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Guest opinion: Lyn Lowry: Locals should get to weigh in on how government uses COVID Relief Funds

Longmont and Boulder County should host public forum to help decide where to spend the funds, Lowry said.
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Photo by Jaime Lopes on Unsplash

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The federal government will be sending COVID Relief Funds to cities and counties, including our own. There must be a robust, and public, discussion of how Boulder County and the city of Longmont should spend what we receive. It should not be carried out behind closed doors.

This is a one-time opportunity to promote and set up programs that will most benefit us. I ask the Boulder County Commissioners and the Longmont City Council to let the public know how much is expected, when and to organize and publicize ways for those of us who live here to have substantive input into the process.

Here are some suggestions for using the funds:

  • Improve public mental health facilities.
    • Establish a more comprehensive first responders’ public safety program in lieu of armed police response to mental health crises. Longmont already provides a mental health professional to accompany police when a caller stipulates that it is a mental health crisis. This program could be widely publicized and bolstered. For example, a Swedish program provides for a mental health response ambulance staffed with medical personnel with immediate access to patient medical records. San Francisco deploys a mental health crisis team that includes a former street person as well as medical experts. In both cases, these experts go along with officers responding to mental health incidents.
  • Improve and reinforce our food banks. Community Food Share and Longmont Food Rescue both do good work and should be expanded and strengthened.
  • Address homelessness better. What about a tiny house community? Other towns have them.
  • Make sure cybersecurity for the city, county, Longmont Power, and NextLight is robust.
  • Invest more in climate resilience.
    • In our drought prone region we need to do a better job of utilizing our scarce water. Legalize the use of greywater, use it for city parks and grounds and develop a program to help householders set up their own safe systems.
  • Set up a composting facility here in Longmont to benefit our residential and public gardens instead of transporting our compost out. For example, the little city I used to live in let us pick up compost for free or pay $50 for a delivered load. The town also had a free tool bank where residents could check out home and garden tools. Why not here?
  • Make sure the program to replace city and county vehicles with electric ones is well funded.
  • Put a roof garden on the rebuilt city center and library. Several cities in the east have put wonderful ones on the roofs of their public buildings. The garden help with the cooling, among other benefits. 

Once again, this is a one-time opportunity to make real progress toward improving well being in our town and our country. The public deserves a voice in how the funds are allocated. I ask the City Council and the Boulder Commissioners to make sure we get it.

Brief bio:  Lyn Lowry is an anthropologist. She has lived in Longmont for 6 years.