Boulder Progressives’ 2019 City Council Voting Guide

Of course we’ll all vote. But how do we distinguish between candidates?

When many of the candidates for Boulder City Council have stated that they are in favor of inclusivity and diversity, in favor of fighting climate change, in favor of affordable housing, and in favor of any number of transportation ideas, how do you even decide who to vote for?

This is, without fail, the number one question we get from Boulder voters. To help, we’ll share with you how we chose our endorsees: Aaron Brockett, Junie Joseph, Rachel Friend, Benita Duran, and Mark McIntyre. We’ll also share how we chose not to endorse other candidates: Yates, McCord. And why we outright oppose some of them: Dolan, Wallach, Swetlik, Julca, Peterson. And we’ll provide links for more information, if you want to dig deeper into the decisions and recommendations we’ve made.

(Hint: local political group PLAN Boulder and their endorsed candidates have driven Boulder land use and housing policy since the 1960’s. They have had a majority on city council for all but two of the last forty years. If you want to see Boulder do better on human rights, climate, transportation and housing, you need to vote for candidates that are not endorsed by PLAN. Fortunately, this election, those are also the candidates with the most experience and qualification to lead Boulder.)

Who does Boulder Progressives endorse, and why?

In our endorsement process, Boulder Progressives sought candidates that understand the connections between housing, transportation, and climate action, and that have the will to implement real change in this area. We looked for candidates that have exceptional experience and education, and qualification to lead Boulder. We insisted that our candidates put human rights first, and consider the needs of all Boulder residents – not just wealthy homeowners – when making policy decisions. These are the five that we trust to take Boulder in a better direction for the future, in a way that is good locally and globally. Please join us in supporting these candidates through the campaigning period and voting for them in the election this November:

Aaron Brockett – as an incumbent, Brockett has an established voting record on Boulder issues, and of the current council is most aligned with Boulder Progressives values and initiatives. Repeatedly, we have seen Brockett look to find a path forward on contentious issues in a way that serves the greater good. We look forward to seeing Brockett re-elected so he can continue to put his even-handed, fair-minded, compassionate leadership to work in service of the people, the city and the region. Boulder Beat interview

Junie Joseph – Joseph will bring a number of fresh perspectives to the Boulder City Council. With an established record advocating for human rights in Colorado and internationally, Joseph has served with the United Nations, and locally on the (Boulder County) Health and Human Services Citizen Panel Review and Community Corrections Board. She has degrees in political science, anthropology, and applied human rights, and is currently studying law at CU Boulder. Boulder Beat interview

Rachel Friend – As an attorney and activist, Friend has focused her efforts on social justice, advocating for asylum seekers, individuals with disabilities, domestic violence survivors, and abused children and elderly persons. Locally, she is best known for her efforts to get the current council to effectively address flood mitigation through the CU South planning process to protect residents’ health and safety. Boulder Beat interview

Benita Duran – A former Boulder Assistant City Manager, Duran has been a city resident and civic leader for over 25 years. She has served on the boards of the YWCA, Family Learning Center, Intercambio, Attention Homes and Watershed School, as well as the Community Foundation of Boulder, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, Boulder Community Health, and the State Economic Development Commission. Boulder Beat interview

Mark McIntyre – A 42-year Boulder resident and CU graduate, McIntyre currently serves on the Transportation Advisory Board, and was appointed to the Boulder Campaign Finance Working Group after the 2017 election, creating what is now Boulder’s election finance code. McIntyre sets a goal for continuous improvement in equity, justice, democracy, and environment which guides his thinking on governance and policy. As a member of TAB, McIntyre was instrumental in creating the opportunity for advanced multi-use road construction on the North Broadway redevelopment project. Boulder Beat interview

There are six council seats available, but Boulder Progressives have only endorsed five candidates. What gives?

The five candidates we’ve endorsed were the only five that met or exceeded all of our criteria. Of the remaining candidates there are two that stand out, but with whom we also had significant concerns:

Bob Yates, an incumbent council member up for reelection in November, developed a reasonable track record early in his current term, with often progressive-leaning votes on housing, transportation, climate, and some social issues. But especially later in his term, and moving into the election, we have seen Yate’s commitment to these positions shift to become significantly more conservative. Of concern to us is Yates’ endorsement of Mark Wallach, whose record is mostly in advocating for slow/no growth, rather than using housing as a tool to fight climate change. Combined with Yates’ positions on policing and homeless services, these concerns, and an uncertainty about what he will actually do, if reelected, prevented us from being able to endorse him. We would love to see him move to a more compassionate position on policing and homeless services, but we do not anticipate that. And we have no idea if we’ll see him voting on housing/climate/transportation like he did early in his first term, or as he is proposing now while campaigning. While we speculate that it is more likely that he is staking out a more conservative position in a bid for the mayor’s role, the malleability of his positions, and the uncertainty around what he will actually do if reelected gives us pause.  Boulder Beat interview

Nikki McCord, who did not seek endorsements from any local political groups, advocates for affordable housing and social justice, which align with Boulder Progressives’ values. Our primary concerns with McCord are that her campaign has close ties to current slow/no growth, PLAN-Boulder endorsed, council member Mary Young, and that McCord has given little on record on a number of key decisions that the next council will face. This gives us question about what McCord would actually do, if elected, which prevented us from considering endorsing her.  Boulder Beat Interview

Who should I absolutely NOT vote for?

