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Paid for and authorized by Wallach for Council

Boulder, Colorado

Sierra Club, Indian Peaks Group

candidate questionnaire

1.  Environment: Background and Goals

 

My career has been in the private sector, primarily as a residential real estate developer. In that capacity I specialized in urban adaptive reuse projects, converting 19th century manufacturing and commercial structures to residential use, primarily in landmark districts. As a result, I have never demolished a structure to replace it with a new building, with the attendant negative environmental consequences. I am no longer active in the field, but I am quite proud of that work. 

 

2.  Two achievable environmental goals for the next two years:

 

Actually, I would propose three:

1) Continued work to bring the muni before the voters (see below).

2) Insure proper funding for Open Space maintenance (also see below).

3) Continued tightening of building construction regulations to move toward the goal that all new construction should be net zero. 

 

3.  Support for the muni:

 

Yes, I strongly support the muni. Substantively, it is the most consequential step we can take towards a renewable energy future. Colorado ranks 39th among all states in its reliance upon coal as a percentage of total energy (54%), and in the absence of the muni we must rely upon an unenforceable promise from Xcel that it will provide renewable energy by 2050. That is unacceptable. Procedurally, the citizens of Boulder have voted multiple times to proceed with the effort to create a municipal utility. Elections matter; not proceeding essentially nullifies those votes and denies our electorate a proper voice. When the final costs are determined, I believe the voters of Boulder will make a sound, common sense decision as to how to proceed.

 

4.  Mitigating the expense of transitioning to renewables:

 

The greatest way to equitably address the costs of the transition from carbon to renewables is to lower the price on the energy we consume. The experience of most municipally owned utilities is to provide lower rates to their customers, which is another basis for supporting the muni. In other areas it may be necessary to provide rebates or subsidies to economically vulnerable citizens in order to assist in that transition.

 

5.  What changes, if any should Council make to its current Oil and Gas land use and extraction regulations in the context of SB 181 to better position itself to protect residents and manage any future permit applications from the industry?

 

SB 181 invests local governments with greater authority to regulate oil and gas drilling on the basis of health and safety and eliminates State preemption of local regulations. If we cannot simply convert our moratorium into a permanent ban, we need to establish, through commissions or working groups, a stronger local factual basis to demonstrate the serious impacts such activities can have on public health in order to withstand the legal challenges that will arise from continued denial of such applications. Where possible the City should make strategic acquisitions of mineral rights and continue to lobby at the state level for even greater local control over our lands.

6.  Open space funding:

 

As a climber for 47 years, I am deeply sensitive to, and supportive of, the needs of our Open Space and the maintenance of our natural landscape. I support full funding for Open Space, especially its maintenance requirements, through the proposed tax initiative. Throughout the years Boulder has always treated Open Space as its crown jewel, and rightly so, and that should not change. Open Space is the unique feature of Boulder, distinguishing it from every other city in the country. Each generation should pass down the Open Space to the next in no less condition than it was received. We should not break that chain now.

 

7.  OSMP Master Plan:

 

The OSMP Master Plan is, to some extent, an aspirational document that does not fully and specifically address all of the future needs and financing requirements of Open Space preservation. The Implementation Plan to be developed will be critical. The needs of Open Space extend far beyond the $40MM in trail and facilities maintenance that are usually identified as the amount required for its proper maintenance. The sales tax increase that Council has just agreed to put on the ballot will certainly help, but it will not generate nearly enough revenue to fund needed natural resource management, water infrastructure maintenance or remediate the impact of vastly increased visitor usage. The plan notes the problem, but does not really identify specific solutions that can be adopted. A good deal of work remains to be done.

8.  Transportation:

 

With respect to transit users, we do not really control our destiny due to RTD, but we should continue to press for smaller, more frequent modes of transportation. Having a 40-seat bus carrying 4 passengers is not environmentally sound. To make bus transportation more attractive in cold or inclement weather, there should be a greater investment in covered bus stops. We cannot seriously expect people to wait for 30 minutes when it is snowing in February, or during an afternoon thunderstorm. Greater dissemination of Eco Passes would also be beneficial. More protected bike paths and greenways, where feasible, would encourage bike transportation.

