Welcome to Boulder Weekly’s 2020 Vote Guide. As always, we are providing our endorsements for every election and issue Boulder County voters will see on their ballots this year.
Our process for making decisions has been similar to those of previous election cycles — editors at BW reach out to candidates running for national, state and local offices; conduct interviews with those who agree to chat; then meet as an editorial board and make endorsements. We follow a similar process with state and local ballot questions, conducting interviews with groups for and against measures, when applicable, while conducting research to determine potential motives and outcomes of ballot questions.
While some news organizations have opted not to endorse in elections anymore, we choose to continue endorsing candidates because, well, it’s important.
We know that most of you don’t have time to have substantive conversations with every single person running for office, research often convoluted ballot questions or attend debates and forums, even if they’re on Zoom. We think it’s our obligation to do this time-consuming work on your behalf. Also, you deserve to know where we stand. 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 we endorse. Far from it. You’ll notice that pretty quickly into our list of endorsements.
We should also note that we have certainly endorsed candidates and issues we later regretted. We do the best we can and have no qualms about later admitting we were wrong. Please feel free to send us letters telling us why you believe we are wrong (or right) and we’ll make sure they get published in a timely fashion.
Lastly: Please vote. You might be feeling cynical about the political process right now, and we wouldn’t blame you. Though we are confident in our state’s voting (-by-mail) system, we don’t know what the current administration and its network of supporters across the country are going to do come Election Day and the weeks that follow. It’s important you vote, vote early and vote properly. Visit bouldercounty.org/elections to find out how.
Joseph R. Biden / Kamala D. Harris (D)
Donald J. Trump / Michael R. Pence (R)
Don Blankenship / William Mohr (American Constitution)
Bill Hammons / Eric Bodenstab (Unity)
Howie Hawkins / Angela Nicole Walker (Green)
Blake Huber / Frank Atwood (App. Voting)
Jo Jorgensen / Jeremy “Spike” Cohen (L)
Brian Carroll / Amar Patel (Am. Solidarity)
Mark Charles / Adrian Wallace (Unaff’d)
Phil Collins / Billy Joe Parker (Prohibition)
Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente / Darcy G. Richardson (Alliance)
Dario Hunter / Dawn Neptune Adams (Progressive)
Princess Khadijah Maryam Jacob-Fambro / Khadijah Maryam Jacob Sr. (Unaff’d)
Alyson Kennedy / Malcolm Jarrett (Socialist Workers)
Joseph Kishore / Norissa Santa Cruz (Socialist Equality)
Kyle Kenley Kopitke / Nathan Re Vo Sorenson (Independent American)
Gloria La Riva / Sunil Freeman (Socialism and Liberation)
Joe McHugh / Elizabeth Storm (Unaff’d)
Brock Pierce / Karla Ballard (Unaff’d)
Jordan “Cancer” Scott / Jennifer Tepool (Unaff’d)
Kanye West / Michelle Tidball (Unaff’d)
There are two choices for president this year. We know the list has almost two dozen names, but, pardon our cynicism, only two have a shot at winning: Joe Biden and Donald Trump. That’s the system right now. And if you don’t vote for Biden, you are voting for Trump.
Maybe you’re OK with that. Maybe you’re OK giving your vote to a person who can’t disavow white supremacy in front of the entire country, and who says we can’t trust our election system this year.
But more than likely, BW reader, you’re not OK with that. You’re not OK with Trump nor the family separations nor the environmental destruction nor the pandering to racists nor the abysmal pandemic response nor the tax cuts for the wealthy nor anything, we surmise, he’s done in the last four years.
But you may also think Biden’s record on race and crime is flawed (it is), and that he doesn’t share the vision of the next generation of progressives (he doesn’t), and that electing a 77-year-old white, male, entrenched politician with a checkered, often illiberal voting record is uninspiring (it is).
But the threat of four more years of Trump is too dangerous to ignore. America is not guaranteed. This country is as divided as it has been in decades, and though Biden is unlikely to bring us together in four or eight years, he’ll at least keep the chasm from growing wider.
Biden may not bring us Medicare for All or the Green New Deal or universal basic income or bold criminal justice or immigration reform or anything close to the progressive ideal. But maybe, the panels he set up with Bernie Sanders have moved his platform to the left. Maybe let’s assume Biden will push the country closer to the vision we have for it than Trump will. And maybe in doing so, he’ll set the stage for more progressives to bring fresh ideas to politics at every level in the future.
Biden, at the very least, is a decent person. Take him at his word that he decided to run after the white supremacist rally and killing in Charlottesville. And compare that to the words our president said — or didn’t say — at the first debate.
There are people in this country that need Biden to win. They need him because they have pre-existing conditions and need affordable health insurance or because they can’t return to their countries of origin for fear of death or because their drinking water is poisoned and they need federal support now. Vote for them. Vote for Joe Biden.
John Hickenlooper (D)
Cory Gardner (R)
Daniel Doyle (Approval Voting)
Stephen “Seku” Evans (Unity)
Raymon Anthony Doane (L)
Look, a Biden presidency without a blue Senate is going to be frustrating. More frustrating, it would appear to us, than endorsing John Hickenlooper for Senate.
We still don’t trust Hick on the environment, and we’re still digging out of the oil and gas predicament he created while he was governor.
But we think he’ll move the needle on a variety of issues that have long been swept under the rug in Washington — gun reform, instituting a national public health option and marijuana decriminalization — while also righting wrongs from the Trump administration: inhumane immigration and asylum policies, funding cuts for public education, and allowing the economy for everyday people and small business owners to flounder.
At the very least, Hickenlooper is not Cory Gardner, who votes with Trump almost 90% of the time, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis, and who would assuredly stagnate a President Biden’s already limited agenda.
We think voting for Hick is imperative for liberal-minded folks, but if you just can’t wrap your head around putting a check next to his name on your ballot, Libertarian Raymon Doane is a state Department of Revenue employee who has good ideas: Congressional term limits, environmental justice initiatives, ending foreign wars and criminal justice reform. Though we can’t endorse Hickenlooper with enthusiasm, we can fully support flipping the Senate. To do that, vote for Hickenlooper.
Representative to the 115th U.S. Congress — District 2
Joe Neguse (D)
Charles Winn (R)
Thom Atkinson (L)
Gary Swing (Unity)
We’re pleased with the work Joe Neguse has done in his first term in Congress. A vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Neguse has introduced more legislation than any other freshman lawmaker in the country.
Of course, quantity wouldn’t mean much if there weren’t quality in those bills. Luckily, that’s not the case. Neguse has sponsored bills to support frontline health workers and prevent price-gouging during the pandemic. He’s pushed for environmental protections in light of a feckless EPA under the Trump administration, while also promoting affordable housing measures and supporting those in the immigrant community. He’s also sponsored bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Don’t think twice; Rep. Neguse is your best choice for CD-2.
Representative to the 115th U.S. Congress — District 4
Ike McCorkle (D)
Ken Buck (R)
Bruce Griffith (L)
Laura Ireland (Unity)
Colorado’s CD-4 covers all of Eastern Colorado, but dips into Longmont, bubbles around and east of Denver, then back into Parker. That geography means it would take a unique Democrat to win the seat, currently occupied by Ken Buck. We think Isaac “Ike” McCorkle is the person to do it.
McCorkle is a Marine Corps veteran and a Purple Heart-recipient who’s earned the endorsement of environmental, labor and veteran groups. He supports the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. He vows to fight to overturn Citizens United while pushing for bold campaign finance reform. And he vows to dismantle inhumane deportation programs and detention centers.
