Letters & Corrections 10/14/21

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Corrections:

Vote Guide 2021,” published October 7, contained this inaccurate sentence: “That law says the council cannot amend an initiative passed by voters ‘provided that the amendments do not alter or modify the basic intent of such ordinance . . . ” It should have read “That law says the council can amend” an initiative subject to this provision. 

More compassion and caring, please

This is a response to recent writings about the “Safer Boulder” organization conversations and underlying, inhumane attitudes in this city and around the world. Just because some homes here may cost a million dollars or more now, Boulder is not a gated community. I have lived here for 53 years and it is a community of more and less financial wealth, pale and dark skin, very young to very old, outdoorsy and indoorsy people, and those who work in every imaginable profession. I must say, this special city, and the whole state, has changed a lot, and not for the better, in the last 11-15 years.

“So much of what we call abnormality in this culture [such as homelessness or addictions of all kinds] is actually normal responses to an abnormal culture. The abnormality does not reside in the pathology of individuals, but in the very culture that drives people into suffering and dysfunction.” —Dr. Gabor Maté 

Let us begin in our community of Boulder to foster a more normal caring and compassionate culture toward everyone who happens to be living their lives here at this time, whether it be in a million dollar home, on the streets, in a tent, an apartment, a mobile home, or a college dorm.  

R. Lawrence, RN/Boulder

CU South: Just undo it

My echinacea tea bag tag has a Vincent Van Gogh quote, “If one truly loves nature, one finds beauty everywhere.” As the area stands today, there are a thousand paintings, poems, and photographs waiting in the former wetland/gravel pit floodplain that the University wishes to develop as its “South Campus.” 

It is my wish everyone in Boulder, looking with Vincent’s eye, visits this site to see what will be destroyed should this project go forward. It will never be the same again. Intrinsic to its natural wonder is its open accessibility and availability of multiple footpaths to navigate the area. Again, all this will disappear if the university and the city council have their way. Construction traffic of out-of-town workers will further clog rush hour and the necessity for parking will consume acres of the site, and public access will disappear completely during the city’s flood mitigation efforts (which have yet to meet federal standards). 

Mitigating the flooding of houses built on a historic floodplain may well prove to be a fool’s undertaking. My crawlspace in Martin Acres flooded not from Skunk Creek overflowing its banks, but from soil saturation and groundwater rise. Rather than seeing the natural world as a source of beauty and inspiration of art, the vision of the university and of the city seem clouded with consumer dollar signs. We must stop eating the Earth. CU South/Just Undo It.  

Robert Porath/Boulder   

Takahashi walks the talk

For many years David Takahashi has been one of the most dedicated climate activists in Boulder, working both locally and statewide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He is well aware of the problem firsthand: he lost his original home in the Fourmile Canyon wildfire of 2010. And David walks the talk: He and his wife Emily have retrofitted their 60-year house to make it carbon-neutral (it is one of ten houses on the Boulder Green Home Tour). He is a very active member of more climate action groups than I can list, including Boulder’s Climate Mobilization Action Plan, GreenFaith, and the Regenerative Communities Network South Platte bioregional Council. Now he is running for the Boulder City Council, with the intention of making the whole city carbon-neutral. Given his knowledge and extensive experience, there is no better candidate to promote sustainability and healing our relationship with the earth. In the long run, there is no issue more important than that. We need David, and I know he will work hard for us.

David Loy/Boulder

Rethink minimum wage

I listened to the October 6 candidate for city council forum on KGNU. One question was if a candidate would support a $15 an hour minimum wage. Only David Takahashi had any compassion for small business owners, suggesting an investigation with input from the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, especially since many business owners are still suffering from Covid restrictions and revenue loss. 

One candidate stated that if a business could not afford to pay $15 an hour to employees, it probably wasn’t a viable business. What an ignorant and insensitive view!

I have run a small business for 30 years, and even though I love my employees and try to pay them well, it has taken years to build up my business to be able to pay them $15 an hour. I have only recently started paying myself more than $15 an hour. I know numerous small business owners in this same predicament, with overhead of insurances, taxes, rent, maintenance, etc. No one with five or fewer employees should have to pay a minimum wage.

It has become politically correct to feel sorry for employees (who deserve our compassion and support) and to blame employers (lumping corporate CEOs with small business owners.

Our country was built and still survives on the taxes and services of small businesses. Look behind the obvious for the true causes of the decline of the middle class and the plight of working folks.

