An audience packed the Boulder Jewish Community Center on Thursday night for a forum featuring 15 city council candidates.
They are vying for six open council seats in November’s election.
The forum was put on by the Boulder Chamber, and questions came from the chamber, Community Foundation Boulder County, Downtown Boulder, Human Services Alliance of Boulder County and the Urban Land Institute, among other local organizations.
Candidates’ responses to questions generally ended up speaking to specific city projects that are weighing levels of housing density, namely the Alpine-Balsam planning effort; addressing challenges faced by small business owners; how to get more affordable housing out of development; and how to tackle human services needs related to homelessness, mental health and low-income families.
Housing density, affordability
Paul Cure: “We have 15 property owners at Diagonal Plaza. It’s not a silver bullet to say ‘let’s redevelop,’ we have to convince property owners to get on board with this. … We are at such a crucial juncture in that area. To be able to move the development we want at Alpine-Balsam over to Diagonal Plaza I think would get a lot of attention … in regards to Alpine-Balsam invading the neighborhood.”
Corina Julca: “I think we all have the same goals in transportation, housing affordability, all that. … There is demolishing of buildings we can probably save, that we can probably still use. … Maybe there are some buildings we can still preserve, we can still make livable for our middle (income) families here in Boulder.”
Mark Wallach: “I think we miss an opportunity in the development of the (Alpine-Balsam) site if we don’t more seriously consider repurposing the old hospital building into new uses. … I’m concerned with the degree of density we have (proposed) there and … the extent to which it will be inconsistent with the surrounding neighborhood.”
Susan Peterson: “(We can) not only be a net-zero community, but also a rejuvenative community. … Imagine if we had opportunities to actually sequester carbon and make the situation better. I do not believe there is a direct relationship between density and reducing the carbon footprint, and I do also believe that all that traffic we’re bringing into town has a huge impact.”
Mark McIntyre: “I want to end the battle of trying to save parking lots. Parking lots don’t need saving, whether they’re at Alpine-Balsam, at the Diagonal Plaza or out east. They need conversion therapy. They need to be converted into homes for people. As for those three areas, we need to present the community with a vision of what those places could be, they could be beautiful.”
Adam Swetlik: “I think there is an insane lack of funding for homeless people. … (If) we’re not going to be providing basic services around town, like bathrooms for people on the Boulder Creek Path, places to shower and clean yourself, lockers to keep your things safe, right now we’re just shoving homelessness under the rug.”
Bob Yates: “We should double (city funding for human services). When I first got on city council in 2015, our funding for human services was abysmal. It had not adjusted for inflation, it had not increased in years. In 2017, we developed a services strategy, and we wanted to focus on setting future goals and on the metrics. We didn’t want to throw money at the problem, we wanted to know if that money was achieving those goals.”
Gala Orba: “I think of homelessness, and I was really happy to work with Attention Homes, it’s a fantastic solution to a problem. It has a really good retention rate and good success rate as far as how it helps people who are young adults get off the street for life.”
Andy Celani: “I think we need greater collaboration on all levels of socioeconomic levels. You get a great idea here about how many people from different spots are very interested in the nature of our town, and improving it through making it more inclusive. … I think it’s a matter of personal respect for everyone.”
Junie Joseph: “I am running on socioeconomic diversity and political inclusion, and I don’t just talk about it. … For the past two weeks I’ve been on the ballot I’ve walked through neighborhoods and talked to people, they’ve told me about the homelessness issues that are happening.”
Supporting businesses, employees
Rachel Friend: “We need to make a lot of flexibility to allow small businesses to make it in Boulder. … I think what we need to do is eliminate red tape, make it especially easy for small businesses and less convoluted.”
Aaron Brockett: “One way of making it easier would be of having an ombudsman position, somebody at the city who could help someone applying for permits navigate the different departments.”
Nikki McCord: “I do support raising the minimum wage. But I want to pause and remember our nonprofit human service providers in this conversation, because they provide a lot of the services for the most vulnerable populations, but because of their funding structures, sometimes that money can’t go to operational costs. … I would make sure the city Human Services Fund has money that can go to operational costs.”
Brian Dolan: “I’m fully supportive of a living wage. I believe that a city like Boulder with its high cost of living, should pursue the maximum minimum wage that we’re allowed under the law.”
Benita Duran: “I think about parking, because I believe there are opportunities to help employees get to work and be at work. … One thing that does make it easier for folks is knowing that they have a place to park and that they are going to get to their work site on time. … I think subsidized parking or reserved parking for employees of downtown makes sense.”
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