Boulder Voter Guide
I want to start with a thank you to local journalists Shay Castle (Boulder Beat), Richard Valenty, and Sam Lounsberry (Daily Camera). Without their dedication and terrific reporting, guides like this wouldn’t be possible.
You can contribute to Shay Castle’s fund for her voter guide or Shay Castle’s Patreon to subscribe to her local news, or you can subscribe to the Boulder Daily Camera which supports number of local journalists and editorials.
City of Boulder Council Candidates
Following are the candidates for city council. You may vote for up to six (6) candidates. If you vote for six (6) or fewer, your votes in this race will be counted. If you vote for more than six (6), your votes in this race will not be counted.
As many of you know, I ran for Boulder City Council in 2017. I and a number of other candidates I had been aligned with were not elected. The result has been a movement away from housing and transportation as primary needs to address in the community, and has supported policies that make Boulder less inclusive and supportive of the change we need. When it comes to taking action on land use to fight climate change, or to move forward on flood protection for people in southeast Boulder, or making sure that the younger generation can both work and live in Boulder, the current city council has failed us drastically.
I’m voting for six candidates who share my goals for a better city:
I’m supporting Rachel Friend because she’s a tireless advocate for protecting people and our community. Rachel’s work on assault weapons ban, flood protection for at-risk Boulder residents, and fighting to help immigrants shows why I want to see her on city council.
I’m supporting Benita Duran because Benita’s work on housing, creating an inclusive community, and supporting so many of Boulder’s non-profits will make her a strong, compassionate voice on city council. As a former assistant city manager, Benita will do great work with city staff and pick up the role quickly.
I’m supporting Junie Joseph because her passion, commitment, and ability to learn quickly have really impressed me. Junie brings a background of as a former UN human rights officer and CU law student who I know will fight for Boulder to help live out its values.
I’m supporting Mark McIntyre because he wants to see Boulder change for the better. Mark realizes that the status quo for our city is not enough, and we need to make real progress on housing, climate change, and safety for people on our streets. I ran with Mark in 2017 and am happy to support him again in 2019.
I’m supporting Aaron Brockett because I’ve always thought of him as the best example of how to be a great council member. Aaron’s continued work to show up for people, really listen, and bring people in are exactly the kind of leadership we need to move forward.
I announced the previous endorsements four weeks ago on Twitter, after organizing and participating in an endorsement process for Boulder Progressives, Better Boulder, and The Coalition. At that time, I did not know to whom I would give my sixth vote. A few reasons I did not support Bob Yates at that time:
- I’ve been disappointed with Bob’s actions and alignment on homelessness. (Bob did address the event in his interview with Shay Castle, saying “‘My intentions were good,’…saying it was to connect unhoused residents there with services. ‘How I handled it did not serve that intention.’”)
- I wanted to see more engagement and proactive action on racist policing in Boulder
- While Bob has voted positively to support cooperative housing and accessory dwelling units, I think we need greater change to solve the challenges Boulder has
A few reasons I’m voting for Bob Yates now:
- Bob has been a champion of local businesses and local non-profits (including Community Cycles)
- Bob has a strong understanding of the city budget, sales tax, and revenue challenges that continue to worsen for the city. As a recession is likely in the next 12-36 months, I want his perspective on city council during that time
- Bob has been outspoken in his concerns about Boulder’s energy utility municipalization. While a majority of city council will likely support the muni effort, Bob’s criticism has been positive and will help the council make better decisions during a critical time when the council and public will decide whether or not we will create a utility in the 2020-2 timeframe.
- My last reason is much about Bob’s personality: he’s been committed to openness and transparency through his regular newsletters. During the 2019 election, I’ve seen Bob continue to work hard for The Coalition-endorsed candidates, even though he was not officially endorsed by The Coalition due to Boulder Progressives’ dissent. I appreciate the help and collaboration I’ve seen and hope to continue to see with the next city council.
