In the lead up to the Nov. 7, 2023 election, Boulder Reporting Lab asked readers what questions they wanted us to pose to candidates running for Boulder City Council and mayor. We selected six that address significant community issues. Read all the responses as they publish here.
What swift changes do Boulder City Council and mayoral candidates aim to achieve with their leadership? In other words, how might Boulder change after the Nov. 7 election due to their efforts?
In outlining their visions for Boulder in the coming year, those vying for city council and mayor reveal their concerns and priorities. Whether it’s improving biking infrastructure, supporting pandemic recovery and mental health services for children, increasing wildfire preparedness, or reducing the number of unsheltered homeless people who live in Boulder, their answers help clarify for voters where their focus might lie.
Each candidate was given 200 words to respond to the following question. Some answers have been edited to meet the word count. The candidates’ responses were randomly ordered for fairness. You can also jump to each candidate’s answers: Taishya Adams, Silas Atkins, Terri Brncic, Aaron Brockett, Jacques Decalo, Waylon Lewis, Tina Marquis, Aaron Gabriel Neyer, Paul Tweedlie, Jennifer Robins, Ryan Schuchard, Nicole Speer, Tara Winer, Bob Yates.
Assume you are elected this November. Now imagine it’s November one year later. What one, specific thing will you have accomplished that you’re proud of? Put another way, what will define success for you after one year on council, or as mayor?
City Council will have established, and be implementing, a process for unlocking significant new climate action. As a consequence, Boulder will also have a greater handle on our wildfire and wider growing environmental risks, as well as be making meaningful new progress towards expanding our transportation and housing options — which will include new strides towards bringing back and then positioning to expand public transit.
Recently, the Broncos gave $2 million to Boulder. The money comes from a provision of an existing agreement that required 2% of the net proceeds of the sale of the Broncos to be paid to the [school] district to be used for youth programming. I am hoping that if I am elected to council I will be able to help properly appropriate these funds to support our kids and families. I would like to establish safe spaces where kids and teens can socialize, while also incorporating wrap-around services.
Advocating for themselves can be challenging for young individuals, which is why it becomes crucial for us to reduce the stigmas associated with mental health and embrace gender and sexual diversity. By offering these safe spaces, we can extend a helping hand to many kids who feel scared, isolated and marginalized.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added an additional layer of stress and hardship to children’s lives, the full effects of which we have yet to fully comprehend. The isolation they have experienced is real, and they have had to confront issues like cyberbullying, unrealistic beauty standards, overwhelming academic pressure, increased exposure to violence and trauma, lack of physical activity and the unsettling reality of climate change.
Within a year of having joined the council, my hope is that every city council in Boulder County, including Boulder, and the county commissioners, will make a joint declaration that homelessness in Boulder County is a humanitarian crisis and will embark on a collective, unified effort to eradicate homelessness. We will adopt within the year common, outcome-based metrics to measure our work. Colorado will be recognized as being the first Blue state in the nation to be on track to compassionately address homelessness while ensuring public safety.
Success after year one on council will be improved processes and community activation. We will be closer to the collaboration rating on the Boulder Engagement Framework while also reducing bottlenecks and blindspots in our city’s policies, procedures, programs and initiatives. It is critical that we move beyond informing and consulting towards collective policymaking that shares the power, knowledge, wisdom, and courage to heal across communities and co-creating policies and investments that makes seven Boulder generations from now possible.
Improved biking connectivity and safety will define success for me. As the Hill hotel nears completion, we must prioritize connectivity between the Hill Commercial District, the Hill Hotel and Conference Center and our downtown. The connections should be safe, clean, well-lit and well-designed.
Right now, the path from the Hill through the arboretum to 13th St is dangerous for bikers due to the sharp curves, too much debris and lack of path lighting at night. I rarely see a pedestrian on that path.
Likewise, our underpasses need improved lighting for both pedestrians and bikers. Much of the lighting is either fully broken or partially broken, making it somewhat dangerous to ride or walk through, even in the daylight. Winter biking and walking present a challenge during snowy and icy conditions. I slipped on a patch of ice and fell off my bike while riding on the bike path just last winter. Our multi-use paths need to be free of ice and snow. Our bike paths are one of the greatest gems of our city. To get people out of cars and onto bikes and other forms of non-GHG producing vehicles, we need to make sure everyone is safe.
I would love to be able to have worked with our energy sector to have increased our reliance on green energy and moved further away from fossil fuels. Boulder can be the green standard that the rest of our state can follow. I would like to see our city provide more grants and opportunities for everyone to be able to use solar energy. We are an optimal area for solar. As our air quality gets worse there is not one second to spare in the accelerated transition to sustainability.