How’re all these ideas playing in Eastern Colorado, with its heavy agricultural and oil and gas presence? McCorkle says he’s finding common ground by focusing on the future, a currently transitioning economy and proposing a universal basic income, for instance. His support of affordable health care is resonating with voters who are struggling to pay thousand of dollars or more, in monthly premiums.
McCorkle supports a green energy future that ensures a just transition for the people who work in those fields. Talking about addressing climate change also resonates with farmers who endured another year in drought.
Statewide/Local Elected Offices
CU Regent — District 2
Callie Rennison (D)
Dick Murphy (R)
Christian Vernaza (L)
The University of Colorado Board of Regents has held a Republican majority for several decades; currently, five of the nine regents are Republican. In recent years, Republican regents John Carson, Heidi Ganahl and Sue Sharkey have publicly pushed for more conservative viewpoints on campus, with Sharkey going so far as to claim that conservative faculty feel afraid to express their viewpoints on campus. Right now, in the District 6 regent race, Republican Richard Murray has based his whole campaign on not allowing Democrats to take control of the Board (“I will do everything in my power to prevent that from happening,” he said on his Facebook page).
Recently, Republican regents have called for regular measurement of the political climate on campus, development of campus programs centered on conservative thought, and hiring faculty to teach conservative thinking — despite research that shows 96% of CU students already reporting “respectful, non-judgemental learning environments,” and national research of recent college graduates reporting an appreciation for all political viewpoints.
The conservative push by the Regents seemed to come to a head late in 2019 with the appointment of Mark Kennedy as CU president. The Republican former congressman from Minnesota served less than three years as president of the University of North Dakota, a non-research university less than one-third the size of CU-Boulder. His conservative track record and limited experience — coupled with an egregious lack of transparency from the Regents regarding the presidential selection process — led to journalistic investigations that revealed candidates with more experience and closer ties to CU failed to make the cut.
BW does not endorse a Democratic takeover of the Board of Regents; rather, we endorse a Board that focuses on affordability, accessibility, transparency and, above all, high-quality educational experiences over political engineering. We believe this is what Callie Rennison will bring to the Board.
Rennison is a first-generation college graduate in her family. She has served as a statistician in the Department of Justice during the Clinton and Bush administrations before she transitioned into higher education, first at the University of Missouri and later at the University of Colorado Denver as associate Dean of Faculty Affairs in the School of Public Affairs, and later as the Director of Equity and Title IX Coordinator at the Anschutz Medical Campuses. She is focused on making the CU system more affordable and accessible.
Rennison believes that legislation like the Gallagher Amendment and TABOR have contributed heavily to the increasing cost of tuition in the CU system and should be repealed; while Rennison is aware that Regents cannot control these measures, she believes it’s critical for Regents to openly discuss repealing such legislation. With experience inside the CU system, she understands that costs could be further reduced by consolidating poorly performing departments and — perhaps most importantly — making cuts to middle and upper management in the system.
As Director of Equity and Title IX Coordinator, Rennison believes that the CU system could do more to manage what she calls “unchecked bad behavior,” behavior that doesn’t meet the requirement for sexual assault but still creates an unhealthy environment for learning or working. She also believes that with better management of financial resources and lower tuition costs, the CU system could further diversify its students, staff and faculty.
While Rennison agrees that the University system should allow right-wing conservative speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos on campus, she feels that Regents have an obligation to speak out against any messages of racism or sexism.
Rennison says she’s been asked if she will work to remove Mark Kennedy if elected, and she says that’s not her goal; rather, she wants to ensure Kennedy does his job in a way that best serves the CU system, and create a culture of transparency on the Board of Regents that doesn’t allow for another clandestine appointment like Kennedy’s.
State Senator — District 17
Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D)
Matthew D. Menza (R)
We endorsed Sonya Jaquez Lewis in 2018 when she ran for State Representative, and we’re doing so again in the race to succeed Mike Foote in the State Senate this year. As a state rep, Lewis sponsored gun reform, prescription drug and pollinator protection legislation to better regulate the firearms, pharmaceutical and pesticide industries. Additionally, she worked with her party to pass SB-181 to further regulate the oil and gas industry, and as part of the Latinx caucus, she worked on SB-207, the state’s police accountability bill. When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, she helped ensure federal relief money went toward housing, utility bill payment and food pantry assistance, as well as behavioral health services.
As with all Democrats currently serving in the State House and on the ballot this year, we hope Lewis takes stronger and more immediate action to address the climate crisis. In the Senate, Lewis hopes to continue this work and help shape more policy directly related to public health, reducing emissions and developing innovative renewable energy sources, like community solar gardens.
That said, Matt Menza is truly an “unconventional” Republican candidate, and we think he has some interesting ideas. He wants to increase funding for mental health, including incentivizing more people to work in the field, by folding it into a more comprehensive health care plan. He’s also gone against his party for supporting the Affordable Care Act until lawmakers find a better option.
He wants to pay teachers more by reducing school administration spending and salaries. He wants the state to approach the search for alternative energy sources like the space race of last century, focusing efforts on developing technological solutions to address climate change, not just focusing on reducing emissions. While we do agree with Menza that Boulder County lacks political diversity especially when it comes to elected officials, ultimately, we don’t agree with his view on taxation and the limited role of government when addressing and funding significant public needs and services.
State Senator — District 18
Steve Fenberg (D)
Peg Cage (R)
With four years under his belt, Majority Leader Steve Fenberg quickly ascended his party’s leadership ladder when the Democrats won control of the state senate in 2018. Since then, he’s been behind much of the party’s efforts at the State House. He’s spent a lot of time working on regulatory and emission reduction efforts of the energy sector, including a technical restructuring of the Public Utilities Committee (PUC), increasing air quality monitoring resources and creating independent review board he drafted with researcher Detlev Helmig. He was also a prime sponsor on SB-181. To the last point, we understand SB-181 incorporated a lot of previous oil and gas regulatory ballot measures that failed to pass, and for that we’re grateful. At the same time, given what we know about the climate crisis, much more aggressive action is needed from our state legislators, including Fenberg, although he says he’s equally frustrated at the slow implementation of these laws.
Fenberg has worked on election access and reform, including sponsoring the bills that allow parolees to vote and 17-year-olds to participate in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general election, both of which became law, as well as student debt reform. However, he still has more he wants to do, like creating a student loan forgiveness program and more adequately addressing the state’s fiscal situation by reforming TABOR to better fund education and transportation, the latter of which he also wants to explore new sources of funding for improving roads and public infrastructure.
We endorsed Fenberg in 2016 despite his campaign’s funding from establishment Dems, many of whom are behind “The Blueprint” strategy that not only helped flip Colorado, but did so without a lot of transparency. This year, however, those high-profile donors are missing from Fenberg’s contribution filings, and while national and state insurance, concrete and business PACs have contributed to his campaign, he also has the support of local labor, education and fire unions. In the end, he seems to be focused on what matters most to Boulder County residents. Without taking a future political career off the table, he told BW, “I don’t ever want to decide how to vote on a bill through the lens of how it would affect the next election.” We’re taking him at his word.
State Representative — District 10
Edie Hooton (D)
Kenneth J. Stickney (R)
Edie Hooton is a progressive voice at the State House, working on issues important to those of us in Boulder County. Since first elected in 2016, she’s led the charge on mobile home park regulations, sponsoring legislation that allows mobile homeowners to lodge complaints against parks at the state level, form HOAs and have the first right of refusal if their park goes up for sale, as well as updating the laws that govern mobile home parks. She helped pass a slew of bills providing and expanding access to medical marijuana, including adding autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for those under 21 and allowing its prescription for chronic pain in lieu of opioids.
