Fort Collins City Council election: 20 questions with Molly Skold, mayoral candidate

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Molly Skold

The Coloradoan sent a 20-item questionnaire to all Fort Collins City Council candidates, seeking their viewpoints and policy ideas about a range of city issues.

Molly Skold is running for mayor. The other mayoral candidates are Jeni Arndt and Gerry Horak. These are Skold’s submitted answers to our questionnaire.

Learn more about Skold at molly4mayor.com.

1. What should the city do to address the social and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic? Is there anything you’d like council to do differently in this space?

There are countless long-term implications of the pandemic throughout our country, our region and our city. I will promote a unified effort to understand and monitor the current outbreak data and long-awaited vaccine initiatives taking place throughout Fort Collins. I will work continuously with local public health agencies and organizations to disseminate critical information to community members, schools and businesses in an organized fashion. Working with city, regional, state and national partners on collective strategies, cohesive solutions and transparency will be my top priority. I will work with school officials, law enforcement, health care settings and individuals to ensure that Fort Collins speaks and acts with one cohesive and collective voice. Keeping our residents and businesses safe and informed while offering tangible solutions for long-term safety and re-entry will be paramount to me.

2. What should the city do to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic? Is there anything you’d like council to do differently in this space?

We want to attract new investments and partners. Amplifying our existing assets and the strong economic success of our past with a collaborative, future-focused strategy will do just that. Together with council and stakeholders, I will co-create a tangible strategic plan to guide overall strategy and lay the groundwork for direction – one that will foster the cooperative, constructive conversation we need. We can work together to create a resource navigator to help entrepreneurs find financing opportunities, identify mentorships and obtain relevant marketing assistance. A more robust commitment to the entrepreneurial and start-up community will increase innovation throughout our region and create job growth. Finally, a concentrated effort to broaden our regional partner relationships and co-author regional economic development opportunities will make Fort Collins and surrounding areas a stronger, more attractive and more viable community. I will encourage a partnership philosophy that works across boundary lines to encourage capital investments throughout Northern Colorado to benefit each community.

3. The Homeward 2020 initiative recently wrapped up, with organizers recommending that Fort Collins or Larimer County create a dedicated revenue stream to address homelessness. On a related note, a recent city effort to explore a centralized campus for a homeless shelter and services resulted in no concrete action. What do you think of these two approaches, and do you have any other specific suggestions for addressing homelessness in Fort Collins?

Homelessness is a harsh reality nationally, regionally and throughout our community. Some of the most vulnerable, most visible people experiencing homelessness are grappling with substance use disorders, mental illness and/or mental issues. We need a multifaceted approach to working with emergency shelters, local partners and temporary housing. Understanding, listening and collaborating on ways we can cultivate better systems to help those in need is paramount. We need to strengthen our integrated partnerships with area public health services and Larimer County as we strive to make homelessness rare, short-lived and nonrecurring. We need to better understand episodic verses chronic homelessness – and work to drive to extinction. Before a centralized 24/7 location is determined and finalized, critical, important questions need to be analyzed, discussed and resolved collectively. A clear, cohesive understanding of what a centralized location would do to the immediate neighborhood needs to be prioritized along with specific economic impacts and ramifications.

4. How should the city respond to recent and projected population growth?

I will support a philosophy of disciplined growth that will ensure a healthy community moving forward. I will oversee a fiscally responsible city government where every tax dollar counts. I will engage a range of views to restart the success of our economic engine – our job-creating local business community. I will champion being a community with purpose.

I will work with city partners and area leaders to co-create a tangible and strategic growth “blueprint” that will guide the overall strategy and lay the groundwork for direction as well as foster cooperative, constructive conversation.

Broadening our regional partner relationships and opportunities will make Fort Collins and the surrounding area a stronger, attractive and more viable community. I’ll instill a partnership philosophy, to work across boundary lines and to encourage capital investments throughout Northern Colorado, to benefit each community. Building and strengthening relationships with our durable partners will help solve problems, identify areas of opportunity and achieve goals, together.

5. The city’s Housing Strategic Plan lays out a vision for strategies to increase the volume of affordable and attainable housing in Fort Collins. Which of these strategies are most appealing to you, and how would you work to make housing costs more affordable in Fort Collins?

