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2015 Voter Guide

Date

October 28, 2015

Reprinted with permission from Jason Vogel.

Hello friends, colleagues, countrymen,

Many of you have received my recommendations before; some of you are getting them for the first time. I've just put together a
permanent list for this thing. Here is my bottom line: the only important thing is that you exercise your right as a citizen in our democracy and vote. I don’t expect you to agree with my perspectives on everything, but I hope my thoughts will be one piece of information that helps inform your decision making.

A lot of people feel that this year's elections are a turning point for Boulder, and I am one of them. Your city council and local ballot issues make WAY more of a difference in your day to day life than voting for congress or even president. Who gets on council this time around and the fate of initiatives 300 and 301 will have a big role to play in the future of our town, for better or for worse.

My recommendations in brief followed by more detailed explanations:

NO on 300/301

Yes on 2-N, 2-O, 2-P, 2-Q, 2-R, 3A, and BB

Boulder city council:

  • Aaron Brockett
  • Jan Burton
  • Suzanne Jones
  • Tim Plass
  • Bob Yates

Now for the detailed explanations:

Ballot Questions 300/301 - VOTE NO/AGAINST

These two initiatives are the most important thing on the ballot this year. Don't believe the hype that Boulder is going to the dogs. We live in paradise; and paradise has gotten better year after year - better restaurants, more trails, more bike paths, better parks, more high paying jobs...pretty much every other city wants to be Boulder. That is why initiative 300 and 301 are so dangerous.

If they both pass, I believe it will paralyze development (good and bad development) and lead to skyrocketing home prices, taking us down the path of Aspen or San Francisco in terms of community and livability. These initiatives would basically freeze important infill development, including affordable housing, transit-oriented development, neighborhood serving retail, social service centers, day care centers, and basically every other kind of good development that you can think of.

I'm not making this up - the city attorney has already stated that if these initiatives pass, the city will stop issuing building permits for 6 months to a year while they try and figure out what these initiatives mean and how to implement them. You can expect that timeline to lengthen once the lawsuits begin (the initiatives are so vaguely worded they are guaranteed to be adjudicated in the courts). Meanwhile, no development will occur, and all the tax revenue that comes from development will dry up.

That essentially means that we will create a nice little recession just for Boulder. I've even been told by a city council member that the city attorney is considering shutting down residential building permits that would increase the total square footage of a home.

I believe that the promoters of these initiatives have some valid concerns that need to be addressed. Traffic in Boulder is unpleasant at best and many proposed new developments have not offered the kinds of community amenities or attractive design that neighborhoods and citizens would like to see. But these initiatives go WAY, WAY, WAY too far. I'd like to see the promoters of these initiatives working with city council and our planning board to come up with more moderate proposals, perhaps for sub-community planning and form based codes, which will address their issues with a surgical strike instead of an A-bomb.

Both initiatives are opposed by the Boulder Daily Camera, the Human Services Alliance, Better Boulder, Open Boulder, Downtown Boulder, Inc., most (I think all) current council members, the current sitting mayor, and 5 former Boulder mayors. The Sierra Club declined to endorse either 300 or 301. Boulder Weekly opposed 301 and declined to endorse 300.

FOR CITY COUNCIL

Aaron Brockett - Aaron is one of the nicest, reasonable, and most experienced people I have met running for council. He is younger, has a family, and has served for 5 years on our planning board. He gets how the city works, yet, somehow, he is not 'bought and paid for.' He honestly listens to people he disagrees with, and even goes out of his way to challenge his own views and to understand yours. He reminds me of one of my other favorite politicians in this regard - Will Toor - who served our city and our county admirably for many years. I have not seen someone with this much promise to do good for our community since Will retired from politics. My own confidence in Aaron is reflected in his wide range of endorsements across the political spectrum, including Open Boulder, Better Boulder, the Sierra Club, and the Boulder Daily Camera.

Jan Burton - Jan brings an outsider perspective to city government that I think is needed right now. She is not clearly in any particular camp. But she has played roles as a business executive and in the arts community that I think show that she has leadership skills necessary to bring a fresh perspective to Boulder city politics at a time when many citizens are disaffected. I also like the idea of having business savvy people in the driver's seat as we make important decision in the future about municipalization, how development will be managed if 300/301 do not pass, and our shaky relationship with RTD. I think Jan will be an asset as a hard working and thoughtful councilwoman. 

Suzanne Jones - Zan is a good person. I do not always agree with her on the issues, including her vote on a proposed ban on development. But given the momentum behind issues 300/301 it is quite possible that Zan is more in tune with feelings across the spectrum on development than I am. She has come out against those two initiatives, which means to me that she recognizes the complexity of this policy problem and is looking for solutions across the full spectrum of our community. She has also been open to new ideas in Open Space, including appointing out first ever mountain biker to the Open Space board of Trustees, despite the fact that she took heat for that decision. She is a thoughtful leader and worthy of reelection. 