In 2020, her main legislation focused on community choice energy — although it ultimately failed to go to appropriations due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the idea is that it would pave the way for communities across Colorado to procure and purchase energy from alternative sources, other than the local investor-owned electric utility, but without upending the local utility’s current status as sole supplier of transmission, distribution and customer service functions.
Essentially under such a system, communities, like Boulder, could meet their renewable energy goals without having to wait on companies like Xcel to transition or go through a lengthy municipalization process. Hooton is committed to bringing it back if reelected, with some slight changes. She also isn’t in favor of Boulder Ballot Issue 2C, the franchise agreement with Xcel, which Boulder voters are considering this year, but did say the two are not mutually exclusive.
She plans to continue pushing the state legislature on the things most important in Boulder, as she says most of the opposition she’s faced is within her own party. Climate and racial justice, mental health parity, expungement of non-violent cannabis convictions, and expanding funding for homeless youth service providers are just some of the things she hopes to accomplish in the next term.
State Representative — District 11
Karen McCormick (D)
Mark Milliman (R)
In 2018, Karen McCormick challenged incumbent Ken Buck in the CD-4 U.S. House race, winning nearly 40% of the vote in the traditionally red district. But, the idea of serving in the Colorado State House suits her much better, she tells BW, as it’s more direct representative work with the ability to enact legislation much quicker.
As a veterinarian and small businessperson, McCormick wants to focus her time at the capitl on health care and building resiliency for future public health emergencies, especially the potential economic fallout. And she wants to continue to move Colorado toward a progressive graduated tax policy in order to meet deep needs for education, transportation and mental health funding. And as a mom of a non-binary child, she wants to continue building equity around LGBTQ civil rights.
When it comes to climate change, she’s volunteered for years with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, hoping to influence members of Congress on climate policy and convince them to enact a national carbon tax. On the state level, she’s supportive of the recent Democratic push to enact climate legislation. She’s not as hard on the oil and gas industry as we would like, supporting natural gas until we can transition further to renewables, and we’re disappointed about that.
Still, she thinks there’s more to be done including further regulating emission standards when it comes to the transportation and agricultural sectors, as well as pushing for alternatives like community solar gardens and storage.
While McCormick isn’t as progressive on eliminating the use of fossil fuels as we would like, it seems she has both the professional and personal experience to make significant contributions to public health, mental health and LGBTQ policies, and she has our support.
State Representative — District 12
Tracey Bernett (D)
Eric Davila (R)
Although new to the ballot, Tracey Bernett is not new to politics, being involved at the grassroots, local and state Democratic party level for years. She’s a mom, a world-class runner and an engineer with a Harvard MBA. She’s adamantly opposed to fracking operations near schools and homes in Boulder County, especially seeing as both she and her son have asthma and are affected by the state’s low air quality. She wants to transition the state to renewable energy as quickly as possible while holding the oil and gas industry accountable for the full costs of damages fracking imposes on public health and the environment, and get rid of industry subsidies. In the meantime, she’s advocating for constant air-quality monitoring at all drilling sites (paid for by the industry of course but independently monitored), and investing in sustainable, green energy job creation to help in a just transition.
She also wants to lead the fight to end TABOR and address equity gaps across the state like access to health care, gender pay, high-quality education and affordable housing. On that last point, she served on the Board of the OUR Center during the great recession and on Boulder County’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness Advisory Board more than a decade ago. She supports a Housing First philosophy, but she also recognizes that homelessness solutions are not one-size-fits-all for every community and wants to work on introducing measures that will increase permanent supportive housing, micro-apartments and other innovative affordable housing ideas. A self-described policy wonk, she’s volunteered with both Mike Foote and Faith Winter at the capitol as well.
We believe Bernett will continue the progressive work of past legislators from District 12.
State Representative — District 13
Kevin Sipple (R)
Judith Amabile (D)
James Gilman (L)
Democrat Judy Amabile was motivated to run for state representative while testifying at the capitol in favor of 2019’s Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation, otherwise known as the red flag gun law, seeing as one of her sons has a severe mental illness and she’s worked tirelessly to prevent him from purchasing a gun. Unsurprisingly, if elected Amabile will focus on preventing gun violence further and she has big plans to address the lack of mental health resources through a community based mental health paradigm (as opposed to a criminal justice one, as is the current practice), which will in turn help address other crisis like high incarceration rates, homelessness, drug addiction and high suicide rates across the state. She also wants to address income inequality through a progressive graduated tax rate, while ensuring that monied interests don’t have an outsized voice in state politics.
On climate change, she wants to work on creating and allowing for more storage opportunities as it becomes more and more economical to move away from fossil fuels. And as the founder and owner of Boulder-based Polar Bottle, a reusable water bottle made for cyclists (and from plastic dependent on oil production), Amabile wants to incentivize more clean business practices across the state while encouraging rural communities to diversify their economic dependence on fossil fuel production. She also wants to address the use of “PFAS,” or forever chemicals, which the Water Quality Control Commission recently committed to better regulating. She also wants to bolster water management plans of streams and rivers throughout the state to reduce drought risk while expanding the use of regenerative agriculture which is less dependent on water.
Although we wish she would take a stronger stance against the oil and gas industry (as we do for most Democratic candidates on this ballot), her priorities are in the right place and we think Judy Amabile will contribute to creating a more fair and equitable state.
State Representative — District 33
Matt Gray (D)
Mindy Quiachon (R)
Representing Broomfield, Superior and Erie, transportation is of particular concern to District 33 and Matt Gray has spent a lot of his time at the capitol working on just that. He currently serves as the Chair of the Local Government & Transportation Committee, a role he will continue if reelected, although addressing budget shortfalls in this area have proven elusive for legislators, especially this year as COVID-19 all but eliminated traffic congestion on U.S. 36 and beyond. While he acknowledges the challenges, Gray has been focused on creating coalitions of local governments to increase funding for transportation infrastructure where there is political will. He also wants to see additional transportation revenue streams as we move away from old policies like the gas tax, and toward things like incentivizing electric vehicle use and infrastructure, and instituting fees on big transportation users like freight trucks, rideshare companies and delivery services.
This also plays into his work addressing the climate crisis, of which he sees transitioning our transportation system as a key component. He supports the efforts of the party on regulating the oil and gas industry but remains firm that they need to continue honoring their climate goals. He also wants to do more when it comes to supporting the transition of homes and commercial spaces away from gas heating systems.
With a background in public finance, he’s also spent a lot of time at the capitol working on addressing issues with the state’s tax policy and strongly supports repealing the Gallagher Amendment in order to better fund both education and transportation. When it comes to racial justice, Gray, as a former prosecutor, supported the police reform bill passed this summer but wants the legislature to expand that work to other systems to address inequality in other sectors like education, housing and health care.
Gray’s work at the State House has prioritized the issues of his district and he continues to have our support.
District Attorney — 20th Judicial District
Michael Dougherty (D)
Michael Dougherty was appointed as District Attorney for Colorado’s 20th Judicial District in 2018 after Stan Garnett left office for private practice. While he’s running uncontested (not uncommon for an incumbent DA), Dougherty’s track record makes it easy to endorse him for his first full-term.
