Welcome to Boulder Weekly’s 2019 Vote Guide. As always, we are providing our endorsements for every city council race, proposition and issue on Boulder County ballots.
Like other years, this process has forced us to make a number of very tough choices between good candidates. Our process for making our decisions this time around has been similar to those of previous election cycles and deserves explanation.
We use a pool technique to cover all the candidates running for office in Boulder, Longmont, Lafayette and Louisville. One of our editors conducts an interview with a candidate in person or over the phone. We also attend or watch recordings of candidate forums and debates. Once all the interviews have been completed, we assemble our election board to discuss the pros and cons of each candidate in each race. At that time, we have the option of asking questions, comparing positions or bringing a candidate back in for a second in-person interview in front of the entire editorial staff.
It’s not a perfect system, but with more than 40 candidates for city council in our county, it’s the best one we have come up with to guide our endorsement process.
So why do we still endorse when so many other news organizations have given up the practice? The simple answer is because it’s one of the most important things we do — important for you our readers and for BW as a news organization.
We know that most of you, regardless of your good intentions, don’t have time to have substantive conversations with every single person running for office or attend the many debates and candidate forums out there. So that’s why we believe it is our obligation to do this time-consuming, and therefore expensive, work on your behalf. The reason we endorse instead of just providing printouts of our conversations with candidates is because we think you deserve to know where we stand. Our endorsements let you know things such as how important we believe the environment is to our communities. We believe that by endorsing candidates, we are being transparent, and that is a critical quality for a news organization.
But our endorsement does not mean that we agree with every position of every candidate getting a check mark by their name. There are no perfect candidates.
For instance, how do we measure a candidate who is great on the issues of homelessness and affordable housing but weaker on the health impacts of oil and gas extraction?
In that example, we’d look at the overall makeup of a potential council. If such a candidate is the only one running in a city with viable solutions to homelessness and affordable housing, and they would be joining a council where the majority is strong on their opposition to oil and gas extraction, we would likely endorse them in order to have a more rounded council better equipped to find solutions to more of the problems confronting all members of the community.
We aren’t perfect either and we have certainly endorsed candidates we later regretted. We do the best we can and have no qualms about later admitting we were wrong.
With that said, here are our endorsements for the 2019 elections in Boulder County. We hope they are helpful for you, and we thank you for your continued trust and support. Please feel free to send us letters telling us why you believe we are wrong and we’ll make sure they get published in a timely fashion.
And a final thought, please vote. We understand that the political world is pretty crazy right now, but you still have the ability to impact what happens locally and that affects each of our lives every day. — Joel Dyer, editor
CITY OF BOULDER
City Council – Vote for no more than six (6)
Gala Wilhelmina Orba
Change is coming to the Boulder City Council with six seats up for grabs. What’s more, Mayor Suzanne Jones and Cindy Carlisle aren’t seeking re-election and long-time Councilwoman Lisa Morzel is term limited after serving for more than two decades.
That said, we are impressed by the caliber of the candidates who are running. Some became involved because of issues impacting their neighborhoods, others had their interest piqued after serving on various boards and commissions, still others stepped up as a natural evolution of their community activism. But whatever their motivation to run, the new City Council will have a lot to consider such as flood mitigation, especially at the controversial CU South property. There’s also the continuation of the perpetually complex municipalization process, which voters have continued to support since 2011. The continued development of City property at Alpine Balsam presents another challenge, as does development within the opportunity zone. And if that’s not enough, the issues of affordable housing, transportation and homelessness are ever present and deserving of attention. And did we mention growth?
While some would like to see a large majority on Council either in favor of growth and infill or of no growth and the preservation of existing neighborhood character, we believe a well-balanced Council with a diversity of opinions on all of the critical issues mentioned above will best serve Boulder residents. We also considered a person’s ability to work well with others as they seek solutions.
We don’t agree with all of the candidates we endorsed on every issue, but we do believe that when our choices for Council are added to the three remaining Council members who will serve with them, Boulder will have a City Council well-suited to address a variety of issues that may arise in the future.
Here are our endorsements.
Rachel Friend comes to her election run by way of grassroots activism. A lawyer by trade, she first got involved with Moms Demand Action, advocating for stricter gun control, including Boulder’s assault weapons ban.
A resident of Frasier Meadows, she heads up the South Boulder Creek Action Group seeking to get flood mitigation at CU South as soon as possible to protect the 3,500 residents of her neighborhood. She’s also pressured the City to break its ties with BI Incorporated, an ankle monitor manufacturer owned by GEO Corp, which runs private immigration detention centers, including the one in Aurora, and has taken on pro bono immigration cases.
Having spent her fair share of time at City Council meetings over the last few years, she wants better community engagement, fact-based and transparent government and says she isn’t dogmatic when it comes to land use policies. As a former in-house counsel at an organization that runs group homes for adults with disabilities, she’s familiar with the frustration of NIMBY arguments and believes being an inclusive community means including everyone, everywhere and anywhere others live and work. She’s also proponent of year-round emergency shelters and providing robust day services for people experiencing homelessness.
Affordability, especially housing, is a major issue in the City of Boulder, where the cost of living is almost twice the national average. Perhaps no can-didate knows this better than Junie Joseph, a CU law student, who first lived on a friend’s floor, before finding an affordable place in Boulder. She’s seeking a seat on Council not only to represent the large population of students in town, not all of whom are transient, she says, but also to advocate for more inclusion and diversity in the city overall. Joseph emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti as a teenager and has since been dedicated to a life of service, most recently by volunteering with Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. With a career in human rights, working for U.S.AID, the U.N. and elsewhere, we find Joseph incredibly well informed and experienced beyond her years. And while some have criticized her election bid since she’s a relative newcomer, Joseph appears authentic in her desire to live in Boulder in the future and contribute to her chosen community.