If you are interested in reading about other candidates in the race, here are a few resources that might be helpful:
Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Director District A (Vote for One)
I’m voting for Lisa Sweeney-Miran. Both candidates in the race have progressive values and want to address racial and economic disparities in our school system. Jai brings a background of policy and working on staff, while Lisa brings experience of working as a director of a non-profit serving the homeless. While both would certainly bring a great energy to the board, I’m voting for Lisa Sweeney-Miran to bring her depth of experience and knowledge to the position.
Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Director District C (Vote for One)
Kathy Gebhardt (unopposed)
Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Director District D (Vote for One)
Stacey Zis (unopposed)
Connor Bunting is listed on the ballot, however, according to the Boulder County Clerk, the candidate “withdrew their candidacy after certified content was delivered to Boulder County. Votes for this candidate will not be counted.”
Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Director District G (Vote for One)
Richard L. Garcia (unopposed)
WITHOUT RAISING TAXES AND TO BETTER FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, HIGHER EDUCATION, AND ROADS, BRIDGES, AND TRANSIT, WITHIN A BALANCED BUDGET, MAY THE STATE KEEP AND SPEND ALL THE REVENUE IT ANNUALLY COLLECTS AFTER JUNE 30, 2019, BUT IS NOT CURRENTLY ALLOWED TO KEEP AND SPEND UNDER COLORADO LAW, WITH AN ANNUAL INDEPENDENT AUDIT TO SHOW HOW THE RETAINED REVENUES ARE SPENT?
I’m voting Yes/For. For those unfamiliar with Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) law, the state must return any surplus money it was authorized to collect that exceeds the maximum amount defined when the tax law was created. Current policy is both economically inefficient in terms of the cost of refunding taxpayers a small amount of money by check and reducing the amount of money available to fund our key school, higher education, and transportation funding. Here’s an explainer from 2015: How TABOR refunds work.
According to the Colorado Blue Book, if Proposition CC passes, “state law will direct the money to public schools; higher education; and roads, bridges, and transit in the year after it is collected. Each of these programs is expected to receive $103 million in the 2020-21 budget year and $114 million in the 2021-22 budget year.”
Under current law, expected proceeds for the next few years would be:
“If these amounts are refunded to taxpayers, refunds are estimated to be between $26 and $90 per taxpayer per year, depending on the taxpayer’s income, and double these amounts for joint filers.”
Given Colorado’s growing population and significant needs in transportation and education, now is the time for us to pass Prop CC and move our budget forward.
Other reads on Prop CC:
Proposition CC explained: What it means to end the spending caps in TABOR and the money at stake (Colorado Sun)
State of Colorado Proposition CC: TABOR Refunds, Education and Transportation (Richard Valenty)
KC Becker: Why can’t the state benefit from a booming population and economy? (Boulder Daily Camera)
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED BY TWENTY-NINE MILLION DOLLARS ANNUALLY TO FUND STATE WATER PROJECTS AND COMMITMENTS AND TO PAY FOR THE REGULATION OF SPORTS BETTING THROUGH LICENSED CASINOS BY AUTHORIZING A TAX ON SPORTS BETTING OF TEN PERCENT OF NET SPORTS BETTING PROCEEDS, AND TO IMPOSE THE TAX ON PERSONS LICENSED TO CONDUCT SPORTS BETTING OPERATIONS?
I’m voting Yes/For. However, I find Prop DD to be the most difficult item on the 2019 ballot. I think that the Colorado Sun had the most helpful write-up. There are two components of the issue: 1. the strength of the Colorado Water Plan 2. the funding mechanism used to help support the water plan (i.e. a 10% tax on sports gambling).
You can read this 567 page PDF to learn more about the Colorado Water Plan. No, I didn’t read it all right now, but it’s interesting to understand the main components. Much of the plan hopes to address the supply/demand gap for water in Colorado. I was fairly surprised to read that the total plan implementation would cost an estimated $20-40 billion.
The second component of the measure is regulation/taxation of sports betting, which is expected to raise “between $6 million and $15 million annually in the first three years” via Colorado Sun.
My thought process here is: Colorado seems to have massive unfunded water needs into the future. The money raised by the tax is several orders of magnitude too small to address all of the water plan, but would help. I don’t find sports gambling to be a productive activity to enable, but if we are to do so, taxing that activity seems like a reasonable policy.
