Wanted: Fifty Boulder voters who think local government matters

0
Joel Dyer | Boulder Weekly

There is an election deadline rapidly approaching and the majority of potential city-council candidates for Boulder could use your help. At 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 24, any person running for a city council seat who doesn’t have 25 legal signatures on their “petition of nomination” gets punted to the curb and will not have their names on the ballot for this November’s election.

No big deal, right? I mean, how hard can it be to walk around with a clipboard and get 25 registered voters — including friends, family and coworkers — to sign their name to your petition? Well, that’s a valid point in most communities in our county and state, but as we’ve all come to expect, this nice simple process that was set out in Colorado’s Uniform Election Code of 1992 to make it easier to run for elected office in your hometown, has been turned into something more burdensome in Boulder. Surprise.

Boulder is a home-rule community, and for the most part that’s great. Home rule allows Boulder to create its own rules and regs so long as they are at least as stringent as the state’s. This is a good thing when it comes to issues like campaign finance or financial dis closure requirements for candidates. But what Boulder has done when it comes to running for city council is to make it harder to get on the ballot and that’s hardly a good thing, unless of course the goal of making it more difficult is to maintain the status quo on council. Did I mention that is not a good thing?

Now if you go right down the road about 12 minutes you’ll come to Longmont. Longmont’s government seems to be working pretty darn well of late with all its fracking bans and new art districts and free bus passes for its citizens and high speed Internet for all. And in Longmont, like other Boulder County communities, all you have to do to run for council is gather 25 registered Longmont voters to sign your petition of nomination. You can sign folks up at work. You can sign folks up on a street corner in the evening. You can sign up the person sharing the bed with you in the middle of the night so long as they are registered to vote in your town.

In short, if you want to run for council it’s pretty easy to get on the ballot, and this ease of getting on the ballot doesn’t seem to be doing anything in Longmont but making for pretty good government.

Boulder is different. It has made this simple petition process about as hard as it can. In Boulder, the candidate has to go in to the City Clerk’s office, take an oath and consent to run for council. But unlike in other towns, the candidate’s petition of nomination has to stay in the “possession of the City Clerk at all times.” This is critical because it means that the petition in the Clerk’s office is only available to be signed during work hours during the week and must be signed in the presence of the City Clerk or the “Clerk’s designee” after taking an oath just to sign the petition.

(Just a note: the actual charter language seems to indicate that only the City Clerk can witness a nomination signature which must be signed only in the City Clerk’s office. But when the packet for candidates was prepared the language was changed to allow for signatures in front of the “Clerk’s designee” who sits at a table out in a hallway not in the Clerk’s office.)

I’m not trying to be stupid picky here. I think Boulder’s whole cumbersome process is a bit ridiculous and designed to keep competition off the ballot more than to protect the sanctity of our local elections. I’m just pointing out that, based on the information on the city’s own website, Boulder seems happy to be sticklers about how petition of nomination signatures can be gathered but less willing to inconvenience its own City Clerk by following its own silly rules to the letter.

If you think this difference between Boulder and the rest of the towns around here isn’t significant, consider this: Out of the 18 citizens who have stepped up to run for council in Boulder, 10 still do not have the necessary petition-of-nomination signatures to make the ballot as of Aug. 19. It’s hard to believe the majority of people who want a chance to impact the future of their community, as elected city leaders, are down to just two days remaining to get their signatures for nomination.

There are five city council seats up for grabs this November. It would be a sad commentary on Boulder if only eight people, including current council members seeking reelection, are on the ballot for all those seats.

So how about this solution? Any registered voter who lives in Boulder can go to the second floor of the Municipal building on the southwest corner of Canyon and Broadway and solve this local government dilemma. All you have to do is walk up to the table in the hallway where the very helpful Danielle or Dianne (Clerk designees) will assist you in oath taking and the signing of up to five candidate petitions of nomination, one for each council seat being contested.

If just 50 concerned voters will take a few minutes out of their busy workday to go sign their name five times, Boulder can have 18 people putting forward their ideas to make thie city better instead of just eight, and that’s better for everyone.

This is an important election year locally that could decide the future of issues like growth, municipalization, affordable housing, the ongoing use of citizens as guinea pigs in “experiments” like “rightsizing,” and so on. So the more ideas for solutions the better, or 18 heads are better than eight, or however you want to think of it.

I’m not saying that the 10 candidates who need your help are all good, qualified candidates, but it’s very unlikely that none of them are good and qualified. The bottom line is we will never know if they don’t make it to ballot because we in the media are only going to be able to interview and endorse the candidates who actually make the ballot. That’s not quite right. What I should have said is Boulder Weekly will be endorsing candidates. We’ll have to wait and see if the corporate keeper of the other papers in the county will allow them to endorse this time around or if they’ll bow out again leaving you wondering which candidates reflect their values and positions.

This really isn’t a poke at the Camera, it’s honest encouragement. Boulder needs its daily paper and it needs that paper to step up and endorse candidates again like it did for more than 120 years until recently.

Endorsements tell people as much about the endorser’s vision for the city as they do about the candidates receiving them. People have the right to know where the Camera stands, so it should save its “we think the voters can make up their own minds” excuse for trying not to offend its advertisers and readers and tell us where it really stands. Thankfully, the Camera’s editorial pages have been raised from the dead this year, so why not continue this positive trend by bringing back endorsements? I should add this caveat: forget this last request if Anschutz buys the Camera, we don’t need more Bucks and Gardners.

So there it is. Just 50 concerned Boulder citizens can sign their names five times and turn the next two months into a robust Boulder City Council campaign season. I’d offer to buy a beer for the first 50 who step up but I’m pretty sure that crosses some line somewhere so you’ll just have to accept my thanks. Remember, the deadline is 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24.

Update 9/17/1015: I heard from a number of you who took the time to stop by and sign your name. Thanks to your efforts, we now have 19 candidates on the ballot for Boulder City Council. This should get interesting and it’s great for democracy.Thanks again.