Boulder’s Sustainable Future is at Stake in 2019’s Election

This article was published as a guest opinion in the Daily Camera on Oct. 11 2019 under the title “Beware of false environmentalism in Boulder”. Please support local journalism!

Let’s consider Boulder’s city council candidates and how they feel about growth. The candidate’s positions fall on a spectrum of wanting intelligent growth, not wanting growth and some who would like to shrink Boulder, eliminate jobs, and preserve the town for the privileged elites who’ve made it here. Anti-density politicians who claim to care about the environment are the most hypocritical drivers of city policy.

In the decade I’ve lived in Boulder, my small business has grown to twenty people. Not all of us can afford to live where we work. There are some who consider my business to be part of the problem. But being lucky enough to live in Boulder has transformed my preferences, from tolerating being stuck in my car for hours a day, to finding the benefits of choosing to ride my bike rather than drive. Many of my currently commuting co-workers would like to be able to live like this.

Environmentally conscientious business owners in Boulder should consider the climate consequences of their hiring decisions. If you hire someone to work in this town, then there needs to be a comprehensive plan to house and transport that person in a way that is not harmful to the environment and not harmful to their physical and mental health.

For residents who do care about the environment and prioritize it above preserving “neighborhood character,” it’s time to realize that there is an imbalance between our community’s demand for workers, and the ability to house those workers. The Frontier Group’s Growing Greener report has clearly described the problems we face, and how they can be addressed. The alternative to this, eliminating jobs within the city, won’t stop them from existing, it will simply push them out into the plains where they will likely have less sustainable existences.

For residents who don’t care about the environment, there are selfish reasons to want more neighbors. People who have the chance to spend less time behind the wheel and more time on a bike will be happier and healthier, they will be more productive, will provide better services and will ultimately be better for our quality of life as well as the bottom line.

For those who care about unobstructed views of the Flatirons, we’ve seen how localized air pollution has really messed that up lately. Boulders housing imbalance enables sprawl and 60,000+ single-occupancy vehicles that obscure the views. Pressuring businesses and jobs out of town will not solve this, it will only increase the total emissions of particulate matter, will be detrimental to the climate, and may still drift its way over into our lovely little basin.

Simply supporting municipalization and preservation of open space should not qualify one as an environmentalist. Let’s not allow this charade to go unchallenged. Exclusionary zoning directly contributes to sprawl and pollution. It cannot be denied any further. 

Beware the hypocrisy of false environmentalism. For an example of that hypocrisy, see the recent declaration of the climate emergency and the Climate Mobilization Action Plan (CMAP) which sets ambitious targets for 2050, but does little in the way of action, and almost entirely ignores transportation emissions. As if charging our Teslas with solar panels will save the planet. Please. If this is our idea of action, we need new voices in leadership.

Those among us who truly want to make Boulder a more sustainable community face a battle in the election that culminates November 5th. Many incumbents and candidates are satisfied with the status quo, particularly those endorsed by PLAN Boulder and Together4Boulder. They claim to support responsible growth but are really opposed to growth. They blather on about supposedly supporting low and middle-income housing, but their policies have no answers for the serious problems our city and our planet face.

Imagine a flourishing Boulder with more housing & bikes and fewer commuters. Whether it’s Alpine-Balsam, Diagonal plaza or a number of other underutilized parts of our City, imagine these currently blighted and abandoned locations could be transformed into vibrant areas that could provide the foundation of a more sustainable Boulder. We know that this is possible without creating vehicular gridlock.

We will need to elect candidates who can evolve our city policy and do what it will take to address the local housing and global climate crises. I urge you to consider voting for Boulder Progressives’ set of candidates for City Council.