I want to start with a thank you to local journalists Shay Castle (Boulder Beat), reporters at the Boulder Daily Camera, and the Boulder Weekly. Without their dedication and terrific reporting, guides like this wouldn’t be possible. I’ve also linked to great reporting from The Denver Post, Colorado Sun, and other outlets. Consider subscribing!
You can subscribe to Shay Castle’s Patreon to get weekly local news, or you can subscribe to the Boulder Daily Camera and Boulder Weekly which support a number of local journalists and editorials.
Presidential Electors – Joe Biden / Kamala Harris (Democratic)
I am voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
The past four years of leadership in our country have shown the devastating effects of a president and congress who live to serve only a minority of Americans. Whether the issue is racial justice, economic prosperity, natural disasters, or a global pandemic, we need leaders who will take these challenges on and serve our entire country and help those who have the least among us. I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are those people.
While Biden was not my first choice in the primary (or even one of my top choices), what I’ve seen is that he is willing to listen and move on his positions. Having a united Congress with the President will allow the Democratic Party to protect voting rights, expand health care, reduce economic inequality, make real progress on climate change, bring balance to our federal court system and end the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
United States Senator — John Hickenlooper (Democratic)
Colorado deserves a Senator who will represent us. The current occupant of the office has been one of the worst public officials I have witnessed—standing full in line with the current president, completely unwilling to listen to the needs of the people in our state and working with no accountability at all.
Hickenlooper is a more moderate choice than I wanted to see for Colorado. Our state is moving in a progressive direction which I hope will give him some consideration when we push for our country to make the bold change that we need to tackle our most pressing issues.
Representative to the 117th United States Congress – District 2 — Joe Neguse (Democratic)
Joe has been an incredible representative in his first two years in Congress. I proudly supported Joe two years ago and appreciate how he’s fought to speak out on climate change and to hold our president accountable.
State and County Offices
Regent of the University of Colorado –
Congressional District 2 — Callie Rennison (Democratic)
State Senator – District 18 —Steve Fenberg (Democratic)
State Representative – District 10 — Edie Hooton (Democratic)
State Representative – District 13 — Judy Amabile (Democratic)
Boulder County Commissioner – District 1 — Claire Levy (Democratic)
Boulder County Commissioner – District 2 — Marta Loachamin (Democratic)
District Attorney – 20th Judicial District — Michael Dougherty (Democratic)
Full disclosure—I am a registered Democrat and nearly always vote for Democratic candidates. A few notes on my choices below.
Steve Fenberg has made an impact in Colorado in the past four years serving as the Majority Leader. His passion for fighting climate change has been key for the state to enact its groundbreaking new regulations on the oil and gas industry. Edie Hooton is a strong Democrat who serves on the Transportation and Local Government Committee and Energy and Environment Committee. She deserves to be re-elected in Boulder.
Callie Rennison is incredibly bright, personable, and done great work in her time in the University of Colorado system.
Judy Amabile has been a great member of Boulder’s community and I’m proud to support her running for Colorado House. She has a progressive background in the Democratic Party, focusing on mental health and inequality. She also has the experience as a business owner which gives Judy additional perspective on her decisions. She’s run a people-focused campaign and look forward to her representing Boulder and the surrounding five county district.
Michael Dougherty ran for this office two years ago and now seeks a four year term. He has been outspoken about criminal justice reform and often participated in events promoting racial and social justice in our community.
Claire Levy is a former state legislator and previous executive director for Colorado Center on Law and Policy, an organization focused on economic justice in Colorado. Marta Loachamin will be the first Latina elected to serve as county commissioner in Boulder and will be a strong voice for equity in the county.
Judicial Retention Questions
Colorado Supreme Court Justice — Melissa Hart
Colorado Supreme Court Justice — Carlos A. Samour Jr.
Colorado Court of
Appeals — Ted C. Tow III
Colorado Court of
Appeals — Craig R. Welling
20th Judicial District — Ingrid Seftar Bakke
20th Judicial District — Patrick D. Butler
20th Judicial District — Judith L. LaBuda
20th Judicial District — Andrew Ross Macdonald
20th Judicial District — Nancy Woodruff Salomone
20th Judicial District — Jonathon P. Martin
Here’s a link to the Colorado Judicial Performance Evaluations – I’ve linked to each judge’s above. I had originally posted to retain judges largely based on their performance evaluations. However, a number of folks have reached out expressing concerns about various judges, which I will be documenting more thoroughly for each judge.
