Published on the first Monday of each month by Bob Yates, Boulder City Council
Note: The Boulder Bulletin is published monthly on the first Monday of each month. However, in addition, during the COVID crisis, a special weekly issue of the Bulletin is being published each Wednesday to keep the Boulder community apprised of the most recent local developments. The next weekly special COVID edition will be published on Wednesday, May 6, and the next regular monthly edition will be published on Monday, June 1.

By Bob Yates

A few months ago, before the world went weird, I sat cross-legged on the floor of the library at Heatherwood Elementary School and discussed municipal budgeting with third-graders. You might ask what eight-year-olds could possibly comprehend about such complex topics as tax dedication, overhead allocation, and encumbrance carryovers. But, believe me, they do understand what it is to make hard choices, to weigh competing and mutually-exclusive alternatives. Bike-riding with friends vs. practicing the piano. Homework vs. video games. By the age of eight, we already understand that we can’t have it all.
When I sat on the floor with those kids at Heatherwood, they wanted to know how, as a city council member, I make decisions. So, we did a little exercise: We laid out a piece of paper that represented the entire Boulder municipal budget. And then we took other paper and cut it into smaller squares representing various city services. One square represented libraries, another the police department, another streets and roads. We then placed the service squares on the budget page. To make it challenging, the sum of all of the squares representing municipal services was more than the total municipal budget. So, the kids had to make trade-offs; they had to decide which services were important and which services we would forego. It frustrated the heck out them, because they saw the value in every municipal service. In fact, they wanted to add new services that the city doesn’t even currently provide. Finally, the third-graders gave up on prioritization. Instead, they simply raised taxes to make the budget bigger so that they could get all of the services they wanted, without any sacrifices. Their teacher was horrified. 
Last Tuesday, in the midst of the COVID crisis, the city council faced this same exercise, but with real services, real people, and real consequences. We were presented last week with the first clear picture of how devastating the financial impact will be on the city’s budget, and how deeply we must cut services that our community takes for granted. Unlike the choice made by the Heatherwood students, raising taxes on unemployed residents and closed businesses is not an option for us now. We can’t dodge difficult decisions.
The ancient Roman army had a term—decimate—which we still use today. In those times, a Roman military unit would be punished for cowardice or defeat in battle by the random selection one out of ten soldiers (decem) for execution. The army leaders understood that a ten percent chance of elimination has a special way of focusing the mind and building courage. On March 31, as the financial impacts of the current COVID crisis were just beginning to be understood in Boulder, the city budget staff presented a rough estimate of the shortfall the economic collapse would have on the city’s 2020 municipal budget. At that time, they guessed that the worst-case decline in tax revenues would be about ten percent of the city budget; that the budget would, quite literally, be decimated. As it turns out, that estimate was too rosy. Last week, guided by more data and analysis, the city staff revised their forecast. They now predict that fully one-seventh of city revenues will simply evaporate this year. One out of seven tax dollars will not be received. One out of seven municipal services or projects will be eliminated. Even the Romans didn’t have a word for this. 
Here are the dollars and cents of it: Boulder’s 2020 municipal budget, excluding the self-sustaining water utilities, is about...
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Chip looks forward
Last year, Sean Maher, the executive director of the Downtown Boulder Partnership, stepped down after ten years of highly successful leadership, during which downtown thrived and many downtown community events were launched and expanded. Following a nationwide search, the organization last August hired as Sean’s replacement Chip (who doesn’t use a last name), to build on Sean’s successes. I spent some time with Chip last week to hear about his first nine months leading the downtown organization, his future plans for downtown, and, of course, the impacts of the COVID crisis on downtown businesses and events. Here are my questions and Chip’s responses:

Bob: Prior to becoming the executive director of Downtown Boulder Partnership last summer, you had served for many years as the executive director of Downtown Santa Cruz. What similarities and differences have you observed in the two downtowns?
Chip: People in both Santa Cruz and in Boulder have an emotional attachment to their downtown that is powerful. People are passionate about their opinions. That’s important. Visitors can sense something special. I think both downtowns are physically designed well. There is a good mix of buildings in terms of newer and more historic. They both are pedestrian friendly places, though in different ways. And, importantly, they both have an unusually high percentage of local and independent businesses. That certainly supports the emotional connection I spoke of. I will note two big differences. One is in regards to downtown housing. Santa Cruz, like Boulder, is a relatively very expensive place to live, and I would say that overall there is less housing availability in Santa Cruz than in Boulder broadly, however there is a much wider range of housing options in Downtown Santa Cruz than in or around Downtown Boulder. The other big difference is the level of investment and commitment the City of Boulder has made over many years to the Downtown. One of the things that attracted me to the position was the relationship that had been established between the Downtown Partnership and city leadership. This relationship in Boulder, in my opinion, is a big reason that the Downtown district is managed as well as it is. 
Bob: What has surprised you about Boulder?
Chip: As you know, Bob, I had been paying attention to Boulder for a long time. I talked to Sean Maher a bit over the years, and like many people in the world of downtown management, I have “borrowed” more than a few ideas from the Downtown Boulder Partnership. So I had a pretty good sense of it coming in. I can admit now that I was pretty nervous about...
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Recent Votes & Positions:

Neighborhood Speed Management: At the April 21 city council meeting, I joined a unanimous council in supporting reduced speed limits on residential streets in Boulder. What was I thinking ☞

Ballot Petitions: At the April 21 city council meeting, I joined the majority on council in preserving the long-standing method for petitioning to place a measure on the ballot. What was I thinking ☞
In the News:

April 6: Potential Boulder County minimum wage, tax hikes lose steam as focus turns to coronavirus response and recovery

April 7: Boulder open space system closures on table if crowding continues amid coronavirus pandemic

April 8: Boulder City Council extends seven-year oil, gas drilling moratorium

April 8: Boulder mayor condemns ethnic stigmatization stemming from coronavirus pandemic

April 13: Municipal utility funding uncertain with coronavirus as Boulder officials consider ballot content

April 14: Boulder City Council shoots down road closures to traffic as coronavirus response in somber meeting

April 14: Boulder furloughing 737 city employees beginning Monday

April 14: Judge pauses Boulder's latest municipal utility litigation while appeal of earlier dismissal moves forward

April 22: Activists disappointed by Boulder City Council declining electronic petitioning amid coronavirus restrictions

April 22: Boulder City Council adopts '20 is plenty,' slowing residential speed limits

April 25: No general fund draw needed by Boulder municipal utility project as coronavirus wrecks city budget

April 28: Boulder retailers adjusting to pace of new climate as official gauge coronavirus city budget damage
City of Boulder Community Newsletter

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Next monthly issue June 1
Next special COVID-19 weekly issue May 6

Council Meetings & Study Sessions

Unless otherwise noted, all council meetings and study sessions and other meetings begin at 6:00 at City Council Chambers, second floor, 1777 Broadway. Information current as of first Monday of the month, but subject to change.
Confirm agendas 

Tuesday, May 5: Council Meeting 
COVID briefing; Marpa House landmarking; hemp regulation

Tuesday, May 12: Special Council Meeting 
COVID briefing; Hill Hotel concept plan; 2020 work plan adjustments

Tuesday, May 19: Council Meeting 
COVID briefing; neighborhood speed management

Tuesday, May 26: Special Council Meeting 
COVID briefing; 2020 ballot items; flood & stormwater update

Tuesday, June 2: Council Meeting 
COVID briefing; Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan

Contact Bob 
Voice Message: 720.310.5829
Office: 1777 Broadway, Boulder (email in advance for appointment)
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