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Paid for and authorized by Wallach for Council

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder Chamber of Commerce

candidate questionnaire

1.  The Boulder Chamber: What do you see as the vital components to the future of Boulder’s economic vitality and what specific strategies would you support as a City Council member to maintain a vibrant economy?

 

Our economic vitality depends upon continued economic diversity across many sectors: high tech, aerospace, start-ups in the food and beverage industry, research, and tourism. It is precisely those factors that make Boulder special that boosts tourism: its Open Space, its height limitations, its small town feel and big city sophistication, It is the preservation of those qualities that will be most contributory to its continued vitality.  The presence of a highly educated and talented work force and a great university are the predicate for the vitality of the other sectors. I would explore the feasibility of creating artisan and/or small business zones where our service businesses and artists can find reasonably priced facilities. The investments in Boulder of such firms as Goldman Sachs and GTIS Partners, both based in New York, are indicative of the vibrancy of our current economy.

2.  Downtown Boulder Partnership: Our neighboring communities have flourished over time and have captured or retained sales tax revenues that in the past sustained Boulder’s economy. As competition continues to increase, what is your vision to keep our downtown vibrant in order for our local businesses to succeed in this ever-changing and increasingly competitive environment?

 

I do not view economic development as a zero sum game where that which benefits Longmont must be viewed as a loss for Boulder. Boulder is an attractive destination for both businesses and residents, and Boulder’s unique combination of physical beauty, a highly educated and sophisticated population, and the presence of a leading university all contribute to making it a destination for high-tech firms, financial services firms, and start-ups. These factors are why Google desired to locate here.  Whether a firm finds that rents in Lafayette are more suitable to its economic needs is not a calamity or indicative of the future decline of Boulder's business base. However, I would emphasize the creation of small local businesses as a core component of our economic strategy.

 

3.  The Community Foundation of Boulder County: How would you make housing attainable for those who live or work in Boulder?

 

While inclusionary zoning provides some measure of affordable housing, I would look to develop additional strategies. We have some underutilized real estate assets that are controlled by the City and could be repurposed to provide substantial amounts of affordable and middle-income housing. There are some areas within the City’s industrial zones that could be accommodative of dense housing and could be rezoned for that purpose. We also need to take the lead in encouraging our sister cities within the County to be more aggressive in the provision of affordable housing. Boulder has 34% of the total housing units within the County and 55% of the affordable units. That is a tribute to our success to date, but more needs to be done and we need to think more regionally in terms of this issue. Finally, the Yates/Weaver program for middle-income down payment assistance is worthy of support.

4.  Urban Land Institute of Colorado: A recent report from the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and CoPIRG Colorado suggested that Boulder’s slow-growth policies are not consistent with its carbon reduction and climate policies. Do you feel that in Boulder “dense makes sense” to help achieve carbon reduction? If so, how would you support affordability with density?

 

"Dense makes sense" is a slogan without content, and a poor oversimplification of the issues involved in carbon reduction. While denser living might reduce our per capita footprint, the greatly increased population would increase our total carbon footprint. Within what limits and standards is density proposed? This slogan, carried to its logical conclusion, implies that Boulder should aspire to be Manhattan, as 40-story vertical living is certainly more efficient than 3-4 stories.  If the objective is achieving carbon reduction, the creation of a municipal utility will be far more impactful in reducing our dependence on coal - in terms of which Colorado ranks 39th among all states - than merely creating density. The discussion of the proper growth trajectory for Boulder and the proper limits of that growth deserves a more nuanced conversation than is suggested by this slogan.

 

5.  Community Cycles: To improve safety, cities around the world have been reducing vehicle speed limits. Studies show that speed reduction has an impact in both reducing speed and normalizing driving slower. Boulder has been very reluctant to reduce traffic speeds. Community Cycles is asking the next council to pass an ordinance that will reduce the speed limit on residential streets from 25 mph to 20 mph. Will you champion this speed limit reduction? If so, how? What other ways do you think we can make our streets safer for all users?

I have no objection in principle, but I would want to see the data. What percentage of our accidents has occurred on our residential streets vs. commercial streets? Is this a one-size-fits all solution or are there streets that could properly accommodate a 25 mph limit, while others should be more limited? Will there be a benefit in pedestrian safety sufficient to warrant longer travel times? I am open to the concept, but would certainly need to know more.

 

The most significant safety issue concerns bikers, and I support more protected bike lanes where feasible, and if there is proper outreach to the community (unlike Folsom). More multi-purpose greenways for both bikers and pedestrians would also be beneficial.

6.  Boulder Area Realtor Association: What strategies do you support regarding land use, housing and transportation policies and programs to address the impacts of our in-commuting workforce?

 

I do support rationalizing and streamlining processes so that if a particular project is permissible it can get to a prompt regulatory conclusion. As a former real estate developer, I always valued a clear direction as to what can be done with a piece of property. As stated above, I support the creation of new paths to achieve affordable housing beyond inclusionary zoning. On transportation, everyone agrees we need substantial improvements to the system, but we are hostages to RTD, and do not currently have the discretionary funds to do this on our own. I would like to see more land banking on the part of the City. The greatest driver of housing expense in Boulder is the cost of land; if that can be taken out of the equation it would be possible to construct more townhouses that could be sold in the $350-400K range for middle-income commuters.

7.  The Human Services Alliance of Boulder County: The Human Service Alliance’s non-profit human service agencies provide the bulk of the human service safety net in Boulder. What are your top concerns about the safety net in Boulder and how do you plan to address these concerns?

 

My primary concern is whether, in a time of flat or declining revenues available for all City expenditures, there will be pressure to reduce the funding for the programs that comprise Boulder's safety net. I believe that programs such as EFAA, Bridge House, the affordable housing owned and managed by Boulder Housing Partners and many others provide essential services, and I will advocate for - at a minimum - sustaining present levels of funding and increasing them where possible. Programs such as Bridge House (among so many) have a wonderful track record of successful outcomes, and they deserve as much support as we can provide. As we are an aspirational city there are an almost limitless number of programs and initiatives we wish to fund; however, I would regard these programs as having an extremely high priority and will seek to protect them from reduction.