A few notes on judges above — Patrick Butler was the judge in the CU Boulder rape case who gave a very lenient sentence—”Another Rapist Escapes Prison Time. Here’s Why His Judge Hasn’t Faced a Backlash.”
Judge Andrew McDonald presided over the case where Chelsea Castellano and I sued the City of Boulder on behalf of Bedrooms Are For People. I’ll be adding that story in my next update.
Without increasing property tax rates, to help
preserve funding for local districts that provide fire
protection, police, ambulance, hospital, kindergarten
through twelfth grade education, and other services,
and to avoid automatic mill levy increases, shall
there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution
to repeal the requirement that the general assembly
periodically change the residential assessment rate
in order to maintain the statewide proportion of
residential property as compared to all other taxable
property valued for property tax purposes and
repeal the nonresidential property tax assessment
rate of twenty-nine percent?
I’m voting Yes/For Amendment B. The measure will repeal the Gallagher Amendment which constrains residential vs. business property taxes. Repealing this amendment will allow property taxes to more closely reflect that actual value of properties which will better support our schools and local governments.
In the excellent graph below from the Colorado Blue Book, you can see that the left side chart represents property values while the right side chart is how the current law requires those properties to be taxed. Forcing these tax burdens to be in a 45/55% balance, regardless of the actual value/growth of these properties, is not economically efficient and creates distortions both in the housing and commercial property markets.
The State of Colorado projects that these changes will increase over the coming years:
Property tax is one of the few taxes that constrain the growth of wealth from capital in our society. Helping to make this tax more fair, by passing amendment B, will move our tax system in a more progressive direction.
Explainers and opinion on Amendment B:
Colorado Blue Book – Amendment B
Ballotpedia – Amendment B
What you need to know about TABOR, Gallagher, Amendment 23 and the hidden forces that constrain spending in Colorado (Colorado Sun)
Amendment B explained: What repealing the Gallagher Amendment would mean for Colorado and your property taxes (Colorado Sun)
Unpacking Gallagher: The property tax law up for a vote in Colorado (9 News)
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado
constitution concerning the conduct of charitable
gaming activities, and, in connection therewith,
allowing bingo-raffle licensees to hire managers and
operators of games and reducing the required
period of a charitable organization’s continuous
existence before obtaining a charitable gaming
I’m voting Yes/For Amendment C. The amendment will loosen some regulations on charitable fundraisers. Most of the specific changes would reduce the time requirement from five years to three years, and set up requirements for paid staff. Overall this is a small change at the state level but would have a more significant economic impact for local communities using the updated regulations.
Explainers and opinion on Amendment C:
Colorado Blue Book – Amendment C
Ballotpedia – Amendment C
Amendment C could bring some of the biggest changes to Colorado bingo raffles in decades (The Denver Channel)
What’s Colorado Amendment C: Bingo and raffle rules (Daily Camera)
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado
constitution requiring that to be qualified to vote at
any election an individual must be a United States
I’m voting No/Against Amendment 76. Amendment 76 is a Republican attempt at suppressing the votes of young people in Colorado. The measure would not change the requirement that a voter must be a citizen, which already exists. Rather, if passed, 17-year olds would no longer be able to vote in Presidential or state and local primaries if turned 18 by election day.
Explainers and opinion on Amendment 76:
Ballotpedia – Amendment 76
Amendment 77 (CONSTITUTIONAL)
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado
constitution and a change to the Colorado Revised
Statutes concerning voter-approved changes to
limited gaming, and, in connection therewith,
allowing the voters of Central City, Black Hawk, and
Cripple Creek, for their individual cities, to approve
other games in addition to those currently allowed
and increase a maximum single bet to any amount;
and allowing gaming tax revenue to be used for
support services to improve student retention and
credential completion by students enrolled in
I’m voting No/Against Amendment 77. Gambling in Colorado has been legalized and regulated in several cities, essentially creating a monopoly industry in these cities. Amendment 77 aims to increase the financial and economic impacts from betting (and now sports better with the passage of 2019’s Prop DD.
The change would allow communities to remove all limits to betting, as well only giving this right to three specific cities. Colorado does not need further concentration of betting activities, without limits, in these three cities.
