Earlier this week, the 14 candidates running for Boulder City Council and city mayor attended a candidate forum hosted by local cycling advocacy organizations at the Tune Up Tavern and Espresso, a bar attached to the Full Cycle bike shop.
Perhaps the only controversial question was whether the candidates supported the Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure. The measure would amend city code to make tents and propane tanks near schools, sidewalks and multi-use paths “subject to prioritized removal.” Regardless of how the measure would be implemented, it has become a proxy for whether candidates want the city to remove more encampments of homeless people.
The supporters include: Terri Brncic, Jacques Decalo, Waylon Lewis, Tina Marquis, Jennifer Robins, Tara Winer and Bob Yates.
“I’m upset that this is a controversial issue,” Robins told the crowd. “We’re not trying to solve homelessness. We are trying to protect our children.”
Under the city manager’s abatement protocol for encampment removals, city officials score encampments on a number of factors before deciding which ones to remove first. These scoring factors include risks to life safety, reports of crime or threats of violence, overall size and proximity to schools. How the ballot measure would change this procedure is unclear. But proponents have suggested it would at least signal to city officials that they should give more weight to school proximity.
“It’s not a solution to homelessness. It is not an increase in funding. It’s just to say, ‘Hey, guys, when you’re cleaning up, let’s do the schools first,” Yates said.
The opponents are Taishya Adams, Aaron Brockett, Aaron Gabriel Neyer, Ryan Schuchard, and Nicole Speer. (Paul Tweedlie and Silas Atkins were absent from the forum. Atkins, however, opposes the ballot measure.)
“Fundamentally, I support the intent behind it, which is keeping kids safe,” Brockett said. But he said the measure also seeks to prioritize sidewalks and multi-use paths, both of which make up a large percentage of the city. “It has the potential to dilute our focus around keeping kids safe because it includes areas all over the city that currently aren’t priority areas.”
Speer opposes the measure in part because she said it won’t change anything.
“More encampment removals … is not necessarily going to improve the situation at schools because more people are falling into homelessness every day due to rising housing costs and financial insecurity,” she said.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Aaron Gabriel Neyer supported the Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure. Since the forum this earlier week, he has decided to oppose it. His name has been moved in the story from the list of supporters to the list of opponents.