Jennifer Robins is real estate consultant for Insite, Inc., a telecommunications company. She is also an active volunteer in Boulder. This includes helping with the Boulder International Film Festival. She is the mother of two daughters and leads two Girl Scouts troops.

Endorsements: PLAN-Boulder County, Boulder Elevated and Think Boulder

Answers to questionnaire:

What do you think are the most promising initiatives for reducing homelessness?

There are many factors that contribute to homelessness. These include lack of housing, income inequity, substance abuse and mental health issues. I am committed to working to increase affordable housing and streamlining city processes to allow for more affordable housing opportunities. I am open to exploring the possibility for tiny homes or micro-communities, where we could move groups of people into tier 1 housing. 

The unhoused have communities just like you and I. If we can work with the encampments in that light, I think that the level of success would be much greater than trying to move people into individual housing and removing them from their existing personal support structure. These options should be funded by the County using the extension of the Alternative Sentencing Facility tax that will be on the ballot next year.

In addition to our existing services, I think the most promising initiatives for ending homelessness include our existing night shelter and the coming day shelter. The existing council has also approved the day shelter, which will be an important addition to our current services. It will provide another path for people to get connected to services.

We are in a climate emergency. With your leadership, how would Boulder change commensurately?

To reach the goal of net zero emissions, I think we have to focus on using more renewable energy and reducing demand through better urban planning. From a land-use perspective, we need to allow multifamily housing to be built along certain corridors, particularly those served by transit lines and featuring commercial and mixed-use development. We need smarter urban planning to help significantly cut down on the need for vehiclesWe can require new construction to use renewable energy such as solar. 

We can increase incentives for electrification of personal vehicles, work with RTD to electrify their fleet, and consider electric vehicles in the city fleet. 

From a commercial perspective, we can start simple by taking measures such as painting roofs white to reflect sunlight and installing rooftop gardens or greener buildings with vertical gardens. In regard to lifestyle, animal products are very carbon intensive. Agriculturally, we need to work on additional community gardens, vertical farms, and sourcing more local farms and producers. 

Boulder should focus on making sure that Xcel is doing its part on meeting state mandates on both CO2 and methane emissions, particularly in regards to its local policies (reducing the leakage rate from its in-town facilities) and state policies. 

How can we better provide alternatives to cars when existing infrastructure prioritizes cars?

We have to be sure any decisions made on this front are equitable. Steps to provide alternatives to cars include zoning to create housing in areas where we have mass transit and walkable mixed-use neighborhoods, such as our business districts. The Vision Zero program that is currently in place is a great starting point to improve the safety of our pedestrians and cyclists.

We can also continue to incentivize e-bike purchases with rebates or tax credits. RTD needs to be more reliable. I think that there should be an additional tax to help fund RTD. But I think that the City and County of Broomfield and Boulder County, which never received the [promised] commuter rail, should be exempt from these proposed sales tax increases. RTD should also be working with the state for additional funding. They should also be providing additional subsidies and incentives for low-income earners to ride the RTD. Boulder should work on many fronts: collaboration with, and additional performance expectations, of RTD; collaboration with the Boulder County consortium of cities and Northwest Corridor efforts to add regional connection options that maximize transit and micro-mobility options; and full support for transportation electrification initiatives and transit.

What is your plan for increasing Boulder’s affordable housing supply?

We need to continue our inclusionary housing policy and commercial linkage fees to give the city the money it needs to continue working with the county and state to leverage additional funds for additional affordable housing opportunities. Programs like downpayment assistance are great for ownership opportunities.

I believe in growth, but I also believe in maintaining the existing major charter and zoning ordinances, such as the blue line, green belt and the height restriction. We need thoughtful growth. 

I support strategic zoning reform to allow for slightly higher densities and gentle infill in certain areas. These areas can include our vacant or aging business and industrial districts where we can rezone to create multi-unit housing as mixed use near transit corridors. We need to reevaluate parking requirements where we have mass transit. We need more affordable housing for middle-income earners, families, seniors and students. Any zoning reform should be partnered with an affordable housing component. We have to work with the existing neighborhoods to accomplish this. We should protect the existing residents and maintain single-family neighborhoods where people are most passionate about character and development. Reform cannot be successful without the active engagement of our community. 

What approach would you take to address camping in our parks, on our bike paths and along our waterways?

Encampments are not a compassionate solution. There is no sobriety on the creek. No one should be living on the street. The unhoused are a very vulnerable part of our community. Unfortunately, we have situations where the current encampments are the cause for micro crime hot spots, which show 30% of crime is occurring in 10% of the city. A good portion of the more serious misdemeanors are happening to the unhoused from the unhoused.  [Editor’s note: The Boulder Police Department has not published publicly available data on which reports of crime involve homeless people.]

We have an obligation to help those in need. We also have an obligation to provide our community the ability to enjoy the city and feel safe, and too often that is not the reality they are experiencing. A small portion of the homeless population makes a negative impact on our community by way of overrunning public spaces and transportation, theft, trash, creek pollution, property destruction and ongoing safety issues for city workers. We need to continue outreach to the people in the encampments to get them involved with coordinated entry and the services that are offered in our city. We have to enforce the camping ban laws and continue to utilize law enforcement to help with this on-going issue.

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?

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. 

John Herrick is a reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering housing, transportation, policing and local government. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for VTDigger.org. Email: john@boulderreportinglab.org.