Explainers and opinion on Amendment 77:
Ballotpedia – Amendment 77
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED BY
$294,000,000 ANNUALLY BY IMPOSING A TAX
ON NICOTINE LIQUIDS USED IN E-CIGARETTES
AND OTHER VAPING PRODUCTS THAT IS
EQUAL TO THE TOTAL STATE TAX ON
TOBACCO PRODUCTS WHEN FULLY PHASED
IN, INCREMENTALLY INCREASING THE
TOBACCO PRODUCTS TAX BY UP TO 22% OF
THE MANUFACTURER’S LIST PRICE,
INCREMENTALLY INCREASING THE
CIGARETTE TAX BY UP TO 9 CENTS PER
CIGARETTE, EXPANDING THE EXISTING
CIGARETTE AND TOBACCO TAXES TO APPLY
TO SALES TO CONSUMERS FROM OUTSIDE
OF THE STATE, ESTABLISHING A MINIMUM TAX
FOR MOIST SNUFF TOBACCO PRODUCTS,
CREATING AN INVENTORY TAX THAT APPLIES
FOR FUTURE CIGARETTE TAX INCREASES,
AND INITIALLY USING THE TAX REVENUE
PRIMARILY FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING TO
HELP OFFSET REVENUE THAT HAS BEEN
LOST AS A RESULT OF THE ECONOMIC
IMPACTS RELATED TO COVID-19 AND THEN
FOR PROGRAMS THAT REDUCE THE USE OF
TOBACCO AND NICOTINE PRODUCTS,
ENHANCE THE VOLUNTARY COLORADO
PRESCHOOL PROGRAM AND MAKE IT WIDELY
AVAILABLE FOR FREE, AND MAINTAIN THE
FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS THAT CURRENTLY
RECEIVE REVENUE FROM TOBACCO TAXES,
WITH THE STATE KEEPING AND SPENDING
ALL OF THE NEW TAX REVENUE AS A
VOTER-APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE?
I’m voting Yes/For Proposition EE. Colorado has tried (and failed) to implement higher cigarette taxes in the past (most recently in 2016). Here’s my write-up from the time (Amendment 72 from 2016).
The 2020 tax increase would also include vaping products.
Explainers and opinion on Proposition EE:
Colorado Blue Book – Proposition EE
Ballotpedia – Proposition EE
Shall the following Act of the General Assembly be
approved: An Act concerning adoption of an
agreement among the states to elect the President
of the United States by national popular vote, being
Senate Bill No. 19-042?
I’m voting Yes/For Proposition 113.
Senate Bill No. 19-042 states to be an “Interstate agreement to elect president of the United States by national popular vote. The act makes law and enters into with all other states joining therein the agreement among the states to elect the president of the United States by national popular vote (agreement).”
I believe the US Electoral College to be an undemocratic way of voting for the presidency. Moving to a popular vote system would address a number of distortions in our current system:
- Smaller states would no longer have outsize power in selecting the President.
- More people would be enfranchised by a popular vote system—voters in non-swing states would have more incentive to vote
- Our current system does not necessarily preference big states vs. small states in their influence—in fact the current system preferences swing states above all others
The interstate compact is compatible with the US Supreme Court’s decision upholding electors’ duty to vote for the popular vote winner in a state.
Explainers and opinion on Proposition 113:
Ballotpedia – Proposition 113
Krieger: A lonely Colorado conservative makes the case for one person, one vote (Colorado Sun)
Armstrong: NPV an unserious idea, let’s improve the Electoral College (Complete Colorado)
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised
Statutes concerning the restoration of gray wolves
through their reintroduction on designated lands in
Colorado located west of the continental divide,
and, in connection therewith, requiring the Colorado
parks and wildlife commission, after holding
statewide hearings and using scientific data, to
implement a plan to restore and manage gray
wolves; prohibiting the commission from imposing
any land, water, or resource use restrictions on
private landowners to further the plan; and requiring
the commission to fairly compensate owners for
losses of livestock caused by gray wolves?
I’m voting Yes/For Proposition 114. The stated reason for gray wolf reintroduction is to help balance the predator/prey ecosystem in Colorado. The total costs of doing so are estimated to be between 300-800k per year during implementation. The costs would largely be from hunting/fishing licenses sold in the state.
