance did maintain “a fantastic decorum.” (Council will discuss and vote on Proposition 112 after “Reports from Mayor and Councilmembers” and the “Consent Agenda.”)
Reports from Mayor and Councilmembers
Councilmember Stacy Suniga reported that she attended a University of Northern Colorado (UNC) Senate meeting along with Councilmember Robb Casseday. Suniga said the invitation to this meeting was just another example of UNC showing “interest in connecting more with our community, our downtown area and our City leadership.”
Suniga reported that she also attended the ribbon-cutting for Wings, a new Northrange Behavioral Health in-residence addiction treatment program for women who are pregnant or with small children. “It’s a wonderful program,” Suniga touted. The councilmember encouraged Greeley residents to stop by and visit or volunteer.
Lastly, Suniga informed Council she had been on a tour of Greeley’s water facilities. “I just want to tell the people of our community,” Suniga said, “that we are so blessed with the knowledge and the passion that we have in our water leadership.” Suniga complimented Greeley’s Water and Sewer Board and Water and Sewer Department for their forward-looking strategies.
Councilmember Robb Casseday wished to provide a report as well. Casseday thanked Suniga for bringing up their attendance at the UNC Senate meeting. “[W]hat was cool,” Casseday said of the meeting, “was letting our students know what is going on in Greeley when they [say], ‘Gee, there’s nothing to do in Greeley.’”
Casseday said he was also on the Water and Sewer Board tour with Suniga and Councilmember Jon Smail. What Casseday was most excited to learn about over the course of this tour were the updates on the Windygap reservoir and the Bellvue water treatment plant.
Casseday, along with Councilmember Brett Payton, are both members of the Greeley-Weld County Airport Authority, and the councilman touched on the authority’s last meeting. The airport, according to Casseday’s report, is steadily growing and improving.
The final event Casseday wished to inform Council of his presence at was the Greeley Area Realtors Association Installation Breakfast.
Mayor John Gates then provided his report to Council. Gates informed everyone of his attendance at UNC’s State of University speech. Gates added, “I’m very impressed with Doctor Andy Feinstein, our new president of UNC.”
Mayor Gates went on to say he also attended the Dream Team breakfast. And lastly, Gates complimented those involved in the Business Appreciation breakfast he spoke at. “That was a wonderful idea and clearly a success,” Gates said. “I would hope that we would continue something like that every year”
A date was set for a public hearing and final reading on the decision whether or not to authorize the City of Greeley to acquire interests in real property located in Weld County for sanitary sewer lines by purchase or exercise of the power of eminent domain. The public hearing and final reading was set for the next Greeley City Council meeting, October 16, 2018.
A date was set for a public hearing and final reading on the decision whether or not to approve changing the official zoning map of the City of Greeley from Residential High Density (R-H) to Commercial High Intensity (C-H) for property located at 3110 67th Avenue. The public hearing and final reading was set for the next Greeley City Council meeting, October 16, 2018.
Council authorized the City to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Greeley and the State of Colorado Department of Public Safety prequalifying the City of Greeley Building Inspection Division to perform public school construction-related inspection services.
Council authorized the City to enter into Amendment No. 3 of an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to commit funds for construction of the 10th Street Access Control and Roadway Improvements Project between 23rd Avenue and 35th Avenue.
Council authorized the City to enter into the Agreement Regarding Phase II of a Multi-Phase Plan for an Instream Flow (ISF) Augmentation Plan on the Cache la Poudre River with the Cache la Poudre Water Users Association, the City of Fort Collins, the City of Thornton, the Colorado Water Trust, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.
Council authorized the City to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement with North Weld County Water District (NWCWD) and East Larimer County Water District (ELCO) for the treatment and delivery of potable water.
All of the above items on tonight’s consent agenda were approved by a 7-0 vote.
Consent Agenda (pulled items)
Council moved two items from the consent agenda for discussion. The first was the resolution opposing Proposition 112. Councilmember Stacy Suniga was the first to be allowed time to speak.
