Boulder Election 2017 Analysis

Boulder Election 2017 Analysis

What happened?

A month and a half has passed since the election. I’m incredibly proud of the campaign we ran, particularly speaking out on the issues of inclusive housing and the city’s inadequate plan to address affordable housing options for middle and working class people. Though our message resonated with a lot of folks in the community, several major dynamics played a large role in the election outcome that brought a loss to one incumbent and several candidates who wanted more progressive positions on housing.

So what mattered most? The largest factor not only in Boulder but in Colorado this fall was to elect candidates who wanted to drastically slow growth of cities: “Election 2017: Voters apply brakes to growth in Denver suburbs.” PLAN Boulder candidates ran on a message aligned with that sentiment, causing other candidates significant disadvantage. “Boulder City Council election delivers new slow-growth majority.”

Another large factor in the front range, women ran exceptionally well — “Lafayette’s City Council: Microcosm of ‘women in politics’ in Trump era.” In the Boulder race—out of 14 candidates, five women ran vs. nine men, producing an outcome where four of five women were elected. I’m happy to see a city council that has a majority of women and our community would be better served by enabling more women to run for office. I hope to help more women run in the future.

The other major factor particular to the Boulder election centered on Ballot Measure 2L which determined whether Boulder would continue to fund the Boulder Electric Utility project. The measure passed 52% to 48%, and all five candidates elected to Boulder City Council were in favor of the measure. The analysis later in the article will tell the story with data, but to summarize—older, “slow growth” candidates benefitted by getting votes from people who opposed Measure 2L, while younger, more “pro growth” candidates who opposed the muni effort saw only a minor benefit from their stance opposing Measure 2L, and suffered losses with younger/newer voters who more largely voted for pro-muni candidates.

Of the three issues listed above, only one was truly in my control—my position on the municipalization project. I wrote a widely-read piece on “Why I’ve changed my mind on municipalization” where I outlined why I would not be supporting Measure 2L. While it’s too early to say whether I was correct or not on the policy of the issue, I can say that I was probably wrong about the politics of it. If climate change is the defining issue of our time, voters asked, were you really doing all you could if you didn’t support the effort? While candidates against the muni could talk about what we’d do instead, we didn’t offer a compelling vision or plan that resonated with younger voters. Even though Alex Burness at the Daily Camera noted that I was the only “City Council candidate who targeted young voters,” my positions didn’t align well enough to win a significant number of those votes.

Given the broad field of candidates, I don’t think a positive stance on municipalization was enough to allow me to win a council seat. At best, I think a positive stance could have grossed me 2,000-3,000 votes, but likely would have cost me 1,000-2,000 votes—I believe a decent number of my votes would have instead gone to candidates Ed Byrne or Matt Benjamin, who opposed Measure 2L.

Boulder will fund the energy utility effort for another three years. I hope the result shows a benefit to the city. If Boulder is to proceed in creating its own utility, voters will have to vote again to authorize funding in two to four years, and future candidates should fully understand the effects of a position for or against that effort. My analysis below should paint a clear picture.

Thanks everyone who supported me and took an interest in the election. Read further if you want a data-driven analysis of what happened!

In-depth Analysis Sections:

 

  • Data Sources – Key sources of data for analysis
  • Who Ran – Names, votes, demographics, positions, endorsements
  • Turnout information – how many people voted in large demographic blocks?
  • Candidate correlations – which candidates were most positively and negatively correlated with other candidates?
  • Endorsing Groups – how closely did candidates/groups correlate with other candidates in groups that endorsed?
  • Voter Age – how did each candidate’s votes correlate with voters of various age groups?
  • Voting history and turnout likeliness – how did each candidates vote compared to the turnout history of voters and likeliness of turnout?
  • Boulder’s Energy Utility – how did a candidate’s position on Boulder’s energy utility affect voter choices?
  • Boulder’s Energy Utility – where did the votes come from in Boulder?
  • Party affiliation – how did a voter’s registration status compare with votes for each candidate?
  • Field plan correlation – how did voter contacts by various methods improve votes for Eric Budd (and various relations) through a strong field campaign?
  • PLAN Boulder performance compared to Engage Boulder – what was the affect of unaligned candidates?
  • How did controversial issues affect voting in nearby precincts? (Hogan-Pancost, CU South, Co-operative housing, Municipal Electric Utility, Twin Lakes)

 

Data Sources – Key sources of data for analysis

  1. 2017 Election Results and Records – Used for basic precinct-level vote counts for candidates and issues.
  2. Colorado voter registration list – Used for age, gender, party, and voting history data.
  3. Data generated on voter contacts through my campaign

Who Ran – Names, votes, demographics, positions, endorsements.

Basic information about the candidates, demographics, and positions. Winners highlighted. Note: I’ve made my best determination on “growth” positions to try to better guide the analysis. Individual candidates may have more nuanced positions than what I’m capturing here.

Screenshot 2017-12-18 21.27.00.png

Various endorsements and groupings. Note: “Unaligned” candidates simply means candidates that were not endorsed by either Engage Boulder or PLAN Boulder.

Screenshot 2017-12-18 21.28.17.png

Turnout information – how many people voted in large demographic blocks?

    1. Total Ballots cast – 31,765 (43% turnout)
      • Ballots returned before election day – 18,109
      • Ballots returned on election day – 13,148
    2. Men / Women breakdown of voters – 48% vs 52%
    3. Votes cast for Men / Women
      • Votes for Men – 71,539 (52%), 7,949 on average
      • Votes for Women – 64,743 (48%), 12,949 on average
    4. Votes cast for various slates:
      • Engage Boulder endorsed candidates – 52,484 (10,497 on average)
      • PLAN-Boulder endorsed candidates – 66,054 (13,210 on average)
      • Independent candidates – 17,744 (4,436 on average)
    5. Votes cast candidates by support for energy utility:
      • Pro energy utility candidates – 82,590 (10,323 on average)
      • Against energy utility candidates – 53,692 (8,948 on average)

Candidate correlations – which candidates were most positively and negatively correlated with other candidates?

I’ll start by looking at which candidates were most positively or negatively correlated with other candidates. Each voter could vote for up to five candidates – voters on average used 4.3 of these 5 votes.