Mark Wallach is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to the candidates. Endorsed by the groups supporting slow growth, he’s a former real estate developer whose slogan is “smart not slow growth,” and admits to a friendship with the Chamber of Commerce’s John Tayer. He’s also endorsing and accepting the endorsement of Councilman Bob Yates.
Wallach believes in a more nuanced approach to development, one that takes into account a variety of considerations, including giving preference to net-zero projects, discouraging demolition and perhaps even rezoning the airport to create middle- and low-income housing not in a flood zone.
He supports the City’s moratorium in response to the opportunity zone designation and doesn’t believe density achieves affordability as most proponents of infill claim. He’d rather see affordable housing built on site instead of allowing developers to pay inclusionary housing fees, but finds the current site review process arcane. Originally from New York, Wallach is practical, willing to consider different points of view and even change his mind in the process, all qualities we value in a candidate.
When we endorsed Bob Yates four years ago, we argued that he would take a common sense and conservative approach to most issues, and make reasonable decisions on complicated topics, all of which has proven to be true. While we don’t agree with him on some things, principally the muni which he is against, we’ve appreciated his ability to cut through the crap and move issues along. He realizes the City might need to do more for our transportation network outside of the relationship with RTD and wants to work with surrounding cities to create supplemental transit options, while admitting transportation is an area where the City might not make money. He wants to update the site review process to forgo all of the negotiation, while hardwiring community benefits and allowing some discretion. And he believes both Council and City staff need to do a better job of bringing people along in the process. Furthermore, he says his biggest learning curve on Council so far has been homelessness solutions, and he believes we can still do more. He’s worked with Sam Weaver to put forward the middle-income down payment assistance pilot program, which is also on the ballot. He’s proven an effective City leader and we endorse him once again. Someone on Council has to be able to count, and that’s Yates.
This is Adam Swetlik’s second City Council run, and we’re impressed by the work he’s done since his first attempt by engaging with the community on a much deeper level and bringing himself up to speed on many issues.
For the last two years, he’s served on the Housing Advisory Board, most recently serving as its chair, and is dedicated to finding housing solutions based on the philosophy that housing is a human right, not an investment. To that end, he wants to pump more resources into homelessness solutions including providing temporary shelter year-round, installing more public restrooms and lockers, providing sharps containers and further supporting the City’s needle program. While he admits the City is prohibited from doing certain things because of state law, he wants to push the boundaries of what’s possible and testified at the State House to repeal the moratorium on rent control in the state. At the same time, he’s supportive of neighborhoods wanting to keep their character and believes the City could do much more to engage the community. Instead of focusing on increasing density, he’d rather see the City shift its focus and resources to transportation infrastructure and options to mitigate the growing number of people that live here and commute in from other towns. He also wants to help small businesses through a permanently affordable business program.
Incumbent Aaron Brockett has proven he puts his money where his mouth is. Before he was elected to Council four years ago, Brockett served on the Planning Board and was identified as a pro-growth candidate. He lives in the Holiday neighborhood, a mixed-use development that allows him to walk to work and bike to City Council, and he’s supported similar projects while on Council. He’s a strong proponent of securing funding for the Transportation Master Plan, particularly providing bus rapid transit on Highway 119 and creating more micro-mobility options to create an independent transportation future that complements RTD.
When it comes to affordable housing, he wants to develop the transit corridors while also creating guidelines for HOAs in the afford-able housing program, recognizing that many communities really aren’t that affordable because of extra costs associated with those organizations. He also wants to pilot affordable commercial space and believes development projects with clear community benefits could be expedited through the site review process without forgoing the public’s ability to comment. If re-elected, Brockett says he wants to shift his focus to more social issues, being one of only two Council members who attended the vigil for people experiencing homelessness who have died, and is proud of Council’s work with such things like the assault weapons ban. Brockett is nuanced and thoughtful, while also engaging with the community. We support his re-election.
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2G Tax on Tobacco Vaping Products
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, this measure would allow the City of Boulder to impose a sales and use tax up to 40% on all electronic smoking devices, including any refill, cartridge or component of such a product. Any revenue generated by the tax would go toward a licensing program for nicotine retailers, health promotion and education, as well as enforcement.
The warnings and research coming out about vaping is concerning to be sure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now saying there is an outbreak of lung diseases relating to vaping, with more than 1,000 confirmed cases and 18 deaths. Colorado leads the nation in teen vaping use, and officials around the state have been taking action to prevent the use of e-cigarettes. Boulder City Council recently banned the sale of flavored vaping products and increased the purchasing age to 21 in an effort to curb use. This tax is seen by many as another step in the process to stop people from using the products.
However, Boulder Weekly rarely supports sin taxes, believing that they generally tax a small segment of the population in order to benefit the community as a whole. If the reason the City wants to tax vaping products is because they’re dangerous, then they should be ban them altogether, and not just impose a sin tax.
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2H Sales And Use Tax Extension For Open Space And Long’s Gardens
This measure would continue the existing $0.15 sales and use tax the City already collects for its open space program through 2039. (Currently, the tax is set to expire at the end of this year.) The first year of revenue (estimated at $5.3 million) would go toward a conservation easement at Long’s Gardens on North Broadway. The land is home to the famous iris gardens and has been farmed by the same family for more than a century. The conservation easement would prevent it from being sold for non-agricultural use in the future. The revenue for the remaining 19 years of the tax would go toward the purchase, acquisition, restoration and maintenance of more open space within the city.
There is no question that one of the primary drivers of Boulder’s amazing quality of life is our continuing support for an aggressive open space program. For decades the residents of Boulder have voiced support of the program by continuing to pass this sales and use tax. And while we know the future City Council may have to ask for other increased taxes to fund important programs like transportation and affordable housing, maintaining our open space program is essential to the Boulder way of life.
