Published on the first Monday of each month by Bob Yates, Boulder City Council
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By Bob Yates

I don’t care if you’re driving a hybrid or an SUV. If you’re headed for a cliff, 
you have to change direction. –Barack Obama
     Every once in a while, each of us is provided an opportunity to make a course correction in our journey through life. Sometimes, the change in direction is prompted by an unexpected event, like the loss of a job or the sudden death of a loved one. Sometimes the change is intentional, or even planned, like the decision to retire or to move to a new city. And sometimes, our best-laid plans, grounded in good intentions, simply don’t succeed, foiled by unanticipated obstacles or the mere passage of time. It is this latter circumstance—the creeping failure—that demands the greatest self-reflection. It takes a lot of courage to admit, “It seemed like a good idea at the time….”
     Today, the City of Boulder is considering just such a course correction, with the voters having the opportunity to choose which direction to take. For the last decade, we have been relentlessly pursuing the goal of municipalizing the electric distribution network in the city in order to increase the use of renewable energy and gain local control. It has been a noble and worthy objective in the pursuit of climate action. In 2010, unhappy with the speed at which Xcel Energy was converting its electricity generation from fossil fuels to wind and solar, community leaders inside and outside of the municipal government persuaded a majority of the Boulder voters to pursue a daring gambit: To take the local electric distribution network away from Xcel Energy and place it in the hands of the city, where decisions could be made locally, without regards to profit. Those leaders have included Leslie Glustrom, Paul Culnan, Bob Westby, Steve Pomerance, Chris Hoffman, Tom Asprey, Phil Wardell, Ken Regelson, Bob Morehouse, Matt Appelbaum, Suzanne Jones, Sam Weaver, Regina and Macon Cowles, and many others. Over the past decade, they have been tireless in their advocacy for municipalization.
     But, that decade has been tough. Setbacks—some predictably caused by a worthy adversary determined to retain its Boulder customers—have plagued the legal maneuverings at nearly every step. There were false starts, wrong turns, regrettable mistakes. Cases were lost by the city in court, then lost again on appeal. It took the city three trips to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to get permission to start a condemnation lawsuit. That condemnation lawsuit was filed and dismissed twice, and the third one was filed just a few months ago. Completion, if it ever occurs, is many years and many hundreds of millions of dollars away. And the city is quickly running out of the $29 million in tax seed money that the voters authorized to pay lawyers and engineers for the municipalization endeavor. COVID, which has decimated the rest if the city budget, hasn’t helped. This year, the city staff faced two unappealing alternatives: Ask the voters for more money at a time that they’re probably not in the mood for additional taxes, or give up on the progress that our investments have yielded over the past decade.

     Fortunately, there is a third path. On April 20, Xcel invited the city to re-engage in the settlement discussions which were held in 2017, but which did not then... Read more ☞

Playing well, together
This is the first in a series of articles on how Boulder city departments 
continue to provide services to the community during the coronavirus crisis.

In season 4 of the series Parks and Recreation, the character played by Rob Lowe exclaims, “If I keep my body moving, and my mind occupied at all times, I will avoid falling into a bottomless pit of despair.” Nearly five months into the coronavirus crisis, I think we can all relate.
Boulder’s own Parks and Recreation department has worked hard to keep our community out of that bottomless pit of despair. Recognizing that nearly everyone—regardless of age, color, or capability—relies on Parks & Rec to keep our bodies moving, city employees have creatively maneuvered around the restrictions presented by the pandemic to continue to provide services that we need to stay healthy and sane. Those Parks & Rec employees are led by one of my personal heroes, Ali Rhodes. A self-described “ops gal,” Ali digs in and gets her hands dirty to ensure that our community has the best the city can offer. I once watched Ali jump into the water in Farmers Ditch in her clothes to remove a culvert obstruction. That kind of dedication is what Boulder needs when the chips are down.

And the chips are down, especially for Parks & Rec. In addition to the loss of its share of the supporting sales tax revenue that all city departments face in this economic crisis, Parks and Rec is dependent on user fees paid by participants in recreation programs, many of which can’t be offered when it’s not safe for people to gather closely. Recreation classes have been limited in size, or cancelled altogether. Many seniors, who make up more than a third of Parks & Rec patrons, are understandably uncomfortable coming to recreation centers. All of this translates into millions of dollars in lost user fees that fund the programs and kept the facilities operating. But, a loss of more than a quarter of her budget doesn’t deter Ali, a perpetual optimist who has worked for the city for 18 years. To the contrary, Ali sees the financial challenge as an opportunity to re-assess priorities to ensure that limited resources are being deployed for the benefit of community members who need them most. 
“We are more intentional than ever about how we use tax subsidy to serve those who our community has told us are most important for us to serve: Those with disabilities, those with low income, and youth,” Ali explains. She says that the crisis has caused her department to re-balance which programs and users are subsidized and who needs to make a greater contribution. “Everyone can benefit from the great services we provide, but some will have to pay their way.”
Ali is particularly concerned about filling the exercise gap created when public schools closed last spring, especially since...
 Read more ☞
Recent Votes & Positions:

Homelessness Strategy: At the July 14 study session, I joined a unanimous council in approving improvements to the city’s homelessness strategy.  What was I thinking ☞

Ballot Measures: At the July 21 meeting, I joined council in determining how to address three proposed City Charter amendment ballot measures that have been proposed by petitioners.  What was I thinking ☞
In the News:

July 6: Boulder officials so far limiting pandemic's damage to 2020 work plan with new down payment program deferred

July 6: Petition seeking to provide lawyers to renters being evicted makes Boulder ballot

July 7: Boulder restaurants in exploratory phase to survive as outdoor dining opens amid coronavirus

July 9: Boulder Council passes hemp regulations, with difference over how to deal with odor

July 10: Boulder hires Joseph Lipari as first independent police monitor in overhauled officer oversight system

July 10:
Boulder bungled determining petitioning deadlines for ballot proposals

July 13: Boulder to accept dockless bike-sharing proposals

July 14: Long-term Boulder financial picture improving amid coronavirus as reopening advances, model shows

July 16: Boulder housing board leader says friction with Council on homelessness policies partly resolved by discussion

July 17: Boulder requests power supply, financing bids as municipal utility remains an option through Xcel settlement talks

July 21: Boulder City Council punts on emergency powers ballot measure, opting to refine

July 22: Lawsuit looming as Boulder decides not to take corrective action on ballot deadline mix-up

July 27: Longtime Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam retiring, effective Oct. 30

July 28: Gunbarrel residents turn out in droves to raise concerns with apartment development

July 28: Boulder, Xcel send deal to Council in possible ceasefire on municipal utility litigation

July 29: Prospect of Boulder, Xcel settlement excites some local leaders, while tight timeline concerns others

City of Boulder Community Newsletter

July 2020 issue on police reform in Boulder here
Find other recent past issues here
Next monthly issue September 7

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, August 4: Council Meeting 
COVID briefing; Xcel settlement; police master plan

Tuesday, August 11: Special Council Meeting  
Open Space agricultural land; ranked-choice voting; financial update

Tuesday, August 18: Council Meeting 
Audited financial statements; Xcel settlement; ballot measures

Tuesday, August 25: Study Session
Community benefit; use tables; online petitioning

Tuesday, September 1: Council Meeting 
COVID briefing; ballot measures; manufactured housing

Tuesday, September 8: Study Session
2021 budget

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