Screenshot 2017-12-14 12.28.15

    • Bill Rigler – Most positively correlated with Jan Burton (second-highest vote-getter on slate, incumbent, on the same Engage Boulder slate). Most negatively correlated with Adam Swetlik. Both are younger white men, although Bill’s votes general came from older, anti-muni voters which was largely the opposite of Adam’s base.
    • Mark McIntyre – Most positively correlated with Jan Burton, for similar reasons to Bill Rigler. Most negatively correlated with Adam Swetlik, probably also for similar reasons.
    • Eric Budd – Most strongly correlated with Bill Rigler (similar positions, demographics, on the same slate). Most negatively correlated with Cindy Carlisle (opposing positions, demographics, base of support)
    • Cindy Carlisle – Most positively correlated with Mary Young (top vote-getter on slate, similar positions and demographics). Most negatively correlated with Eric Budd.
    • Jan Burton – Most positively correlated with Mark McIntyre (similar positions, demographics, on the same slate, and third-highest vote-getter on slate). Most negatively with Mary Young (top vote-getter on opposing slate).
    • Jill Grano – Most positively correlated with Eric Budd (each supported each other). Most negatively correlated with Cindy Carlisle (may indicate vote swapping – same position on municipal energy, but otherwise very different candidates). Helpful to note that Jill had the least strong correlations of any candidate, likely because she was the most widely-endorsed and had a broad base of support.
    • Mirabai Nagle – Most positively correlated with Sam Weaver (same slate, positions). Most negatively strongly correlated with Eric Budd.
    • Matt Benjamin – Most positively correlated with Ed Byrne (both of whom were the two strongest independent candidates). Most negatively correlated with Adam Swetlik (positions, style of campaign, and of support much different)
    • Sam Weaver – Most positively correlated with Mary Young (other incumbent, both first elected in 2013, with same policy positions). Most negatively correlated with Adam Swetlik (interesting because they did some campaign events together, but generally had very different bases of support)
    • Adam Swetlik – Most positively correlated with Camilo Casas (another candidate in the race running a non-traditional campaign). Most negatively correlated with John Gerstle (who ran a traditional campaign, but largely got his votes from older voters while Adam got most of his votes from younger voters)
    • John Gerstle – Most positively correlated with Sam Weaver (second highest vote-getter on PLAN Boulder slate). Most negatively correlated with Adam Swetlik. John was positively correlated with the most number of other candidates (eight).
    • Ed Byrne – Most positively correlated with Jan Burton (positions, demographics, messaging). That likely means that Ed was not pulling many votes from Jan, but very likely pulled votes from others on the Engage Boulder slate. Most negatively correlated with Adam Swetlik (age of voter support being the largest factor).
    • Camilo Casas – Most positively correlated with Adam Swetlik (as younger, outsider candidates). Most negatively correlated with John Gerstle (older, establishment candidate).

Endorsing Groups – how closely did candidates correlate with other candidates in groups that endorsed?

I focus on five major groups—two slates of five candidates, the remaining four candidates, and the two newspaper endorsements.

Screenshot 2017-12-14 12.29.31

  • Engage Boulder

      • Most positively correlated – Bill Rigler
      • Most negatively correlated – Cindy Carlisle. Due to Cindy’s narrow loss in 2015 and serious threat in 2017, it’s likely that Engage Boulder found Cindy Carlisle to be the biggest threat and made significant efforts to try to prevent her from winning.
      • Special notes about Jill Grano and Ed Byrne – Jill had a broad base of support and different from the rest of the Engage Boulder slate because she supported the municipal energy utility, making her votes not as fully correlated with the group. Ed Byrne, while not on the slate, has networks and close ties with the endorsing groups of Engage Boulder, and led him to share votes with others on the slate.
  • PLAN Boulder

      • Most positively correlated – Sam Weaver
      • Most negatively correlated – Eric Budd (as someone who’s perhaps most well-known in political circles and has been routinely involved in issues on the opposite side of PLAN Boulder, this is not very surprising)
      • Notice how PLAN Boulder candidates are all highly correlated to the performance of their slate as a whole, such that no other candidate at all is positively correlated with votes of the PLAN Boulder slate as a whole.
  • Unaligned Candidates

      • Most positively correlated – Matt Benjamin (likely due to the benefit of both newspaper endorsements and edges out Ed Byrne here due to Ed’s ties with the Engage Boulder slate)
      • Most negatively correlated – Mary Young. (as the top vote-getter, Mary also had the strongest connections to the other PLAN Boulder candidates at the expense other relationships)
      • Note that both Adam Swetlik and Camilo Casas did not have a correlation to this group of independent candidates that they belonged.
  • The Daily Camera

      • Most positively correlated – Jan Burton. Endorsed in both 2015 and 2017, the Daily Camera also ran an editorial praising Burton two weeks prior to the endorsement editorial, giving Jan a boost.
      • Most negatively correlated – Adam Swetlik. Adam was not mentioned in the endorsements piece, and also had little presence in the newspaper generally.
      • Notes – Bill Rigler and Eric Budd both correlate higher than Matt Benjamin (who was endorsed), perhaps due to other newspaper aspects (positive mentions even though not receiving endorsement, advertising or letters to the editor)
  • The Boulder Weekly

      • Most positively correlated – Sam Weaver. Potentially due to very pro-muni stance of the paper.
      • Most negatively correlated – Adam Swetlik. Could reflect the demographics of the paper or lack of coverage.
      • Notes – While Matt Benjamin received the paper’s endorsement, it’s hard to see much benefit in the data presented. Since Matt opposed energy municipalization, while the paper was very much in favor, other non-endorsed candidates that favored municipalization like Cindy Carlisle and John Gerstle were more highly correlated.

How closely were groups correlated to each other?

Screenshot 2017-12-14 12.44.36

  • Engage Boulder and PLAN Boulder were not as negatively correlated as one might expect given the fact that these two groups were touted as the “slates” of the election, meaning there was plenty of crossover voting between the two slates.
  • PLAN Boulder and Sierra Club endorsed 4 of 5 of the same candidates and were highly correlated.
  • Ed Byrne and Matt Benjamin were highly correlated with Engage Boulder, meaning that one or both were often pulling votes from 1-2 candidates on the Engage Boulder slate.

Voter Age – how did each candidate’s votes correlate with voters of various age groups?

Voter age seemed to be a significant factor in which candidates voters cast votes for. Note that while younger voters made up 19% of ballots, they made a significantly fewer number of total votes (as each voter could cast up to five votes, but often younger voters cast fewer than five votes).

Screenshot 2017-12-17 23.11.55.png

    • Most positively correlated with older voters – Ed Byrne. Ed’s a long-time resident of Boulder and has an older network. He was also against energy utility municipalization which aligns with older voters.
    • Most negatively correlated with older voters – Adam Swetlik. As the youngest person running, Adam ran a campaign that seemed targeted to a younger demographic.
    • Age 18-32 – a large source of votes for Adam Swetlik and Camilo Casas, both younger candidates with non-traditional campaigns.
    • Age 33-65+ – Similar voting pattern overall. Some trend away from pro-muni and younger candidates with older voters.

Voting history and turnout likeliness – how did each candidates vote compared to the turnout history of voters and likeliness of turnout?

Voter behavior fell roughly into two groups based on voter history – those who did not vote in 2015, and those who were more consistent voters.

Screenshot 2017-12-14 12.47.24

  • Did not vote in 2015 – Adam Swetlik and Camilo Casas, two of the more outsider candidates, were very positively coordinated with this group. Ed Byrne and John Gerstle (who mainly saw their votes come from older voters) were the most negatively correlated.
  • Voted in 2015, 2013, and higher-turnout precincts – similar trends among all of these groups, and similar correlations to voters aged 50 and over.
  • % of Votes Cast – As each voter gets 5 votes, some voters will cast fewer votes, either for lack of knowledge of the candidates or for strategic voting purposes. Bill Rigler, Mark McIntyre, Sam Weaver, John Gerstle all had high correlations – likely due to slate effects (i.e. they received a lot of votes where voters voted for all 5 candidates of a slate). Ed Byrne also highly correlated, likely meaning that Ed was often a 5th vote correlated with the Engage Boulder slate, or otherwise. Older voters tended to use all five votes more often than younger voters on average.

Boulder’s Energy Utility – how did a candidate’s position on Boulder’s energy utility affect voter choices?

Ballot Measure 2L, the Utility Occupation Tax, was the most controversial and divisive issue facing voters in the 2017 election. Candidates’ position on the measure served as a proxy for their support for the Boulder’s municipal electric utility effort, or “muni” for short. Eight candidates supported the measure while six candidates opposed.

Two main parts of the analysis:

  1. How did a particular candidate or group correlate with other pro-muni or anti-muni candidates?
  2. How did a particular candidate or group correlate with votes for the measure or against the measure?

Interestingly, the data from these two questions was quite varied.

