Portland: a poor model to follow
As citizens in a representative democracy, we expect the people we elect to be looking out for our best interests. Unfortunately, the recent trend here and elsewhere indicates that is not the case as some city leaders are looking out for their own self-interests.
Take for example the recent junket to Portland funded by our tax dollars. City Council and their hand-picked selection of development advocates came back with a plethora of ideas for densifying Boulder. Meanwhile they ignore news articles like the following found on planetizen.com under the title “Has Portland Lost Its Way?”
Oregon’s poster child for livable planning is embroiled in new controversies over destructive growth, skyrocketing prices and backroom cronyism. Sound familiar, Boulderites? Our City Council and Planning Board are on this same path, using affordable housing, the homeless and gentle infill as a tool to promote more development here in Boulder.
One such tactic is a format known as “The Enhanced Science Fair,” a term coined by Zelda Bronstein wherein a ranking public official introduces a complex topic, often accompanied by a brief power point presentation and then directs members of the community to view poster boards arranged on easels or on the wall. Staff assigned to each poster board chats with the small group huddled around the display.
Sometimes, you’re given a clicker to use in a projected survey full of loaded questions with options that most people would never choose as answers.
It’s a sly technique city officials are using to mute the community voice in public policy — all the while, purporting to enhance civic engagement. This scenario is all too familiar in Boulder. It’s nothing short of insulting and neighborhoods are starting to take notice of these underhanded tactics.
The sleeper has awoken.
The edge of the Bluff
Since 2011, our good intentions have been used to hide the flaws of the Boulder Muni. The presumption that City Council members and even hired “experts” should be allowed to work in the dark using executive sessions is a two-edged sword that hurt us as well as helped us.
The Muni is more like a bluff at the gambling table. If Boulder had great ideas and a terrific financial plan, there is no reason to keep it hidden. Executive sessions served as a means to bluff Xcel, and bluff us.
Why would I say bluff us, you might ask. Hiding the true costs of the Muni was a bluff on us. Hiding the 30 percent rate increase 18 months after the “day one” rate parity promise was a bluff on us.
Not fully advertising the fact that it would be five to 10 years after the creation of the Muni before Boulder would be able to begin carbon reduction is a bluff on us. Not reporting the full cost of the Muni after bond payments is a bluff on us.
The full cost of the Muni is close to $1 billion. The profit to Xcel ranges from $35 million to $20 million per year. That would add $200 to $350 million to condemnation costs totaling around $500 million.
Startup costs are about $37 million and separation costs could be $10 million or more. Estimated true-costs at “day one” would start at $550 million.
Buy a house with a long term loan and it doubles the cost of the house. Just like buying a house, after all bonds are paid, the Muni would cost us $1 billion. It would be 30 years before any real profit could occur. Why take all the risk, why not share it with the rest of Colorado?
Boulder/Nablus Sister City Project
On June 27, the Nablus Working Group held its second meeting. This meeting included listing concerns of those citizens seeking more information about the Boulder/Nablus Sister City Project. Those concerns will be in this session’s summary when it is approved and released to the public.
The Working Group invites public feedback. The City has set up an email address to which citizens can submit questions and comments: NablusWorkingGroup@bouldercolorado.gov.
This is a perfect opportunity for all Boulderites interested in this discussion to be heard. I encourage everyone to submit their feedback and questions to the website so they can be addressed now, heard by all, discussed and resolved.
Also, Working Group dialogues are open to the public and will be held at the Municipal Service Center at 5050 Pearl St. from 5:30 until 8 p.m. on: 7/12, 7/19, 7/27, 8/11, 8/31, 9/22 and 9/29.
Come to the dialogues, get answers to your questions and learn more about the project. For additional information about the Sister City Project and the Working Group go to bouldercolorado.gov/sister-cities.
Diane Deschanel, Board, BNSCP/Boulder