The numbers are staggering for middle- and lower-income families looking to relocate and move to the Fort Collins community. People are being priced out of their community, and the problem is becoming increasingly worrisome. City leaders and planners have worked diligently on strategies, both short-term and long-term, to help mitigate this growing issue. Collaboration with our durable partners – for example, CSU, UCHealth, Woodward, Poudre School District – and partnering on a more “disciplined” approach to housing/growth opportunities will spur new opportunities and innovative approaches. Updating and recalibrating the Land Bank Program along with a keen analysis of the intricacies of the program will stimulate and encourage affordable housing. Making it easier for and partnering with existing homeowners to make modifications and improvements like carriage homes, as well as build more modern housing units like tiny homes, will also ease this crisis. Finally, working/partnering with companies like Odell Brewing on strategies to make improvements and build affordable housing is a highly productive, proactive and long-range solution.

6. Council recently directed staff to draft regulations on oil and gas activity that would serve as a de facto ban on oil and gas activity in city limits. Do you agree with this approach? Why or why not?

Given the recent passage of Senate Bill 181, at this time I would oppose banning of oil and gas activity within city limits. The new law gives local governments more control of oil and gas within their jurisdictions in the creation of setbacks and making sure the safety and health of citizens are fully considered. Larimer County and the city of Fort Collins are not major producers of oil and gas. In this context, we need to assess the need for city regulations in light of the passage of state law, the existing city code and the limited current activity within our city. I would investigate and understand the concerns and tradeoffs of all before adopting a ban.

7. Many residents in the community struggle to afford the rising costs of child care. How should the city address child care affordability?

Similar to affordable and attainable housing, affordable child care is becoming increasingly challenging throughout our community. A family may have housing but struggles to pay for skyrocketing child care costs, thus forcing them to move to surrounding communities. Ongoing collaboration with integrated partners like Poudre School District and others to identify barriers and areas of opportunity is key to solving this issue. Working with the business community on key strategies, creative funding assistance programs and innovative opportunities will help open additional doors. We need to come to the table and collaborate with our local partners and institutions who are working toward solutions in providing affordable child care. How can we play a part and be fully committed to following through with our Social Sustainable City goals? Identifying and working with area museums (e.g. Fort Collins Museum of Discovery) and other local gathering spaces will help us imagine new opportunities.

8. If you’re elected, what would be your approach to open space preservation and creation of new parks and trails? How would you prioritize this value in relation to other city priorities, particularly when the city is facing budget constraints?

We are so fortunate here in Fort Collins to have more than 50 natural areas spread throughout Fort Collins. These areas account for over 36,000 conserved acres throughout our city. We’re also lucky to have over 114 miles of trails. I fully support open and natural spaces as well as the extension, addition and ongoing maintenance of our city’s parks and trails. It’s what makes us unique. It’s what makes us Fort Collins. A balanced, pragmatic, “big picture” approach is vital to the management, addition and maintenance of our trails. Working with developers and private partners on partnerships to obtain new parcels of land, similar to the recent acquisition from developer Byron Collins, will only help us cast our net wider and imagine new possibilities. Bringing together a collection of city partners, community leaders, residents and others to solve problems and create new opportunities will make our city stronger, healthier and more livable for generations to come.

9. The future of the Hughes Stadium site has been a subject of contention for the last few years. Where do you stand on the city’s involvement so far in the rezoning of that property and the ballot measure that would direct the city to rezone the property as 100% open lands and attempt to acquire it from CSU?

As our city wrestles with and contemplates zoning issues and acquisition initiatives throughout the city, it’s important to ask, “what’s the highest and best use for all?” We owe it to the people of Fort Collins to be champions for a vibrant, healthy, sustainable community. We owe it to future generations to be intentional, thoughtful and purposeful about our future. I will support the kind of disciplined growth that will ensure a healthy community and I work to be a fiscally responsible city where every tax dollar counts. I will also be realistic about our city’s future – how we grow and how we cultivate a purposeful city for those who want to live here. I fully support being a welcoming city, for all who choose to live, work and play here. I support thoughtful, pragmatic planning for all areas of town which includes open space, affordable and attainable housing, affordable child care, access to transportation, water-saving technology and solar energy.

10. Several Colorado cities, including Denver, Aurora, Littleton and Longmont, have recently decided to allow marijuana delivery or are expected to consider it in the coming months. Some marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins have expressed support for a delivery program here. Would you support the city exploring that possibility?

The issue of marijuana delivery is complex and needs careful oversight, knowledge of data and analysis. Who is permitted to receive the delivery and how will this be strictly enforced? How will this affect Fort Collins Police Services and what are the penalties associated with deliveries to minors and those not permitted to receive deliveries? What are other purchasing restrictions? What is the cost to our taxpayers to monitor these transactions? What are the long-term ramifications for our city? And ultimately, careful consideration, oversight and understanding needs to be screened and evaluated to determine if this is an appropriate, realistic course of action for the city of Fort Collins.