Screenshot 2017-12-17 23.18.43.png

  • Engage Boulder’s slate had one candidate for the muni effort and four candidates opposed. Their votes largely correlated in both candidates and issue voting.
  • PLAN Boulder’s slate had five candidates all in favor of the muni effort. However, their votes were slightly negatively correlated with votes against the measure. The most likely reason is that PLAN Boulder seemed to be trusted more on the issues of growth and development – voters mostly did not hold their pro-muni stance against them as they were empowered to vote against the muni ballot measure itself (which ultimately passed).

Screenshot 2017-12-17 23.15.00.png

  • Votes for pro-muni candidates were highly correlated with the PLAN-Boulder slate. Jill Grano, on the Engage Boulder slate, was positively correlated but quite distantly.
  • Votes for anti-muni candidates were very strongly split among seven candidates, leading to a stronger dilution of these votes.
  • Many of Sam Weaver’s supporters voted against the measure, even though he was in favor. Similarly for John Gerstle, who was correlated opposite how one would expect. His status as a well-known person who grew up in Boulder probably made the most difference with many older voters.

Screenshot 2017-12-17 23.32.42.png

  • Voting among pro-muni candidates was slightly correlated with voter age, although voting for anti-muni candidates was highly correlated with voter age.
  • Voting for/against the measure was very highly correlated with age. Most likely reasons: the muni effort is ultimately about fighting climate change, which may raise costs and cause uncertainty, as well as require the city to take over the energy system—all reasons that older or more conservative voters often voted against the measure.

Screenshot 2017-12-17 23.33.37.png

  • Democratic votes were reasonably likely to vote for pro-muni candidates even though they slightly were against the measure.
  • Republican voters both voted against the measure as well as tried to elect candidates who were not in favor of the measure.
  • Unaffiliated voters did not have a strong preference for candidates, but were more likely to support the measure (also aided by these voters trending younger)

Boulder’s Energy Utility – where did the votes come from in Boulder?

Click the image below for an interactive map that will show you how different parts of town voted on Ballot Measure 2L.

Screenshot 2017-12-18 15.02.00.png
Click for the interactive map!
  • Votes in favor of the electric utility largely came from precincts near the university with younger voters who vote at a much lower rate than the typical Boulder resident.
  • Votes against the electric utility were primarily located on the periphery of town, by older voters who often leaned Republican.

Party affiliation – how did a voter’s registration status compare with votes for each candidate?

Although Boulder City Council elections are non-partisan elections, Boulder has significant partisan effects in voting.

Screenshot 2017-12-14 12.56.12

Screenshot 2017-12-14 12.55.16

  • Democrats made up 63% of the voting base this year (even higher than their rate of registration), and were highly correlated with many of the more popular endorsing groups. The Sierra Club brand or slate of candidates performed particularly well with this group.
  • Republican voters were slightly correlated with Engage Boulder, which had four of six candidates against the municipal electric utility, however they were most correlated with Ed Byrne and Matt Benjamin. I think Ed and Matt benefitted from the anti-growth mentality that’s often found with Republicans and older voters, so they preferred these two candidates over the Engage Boulder slate.
  • Unaffiliated voters, largely younger, voted more highly for Adam Swetlik and Camilo Casas, who were two candidates running non-traditional campaigns.

Field plan correlation – how did voter contacts by various methods improve votes for Eric Budd (and various relations) through a strong field campaign?

While I only have data for my own field plan, I can evaluate how effective the individual efforts were based on voter contacts in various precincts.

Screenshot 2017-12-14 12.59.04

  • Field – Walk: Our campaign knocked on about 1,500 doors during two months, and made a significant number of voter contacts. We can see a significant correlation with improved performance in those precincts.
  • Field – Phone: Our campaign made over 10,000 phone calls leading to about 600 voter contacts. We can see a significant impact from these efforts, although not as pronounced as the walk campaign.
  • Field – Text: Our campaign texted about 4,700 voters, of which about 1,600 voted. While we did worse with this population than you might expect, because our voters here trended younger and many younger voters voted for pro-muni candidates, we didn’t perform as well as desired with this group, even though it was significantly better than other anti-muni candidates on the slate.
  • Field – Social: This group focused on direct voter contacts on Twitter and had a significant affect, largely because this is a network of people I already knew. Jill Grano performed even better with this group, largely because we have similar age/networks, and she was a pro-muni candidate in a group of people that trended to be stronger in favor of muni.
  • Field – Total: Adding up all of these efforts, we can see a pronounced effect to increase my votes through a field team. The negative correlations in this column also show that my efforts likely won me votes over those particular candidates who may have occupied a similar demographic voting space.

Screenshot 2017-12-17 23.36.57.png

  • Because a decent number of voters also considered position on the energy utility as part of their vote, the correlation between this position and our field numbers is helpful to understand our relative success in difference areas.

PLAN Boulder performance compared to Engage Boulder – what was the affect of unaligned candidates?

Click the image below for an interactive map that will show you how significantly PLAN Boulder won votes directly compared to Engage Boulder, as well as turnout and vote percentage totals for various precincts.

Screenshot 2017-12-18 15.06.55
Click for the interactive map!

Unaligned candidates received roughly 13.3% of the votes on average in precincts, ranging from a low of 8.9% to a high of 19.8%. While unaligned candidates were most likely correlated with Engage Boulder, they did not play a big factor in swinging the election for any particular slate or candidates.

How did controversial issues affect voting in nearby precincts? (Hogan-Pancost, CU South, Co-operative housing, Municipal Electric Utility, Twin Lakes)

The past twelve months have seen a number of highly controversial issues in Boulder. The map below shows precincts where PLAN Boulder won at least 60% of the vote compared to Engage Boulder. PLAN took advantage of voter concerns to win handily in these areas.

Boulder election map

  1. Hogan-Pancost —  Concerns about the development of this difficult property won about 1,000 votes for PLAN Boulder candidates. “Boulder residents object to Hogan-Pancost plans at Planning Board meeting” (Daily Camera)
  2. CU South — Boulder City Council moved on this issue to try to address immediate flooding danger in Southeast Boulder. However, neighbors have concerns about traffic and future development from an agreement with CU Boulder. Boulder City Council approves new land-use designation for CU South (Daily Camera)
  3. Co-operative housing — While the addition of a cooperative housing ordinance does not explicitly affect Martin Acres, residents there have been concerned that the neighborhood’s affordable nature would bring more housing cooperatives to that part of town. At long last, Boulder approves new co-op housing ordinance (Daily Camera).Potential Boulder co-op’s size concerns Martin Acres neighbors (Daily Camera)
  4. Twin Lakes — Residents opposed a change in land use to build affordable housing, an issue that required approval from both the city and county. Twin Lakes Action Group spin-off Greater Gunbarrel to raise money for Boulder candidates (Daily Camera)
  5. Municipal Electric Utility — Again, while not a location-specific issue, younger voters in these precincts near CU voted both in favor of the electric utility as well as in favor of majority PLAN Boulder candidates. Student vote may have rescued Boulder municipalization — New Era Colorado registered 2,075 people in promoting ballot issue 2L (Daily Camera)
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Why I will run for Boulder City Council

I’d love your help and input through this journey. Send me a note, tell me how you’d like to help, or feel free to set up a meeting if you’d like to get together. Thank you!

I’ve been involved for several years as an advocate for equity in housing and transportation challenges in Boulder, have served on a city board, and want to get involved further.

