Longmont Compass - 10/05/2015

Bonnie Finley: Longmont thriving city, but still more work to do

Lifelong resident running for re-election to Ward 3 seat

Bonnie Finley nursed a coffee at the Main Street Ziggi’s Coffee, reflecting on her Longmont roots.

Her father used to own a barber shop and steam bath in the 300 block of Main Street, and her mother worked at a nursing home.

“In the summertime I would have to frequently hang out at the barbershop when my mom was working, so I spent a lot of time down here,” Finley said, adding that she believes strongly in attracting more businesses to Longmont. “The downtown we have now compared to the downtown we had four years ago when I ran is so different.”

Finley is running for re-election in Ward 3 against relative Longmont newcomer Paul Rennix.

The grandmother with a University of Colorado degree said she decided to run for re-election because she thinks the city is going forward in a good direction and she wants to see the results of that work.

“We’re just starting to see the some of the fruits of our labors. There’s still a lot left to do — we still have the river corridor and to repair all those bike paths and greenways and updating the (Longmont Area Comprehensive Plan),” Finley said.

Finley and Rennix have both pointed out that they agree on most issues. The one exception is Longmont’s ban on marijuana dispensaries, and even there the difference is subtle.

Rennix is for repealing the ban while Finley said she is a bit more reticent.

“Really we don’t differ a whole lot on that other than he wants it now and I think we need to study it,” Finley said. “A lot of my supporters are the more conservative supporters, and I personally think we need to look at it but those guys don’t,” Finley said.

Finley commutes four days per week by Regional Transportation District bus to her job in Denver at the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.

Finley said she’s fond of her job in member services there because she gets to learn from successful Colorado CEOs. But she said that CACI members understand she’s an elected official in Longmont, which has argued before various courts for increased local control over the oil and gas industry.

“We have oil and gas members, and you just have to have that wall, and I did,” Finley said. “Everyone respected it, and if they hadn’t I would have had to quit. I’m at the point now — I’m 60 years old, and if something goes on there that I can’t handle or I can’t deal with, I can retire.”

One thing Finley is advocating for is taking action at the municipal level on Colorado’s construction defects law, which developers argue makes building condominiums too risky because of legal liability.

“I think there are a lot of things we can do to work around (current) law so we can get condos and townhouses built in Longmont,” Finley said. “We shouldn’t get sued, and it can be done and it can be done easily so it encourages that first-time homebuyer kind of unit to be built.”

On a lack of affordable housing, Finley said the city should study enacting a prohibition against people not from Longmont from getting into the city’s affordable housing program.

“Someone could come here from California, from Texas, from anywhere and get into our affordable housing program, and whatever unit that is, is full so somebody from Longmont who’s lived here all their life can’t find one,” Finley said. “They need to have some kind of connection — either they’ve lived here before or worked here.”

Longmont Compass - 06/04/2015

Bonnie Finley Announces Longmont Re-Election Bid

Are we complete sycophants, completely high, or what?

These are three candidates with different political backgrounds, different philosophies on Longmont’s future, and very different styles.

They are also three candidates who have one thing in common: an unerring ability to put those differences to one side and unite to work for Longmont’s best interests. In the opinion of this publication, it is absolutely no coincidence that as Longmont continues to drive forward as a strong, cohesive community, the City Council in our town is the most civil and most united political entity we have seen in any city, anywhere. And by ‘united’, we don’t mean ‘unanimous’ – healthy and vigorous debate is a key function of a working democracy, and it’s both evident and frequent at City Council meetings. But once the issue is settled, this group of men and women fiercely defend the conclusion they’ve reached.

Bonnie is a Longmont native (“The only one on City Council… I think!”, she says, following up with “Not that it’s important, but if you want to know where you’re going, it sometimes helps to know where you’ve been.”) and she has represented Ward 3 since 2011.

“I got into this at the behest of friends who wanted to see some civility on City Council,” she recalls, “And at the time, there wasn’t a great deal. But I believe that as a result of all of our [City Council] efforts, and how hard we’ve all worked at it, we’ve made that happen. We work really well together because we listen. When you listen to someone else’s opinion, it can help moderate your own – and ideally reach a compromise. Not a compromise where nobody wins, but a compromise where everybody does.”

Finley spoke passionately about both sides of the political coin during our discussion – from the big decisions that have a profound impact on the character of our city, to the individual citizen issues that she says are often the most gratifying aspect of her work on City Council.

“A gentleman called me in my first year on City Council about Dawson Park,” she explains. “He said, “Some kid’s going to get run over there – people speed along that road, it needs a crossing” and I knew exactly where he was talking about. And I was able to help with that – in fact, we even named the crossing after him! Another gentleman’s water bill wasn’t where it should be, and I brought him in, we sat down with Sandi [Seader, Assistant City Manager], we figured it out, and solved the problem. That’s the best part of my job – solving those problems.”

