Sighting alleged shortcomings, a small group of Castle Rock residents have submitted a petition for the recall of a second council member. Signatures have been gathered to request that Renee Valentine, a representative District 5, be removed from her seat when the general election takes place this November.
Submitted two years before her second term ends in 2018, the action came as a surprise to Valentine and many of the residents she represents. “I’ve spent time listening to residents,” says Valentine. “The majority of people are not happy with this recall.”
An active member in her district- that includes Castle Oaks, Cobblestone Ranch, Escavera and parts Founders Village- she has made the betterment of her community a priority. Valentine knows the importance of listening to concerns and giving individuals in her neighborhoods a voice.
“Last year, I went to Cobblestone Ranch and we just had a community meeting-an open house,” she recalls. “And we said, ‘What’s of interest to you in your specific community? Not in Castle Rock, but in your community?’”
That particular meeting gave way to the installation of a traffic light near the entrance of Cobblestone Ranch, on Parker Road. It was just one of many examples of her going to bat for the majority of her residents.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. When residents spoke again, she similarly worked with Bob Gobel, Public Works Director for Castle Rock, to get another needed traffic light for the Escavera and Terrian neighborhoods.
Those are the things Valentine assumed were required from her as a representative for the community. “We have a representative government, and that is being challenged,” remarks Valentine. “I hope residents take the time to understand what is at stake.”
But while she knows that not everyone is always going to agree, she listens to all concerns and makes weighty decisions for further discussion.
Ideas are then brought to the council table where Valentine and the other members vote to make resolutions to move (or not move forward) on various projects for the Town. Until recently, that process had worked to streamline Town business.
“If you look at council, all of us vote pretty similar,” she says. “I don’t know how this escalated so quickly for only a few of us.
She misses what the cohesive past has rendered. The evolution of Philip S. Miller Park makes her smile. It is a great example of the voice of the residents being heard when they asked for more, close, outdoor amenities and activities for the family.
“I’m very proud of the MAC,” Valentine smiles. “That is an amazing amenity in Town.”
Likewise, she couldn’t be more proud of the years of planning and time that has gone into the construction of Promenade at Castle Rock. “I actually did have a lot of people in my area that really wanted the Promenade because they wanted more places to go,” Valentine adds. “I can’t tell you how many people have said, ‘Thank you. Now we will have more choices here for restaurants and shopping.”
A similar notable accomplishment has been serving as council liaison for Downtown Development Authority (DDA) since 2014. Hours of volunteer time has given Valentine the chance to voice her input regarding the redevelopment of our Town center. Since 2008, the DDA has used tax increment financing (TIF) to encourage revitalizing downtown with projects that include the renovation and addition of amenities to downtown’s Festival Park.
“Festival park is going to be amazing,” she said. “The vision is to make it more of an urban park so it will be attractive to residents and people who are going to be moving into the lofts across the way.” Another plan that has been at the drawing board for years as funding was secured.
Rather than celebrating the progress and successes of Castle Rock with the community, instead, Valentine sees her recall causing division among residents. She believes it all started after council was asked to support a petition from a group looking to halt discussions of development on private property, one they had previously assumed was designated open space.
“The people that pulled my petition have lived in the Woodlands for less than three years,” she continues, “They back up to the Scott Walker property.” The group thought that their petition, Citizens Petition 2016B, which asks that citizens have the right to vote on annexations of five or more acres, with the support of council, would be enough to stop any talks of construction in the specified area.
After petitioners could not sway council’s support, the group took measures to gather signatures from residents for the recall of certain council members. And though the system stands behind the legalities of a possible recall, Valentine knows there are flaws in the process.
“We don’t have signature verification, which has been well known,” Valentine states. “When you are looking at this (signature), I have nothing to compare it to. As far as I know it’s your signature.”
While signature verification is going to move forward with elections, currently it is not being required for petitions or anything else.
“Moving forward, that’s one thing I’m going to introduce is a resolution saying everything, I don’t care what it is, is going to be signature verified,” she says. ‘Election integrity is of the utmost importance.”
The petition went on to also allege that Valentine has approved budgets in the past three years where expenditures exceed revenues and voted to limit public input at town council meetings to three minutes per person. Two accusations that she feels confident have not been illegal or harmful to the system in any way.
“For example, with the North Meadows extension, we have been preparing for this transportation project for years,” she remarked.
Neither does she want to take away from resident input at council meetings. “It (the limit to three minutes) was done during the prairie dog issue,” she remembers. “We would sit there for hours listening to them while people were sitting and waiting for their agenda item. All we did was adjust it to three minutes so that more people could talk and we could move on with the business of the town.”
Last month, Denver followed suit setting similar limits for public comment during council meetings.
For Valentine and her family, November can’t come fast enough. She will continue to use personal time, as well as her own funds from her small business, to fight the recall election.
“On top of the more than 10,000 dollars the Town will spend on ballots and staff time, I am spending money out of own pocket to secure legal representation,” sighs Valentine. It is money and time she would have liked to spend enjoying the summer with her husband and kids in Castle Rock.
She thinks that the petitioners could have taken a different avenue and used their influence to work with the system. “I tried to sit down with these people and they don’t want to listen and understand the processes,” says Valentine. “For those who want to contribute to the community in a positive way, please call me and I’ll get you on a committee,” states Valentine. “Volunteer your time to try to understand the processes before you start fighting them.”
Because she, like her supporters, sees the growth in Castle Rock as a good problem to have. Unlike places experiencing economic downfall, people and businesses are flocking here because of the area’s vitality.
“The market is dictating the supply and demand, not us,” notes Valentine. “We should be proud of that. We’re not going to agree all the time but it’s how we come together and work through those challenges that show who we are as a community.”