I’ve written about why and how these goals are important to me:

I’ve been proud to work with several groups and boards on these issues the past few years:

Who I am and what distinguishes me as a candidate for city council:

I have lived in Boulder less than 10 years

I’ve lived in Boulder long enough to become part of the culture and people, but still have an outside perspective. I’m part of the next generation of people coming to Boulder, bringing new energy to serve the community and carry our values forward

I am an economist by education

I live and breathe economics because I want to understand people through understanding markets, constraints, and relative-choice decisions. Being data-driven helps take the emotional component out and not be driven by fear or anger. I respond with dispassionate evaluation, and then a passionate response supported by data.

I am part of the younger generation (35) and don’t yet have a family

Many in my generation have not started a family, or greatly delayed one—particularly in Boulder with high housing prices and few options to stay for the long-term. I plan to stay in Boulder and make the city work as many in my peer group are making hard choices to live in other communities to purchase a home or start a family.

I live in multi-family housing and don’t own a car

Like many in Boulder, I value experiences over possessions and material things, which is especially true of the younger generation. I value having a smaller footprint, living in a strong community, and sharing. Many in Boulder make sacrifices in order to live here. Giving up items like a larger place to live or the convenience of a car is both necessary for me to live in Boulder and also a choice to be efficient, low-cost, healthy, and find creative solutions to marry my values with how I live.

I am open, transparent, and work to help educate and bring people in.

Although I’m not unique in these attributes, I’ve spent much of my time and effort to help inform people who aren’t in the standard circles and bringing them into the conversation. I’m always looking for new and creative ways to meet and connect with more people in the community, getting involved in new groups and putting myself out there, listening. I’m always seeking out people who are creative, value education, progressive, engage ideas and conversation, curious, adventurous, courageous, driving toward evolution, progress, equality, community, inclusiveness, and creative solutions.

You can connect with me on Twitter at @ericmbudd.

Boulder’s Struggle to Meet Its Ideals

This piece first ran in The Denver Post.

Boulder, Colorado prides itself on progressive values, striving to lead in sustainability and limiting climate change. But as city leaders grapple with unaffordable housing and pressures from growth, attempts to find balance in a changing character cause Boulder to fall short of its ideals on many fronts.

In housing specifically, the city council speaks for their desire to create “15-minute neighborhoods” where residents can walk and bike to services, to improve bus and bike infrastructure, and build housing for the “missing middle” as a greater number of middle-income families can no longer to afford to live in Boulder. But an example of one recently proposed housing development accomplishing many of those goals was unanimously rejected by Boulder’s Planning Board.

The housing development “Iris and B” would have provided 50 middle-income housing units on the city’s most active transit corridor. The project would have fulfilled many of the stated goals: providing a neighborhood coffeeshop or restaurant, a diverse mix of housing targeted at 80 to 120% of the median area income, connecting to a bike route and having a six minute bus ride downtown. The units would have ranged from small efficiency-style up through three-bedroom condominiums for families, using smaller footprint designs that reduce the amount of heating, cooling, and water use per person.

The planning board ruled an increased zoning for the development would be “too dense” for the neighborhood, even though Broadway is a four-lane arterial with frequent bus service. Concerns about worsening traffic from this relatively modest development drew criticism, even though a majority of traffic on the corridor in peak hours results from commuters outside of the city limits, part of Boulder’s 65,000 regional daily in-commuters. Rather than supporting a project which meets its long-term goals of reducing vehicle miles traveled and providing more affordable housing options, Boulder’s planning board instead supported a development pattern which worsens the city’s long-term difficulties.

Another example is Boulder’s effort to pass a workable cooperative housing ordinance. A housing cooperative is a group of individuals who share meals and housekeeping tasks to improve affordability, reduce energy use, emissions and food waste per person. Boulder, like many cities, has laws limiting occupancy of unrelated people living in a house, setting a limit of three people per house in low-density zoning areas. Reducing the number of people living in a house, particularly when new homes continue to increase in size, greatly limits affordable housing options for people outside of a traditional family or without a high income. Passing an ordinance to enable housing cooperatives would gain community benefits while limiting impacts on existing neighborhoods relating to the potential for additional noise, trash, or car parking needs.

On Tuesday December 6th, the Boulder City Council met to update the proposed draft ordinance which would permit groups to create up to fourteen co-ops per year, allowing up to twelve people, and requiring separation between housing cooperatives to limit any impacts on neighborhoods. Yet by the end of the evening, some council members, responding to concerns of neighbors, insisted that occupancy be more heavily restricted by square footage per person, house size, and lot size, such that most of the currently legal or potentially legal co-ops in Boulder could not exist under the new law. Now several co-ops risk eviction with the proposed law as written. On the same night, Boulder City Council unanimously supported a climate goal of an 80% emissions reduction by 2050, showing a significant disconnect between policy ideals and laws that directly accomplish those ideals.

Boulder is a community that has both the wealth and resources to carry out its ambitious plans. Now Boulder needs to take the real steps required to make a lasting impact on sustainable climate in ways that promote a diverse and inclusive community.

Eric Budd is a resident of Boulder working on equitable housing and transportation policy. You can tweet him at @ericmbudd.

Key items to making a workable cooperative housing ordinance in Boulder

My email to Boulder’s City Council on Sunday, December 4th. Please considering writing the city council at council@bouldercolorado.gov and BCC’ing legalizecoops@gmail.com with support for a cooperative housing ordinance.

I support the proposed cooperative housing ordinance — as you’re reading lots of email on co-ops, I’ll keep this to what I see as the few most important items for council discussion on Tuesday 12/6.

1. Occupancy – The two main adjustments council could make to occupancy are in the range of total co-op size and square feet per person. In low-density zones, it’s critical that council enable co-ops of at least 12 people and/or 200 square feet per person. The main reason for this: existing legal and sub-legal communities have formed in the range of these numbers to get a workable scale and affordability.

An existing co-op of 14 people at 200 square feet per person, if moving to either 10 people or 250 square foot per person, would lose several members of their house and show an increase of rent by 40% in the former case and 25% in the latter case, seriously putting the economics of entire houses at risk—not only for rent, but for food, water, and energy purposes, which all decrease per capita in larger homes.

2. Minimum house size and concentration – Both of these adjustments have significant effects on the supply of available houses to create co-ops, so I would like to see great care in moving these numbers from the current proposed ordinance as written. In low-density zones, the current minimum house size at 2,000 square feet has uneven effects of limiting the supply of available houses across the city, which may be a desired outcome to limit co-ops in neighborhoods like Martin Acres, but combined with the current 500 foot separation, even more greatly restricts the number of available houses in parts of town with larger homes.

BoCHA’s analysis of the city housing data shows that only 28.4% of rental houses in the city are greater than 2,000 square feet, and only 53.6% of non-rental houses. I ask that council really dig into the relationship between these two pieces of data to ensure co-ops can actually be created with the proposed restrictions.
On a personal note, I think council has gone above and beyond in engaging with the community and housing advocates. Thank you for your hard work and effort to understand the important details required to get to a workable cooperative housing ordinance.
Eric Budd
3025 Broadway St. #38
Boulder, CO 80304
@ericmbudd

Boulder’s 2016 Ballot: How I’m voting on national, state, and local issues

I am a registered Democrat and generally vote for Democrats unless having a strong reason to vote for another candidate. I’m mainly interested to give my positions on state and local ballot measures, which people have a variety of viewpoints regardless of party.

A note about the presidential race specifically: I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I am not simply voting against Donald Trump, nor voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. While I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary and some of Hillary’s past decisions have bothered me, I believe that the Democrats are the progressive party in this country and we need to continue to work at every level of government to keep driving positive change in the party. Hillary is uniquely qualified to lead the country.

I am happy to cast my vote for the United States’ first woman president, Hillary Clinton.