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2I Imposition of a Middle-Income Housing Program
Housing prices in Boulder started outpacing income growth long ago, resulting in many people being priced out of living here. As a remedy, the City has worked diligently over the years to increase its stock of affordable units (currently 7.5% with a goal of 15%) for low- and moderate-income families. But there remains a gap for middle-income earners. This measure would allow the City of Boulder to borrow through bonds or lines of credit up to $10 million to fund down payment assistance, basically in the form of a second mortgage, for middle-income individuals and families. In order to qualify, borrowers have to have worked in Boulder for at least two years, bring a 5% down payment and have incomes that fall below 120% of Area Median Income (AMI) ($95,520 with $140,000 in assets for an individual or $122,760 for a family of three with $170,000 in assets). For people who qualify, the City will lend up to $200,000 toward either a single-family home with a maximum purchase price of $919,525 or a condo or townhome at $435,000. In return, the property will be deed-restricted with an allowance for capital improvements to create additional equity, and 15% will be set aside for City employees. Additionally, participants will pay the City back with interest over 10 years, with profits going back into the program to help additional people with down payments. This pilot program is a possible replacement for the current down payment assistance program which has $800,000 in the fund but hasn’t been used for a year or so according to City staff.
The measure was put forward by City Council members Sam Weaver and Bob Yates, who say they already have buy-in from local banks and credit unions, and that the program has the possibility to ensure housing affordability well into the future.
Boulder Weekly fully realizes that this pilot program, even if successful, has limited ability to alleviate Boulder’s affordability problems. While it may help around 100 families at first, thousands of families will still find it difficult if not outright impossible to live in Boulder, and it’s a drop in the bucket toward Boulder’s goal of creating 1,000 middle income, deed-restricted units in the next decade. It also assumes those families will see their incomes rise in the future in order to either sell or afford the 10-year balloon payment to pay the City back. While there are obvious limitations to the program, in the end we agree that anything the City can do to help more middle-income workers afford to live closer to their work is a step in the right direction, both for our affordable housing and greenhouse gas emission goals. Every little bit helps.
CITY OF LONGMONT
Over the past two years, Longmont has continued its transformation into one of the premier cities in Boulder County and the state for that matter. And the vision and guidance of the current City Council has played no small part in that evolution.
While much good work has been done, there are still a number of important issues that need to be addressed.
We believe that the current Council is still making a mistake when it comes to its Windy Gap water project and the city’s future water needs. Water usage in Longmont continues to remain flat or even falling thanks to conservation efforts and technology even as the city has grown. The best excuse for supporting Windy Gap and spending tens of millions more in tax-payer dollars is because we have already invested millions in the project. It reminds us of the gambler who has lost half his paycheck and feels compelled to keep gambling because he has to win back his losses. Sometimes the right thing is just walking away.
When it comes to water, it really comes down to your worldview. If you know that diverting water from the Colorado River Basin to Windy Gap is going to permanently alter and damage the Colorado River and you don’t care so long as Longmont gets its water, then Windy Gap might make sense. But if you believe, as Boulder Weekly does, that Longmont has a responsibility not to let its local decisions and actions cause harm to the environment outside of its City limits, then Windy Gap is a shortsighted idea. Some scientists believe that global warming over the next decade could drop the flows in the Colorado River to the point where only the lower basin states — those with senior water rights to Colorado — could take all of the Colorado River’s water, leaving Windy Gap reservoir empty in perpetuity.
Therefore, we believe Longmont’s elected leaders should be guiding the City’s growth in such a way as to be limited by its current water supply. The once seemingly feasible dream of perpetual growth and prosperity has been rendered impossible by the realities of global warming and its impact on water supplies in the West. All Front Range communities must quickly begin to wean themselves from their dependence on the diversion of Western Colorado water to the Front Range.
The same principle must also apply to oil and gas development. Pushing wells outside City limits and out of neighborhoods is a good thing. But oil and gas extraction from horizontal drilling and fracking under property within the City’s control still adds to the region’s lousy air quality and high ozone levels as well as furthering global warming. The fight to ban all oil and gas extraction within its jurisdiction must remain a goal for the next City Council and if necessary, lawsuits should be brought under the newly passed SB-181, which clearly states its intent to make human health and the environment superior to oil and gas extraction when issuing permits.
To date, however, Governor Polis and his appointed head of the COGCC are ignoring SB-181 and moving full speed ahead on well permits with no regard for human health or global warming. Hence the need for City Council to take up the fight on these important issues within it jurisdiction.
The days when City Council’s most important priorities were potholes, new housing additions and getting the traffic lights timed right are unfortunately behind us.
Mass transportation is another critical issue and sadly, we didn’t hear many realistic fixes for Longmont’s sad dependence on the ever incompetent RTD. Perhaps the potential lawsuit proposed by some on Council will help at some point, but for the person trying to use the bus to get to work or to shop it’s still a ridiculously long and ineffective alternative. Walking is faster in some cases.
Affordable housing is still a critical problem for Council to address. We’d like to point out that research has shown that allowing developers to pay money into affordable housing funds rather than actually being required to build affordable units into their projects actually forces up the overall price of housing and does little to create new housing. And lastly, the issue of homelessness and the people living on our streets in RVs need compassionate solutions that put people first.
It’s a lot to think about, Longmont, but with the great collection of candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring this year, along with those still on Council, we are confident this great community will continue to thrive and solve its problems.
As always, we don’t agree with all the positions of all the people we are endorsing. While positions on the issues are a priority, so too is experience and the ability to communicate and to work through heated issues with respect for those with whom disagree with you.
Here are our choices.
City of Longmont Mayor
Bagley’s vast experience as Council member and as mayor was a large consideration in our endorsing him. Running a city with a seven-figure budget takes more than being on the right side of all the social justice issues, which Bagley isn’t. While the mayor has made some significant compromises with the oil and gas industry, which have resulted in pushing extraction operations outside city limits — a very good thing — we do not believe he opposes oil and gas extraction in general and he stated that he is skeptical of the science that projects that we only have 11 years to radically diminish our greenhouse gas emissions or we will pass the point of no return to stop climate change.
