Letters: June 4, 2020

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Dismantle systems of oppression

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and it does seem to me that notwithstanding all these social agencies and activities there is not that vigilance which should be exercised in the preservation of our rights.” — Ida B. Wells 

Our community and our nation are in pain. In the midst of a crippling pandemic, acts of racism, injustice and inequity continue. It is our responsibility, as active members in our democratic process, to be vigilant in the pursuit and preservation of human rights. 

The League of Women Voters of Boulder County acknowledges the fear, anxiety, anger and exhaustion among those who each day experience the impacts of racism on personal and institutional levels. We also acknowledge the sadness and feelings of helplessness among those who may not fully understand or experience racism or disenfranchisement, but want to “do something.” 

We encourage our local government leaders to adopt and/or deepen commitments to avoid creating or exacerbating race disparities and burdens, and help avoid further trauma for people of color. And, we encourage our members and allies to join us as we continue to understand and dismantle racism and inequity in our own organization by honestly examining racism in our history and practices; increasing our anti-racism capacity and competency; and ensuring our advocacy and service activities are rooted in inclusion and equity. 

The systems of oppression that have perpetuated the myth of white supremacy in our country must be dismantled if we are ever to become the nation we pledge to be — indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Toward a “more perfect union,” we will continue our work to empower voters and defend democracy so that our political systems work for all people. We are thankful for our members and partners who help hold us accountable toward this goal. 

Elizabeth Crowe, co-president (incoming) of League of Women Voters of Boulder County

Muni was never that popular

Matt Cortina wrote an article published in the May 21 edition sporting the headline: “Why is Boulder pursuing a partnership with Xcel when residents have repeatedly voted in support of the muni?”

As anyone who kept an eye on it knows, the muni was going down in flames until at the last minute New Era Colorado sent volunteers and vans up to the CU campus along with a bunch of free pizzas, coaxed students into the vans then drove them to the polls. Many had no idea what the muni vote was about but were “educated” on the way while they munched their free slices.

Previously, it was New Era Colorado’s doing in 2011 when they went door to door ballot-harvesting from CU students. Without the student votes, 2b and 2c would have failed. The muni won that time by a whopping 141 last-minute votes from kids who will believe anything as long as they don’t have to pay for it.

So to answer your question, Matt, it was the transient Boulder residents and not the ones who live under overpasses and by the creek path — the CU students who for the most part are no longer living in Boulder. They pushed the muni vote to a razor thin victory in the eleventh hour.

They could move on with their lives while Boulder taxpayers were left to accept $33 million dollars (so far) having been flushed down the proverbial toilet and nothing to show for it except having made some lawyers rich and Heather Bailey a millionaire.

Don Wrege/Boulder

Municipalization supports virus financial recovery 

Due to the virus, Boulder’s economy is facing the new reality of a significant financial crisis for an extended period. This article “stands up” the position that a critical benefit of municipalization is that it can serve as an “economic engine” in support of achieving financial recovery from this crisis.    

Specifically, municipalization supports securing direct and indirect financial benefits. The direct financial benefits include lower customer utility bills, elimination of Xcel profit-taking and lower costs of utility capital. The indirect benefits result from the direct savings remaining and recirculating in the Boulder economy (not exported to Xcel’s Minneapolis HQ).

The business model of municipalization offers local control, democratic decision-making and accountability all focused on the best interests of Boulder. Xcel is a corporation focused on profits and is allowed to operate without competition as a regulated monopoly. The vulnerability of this regulatory monopoly system is that the utility being regulated can “game” the process. It is the state’s legacy regulated monopoly utility governance system and Xcel that are driving utility costs up. 

Xcel is reimbursed for its corporate investments primarily through its customer electric rates. Since the electric rates increase as the size of the rate base increases, the name of the game for Xcel is to grow the rate base. The rate base is the total dollar amount of the investments plus Xcel’s “rate of return” (profit). Xcel has a successful history of maximizing the rate base by regularly securing PUC approval to add billions of dollars in questionable investments.    

The investments included in the rate base are funded either by equity (Xcel cash) or debt (bond sales). The current equity rate of return is a guaranteed 9.83%. The debt rate of return is 4.67% (50% higher than the 3+% City rate). Any municipalization financing would be through debt financing (bonds). Municipalization would provide for a lower cost of capital for investments by eliminating the use of the high cost equity financing and exclusively using its lower cost debt financing. 

Here is data based on a comparative use of renewable energy that supports the expectation that electric rates under municipalization would be lower. Boulder’s goal is to utilize renewables-sourced power approaching 100% by 2030. Xcel’s “locked in” fossil fuel use is 46% for 2027. For a 2018 73% fossil use, Xcel’s current cost of power represents over 60% of current rates. Based on the current 10+ cents/kWh residential rate, six cents would be Xcel’s embedded cost of power. Boulder expects to secure renewable power at around 3 cents. You do the math. 

Xcel annually extracts profits of over $23 million from Boulder’s economy. This annual avoidance of some $23 million in extracted profits would return in under two years Boulder’s total investment to date in municipalization. 

 Indirect financial benefits would result from the direct utility savings remaining in the Boulder economy. These dollars would recirculate in the Boulder economy resulting in an economic development multiplier of an estimated 3-to-1. For example, elimination of Xcel profit-taking of some $23M annually would generate over $60M of Boulder economic activity. 

It will primarily be up to City government under the leadership of the Council to identify and implement ongoing solutions. We are at an economic “inflection point” and an “all hands on deck” approach for Boulder to effectively manage this crisis is the prudent course of action.  

Bob Westby/Boulder