Presidential Electors Hillary Clinton / Tim Kaine
Democratic
United States Senator Michael Bennet
Democratic
Representative to the 115th United States Congress –
District 2
Jared Polis
Democratic
Regent of the University of Colorado – At Large Alice Madden
Democratic
State Senator – District 18 Stephen Fenberg
Democratic
State Representative – District 13 KC Becker
Democratic
District Attorney – 20th Judicial District Stan Garnett
Democratic
County Commissioner – District 1 Elise Jones
Democratic
County Commissioner – District 2 Deb Gardner
Democratic

 

Colorado State Ballot Measures

Amendment T
YES/FOR
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado
constitution concerning the removal of the exception to the
prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude when used as
punishment for persons duly convicted of a crime?

I am voting YES on the measure. Colorado needs to go even further to eliminate prison labor entirely.

Amendment U
YES/FOR
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution
concerning an exemption from property taxation for a
possessory interest in real property if the actual value of the
interest is less than or equal to six thousand dollars or such
amount adjusted for inflation?

I am voting YES on the measure. The measure would reduce costs for local governments as the cost of collecting these taxes outweighs the average tax assessment ($24 per affected person).

Amendment 69
YES/FOR
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $25 BILLION
ANNUALLY IN THE FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR, AND BY
SUCH AMOUNTS THAT ARE RAISED THEREAFTER, BY AN
AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION
ESTABLISHING A HEALTH CARE PAYMENT SYSTEM TO
FUND HEALTH CARE FOR ALL INDIVIDUALS WHOSE
PRIMARY RESIDENCE IS IN COLORADO, AND, IN
CONNECTION THEREWITH, CREATING A GOVERNMENTAL
ENTITY CALLED COLORADOCARE? (Truncated…)

Perhaps the most difficult item on the ballot this year. I am voting YES on the measure. A number of notable politicians in Colorado have come out against ColoradoCare. Although some details of the proposed law may need to be improved, the net benefits in covering an entire population and reducing overhead from insurance companies could outweigh the costs.

Here’s an op-ed in favor of the measure by Colorado State Senator Irene Aguilar: Yes on Amendment 69: Coloradans should take back their health care

Amendment 70
YES/FOR
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution
increasing the minimum wage to $9.30 per hour with annual
increases of $0.90 each January 1 until it reaches $12 per hour
effective January 2020, and annually adjusting it thereafter for
cost-of-living increases?

I am voting YES on the measure. The phased-in approach and cost-of-living adjustments are smart policy. Although some groups are pushing for a higher minimum wage, giving the geographical disparities in Colorado, a higher minimum may have huge impacts on rural parts of Colorado while still not being sufficient for some of its cities. I think this measure finds an appropriate balance without having a more localized policy.

Amendment 71
NO/AGAINST
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution
making it more difficult to amend the Colorado constitution by
requiring that any petition for a citizen-initiated constitutional
amendment be signed by at least two percent of the registered
electors who reside in each state senate district for the
amendment to be placed on the ballot and increasing the
percentage of votes needed to pass any proposed constitutional
amendment from a majority to at least fifty-five percent of the
votes cast, unless the proposed constitutional amendment only
repeals, in whole or in part, any provision of the constitution?

I am voting NO on the measure. While raising the amending the constitution for measures like marijuana or personhood may seem inappropriate, voters do have the ability to weigh-in on important issues. Colorado doesn’t currently have the problem of dozens of measures each election cycle like California does, and notable measures (like those against oil and gas) in fact failed to get on the ballot this year. The proposed changes would make it certain that only well-funded and organized efforts could have any possibility to get on the ballot in the future, and it would be very difficult to fix problematic items currently in the constitution (like TABOR).

Amendment 72
YES/FOR
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $315.7 MILLION
ANNUALLY BY AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO
CONSTITUTION INCREASING TOBACCO TAXES, AND, IN
CONNECTION THEREWITH, BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2017,
INCREASING TAXES ON CIGARETTES BY 8.75 CENTS PER
CIGARETTE ($1.75 PER PACK OF 20 CIGARETTES) AND ON
OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCTS BY 22 PERCENT OF THE
MANUFACTURER’S LIST PRICE; AND ALLOCATING
SPECIFIED PERCENTAGES OF THE NEW TOBACCO TAX
REVENUE TO HEALTH-RELATED PROGRAMS AND
TOBACCO EDUCATION, PREVENTION, AND CESSATION
PROGRAMS CURRENTLY FUNDED BY EXISTING
CONSTITUTIONAL TOBACCO TAXES; AND ALSO
ALLOCATING NEW REVENUE FOR TOBACCO-RELATED
HEALTH RESEARCH, VETERANS’ PROGRAMS, CHILD AND
ADOLESCENT BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, CONSTRUCTION
AND TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENTS FOR QUALIFIED
HEALTH PROVIDERS, EDUCATIONAL LOAN REPAYMENT
FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS IN RURAL AND
UNDERSERVED AREAS, AND HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
TRAINING TRACKS?

I am voting YES on the measure. While the major concern is that cigarette taxes fall onto lesser educated, poorer populations—so do the negative health effects. The law’s funding would mostly target those who are most affected. Colorado currently ranks 43rd highest on cigarette taxes out of 56 states and territories, and the proposed law would move the state to 12th on that list.

Proposition 106
YES/FOR
Shall there be a change to the Colorado revised statutes to
permit any mentally capable adult Colorado resident who has a
medical prognosis of death by terminal illness within six months
to receive a prescription from a willing licensed physician for
medication that can be self-administered to bring about death;
and in connection therewith, requiring two licensed physicians to
confirm the medical prognosis, that the terminally-ill patient has
received information about other care and treatment options,
and that the patient is making a voluntary and informed decision
in requesting the medication; requiring evaluation by a licensed
mental health professional if either physician believes the patient
may not be mentally capable; granting immunity from civil and
criminal liability and professional discipline to any person who in
good faith assists in providing access to or is present when a
patient self-administers the medication; and establishing
criminal penalties for persons who knowingly violate statutes
relating to the request for the medication?

I am voting YES on the measure. The need for right-to-die legislation affects a small amount of the population, but in cases of significant debilitating diseases can make a large impact on the individuals themselves and their families. According to the Oregon law, “1,545 people have received end-of-life drug prescriptions, and 991 used the medication between 1999 and the end of 2015, according to the Oregon Public Health Division,” showing that this option is used very rarely. Requiring two doctors and a mental health professional to sign off on the measure should be an appropriate safeguard against misuse or abuse.

Proposition 107
YES/FOR
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes
recreating a presidential primary election to be held before the
end of March in each presidential election year in which
unaffiliated electors may vote without declaring an affiliation with
a political party?
Proposition 108
YES/FOR
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes
concerning the process of selecting candidates representing
political parties on a general election ballot, and, in connection
therewith, allowing an unaffiliated elector to vote in the primary
election of a political party without declaring an affiliation with
that party and permitting a political party in specific
circumstances to select all of its candidates by assembly or
convention instead of by primary election?

I am voting YES on the measures. The caucus system used currently disenfranchises many people who are unable to spend several hours on a certain weeknight in order to participate in the political process, including people doing shift work or needing childcare. The caucus system also failed both Democrats and Republicans this year by having inadequate capacity to serve the public in the former, and bypassing the system entirely in the latter. A state-run system would be less likely to face either problem.

Allowing independents to vote may have the effect of reducing partisan affiliation, which is why the state chairs of both the Democratic and Republican parties oppose the measure.