Bagley has also worked to garner commitments for a zero-carbon footprint for the City by 2030. We hope that works out but note that such promises made by utility companies in the past often accomplish little to nothing in the real world and result in new politicians making new promises with dates further down the road when the old effort fails. We hope Longmont’s goals will be reached and appreciate the mayor’s efforts in this area.
We disagree with Bagley’s position on Windy Gap and hope that he will become more engaged with the science regarding the Colorado River Basin and global warming rather than relying on the tainted information being put out by the entities who stand to profit through the diversion of Western Slope water to the Front Range. And we’re not wild about his views on affordable housing either ,though no candidate in the county has truly found a workable solution to this troubling issue. But all that said, we do believe Bagley is the best choice for mayor at this time.
City of Longmont Council Member At Large
Joan Peck’s time on Council has not been without drama. But we feel confident that the lessons of doing City business in a transparent fashion have been learned and applied. Peck is on the right side of the Windy Gap issue and she is doing perhaps more than any other council member to challenge RTD to give Longmont what it is owed and what it has already paid for — aka a train or anything else that will be workable before we’re all using Star-Trekian transporters to get around. We wish her luck with that fight. Joan came into office in a push by voters to make environmental issues a higher priority for the City and she has helped Longmont to move forward in this critical area. For these reasons we believe she deserves another term. With the City moving forward successfully in so many ways, we see no need to try to turn back the Council to days gone by, which is how we see her opponents in this race. We endorse Joan Peck.
City of Longmont Council Member Ward 1
Tim Waters (uncontested)
Tim Waters is running unopposed. We believe he’s done a good job so far. We say give him your vote again, even if it doesn’t really matter.
City of Longmont Council Member Ward 3
We liked both of these candidates but were extremely impressed with Hidalgo-Fahring. She is a teacher who is skilled in negotiating at the management level. She has a heart for people who are struggling and she is a doer, a problem-solver with a successful track record for getting things done and creating positive change. She was well equipped to answer our questions on the most pressing issues facing Longmont, and we believe she will be a great fit on the current Council. We strongly endorse Susie Hidalgo-Fahring.
City of Longmont Ballot Issue 3B
The City of Longmont wants to increase sales and use tax by .18% to pay for a competitive pool and ice rink. The proposal will consist of a standard Olympic-sized pool (10, 50-meter lanes) that can be converted into an NHL-regulation-sized ice rink. The projected cost will not exceed $72,260,000. If the debt from said pool/rink is paid off by Jan. 1, 2040, the sales and use tax increase will decrease to .03%, which will be collected in perpetuity for maintenance of the facility.
The benefits of a competitive pool and rink are numerous to the City of Longmont. If the citizens of Longmont agree, then they should vote yes. However, a sales and use tax spans the entire populace, and it is unlikely the entire populace of Longmont will use the facility they paid for. In that interest, a no vote will deny the tax, and those who wish to bring a competitive pool/rink to Longmont will have to seek other financing.
City of Longmont Ballot Issue 3C
The current extension of the sales and use tax of 0.75% that maintains roads is set to expire in 2026. Longmont voters have approved this extension five times over the past 30 years, and a yes vote will extend the 0.75% sales and use tax indefinitely, removing it from the ballot in future elections. A no vote will cause the 0.75% tax to sunset in 2026, but only if future Longmont voters decide not to extend the tax. We say yes.
City of Longmont Ballot Issue 3D
City of Longmont Home Rule Charter section 12.4 sets City-owned property leases at 20 years. Ballot Issue 3D wants to increase that term to 30 years, matching standard mortgage terms. While a 30-year-lease could make the City’s property more attractive to educational and performing arts facilities, it could also cause the City of Longmont to lose out on 10 years of property value increase. A no vote allows the City of Longmont to examine future current market values before extending leases.
City of Longmont Ballot Issue 3E
Should municipal Judge Robert J. Frick be retained in office for two years? BW endorsed Frick’s retention in 2017, as did 72% of Longmont voters. Vote yes.
CITY OF LAFAYETTE
City Council (Choose 5)
Andrew J. O’Connor
Katherine Huth – Withdrawn
The next slate of Lafayette City Council members will assume positions on a board that has experienced turnover (three vacated seats in the last two years), and that is poised to make key decisions about the community’s growth.
The issues of affordability, oil and gas, growth and transportation came up in almost every conversation we had with the candidates. For many, one of these issues was the primary factor in their decision to run for City Council.
Five candidates — Anne Borrell, Patricia Townsend, Marty Feffer, Tonya Briggs and Jenna Tullberg — are running as Community Rights Advocates, a movement born out of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal and organizational assistance to people and communities interested in banning fracking, factory farming, water privatization and more.
Several candidates expressed an interest in banning fracking within City limits, while others suggested enforcing strict regulations and working to bend existing legal framework so as to effectively ban fracking in Lafayette.
When it comes to growth, the City of Lafayette has some guardrails in place to ensure development of residential and commercial spaces are done with intention — every six years, only 1,200 building permits can be accepted, with an additional 50 affordable housing units able to be built. Still, there were discussions about where Lafayette should build out in the future.
And there is robust discussion about the state of traffic in Lafayette. While some candidates suggest undertaking construction projects, others want to use technology to make traffic flow better. There were suggestions of expanding Highway 7, working with RTD to make bus travel easier and more affordable, and integrating better bike and pedestrian pathways.
And almost every candidate spoke of a desire to retain Lafayette’s “small-town” feel.
We chose five candidates who bring a diversity of thought to addressing these issues.
Timothy Barnes is a science educator at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). He served in the Navy, has a degree from CU in communication and served on the advisory board of the Boulder County Community Action Program for 10 years.