Explainers and opinion on Proposition 114:
Ballotpedia – Proposition 114
Proposition 114 explained: What’s at stake with the effort to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado (Colorado Sun)
Colorado Proposition 114 Endorsement: Yes on gray wolves reintroduction (Denver Post)
Proposition 114 Proponents Howling Over Wolf Killings in Wyoming (Denver Westword)
Working Families Party Gives Colorado’s Proposition 114 on Wolf Reintroduction the Seal of Approval
Vote ‘no’ on Proposition 114, the plan to reintroduce wolves to Colorado (The Fence Post)
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised
Statutes concerning prohibiting an abortion when
the probable gestational age of the fetus is at least
twenty-two weeks, and, in connection therewith,
making it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine to
perform or attempt to perform a prohibited abortion,
except when the abortion is immediately required to
save the life of the pregnant woman when her life is
physically threatened, but not solely by a
psychological or emotional condition; defining terms
related to the measure including “probable
gestational age” and “abortion,” and excepting from
the definition of “abortion” medical procedures
relating to miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy;
specifying that a woman on whom an abortion is
performed may not be charged with a crime in
relation to a prohibited abortion; and requiring the
Colorado medical board to suspend for at least
three years the license of a licensee whom the
board finds performed or attempted to perform a
I’m voting No/Against Proposition 115. Proposition 115 is the latest attempt in Colorado from Republican/conservative groups to criminalize abortion.
My opposition comes from a place that abortion is health care and the right to bare a child is critical for the equality of women in our society.
Each additional attempt at blocking the rights to abortion health care services for women attempt to sound more reasonable. But the reality is that the vast majority of abortions happen before 22 weeks, and procedures that happen about that time or later are already when the health of the mother is at stake.
Explainers and opinion on Proposition 115:
Ballotpedia – Proposition 115
Proposition 115 explained: Colorado’s broad access to abortion would be scaled back under ballot measure (Colorado Sun)
Endorsement: Don’t put the government in OBGYN offices; vote “no” on Prop. 115 (Denver Post)
Should Abortion Be Banned After 22-Weeks? Colorado Voters Will Decide In November (Colorado Public Radio)
Colorado Voters Could Determine Abortion Access Nationwide (Rewire News Group)
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised
Statutes reducing the state income tax rate from
4.63% to 4.55%?
I’m voting No/Against Proposition 116. Reducing Colorado’s income tax rate is a Republican effort to reduce critical state funding. State and local governments are already struggling with huge cuts and worker furloughs that will be necessary in future years to balance the state budget due to the deep economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Depriving the state of needed tax revenue that will be generated by those who haven’t lost their jobs will be critical.
Nationally the economy is seeing a K-shaped recession—as higher income employees are keeping their jobs while lower income employees are more likely to lose them. Colorado’s tax code is not progressive, as the rate stays the same at varying income levels. The way forward here is to reject this income tax decrease and move toward a more progressive tax code to begin to address the crushing inequality that continues to worsen in the United States.
Explainers and opinion on Proposition 116:
Ballotpedia – Proposition 116
Editorial: Vote ‘no’ on Proposition 116 (Daily Camera)
Prop. 116: Colorado voters will decide whether to lower the state income tax, but it’s complicated (The Denver Channel)
Proposition 116 explained: Colorado must decide whether an income tax cut is worth a hit to state budget (Colorado Sun)
Election 2020: Proposition 116 – Decrease State Income Tax Rate (KGNU Radio)
Colorado Springs Gazette: Vote ‘yes’ on Prop 116 tax relief (Colorado Springs Gazette)
COUNTERPOINT | Prop. 116 adds ‘insult to injury’ (Colorado Politics)
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised
Statutes requiring statewide voter approval at the
next even-year election of any newly created or
qualified state enterprise that is exempt from the
Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, Article X, Section 20 of the
Colorado constitution, if the projected or actual
combined revenue from fees and surcharges of the
enterprise, and all other enterprises created within
the last five years that serve primarily the same
purpose, is greater than $100 million within the first
five fiscal years of the creation or qualification of the
I’m voting No/Against Proposition 117. Proposition 117 is an extension of the “Taxpayers Bill of Rights” TABOR that would require additional approval from voters to create enterprises under TABOR. Per Ballotpedia, some examples of enterprises are “the state lottery, state nursing homes, Colorado Correctional Industries, and College Assist (including the student loan program and College Access Network). Enterprises that gained enterprise status after the passage of TABOR include Colorado Parks and Wildlife (the Division of Wildlife), higher education institutions (universities and colleges), statewide tolling authority, statewide bridge enterprise.”