Another marked change from the current systems is to assign a winner of the primary the entire set of delegates instead of a proportional division. That could have some variable effects depending on how competitive Colorado or other states are in a national election, making the state potentially more or less desirable to spend resources in a given year. I’m neutral on that aspect of the measure.

Here’s a good debate on both sides of these measures: Point/counterpoint: Should voters approve Propositions 107 and 108?

Boulder County Ballot Measures

COUNTY ISSUE 1A

(Road and Bridge Mill Levy Increase):
NO/AGAINST

SHALL BOULDER COUNTY TAXES BE INCREASED $5.5
MILLION ANNUALLY (FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR DOLLAR
INCREASE IN 2017) THROUGH AN INCREASE IN BOULDER
COUNTY’S AD VALOREM PROPERTY TAX MILL LEVY OF
0.785 MILLS, FOR FIFTEEN YEARS TO AND INCLUDING
DECEMBER 31, 2031, FOR THE PURPOSE OF FUNDING
ROAD AND BRIDGE PROJECTS WITHIN THE
MUNICIPALITIES IN BOULDER COUNTY AND
REHABILITATION OF PAVED PUBLIC LOCAL ACCESS
SUBDIVISION ROADS IN UNINCORPORATED BOULDER
COUNTY, SUCH INCREASE IN PROPERTY TAX REVENUES
TO BE IN EXCESS OF THAT WHICH WOULD OTHERWISE
BE PERMITTED UNDER SECTION 29-1-301, C.R.S., EACH
YEAR WITHOUT SUCH INCREASE; AND SHALL THE
REVENUES AND EARNINGS ON THE INVESTMENT OF THE
PROCEEDS OF SUCH TAX, REGARDLESS OF AMOUNT,
CONSTITUTE A VOTER-APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE
AND A PROPERTY TAX REVENUE CHANGE; ALL AS MORE
PARTICULARLY SET FORTH IN BOARD OF COUNTY
COMMISSIONERS’ RESOLUTION NO. 2016-89?

I am voting NO on the measure. Boulder County has sufficient funds for common road and bridge projects within the county, and also sufficient funds to repair subdivision roads (albeit at a slower pace than these homeowners desire). Advocates for additional subdivision road spending in the county have repeatedly rejected funding local improvement districts or converting these roads to lower-cost roads. The measure would cause a disproportionate funding for subdivision roads to be paid for by residents of cities (Boulder, Longmont, Louisville) rather than residents of these subdivisions.

COUNTY ISSUE 1B

(Countywide Open Space Sales and Use Tax Bond

Authorization and Tax Extension):
YES/FOR

SHALL BOULDER COUNTY DEBT BE INCREASED BY UP TO
$30 MILLION, WITH A MAXIMUM REPAYMENT COST OF UP
TO $54 MILLION, WITH NO INCREASE IN ANY COUNTY TAX
OR TAX RATE, BY THE ISSUANCE OF REVENUE BONDS
FOR THE PURPOSE OF OPEN SPACE LAND ACQUISITION,
WHICH BONDS SHALL BEAR INTEREST, MATURE, BE
SUBJECT TO REDEMPTION, WITH OR WITHOUT PREMIUM,
AND BE ISSUED, DATED AND SOLD AT SUCH TIME OR
TIMES, AT SUCH PRICES (AT, ABOVE OR BELOW PAR) AND
IN SUCH MANNER AND CONTAINING SUCH OTHER
TERMS, NOT INCONSISTENT HEREWITH, INCLUDING
PROVISIONS FOR FUNDING ANY CAPITALIZED INTEREST
AND REQUIRED RESERVES, AS THE BOARD OF COUNTY
COMMISSIONERS MAY DETERMINE;
AND SHALL ONE-HALF (0.125%) OF THE COUNTY’S
EXISTING 0.25% SALES AND USE TAX FOR OPEN SPACE,
CURRENTLY SET TO EXPIRE DECEMBER 31, 2019, BE
EXTENDED FOR AN ADDITIONAL PERIOD OF FIFTEEN
YEARS TO AND INCLUDING DECEMBER 31, 2034 FOR THE
PURPOSE OF FUNDING THE OPEN SPACE PROGRAM [Truncated]
COUNTY ISSUE 1C

(Countywide Sustainability Sales and Use Tax

Extension):
YES/FOR

WITH NO INCREASE IN ANY COUNTY TAX OR TAX RATE,
SHALL ONE-HALF (0.125%) OF THE COUNTY’S EXISTING
0.25% SALES AND USE TAX FOR OPEN SPACE,
CURRENTLY SET TO EXPIRE DECEMBER 31, 2019, BE
EXTENDED FOR AN ADDITIONAL PERIOD OF FIFTEEN
YEARS TO AND INCLUDING DECEMBER 31, 2034 FOR THE
PURPOSE OF FUNDING SUSTAINABILITY
INFRASTRUCTURE AND PROGRAMS [Truncated]

I am voting YES on the measures. Both support preserving existing taxes that enable open-space in the county, while diverting a portion of the existing tax (which is not needed for the current open-space plan) to provide sustainable transportation options in the county.

County Question 1D

(District Attorney Term Limit Extension to Four

Terms):
NO/AGAINST

Shall the term limits imposed by state law and in Article XVIII,
Section 11, of the Colorado Constitution on the office of District
Attorney of Boulder County, Twentieth Judicial District, be
modified so as to permit an elected officeholder in that office to
seek and, if the voters of Boulder County choose to re-elect that
person to a fourth term in office, to serve a fourth consecutive
term?

I am voting NO on the measure. Each term is four years and the extension would allow a district attorney to serve 16 years instead of 12 years, which is a long time for one person to hold the office.

Boulder City Ballot Measures

CITY OF BOULDER BALLOT ISSUE 2H

SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGE PRODUCT

DISTRIBUTION TAX
YES/FOR

SHALL CITY OF BOULDER TAXES BE INCREASED $3.8
MILLION (FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR INCREASE) ANNUALLY
BY IMPOSING AN EXCISE TAX OF 2 CENTS PER OUNCE ON
THE FIRST DISTRIBUTOR IN ANY CHAIN OF DISTRIBUTION
OF DRINKS WITH ADDED SUGAR, AND SWEETENERS
USED TO PRODUCE SUCH DRINKS, EXEMPTING: (1)
SWEETENERS SOLD SEPARATELY TO THE CONSUMER AT
A GROCERY STORE; (2) MILK PRODUCTS; (3) BABY
FORMULA; (4) ALCOHOL; AND (5) DRINKS TAKEN FOR
MEDICAL REASONS;
AND IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, SHALL ALL OF THE
REVENUES COLLECTED BE USED TO FUND: THE
ADMINISTRATIVE COST OF THE TAX, AND THEREAFTER
FOR HEALTH PROMOTION, GENERAL WELLNESS
PROGRAMS AND CHRONIC DISEASE PREVENTION IN THE
CITY OF BOULDER THAT IMPROVE HEALTH EQUITY,
SUCH AS ACCESS TO SAFE AND CLEAN DRINKING
WATER, HEALTHY FOODS, NUTRITION AND FOOD
EDUCATION, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, OTHER HEALTH
PROGRAMS ESPECIALLY FOR RESIDENTS WITH LOW
INCOME AND THOSE MOST AFFECTED BY CHRONIC
DISEASE LINKED TO SUGARY DRINK CONSUMPTION [Truncated]

According to my Twitter feed, the sugary drink tax is the most controversial issue on the local ballot. I am voting YES on the measure.