On the wider issues, Finley has a strong stance on affordable housing. “I have proposed that we look at the work the city of Lakewood used to mitigate the Colorado Construction Defects Law that has kept developers from building the more affordable condos and townhouses. I have also proposed that we look at granting density bonuses for builders who make a percentage of their development affordable. We should also look at other development incentives. We need to decide as a community if we want to tax ourselves to provide housing for those in Longmont who are in need.”

It’s in tune with her business background, certainly – but it’s also a very clear statement about managed growth. “We have a limited area to build in, and we need to plan what happens on every vacant lot. That’s why the Comprehensive Plan update is so important, it will take some of the uncertainty out of the equation. Right now, everything is an exception – but when this is finished, when the citizens have had their say, that certainty will help manage development appropriately.”

A strong advocate for business, Bonnie Finley is adamant that attracting entrepreneurial activity to Longmont through entities such as TinkerMill and NextLight will be key to the success of the town. “I see community and entrepreneurship working hand-in-hand,” she says. “Businesses only expand when they feel secure about the environment in which they operate. We must illustrate that we are united and serious about wanting to expand our jobs and tax base in Longmont.”

Finley described Longmont as having a “heart and soul” all of its own. “I don’t think anybody really wants to turn this into Boulder,” she suggested. “We’re 90,000 strong, but we’re still a small town. We’re still friendly. I see us going in a very different direction.”

Like her colleagues on City Council, Finley maintains an active and – some might say – hectic schedule of commitments beyond the regular Tuesday night meetings. She is currently involved with numerous associations and Boards across the area, including the National League of Cities’ Community and Economic Development Steering Committee, the Longmont Area Economic Council Board, Longmont Planning & Zoning Commission, Museum Advisory Board, Longmont Cable Trust Board and the Longmont Sister Cities Board.

Here at The Longmont Compass, we recognize that a wonderful candidate may rise to oppose Bonnie Finley – just as they may do to oppose Brian Bagley and Dennis Coombs – and no matter who that may be, our support will be unwavering. Trust that is earned is a wonderful thing: trust that is promised is simply a nice idea. Our City Council has done Longmont proud over the last four years. We hope that whoever replaces term-limited Sarah Levison will be of equally sound judgement and equally capable of putting their own interests behind those of the citizens they represent.

“A retired teacher called me once,” Finley remembers. “He said that the other side of his yard used to get mowed by the City, and now it was a big mess. So I went over and took a look, and we worked out that sure, actually it should be getting mowed, it was an error. And now it is. He didn’t expect that, he basically called to complain, but he was so grateful – and that was wonderful.”

 

The grass, it seems, isn’t always greener on the other side. Which is why we’re sticking with Bonnie Finley and our other incumbents.

Longmont Times Call - 06/02/2015

Bonnie Finley announced today that she is seeking reelection to Longmont’s City Council. Finley represents Ward 3 which consists of the northwest portion of Longmont. “My desire to serve Longmont by using my 30 years of public policy experience has only gotten stronger. I am passionate in wanting to move our city forward and believe that my expertise will benefit our entire community,” Finley said.

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“Since I was elected in 2011, we have come a long way. We are now redeveloping the Twin Peaks mall area, we have a plan in place with Advance Longmont to recruit new business to our area, we have started to rewrite our development code to make it less onerous, we are working on the redevelopment of our river corridor and we are continuing to work on the infrastructure damaged by the flood. Not bad for the first four years,” Finley added.

Finley notes that there is still much to be done. “We are in the process of updating our Comprehensive Plan which will drive how we grow and look in the future. We need to pursue the types of business we need to provide jobs for our community. Businesses only expand when they feel secure about the environment in which they operate. We must illustrate that we are united and serious about wanting to expand our jobs/tax base in Longmont.   Having someone on Council that understands and can work effectively on these issues will continue to be an asset to Longmont.”

Affordable housing is also an issue that needs to be addressed in the community Finley said. “I have proposed that we look at the work the city of Lakewood used to mitigate the Colorado Construction Defects Law that has kept developers from building the more affordable condos and townhouses. I have also proposed that we look at granting density bonuses for builders who make a percentage of their development affordable. We should also look at other development incentives. We need to decide as a community if we want to tax ourselves to provide housing for those in Longmont who are in need.”

Finley summarized by saying, “I was recently asked what my vision for Longmont was for the future. I would like to see Longmont become a place where people who want a job can find one and the people who want to live here can afford a place to live. I want to see our infrastructure and tax base strong and able to support us into the future. I am seeking another term in order to move this vision forward.”

Bonnie Finley is a native of Longmont. She attended local public schools and graduated from the University of Colorado with a BA in Political Science. She works for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the State Chamber of Commerce, as Manager of Member Involvement.