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PLAN-Boulder County Recommends NO Votes on 2C and 2E
The People’s League for Action Now PLAN – Boulder County is only making recommendations on two Boulder ballot initiatives this year.
No! – City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2C – Public Service Company Franchise
Assuming control of our energy future by purchasing the distribution system from Xcel is the most important public investment that Boulder has considered in a generation. PLAN-Boulder County believes combating climate change is the single most important issue confronting the entire world, and Boulder has a responsibility to lead on this issue. PLAN continues to support the concept of clean, local power on this, the fourth ballot measure related to the municipalization of our electric utility. 2C is a needless and rushed capitulation to Xcel, who has prolonged the municipalization process with multiple lawsuits and obstacles. 2C a bad deal for Boulder that gives up all the ground we have gained over 10-years of litigating. The city is in site of its muni goals. Why stop when the city is so close to its finish line? PLAN-Boulder County recommends voting against this measure.
Boulder’s efforts, along with dramatic changes in the industry, have pushed Xcel towards more renewables, yet Xcel’s fuel mix is still at 70% fossil fuels. Xcel currently takes more than $30 million per year of just profit and overhead from Boulder electric utility customers. If we finalize municipalization, Boulder would be able to achieve more renewables in our fuel mix, as well as being able to reinvest these profits in our own community as do Fort Collins, Longmont, Colorado Springs, Loveland, and others. Furthermore, other private electric service providers besides Xcel may be willing to help finance and provide us a much better deal that includes a direct path to municipalization. Boulder recently received bids that are even better than those received two years ago, and these should be carefully considered.
There is no rush. We can continue without a franchise agreement as we have for the past 10 years while we get this right. This was not supposed to come back for another vote until there are some real cost analyses and comparisons. Longmont, Loveland, and Fort Collins all pay lower rates than Boulder. Why? Because they own their electric utilities, which also includes their internet, further reducing rates.
No! – City of Boulder Ballot Issue 2E – Charter Amendments Related to Direct Election of the Mayor
This ballot measure includes two disparate questions combined into one ballot measure: The first is to directly elect the Mayor of Boulder and the second is to elect the mayor using ranked choice voting. 2E will increase the power of the mayor, increase partisanship, increase the risk of reduced transparency in government actions, and create an expensive and confusing election process. It will not improve democracy in Boulder. PLAN-Boulder County recommends voting against this measure.
2E would give the elected mayor the same powers as in the current system where the mayor has the same vote as all council members, but also has some ceremonial and management responsibilities. Unfortunately, the process of direct election will almost certainly impart to the mayor more power than the rest of the council, and thus the mayor will be seen as most responsible for the management and outcome of council’s work, rather than the council as a whole. In this system, conflicts will inevitably arise.
Currently, the duties of the mayor are to run the business meetings of the council and help set the weekly agenda via the Council Agenda Committee, to serve as a member of several outside organizations, and to be the face of Boulder at civic events. The council members themselves select the mayor from among their members and select the person that they feel will best handle these duties. It appears that past mayors of Boulder were not consulted to provide input on how things have worked in order to determine if there is actually a problem requiring a solution. It seems something unsaid may be driving this effort to change a system that has worked well for this city for many decades.
Ranked choice voting is a significant change in how to conduct elections. Ranked choice, approval voting, or some similar approach to voting might be worth considering with a lot more research and back up work, and with information and input to and from the voters. The current council has committed to exploring this approach for general city council elections, but 2E is a change to the Boulder charter, which should not be taken lightly since it is difficult to modify. Why are we rushing something into the Charter that we have not tested first?
A better approach would be to present ranked choice voting as a standalone measure, rather than combining it with another big change to the existing system into one initiative. The County Clerk has said our current elections system cannot handle ranked choice voting, so implementing this new system would have to be administered by the city, likely through an expensive contract with a private firm. Our election process works well as it is. 2E will create additional large expenses and cause confusion.
Underlying this ballot measure is the unfair process that the council used to put this measure on the ballot. The proponents of 2E did not collect enough signatures to make it onto the 2020 ballot, but council decided to not only put it on the ballot, but attempted to fix the many problems that the petitioners had created in their original measure. Other petitioners who did not receive this selective treatment were denied the right to even collect signatures or were given faulty information. This disparate treatment has destroyed trust in the City election process, and it will take a major effort and time to repair.
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