Enterprises are largely used to establish an organization that works to the public benefit of the state. Proposition 117 was proposed by right-wing groups to prevent the use of that authority.
Explainers and opinion on Proposition 117:
Ballotpedia – Proposition 117
Proposition 117 explained: Colorado voters would have more control over government fees (Colorado Sun)
From the Community Editorial Board: Thoughts on Proposition 117 (Daily Camera)
EDITORIAL: Yes on 117; no to death by a thousand fees (Colorado Spring Gazette)
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised
Statutes concerning the creation of a paid family
and medical leave program in Colorado, and, in
connection therewith, authorizing paid family and
medical leave for a covered employee who has a
serious health condition, is caring for a new child or
for a family member with a serious health condition,
or has a need for leave related to a family member’s
military deployment or for safe leave; establishing a
maximum of 12 weeks of family and medical leave,
with an additional 4 weeks for pregnancy or
childbirth complications, with a cap on the weekly
benefit amount; requiring job protection for and
prohibiting retaliation against an employee who
takes paid family and medical leave; allowing a local
government to opt out of the program; permitting
employees of such a local government and
self-employed individuals to participate in the
program; exempting employers who offer an
approved private paid family and medical leave
plan; to pay for the program, requiring a premium of
0.9% of each employee’s wages, up to a cap,
through December 31, 2024, and as set thereafter,
up to 1.2% of each employee’s wages, by the
director of the division of family and medical leave
insurance; authorizing an employer to deduct up to
50% of the premium amount from an employee’s
wages and requiring the employer to pay the
remainder of the premium, with an exemption for
employers with fewer than 10 employees; creating
the division of family and medical leave insurance
as an enterprise within the department of labor and
employment to administer the program; and
establishing an enforcement and appeals process
for retaliation and denied claims?
I’m voting Yes/For Proposition 118. In normal economic times, starting a family or having a serious health condition puts a huge financial strain on the family, as well as reducing opportunities for career advancement. During the pandemic, we’ve seen an even larger disparity, where many women have left the workforce, particularly those who have families. Passing Proposition 118 would help to reduce these negative economic and quality of life effects.
The funding mechanism is set up similarly to Medicaid/Social Security, where employers and employees equally split the payment responsibility. Funding a program like Paid Family Leave at a state level will guarantee that all employees (with few exceptions) will have the benefit which is like what many well-paying tech companies already provide.
Explainers and opinion on Proposition 118:
Ballotpedia – Proposition 118
Colorado Proposition 118 would create state-run paid family and medical leave (Denver Post)
Proposition 118 explained: Paid-leave measure would give Colorado workers time off but cost big money (Colorado Sun)
Proposition 118 Provides Colorado Voters With Important Choice On Paid Family, Medical Leave In November (CBS 4 Denver)
Should Colorado Offer Paid Family Leave? A State Lawmaker And A Businessman Weigh In (Colorado Public Radio)
Community Editorial Board: Thoughts on Proposition 118 (Daily Camera)
POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Proposition 118: Should Colorado voters approve state-run family and medical leave insurance? (Colorado Spring Gazette)
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2B
NO EVICTION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION
SHALL THE CITY OF BOULDER’S TAXES BE
INCREASED ANNUALLY BY ONE MILLION, NINE
HUNDRED THOUSAND ($1,900,000.00) (FIRST
FULL FISCAL YEAR INCREASE) COMMENCING
ON JANUARY 1, 2021, AND BY WHATEVER
ADDITIONAL AMOUNTS ARE RAISED
ANNUALLY THEREAFTER FROM AN EXCISE
TAX TO BE PAID BY LANDLORDS ON DWELLING
UNITS WITH RENTAL LICENSES IN THE
AMOUNT OF $75 PER YEAR, WITH THE TAX
RATE INCREASING EVERY YEAR THEREAFTER
AT A RATE THAT DOES NOT EXCEED THE
COLORADO CONSUMER PRICE INDEX ON
EACH RENTAL LICENSE FOR A DWELLING UNIT
THAT IS ISSUED BY THE CITY; AND IN
CONNECTION THEREWITH, SHALL ALL OF THE
REVENUES COLLECTED BE USED TO FUND:
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COST OF THE TAX, AND
THEREAFTER TO ESTABLISH, RUN AND FULLY
FUND A PROGRAM TO PROVIDE LEGAL
REPRESENTATION TO TENANTS WHO FACE
THE LOSS OF HOUSING IN EVICTION AND
ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS; PROVIDE A
TENANT’S LEGAL SERVICES AND ASSISTANCE
COORDINATOR TO ADMINISTER THE
PROGRAM; CREATE A TENANTS’ COMMITTEE
COMPRISED OF FIVE MEMBERS PAID A $1,000
PER YEAR STIPEND; AND PROVIDE RENTAL
ASSISTANCE FOR PERSONS THAT ARE
VULNERABLE TO EVICTION; AND SHALL THE
FULL PROCEEDS OF SUCH TAXES AT SUCH
RATES AND ANY EARNINGS THEREON BE
COLLECTED, RETAINED, AND SPENT, AS A
VOTER-APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE
WITHOUT LIMITATION OR CONDITION, AND
WITHOUT LIMITING THE COLLECTION,
RETENTION, OR SPENDING OF ANY OTHER
REVENUES OR FUNDS BY THE CITY OF
BOULDER UNDER ARTICLE X SECTION 20 OF
THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION OR ANY
I’m voting Yes/For Ballot Issue 2B. I am proud to say that I collected 100-200 signatures for the No Eviction Without Representation ballot measure during the 2020 pandemic. The measure offers critical support to those facing eviction in our city.