11. Fort Collins is creating a new Equity and Inclusion Office to promote those values at the highest levels of city management. What would you like to see that office focus on, and how would you work to make Fort Collins a more inclusive and equitable community?

A Fort Collins High School Lambkin, I grew up with fellow students from all backgrounds. We were Lambkins, unified. As mayor, I will help foster a culture of trust and transparency and will bring together collections of individuals who prioritize mutually respectful working relationships and work together to solve key issues. I will employ a positive, inclusive approach and will emphatically encourage diversity – including diversity of thought – to keep Fort Collins a safe, welcoming and eclectic community.  I will listen and challenge those around me to do the same. Understanding the data about inequality gaps and issues will only help us, together, see where improvements need to be made and interventions are needed. Strengthening, engaging and appreciating the collective intelligence, energy and innovation of our entire population while increasing our capacity for more equitable engagement will lead to a healthier, stronger community.

12. Conversations about policing practices came to the forefront this summer after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, inspiring global demonstrations and police reform legislation in Colorado. Here in Fort Collins, Black residents are arrested and cited at higher rates than white residents. Are you satisfied with the level of equity in policing here in Fort Collins, and if not, what would you like to change about it?

I believe strongly that our Fort Collins Police Services agency is here to serve everyone throughout the community. With that, there are some very real, unique concerns from members of our community. These concerns need to be addressed continuously with respect, compassion and care. Oversight and awareness of concerns expressed need to be addressed continuously so that we continue to have a safe, friendly and inclusive city for all who live here. The fact that the Fort Collins Police Services is accredited by CALEA – the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies – means that there are checks and balances within the department and a clear focus and direction on specific and measurable goals. Continued monitoring, collaboration with integrated community partners and ongoing relationship-building will continue to make our Police Services program stronger throughout the community.

13. What is your stance on possible changes to the “U+2” occupancy ordinance? If you support changes, what would like to see specifically and how would you catalyze action?

Current policy limits home occupancy to no more than three unrelated people per household in Fort Collins. Recent studies have shown that the quality of life in our neighborhoods has improved, however, the price for rent is skyrocketing. I support the idea of a right-sized approach where, for example, four people can live in a four-bedroom home provided certain conditions, processes and procedures are met. Updating the U+2 law would help mitigate our city’s housing problem and increase affordability for students and low-income families. We’ve seen instances where some apartments and landlords have gone through extensive measures to make improvements to their properties. In these cases, they were given special “over occupancy” permits. By changing the law, tenants and landlords will be required to meet safety and community standards, thus improving the safety and aesthetics of our neighborhoods. Finally, increasing tenant occupancy means rental prices would be more easily split between tenants.

14. Fort Collins adopted climate action goals to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions by 20% of 2005 levels by 2020, 80% by 2030 and 2050. The city is projected to miss the 2020 goal by a few percent, and big, systemic changes will be needed to reach the 2030 and 2050 goals. Do you support the climate goals, and if so, what should City Council do to ensure they are met?

I support the Climate Action Goals and am proud to live in a city that has one of the most aggressive climate action plans ever. Our city has, historically, had an impressive, collaborative approach to climate action because of the simple fact that it makes environmental, financial and social sense for the city of Fort Collins and surrounding area. We don’t just talk about goals, we have instigated cost-effective, energy efficient solutions that have improved the quality of life of businesses and residents throughout our community. Continued oversight and management with our municipal electric distribution utility and Platte River Power Authority will further efforts in saving businesses millions of dollars. As we look ahead, paving the way to innovation, investments in multi-modal forms of transportation and renewable energy solutions are critical steps forward. Further, private partners are key to our “climate economy” in that they further scalable integration technologies.

15. Fort Collins is working toward a goal of zero waste by 2030, but it didn’t meet its 2020 benchmark goal of 75% landfill diversion, and staff considers it unlikely that the city will meet the 2030 goal. The city is now reevaluating the goal. What would you do on council to support meaningful reductions in the volume of waste sent to landfills?

The city is set to get back on track with this goal with some planned steps. Building a transfer station for recycling or composting food and yard waste will be an initial step. In addition, creating the new, planned facility for recycling and re-use construction and demolition material will be another move to divert waste from the landfill. Along with pushing for these projects, I would make sure resources are recognized and available to meet set targets. Education also be would be a priority. As mayor, I would use my platform and the city’s resources to create vibrant education campaigns to build awareness and compliance as to the benefits of moving waste streams away from the landfill.