He came to the office with experience, having served as prosecutor for 12 years with the Manhattan DA’s Office before coming to Colorado in 2009 to head up the Colorado DNA Justice Review Project, an effort that led to the exoneration of an innocent man wrongly convicted of murder. Dougherty served as the second-in-command for the DA’s Office for Jefferson and Gilpin Counties until Gov. John Hickenlooper* tapped him for Boulder County District Attorney in 2018. In his two years as DA, Dougherty has focused on expanding restorative justice programs, broadening mental health resources, and prioritizing violent crimes over minor offenses like drug charges. When citizens of Boulder gathered downtown this summer to protest police brutality that led to the deaths of black Americans like George Floyd, Elijah McClain and countless others, Dougherty marched with them.
* The original version of this blurb incorrectly named Jared Polis as the governor who appointed Michael Dougherty as DA for the 20th Judicial District. Our apologies.
Regional Transportation District (RTD) Director — District I
After eight years in the position, current RTD District I Director Judy Lubow is term-limited as of Dec. 31. But the only candidate who planned to run for Lubow’s seat this year didn’t get enough valid signatures to secure a place on the ballot.
State law requires that the county with the highest number of eligible electors within the district fill a vacancy via appointment — that’s Boulder County in District I. So sitting Boulder County Commissioners (Deb Gardner, Elise Jones and Matt Jones) will be choosing a District I director to serve until 2022.
RTD has asked the Commissioners that the vacancy be filled “on or before Nov. 3.”
Colorado Supreme Court Justice
Melissa Hart: Retain
Carlos A. Samour Jr.: Retain
Colorado Court of Appeals
Ted C. Tow III: Retain
Craig R. Welling: Retain
District Court, 20th Judicial District
Ingrid Seftar Bakke: Retain
Patrick D. Butler: Retain
Judith L. LaBuda: Retain
Andrew Ross Macdonald: Retain
Nancy Woodruff Salomone: Retain
County Court Judge
Jonathon P. Martin: Retain
This year’s Boulder County ballots include four statewide and six local judge retention questions. If a judge is removed by a majority “No” vote, a bipartisan commission submits candidates to Governor Jared Polis and his staff, and someone new is appointed.
This year, we recommend all judges on the ballot be retained. BW recommendations are based on the information provided in the 2020 State Ballot Information Booklet (the Blue Book), authored by the Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation (COPJE) and our research into the judges’ previous evaluations and written opinions.
County Commissioner — District 1
Cinda Lou Kochen (R)
Claire Levy (D)
County Commissioners have a role in developing many of the policies that shape the culture of a community: zoning regulations, property tax assessment and collection, funding for law enforcement programs and judicial administration as well as subsidized housing, not to mention maintaining roads, bridges and parks. In recent years, Boulder County Commissioners have helped keep oil and gas extraction operations off County lands through moratoriums; they’ve considered public health by banning GMOs on County-owned lands; they’ve fought against Denver Water as it tried to push an expansion of Gross Reservoir through without public comment or local review by the Commissioners; and they’ve focused on sustainability by proposing a new composting facility south of Longmont.
County Commissioner is a tough job that requires deep and broad knowledge on a number of complex topics. We think Claire Levy is up to the task.
Levy has more than 25 years of experience serving Boulder County as a volunteer, legislator, policy advocate and community activist. She spent three terms serving House District 13 (Boulder and other counties) in the Colorado legislature. She currently serves on the board of Boulder Housing Partners and on the statewide Access to Justice Commission.
Levy believes people are currently looking toward local government to take responsibility for the environment, income inequality and racial justice, so these are her main areas of focus.
Where housing is concerned, Levy admits that municipalities are in the driver’s seat, but she would like to see the Boulder County Commissioners work with municipalities to create better inclusionary housing ordinances. She also says the county can be “helpful directly in preserving mobile home communities in unincorporated Boulder County.”
As a commissioner, Levy would like to ensure that County land use policies aren’t limiting the possibility to site and develop solar gardens: “The small scale delivery we need to be able to move to renewable energy.” She would also like to move the County’s vehicle fleet to electric.
While Levy admits that “the source of income inequality is a lot of policies that are completely beyond the control of the county, like weakened unions and strengthened corporate power,” she believes the county can help with its contracting policies and favoring union shops when it does capital construction. She wants the county to look at creating a countywide minimum wage that’s higher than the state requires.
County Commissioner — District 2
Marta Loachamin (D)
James T. Crowder (R)
We endorse Marta Loachamin for County Commissioner District 2 — as do a slew of other progressive politicians from Boulder County, including all the current County Commissioners. Marta’s key policy foci include accessible housing, community and environmental health, expanded economic opportunity, mitigating climate change, ensuring social justice, and prudent stewardship and resources management.
Loachamin has wide experience: As a real estate agent, she’s been a member of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals for numerous years; she’s served on the City of Longmont Multicultural Action Committee (LMAC) Advisory Board for almost a decade in various capacities; she’s been a teacher in both the St. Vrain School District and overseas; as a single mother she worked her way through CU-Boulder while raising her children and simultaneously advocating for CU to create its Ethnic Studies Department (which it did in 1996); she’s worked with Boulder County’s Latino Chamber of Commerce to support Latinx-led small businesses, particularly those helmed by women.
While this will be Loachamin’s first time as an elected official, we believe her experience more than qualifies her for the job. She maintains a strong stance on protecting Boulder County residents from oil and gas extraction, providing economic opportunities for every resident regardless of race, sex or financial means, and listening to constituents about complex issues like land management and zoning.
City of Louisville – City Council Ward 3
Kyle Brown (uncontested)
While Kyle Brown is running uncontested for the Ward 3 seat on Louisville’s City Council, his track record from his previous year on Council (he was appointed in 2019 to fill a vacancy) makes it easy to endorse him — plus, he’s a Louisville native, and now raising his family in the city. He’s voted to protect open space and prevent herbicide use on it; supported a grant program to help cash-strapped local businesses pull through the pandemic; and championed creating a fund in the City’s budget for renewable energy credits (though Council declined to pursue this idea).
Brown hopes to continue to focus on economic vitality and on environmental sustainability. While Brown has already acknowledged the importance of supporting businesses during the pandemic, he wants to see the City bolster its efforts to help individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. Brown wants to see Louisville “make strong efforts to increase the amount of affordable housing, making the community truly accessible to people regardless of income,” while also considering how much growth current residents are comfortable with.
Town of Superior Trustees
Gladys M. Forshee
Superior residents can select three trustees this year; we like current Trustees Mark Lacis and Kevin Ryan, and health care investment banker Tim Howard.
Development has always been a hot topic for residents of this four-square-mile town. They’ve waited eight years for the completion of the Downtown Superior project — with commercial, residential and hotel space — which was slated to enter its final phase of development this summer before the pandemic put it on hold. Then there’s the Superior Marketplace, a concrete-heavy shopping plaza that many feel could be redeveloped to better use the space.
One of those people is Mayor Pro Tem Mark Lacis. Lacis, a business attorney and chief operating officer for a firm in Denver, says that the Superior Marketplace is a prime opportunity for the Trustees to work with developers to “deliver a new residential component.” Lacis recently worked with the Trustees to develop a draft for Superior’s first affordable housing ordinance. If approved, the ordinance would require new developers to make 10% of their residential units affordable; Lacis would like to see that number increase to 15%. He believes the Superior Marketplace could “move the needle” on addressing Superior’s lack of affordable housing. Lacis has also been proactive in keeping oil and gas extraction out of Superior, testifying at the state capitol against a proposed 32-well extraction operation on the so-called CenturyLink property.