Tim Plass - Perhaps more than any other candidate, Tim has proven himself a man of integrity. I did not support him when he first ran for council, or even when he ran the next time and won. But I have watched his votes on council and he has proven to be nuanced, thoughtful, and representative of the best interests of our community as a whole, not the people who helped get him elected. He has so much integrity, in fact, that the organization that helped get him elected in the first place - PLAN Boulder County - has withdrawn its support of his candidacy. I think good and thoughtful people deserve reelection and Tim deserves your vote. 

Bob Yates - Simply (and unfairly) put, Bob is the 'business candidate.' But with George Karakehian stepping down, nobody else will be able to speak for or communicate with the business community the way that Bob can. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm glad I have a job. Bob knows and understands what it takes to run a successful business in this town, and for this reason of diversity on council alone, I would support Bob. But beyond that, Bob is a very thoughtful person. Like Aaron, he goes out of his way to listen to people, including people he disagrees with. And he works to find solutions to difficult problems. He has served on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and in many positions supporting local museums, arts, and cultural initiatives. His dedication to Boulder on many levels is outstanding, and he represents the best we could ever hope for in a business-friendly candidate.

Ballot Issue 2N - RECOMMEND YES/FOR

This is a city tax on short term housing rentals like VRBO and AirBnB. I used to rent out a room in my own home using AirBnB and it helped me to afford the quite insane mortgage I took on to buy a house in Boulder. I think other people should have this option available to them. But the reality is this - the gravy days are over; regulation has caught up with innovation; and there are real potential safety and community livability issues that regulation will help with. The proposed rate of taxation and the regulatory aspects of this issue are reasonable. Plus if the measure fails, AirBnB and similar services will be made illegal in Boulder City limits, limiting the ability of some to afford their homes.  

Ballot Issue 2O - RECOMMEND YES/FOR

This issue extends the existing utility occupation tax - which used to be charged as a franchise fee by Xcel Energy before we started this whole municipal utility experiment. This vote is not about municipalization, but about ensuring tax revenues come in. The facts seem to be that we got our asses handed to us in court and now the muni thing is up to the Public Utility Commission to decide in terms of dollars and time. So while I am tempted to vote no to send a signal to city council to look for alternatives to engaging in a holy war with Xcel Energy, that signal has already been sent by the court and now the PUC will really determine the outcome. We might as well make sure we get all tax revenue that should come in from electricity use while we wait to see what the PUC thinks of the city's plan to municipalize our electric utility. 

Ballot Issue 2P - RECOMMEND YES/FOR

This issue extends our existing climate action plan tax. This tax is used to provide energy efficiency incentives to residential and commercial electricity customers. Climate change is a real issue and this tax helps support small scale, but necessary action to address climate change.

Ballot Issue 2Q - RECOMMEND YES/FOR

Ummm... cleaning up city charter language about the role of the library commission. Unless I can find something unsavory about these changes through research, I generally defer to city council and the commission members themselves that the charter language was confusing and needed to be fixed. I found nothing unsavory here, so I recommend a yes vote. You can read the Boulder Weekly's recommendation if you want more background.

Ballot Issue 2R - RECOMMEND YES/FOR

Now I'm guessing a lot of you may disagree with me on this one. It is pretty popular these days to be down on government and politicians. The average pay to be on city council amounts to something like $10k per year, for what council members tell me is a minimum 20-40 hours per week effort. This ballot issue proposes providing an additional $10k per year salary and access to some city benefits, which would total to approximately $20k...still pretty paltry. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. And the way we compensate our council members guarantees that only the wealthy and the retired can serve on council. I believe we need more diversity on council, and this is one small step moving us in that direction. Eventually, I think we need to accept that we should pay our council members a living wage if we want to attract good people that are not the wealthiest among us.

Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Ballot Question 3A - RECOMMEND YES/FOR

This is about allowing Boulder Valley School District to use its fiber optic network to make money to help fund education. the fiber optic cables already exist and are not being used to capacity, so this seems like a no brainer way to generate some additional revenue for our underfunded schools.

Statewide Proposition BB (Statutory) - RECOMMEND  YES/FOR
This vote is to allow the state to keep excess money collected from the sale of legalized marijuana. That money will be used primarily for schools. This proposition is required because of the TABOR law that we live under here in Colorado. The issue is arcane, but hamstrings what government can do in many cases. Letting some $66 million go to schools instead of back to pot sales seems totally agreeable to me.

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That's it folks. For the many other people standing for election, I am not making recommendations because I have not spent the time getting to know or researching those people. I am, after all, primarily interested in providing you with information about the confusing local politics and local issues that you can weigh in on. So remember to look in your mail for your ballot and vote!

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