I love this city. I raised two daughters here, and I know they will carry with them throughout their lives the ethos they grew up with here: strive to reduce your impact on the earth, express yourself, be creative, and above all be authentic. I can ride my bike for miles without having to cross a busy street. I don’t have to wend through miles of sprawl to get home. We have genuine homegrown arts organizations; our festivals feature Nobel laureates talking about the next scientific breakthrough; you might be sampling the next national food craze at the farmer’s market; and people are engaged in the future of their community. We are a community. So naturally we all want it to reflect the vision we have for our future in this place we call home.
Passage of ballot question 300 would be a profound mistake. I do not think this election is about the competing visions of privileged elitists or greedy developers. Ballot question 300 was born of genuine concern over the rate of change in Boulder. Looking around, people wonder whether we are in danger of losing our soul. Might Boulder forsake its commitment to responding to climate change? Are we just becoming a playground for people who can afford to buy real estate in Boulder but who won’t contribute to the community?
While those and other concerns expressed on the opinion pages are legitimate concerns in the face of rapid change, ballot question 300 is not the answer.
Boulder has pressing and complex challenges. Those of us fortunate enough to have lived here for decades want to be able to grow old here. Will we be able to do that if real estate prices continue their climb? We want our children and grandchildren to be able to live here too. We need their vibrancy, their ideas, their creativity and energy, and we want to offer them an embracing, creative home that fosters new thinking. But where can a young family afford to live? We want to lead the way on reducing carbon emissions and demonstrate that comfort and affluence need not come at the expense of the environment. But can we do that if our population strains our water resources and we drive everywhere? We want to maintain economic diversity without succumbing to the false logic of urban sprawl as the solution to sky-high rent. And we want to spawn the next hot company and provide high-quality jobs with livable wages so people can live in our community with dignity. But can we do this without losing what makes Boulder unique?
Ballot question 300 doesn’t answer those questions and doesn’t provide a path forward. Allowing neighborhoods to vote on changes to land-use regulations will not assure that we are, remain or become the community I think we all want.
What we all care about so fervently requires us to come together. Boulder will not be an environmentally-sustainable, affordable, and caring community if our land development regulations encourage us to think only with reference to our own neighborhood.
Moreover, ballot measure 300 won’t lead to better land-use decisions. It doesn’t allow neighborhood votes on separate projects. It won’t stop downtown development or huge, ugly houses. It only allows a vote on wholesale regulatory changes, which have not been the cause of the explosion in development.
Ballot measure 300 undermines representative democracy. It allows separate neighborhoods to decide whether the policies enacted by their representatives should apply to them. But what yardstick would they use? Would they take testimony from all sides before they vote? Would they be required to become knowledgeable about the issue on which they will vote? Would their decision have to reflect what is best for Boulder or only what they want for their immediate environs? And what if only a small fraction of eligible voters actually voted, so that the outcome of an election that affects all of us is determined by a small fraction of the voters?
Express your desires about Boulder’s future through your vote in this City Council election. Vote for the candidates who reflect your vision for Boulder. Demand that they listen to you and to others. Require them to articulate the basis for their decisions. Send them emails, show up and testify. Make them do their job.
Please don’t vote for 300 and expect that Boulder will be the city you want it to be. Ballot measure 300 is not the solution.
Claire Levy is a former state representative from House District 13.