published by the Boulder Daily Camera
July 29, 2017
By MARK WALLACH
City Council election season is upon us and a boatload of candidates will be vying for your vote. I am not clairvoyant, but I can safely promise that they will all tell you that they favor diversity, inclusivity, affordable housing, resilience, preservation of neighborhoods, creation of walkable neighborhoods, open space is good, etc., etc. You will hear them at debates and meetings, and they will provide you with feel-good statements of intent with as few specifics as possible.
I call this candidate blather Boulderspeak. The problem is that many voters have been complicit in this electoral dance, responding positively to expressions of purpose without detail, and making decisions based on superficial information, slogans and buzzwords. This is no way to select our leaders.
So here are a few questions — among many — that you can ask the candidates when you meet them. Do not let them out of the room until they have answered them — specifically — and do not let them distract you with meaningless slogans. Get real answers. Then vote.
1. For several decades the development of Boulder has been governed by the following principles: The Blue Line restricting development above 5,750 feet of elevation, building height limitations of 55 feet, and creation of a band of open space surrounding Boulder. Do you support continuing these policies in their present form? If not, which would you change and how? Either way, do you accept the implications of your position on the future character of Boulder?
2. Boulder has an influx of 60,000 commuters each day, as we have more jobs than housing. And more commercial development is contemplated. Do you support changing this relationship to better balance the supply of housing with jobs? How? And, if so, how will you maintain the vibrancy of our commercial sector? If not, how will you accommodate tens of thousands of additional commuters each day?
3. Do you support rezoning some industrial areas of Boulder to provide areas of high-density affordable housing? If so, how will you deal with the increase in rents that will be incurred by displaced small businesses? If not, where will you locate new affordable housing?
4. Let’s talk muni! Do you support the muni, and, if so, what are the limits on the taxpayer dollars you are prepared to spend to achieve it, and the debt you are prepared to impose on taxpayers to purchase Xcel assets? If you do not, why not, and how do you propose that Boulder achieve its renewable energy goals?
5. Which programs funded by taxpayer revenues would you increase? Which would you decrease? Do you support all currently existing taxes? If not, specify which ones you wish to terminate.
6. The average price of a detached home in Boulder now exceeds $1 million. Is this good? If not, can government policies alter current market dynamics? How?
7. It has been argued that increasing Boulder’s density will result in more affordable housing choices. Do you agree? If so, can you point to other cities that have successfully followed this strategy? If not, how will you increase affordable housing in Boulder?
8. CU houses a very small fraction of its students and workforce. Do you believe it would be beneficial for Boulder to have the university house more of the CU community? If so, do you support the proposed CU development in south Boulder? If not, why not?
9. Institutional, out-of-town money primarily interested in the highest possible rents and sales prices has flooded into Boulder. Do you believe this is beneficial for our community? If so, why? If not, what are you going to do about it?
10. Boulder has a homeless crisis. What is your policy?
Bonus Question: What should Boulder look like in 20 years: a) Mountain View; b) Austin; c) Portland; d) none of the above? Explain your answer.
These are only a few of the many questions whose answers require making difficult policy choices, not reciting platitudes. Candidates prefer to run on generalities and calorie-free rhetoric in order to win your vote. Do not permit this. Get the answers you need, and make the candidates state what they will actually do when they become members of the council.
Voters should go beyond the Boulderspeak (seriously, who opposes diversity?) and discover what the candidates really stand for. It is only then that we can make the choices that will determine our future. Citizenship in Boulder is a full-contact activity. Suit up.