Barnes brings an understanding of climate issues and a unique ability to communicate that will be useful when working with nearby cities, counties and the state to address the impacts of oil and gas operations out east, and to prevent the industry from entering the City of Lafayette. Barnes is committed to increasing access to affordable housing in Lafayette and will seek to be an effective voice for underprivileged communities in the City.
Stephanie Walton is the only candidate running that has served a four-year term. We think her experience will be valuable as the City undergoes major changes in personnel and develops new building, sustainability and transportation plans.
Walton is a long-time community organizer who hopes to provide greater support for Lafayette’s senior citizens and mobile home owners. Her self-proclaimed biggest issue is transportation, and she hopes to fix problems on major arterial roadways caused by poor planning and integrate the trail system into the greater map of transportation options in the City. On oil and gas, Walton supports the community’s decision to ban fracking, but would want to be a good steward of taxpayers’ money if and when the City’s oil and gas regulations are challenged.
Jenna Tullberg is one of two Community Rights Advocates we’re endorsing. Tullberg’s education and experience in social work inspired her to run for office, and we think it has helped her develop a well-rounded platform that addresses many of the needs in Lafayette.
Tullberg says she would support limiting or eliminating in-lieu fees developers pay instead of providing affordable housing, and wants to be sure units are better distributed throughout the city so as not to overburden certain neighborhoods and schools. Tullberg supports putting the Climate Bill of Rights into the City Charter so it can be better used to defend a ban on fracking.
The other Community Rights Advocate we’re endorsing is Tonya Briggs. A local small business owner, Briggs brings a unique perspective to Lafayette’s management and growth. She would seek to prioritize transportation improvements over development; adjust traffic lighting and try to add turn lanes to expedite traffic; and be mindful of the placement of affordable housing units.
Briggs says she would also seek to develop a better working relationship with the Town of Erie, promote sustainability measures, ban fracking and consider suing Weld County for its emissions that affect local air quality.
Lastly, we’re endorsing JD Mangat, a Lafayette native who has served on City Council over the last year after filling a vacancy. We appreciate Mangat’s passion for improving the lives of residents and making it a more welcoming place for visitors and those looking to live in Lafayette.
Mangat says, “There should be no drilling whatsoever happening in our City limits,” and would seek to work with nearby governments and the state to ensure oil and gas operations don’t enter Lafayette. He would seek to require operators and/or municipalities to track emissions from oil and gas operations east of the City. And Mangat would push for an expansion of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and seek to prioritize affordable and senior housing, while being mindful of how to appropriately welcome and place commercial development.
City of Lafayette Ballot Question 2A
Lafayette’s Ballot Question 2A asks voters if the City’s outdated rules regarding recall elections should be brought in line with state regulations via a charter amendment. The amendment would not change the minimum number of signatures required to prompt a recall election (25% of votes cast for that office). Elected officials must serve six months before they can be removed by recall.
City of Lafayette Ballot Question 2B
Three Lafayette City Councilors vacated their seats before the end of the last term. A yes vote on Ballot Question 2B extends the timeline in the City’s charter for filling future City Council vacancies. If approved, 2B would require any vacancy on City Council before 180 days of an election be filled in 45 days. The old timeline required Council vacancies 90 days before an election be filled within 30 days.
City of Lafayette Ballot Question 2C
A yes vote on Ballot Question 2C will bring the City’s laws regarding municipal initiative and referendum procedures in line with state law via a charter amendment. It would retain existing provisions about minimum number of signatures required (10 percent of registered voters at the time notice of an initiative or referendum is filed by the clerk). After the City Clerk determines a petition is sufficient, the City Council will decide within 30 days whether to adopt, repeal or send to a vote the ordinance in the petition.
CITY OF LOUISVILLE
As in the rest of Boulder County, how to manage growth and development is the biggest issue facing Louisville. The City has long grappled with how to fill large, vacant properties, namely the 388-acre P66 Project (often referred to as the ConocoPhillips parcel) along U.S. 36 near Northwest Parkway, and the nearly 45-acre “Parcel O” within the McCaslin corridor. These properties present Louisville with opportunities to spur tax revenue, create jobs and open up new housing options. While each of this year’s candidates for Louisville City Council has slightly different ideas for how the City can best utilize these properties, each stressed the importance of maintaining the Louisville’s small-town character.
Affordable housing is also a part of the growth and development issue, and Louisville, like the rest of Boulder County, is often too expensive a place for low- and middle-income earners of all stripes — civil servants, the elderly, young adults in their first jobs — to live.
Louisville will be voting on whether to allow retail marijuana cultivation facilities within City limits. The City could have done this without voter approval, but both current Council members we interviewed said they felt public opinion on the matter was too varied to give a strong impression of the majority, so they sent it to the ballot.
Louisville has made great strides in lowering its carbon footprint, with its Sustainability Action Plan providing goal posts in waste management, clean energy development, transportation, agriculture and water. In 2017, Louisville reduced its electricity usage by 3.2% and natural gas usage by 1% from the 2015 baseline. The City entered a partnership with Xcel Energy last year to focus on clean energy options. As in all council races in the county, we’ve endorsed candidates we believe will advance a climate-focused agenda.
We believe the mix of candidates we’ve endorsed will create robust yet balanced discussions around all of Louisville’s key issues, helping the City remain one of the best places to live in the United States.
City of Louisville Mayor At-Large (4 Year Term) (Vote for One)
Ashley Stolzmann has been serving Louisville’s Ward 3 since 2013. Stolzmann graduated with honors from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in chemical engineering, and she’s a go-getter in every sense of the word, acting as the Louisville Sustainability Board liaison and finance committee chair during her time on Council, and serving on the executive committee of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, as well as the regional transportation committee. She maintains a day job with a Boulder start-up company.