Many people wonder: how does legal assistance help people? Meagan Arrango from NEWR told me most succinctly—evictions ruin lives, and to stop or delay evictions allows for other outcomes, forgiveness of debts or extended payment options. A tenant who truly cannot pay rent is unlikely to stop an eviction, but this measure helps balance the huge disparity in power between landlords and tenants. (Full disclosure: I am both a tenant and a landlord in the City of Boulder).
The measure is progressive in a number of ways. The funding mechanism is via a $75 annual fee on all rental licenses, generating a substantial revenue that will help pay to support those who rent in our community that have the least means to protect themselves from an eviction. The fee is on the rental license as opposed to the individual, so a 1-bedroom/single occupant rental will pay relatively more money into the system than a house or multi-occupancy dwelling, further reducing the cost for those living with housemates.
Another key addition to the original ballot measure is the ability to provide rental assistance. Exact details of that program will be determined by the city when implemented, but it would likely operate in conjunction with or similarly to programs provided by the local non-profit EFAA, the Emergency Family Assistance Association, which can provide emergency funding in order to keep people housed.
Explainers and opinion on Ballot Issue 2B:
City of Boulder – Ballot Issue 2B
Boulder ballot issue 2B: No Eviction Without Representation (Boulder Beat)
Boulder City Council, campaign organizers agree to eviction ballot measure changes (Daily Camera)
City of Boulder Measure 2B would provide families with one critical tool to stay housed (Colorado Children’s Campaign)
Eviction In Boulder Colorado: A Critical Imbalance of Power (NEWR)
On Dangerous Ground (Boulder Weekly)
Thousands Of D.C. Renters Are Evicted Every Year. Do They All Know To Show Up To Court? (DCist)
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2C
Public Service Company Franchise
Shall the City of Boulder grant a franchise to Public
Service Company of Colorado to furnish, sell, and
distribute gas and electricity to the City and to all
persons, businesses, and industries within the City
and the right to make reasonable use of all streets
and other public places and public easements as
may be necessary as described in Ordinance 8410?
I’m voting Yes/For Ballot Issue 2C. If the ballot measure passes, the City of Boulder would enter an agreement with Xcel Energy in Colorado and (at least temporarily) end its decade-long municipal energy project.
Explaining the history and effects of the city’s local power effort is long and complicated. I won’t duplicate the numerous details here, but will gratuitously link to a number of stories outlining more detail for those interested.
I want to focus on the big picture: Xcel energy has a proposal that may allow the City of Boulder to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030. The difference in Xcel’s energy portfolio now compared to when the city started the local power project is stark. If climate change is one of your top issues with power generation, Xcel has made huge strides to reduce or eliminate the gap between what is believed to be possible by creating our own municipal electric utility.
Of course, Muni proponents have had a variety of other goals—to “decentralize, decarbonize and democratize” our power to provide “more control over its energy supply, investments, and services”, along with synergies to creating a municipal broadband utility. Xcel’s proposal makes some gestures at these efforts, although a system provided by a third party corporation will likely never fully reach these goals.