I wasn’t able to find any compelling for/against opinions on the matter, but please let me know if you see any.
Other reads on Prop DD:
State of Colorado Proposition DD: Sports Betting and Water Projects (Richard Valenty, second item)
See who’s made the biggest contributions to support Proposition DD to legalize sports betting (Biz Journals)
For now, Blue Book analysis of Prop DD is all wet (Boulder Weekly)
Backers of Proposition DD respond to growing number of critics (The Daily Sentinel)
Outdoors leaders endorse Colorado gambling measure Proposition DD (Colorado Politics)
First Prop DD Ads Focus on Water, but Financed by Gaming Industry (Denver Westword)
Colorado Prop DD: Voter’s guide to sports betting ballot question (Denver Post)
Boulder County Question 1A
(Coroner Term Limit Extension to Five Terms)
Shall the term limits for the office of Coroner of Boulder County, as imposed by state law and in Article XVIII, Section 11, of the Colorado Constitution and later modified by the voters of the County to authorize three consecutive terms, be further modified to permit an elected officeholder in that office to seek and, if elected, serve a maximum of five consecutive terms?
I’m voting Yes/For. The role of a coroner is to determine a cause of death when a person dies without witnesses. The role is rarely political, and most always a professional in the field occupies the position rather than a politician. The question is similar to two years ago, when Boulder County voters were asked to increase term limits for the sheriff, which the county approved. I felt that Dave Krieger at the Daily Camera made a compelling case — Editorial: Extend the sheriff’s term limit. I think that the coroner’s position is even less political and should also be extended.
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2G
TAX ON TOBACCO VAPING PRODUCTS
SHALL CITY OF BOULDER TAXES BE INCREASED TWO MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS (FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR INCREASE) ANNUALLY BY IMPOSING A SALES AND USE TAX OF UP TO 40 PERCENT OF THE RETAIL SALES PRICE OF ALL ELECTRONIC SMOKING DEVICES, INCLUDING ANY REFILL, CARTRIDGE OR COMPONENT OF SUCH A PRODUCT… (truncated)
I’m voting Yes/For. While vaping of nicotine has somewhat unknown health risks in the long term, the potential harmful effects and addictiveness for young and middle-aged people are worthy of taxation. According to the staff memo released, the tax is estimated to raise $2.5 million per year in the next several years. One other consideration raised by Shay Castle of Boulder Beat: “a risk of the tax pushing vape users to traditional cigarettes, which are more harmful to users’ health. Since council didn’t pursue a local tax on traditional cigarettes at the same time, vaping products will become more expensive than cigarettes.” Overall, I believe we should support public health and pass a tax on vaping products.
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2H
SALES AND USE TAX EXTENSION FOR OPEN SPACE AND LONG’S GARDENS
WITHOUT RAISING ADDITIONAL TAXES, SHALL THE EXISTING 0.15 CENT CITY SALES AND USE TAX FOR TRANSPORTATION PURPOSES, APPROVED BY THE VOTERS BY ORDINANCE NO. 7913, BE EXTENDED BEYOND THE CURRENT EXPIRATION DATE OF DECEMBER 31, 2019 UNTIL DECEMBER 31, 2039; AND BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2020 UNTIL DECEMBER 31, 2039 DESIGNATING THE REVENUES COLLECTED TO FUND THE MAINTENANCE, RESTORATION, ACQUISITION AND PRESERVATION OF OPEN SPACE LAND INCLUDING THE USE OF FUNDS GENERATED IN THE FIRST YEAR TO PURCHASE A CONSERVATION EASEMENT AT LONG’S GARDENS LOCATED AT 3240 BROADWAY AS A VOTER APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE?
I’m voting Yes/For. But not without serious reservations. I’ll outline my thoughts:
- Open space is an important and fundamental part of Boulder that the residents cherish, and so do I.