Kevin Ryan says it’s “unacceptable that Superior is throwing up a goose egg” on affordable housing. He’s happy the Town is considering an ordinance, but would like to see new developers have to commit to at least 12% affordable units. Like Lacis, he’s also been active in fighting against oil and gas extraction in Superior. Ryan would like Superior to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030, starting with relatively simple moves like transitioning the City’s fleet of cars to electric. But the biggest concern for Ryan is Superior’s economic development, as the pandemic has shaken up business as we’ve known it. He’s hoping to get a line item in next year’s budget for a full-time economic development advisor who can help the city understand its business needs.
Tim Howard believes that over the next few years Superior will be facing “significant challenges” in both economic development and climate change mitigation.
Howard believes that 10% affordable housing is too low a goal for new development, and would like the city to start at 15% and raise that to 20% over a five-year period. (What sets Howard apart from Paige Henchen, another well-informed progressive candidate, is his dismissal of in-lieu fees that would allow developers to pass on building affordable housing by paying money that would go into a housing trust fund to finance affordable housing developed off-site. We feel these fees can allow for affordable housing to be concentrated in one part of the city, as opposed to spreading affordable housing throughout.)
Howard wants to continue to support small businesses through continued and expanded Town-funded grant programs (Superior already awarded grants to businesses with storefronts; Howard hopes to extend this to even smaller businesses that may be working out of home offices), and wants to see the Town sign on to Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign to move Superior to 100% renewable energy sources by 2025.
Ballot Measures – State
Amendment B (Repeal Gallagher Amendment)
Whether you’re new to Colorado or been here your entire life, Amendment B, which asks voters to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, is probably a little confusing.
Gallagher, originally put into the state’s constitution by voters in 1982, was made significantly more complicated by the addition of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), which voters passed a decade later. Gallagher was originally designed to shift the tax burden from residential property owners to non-residential business, commercial and production landowners, by setting the proportion of state property-tax collections at 45% for residential and 55% for commerial. Since, residential property rates have grown much faster than commercial ones over time, so the proportions are now skewed, resulting in less property tax revenue for local governments and requiring the state to essentially backfill funding for public services, like education, to make up the difference. In addition, the decline in property tax revenue has also decreased funding to local fire jurisdictions and rural health care, especially important as we face the imminent threat of increased wildfires due to climate change and a global public health pandemic.
Amendment B hopes to address these budget shortfalls by fixing the current assessment rates for both residential and commercial properties at their current rates (7.15% and 29% respectively) in an effort to stymie further reductions in property tax revenue expected in the next few years if the Gallagher Amendment is left in place. This measure does not include a replacement plan and the legislature would be free to decrease either the residential or commercial property tax rates in the future, although any increase to property taxes would have to go to the voters under TABOR.
While we hope this explainer has helped ease some confusion around the Gallagher Amendment, we also hope you will vote to repeal it. The state’s budget has been hamstrung by the interaction of the Gallagher Amendment and TABOR for decades and since ridding Colorado of TABOR has proven all but politically impossible, we can at least stop some of the bleeding by repealing the Gallagher Amendment. If you’re a property owner, your taxes will most likely go up under this repeal, seeing as it only freezes your tax rate, not your property value. If you’re a renter, it is possible these increased taxes could cause your rent to go up in future years as well, and that’s unfortunate. Some also worry that commercial interests will now lobby the state legislature to reduce their tax rate by arguing it’s necessary for economic development given the hardships of the pandemic.
There’s bipartisan support both for and against this measure: Prominent Boulder County Democrat and former state senator Ron Stewart, for example is one of the main writers of the original Gallagher Amendment and is against the repeal, as is former state senator Dennis Gallagher himself. Whereas former Republican U.S. Senator and past President of the University of Colorado Hank Brown, as well as former Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams support the repeal. Amendment B was referred to the ballot by a legislative vote of 79 to 20, meaning about half of elected Republicans support it.
Colorado continues to rank in the bottom third of states for per pupil spending and teacher compensation. Fire districts across Colorado are facing staffing cuts even as some of the state’s largest wildfires continue to burn. Repealing the Gallagher Amendment will allow local communities to better fund their local school and fire districts, taking some of that burden off the state’s general fund, freeing up resources to address other education and transportation funding constrained by TABOR.
Amendment C (Conduct of Charitable Gaming)
Amendment C was referred to voters with nearly unanimous support in the state legislature and would allow more charities to offer raffle games, pull-tabs and bingo to fund their charitable endeavors. It would do so by allowing charities in existence for three years to get a license to offer such games (currently, the requirement is five years). It would also allow these organizations to hire someone at minimum wage to run these games, thus not relying on volunteers. There’s no downside to this — more charities can raise more funds and more people get paid for their work. Vote yes.
Amendment 76 (Citizen Qualification of Voters)
While it may seem rather innocuous, passing this amendment would change language in the Colorado Constitution to specify that “only” U.S. citizens age 18 or older can vote in Colorado elections, whereas it currently states that “every” U.S. citizen age 18 or older can vote. So what’s wrong with that?
First, it’s part of a nationwide effort to do the same to state constitutions across the country, backed by an obscure political nonprofit Citizen Voters, Inc., that isn’t required to disclose its funding sources. In Florida, the group has already poured $8.3 million into a similar effort. In Colorado, the issues committee behind Amendment 76, Colorado Citizens Voters, is funded almost entirely by the Florida-based Citizen Voters, Inc., which has contributed more than $1.3 million to help pass the measure here.
And if that isn’t concerning enough, groups like the ACLU of Colorado, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), One Colorado and even the Colorado Educators Association oppose it, arguing that it’s rooted in anti-immigrant fervor and could confuse and discourage naturalized U.S. citizens from voting. It’s true, there are about a dozen jurisdictions that currently allow non-citizens to participate in local elections — like those with children voting for school board members in San Francisco — which proponents argue is why immigrant advocate groups oppose the measure. But seeing as federal law prohibits noncitizens from voting in national elections and Colorado already has a voter citizenship requirement, this change seems wholly unnecessary.
There’s also nothing in the language of the amendment that directs implementation, which raises serious questions. Could this disenfranchise Colorado youth voters, who just last year gained the right to vote in primaries at 17, if they will turn 18 by the time of the general election? Could it be interpreted by the courts as a requirement to provide proof of citizenship to vote, forcing the state to enact voter ID laws which are known to lead to voter suppression? Could that threaten Colorado’s vote-by-mail system?
Data clearly shows that voter fraud is rare in the U.S., and noncitizen voting rarer still. Colorado has one of the most secure and accessible election systems in the country under the current constitutional language and we see no reason to change that. Vote no.
Amendment 77 (Local Voter Approval of Casino Bet Limits and Games in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek)
Voters across the state will be asked to allow the residents of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek — where in-person gambling is legal in Colorado — to decide their own betting limits and allowable games. The state constitution currently limits the types of games allowed in Colorado’s casinos to slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette and craps. If passed, local voters will be able to hold special elections to increase betting limits (currently at $100) and add more games. We think the residents of Colorado’s casino towns ought to make this decision for themselves. Vote yes.
Proposition EE (Taxes on Nicotine Products)
BW has long held the belief that sin taxes, or taxes levied based on certain behaviors, unfairly burden a portion of the population in order to benefit the entire community. It’s no different with Prop EE.
