It´s another coordinated election, and that means city council races. For candidates, there are endless events and forums, as well as a stream of questionnaires from media, civic groups, voter organizations and special-interest groups. For voters, it means slogging through dozens of questionnaires searching for answers to questions that reflect their concerns.
But this year, Boulder voters and candidates for Boulder City Council will find their work pared down to a more manageable level, thanks to the Community Questionnaire, which is now available for viewing online.
The idea for a united questionnaire — one that brought many local organizations together — was the brainchild of Pat Shanks, who serves on the board for The Blue Line. His idea was to partner with organizations that typically send out their own questionnaires to create a single community questionnaire and then post the answers online in an easily accessible format. This makes it easier not only for voters to search for the candidates’ positions on specific issues, but also for the candidates themselves, who have fewer questionnaires to answer and, hopefully, more time to answer them.
“We went through the questionnaires that one of the candidates had to answer a couple of years ago, and that person had 127 questions to answer,” says Liz Payton, editor of The Blue Line. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the candidates about it. The ones who’ve been through this process before appreciate it.”
Boulder Weekly was one of a handful of pioneer participants that worked with The Blue Line to establish a process for the project.
“Boulder Weekly has been very happy to partner with The Blue Line and the other local organizations through this process,” says Pamela White, editor of the paper. “I’m sure candidates get asked a thousand questions, and half of them are duplicates.
This reduces that redundancy, while at the same time making it easier for voters to get the information they truly want about each candidate.”
Other organizations that participated in the Community Questionnaire include Boulder County Arts Alliance, Boulder County Audubon Society, Boulder Decides, Boulder Outdoor Coalition, Clean Energy Action, Community Cycles, Community Foundation Serving Boulder County, Crestview West, Eco-Cycle, El Centro AMISTAD, Friends of Boulder Open Space, Human Services Alliance, Intercambio Uniting Communities, Mapleton Hill Neighborhood, McSorley/Cantebury Homeowners, New Era Colorado, Orchard Grove, Out Boulder, PLAN-Boulder County, Prairie Dog Coalition, Sierra Club and the University Hill Neighborhood Association.
Participating organizations submitted questions. Those were edited to eliminate duplicates and then culled to 57 questions.
“Most of the candidates were very thoughtful [in their answers],” Payton says. “We limited a lot of the answers so there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room, and some of them did not like that.”
Topics addressed in the questionnaire include the arts, city of Boulder ballot issues, bikes, diversity, dogs, energy, the environment, recycling, localization, medical marijuana and transportation. The answers are searchable by topic and candidate, making the task of wading through 57 answers for 12 candidates as simple as possible. It also enables voters to focus on the issues that are most important for their lives.
Key portions of the questionnaire will be published in Boulder Weekly’s VOTE guide, available on newsstands on Oct. 6.
Payton says that staff at The Blue Line had to balance the concerns of participating organizations and candidates, and that not everyone got exactly what he or she wanted.
“We learned a lot, and we would love to do it again,” Payton says. “We would like to get even more organizations involved.”
The questionnaire is not intended to be liberal or conservative, but rather to bring together the concerns of a broad range of groups across the community and to present their questions to the candidates.
The Blue Line is a nonprofit corporation that works to inform Boulder residents about important and controversial city and community issues. Its name honors the 1959 citizen referendum that prevented development in the city’s mountain backdrop.
Check out the full Community Questionnaire at http://www.boulderblueline.org/election-2011/.