My number one priority is to create the processes and infrastructure needed to support a Safe Indoor Shelter policy for individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Solutions to chronic homelessness are going to take time, but in the meantime, we can’t ignore the real crisis that is occurring in our public spaces. I feel that we have a moral obligation as a community to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable population and to advocate for their basic needs when they are not able to do so themselves. Continuing to allow overdoses, assaults and escalating drug use to occur with no meaningful intervention is not compassion, it’s complacency.
Thank you for assuming I’ll get elected. For me, my first priority will be process. City council should not pretend to be experts in everything, but to prioritize urgent, needed solutions to painful problems of affordability, homelessness/public safety, transportation, climate. We can be a city that we’re inspired by, every day, and grateful to live in. We can be a city that the world looks to for inspiration, again. After process, I will focus on homelessness/public safety first, in a way that will save lives, and save money, and return our city to safety and sanity. That said, climate solutions big and small, and affordability, go hat in hand with every other issue. Those three are my priorities.
P.S.: You asked for one accomplishment. I regard fire mitigation, along with flood mitigation, as urgent. Disasters are coming for us — we must be ready.
Aaron Gabriel Neyer
Hello Boulderites! One year ago, you all elected me and a slate of candidates with a deep care for our planet and for our community. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last year and I’m so excited about where we’re going.
We are telling a climate story in Boulder that is inspiring people far beyond our local community. Over the last year we’ve been able to surface so many innovative solutions already coming through our government and our local community; supporting reforestation efforts, regenerative agriculture and so much more. And as we’ve amplified the cultural dialogue around it, we’ve been able to invite far more participation from a much wider swath of our community. I’ve loved seeing all the gardens growing this last year and all the community support to help those who were new to it.
I’ve loved getting to relate to our neighbor cities and initiate more engaged and collaborative relationships, and I’ve loved sharing about what’s happening with all of you through this newsletter. I’m so excited to see these changes ripple wider and wider. Thank you for trusting me, thank you for caring, and let’s keep going.
I want to see families thrive in Boulder. I propose significant property tax rebates for seniors and families with children.
After eight years on city council, I know that policy changes take time to implement. But if in a year, we’ve moved the needle on housing affordability and availability, if we add solutions for people experiencing homelessness, and I’ve been engaging with the community to find a path forward that helps people in need while bringing the community together, I will call it a successful year!
Success is defined for all of us by making people’s lives better. An example of this was the approval of Ordinance 8585, increasing occupancy of unrelated people to five. That will reduce anxiety, provide housing stability and tenant rights, and help us be an inclusive place. The more we lift us all up, the more successful we are as a community, and the more we all benefit.
I would consider next year a policy success if we passed a minimum wage increase that rises with inflation; placed a similar measure on the 2024 ballot to appropriately pay councilmembers for their time to increase representation from workers, parents, younger people and renters (and we had agreed to pay board and commission members, too); agreed to shift our spending on homelessness to prioritize prevention and evidence-based alternatives to camping; and initiated a city-wide climate resilience and risk assessment.
I would consider my first year as mayor a success if 90% of council meetings had ended on time, we had spent the most meeting time on the issues that are of biggest concern to the community (climate impacts, affordable housing, homelessness), and we had completed more than one of the next council’s priority items in our first 12 months.
I would consider the next council a success if the new council had fostered an environment where robust debate on critical issues was encouraged; where all councilmembers had the chance to show their leadership at community events; and where our new councilmembers had developed the confidence, relationships and skills to bring their most collaborative and innovative thinking to our city’s challenges.
My greatest effort during my first year as mayor will be reducing the number of homeless people in Boulder and mitigating the impacts of homelessness on our community.
I have published an eight-point plan to do this. At my request, the city recently completed the first-ever summertime count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people. We can use that summer 2023 count as a baseline to test the success of my plan when we conduct a second summer count next year. Other metrics we will use to measure success in reducing homelessness during my first year as mayor will include: (1) increased use of Boulder’s night shelter (which currently operates at 80% capacity); (2) usage of Boulder’s new day shelter, which we will launch this winter; (3) increase in the number of encampment clearings and decrease in the number of encampments observed; and (4) tracking the number of exits from homelessness in 2024, compared to 2023 exits. If those numbers are heading in the right direction by November 2024, we will know that the plan is working. We can then begin a community conversation on how to enhance and expand the plan for 2025 and beyond.