This measure proposes to increase the tax rate between now and 2027 to 62% for tobacco and nicotine products. Currently, tobacco (cigarettes, cigars and snuff) is taxed at 40%, while nicotine (including vaping products) isn’t taxed at all. Additionally, it sets a minimum after-tax floor price on cigarettes at $7 a pack, making taxes on cigarettes proportionally more expensive than both alcohol and marijuana. Expected revenue from the new taxes ($175.6 million in 2021-22 and $275.9 million by 2027) will be split between preschool programs, rural schools, K-12 education, housing development and eviction legal assistance.
It’s clear the state is in need of additional revenue streams, but this isn’t the way to do it. Nationwide tobacco tax revenue has been steadily declining, and the funds raised from this measure would be a stop gap solution, not an effective long-term fiscal strategy. While we support some sort of tax and regulation on other nicotine and vaping products, this particular measure casts too wide a net, with the potential to hit the working class and low-income populations the hardest. According to the CDC, there are three times as many everyday smokers who make less than $35,000 a year as those who earn more than $100,000. Addressing the state’s budget shortfalls shouldn’t be the burden of a segment of the population. If we want to address public health concerns of smoking and vaping, as we should in the middle of a global respiratory pandemic, a sin tax isn’t the way to do it. Vote no.
Proposition 113 (Adopt Agreement to Elect U.S. President By National Popular Vote)
We all know the story: in 2016 Donald Trump became president despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by almost 3 million votes. It was an historic margin on all accounts and only the fifth time in history that the winner of the presidency did not win the national popular vote. But according to U.S. election law, the national popular vote doesn’t determine presidential elections, the Electoral College does, as each state is allocated a certain number of electors who in turn cast their votes for the winner of their state’s popular vote.
Proposition 113 seeks to change that. If passed, it would commit Colorado’s electors to cast their Electoral College votes for the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of which candidate wins the majority support in Colorado. This would only go into effect once enough states have signed onto the National Popular Vote (NPV) Interstate Compact, to ensure the majority of the country’s electors do the same. It would not abolish the Electoral College, as some have advocated, but rather circumvents it, changing the way the electors are used under the states’ rights section of the Constitution, which guarantees their exclusive authority to allocate the electors in the way they see fit, as confirmed by the Supreme Court. This is also a referendum vote, brought to this year’s ballots by citizens who disagreed with state legislators, who passed the NPV bill during the 2019 legislative session, and Governor Jared Polis, who signed it into law the same year.
The national NPV movement has been around since the 2000 election, when Al Gore won the popular vote, but George H. W. Bush had more Electoral College votes. In Colorado, it was first introduced in 2006, and it’s taken years of persuasion to pass in the state legislature. Proponents say NPV will right the balance, as currently entire elections hinge on just a handful of ever-changing swing states, giving the issues that matter in those places outsized influence in candidates’ campaigns. Plus, election interference by foreign powers, especially through social media misinformation campaigns, would be much more difficult as it would have to focus on half of the entire country’s voting population and not just tens of thousands in particular states. In the end, they say, the NPV would ensure that every citizen’s vote counts equally regardless of factors that have traditionally been used by candidates to gain support such as rural versus urban, ethnicity and race, and in which state voters reside.
Opponents of the measure, however, argue that the NPV would actually dilute the Colorado vote by promising our Electoral College votes to the winner of the national majority, rather than our state’s majority. They say it’s not about the rural-urban or partisanship divide, but rather about Colorado as a whole having a say in national politics. Plus, elections are run completely differently in each of the 50 states, which could have massive implications. What’s more, NPV has only been passed in states led by Democratic governors, and the most populous states on the coasts could determine entire elections, with a complete disregard for citizens in the middle, such as Coloradans.
This is a hard one for us at BW. We recognize that all of the elected officials we’ve endorsed in the past voted for and passed this legislation at the State House last year. It’s also endorsed by a handful of organizations we generally agree with like the ACLU of Colorado, One Colorado and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC). And yet something about it doesn’t quite sit right with us.
If the 20th century has shown us anything, it’s that our presidential electoral process is outdated and needs updating. But this is too important of a change to make for our electoral process to be handled by a patchwork of laws in individual states. Ultimately, we think the change needs to come at the federal level for the federal electoral process and would be better served by going through a U.S. Constitutional amendment process, no matter how difficult that may be.
Proposition 114 (Reintroduction and Management of Gray Wolves)
As one of the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), gray wolves were all but extinct from the continental U.S. by mid-20th century. However, recovery efforts in other states, including Colorado’s northern neighbors Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, have proven successful, even if the species only inhabits 20% of its historic range. This measure would require CPW to develop a management plan for gray wolves in Colorado in order to start reintroducing the species west of the Continental Divide by Dec. 31, 2023. If passed, under state statute the CPW commission would have to hold statewide hearings to consider scientific, economic and social impacts, elicit periodic public input, as well as the use of state funds to compensate livestock owners for losses should gray wolves attack their animals. It’s expected to cost the state anywhere from $300,000 in 2021-22 up to $800,000 by 2023-24, with funding coming primarily from hunting and fishing licenses but could include appropriations from the state legislature.
Known as a keystone predator, wolves lead to healthier overall ecosystems, and if reintroduced could help restore the ecological landscape and long-term resilience of Western lands. If passed, the reintroduction plan would have to be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which currently manages the recovery of the species. (Under the Trump administration, the agency recently announced its intent to delist the species despite widespread opposition from conservationists.) As you can imagine, the main opposition to this measure comes from livestock owners, farmers and trade associations related to both groups, as well as the oil and gas industry.
A ballot measure may not be the best way to achieve reintroduction, but given the historic reluctance of both the CPW commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to undertake such a plan, it may be the only way forward. And despite claims that gray wolves are coming back to the state on their own, as some wolves including a cub have been sighted in the far northwestern region of the state this year, it’s a far cry from a self-sustaining population. We understand gray wolves may threaten livestock and the special interests of landowners; however, wolves were here first, they should be reintroduced and it’s time we learned how to coexist with the species, as we all will benefit from a healthier and more robust ecosystem.
Proposition 115 (Prohibit Abortions After 22 Weeks)
If passed, Prop. 115 would ban abortions in Colorado after 22 weeks, unless the mother’s life is “physically threatened, but not solely by a psychological or emotional condition.” A medical provider who violates the ban would have their license stripped for three years and face a fine up to $5,000. Colorado is one of only seven states to not restrict abortions after a given point in pregnancy. Predictably, a cavalcade of pro-life groups support the measure, while groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood oppose it.
We strongly agree with those who argue against it. There are no exceptions in this for victims of rape or incest, and no exceptions if a fetus is found to be nonviable after 22 weeks (that is, if it has some fatal abnormality). It would be inhumane to force a woman to carry a nonviable fetus to full-term.
Women should dictate the course of their pregnancies, not the government — it’s their right. And in a time when Roe v. Wade may be threatened, we must fight for women’s reproductive rights every chance we get.
Proposition 116 (State Income Tax Rate Reduction)
This proposal would decrease the state individual and corporate income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%, starting with 2020 tax filings. If passed, the average Coloradan (who earns roughly $52,000 a year) would see an annual savings of $40 on their state income tax bill, while someone who makes $1 million a year will save $800. As such, the state would see a 1.2% decrease (equal to $154 million) to the general fund in 2021-22.