Mikl Brawner/Boulder

Joan Peck a clear choice

Thank you for the extensive issue about Boulder County elections. Your description of the Longmont mayor’s race was of particular interest to me. You described Joan Peck, candidate for Longmont mayor, as a “tireless advocate for better transportation, and was voted into office in 2015 as a stronghand for environmental policy.” The article went on, “She has done the job well for six years, and  we believe she has Longmont’s best interest at heart.” She is the clear choice for voters who care about the environment. Joan has more council experience than the other two candidates and would represent the interests of our town best with her dedication, knowledge and.progressive advocacy. She has been a worker for the people of Longmont and will continue to do so as mayor. 

Bill Wilson/Longmont

Peck opposes metro districts

Joan Peck has long dedicated herself to making Longmont a better place for all.

She has achieved much, both as an intelligent and skillful private citizen, and as a two term at-large city councilwoman. One of the most important reasons for supporting Councilwoman Peck for Mayor is her opposition to Metro Districts, which are favored by another candidate.

METRO DISTRICTS are QUASI GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES that allow developers to tax the residents in their developments, taking control away from the residents and the city. People are lured by low initial taxes, which quickly multiply, sometimes forcing them out of their homes. Metro District developers boards can use the tax money as they wish, without homeowners’ approval or oversight by elected city officials. 

Joan Peck will solve problems, not create them. For her better ideas please visit https://joanpeckforlongmontmayor.com/about-joan.

Robert Dreher/Longmont

Bedrooms are for racial justice

Voting YES on Bedrooms are for People (BAFP) is an unequivocally progressive stance. Voting yes is the action of an ally to Boulder’s LGBTQ and black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) communities. It’s not necessary to review the racist origins of single-family zoning laws to see this: we can simply examine what is happening in Boulder today.

1) There is inequality in whose voice is heard. Many supporters of BAFP currently live over-occupied and quietly exist under the radar. The threat of eviction prevents them from sharing their experiences in op-eds and council meetings. 

It is not allyship when privileged people make decisions on behalf of the marginalized; allyship depends on listening to marginalized groups and including them in the policy-making process. The fear of reprisal and eviction prevents many from advocating for their housing needs, so BAFP works with local groups that understand their members’ needs and amplify their voices. The groups that have endorsed the BAFP measure include Boulder Housing Coalition, Emergency Family Assistance Allocation, Standing up for Racial Justice, Out Boulder County, Boulder Area Labor Council, and United Campus Workers Colorado.

2) Why should our government allow one type of household to be exempted from occupancy laws when others are not? For decades, the federal government has protected traditional families. The City of Boulder’s occupancy law expands on this preferential treatment by placing a strict occupancy limit on unrelated people. Unfortunately, for many people wanting to live in Boulder the dream of being able to marry, have children, and own a home for their nuclear family is just that: a dream. The picture painted by the 2020 Census and the fact that BIPOC are significantly less likely to be able to afford a home and more likely to be a single parent, shows that Boulder’s occupancy law promotes racial segregation.

The occupancy law also hits LGBTQ communities. Living with other adults beyond my partner is an important aspect in not only affording my home, but also in having a built-in community that people with a happy, traditional family may take for granted. Bedrooms are for People would reduce the disparity between traditional families and households like mine by basing occupancy law on the number of bedrooms in a house, not on the relationships of a home’s inhabitants.

3) There exists unequal enforcement and ongoing segregation. By maintaining such a strict occupancy limit in a city where the cost of living continues to rise, Boulder is guaranteeing that this law will be commonly broken. For decades, BIPOC have pointed out the consistent, and deeply problematic, unequal enforcement of laws. People may give the benefit of the doubt to neighbors that “fit in”, while closely scrutinizing and reporting on others who may not.

As our city works to make policing safer and more equitable, we also need to consider whether our current laws enable the removal of certain classes of people. Community groups endorsing BAFP understand that reforming Boulder’s occupancy law will help the most vulnerable in our communities live more securely and more stably. Maintaining “neighborhood character” should be rooted in compassion, not segregation.