My support bases on several key pieces of evidence:

  1. The Berkeley sugary drink tax has reduced sugary drink consumption and increased water consumption compared to neighboring cities. Boulder’s tax is modeled after this tax. Berkeley sees a big drop in soda consumption after penny-per-ounce ‘soda tax’
  2. The tax is not a grocery tax, nor does it directly affect prices at grocery stores. The tax is levied on distributors and not individual businesses. An economic analysis of the tax in Berkeley showed that “47% of the penny-per-ounce tax had been passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices for sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a previous study by some of the same researchers. For sodas in particular, 69% of the tax was incorporated into the price.” This means that the distributor or producer absorbed 31% of the price, reducing their profits. Boulder’s tax is higher, putting more pressure on distributors to absorb more of the price increase while also ensuring that the tax raises the price for consumers (which is required to change behavior).
  3. The taxes collected will benefit poorer populations and minorities. As the ballot language states, the revenue collected will go to “improve health equity, such as access to safe and clean drinking water, healthy foods, nutrition and food education, physical activity, other health programs especially designed for residents with low income and those most affected by chronic disease linked to sugary drink consumption.” In my opinion this counteracts any problems with a regressive nature of the tax. It’s also important to understand that the sugar industry targets low-income and minority populations specifically: Washington Post: “When soda companies target minorities, is it exploitation?”
  4. Sugary drinks directly relate to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature death. “Sugary Drinks Take a Deadly Toll
  5. The sugar industry has systematically tried to influence public policy to protect sugar. “An article in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to publish a study blaming fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease while largely exculpating sugar.” NYTimes – How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat, The Shady History of Big Sugar
  6. The World Health Organization directly supports a sugary drink tax, as does the American Heart Association. W.H.O. Urges Tax on Sugary Drinks to Fight Obesity

Here’s why I think arguments in opposition are not very compelling:

  1. “Boulder is mostly white and has a 12% obesity rate”

Boulder may seem an unnecessary place for such a tax, but here’s why I think it’s still worthy to support. Boulder does have minority and poorer populations, even if they are a smaller portion of the city than most consider. These populations are important to protect for many reasons, particularly because they’re vulnerable and give Boulder much of its racial and ethnic diversity. Revenues raised would benefit them most.

  1. “Other items with sugar [i.e. yogurt, frappuccino] aren’t being targeted like sugary drinks”

While added sugar in any form can contribute to negative health outcomes, sugary drinks are very easily and quickly consumable and habit-forming. Added sugar in grocery foods is a problem not covered in this tax, but I do not believe that is a reason not to support the tax. Items like frappuccino made in a coffeeshop or restaurant are not covered due to their inherently high cost as a full-service item. However, a frappuccino sold in a store would be required to pay the tax.

  1. “The tax is regressive and disproportionately targets poorer populations and makes food scarcity worse”

As I made clear above, the sugar industry already targets poorer populations with marketing. The sugary drink tax does not contribute to food scarcity because sugary drinks should not be considered food, and healthier alternatives will be more attractive given the additional tax on sugary drinks.

City of Boulder Ballot Question 2I

Clarify and Amend Blue Line, Water Not Supplied

West of Line
YES/FOR

Shall the boundary described in Boulder Home Rule Charter
section 128A and approved by the voters in 1959 that provides
that the City of Boulder shall not supply water for domestic,
commercial, or industrial uses to land lying on the westward side
of the line be amended to clarify the location of the boundary
and to allow the provision of water service to existing developed
properties as described in Ordinance No. 8133, and further shall
the standards in Charter section 128A be amended to clarify the
conditions and eligibility for water service as described in
Ordinance No. 8133?

I am voting YES on the measure. The measure works to clarify an existing section of the charter without significant change to the existing line. Image below in this Daily Camera piece: Boulder’s murky Blue Line could get clarity from voters in November

NewBlueLine

City of Boulder Ballot Question 2J

Provide Insurance Benefits for Council Members

YES/FOR

Shall section 7, “Compensation,” of the Boulder Home Rule
Charter be amended pursuant to Ordinance No. 8132 to allow
council members serving on January 1, 2020 and after to be
eligible to receive benefits under the same terms and conditions
that are available to full-time city employees including without
limitation participation in city health, vision, dental and life
insurance plans?

I am voting YES on the measure. The measure provides a significant and needed benefit to members of the city council, whom make approximately $12,000 per year for a job that typically consumes 25 or greater hours per week. Given that previous pay increases have been rejected, this is a measure that would help increase the supply of people who might consider serving on the city council.

City of Boulder Ballot Question 302

Qualifications of Council Members
YES/FOR

Shall section 4 of the Boulder Home Rule Charter be amended
by adding a new paragraph to restrict council members to three
terms in the person’s lifetime, which requirement shall apply to
any candidate for council after November 8, 2016?

I am voting YES on the measure. I will review a number of arguments against the measure:

“Term limits are not needed based on historical precedent and have the appearance of targeting current council members”

While Richard Valenty makes a compelling case against term limits using historical data, the strength of incumbency and bias toward older and retired members of the community are powerful counter-arguments.

“The measure only reduces the supply of people who can run for city council, and does not increase it”

I agree that the measure would reduce the supply of people available to run for council, and does not address other reasons that other demographics do not run (very little pay and benefits). I support both increasing city council pay and increasing benefits (City of Boulder Ballot Question 2J)

“Other policy to increase equity in who can run for city council is more important”

I agree. Yet the policy on term limits is reasonable policy looking forward as the city grows, while recognizing the need that Boulder has more work ahead to give broader representation of various people who may run for city council.

BOULDER VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT BALLOT

ISSUE 3A:

YES/FOR

SHALL BOULDER VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT RE-2 TAXES
BE INCREASED BY $10,000,000 IN 2016 FOR COLLECTION
IN 2017 AND BY WHATEVER AMOUNTS IN ANY YEAR
THEREAFTER AS ARE RAISED FROM A MILL LEVY WHICH
SHALL NOT EXCEED FOUR (4) MILLS, PROVIDED THAT NO
MILL LEVY INCREASE FROM YEAR TO YEAR SHALL
EXCEED ONE (1) MILL, FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING
ONGOING CASH FUNDING FOR CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION,
NEW TECHNOLOGY, EXISTING TECHNOLOGY UPGRADE,
AND MAINTENANCE NEEDS OF THE DISTRICT [Truncated]

I am voting YES on the measure. Colorado funds education far below other states, largely because of TABOR, and local funding is needed to make up the gap.

The Denver Metropolitan Scientific and Cultural

Facilities District (“SCFD”) Ballot Issue 4B

YES/FOR

SHALL THERE BE AN EXTENSION UNTIL JUNE 30, 2030, OF
THE AGGREGATE 0.1 PERCENT SALES AND USE TAXES
CURRENTLY LEVIED AND COLLECTED BY THE DENVER
METROPOLITAN SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL FACILITIES
DISTRICT THAT ARE SCHEDULED TO EXPIRE ON JUNE 30,
2018, FOR ASSISTING SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL
FACILITIES WITHIN THE DISTRICT, WHILE AUTHORIZING
THE DISTRICT TO CONTINUE TO COLLECT, RETAIN, AND
SPEND ALL REVENUE GENERATED BY SUCH TAX IN
EXCESS OF THE LIMITATION PROVIDED IN ARTICLE X OF
SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION [Truncated]

I am voting YES on the measure. The area would re-authorize an existing tax used to fund the arts in the region. Here’s a short summary from The Denver Post: Ballot issue 4B would renew funding for culture, arts with sales tax

Why I support a tax on sugary drinks: Yes on Boulder’s Ballot Issue 2H

 

CITY OF BOULDER BALLOT ISSUE 2H: SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGE PRODUCT DISTRIBUTION TAX

 

 

YES/FOR

SHALL CITY OF BOULDER TAXES BE INCREASED $3.8MILLION (FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR INCREASE) ANNUALLY BY IMPOSING AN EXCISE TAX OF 2 CENTS PER OUNCE ONTHE FIRST DISTRIBUTOR IN ANY CHAIN OF DISTRIBUTION OF DRINKS WITH ADDED SUGAR, AND SWEETENERS USED TO PRODUCE SUCH DRINKS [Truncated]

 

According to my Twitter feed, the sugary drink tax is the most controversial issue on the local ballot. I am voting YES on the measure.

