by One Boulder on September 23, 2015 in Our StandWe urge you to VOTE NO on Ballot Issues 300 and 301 in the upcoming City election.
As six Boulder Mayors, we are joining together to oppose the so-called “Neighborhood Right to Vote” and “Growth Pays its Own Way” ballot issues. For the past 25 years, we have served the Boulder community. We have differed on a number of issues during our terms in office. But on this issue we all strongly agree: These ballot issues are dangerous and deceptive, and they will threaten the community collaboration that makes Boulder great.
Yes, there are real issues in Boulder that need to be addressed. Our vibrant economy and high quality of life bring many advantages to our community, but they also bring challenges such as increased traffic and density. The answers to these issues do not lie in stopping all residential and business development while unspecific Charter changes are worked out. The answers lie in genuinely analyzing and understanding the impacts of our community decisions and honestly creating solutions to the problems. Real answers to real problems. That is how we do things in Boulder.
Dividing Boulder and Creating Chaos
The Neighborhood Right to Vote would divide Boulder into up to 66 tiny neighborhoods, each with the power to force a vote on any proposed development changes within their own boundaries. These elections would only be open to voters within that neighborhood, but as a taxpayer you get to pay for all the elections even though you cannot vote.
Dividing Boulder into 66 neighborhoods? By comparison, the whole City of Denver has 78 neighborhoods. Boulder is 25 square miles, Denver is 155 square miles; in 2014 Boulder had 97,385 people, Denver had 663,862. Splitting the City into many little fiefdoms, each with its own set of rules, will destroy the community and our history of working together on issues we care about!
And it will leave us with an unworkable patchwork of different rules, regulations and restrictions for housing and businesses, differences far beyond the zoning districts that have worked effectively for years in Boulder.
“The Lawyers Will Figure It Out Later“
The proponents want us to change the City Constitution (the “Charter”) to include their very vague and ambiguous language which even they agree will have to be clarified by competing lawyers. The City Attorney has suggested that ALL building permits should be stopped while the City tries to figure out what their language means and how to implement it. That could take many months if not years! Surely as Colorado voters we have learned that you shouldn’t put language no one really understands into the City Charter, leading to surprises and unintended consequences, especially when there are no provisions to amend the language or to take it out of the Charter when it proves unworkable.
As Mayors, we know where and how the vague language will ultimately be interpreted — through the Courts based on lawsuits. Attorneys’ costs and lawsuits you get to pay for!
“You think government is too big now, just wait!”
Sure, it is a great campaign slogan: ”Growth Pays Its Own Way”. But it’s an even better city policy. In fact, it was adopted years ago into the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan which guides our planning decisions. The fees covering impacts may need some revisions and updating, but we do not need to put confusing language into our Charter, language that even the proponents of the initiative agree is unclear. So who will have to figure out what the new language means and how to implement it? More costly City staff, more expensive City attorneys, more City Council meetings and Planning Board meetings, more regulations, more complexity, more neighborhood arguments and more lawsuits….you get the picture!
Meanwhile, despite its name, City fees from development may actually decrease and we will probably see our taxes increase to support the services we enjoy in Boulder. Why? Because employers and related development need certainty or at least reliability in the planning and regulatory environment in which to make their investment decisions. Ballot issues 300 and 301 create planning chaos rather than certainty. So current employers seeking to expand and create jobs, new businesses hoping to locate in Boulder, and builders of affordable housing will go outside Boulder where they get a fair chance to develop responsibly.
That creates a future which threatens the $12.77 million in development-related fees/revenues that the City of Boulder collected in 2014, approximately 4.2% of all the revenues collected. Those development fees support Open Space, Parks and Recreation, our libraries, affordable housing and our schools. In the end, the result is lower levels of service, of maintenance, of programs. Will we be forced to increase taxes to continue what we already have?
We Urge You to Vote NO on 300 & 301
Yes, these ballot issues have catchy names and they sound interesting and a little edgy. We pride ourselves in being innovative and creative in Boulder. But we have seen the disadvantages and the significant costs of adopting initiatives that we don’t really understand, that are not clear, and end up costing us a ton of money to figure out later. This is a bad way to develop public policy, and it is a bad way to run a city government!!!
Boulder citizens, voters, employers, and students deserve better. Don’t be tricked into thinking these two initiatives will improve the quality of life in Boulder, will assure increased services at someone else’s expense or that they will address the real needs of our community. They will divide Boulder into factions and erode our opportunities for improvement as a community working together for good.
Please join us and your other neighbors and friends in Voting NO on Ballot Issues 300 and 301.
Matt Appelbaum, Leslie Durgin, Bob Greenlee, Linda Jourgensen, Mark Ruzzin, and Will Toor