- The tax re-purposes money that was dedicated toward open space and transportation and spends the funds entirely on open space
- The tax duration is 20 years, which is a significantly long time over which other priorities for sales tax may arise
Boulder has had an incredibly successful open space program. At this point, Boulder has largely bought the land around the city, without many large or ecologically valuable targets remaining. Instead, much of the money has been planned for maintenance or buying connections between existing land. I believe it’s important to keep funding open space, but the amount of our community resources we put into open space compared to other priorities should be carefully examined.
Renewal of the entire tax for open space takes money away that could have been used for transportation or other needs. An article last year in the Daily Camera reports “Realignments on 30th and Colorado in Boulder could take decades, cost up to $100M”. I’m particularly distressed when transportation is ignored when residents are taking their own action on bike safety—“Plunger ‘protected’ bike lane briefly appears on 30th Street in Boulder.” Or another article this week stating “RTD Proposes ‘Significant’ Cuts To Bus And Train Service Over Driver Shortage.”
Lastly, funding one of the largest parts of the city budget at this level for 20 years also seems short-sided given our other priorities. I expect that future councils will need to address the imbalance.
The current city council made extremely poor decisions in the use and structure of the tax, even as council members raised concerns about the plan. The city would have an immediately shortfall if the tax did not pass, which is why I support the tax in this form, but hope and expect that future councils will govern much more thoughtfully.
Other reads on Issue 2H:
2019 BALLOT MEASURE: 2H – SALES AND USE TAX EXTENSION FOR OPEN SPACE AND LONG’S GARDENS (City of Boulder)
Issue 2H Staff Memo (City of Boulder)
Ballot Issue 2H – Sales and use tax extension for open space and Long’s Gardens (Boulder Beat)
Editorial: Vote yes on Ballot Issue 2H (Daily Camera)
City of Boulder Ballot Issues 2H, 2I, and 2G (Richard Valenty)
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2I
IMPOSITION OF A MIDDLE-INCOME HOUSING PROGRAM
SHALL CITY OF BOULDER DEBT BE INCREASED BY AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $10,000,000, WITH A MAXIMUM REPAYMENT COST OF NOT TO EXCEED $15,000,000, WITHOUT RAISING TAXES, TO PROVIDE FOR A HOUSING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM THAT WILL INCLUDE PERMANENTLY AFFORDABLE DEED RESTRICTIONS AND MAKE LOANS TO MIDDLE-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS TO PURCHASE HOMES SOLD IN BOULDER… (truncated)
I’m voting Yes/For. A few key points that help contextualize the ballot measure:
- The ballot measure authorizes debt, but actual implementation will happen through a public process and the council will finalize details
- The program is designed for a maximum of 10 loans per year, which is a relatively small impact (think larger than housing cooperatives but smaller than ADUs, and smaller than other changes that could be made to zoning)
I found Shay Castle’s write-up on measure 2I incredibly helpful to think about possible implementation details.
The reality of Boulder’s housing challenges is that even large amounts of subsidy do not make much impact in housing attainability. If the subsidy ends up being about $50,000 which was estimated, that does not make much impact on the affordability of the median detached home price of $1 million in Boulder.
We need to acknowledge that a detached home in Boulder is only for the rich, and won’t be attainable for the middle class with or without a subsidy. In addition to downpayment assistance, Boulder needs to legalize duplexes, triplexes, and other housing options designed to reduce the total cost of home ownership and transportation in order to achieve deeper affordability.
Other reads on Issue 2H:
Ballot issue 2I – Imposition of a middle-income housing program (Boulder Beat)
Issue 2I explained (Boulder Weekly)
Boulder Ballot Issue 2I: Imposition of a middle-income housing program (Daily Camera)
Please share with anyone to whom this guide might be helpful.
A reminder that ballots must be mailed no later than October 30th, and ballots may be dropped off by 7pm on Election Day, Tuesday November 5th, 2019.
If you’re not a registered voter or you need to update your registration, you can register online now at Go Vote Colorado! (all you need is an updated Colorado driver’s license). If you register now, you will receive a ballot in the mail. Otherwise, you can register and vote through election day.
Questions, comments, or otherwise can be emailed to me Eric Budd at email@example.com or on Twitter @ericmbudd