Values & process
Whether you’ve been in Boulder for decades, or arrived recently, we’re glad you’re here. Our own tenures range from short to long, and we’ve either overcome the odds or had a helping hand in being able to call this beautiful place home.
One value we hold dear is extending a helping hand to others, rather than pulling up the ladder behind us.
At the heart of Boulder Progressives’ work is a focus on elevating the voices and concerns of underrepresented communities in Boulder County. We advocate for policies that protect human rights, and advance social and environmental justice. We work to elect leaders to local office who will address policy on housing, transportation, and climate change through a social equity lens.
We evaluated this year’s candidates on their understanding of the connections between land use, the environment, and social justice. Our criteria for endorsement was that candidates demonstrate a history of advocacy and public service in their background, and consider the needs of all Boulder residents when making policy decisions. Four leaders who have the will to implement real change in this arena made the cut. Our four candidates have exceptional experience, education, and qualities to lead Boulder.
TL;DR: Tell me who would be great on city council!
Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about our four endorsed candidates:
- Dan Williams
- Lauren Folkerts
- Matt Benjamin
- Nicole Speer
We trust these four candidates to help Boulder lead with pragmatic solutions, take us in a better direction for the future, and do so in a way that is impactful locally and globally.
There are five open seats on council this year, but we can only enthusiastically endorse four. To learn more about the bias inherent in plurality at-large voting systems like Boulder’s city council elections, see this primer.
Dan Williams is a lawyer who volunteers for the ACLU and represents victims of domestic violence. He’s a cyclist and bike commuter and wants to make Boulder more welcoming for all people, not just for the very wealthy.
Lauren Folkerts is an architect and sustainable design specialist. She’s in her third year as chair of the city’s Design and Advisory Board. She’s driven by a desire to create a more environmentally friendly future through a people and community centric vision.
Matt Benjamin is an astronomer and coalition builder. He’s a deep resource of knowledge on many of our most pressing issues and led the campaign to allow Boulder residents to elect our mayor.
Nicole Speer is a scientist and mother. She’s worked tirelessly for social justice through the NAACP and her church. A leader who is dedicated to her community.
Okay….but don’t the other candidates stand for the same things? No, they do not.
Maybe in words, but certainly not in actions. For too long, our community has elected PLAN-endorsed candidates based on the promises made on the campaign trail, only for them to delay, obfuscate, or block pragmatic solutions once on council. One of the primary drivers for the creation of Boulder Progressives was to call out this dissonance so that we might begin to make progress on these issues.
If you’ve got more time and want to read more into why we’re backing all of these folks, read on!
Our candidates: A bit more info
Dan Williams – As a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, Dan has experience championing the rights of the people. He has represented victims of sexual assault and defended citizens against the overreach of powerful government. We are thrilled for Dan’s empathetic leadership and ability to put forth a shared understanding that carries us all forward. We believe Dan will be a voice for equity, for all Boulder residents. Read Dan’s Boulder Beat Interview
Lauren Folkerts – Lauren is an architect, sustainable design specialist, and president-elect of the Colorado Green Building Guild. Additionally, she chairs the Design Advisory Board for the City of Boulder and is in her third year as chair of that city committee. We are excited about her passion for combating climate change and her deep understanding of the connections between community, land use, infrastructure, beautiful design, and our environmental impact. We look forward to her helping Boulder align our green values with green policy. Read Lauren’s Boulder Beat Interview
Matt Benjamin – Father, scientist, and consensus builder, Matt bridges the progressive and business sides of the aisle. We love his involvement at the city level the last few years, including a previous council run, organizing The Boulder Coalition, and successfully leading the Our Mayor Our Choice ballot measure. We anticipate his understanding and insights on issues ranging from flood protection, to citywide land use and zoning will lead to forward-looking outcomes. Read Matt’s Boulder Beat Interview
Nicole Speer – Nicole is a scientist and mother who is committed to equity and justice. We’ve witnessed her advocacy with the Boulder County NAACP and civic engagement through the First Congregational Church of Boulder, and know first hand her dedication to our city. Her candidacy began with the question: “how can I be of service to the community?”. Her core issues include housing and racial justice, addressing homelessness, and climate resiliency. Read Nicole’s Boulder Beat Interview
A bit of a backstory on how we got here
If you believe—like Boulder Progressives and the Sierra Club do—that housing is a human right, and that providing housing options so that people can live near where they work or attend school is an effective tool to fight climate change, then we cannot recommend supporting candidates echoing the same talking points that have been used by our elected officials for decades. Officials that repeatedly spoke about how badly they wanted to solve our issues only to eternally kick the can down the road. The continued refusal to address the housing crisis and insistence of the status quo over pragmatic inclusion has resulted in Boulder drifting from who it claims to be. This policy, intentionally or not, has disproportionately excluded non-whites as well as the non-wealthy.
