CITY OF BOULDER GOVERNANCE and CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
In 2017 many candidates for Boulder City Council promised to involve residents earlier in decision-making, especially in plans for large projects. However, Boulder residents still feel left out of the process. This is apparent in the Alpine-Balsam case, in the CU South case, in the Opportunity Zone (which had zero public input and no vote by Council), and in the attempt to change citywide zoning. Many people think the process itself is broken. Something in the balance of power is not working, when City Council so often chooses from the limited options presented by city staff that ignore large segments of the Boulder population. The public and Council should weigh in early and determine the full range of options that will be explored. It is also obvious that the city manager and city attorney should represent the views of the majority of voters and work towards implementing them.
For Council members to be more effective and for government to be more inclusive, other changes are needed too. I think each Council member should have their own budget for a research or outreach assistant. This will enable Council members to come up with proposals and respond in a more informed way to the proposals brought before them. A paid assistant would begin to level the playing field for a more diverse group of candidates, including working people, full-time parents, immigrants with language barriers and students. Alternatively, Council members could receive full-time salaries, though a previous ballot attempt failed. Perhaps the people of Boulder will understand that their voices carry greater weight when individual Council members function better, and they may be willing to approve this.