9.  Pesticides: What would you do to continue the City’s efforts to protect pollinators from pesticides on public and private land, including agricultural lands? What additional steps can be taken to improve and expand pollinator habitat throughout the city?

 

We need to increase our educational outreach to private property owners – both residential and agricultural - to demonstrate the long-term harm of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to wildlife, pollinators, our waterways and our population, and show the efficacy of more organic products in such areas as lawn maintenance and pest control. By resolution of the Council, the City has previously agreed to eliminate the use of chemical pesticides on its own landscaping and management of our Open Space and Mountain Parks lands, and I fully support that effort. We also need a greater effort to inform homeowners of the most bee-friendly species of plants that can be incorporated into their own landscaping.

10.  City Council is currently negotiating the framework for an annexation agreement with CU for development and flood control of the CU South property. Do you support the proposed dam on Cu South that would protect downstream residents from a 500-year flood? What environmental conditions would you include in the annexation agreement and why?

 

I fully support reaching an agreement that will permit proper flood mitigation for the communities that were badly damaged in 2013. But like so many other issues in Boulder, there is consensus on the principle, but not on the means by which the goal can be achieved. The discussion is further complicated by the presence of stakeholders beyond the City and CU: CDOT and Open Space will also have to weigh in and approve the final determination. I am not yet in a position to opine on the relative merits of Variant 1 or 2 (or whether other possibilities are feasible), but I do note that, to date, CU has not been an entirely cooperative partner at the bargaining table, refusing to even consider land swaps to achieve their objective, and setting forth unreasonable demands in their annexation proposal to the City (24-hour access to athletic facilities, refusal to propose a site plan for the development, etc.). To this point I would characterize their approach as disappointing. I also think that a primary objective for any agreement is the adequate protection of any endangered species found on the developed property, but we are quite far from resolving  that problem.

 

11.  Housing and urban form:

 

I am a strong proponent of affordable housing, but the concept that mere density leads to affordability is inconsistent with the experience of every major city in America over the past 25 years. To increase affordable housing you cannot merely rely upon the private sector to do what it is ill equipped to do. We need new strategies to actually create affordable housing, such as repurposing some of our underutilized real estate assets to achieve these goals. For example, the City’s airport is in Area 1, has over 130 acres, is out of the floodplain, and is used by only a couple of hundred people. We could do much better with this City-owned resource and build a large number of sustainable housing units for low- and middle-income residents with neighborhood services. Promoting the kind of adaptive reuse that I practiced for many years can serve to reduce carbon output from demolition, and incentivizing more homes built to passive home standards will also contribute to the effort.

 

Environmental Justice:

 

12.  How would you apply an equity lens (particularly racial equity) on decisions you anticipate related to environmental issues?

 

The greatest barrier to social justice is economic justice. This struggle has been ongoing for more than 50 years, since Martin Luther King, Jr. led his Poor People’s March just before his death. It is well known that people of lower incomes are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change (see Katrina) than those who can afford to locate outside of problem areas or more easily escape its consequences. The solutions for resolving economic inequalities are beyond the scope of this discussion, but if there is one lens that needs to be applied when it comes to environmental issues it is to view the impact of decisions on people across the economic spectrum, and to be mindful of the economic repercussions of all such decisions on citizens with lower incomes.

 

13.  What are the concrete steps that your campaign will take to engage communities of color? What ideas do you have to welcome and engage communities of color into decision-making conversations in Boulder?

 

My campaign is open and receptive to all. I have, and will continue to, reach out to all members of the Boulder community to solicit their views and input. In my political experiences I have fought for civil rights; and I am a member of an extremely diverse family, with many family members of color. Receptivity to the views of others, and a desire to include them in the decision-making process, is not new to me; it is how my life has been lived.