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Friday, August 26,2011

Boulder homeless man to run for city council

By Jefferson Dodge

A homeless man in Boulder has decided to run for city council.

Ron Chase, who says he is one signature shy of qualifying for the ballot before today’s 5 p.m. deadline, is running on a platform that includes expanding employment opportunities for the homeless, reining a Boulder police force that he says is too aggressive, and rescinding the city’s anti-camping ordinance that prohibits homeless people from sleeping under a blanket or tarp.

Chase, a Democrat and a Boulder native who attended Boulder High and holds a degree in horticulture from the University of Colorado Boulder, says he has been homeless four times in 12 years, most recently due to a blood-clot condition in his leg called deep venous thrombosis. He says the condition developed after he fell on black ice last year while running to catch a bus, then lost his job at a local gas station/convenience store.

Chase’s latest complaint about the Boulder Police came on Wednesday night, when he says an officer kicked his foot without notice or provocation while he was sleeping in the 1900 block of Folsom Street, leaving a contusion and shooting pain up his bad leg, causing him to seek medical treatment. He plans to file suit against the officer.

Chase says he knows of many other instances of the Boulder Police being too aggressive and downright abusive of homeless people, and he thinks their resources would be better spent on other causes, like cracking down on reckless bicyclists and drivers.

Chase says he is running for city council because he wants to improve the town he loves. Even when he was working in Denver as a design draftsman for an architectural firm, he continued to live in Boulder.

“I don’t give Boulder up for nothing,” Chase says.

He says his first order of business as a city council member would be to shift the way resources are devoted to the homeless.

“It’s easy to give them a handout,” he says, referring to the free meals and shelter offered by local shelters and churches. “We need to give them a hand up.”

Chase suggests having the city’s parks and recreation department hire homeless people to pick up trash along Boulder Creek and other areas of town, like the Pearl Street Mall.

He thinks panhandling should be banned, and he’d like to reduce the number of outsiders who flow into Boulder’s homeless population, including members of the Rainbow Family.

“I would like this homeless thing to disappear, just like everyone else,” Chase says, describing what it feels like to have people avoid eye contact and look away, what it feels like to have college kids holler out their car window, “Get a job, motherfucker!”

He says improving employment prospects wouldn’t just enhance homeless people’s financial situation, but emotional outlook.

“It makes you feel good, because you’re making honest money, not degrading yourself flying a sign on the corner,” Chase says. “Why are we spending all this money on open space when we could be spending it on our own people?”

He lauds the efforts of the Carriage House and Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow, where he volunteers. Chase notes that in addition to serving food, the Carriage House helps the homeless find employment by letting them check out nice clothes for interviews, among other things.

The camping ordinance, which prohibits camping with “shelter” like blankets and tarps in the city limits, has driven the homeless to camp up Boulder Canyon, “to avoid harassment by the Boulder police,” he says. That is dangerous for a variety of reasons, but the alternative, sleeping without cover, is not any better.

“You will die in the elements if it’s winter time,” Chase says.

As for other issues facing city council, he supports the effort to municipalize Boulder’s electric and power utility, something he says “should have been done back in the ’70s.”

Chase says he doesn’t drink, but he does acknowledge being a medical marijuana card holder and using cannabis for his leg ailment. While he endorses the legalization of marijuana, he wants to see the annual 4/20 smokeout moved off the CU-Boulder campus because “that’s a learning institution.”

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Is it too much to ask that the media, including Boulder Weekly, do some elementary fact-checking regarding claims made by candidates like Mr. Chase? I'm homeless myself, and have been living in Boulder continously since February, 2008; I've heard Ron tell a lot of stories during that time, almost all of which are variations on the theme of authority picking on poor Ron, then Ron taking heroic stand against injustice. He's also had about two dozen different careers, according to his accounts, the only ones I know to be true are those which are menial. He's not succeeded in holding any of them for very long. Please, check out this CU horticulture degree he claims, and this job in Denver for an architectural firm . . . BTW, homeless people should pick up after themselves as a matter of course, not be put on the city payroll to do it!

Max R. Weller