Suniga read a statement she’d prepared. The statement began with the councilmember noting her understanding of the economic benefits oil and gas production provides, but at the same time pointed to the fact she has always maintained that the practice needs to be safe for the community. The councilor highlighted concerns she hears from the community as added motivation for this belief. While the loss of jobs alarms the councilmember, people’s worry over health concerns and drilling being so close to homes and schools also distresses her. Suniga admitted that the inevitability of this vote “has deeply tormented me for the last few weeks.” The councilwoman made clear that she feels for everybody involved, stating, “my heart goes out to both sides.”
The varying opinions on the effects of oil and gas was also cited by Suniga, as she indicated that such split views would not have been necessary if “industry, community and leadership would [have] come together for meaningful discourse to resolve safety concerns.” Failure to do so, Suniga suggested, directly lead to the “creation of two groups of people who now live in worry and fear.”
Tonight, if those residents worried about the loss of their jobs left feeling supported by the passage of the resolution to oppose Proposition 112, Suniga said she would be “grateful” for them. “However,” Suniga made clear, “there must also be a voice that defends the safety of our most vulnerable . . . the elderly, our children.” Suniga said she was willing to be this voice, even if the rest of Council sided against her.
In the end, Suniga proclaimed she would be voting “No” on tonight’s resolution opposing Proposition 112 on the basis that it does not go far enough to address all concerns of the community, those working in oil and gas included. Wrapping up her statement, Suniga said, “oil workers on the job, people in their homes, children in our schools all deserve the best of our efforts as leaders and industry to make reasonable efforts to ensure that all safety is our priority. Because safety matters also.”
Councilmember Robb Casseday next asked for time to speak. Casseday began by acknowledging the passion of all those who spoke on both sides of the issue. The councilmember went on to say, “it's discouraging to me that you as family members that have kids in our schools, are neighbors of mine and the rest of our community, have to fear for losing your jobs, losing your ability to raise your family in this community.”
Aside from the direct issues that were of concern surrounding Proposition 112, the councilmember added the housing market to the picture as well. Casseday said he’d been informed that the local housing market has slowed as people await the outcome of Proposition 112. “And that concerns me” Casseday said, “because I'm excited that we're growing in our jobs and we're growing in our economic development in this community.” The councilman warned that passage of Proposition 112 could set Greeley back in terms of the growth and development that’s been made.
Casseday paused, then declared, “there isn’t one councilmember that’s sitting up here that is not concerned about the safety of our residents. I can guarantee you that.” Continuing on, in defense of opposition to Proposition 112 Casseday cited the Colorado Department of Health, saying the department, “can't find effects over the current setback limits.” Also, the councilmember pointed to Greeley’s water quality, stating, “I don't see the toxicity in water and air and all the things that could possibly be done because . . . we have some of the most regulated air in any state.”
Lastly, Casseday attempted to put the 2,500-foot distance in perspective. “That's the equivalent of one section of land” Casseday informed the audience. The councilman went on to explain that it’s nearly impossible to find land that is outside of a 2,500-foot radius from qualifying structures. For this reason, Casseday expressed that he felt the proposition “intentionally set out to stop oil and gas production in the state of Colorado.” With the 2,500-foot radius and the impact that this would have on Greeley’s economy in mind, Casseday said he’d concluded he would be in favor of the resolution opposing Proposition 112.
Once Casseday finished, Councilmember Brett Payton was given time to address Council and the audience. Payton acknowledged that while passionate, emotionally-driven discourse can positively impact the outcome of a debate, “we've had some rowdy meetings in the last 12 to 24 months.” Tonight’s discussion, the councilmember admitted, was completely calm and civilized, though. Payton then went on to expand on Casseday’s comments about housing. The councilman pointed out that “over the past months [Greeley City Council has] approved at least six [housing] developments . . . that would not be able to be built in this city should [Proposition] 112 setbacks exist.” In addition to Casseday’s warnings, Payton also provided his own, indicating that housing would be inadvertently affected by Proposition 112. “Everybody’s concerns are . . . justifiable, [and] we need to hear those all,” Payton said. But he ultimately felt “the industry has done a great job over the past, let's say, 15 years of really finding those new technologies . . . to protect the watershed” and other elements of the surrounding environment. Payton closed by indicating he would be voting “Yes” on the resolution to oppose Proposition 112.