4) Requiring bedrooms to remain empty during a housing crisis is a gross injustice. Supply and demand is the most basic principle guiding capitalistic markets. In Boulder, demand for a bedroom exceeds the supply of legal bedrooms and BAFP is an easy way to ameliorate the situation without building any new bedrooms or houses. Indeed, Emergency Family Assistance Allocation endorsed BAFP stating: “the most common thing for families to do when they lose housing is to ‘double up’ with another family—which is often illegal under Boulder’s current laws.” Let’s make it legal for Boulder residents to “double up” when they need to.

The Bedrooms are for People measure diminishes codified preferences for specific types of households, legalizes the accommodations that working-class and low-income residents need, and embodies Boulder’s lofty goal of becoming more inclusive, tolerant, and progressive. Vote yes for justice and progress in Boulder, VOTE YES for Measure 300 Bedrooms are for People.

Neesha Regmi Schnepf/Boulder

Still unclear on the Bedrooms ballot measure

I was really looking for information from BW on how to vote on Bedrooms are for People. After reading the editorial that recommended FOR, it made me want to vote AGAINST, because much of the article was about how the measure could be fixed after the fact to explicitly include affordability. This speaks to the larger tension I feel between progressive goals and identity in Boulder and the real outcomes I see after living here for 30 years. Maybe crony capitalist profit-driven real estate markets can not create the community that many desire. We try, tinkering around the edges with small percentages and affordable housing programs that squeeze buyers between qualifying for the program and a mortgage. Development continues in every available space and still for the vast majority of people that would like to live, work and raise a family here, demand will always outstrip supply, perpetually raising prices unless and until we destroy the environment and make it unpleasant enough with our planning or lack thereof that people do not want to live here anymore. Maybe we can make truly radical progressive choices with the precious land that is not yet commercially developed while changing incentives. Are there ideas that only destroy private profit incentive but provide a diverse sustainable community? Ideas that I do not hear much about are: condemning property, rent control, owner occupancy rules, real estate transfer tax, higher city minimum wage, car regulation, public works projects for housing, tiny home villages, safely managed campgrounds within city limits, and housing co-op designations and support. Can the powers that be even let these and other more informed ideas be entertained?  Also, I still don’t know how to vote on 300. When in doubt, I think it is a good practice to follow the money and to get a sense of the scope of the effect of the measure. What is the money trail for the ballot measure? How many three or more bedroom rental houses currently have empty bedrooms? Thank you.

Barbara Bradley / Boulder

Twice-bitten by occupancy limits

Boulder has a housing crisis due to restrictive zoning and occupancy limits, and it has been hurting poorer and single people like me in the community for decades. I’ve been a resident of Boulder since I moved here for college in 2001, and have been living here almost continuously since that time. For nearly that entire period, I’ve had to live illegally in the town I call home because of the discriminatory three-person occupancy limit which Bedrooms are for People, Ballot Measure 300, would change to allow higher occupancy in larger residences. 

In 2014, I was living with several friends in a five-bedroom in Martin Acres, when the dreaded yellow code enforcement notice appeared on our door. A neighbor, who had never spoken to us, and with whom we had no recourse, reported us because they were angry about our cars parked on the street. We were left with no choice but to break our lease and move out before the city started legal proceedings against us, and it was devastating both personally and financially. A nearly identical sequence of events occurred again in 2018 at another four-bedroom house in North Boulder: a complaint about parking, then a police search of our home, followed by a painful forced breakup of my community.

This ordinance has disrupted my life twice now and I am far from the only law-abiding, taxpaying Boulder resident who has had this experience. It forces people to live in the shadows in a supposedly progressive city, upends the lives of people who are already struggling, and forces more people to commute into Boulder—worsening traffic and pollution. The three-person occupancy cap causes more harm than it prevents. Voting yes on 300 is the right thing to do.

Kevin McWilliams / Boulder

An argument for efficiency

As an engineer, I’m trained to think about efficiency: getting the greatest possible benefit from a given amount of resources. As an environmentalist, efficiency is my obsession. Producing and consuming resources almost always has ecological costs, so to minimize the resources we need, and hence those costs, we should use them as efficiently as possible.

This is why I support Bedrooms are for People, which at its heart is about making it legal to use housing resources (better known as bedrooms) efficiently. The existing law actually mandates inefficient use of housing for unrelated people. At a time when we have colliding climate and housing crises, this is unconscionable. In terms of efficiency, it’s analogous to a law prohibiting car-pooling.

Please join me in voting to allow efficient use of our housing stock. Please vote YES on ballot measure 300, Bedrooms are for People.

Kurt Nordback/Boulder

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