I will outline a few steps that demonstrate some progress on these other goals of local power. Recently the City of Boulder announced that the municipal broadband effort would be compatible with an agreement with Xcel. Xcel has also proposed to “demonstrate technical viability, customer and business benefits of eliminating or increasing the 120% or Rule limit,” which currently limits the proliferation of rooftop solar in the city. Xcel has also proposed partnerships to enable neighborhood-level microgrids, more local generation, and other innovations to increase renewables beyond the 80% renewable mandate currently set by the State of Colorado by 2030.
The time is right to move forward with an agreement. The pandemic has only heightened the urgency, even as the city has not been able to commit to a date where citizens would decide to vote to create a local utility. That date was previously scheduled for 2020, and now has been pushed to 2022 at the earliest. The city’s strained financial and staff resources make an extended utility project an even lower priority with a clear option to move forward on a franchise presented.
Another large question: why now? What happens if city voters reject the agreement? In 2017, Boulder City Council had another opportunity to put a franchise to voters, but elected not to. Later in that year, I published an op-ed on why I changed my mind against going forward with the municipal electric utility at that time. The trouble with my position then was that we had little leverage to negotiate a better agreement if we voted to discontinue the local power project without passing a franchise agreement.
The difference in 2020 is that Xcel has provided an agreement that is very in line with Boulder’s goals. Turning down the agreement now would forfeit a number of potential benefits to a partnership (including $33 million of deferred money for undergrounding power lines and reliability improvements). As Boulder’s Mayor Sam Weaver said—if we don’t pass a deal this year, we’ll have yet another effort next year to stop the muni project, and again may be left in a worse position.
Weaver has been one of the strongest local utility supporters. Here’s a link to a 15 minute speech he gave on August 20th in support of putting the vote of a franchise to the people.
Explainers and opinion on Ballot Issue 2C:
City of Boulder – Ballot Issue 2C
Boulder Ballot Measures 2C and 2D: Xcel settlement and UOT extension (Boulder Beat)
Opinion: Jan Burton: Let’s vote on landmark settlement with Xcel (Daily Camera)
Sean Maher: Reasons to vote yes on 2C and 2D (Daily Camera)
Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ on 2C, ‘no’ on 2D (Daily Camera)
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2C – Public Service Company Franchise/Settlement with Xcel (Boulder Weekly)
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2C – Public Service Company Franchise/Settlement with Xcel – (Boulder Weekly Opinion – scroll down)
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2D
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2D
Repurpose the Utility Occupation Tax
Without raising the tax rate shall the existing utility
occupation tax, which in 2021 and 2022 will be in
the amount of $2,076,181, be extended from a
current expiration date of December 31, 2022 to
December 31, 2025 and be repurposed to pay all
costs associated with the formation of a municipal
electric utility and to be used to fund projects, pilots,
initiatives, and research that support the city’s clean
energy goals in the context of the city’s racial equity
goals and the community’s commitment to the Paris
Climate Agreement, such as: Providing
energy-related assistance to disadvantaged
members of the community, including support for
utility bill payments and access to renewable
energy; Improving system reliability and
modernizing, and supporting clean energy-related
businesses, including, without limitation, new
approaches in electrification of buildings and
transportation, enhancement of resilience;
Implementing a partnership agreement with Public
Service Company of Colorado; and Increasing
access to energy efficiency and renewable energy
solutions; only if a majority of registered electors
approve a franchise agreement with Public Service
Company of Colorado at the November 3, 2020
election, and shall the extended portion of the tax
be subject to the same terms and conditions as the
original tax and all earnings thereon (regardless of
amount) constitute a voter approved revenue
change, and an exception to the revenue and
spending limits of Article X, Section 20 of the
I’m voting Yes/For Ballot Issue 2D. As I mentioned with ballot measure 2C, Xcel energy is currently mandated by the State of Colorado to achieve 80% renewable energy by 2030, which is short of Boulder’s goals. Ballot Question 2D is contingent on the passage of Question 2C, and will help the City of Boulder reach its goals of 100% renewable energy by 2030.
The franchise agreement mentions a number of projects we can pursue in partnership with Xcel energy. However, we will need to fund these efforts—Question 2D provides a mechanism to do so.
A couple additional benefits of the proposed tax structure. First, we’re continuing an existing tax and not increasing taxes during a pandemic. Secondly, the tax is a tax on energy usage—essentially functioning as a carbon tax which funds further renewable development.
Boulder can continue to live its values as a leader on climate change by passing Question 2D and continuing to fund solutions to reduce climate change.
