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Wednesday, October 10,2001

Weekly kicks off election coverage

by Wayne Laugesen

Election day would be looming, as we approach November, but this year there will be no "election day" per se. There will, however, be an election.

Boulder County Commissioners decided last spring that this off-year election would be a mail ballot-only election. Ballots will be mailed to voters between Friday, Oct. 12, and Monday, Oct. 22.

It's a system that will be frought with mistakes and fraud, says Sheila Horton, a real estate agent who urged the county not to do a mail-ballot election.

"There will be a lot of ballots mailed to voters who no longer live here, and all anyone needs in order to fill that out and mail it in is the intended voter's birth date," Horton says. "If you don't know the birth date, you can find it in seconds at www.anybirthday.com."

Horton failed to convince county commissioners, but she did help convince the Boulder City Council this summer to official recommend against the mail-ballot election. Horton says with 53 percent of Boulder's population renting, the community is too transient for a mail-ballot election to be fair. She has spoken with friends who are getting election notification cards addressed to their adult children, who are registered to vote in other jurisdictions.

"There will be a lot of voter intimidation in families, and we're going to have instances where one person in a household votes for every registered voter in the household and mails the ballots in," Horton says.

Voters may send the ballots back to the county in a return envelope that's provided-it's not postage paid-and for the ballot to be valid each voter's name, birth date and signature must be written on the back of the return envelope. County spokesman James Burrus says the signature requirement will make fraud difficult, because the signatures will be compared to signatures on voter registration cards. Horton counters that signatures of friends and family are easy to find and copy.

All ballots must reach the county election office by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6. County officials recommend hand-delivering any ballot that isn't mailed back to the county by noon on Friday, Nov. 2.

"If you mail it in any later than that, there's no assurance it will get there on time," Burrus said.

Mail-in only elections are allowed by state law only in non-partisan, off-year elections. Whether this will be the first such mail-in election, or the last, is to be determined.

"We felt this election year presented an opportunity to find out how well the process might work for us, and we'll compare the experience with our past traditional elections," says County Clerk Charlotte Houston, who advocated the mail-in election. "I don't know if it will end up saving the county money, but I suspect it will save time and we'll be able to give the final tally earlier than in the past."

Houston also hopes the mail-ballot election will result in more voter participation than in past years, which has been the case in other Colorado counties that have tried it.

Boulder Weekly will bring readers extensive coverage of the election in the weeks leading to Nov. 6. In this issue, the Weekly begins by introducing readers to four of the 12 candidates running for Boulder City Council. Profiles and stories about other candidates and ballot issues will continue throughout October, leading up to our official election issue-complete with the Weekly's official endorsements-on Thursday, Oct. 25, eight days in advance of the "safety" deadline for mailing in ballots.

Mark Ruzzin
Age: 38
Occupation: community outreach director, EcoCycle
Boulder has reached a "critical juncture," says Mark Ruzzin. Problems of growth, endangered sales tax revenue, environmental preservation, traffic congestion and affordable housing have not be resolved, he says, and will only be compounded as the city reaches physical buildout.

"It will take energetic and dynamic leadership to bring the community together around solutions to these concerns," Ruzzin says. "My years of public service prove that I can provide that leadership."

As for public service, Ruzzin's accolades include five years on the City of Boulder Planning Board, co-founder of Campaign Reform Boulder, and board member of Colorado Common Cause.

If elected, his specific goals for the community would include:

  • Strengthening economic health and vitality and developing strategies to address the increasing regional competition for sales tax dollars.
  • Expanding transportation options to include commuter rail and other regional solutions to address traffic congestion.
  • Improving "community livability" by increasing city support for neighborhoods, bringing Boulder's jobs-to-population ratio into better balance, continue to aggressively purchase open space, and uphold the city's commitment to human services.
  • Create housing options and opportunities to support economic diversity and other community goals.

Ron Bain
Age: 43
Occupation: Journalist
Ron Bain's a proud Libertarian, but don't confuse him as one of those camouflage-wearing rednecks who just like to play with guns. Instead, Bain's about as stereotypical Boulder as one can get.

The self-employed writer/editor is first and foremost an animal rights activist and card-carrying vegetarian. His first act of animal rights activism came at age 14, when he stood up to his father for shooting a bird.

After obtaining a journalism degree from the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, Bain embarked on a newspaper reporting career devoted largely to defending the rights of pets and wildlife.

If elected, Bain said he would work hard to continue what he calls Boulder's exceptional track record of wildlife habitat preservation. He would also seek to convince other council members to get rid of Photo Red Light, Photo Radar and Speed on Green surveillance systems. He wants to review city policies that have precluded the market from providing affordable housing, such as the law that prevents more than three unrelated adults from sharing a home. He also pledges to work hard toward finding a use for Crossroads Mall that would benefit the community.

Jeep Campbell
Age: 45
Occupation: Home remodeler
Balance. That's what Jeep Campbell says he'll bring to the Boulder City Council, and that's the only reason he's running.

"The current composition of the Boulder City Council does not reflect the general population in Boulder," Campbell says. "Five members of the council work for various branches of government, meaning 60 percent of the board is comprised of government workers. In the general population of Boulder, only 14 percent work for government."

Campbell defines himself as a "light blue collar worker" with a degree in sociology. He classifies himself as a moderate conservative who's very tight with money.

"When it comes to city government, I'm a pothole kind of guy," says Campbell. I want to focus on fundamentals. We need to do better on traffic issues, and the city needs to be more responsive to the needs of neighborhoods."

He says on council he would become a friend of working people and small business. Today's council, he says, is far too educated to understand the needs of more common Boulder residents. He became concerned the problem would get even worse when he learned that Councilman Rich Lopez, a lawyer, would not be seeking re-election.

"This council is education runneth amok," says Campbell. "Seven members of this 9-member board have Ph.D.s or Ph.D. equivalents. I'm an educated person, but I'm not so educated that I can't understand working people."

Lynn Segal
Age: 48
Occupation: Ultrasound technologist
Lynn Segal's commitment to city government is obvious. She seldom misses attending a meeting of the Boulder City Council-or most other significant meetings by Boulder's boards and committees-where she takes to the public podium to expound on whatever issue she has been studying.

Segal's passion for city politics is so strong that she becomes visibly emotional when talking about problems in the city, such as "NIMBYism" (Not in My Back Yard whiners), and a lack of affordable housing for the needy.

"I'm not getting any sleep these days because I'm so busy trying to understand the Koran," Segal says, wiping tears from her eyes. "Considering the state of the world right now, we don't need all of this NIMBY stuff in Boulder."

If elected, Segal said her top goal would "Kindness,"-making Boulder a friendlier, more compassionate place. She would hope to achieve this, in part, by better engaging the public in the governmental process.

Among the biggest problems facing Boulder, Segal says, is the imbalance between jobs and houses that causes tens of thousands of in-commuters each day. She would solve that by pushing to freeze commercial growth.

Segal says her political mentor is Fidel Castro.

"At least in Cuba they have health care," Segal says. "So yes, maybe I'm a communist. But what are we all really? We're all just people."

More next week. Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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