Few first-time candidates for City Council bring more knowledge of what the city does than local small-business owner Abe Herman.
He’s been attending council meetings and workshops for two years, during which the council has rewritten its comprehensive plan, updated its impact fee schedule and reworked the boundaries of the city’s redevelopment zone. These planning processes have sharpened his vision for Grand Junction’s future and put him at distinct odds with his opponent, Jody Green.
Green has been campaigning for just over a month and admittedly faces a steep learning curve. On several occasions he told the Sentinel’s editorial board he’d need more information to take a position on certain issues. He said he wants to help small business during the pandemic recovery, but when we pressed for specifics he said, “I would have to hear everyone’s opinion on that before I could make an evaluation.”
But Green repeatedly emphasized a view that city government should stick to the basics of providing infrastructure, parks and recreation and public safety. And he’s concerned that new businesses and subdivisions face too many taxes, impact fees and restrictions.
Herman says that’s the kind of thinking that has mired Grand Junction in a boom-bust mentality. He pointed to local firefighters having to go door-to-door soliciting voter support for a tax increase to bolster spending on public safety.
“For me 2A and 2B shouldn’t have had to happen,” he said. “That’s a lack of foresight.”
The city has a history of short-term thinking. Putting off a serious discussion about impact fees for a decade led not only to new tax proposals but a painful increase in the fees. Talk of reducing them is a “growth for growth’s sake” mindset, Herman said, whereas “smart” growth can leverage impact fees to create infrastructure, opportunity and attainable housing.
“There’s a bit of a naive assumption sometimes that we can stop growth,” Herman said. “That’s not a choice we have, so the question is how we manage it and make sure we’re ahead and not behind trying to fix the impacts.”
Herman’s economic development philosophy is to focus on livability and quality of life. “You just make this city a great place to live — you invest in schools, parks and rec and amenities,” he said. Businesses that are attracted to the Grand Valley because it’s a great place to live have more longevity than those who come for tax breaks or job-creation incentives. Cities that try to compete on price have already lost because businesses will leave when they get better terms elsewhere, he said.
Perhaps the most illuminating topic we discussed with Herman was homelessness. “The fundamental question is not why they’re homeless — if it’s their fault or someone else’s — but what we do about it,” he said.
If the amount of money spent on policing the homeless, jailing them and treating them in emergency rooms were funneled into housing and addiction programs, it would be cheaper with better outcomes. To that end he’s proposing the city form a centralized agency to better coordinate services among agencies that deal with a very diverse homeless population.
To summarize, we find Herman to be far more knowledgeable than Green on every issue. He also has a mindset that ponders the long-term future of this community.
Disclaimer: Herman is the son of Ben Herman, a member of the Sentinel’s editorial Board. Ben Herman did not participate in any candidate interviews, nor will he be a part of any discussion involving the City Council should Abe Herman be elected.