Numerous advocates, public policy experts, residents, and community leaders have called on past councils for change. There have been articles and research papers written about it. And the actual Ku Klux Klan, in a rally on Pearl Street in the mid-1990s, embraced Boulder’s land use policies for exactly this reason.
And yet, our councils ignore the experts and continue to pursue these exclusionary policies into 2021. Need receipts? Here you go:
- Green Belt, White City: Race and the Natural Landscape in Boulder, Colorado: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236697231_Green_Belt_White_City_Race_and_the_Natural_Landscape_in_Boulder_Colorado
- Author, Activist Indicts Boulder’s Housing Policy: https://www.dailycamera.com/2019/03/13/author-activist-indicts-boulders-housing-policy/
- Open Space, CU South and civil rights: A first step toward “Just Sustainability” in Boulder: https://www.boulderweekly.com/opinion/open-space-cu-south-and-civil-rights-a-first-step-toward-just-sustainability-in-boulder/
- “National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Director Thomas Robb at his ‘94 Klan rally in Boulder “applauded the city’s exclusionary planning rules, intended to curtail growth and protect the environment, insisting they would maintain a predominantly white population.” coloradopolitics.com
In the early 1960s Boulder began the process of taxing itself in order to preserve Open Space access around the city. This was a brilliant idea and has been a part of creating the great outdoor recreation amenities we enjoy today. But over time our community grew and our economy became the second greatest job center in the state .
However, the same actors that were so strong in preserving never took the next step in making room for more neighbors. In doubling down on preservation and the status quo they failed to consider future generations of Boulderites and thus we are left with land use policies that, in the vast majority of the city, only allow for the most expensive form of housing to be built. And it’s not just a ban on missing middle housing forms, it’s a ban on increased opportunity. Our community doesn’t have to be this way, but it will require new leadership to address this.
Before this gets too long some comments on transit as well as walking and cycling. While we do have one of the best off-street cycling networks in the country — Davis, CA puts up a good challenge here — the recent drive for more on-street protect bike lanes and the subsequent push back from past councils in order to maintain a dangerous, polluting, car dominated street-use has us advocating for new leadership in this area as well. Land-use and transportation choices are inextricably linked. If we are to move away from needing a car to do simple errands either because of distance or a lack of safety for other modes (walking, cycling) than we have to have leaders that are creative about solutions, not looking to twist themselves in knots to justify the status quo.
Finally, a word about our unhoused community.
For starters, we are not happy with the status quo, camping in our public spaces is not okay. But we also firmly believe that increased policing is not effective and we’re more upset about both the causes that force people out of their homes and the ineffective response our community has had to this issue. Additionally, we know that Boulder isn’t unique in facing this challenge, every community in the western US is going through something similar. And while Boulder is carrying a bit more of the load, other communities in the County and throughout the Front Range are facing these issues as well.
Let’s lay out some facts: the number one cause isn’t addiction nor mental health (tho they can be contributing factors), it’s the ever skyrocketing cost of housing brought on by an overall lack of housing supply. While we’re at it, let’s dispel two more myths, that this population migrates, and that they are service resistant.
For the former we look to Veterans Affairs data that shows only 15% of the population moves out of the region. And this makes total sense, these individuals have strong connections to their community just as all of us do, why would they want to leave those? The service resistant claim is a red herring. The only reason some members of this population are service resistant is because the policies employed at the Boulder Shelter are extremely severe relative to nationwide sheltering policies.
When it comes to the Boulder County system of Coordinated Entry it is anything but. An entangled web of bureaucracy, it gives the impression that the point of the program is to look like we are doing something without actually being effective at doing anything. So when the barriers to shelter are so extreme we take issue with the label of “service resistant” as it doesn’t tell a true story. A couple of the most egregious ones that stand out, you can’t have a pet or service animal and you cannot have a partner/significant other.
So what about solutions? To start, more policing is never the answer. Unless you want to waste money, be inhumane, make the police do a job they neither want to do nor are trained to do, and make those in need of service even more resistant to assistance, sure… do that. Instead, two of our candidates have put forth policy proposals that we feel will rapidly move us towards a solution to this crisis and one that is humane, cheaper, and effective.
This election, those wishing to defend the old ways are joined by other groups focused on keeping Boulder an exclusive community, hostile to those without great wealth. The historical track record of saying one thing and doing another has resulted in a city that is unwelcoming and inaccessible to many. So for us, no matter what these candidates say, we don’t think we can take them at their word about wanting to effectively or urgently address Boulder’s interrelated climate, transportation, housing, and human rights challenges. To move Boulder ahead please vote for Dan, Lauren, Matt, and Nicole this election.
Other resources that might be helpful:
 – per 2015 job census data by zip code, well behind downtown Denver, and slightly outpacing the Denver Tech Center. Colorado Springs jobs tend to sprawl all over that region
If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers (maybe/it depends/sometimes? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) Hit us up with anything you’d like to seek clarification on at: email@example.com