Stolzmann supports maintaining the “character of the community,” and not changing the “built environment” of downtown Louisville. Where affordable housing is concerned, Stolzmann knows there’s no easy answer, but is committed to reaching the county-wide goal of ensuring 12% of housing inventory will be permanently affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income households by 2035. She made specific mention of looking for ways to enable mobile home park residents to purchase the land under their homes. She’s in favor of the City purchasing existing housing stock and integrating affordable housing throughout the city, rather than placing all affordable units in one area.
While some believe that Louisville is completely out of residential space, Stolzmann points to zoned residential areas at the north end of Steel Ranch that are still undeveloped. She says her constituents have made it clear they don’t want increased height or density.
However, Stolzmann believes commercial properties need to be the City’s main focus in development. Regarding Parcel O, Stolzmann supports Ascent Church (which currently takes up part of the building) in its recently submitted proposal to buy the building and divide the property into retail space that would include things such as a food hall, artistic space, teen activity space and the like. The end result would be a walkable retail space in a parcel that has been all but vacant (save the church) for nearly a decade. She’s not in favor of rezoning the development for residential use.
Stolzmann helped Louisville adopt its first Sustainability Action Plan in 2016, which increased the municipal share of energy from renewable sources to more than 50%. She would like to work on policy that would implement healthy soil practices in parks and open space to aid in carbon sequestration and would also like to put a question to voters about a plastic bag tax like the one Boulder implemented in 2012.
Where marijuana cultivation is concerned, Stolzmann was in favor of putting the issue on the ballot so that Louisville residents could make the decision for themselves. She directly supports both the recreation tax and the Louisville Fire Protection District Ballot Issue 6A.
City of Louisville City Council Person Ward I (4 Year Term) (Vote for One)
Caleb Dickinson was born and raised in Boulder, and received a degree in finance from the Leeds School of Business. He has lived in Louisville since 2010 with his wife and children, and is co-owner of Fox Property Management. He is the current vice-chair for the Louisville Historic Preservation Commission, a director of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce and vice-president of the Louisville Downtown Business Association. Dickinson makes charitable donations to local organizations as a founding member of Guys Who Give.
Dickinson is clear that he’d have a lot to learn on Council, but that his years of working as an entrepreneur in the city have given him an intimate familiarity with the community. He’s keen on listening and learning and fostering collaboration.
He’s skeptical about the benefit of residential units at Parcel O or P66. He’s interested in creating a “three-pronged vision” between residents, City staff and Council that can help developers deliver a project that satisfies as much of the community as possible.
He’s in support of 2D, 2E and 2F, but would like to see more data from the Fire District that shows need for more funds.
City of Louisville City Council Person Ward II (4 Year Term) (Vote for One)
This is Deb Fahey’s second run for Council, and we believe it’s her turn to serve. Fahey, a nearly 40-year resident of Louisville, says she’s been going to City Council meetings for about 10 years now and it shows in her knowledge of the City’s issues. She has been on the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council, the Louisville Senior Advisory Board, the Louisville Historic Preservation Commission and more. She currently volunteers at the Senior Center every Friday morning and volunteers at the local museum every Friday afternoon.
Sensible development and environmental sustainability are her top priorities.
Fahey calls Ascent Church’s proposal to rent out and develop part of Parcel O “pretty close to being reasonable,” the only issue being too many housing units, though she does say she believes some housing units need to be included in the development. Fahey would like to see any housing units included in Parcel O be carved out for “workforce housing … our local teachers on a single income could afford to live in.”
Again, she supports the addition of some housing units in the P66 Program, namely multiple family units that reduce the amount of infrastructure the City would need to install to accommodate them.
Where the environment is concerned, she would like to see the City add more solar panels, namely to the new recreational center expansion and on public works buildings, and continue its work with Xcel to buy into renewable energy sources.
She supports the marijuana cultivation issues, as well as the retention of the recreation tax and the Fire District mill levy increase.
City of Louisville City Council Person Ward III (4 Year Term)
Dennis Maloney (uncontested)
Dennis Maloney is running unopposed this year, but we support his level-headed approach to economic vitality and a continued high quality of life in Louisville. As the current chair of the finance committee, economic vitality is first on Maloney’s list of priorities for the City. He believes in focusing on those two critical pieces of property — Parcel O and P66 — to revitalize the City’s revenue streams, and he’s open to looking at a mix of retail and residential space on these properties. Like other Louisville City Council candidates we spoke with, Maloney believes there are gaps in housing available for middle-class seniors and middle-class wage earners, and he would like to focus City efforts on making sure these populations, which include teachers and firefighters and other civil servants, have options to live in Louisville.
He notes pride in the work City Council did in developing the City’s Sustainability Action Plan, which increased the city’s use of renewable energy sources. He supports retail marijuana cultivation in the city.
City of Louisville Ballot Issue 2D Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facility Excise Tax
Here’s the meat and potatoes: This proposed tax is 5% of the average market rate of marijuana, which City Council can increase to 10% without further voter approval. Revenue can be used to pay for the cost of training, enforcement and administration of marijuana laws and regulations, to support drug and alcohol programs and facilities, and for other general purposes. Based on averages from other cities, Louisville City staff estimates that five facilities will open in the first fiscal year, with an estimated tax increase between $100,000 and $200,000 (this number is dependent on the number of facilities that open). Get that tax revenue, Louisville, and vote yes on 2E.
City of Louisville Ballot Issue 2E Retention of Recreation Tax Revenues
Not a new tax, nor an increase in taxes, Issue 2E asks residents to allow the City to retain revenues collected via 2016 voter-approved ballot issues that authorized a .15% sales and use tax to expand the recreation center, the senior center and Memory Square Park pool. If approved, this tax will allow the City to continue to collect sales and use tax for operating and maintaining the recreation and senior centers, as well as the pool facilities at Memory Square Park. It would also allow the City to keep revenue collected in 2018 that exceed the estimates that were included in the election notice mailed to voters in 2016. We say vote yes to Ballot Issue 2E.