Explainers and opinion on Ballot Issue 2D:
City of Boulder – Ballot Issue 2D
Boulder Ballot Measures 2C and 2D: Xcel settlement and UOT extension (Boulder Beat)
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2E
Charter Amendments Related to Direct Election
of the Mayor:
Shall Article II, Sections 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 14, and 15 of
the Boulder City Charter be amended to provide for
the direct election of the mayor by ranked choice
(instant runoff) voting?
I’m voting Yes/For Ballot Issue 2E. I am proud to say that I collected hundreds of signatures for the Our Mayor Our Choice ballot measure during the 2020 pandemic. It’s important to note that the measure I collected signatures for was significantly better than the final outcome. Through a process with Boulder City Council, the council removed the option of holding a mayor’s election in even years, which would have increased turnout—suppressing the votes of renters, younger people, and those who often vote in off-year presidential elections.
The city council also reduced the mayor’s term from a proposed four years to maintain the current two-year status quo. That will give the mayor less latitude to make longer-term changes in governance and direction.
The third pillar of the initiative is ranked Choice voting—which is intact—sort of. During negotiations with city council in August, Boulder County Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick sent a letter to the council informing them that the county (which runs local elections) would not commit to implementing instant runoff voting (IRV), which may incur additional costs and complexity for the county clerk. That leads to three possible outcomes:
The county changes course and implements IRV (or there’s an agreement to cover any extra costs)
The city takes over running municipal elections (which would involve uncertain additional costs, but may be $100K+ and is currently unfunded)
The city charter must be amended again by Boulder voters to allow the city to choose not to run an IRV election (which would refer back to our current first-past-the-post at-large system).
Outcomes 2 and 3 are certainly not ideal for the city and must be considered when voting for the measure.
A few notes on some of the possible effects of direct election of mayor. We may get a better signal of a vision for change in Boulder by the mayor we elect (particularly if elected by ranked choice voting). However with a two year term, and an office that pays incredibly poorly (~$10k per year), we may see a reduction in supply of serious candidates for the office. Under previous voting systems, the most qualified and popular city council candidates would receive a four year term, precluding them from running for office again just two years later. Now we’ll likely to see mayors who have already served one or two terms on city council—although that is not much changed from the tenure by current mayors.
We must remember that mayors of Boulder don’t have much power — under our strong council system, mayors have the same voting power as other council members. However they do have more influence to set the agenda and priorities of the council. Direct election of mayor may add additional friction to the current operations of council which would be even more apparent if we moved to a strong mayor system.
The strongest reasons I support the measure are: 1. give a strong signal for the direction of the community in the direct election of mayor 2. implement ranked choice voting in the city so that we can more quickly move to a system of ranked choice voting for all council positions 3. moving away from our current at-large, first-past-the-post system which suppresses minority representation.
Explainers and opinion on Ballot Issue 2E:
City of Boulder – Ballot Issue 2E
Boulder ballot issue 2E: Direct Election of the Mayor (Boulder Beat)
Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ on Ballot Question 2E (Daily Camera)
City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2F
Charter Amendment Related to the Boulder Arts
Shall new Sections 135 and 136 be added to the
City Charter pursuant to Ordinance 8405 to
increase the size of the Boulder Arts Commission to
seven members, allow for continued service by
existing Arts Commission members, provide for
staggered terms for the new members and for filling
I’m voting Yes/For Ballot Issue 2F. Several of Boulder’s important boards (including the Planning Board) have seven members compared to the normal five member boards. The Arts Commission is a board with more work than many boards, particularly as they work with grant funding in the community. Expanding the Arts Commission will allow more diversity of people and interests on the board and enable a broader representation of interests in the Arts community in Boulder.
Explainers and opinion on Ballot Issue 2F:
City of Boulder – Ballot Issue 2F
Boulder ballot measure 2F: Arts Commission expansion (Boulder Beat)
Please share with anyone to whom this guide might be helpful.
A reminder that ballots must be mailed no later than October 28th (earlier is better this year!, and ballots may be dropped off by 7pm on Election Day, Tuesday November 3rd, 2020.
If you’re not a registered voter or you need to update your registration, you can register online now at Go Vote Colorado! (all you need is an updated Colorado driver’s license). If you register now, you will receive a ballot in the mail. Otherwise, you can register and vote through election day.
Questions, comments, or otherwise can be emailed to me Eric Budd at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ericmbudd