If you believe, like Boulder Progressives, and the national Sierra Club organization, that housing is a human right, and that housing people near where they work is an effective tool to fight climate change, then you cannot support candidates endorsed by local anti-housing/anti-jobs political group PLAN-Boulder County, or groups aligned with their endorsements and policies. (This includes the local Indian Peaks chapter of the Sierra Club, unfortunately, which, we understand, has done somewhat better with their endorsements in 2019 than in years past, but that has historically been notoriously anti-housing, despite the more forward-looking policy of Sierra Club, nationally).

PLAN-Boulder-endorsed council members have held a majority on city council for over four decades, barring two years after the 2015 election. And they have driven Boulder land use policy since the 1960’s. PLAN Boulder policy, intentionally or not, disproportionately excludes non-whites as well as the non-rich. PLAN Boulder and their endorsed candidates know this. We have told them, as have many Boulder residents and community leaders. There have been articles and research papers written about it. And the actual Ku Klux Klan, in a rally on Pearl Street, embraced Boulder’s land use policies for exactly this reason. And yet, PLAN continues to pursue these policies into 2019. Need receipts? Here you go:

So that covers some of the human rights side of the conversation. But what about how PLAN’s housing policy affects Boulder’s climate impact?

PLAN policy has created a significant imbalance between the number of jobs in Boulder and the number of homes. This has created a situation in which over 60,000 people commute to Boulder each weekday for work. The resulting traffic and pollution are perhaps Boulder’s greatest ongoing climate disaster. 

When the city surveyed those in-commuters, approximately half of them said they would rather live in Boulder than commute, and would live in smaller housing to do so. If we could house any significant percentage of in-commuters and their families in Boulder, we could take cars off the road, decrease pollution, decrease traffic congestion, and increase the quality of life for Boulder residents, and for a large number of people who provide service to Boulder and make the city what it is. (It’s worth noting that this is not actually “bringing more people to Boulder.” They’re already here, five days a week, in their cars. They just go someplace else to sleep, and then come back again.)

PLAN council members and candidates often suggest that the solution to the jobs/housing imbalance is to eliminate jobs. So far, to the best of our knowledge, none of them have had the courage to say whose jobs, or how they would be eliminated. Maybe it’s your job; maybe it’s one or several of ours. Maybe the jobs just go away completely; maybe they get relocated to South Dakota. Who knows?

PLAN politicians also often say that they support affordable housing. However, even a passing glance at recently proposed housing development projects shows PLAN politicians using the tactics of denying and delaying development at most every opportunity. For example:

  • Opportunity Zone (Iris and 28th, Macy’s, etc)
  • 311 Mapleton
  • Iris and Broadway
  • CU South
  • Alpine Balsam area
  • Hogan Pancost
  • The North Boulder Armory (though we are glad to see something finally re-starting here.)

This is especially egregious for several reasons – one, many of these properties are on Boulder’s transportation corridors, or are in serious need of redevelopment based on vacancies and/or disrepair to structures currently on those sites. These are perfect areas where increased density can decrease automotive dependence and pollution; and where increased affordability can make Boulder accessible to its workforce. 

But also, by Boulder law, much of the funding for deed-restricted affordable housing is intended to come from new market-rate development projects. By stifling new development, PLAN council people significantly stifle affordable housing development, as well. Further, through the zoning upheld by PLAN councils, it is illegal to build apartments, condos, townhouses, duplexes or other multi-family properties (our most affordable housing options) in roughly 80% of the city.

And then there’s CU South – a project that directly impacts the safety of residents living in that part of the city, an area that was hit hard by flooding in 2013, and an area for which the current PLAN lead council still has not even agreed on a means (let alone actually started taking action) to mitigate future flood risk, and protect those residents.

PLAN-lead councils have also spent significant amounts of residents’ tax dollars in this process, purchasing the Alpine Balsam site to have control over that land use, and purchasing the Hogan Pancost site so that it could not be even partially developed. In total, these expenses are roughly $50 million or more, once related expenses are included. 

PLAN’s endorsed candidates for this election are largely aligned around continuing the same anti-housing, anti-job, anti-environmental policy. So for us, no matter what PLAN candidates say, we don’t think we can take them at their word about wanting to effectively address Boulder’s interrelated climate, transportation, housing, and human rights challenges.

Plan Boulder Candidates’ interviews:

What about the remaining candidates?

While we respect and appreciate the willingness to serve the public that comes with running for office, we do not see the remaining candidates as having the policy, vision, experience or community support to lead Boulder in a broad sense, or to lead it in ways that match Boulder Progressives’ values, more specifically. 

Boulder Beat Interviews:

(This post was most recently updated on Oct 27, 2019)