City of Louisville Ballot Question 2F Allowing Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facilities
Because of TABOR, this measure will only pass if Issue 2E is approved. As aforementioned, we believe allowing retail marijuana cultivation is a no-brainer for Louisville, if only to generate tax revenue. The City (with solid examples from surrounding communities to model themselves after) has already done front-end work, like adopting an odor-emission ordinance back in February. All licensed retail marijuana cultivation facilities in Louisville will be limited to 150,000 square feet of building area.
At a City Council meeting in July, Mayor Bob Muckle expressed concern about an increase in crime if cultivation facilities were allowed, but the City already allows dispensaries, which haven’t increased crime in the city, so it’s hard to see a connection between crime and cultivation facilities. Plenty of research indicates that with a clear system of laws and regulations, like the ones Colorado has had in place since 2013, legalized marijuana operations are safe.
With surrounding cities already allowing cultivation, Louisville only stands to gain from supporting Ballot Question 2F.
Louisville Fire Protection District Ballot Issue 6A
This measure asks voters to approve a mill levy increase of 3.9 mills to improve response times and enhance emergency services. The Louisville Fire Department has three stations, but currently only one full-time crew. The voter-approved mill levy would be used to address the following needs: a second, full-time engine crew; one EMS captain to oversee the EMS division; personnel needed to provide community paramedicine services; improved recruitment and retention of firefighters and paramedics; scheduled replacement of emergency equipment and apparatus to maintain reliability and protect first responders. The fire district’s average response time is currently six minutes, which is two minutes slower than the National Fire Protection Agency’s benchmark of four minutes. Save lives and property and vote yes on Ballot Issue 6A.
BOULDER VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT
The Boulder Valley School District Board of Education has been rebuilding the last few years, hiring a new superintendent and dealing with a variety of issues from controversial charter school applications, to providing air-conditioning in classrooms, to tackling the achievement gap, especially at Lafayette’s Alicia Sanchez International Elementary School, which received the state’s lowest rating of turnaround status at the beginning of the year. (In the most recent state report, it received a priority improvement rating.) The district also faces national education challenges, such as school safety and mental health support in the wake of continued mass shootings, not least of which includes the STEM School shooting in nearby Highlands Ranch, where one student was killed and eight others injured in May 2019.
Four seats are up for grabs this year, although three of these seats are uncontested. Both Kathy Gebhardt and Richard Garcia are seeking a second (and final) term. Stacey Zis is seeking to replace former Board President Sam Fuqua, who is term limited. Zis, with a son at Boulder High, is a long-time parent volunteer, at the local school, district and state level. She’s also a senior consultant with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.
All of that means the only contested race at BVSD is in District D to replace Shelly Benford, who is also term limited.
Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Director District A (4 Years)
Boulder Weekly values a board with diverse viewpoints and priorities, and we believe healthy debate and disagreement is essential to responsible management of the District. That being said, the candidates in this race are aligned pretty evenly on most issues with both saying mental health support and tackling the achievement gap are top priorities. And although Jai Rajagopal is capable, thoughtful and eager to contribute, Lisa Sweeney-Miran stands out. (Sweeney-Miran’s name was certified incorrectly on the ballot. However, all votes cast for the candidate will be counted, according to Colorado law.) A life-long resident of Boulder, Sweeney-Miran attended BVSD from kindergarten on and has three children currently attending BVSD schools. She’s also a graduate from the University of Colorado School of Law and is the executive director of Mother House, a women’s shelter in Boulder helping mothers struggling with addiction, domestic violence and poverty. As a BVSD Board member, she would prioritize more emotional and social supports for students and families, believing that this increases overall school safety without a need for metal detectors or arming teachers with guns. She wants to specifically focus on helping low-income and bi-lingual students receive the additional help they need to succeed, including hiring more social workers at specific schools. She also believes the Board needs to be more willing to hear parents’ concerns in a responsive manner, although that doesn’t necessarily mean District policies will change as a result. And, she says, she’s committed to open communication and transparency as a Board member. For these reasons, we endorse Lisa Sweeney-Miran for BVSD Director District A.
Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Director District C (4 Years)
Kathy Gebhardt (uncontested)
Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Director District D (4 Years)
Stacey Zis (uncontested)
Boulder Valley School District RE-2 Director District G (4 Years)
Richard L. Garcia (uncontested)
Proposition CC (Statutory)
Colorado voters approved the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in 1992, which required voter approval on new taxes and put a cap on the total amount of money the state could collect in a given year. That number has risen over time using a calculation based on inflation and population growth, but any amount over the cap has been refunded to taxpayers. It’s happened nine times in the last 26 years.
But a yes vote on Proposition CC effectively removes the TABOR cap — any money the state collects over the limit would be spent on public schools, higher education and transportation projects. The state would hire an independent agency to conduct an annual financial audit of the money collected above the TABOR cap.
Colorado Legislative Council staff estimated the State figures to collect $310 million above the TABOR cap in 2019-20, and $342 million in 2020-21. If Prop CC passes, those sums would be divied equally among public schools, higher education and transportation projects in the next two years. If Prop CC fails, taxpayers would receive a refund of about $26 to $90 per year, depending on the tax bracket, and double if joint filing, according to the state Blue Book. Prop CC does not affect refunds of overpaid income tax.
The argument for Prop CC is that the state’s education and transportation systems need money, and retaining funds above the TABOR cap is a way to pay for improvements without raising taxes. Colorado ranks in the bottom one-third of states for per pupil spending on K-12 and higher education. The Colorado Department of Transportation estimates being short $8.8 billion over the next six years for necessary roadwork and highway expansion across the state.
Currently, the State can’t retroactively keep funds above the TABOR cap to make up for previous years when the TABOR cap is not met. Some supporters of Prop CC see that as unfair, and so an argument for Prop CC is that the State is able to make up for years of lower tax revenue by collecting above the TABOR cap.
