Minimizing the Effect of Political Climate Change
Although we were gratified to see Suzanne Jones and Lisa Morzel re-elected to the Boulder City Council, we have to acknowledge our disappointment in general with the results of the November, 2015, City elections. A ballot initiative that would have required new development to pay the full cost of its impacts on City services and facilities was defeated, as was another that would have allowed residential neighborhoods a vote under certain conditions on changes to zoning regulations to increase residential densities. Moreover, the other City Council members who were elected appear likely to steer the City in a more pro-growth, pro-development direction.
We have to recognize that the political climate in Boulder seems to be rapidly changing. In the near future it may no longer be the charming, somewhat anachronistic, slightly weird place to which many of us had become accustomed. A wave of new money is pouring in, as well as legions of highly paid workers in the technology industry and other sectors. Commercial interests have forged effective, de facto alliances with politically influential social services providers.
Many of the newcomers are attracted by the aspects of the town that past generations of citizens took decades to create. Unfortunately, most of those features can be undone relatively quickly. Wherever it dominates, the great global growth machine tends to produce a homogenous environment that prizes accelerated commercial activity, inflated prices, increased density, and congested traffic over human well-being and happiness.
This appears to be a precarious moment in Boulder’s recent history. PLAN-Boulder County remains the principal civic advocacy group whose positions are not primarily based on financial or other self-interests. Consequently, it is probably the most trustworthy vehicle for those who want to try to maintain a livable city that has a human scale, minimal environmental impacts, and a deep commitment to the preservation of the natural world.
Our critics claim that we are old and “out-of-touch.” They are undoubtedly correct that we are out-of-touch with the values they want to promote. They are also right that a lot of us are old. So let’s lubricate our wheelchairs, tune up our walkers, upgrade our canes, replace our creaking hips and knees, and replenish our youthful energy in the cause of minimizing the effects of political climate change. Let’s also encourage as many younger citizens as possible to join us in this critical struggle.
The Board of Directors has experienced a number of transitions in the past several months. In January, Sarah McClain resigned as co-chair of the Board, although she remained as a Board member. At the same Board meeting, Allyn Feinberg was elected to succeed Sarah as co-chair.
In February and March, respectively Dan Benavidez and Dom Nozzi announced their resignations. Both cited competing demands from other commitments as their reasons for departing. We are indebted to Dom for his hard and good work as the principal author of PLAN-Boulder’s Transportation White Paper, which was published in several parts last summer. Dan continues to advance the “Belonging Revolution” in Longmont, and he has also joined PLAN-Boulder’s Advisory Committee.
Also in February, long-time PLAN-Boulder pillar Pat Shanks resigned from the Board as a result of an opinion from the Boulder County Attorney that his membership on the PLAN-Boulder Board constituted a conflict of interest with his position on the Boulder County Planning Commission.
Unfortunately, Leschen Gargano also had to leave the Board because of her position on the Boulder County Planning Commission.
We are grateful to all of our past board members and the time they committed to our community and our organization.
We are delighted to note that Pat Billig, Peter Mayer, Pia Gerstle, Sean Kendall, and Leonard May were elected as members of the Board this fall and winter!
Pat Billig has lived in Boulder for 33 years and during that time has worked as an environmental toxicologist, most recently for the National Park Service. She was on the Boulder Open Space Board of Trustees from 2009-14 and also taught field biology and mountaineering for 25 years.
At age 24, Pia Gerstle is in the vanguard of PLAN-Boulder’s youth movement. A Boulder native, Pia graduated from Colorado State University as an economics major. She currently works as a Water Resources Analyst for the City of Thornton. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her family and friends, baking, and going on adventures with her dogs.
Sean Kendall has resided in Boulder since 1974 and attended the University of Colorado here. He served on the Open Space and Mountain Parks Board of Trustee from 2000 to 2005. He practices law in Boulder and lives with his wife Patricia and first grader Elsa.
Leonard May has served on the City’s Landmarks Board and currently is a member of the Planning Board. He ran unsuccessfully for the City Council last fall. He works as an architect and construction manager in partnership with his wife Deborah Yin.
Peter Mayer has resided in Boulder for 36 years. He is a professional engineer with expertise in water use, water efficiency, demand management, and water resource planning. He lives in north Boulder, not far from where he grew up, with his wife Amanda and two sons, Zachary and Miles.
Recommendations for Council Retreat
In January, 2016, the Board sent a letter to the City Council in advance of its annual retreat advocating that the City emphasize growth control, neighborhood/area plans, and an affordable housing plan in its 2016 work program.
North Trail Study Area (TSA)
Also in January, the Board submitted a statement to the Open Space and Mountain Parks Board urging that a trail east, rather than west, of US 36 to access the Joder Property be approved as part of the North Trail Study Area (TSA).
Subsequently the PLAN-Boulder Board authorized another statement at the March 10 meeting of the Open Space and Mountain Parks Board supporting the eastern route. This message was coordinated with those of other conservation groups.
PLAN Boulder is Here to Stay!
In March Peter Mayer, on behalf of the Board, published an op-ed piece in The Daily Camera responding to a generally critical, multi-part series about PLAN-Boulder and other, recently formed civic advocacy groups.
At the April 28 meeting of the Planning Board Alan Boles read a statement from the Board opposing the proposed annexation of the Hogan-Pancost property.
Additionally, on May 4 the Board sent a similar statement to Planning Board members regarding the proposed Hogan-Pancost annexation. The statement noted that the current proposal does not include a site plan and major flooding occurred later in 2013 after the board had unanimously rejected annexation.
Proposed Annexation Policy
At its May 2 meeting the Board adopted a statement to the City Council and Planning Board asking that all housing in newly annexed areas be 100 percent permanently affordable—with at least 50 percent falling into the “low-income” category of permanently affordable housing.
On December 4, 2015, Jeff McWhirter, president of the Southeast Boulder Neighborhood Alliance, gave a talk about that group’s effort to have the Hogan-Pancost property re-designated from Area II to Area III as part of the current revision of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.
Hope for our Changing Climate
On March 18, 2016, farmer, artist, and environmental activist Elizabeth Black, spoke about the advantages of sequestering carbon dioxide in soil.
The Bear Facts
On April 9, 2016, a panel of three experts discussed ways to avoid human-bear conflicts in Boulder and prevent more bears from being euthanized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.