A petition for a progressive graduated tax rate, as employed by most states, failed to make the Colorado ballot this year, and many see this initiative as a response to that effort. We already don’t have enough money to adequately fund our roads and schools and with $3.3 billion in funding cuts due to the economic fallout of the pandemic, now is not the time to further reduce state revenue. Furthermore, this measure is backed by Unite for Colorado, an issues committee with deep ties to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity with support from the Independence Institute. While proponents argue the decrease is warranted given increased state revenue from recently closed tax loopholes and the 2017 federal tax cuts, which increased state income taxes, it’s clear that this measure will only further hamper the state’s budget and its ability to provide essential public services, with minimal savings for the average Coloradan. Vote no.
Proposition 117 (Voter Approval For Certain New State Enterprises)
Currently, certain quasi-governmental entities that operate like businesses or “state enterprises” are exempt from TABOR spending caps by charging user fees rather than using tax revenue. Think state parks, universities and public water utilities, as well as toll roads, municipal airports and the state’s hospital provider fee enterprise fund, which helps compensate hospitals for caring for uninsured and Medicaid patients without using monies from the general fund. This measure would require voter approval for such state enterprises that collect more than $100 million in fees in the first five years (or $20 million a year). It would only apply to the creation of new enterprises and not retroactively apply to existing agencies.
Creating such enterprises has certainly expanded in the years since TABOR was passed, mostly in an effort by lawmakers to boost spending for public services without increasing taxes. But we’re OK with that given TABOR constraints. Supporters argue that voters want more control over the state’s fiscal policy, but it’s clear that, if passed, this will further restrict the state budget even when we’re already seeing deep cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, this measure was put on the ballot with more than $1 million support from Unite for Colorado, an issues committee with deep ties to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. No thanks.
Proposition 118 (Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program)
This will create a statewide and state-run insurance program for paid family and medical leave that will allow employees to take up to 12 weeks off, keep their job and benefits, and receive 90% of their salary up to $1,100 a week based on their average weekly wage in taxable income. Employees around the state will qualify for the birth or adoption of a child, for the care for self or family member (defined as someone with a significant personal bond) with a serious health condition, and for circumstances related to a family member’s active military service, as well as safe leave for domestic violence, sexual assault or abuse and stalking.
Beginning in 2023, both employers and employees will pay into the program, each initially contributing 0.45% of the employees’ weekly taxable income; unless the company has fewer than 10 employees in which case they are exempt, although the employees could still pay into the program and have access to the benefits, as can gig workers. The program will be administered by a new division within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and will be protected from other state uses. Employees would be able to start accessing the benefit in 2024, and it’s estimated the average Colorado worker will pay between $3.83 and $4.50 per week.
This one is a no-brainer. The state legislature has been considering such an insurance program for years, and this proposal is based off recommendations from a bipartisan legislative task force from 2019. Though there are some business interests who oppose it, arguing it will hurt small businesses (the Colorado Chamber of Commerce), there is no organized opposition against the measure. Plus, a 2019 poll found 64% of Colorado’s small businesses support such a program. Similar programs in other states like California, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have proven both successful and solvent, California’s even during the Great Recession. Approving such an insurance program, especially one that casts such a wide net for personal needs, will benefit Colorado workers and businesses alike.
Ballot Measures – Local
City of Louisville Ballot Issue 2A (Single-Use Plastic Bag Tax)
This measure would impose a 25-cent tax on every single-use bag (paper or plastic) distributed at a retailer in Louisville. The bag tax would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
The City of Louisville estimates that local businesses distribute an approximate 4.5 million single-use bags — that’s 25 tons — per year. BW endorses a yes vote on this measure because we believe a tax on single-use bags could help reduce this number and further the City’s sustainability goals (laid out in the City’s Sustainability Action Plan, adopted in 2016).The tax would be applied to all paper and plastic disposable bags. Exemptions include package bulk items, frozen foods, meat or fish, flowers or plants, unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods, newspaper bags and dry cleaning bags. Customers using federal or state food assistance programs (such as WIC or SNAP) would be exempt.
While the proposed ballot language would authorize City Council to adjust the amount of the disposal bag tax or the retailers it applies to without going back to voters for approval (currently drafted to apply to all retailers), the tax could not exceed 25 cents.
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2B (No Evictions without Representation)
Less than 2% of renters in Boulder who are brought to eviction court have the time or money to get a lawyer. On the flip side, 88% of landlords have representation in such proceedings. It’s a discrepancy community organizers for No Evictions Without Representation (NEWR) saw long before they started circulating a petition to get a ballot issue before voters that would address the problem. If passed, 2B would put a $75 per unit/per year on landlords who rent in Boulder. It’ll raise $1.7 million in its first year, and that money will ensure every renter has legal representation in eviction court, and it’ll set up a rental assistance fund to help people a few bucks short of their rent payment avoid going to court in the first place.
Opponents, which include the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association (BARHA), say the amount raised is more than is necessary. Todd Ulrich, board president of BARHA, says the group, and its landlord members, is not necessarily opposed to the outcomes of the ballot measure, just the methodology of it — that is, the amount of the tax versus the need. Too, Ulrich says, most eviction cases go to court for nonpayment of rent, which representation would be unlikely to resolve.
But NEWR organizer Ruy Arango says a lawyer can get a stipulation that satisfies both the landlord and tenant, and avoids an eviction ruling, which stays on a person’s record for seven years.
Arango says the ballot issue has gained added importance in light of the pandemic. And this right to representation model works, he says, with eviction rates significantly lowered in cities that have enacted similar programs.
NEWR admits the cost may ultimately be passed onto to renters, but points out that it would be about $6.25 per month/per unit. So even if it were to be passed onto renters, would guaranteed legal representation and a potential for free rental assistance be worth, let’s say, two cups of coffee? We think so. Vote yes on 2B.
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2C (Public Service Company Franchise/Settlement with Xcel)
Early in 2020, Boulder City Council members Bob Yates and Sam Weaver engaged in talks with Xcel Energy, the city’s primary energy provider, to settle ongoing litigation and negotiate a partnership that would keep Xcel in Boulder, while giving the City some leeway to pursue alternative energy programs.
Over the spring and summer, Xcel and the City reached a settlement agreement. The City Council voted to refer that agreement to voters, which is Ballot Issue 2C.
If voters approve 2C, the City will “pause” its creation of a public electric utility (municipalization) and instead enter into a 20-year franchise agreement — a contract that dictates the terms of how two entities will work together — with Xcel; litigation brought by the City to condemn Xcel’s assets in order to determine how much it would cost to purchase them would be settled.
Boulder’s climate goals call for 100% renewable energy by 2030. Proponents of 2C say Xcel can get to 80% carbon emission reductions by 2030, and with the blessing of Xcel, the City can pursue some to-be-determined alternative energy projects (maybe electric busses, maybe microgrids) that get us to an approximation of 100% renewable energy by 2030.
And if Xcel fails to meet its carbon reduction goals, Boulder could pull out of the franchise agreement in 2023, 2025 or 2028. The City could also exit the agreement for any reason in 2026, 2031 and 2036. Of course, it would require City Council to vote to do that, or refer an exit to voters, or for citizens to put forth a ballot initiative in those years to force an exit.
All this… for what? Boulder hasn’t had a franchise agreement with Xcel for 10 years as it has pursued the muni. Voters have routinely supported municipalization — six times in 10 years. And we’re not mathematicians, but 80% carbon reduction plus some Xcel-condoned microgrids doesn’t equal 100% renewables. It’s not like we can choose to use just Xcel’s solar and wind power, and not the coal and natural gas it’ll burn as 40% of its portfolio in 2027 (if it meets its goals).