There are several arguments against Prop CC — there’s no guarantee in the future that funds collected above the TABOR cap will be spent on education and transportation; the state budget has grown by more than $1 billion annually in recent years and that the lawmakers should prioritize education and transportation by more conventional means; and Prop CC removes the TABOR cap forever.
Supporters of Prop CC have raised $1.85 million so far, and include Pat Stryker and the National Education Association. Opponents include the Koch brothers affiliated Americans for Prosperity as well as the Independence Institute, which have raised a little more than half a million dollars.
Prop CC isn’t perfect — despite the annual audit, opponents are right to be concerned about the direction and accountability of funds collected above the TABOR cap. But we recommend a yes vote to begin addressing critical education and transportation needs, and we think foregoing a personal tax refund in boom years, and letting that money pool with the rest of the state’s taxpayers, will produce a greater good.
Proposition DD (Statutory)
Boulder Weekly has been writing about Proposition DD for a while now. So this will be a short recap of why you should vote no on this proposition.
Here is the Prop DD wording on the ballot:
Shall state taxes be increased by twenty-nine million dollars annually to fund state water projects and commitments and to pay for the regulation of sports betting through licensed casinos by authorizing a tax on sports betting of ten percent of net sports betting proceeds, and to impose the tax on persons licensed to conduct sports betting?
Translation: Voting yes will make it legal to bet on sports in Colorado. The licensed casinos and online gaming sites that will profit from sports betting will be taxed to the tune of $29 million, most of which will go to fund state “water projects and commitments.”
We don’t care if you gamble on sports. We might have even supported this proposition if it were a stand-alone betting on sports proposition. If you want to lose your money betting the Broncos are about to turn their season around, be our guest.
All we ask is that you don’t destroy Colorado’s fragile natural environment in the process. And that is what Prop DD will do if passed.
Ask yourself this: What is a water project or a water commitment? We don’t know either because that is dangerously vague language.
Could be anything, right? The TV commercials would have you believe Prop DD is some kind of fundraiser for open space and saving our pristine lakes and rivers. But Prop DD is actually a plan to build more dams on our rivers and more reservoirs that can be used to support more development, more suburban sprawl and more wasteful green lawns in subdivisions.
And worse yet, some if not most of these water projects will involve diverting dangerous amounts of water from our last great rivers for commercial purposes including the Cache la Poudre and the badly endangered Colorado River Basin, which may already be doomed by global warming in the next few years. At a time when we should be passing laws to prevent additional diversions, Prop DD would actually make things worse for the environment in the Western U.S.
So what else could be considered a “water project” under Prop DD? Or put another way, how would you feel if we told you that Mr. Fracking, the oil and gas trickster himself, Josh Penry was a consultant pushing for the passage of Prop DD? Makes you wonder why that is, doesn’t it?
Passing the poorly worded Prop DD could help provide the millions of gallons of water it requires to frack every oil and gas well being drilled in Colorado even as global warming caused by these wells is threatening our rivers and lakes.
It’s no coincidence this proposition has been written in the vaguest terms possible. And when critics tried to have their concerns added to the Blue Book description of “why people oppose this bill” they were dismissed. The state’s monied interests want Prop DD to pass and they don’t care what the environmental cost will be. And don’t be confused by big greens supporting this proposition. A quick examination of where they get their millions in funding should clear up any confusion there.
Please join Boulder Weekly and the environmentally informed citizens of our state in voting no on Prop DD. We simply can’t continue to destroy our natural environment in the name of development.
Boulder County Question 1A (Coroner Term Limit Extension to Five Terms)
In a perfect world, there would be no need for term limits.
This is not a perfect world.
We endorsed extending the term limits for the office of Boulder County Sheriff because Joe Pelle has been an excellent sheriff and we might as well have him around as long as we can.
But not everyone is Joe Pelle.
We see no reason to extend the term limit for coroner, a move that would likely subject us to more years of having Emma Hall as the coroner. As we reported back in 2014, there were serious problems alleged under her watch. Employees told BW that morale was at an all-time low and much of that was because Hall refused to take actions against her then-contracted forensic pathologist, who many in Hall’s department claimed was acting inappropriately.
Despite the seriousness of the allegations being pressed by Hall’s staff nothing was done, at least not in the months leading up to her next election. Hall even went so far as to tell Boulder Weekly in 2014 that all was well and she believed the allegations were politically motivated. Despite holding this position through the election, Hall and her forensic pathologist parted ways shortly after the election. Boulder Weekly was later informed that the same behaviors that had caused problems in Hall’s office reappeared at her forensic pathologist’s subsequent position causing stress and confusion for yet another coroner and their staff. All of which could have been likely avoided with proper supervision and leadership from the Boulder County Coroner.
Hall’s office has also been accused of being extremely slow, which leaves the families whose loved ones have died in great distress for prolonged periods of time waiting to know what really happened.
(For more details on the 2014 allegations see “Dying for the truth,” June 12, 2014, and “The politics of death,” May 15, 2014.)
We think a four-term limit with no extension is by far the best thing for Boulder County residents. Vote no and bring in a new coroner and culture.
District Ballot Issue 6B: Four Mile Fire Protection
When the Gallagher Amendment passed in 1982, the intent was to balance the ratio between residential and commercial property taxes (45% for residential). While this has benefited residential property owners, it has diminished the amount of tax revenue generated to provide governmental resources. Adjusting mill levies is one way to “de-Gallagherize” primarily residential districts. Neither a yes nor a no on Ballot Issue 6B will immediately raise taxes or allow Four Mile to adjust their mill levies. But a yes will allow Four Mile Fire Protection that privilege in the future, should the residential assessment rate fall below 7.15%. A no vote will remove the possibility of increasing the mill levy in the future.