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Tuesday, November 1,2011

Boulder municipalization (2B and 2C)

By Boulder Weekly Staff

Unofficial election results show that both Boulder municipalization ballot measures, 2B and 2C, have passed by a slim margin.

According to the Boulder County clerk and recorder's office, 50.27 percent of the votes counted were in favor of 2B, with 49.73 percent opposed. The difference was 141 votes.

As for 2C, 51.78 percent were in favor and 48.22 percent were opposed.

"I think that was New Eras doing," newly re-elected Boulder City Council member Lisa Morzel said of the reason 2B and 2C passed. "They had dozens if not hundreds of people going door to door identifying people who hadnt voted yet up until 10 'til 7 last night. They were running ballots, figuring out who couldnt get out and picking up their ballots to deliver them to the courthouse."

"At the end of the day, what made the difference is a lot of passionate people doing this for the right reasons," New Era Colorado Executive Director Steve Fenberg told Boulder Weekly. "The Xcel side had a lot of people knocking on doors, a lot of people making phone calls as well, like we did, but I think there's a big difference when you have community volunteers doing it versus paid people that are doing it because it's their job. And that's not at all to knock those people that were doing that work, it's just our people were working because they absolutely wanted to win this fight."

Fenberg added that the outcome was decided in the final stretch of the campaign.

"Our get out the vote program the last three days, without a doubt, put us over the top," he said. "We knocked on thousands of doors. Yesterday alone I think we made 9,000 phone calls."

He also noted that the current vote numbers do not reflect a difference of less than one half of one percent, which would trigger a recount.

But that conceivably that could change, since letters still must be sent to mail-in ballot voters who need to cure their signatures, or provide a photocopy of their ID for their votes to be counted. After that, an automatic recount would be done if the vote differential was 66 or less, according to the clerk and recorder's office. The deadline for voters to provide their signature or photocopy of ID is 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9. The earliest possible date for a recount is Nov. 15, and election results must be certified by Nov. 18.

Even so, Xcel officials seemed to be conceding.

"We are disappointed in the outcome, but this is just the first step in a lengthy process," Xcel spokesperson Michelle Aguayo told Boulder Weekly in a prepared statement. "We don't anticipate any immediate changes and we will continue to serve our Boulder customers.

"Boulder will need to make some early decisions about the path it wants to follow," she said. "We do not want to invest in programs or resources that will not be useful to our statewide system and other customers if we no longer serve Boulder. We have an obligation to the rest of our Colorado customers to assure we obtain the fair value of all of the assets. They should not be burdened by Boulders decision.

"We still believe municipalization costs have been significantly understated by the city," Aguayo said in the release. "We remain skeptical that Boulder will be able to meet the terms of the initiative and match our rates, let alone match the level of renewables we provide.

"We still believe municipalization costs have been significantly understated by the city. We remain skeptical that Boulder will be able to meet the terms of the initiative and match our rates, let alone match the level of renewables we provide."

The measures deal with the city's exploration of creating a municipal electric utility.

Issue 2B authorizes the city to increase the existing utility occupation tax by up to $1.9 million a year to plan for the utility and acquire "an existing electric distribution system," presumably the one owned by Xcel. The tax expires no later than Dec. 31, 2017, and would end earlier if the city decides not to pursue municipalization or launches the utility before that date.

2C asked voters to give the city the authority to create the municipal light and power utility. It authorizes the city to create "programs and improvements that include, without limitation, generation plants, renewable energy, energy conservation and distribution systems, with all necessary powers appurtenant thereto." The question explicitly states that Boulder will not charge rates exceeding Xcel's rates at the time of acquisition. In addition, 2C says those rates must be enough to fund operating expenses and debt payments, plus an amount equal to 25 percent of the debt payments, and that the city will provide "reliability comparable to Xcel Energy."

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