I’ve lived in Boulder my whole life and really love this place, so I am deeply disappointed by what seems to be a recent trend towards increasingly divisive local politics that I believe is harming the collaborative spirit of our community. I can think of several examples that appear to fit into this trend, but right now the most obvious and important is the pair of ballot issues focused on growth and neighborhood voting.
Even having these measures on the ballot has already created a tremendous amount of tension between citizens, so I can only imagine how much more deeply divided the city will become if they actually pass. As we all consider our votes, please make sure you fully understand the details of these important measures. The names of each measure make them sound fairly innocuous, but because they are amendments to the City Charter (like our local constitution) they could become almost permanent changes with huge implications for our future. The changes being proposed are broad, vague, and complicated — surely not the best way to manage growth in an intelligent and flexible manner.
This cleverly named pair of ballot measures focused on “neighborhood voting rights” and growth “paying its own way” are almost Orwellian examples of initiatives that could easily result in the opposite of the aim to improve our city. On the surface they sound very inclusive and reasonable in an “everyone should have their say and pay their fair share” kind of way, but they are actually incredibly divisive and elitist. First, the neighborhood voting rights initiative would be the equivalent of an HOA on steroids for every few blocks of the city, breaking the community into a bunch of bickering little groups that would likely all be disinclined to allow affordable housing anywhere near their back yards.
I am deeply disappointed to hear many of my neighbors supporting this type of “slam the door shut behind me” policy. While I can certainly understand the desire to manage growth in our community in an intelligent way, this sweeping and divisive measure is absolutely not the solution. Effectively telling other people “I got mine, now you get out” is the height of hypocrisy. How can we hope to live in a thriving community that includes everything we expect like great teachers for our kids, firefighters to save our homes, and much more, if we aren’t even willing to let these people live next door?
The second measure is equally hypocritical, as those opposed to any kind of commercial growth in our community seem largely unaware of the many benefits that this type of development brings. The vague and arbitrary claim that growth should “pay its own way” blows right past the fact that growth in Boulder already contributes a significant amount. Along with millions of dollars in existing development and permitting fees, new growth brings jobs, sales tax revenue, and innovative ideas that will otherwise flourish in different cities. If we push businesses too hard on paying even more to be here, then the costs will soon start to outweigh the benefits of being part of such an exclusive community, and Boulder will likely lose much of the entrepreneurial spirit that is so strong here today.
Just as I am embarrassed to hear neighbors supporting the “gated communities” measure on neighborhood voting, I am terribly disappointed when people make broadly disparaging claims about growth like “we need fewer jobs, not more housing.” The innovation that Boulder supports in natural foods, the outdoor industry, clean energy, software and many more areas of business should be a point of pride, not a source of shame. I’m sure that folks in Denver, Fort Collins, and other Front Range communities would be happy to have our jobs at Google and other great companies.
Maybe this trend towards increasing divisiveness and exclusivity is just an inevitable part of living in a nice place, but I still think it’s a good idea to support policies that aim at keeping our community as open as possible. For this reason, I encourage everyone to vote against 300 and 301 in the upcoming election. We can find much better solutions for our city that aren’t so broad, vague, elitist and divisive.
Beth Hartman is a Boulder native.