The next councilmember to speak on the matter was Councilmember Michael Fitzsimons. “For me,” Fitzsimmons began, “it's always been about safety.” Fitzsimmons went on to mention the dialogue he has had with both sides since first becoming a councilmember. Alluding to his discussions with concerned residents, Fitzsimmons pointed to the statement Suniga gave, adding, “I really appreciate Stacy.” Not only is safety an issue for Greeley City Council and residents, though, as Fitzsimmons pointed out, but “safety is key to [oil and gas] business also. I know that that's number one in their industry.” Fitzsimmons declared that we will never live in a perfect world and that’s “just the way it is.” In closing, the councilman cited a Greeley resident (Speaker 20) who spoke in opposition to Proposition 112, noting all of the good oil and gas has done locally. The councilmember said that this contribution to the community was one of the most important things to him. Fitzsimmons then expressed that he would be in support of the resolution opposing Proposition 112.
Last to speaks was Mayor John Gates. “Basically,” Gates opened, “I wish there was a compromise that wasn't so damn extreme.” One of the biggest contributing factors in Gates’ decision, he admitted, was the fact that both candidates running for governor this year along with the current governor all oppose Proposition 112. That’s one Republican and two Democrats, one currently in the highest seat in Colorado government and two running for it, who are all opposed to the proposition. In addition to this reasoning, the Mayor also pointed to the fact that the proposition wouldn’t allow “for governments to negotiate setbacks.” In the end, Gates said he was “strongly opposed to [Proposition] 112” and would be voting in favor of the resolution to oppose it.
This concluded discussion on the possible resolution opposing Proposition 112. With that, vote was taken. Council voted in favor of the resolution by a vote of 6-1 with Suniga being the only councilmember opposed.
The second item that was moved from the consent agenda for discussion was the resolution opposing Amendment 74. Councilmember Michael Fitzsimmons was allowed to make opening remarks.
Fitzsimmons read a statement he’d prepared. The statement began by indicating Fitzsimmons’ support for the Colorado Constitution’s current laws on compensation for personal property. Fitzsimmons said Amendment 74 would take such laws too far, though, and would lead to extensive amounts of tax money being lost on defending the City in lawsuits. The councilman also pointed to possible economic consequences coming out of Amendment 74, too. Lastly, Fitzsimmons encouraged the adoption of the resolution opposing Amendment 74.
Councilmember Brett Payton asked to speak next. Payton admitted he was a proponent for personal property rights, but said, in this case, he would be declaring his opposition to Amendment 74. “As I was thinking about this,” Payton testified, “when government’s acting, I think we should always ask ourselves, ‘What problem are we trying to fix?’” The councilman admitted the problem was clear when it came to Proposition 112, but it wasn’t nearly as apparent what problem Amendment 74 would be solving. Payton said, “as a practicing attorney, I don't see a widespread problem of . . . municipalities and counties . . . abusing their right of eminent domain.” Lastly, Payton said he had a problem with the fact that proponents for Amendment 74 were proposing any questions that might still surround the bill if passed be ironed out in court as cases are playing out in the moment. The councilmember said he would be opposed to Amendment 74.
After Payton finished, Councilmember Stacy Suniga spoke next. Suniga was also critical of Amendment 74, saying the amendment was both a negative in terms of its use of policy and its use of tax dollars. “It would inundate our tax-dollar base,” Suniga said, “just to . . . litigate all of these objections.” The councilmember also pointed to the fact that the law would be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution, which would cement the law in place. Suniga ended by indicating she would also be voting in favor of the resolution to oppose Amendment 74.
