Joni Teter: election guidance

Joni Teter has been involved in Boulder politics for quite some time, including the better part of two decades as a PLAN Boulder board member. However, rather than embrace the current incarnation of PLAN Boulder and their slow/no-growth agenda, Teter has endorsed exactly the same 2019 city council candidates as have Boulder Progressives. She has done so by championing their compassion, experience and capability, and expressing concern about the focus and political demands of PLAN Boulder as it is currently organized.

We received Teter’s letter as a email pdf attachment, with her election advice as it relates to city council candidates in a broad sense, and library funding, in particular. We’re sharing it here, with permission. It has been formatted to work within the context of a WordPress blog, but we have done our best to stay true to the original structure. (And seriously, support the Boulder Library. Libraries are freaking awesome. And so many librarians are straight-up liberal bad asses.) Here’s the letter:

2019 City Council Campaign – Joni’s thoughts

Where to get good info on candidates:

First, if you want to do your own research on this year’s City Council candidates, Shay Castle has done terrific in-depth profiles of every candidate and created a voter guide at http://voteboulder.co (Spanish language versions are also available here.)

Shay worked the city beat for the Daily Camera for several years and is now out on her own. She has context and understands the issues (rare in today’s understaffed newsrooms). Shay provides excellent on-going coverage of City Council on her independent news platform Boulder Beat News. Shay doesn’t put her coverage behind a paywall, but the’s a young working gal trying to make a go of it in Boulder and can use our $ support. If you value high quality coverage of local issues, please consider supporting Shay’s work through her Patreon page.

What I look for in Council candidates:

I’ve been involved in local Boulder issues since the mid-1980s, including nearly 20 years as a board member, officer and co-chair of PLAN Boulder County. I’ve served 5 year terms on Planning Board, the Boulder Urban Renewal Authority, and the Library Commission, and shorter sentences – ‘er. stints – on more working groups than I care to think about. I believe that we are best served by a Council that represents the broad range of perspectives/stakeholders in our community, and can work together to provide effective leadership on important issues. The problems and opportunities we face are complex and multi-faceted and, like the fable of the blind men and the elephant, I’ve learned that looking at issues through multiple lenses leads to greater understanding and better solutions. I am saddened by the polarization, misinformation and “my way or the highway” posturing that has dominated our community the last few years – we used to be better than this. I look for people who are interested in being problem solvers. That means active listening, a willingness to seek out multiple points of view, and dedication to accurate data and analysis. I steer away from ideologues who come to the table thinking they know the answers. (If the answers were known we would have fixed the problems long ago). Moving our community forward on almost any issue will require negotiation and compromise, not standing on principle. (Welcome to democracy, folks). I have observed all of this year’s candidates at forums and – in the context of sustainable funding for our library – have met individually with almost all of them. I’ve found most of them them to be likable and genuine, with good intentions, and who want the best for our community within their own understanding.

My observations about this year’s candidates:

These are the folks I think would make the best Council members:

  • Aaron Brockett – thoughtful, good listener, does his homework, builds a through understanding of issues I wish he’d take a stronger leadership role on Council, but that’s not his personality.
  • Benita Duran – broad and deep experience in both government and community groups, thoughtful, creative, not afraid to try new things – knows the community well.
  • Rachel Friend – hard worker, problem solving focus, guided by data and analysis, relatively open minded, very quick learner.
  • Junie Joseph – I was skeptical of Junie at the outset (serve on Council while going to law school – are you crazy?) but my opinion quickly changed as I got to know her. Junie is very capable, has broad experience (especially considering her age), is an extraordinarily quick learner and could be a great bridge builder among different points of view. I think it’s important to have students and young people represented on Council and Junie will do that well.
  • Mark McIntyre – well versed in the transportation/land use issue nexus (key to our “growth-related” problems IMO), thoughtful, analytical, and with very positive energy (which lord knows we need on Council now).

