Posted by The Daily Camera
By Sean Maher, CEO
By now you have received your 2022 ballot and you may even have mailed it back or dropped it off. But, if you are like most of us, your ballot is still sitting on your kitchen counter waiting for a block of free time to navigate the confusing maze of candidates and ballot issues.
As usual in Boulder, voters have a lot of choices to make and some of them are stirring heated debate. One of the hottest issues is whether or not to allow CU Boulder to move ahead with developing the South Campus. The current plan was hammered out over years of tough negotiations with city staff and multiple City Councils. As a result of those negotiations and a ton of public input, the university scaled back development plans and offered up significant concessions.
One of those concessions transfers more than half of the land (155 acres) that is currently owned by CU to the city. Most of that will go towards permanent open space with about 36 acres devoted to desperately needed flood control for thousands of residents in South Boulder. In exchange, the university will build 1,100 housing units for staff and students and up to 750,000 square feet of space that can be allocated to “academic, research, office, athletic, recreation and commercial uses.” Opponents say that is a lot of square footage and it is. But in the context of 308 acres, it is actually a very small fraction of the available space on the site.
Overall, CU South represents a win/win for both the university and the people of Boulder. Last year, residents overwhelmingly agreed and voted 57% to 43% to allow the deal to move ahead. But opponents were undeterred and now we are voting yet again. Nothing has changed in the last 12 months except that we are one year closer to an inevitable flood event that could threaten thousands of homes. I agree with our City Council and plan to vote NO on Ballot Question 2F to keep CU South moving forward.
Another contentious issue that has caused exhaustive debate is whether to increase property taxes to fund a new library district. If approved, Ballot Issue 6C would transfer our public libraries from city control to this new district that would include parts of the county outside of Boulder. Supporters of the district say the city does not provide adequate funding and both the quality and quantity of library services will improve dramatically with more money.
Like all of us in Boulder, I love our public libraries but I see some major problems with that argument. First, David Farnan and his staff have done an amazing job and our public libraries are already excellent. The idea of creating a district to fix them seems to be a solution in search of a problem. Second, the city is planning on increasing library funding more than 20% next year. Though not as generous as the $19 million that the district would raise, it is still a healthy bump.
Finally, that $19 million will not materialize out of thin air. It will come from new property taxes on homeowners and businesses. Small businesses are already struggling under a crushing property tax burden. And their taxes will go up four times higher than those of homeowners. That is real money and many of them simply cannot afford it, especially as we all try to navigate through the worst inflation in 40 years and a potential recession. For these reasons, I will be voting NO on Ballot Issue 6C.
Ballot Measures 2F and 6C are among the most contentious issues but there are many others you will be voting on in the next two weeks. The ballot this year is a long one and the maze of ballot questions covers everything from wildfire prevention to funding new schools to buying wine at the grocery store.
Take some time to talk to your friends, read the exhaustive coverage in the Camera and think about both benefits and costs of each one. We still live in a democracy where every opinion and every vote counts. But your ballot does no good sitting on your kitchen counter. Take the time to get informed and vote!
Sean Maher is the CEO of RRC Associates in Boulder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org to blog