Councilmember Dale Hall was then given opportunity to speak. Hall specifically agreed with Suniga over concerns about the fact this law would be enshrined in the Colorado Constitution. “I'm generally always going to be against a constitutional amendment,” Hall said. “If you want to make a law, you create a law, then you can fix things that don't get done the right way.” The councilmember stressed the fact that when a bill becomes a constitutional law, if there are any mistakes made or changes that are later needed to be made to this law it’s a long, difficult and costly process to do so. In Hall’s opinion there are already too many unnecessary and outdated amendments in Colorado’s constitution.
Mayor John Gates took his time to speak after everyone else had finished. Gates said he worries that Amendment 74 would open up the state and local governments to an avalanche of legal expenses. The Mayor said he found the way that Amendment 74 was written to be “extremely ambiguous,” and he pointed to the decision by the Colorado Municipal League (CML), which Greeley is a member of, to oppose Amendment 74 as well. Gates also drew attention to the fact that compensation for property rights is already sufficiently protected under Colorado’s constitution. The Mayor’s final point surrounded something he said he’d read that said Oregon had passed a law much like Amendment 74 which resulted in the loss of billions of state dollars in court. Gates closed by saying he also opposed Amendment 74.
This concluded discussion on the possible resolution opposing Amendment 74. Vote was then taken. The resolution opposing Amendment 74 passed by a vote of 7-0.
Public Hearings/Final Readings
Hearing 1 - A Rezone on East 8th Street -
(Click here to learn about the presentation that was given by the City’s Community Development Director for this hearing)
This hearing was a continued from the Greeley City Council meeting on September 18th.
Once Community Development Director Brad Mueller finished his presentation, Mayor John Gates asked Council if there were any questions. No councilmembers had any questions, so the Mayor then proceeded to open the hearing up for public input. No one present came forward to speak on the matter, though. Gates closed public input and a vote was soon taken. The rezone was approved by a vote of 7-0.
The final hearing of the night involved Assistant City Manager II Becky Safarik. The assistant city manager had already completed a full presentation for this matter during Greeley City Council’s last worksession, so she said she would just provide a brief summary tonight.
Every year the City is required to “submit an annual action plan that relates to its proposed expenditures of Community Development Block Grant funds” to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This action is necessary in order to receive funding through the Community Development Block Grant from HUD. City staff estimates that this year’s Community Development Block Grant will come out to roughly $850,000. Because the program also generates income, though, the total budget, Safarik said, would come out closer to $1,180,000.
“The program,” Safarik informed Council, “requires public input on the process, and we held two neighborhood level meetings to invite and solicit recommendations and also proposals.” (Aside from the Citizens Committee for Community Development and the Greeley Urban Renewal Authority, it appears from the presentation given during the last worksession that not a single individual resident from the community came out to participate in these meetings. If you are someone who is interested in this subject, you should know that it’s possible to be involved with the City in the decisions that are made in this case. You just have to be aware of when these meetings take place. Providing greater awareness of events and meetings such as this is one of the purposes for Greeley Indie.)
Each year, numerous Greeley organizations bid for a piece of the $850,000 grant. This year Safarik said that 12 bids were accepted. “The majority of the funds,” Safarik told Council, “would be expended for neighborhood improvements; and those include infrastructure, paving of alleys, redevelopment district streetlights, cleanup weekend, redevelopment district parkway tree plantings, housing rehab loan program and housing emergency rehab.” The assistant city manager also pointed out two projects that would directly benefit facilities that provide for senior citizens, mainly in the form of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility.
After finishing her presentation, Safarik offered to answer any questions from Council.
Councilmember Stacy Suniga indicated that she had a question. Suniga wanted further clarification as to what money for the United Way Cold Weather Shelter would be going towards.
The assistant city manager informed Suniga that the money ($25,000) would be used to pay the Guadalupe Homeless Shelter for “managing the [United Way Cold Shelter], cleaning up the mats [and] making sure people are checked in.”
Once Suniga’s questions were resolved, Mayor Gates asked if there were any additional questions from Council. There were none, so the Mayor moved on to the public input portion of the hearing. No one from the public came forward wishing to speak, so Gates closed public input. Gates then opened the floor to discussion and action from Council. A motion was made to vote. Vote was taken, and the proposal passed by a vote of 7-0.