16. Fort Collins has relatively poor air quality compared to other parts of the country, particularly in regard to ozone levels. How would you work to improve community air quality?

Often Fort Collins and other parts of Colorado do not meet the EPA’s standards for ozone. Last year’s fires made our air quality worse. The city, through purposeful planning and a strategic view of growth, must align with development that builds clusters of shopping, dining, play and work so more people can walk, bike, use mass transit or drive a short distance. Partnering with builders, developers and city partners with this view will make Fort Collins more livable and reduce pollution as well. We have not done enough in this area. There are some national trends, however, moving in the right direction. Likely, we are on the cusp of an electric vehicle (EV) boom as costs come down and selection and mileage range improve. The city must build for the future so that electric needs are met in an efficient and sustainable way to meet the coming EV boom. COVID has made work from home an acceptable and productive reality for many. We need to work with major employers (such as the city) so we can keep work at home options available to avoid the commuting.

17. The health of the Poudre River degrades considerably as it moves from the canyon mouth to Fort Collins, and the city’s 2017 Poudre River report card awarded an overall grade of “C” for the stretch from Gateway Natural Area to I-25. What would you do on council to improve the health and quality of the Poudre River?

The Poudre River is a true Fort Collins treasure. It provides us easy access to nature throughout the city and is a key attraction for residents and visitors alike. The city has been a beneficiary of partnerships with Colorado State and private initiatives to improve and sustain the health and flow of the river. The project with CSU’s Environmental Learning Project as well as the Poudre River Whitewater Park are two great examples of joining with partners to protect and improve our gem. As mayor, I would accelerate the work of the city to improve the Poudre River corridor. I would work to create more public-private partnerships, along with seeking federal funding to accelerate the city’s work. The heath and quality of the Poudre River is a key priority throughout my term.

18. If you’re elected, what would be your top priorities in regard to roads and transportation in Fort Collins?

A commitment to a wide variety of transportation modes and related factors – like roads, bicycles, safety, trails, parking, transit and other forms of multi-modal forms of transportation – is critical to the overall health and well-being of our city. Collaboration with nonprofits, police, businesses an, city leaders will shape how we move throughout our city. I will explore opportunities to improve, analyze and expedite projects like Vine and Lemay bridge improvements and Laporte Avenue road and bridge enhancements as well as innovative forms of transportation applicable, realistic and attainable for our community. I’ll also lead the dialogue on improvements with the MAX Bus Rapid Transit service and how to attract and retain users. I’ll have a seat at the table with the Northern Colorado Regional Airport and be an active contributor and key collaborator. A dedication to a strong and strategic regional transportation plan is imperative to job growth and quality of life.

19. Council and the community have had many discussions in recent years about transparency and Connexion, Fort Collins’ municipal broadband network. Some of the public is craving more information about the buildout and the network’s financial performance. How do you think Connexion should balance the public interest in transparency and accountability with the need to preserve competitiveness?

Sometimes we assume no news – or perhaps incomplete news – is bad news. The city’s voters approved a public broadband and we need to make sure it meets the financial and growth targets so we can meet our fiduciary responsibilities. Connexion helps us grow as a city that lifts everyone up by providing cost effective access to their internet and, at the same time, creates bandwidth for new and existing businesses to grow. The health crisis and adjustments to the plan created some confusion about the progress of the project. As a result, I would push for more transparency and at the same time improved marketing of the plan so as to remind voters of the reasons of why Connexion will elevate all our citizens. Not enough communication has been done to create this story. In this vacuum, it appears many are assuming the worst. This is not the case, but the story of Connexion has to be told.

20. If you’d like, use this space to share your perspective on an issue or issues that are important to you but weren’t mentioned in the Coloradoan’s questionnaire.

Good people, smart people are opting out of local leadership opportunities because of the hostile place public service has become. I see fewer wanting to have a voice, asking for a place at the table. As mayor, I will help foster a culture of both a high performing board as well as a high performing city government – collections of individuals who prioritize mutually respectful working relationships and work together to solve key issues. I’ll also work to engage the collective intelligence, energy and innovation of our entire population – lifetime and newer residents, young professionals and older – to solve local challenges and rebuild our community stronger than ever.

We must prioritize transparency. We owe that to our residents and all those who do business with us. A commitment to transparency helps eliminate toxic “behind-closed-doors” deals, prioritizes accountability and provides trust. I’ve seen Fort Collins raise the bar on our community before. We can do it, again. Allowing for a culture of various viewpoints, prioritizing integrity and respect and acting with conviction will make our city stronger.