My support bases on several key pieces of evidence:

  1. The Berkeley sugary drink tax has reduced sugary drink consumption and increased water consumption compared to neighboring cities. Boulder’s tax is modeled after this tax. Berkeley sees a big drop in soda consumption after penny-per-ounce ‘soda tax’
  2. The tax is not a grocery tax, nor does it directly affect prices at grocery stores. The tax is levied on distributors and not individual businesses. An economic analysis of the tax in Berkeley showed that “47% of the penny-per-ounce tax had been passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices for sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a previous study by some of the same researchers. For sodas in particular, 69% of the tax was incorporated into the price.” This means that the distributor or producer absorbed 31% of the price, reducing their profits. Boulder’s tax is higher, putting more pressure on distributors to absorb more of the price increase while also ensuring that the tax raises the price for consumers (which is required to change behavior).
  3. The taxes collected will benefit poorer populations and minorities. As the ballot language states, the revenue collected will go to “improve health equity, such as access to safe and clean drinking water, healthy foods, nutrition and food education, physical activity, other health programs especially designed for residents with low income and those most affected by chronic disease linked to sugary drink consumption.” In my opinion this counteracts any problems with a regressive nature of the tax. It’s also important to understand that the sugar industry targets low-income and minority populations specifically: Washington Post: “When soda companies target minorities, is it exploitation?”
  4. Sugary drinks directly relate to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature death. “Sugary Drinks Take a Deadly Toll
  5. The sugar industry has systematically tried to influence public policy to protect sugar. “An article in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to publish a study blaming fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease while largely exculpating sugar.” NYTimes – How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat, The Shady History of Big Sugar
  6. The World Health Organization directly supports a sugary drink tax, as does the American Heart Association. W.H.O. Urges Tax on Sugary Drinks to Fight Obesity

 

Here’s why I think arguments in opposition are not very compelling:

“Boulder is mostly white and has a 12% obesity rate”

Boulder may seem an unnecessary place for such a tax, but here’s why I think it’s still worthy to support. Boulder does have minority and poorer populations, even if they are a smaller portion of the city than most consider. These populations are important to protect for many reasons, particularly because they’re vulnerable and give Boulder much of its racial and ethnic diversity. Revenues raised would benefit them most.

“Other items with sugar [i.e. yogurt and frappuccino] aren’t being targeted like sugary drinks”

While added sugar in any form can contribute to negative health outcomes, sugary drinks are very easily and quickly consumable and habit-forming. Added sugar in grocery foods is a problem not covered in this tax, but I do not believe that is a reason not to support the tax. Drinks made in a coffeeshop or restaurant are not covered due to their inherently high cost as a full-service item. However, a frappuccino sold in a store would be required to pay the tax.

“The tax is regressive and disproportionately targets poorer populations and makes food scarcity worse”

As I made clear above, the sugar industry already targets poorer populations with marketing. The sugary drink tax does not contribute to food scarcity because sugary drinks should not be considered food, and healthier alternatives will be more attractive given the additional tax on sugary drinks.

Housing Cooperatives an Important Step To Provide More Housing in Boulder

As Boulder housing prices continue to rise, with the cost of an average home now over $1 million, the city council has begun evaluating a variety of options to maintain a middle class of people able to live inside city limits. One of the first steps council has taken is to update the existing, never-used cooperative housing ordinance, which is one tool to improve Boulder’s ability to house low and middle-income people. The goal of a cooperative housing ordinance is to create sustainable, communal, and affordable options for housing while placing reasonable constraints on impacts to neighborhoods.

Cooperative housing fits many of the city council’s criteria for “gentle infill” in existing neighborhoods, providing modest amounts of new housing capacity without the need to build new structures. Co-op housing is one possible type of infill the city council may pursue, and they might later permit tiny homes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and subdivided lots. All of the proposals try to minimize neighborhood change while allowing moderately more occupancy or compatible housing. Housing cooperatives can provide a number of benefits to Boulder by providing unsubsidized low-cost housing for communities that conserve resources and produce engaged, socially conscious people.

Boulder’s affordable housing program covers less than 10% of its housing stock and raises money from impact fees paid by new development. By allowing occupancy similar to existing Boulder cooperatives, new co-ops could enable monthly housing costs closer to one-half or one-third of other available options in a single-family home or rental unit. Combined with savings from reduced per-capita energy, water, food, and shared transportation, co-ops create real affordability through collaborative living.

Conserving resources also has positive environmental benefits. Boulder’s existing recognized cooperatives (and some of its sub-legal cooperatives) started a joint bulk food buying program, allowing them to cheaply and efficiently share group meals while reducing food waste, trips to the store, and packaging. By letting more residents occupy the same space in a typical Boulder home, co-ops consume 28% of the electricity and 31% of the water per person of the average Coloradan, according to data collected on existing co-ops in Boulder—and capital investments to reduce energy use can spread across a greater number of people.

While co-ops provide affordability to residents and help meet a range of city goals, they can also act as a stabilizing force in neighborhoods, particularly ones with large numbers of rental units. The proposed ordinance would allow for both ownership and rental cooperatives: ownership cooperatives will operate similarly to home-ownership, while rental cooperatives will provide more permanence than existing rentals. An ordinance that requires certification of co-ops in the form of written bylaws, regular democratic meetings, and resource sharing will help support careful membership processes that result in cooperative homes with less-variable turnover and strong cultural concern for community.

Furthermore, the proposed ordinance contains provisions to address neighborhood compatibility and potential nuisances like noise, trash, and parking, including a limitation on the number of vehicles associated with each cooperative. These provisions make handling potential nuisances more enforceable than with a typical rental. For example, a noise complaint will be associated with the offending property itself, rather than an individual, and multiple complaints can result in fines or revocation of the co-op’s permit.

The broader impact of cooperatives forming in Boulder will be limited in the proposed ordinance, both by an overall cap on the number of new cooperative permits issued each year and by provisions limiting the concentration of cooperatives. The new law would currently permit only five rental cooperatives, five nonprofit cooperatives, and five ownership cooperatives to form each year and would limit the concentration of cooperatives so they do not overwhelm any neighborhood.

Neighbors can find further comfort in other parts of the ordinance. Permits will be temporary and linked with the group forming the cooperative, rather than with a landlord or developer. A permit must be renewed after four years if the group continues to operate as a cooperative. Adding an overall cap on the number of residents in a cooperative may also help calm neighbors’ potential anxiety.

Boulder must acknowledge its housing crisis. While cooperative housing is a small piece of the city’s middle-income housing strategy, it can enable real affordability, sustainability, community benefit, and allow seniors to age in place without building additional housing. I support creating more co-ops, and stand with a group of people diverse in ages, incomes, and backgrounds—both homeowners and renters—who want to get a workable cooperative housing ordinance.

 
Eric Budd is a member of the Boulder Community Housing Association. You can tweet him at @ericmbudd.