The West has been on fire for months. When ash rains down on your street, when your phone says the air quality is hazardous to your health for the 20th day in a row, do you believe you have a role in fixing the problem? Do you believe climate change has exacerbated these and other natural events?
And do you think a 20-year contract with Xcel that won’t get to 100% renewables is better than a public electric utility that will?
Requests in 2018 for bids from companies that would transition Boulder to a municipal utility indicate that we could reach 100% renewables by 2030, and the cost of that energy could be cheaper than Xcel’s. The City received a second round of bids this summer from renewable companies, which confirmed the promise of those renewable energy options. And that’s just what we know — even better options could yet exist; one need only look around the region to see some renewable energy companies are actually fronting costs to help municipalities make a clean energy transition.
Why stop now? Why hand over leverage in our fight for 100% renewable energy to Xcel stockholders? We’ll allow that there are smart, well-intentioned people who might really believe the road to the muni is too murky and a partnership with Xcel represents the best, if imperfect, path forward. But municipalization was always going to be messy, and it was also always going to be worth it. Nothing has changed, except the need for bold climate action, which evidence from the last decade has only made more evident.
Join environmental groups (350 Colorado, Earth Guardians, New Era Colorado, Sierra Club – Indian Peaks, Wild Earth Guardians), dozens of current and former elected officials, and BW, and vote no on 2C.
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2D (Repurpose the Utility Occupation Tax)
If passed, Ballot Issue 2D would take funds gathered under the Utility Occupation Tax that have historically been used to pursue municipalization and redirect them to “fund the City’s efforts to meet its climate, racial equity and energy goals in partnership with Xcel Energy.” The funds would be used to pay for “partnership projects, pilot programs and services.” If 2C doesn’t pass, this ballot issue would be voided. Since we’re endorsing a no vote on 2C, we say vote no on 2D.
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2E (Direct Election of the Mayor through Ranked-Choice Voting)
If passed, Ballot Issue 2E would allow Boulder voters to decide who the mayor is (as opposed to the current system, in which the mayor is chosen by City Council), and it would do so every two years through a ranked-choice voting (RCV) system.
The RCV system would work like this: Voters rank candidates on the mayoral ballot — instead of selecting just one — according to their preference. In order to be elected mayor, a candidate needs 50% of the vote, so if a majority of voters ranked Candidate A as their preferred choice, Candidate A would be elected. If not, there would be an instant runoff, in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes (we’ll call them Candidate X) is eliminated from contention, and everyone who listed Candidate X as their first choice would now have their second choice counted in a new tally. If that bumps a candidate over 50% support, then that candidate is elected mayor; if not, the process continues until a candidate reaches 50%.
RCV is gaining popularity across the country. Maine runs its state-wide elections via this process, and several states allow their municipalities to use it. In Colorado, Telluride, Basalt and Carbondale use RCV.
This ballot issue was born out of a citizens’ initiative organized by the group Our Mayor, Our Choice. The plan, says co-organizer Matt Benjamin, is to implement ranked-choice voting for all of City Council, either through a future ballot initiative or via referral from City Council.
Some finer points about this specific RCV system: The mayor would be elected every two years, coinciding with regular City Council elections, starting in 2023. So, you’ll elect four Council members in the traditional manner, and one mayor in the RCV system. The mayor could serve for a maximum of eight years. A current Council member could run for mayor; if they lose, they’d retain their Council seat, and if they win, the fifth-highest vote-getter in the Council elections would take their seat.
This ballot initiative enjoys broad, bipartisan and community support.
We like RCV as a proven way to increase democracy; it’ll strip away power from voting slates that have cropped up in Boulder in recent years, allow voters to select their most preferred candidate and, at the very least, it’ll give voters a say as to who is mayor, which would bring the City in line with almost every other like-sized municipality in the state. Vote yes.
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2F (Charter Amendment Related to the Boulder Arts Commission)
The Boulder Arts Commission, comprised of five unpaid volunteers appointed by City Council, is tasked with funding arts and art projects in the community. Over the last few years, City Council has increased arts funding, creating more work and requiring more time from those volunteer commissioners — so much work, in fact, that they wrote a letter to Council asking them to consider increasing the size of the Commission from five to seven members. Because the City’s charter limits boards to five members, Council has referred this charter amendment to the voters, and it includes language about the length of terms these new board members would serve. The charter amendment would only apply to the Arts Commission, and the volunteers would still be unpaid and appointed by Council. More voices in the room is a good thing, and lessening the burden these unpaid volunteers take on only makes sense. Vote yes.
City of Longmont Ballot Question 3C (Revenue Bonds for Funding Water System Improvements)
This measure asks voters to authorize the City of Longmont to issue up to $80 million in bonds to finance an expansion of the Nelson Flanders Water Plant that will replace the soon-to-be-decommissioned Wade Gaddis Water Plant. The money will also replace aging potable water system infrastructure in the city.
We endorse a yes vote on 3C, as this as an effective way to handle necessary upgrades, both financially and logistically. Bonds are a secure debt instrument used by municipalities for centuries to finance expensive long-term projects, like utility upgrades. Currently, Longmont has a solid A1 credit rating (middle-high, favorable to issuers) and municipal bond interest rates are low, making this a favorable time for the City to pay less than expected to borrow money.
Even better, a yes vote on the measure will not increase water rates for residents — the principal and interest repayment costs of the bonds would be paid from a portion of future revenue from a five-year schedule of water-rate increases that took effect in January 2020 (around 9% for the average user). These funds have already put the City in a favorable place financially to begin necessary water system upgrades.
City of Longmont Ballot Question 3D (Charter Amendment to Allow for 30-Year Leases)
Longmont’s city charter sets city-owned property leases at 20 years. Ballot Issue 3D wants to increase that term to 30 years, matching standard mortgage terms, and falling in line with leasing terms set by surrounding municipalities, like Boulder.
This is the second time the City has brought this resolution before voters. While BW endorsed a no vote on this last year, the pandemic has shifted our perspective. We believe allowing the City to offer 30-year leases could act as an economic driver in coming years — a particularly attractive incentive as municipalities look to bolster economies post-pandemic. A standard 30-year lease is necessary to build large-scale projects that could deeply enrich Longmont, like a performing arts complex or convention center. And yes, this could add some affordable housing to Longmont without an overwhelming population increase.
Sunshine Fire Protection District Ballot Issue 6A
This gives the Sunshine Fire Protection District the ability to raise or lower its current and all future general mill levies only if there are changes in the method of calculating assessed valuation on or after Nov. 3, 2020 — to the extent that the actual tax revenues generated match the amount of tax revenues that would have been generated had the Gallagher Amendment not forced a change in the residential assessed valuation percentage. Ballot Issue 6A allows Sunshine Fire Protection District the ability to increase mill levies should they need to generate more money through taxation. Vote yes.
Baseline Water District Ballot Issue 6B
If approved, terms limits for board members of the Baseline Water District (BWD) would be eliminated. While we assume it’s no walk in the park to find the right person to join the BWD Board, we also know that allowing the wrong person in can make life worse. We, too, would love to see a good director stay as long as they wanted, but term limits are our best tool in the fight against despotism.
St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District Ballot Issue 7A
St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy wants to increase district taxes by an additional tax levy of 1.25 mills (approximately $9 in 2021 for every $100,000 in residential home valuation) for the next 10 years. The district plans to use the generated revenue ($3,337,003) to implement its water plan: protecting water quality, maintaining healthy rivers and creeks, conserving drinking water and protecting forests. An appointed board of local residents will oversee how the money is used and will be subject to annual independent audits.