Other candidates:

  • Paul Cure I’m very impressed by Paul. He’s bright, a great listener, clearly did his homework for our conversation with him and has deep roots in the community. His current work (and passion) is helping people to engage in productive dialog about community issues. I think he’d be a great asset to Council’s (often difficult) group dynamic.
  • Bob Yates got my vote 4 years ago because I saw him as a responsible and responsive business voice – and we need business voices on Council IMO. But I won’t be voting for him this time. I’ve seen too many instances where what he says and what he does do not match. Bob also does a lot of backroom dealing (which I think is inappropriate in the public sector), including leaning on staff to present positions Bob favors, even if staff doesn’t agree. Bob presents himself well, but I have lost a lot of trust in him under close observation.

Some of the folks running for Council are REALLY green. They know little or nothing about our community or the issues we face and have little or no experience working towards solution in the political context. I recommend steering away from these folks. Council is a huge time commitment with a steep learning curve even for those who come in with some background. History has demonstrated that people who come to Council with little knowledge or experience don’t make good Council members. I’d put the following in the “too green” category:

  • Brian Dolan
  • Gala Orba
  • Corina Julca (Corina has also not been very responsive, making, then changing then cancelling meetings at the last minute – not a good trait for an elected rep.)

The following folks have some experience of issues, but seem pretty naive and ideological in their understanding and/or approaches:

  • Andy Celani
  • Adam Swetlik

Nikki McCord is bright and capable and has an interesting background. However, she’s been very unforthcoming about her views on Boulder and has a rep for being hard to work with.

Mark Wallach and Susan Peterson are endorsed by PLAN Boulder, which is a concern for me. The recent leadership of PBC has, in my opinion, taken the organization far from its roots, narrowing its perspective to two issues (no growth and open space) and expecting lock-step conformance from candidates it endorses. Both Wallach and Peterson say that they will not be governed by PBC and I think they are sincere – but the pressure to fall in line will be intense. We already have three PBC endorsed candidates on Council (Nagle, Weaver and Young) so I think it’s important to elect other perspectives. Having said that, I think Susan is the stronger candidate of these two: I don’t agree with many of her professed positions, but she seems to have a relatively open mind and seems open to negotiation and compromise. Mark seems pretty overwhelmed by campaigning and by the breadth and depth of problems he would be expected to address as a Council member. 

Where candidates stand on library funding:

As many of you know, we have a wonderful library system that as been substantially underfunded for more than 20 years. Libraries have a hard time competing with the “sturm and drang” issues that dominate Council campaigns and – after the election – Council member priorities. Most libraries in Colorado have moved to become library districts, a form of funding and governance that provides secure, predictable revenues outside the battleground of local politics (much like the school district). But the conversation about forming a library district in Boulder has been repeatedly shut down inside the City – until this year. Last spring, Boulder Library Champions, a grass roots volunteer organization, got the question of forming a library district onto the ballot, but pulled the measure back at the City’s request: this Council simply wasn’t willing to deal with the issue. We have a commitment from the City and current Council members that library funding – and formation of a library district – will be a priority for the incoming Council. To that end, Boulder Library Champions created a pledge and asked all candidates to address it – the results are below. We’ll be making this information public next week, FYI We are happy to report that almost all Council candidates support funding our library though formation of a library district. These candidates understand the importance of our library to our community and recognize and that our library needs sufficient, stable and predictable funding to meet our community’s vision for library services. These candidates also recognize that constraints on the city budget make it very difficult for the city to fully fund our library, and that a library district provides the most equitable, transparent, accountable and stable approach to ensure that our library remains strong.

Candidates supporting library funding through a library district:

Aaron Brockett; Andy Celani; Paul Cure; Brian Dolan; Benita Duran; Rachel Friend; Junie Joseph; Nikki McCord; Mark McIntyre; Gala Orba; Adam Swetlik; Mark Wallach

Other candidates believe in supporting the library and having a community-wide discussion about funding options, but are either opposed or undecided about a library district: Corina Julca (opposed) Susan Peterson (questions) Bob Yates (opposed)