Keep Boulder America’s happiest place

Ignore the intense remorse and recrimination about the direction for our community that is at a fever pitch during the height of this year’s election season … “Boulderites” are happy. In fact, we live in the happiest place in America, according to National Geographic, Gallup, and Dan Buettner of Blue Zones, an organization dedicated to helping “people live longer, better lives by improving their environment.”  Why is Boulder so happy? Because, according to National Geographic, we have “a sense of community, access to nature, sustainable urban development and preservation policies, and perhaps even that clean mountain air, Boulderites overwhelmingly feel ‘active and productive every day,’ according to Buettner’s research.” Add to that other factors related to health and financial security.

But how do we maintain our “happiness rank,” and also improve what makes us No. 1, cementing our rightful place as a role model for other communities? The answer lies in the decisions we make and the policies we pursue in key areas that can enhance the “happiness factors” identified by Blue Zones. Here’s my list, and I note that these attributes are not mutually exclusive:

Economic vitality and inclusive opportunity — A prosperous economy creates a basis for much of what we enjoy — parks, open spaces, trails, education, arts and culture. And it provides the financial security that the National Geographic report cites as an important contributor to happiness. To keep our economy vibrant, we need to encourage and facilitate entrepreneurism while continuing to support the organizations that have become pillars of our prosperity. We also need to provide space for young businesses to grow and create jobs. And we need to create all kinds of jobs for a variety of skills and prepare workers to fill them. Finally, we need to provide more affordable workforce housing in order to foster diversity and inclusiveness as well as reduce costly and polluting commutes. In fact, I would posit that affordable housing is the sine qua non of inclusiveness and diversity, which Boulder’s own Brad Feld has noted is crucial to sustaining the vitality of creative startup communities.

Values of place and “smart development” — Some say we have to choose between care for our planet and providing good opportunities for living and working in our creative community. We don’t. Quite the opposite. Respect for traditional values of place while promoting inclusive economic vitality is not a zero-sum game. That’s important, given a worldwide demographic shift toward urban zones. In fact, Blue Zones highlights communities all over the world which are creating urban landscapes that help people live and work together in an environmentally conscious fashion. It’s a matter of planning and design, keeping in mind all our priorities and traditions moving forward. That’s smart development, and the Boulder Chamber has long advocated for such an approach that combines our community’s social and environmental values with its economic health as core guiding principles. That’s very much in keeping with the spirit and experience in Blue Zone communities.

Transportation — A people-focused transportation network provides mobility and access to all, offering different options to get people where they need to be when they need to go. It includes the full spectrum of transportation approaches from walking, biking, and ride-sharing to scheduled public modes and on-demand options. It’s even having respect for the mobility needs of those who rely on single-occupant vehicles. Further, as noted by the Brookings Institution, a measure of mobility is accessibility — making transportation systems and infrastructure more inclusive for people of all incomes. Here in Boulder we can be proud of the innovative approaches we’re pursuing, from our unique bus routes to bike lane investments, all which create efficient mobility options, respect environmental values, and provide accessible alternatives for all of us.

We can continue to make Boulder a “happy” place to live, work, eat, and play – a true model for others to follow. But to do so, we must discard extreme rhetoric and embrace respect for the balanced values of tradition and innovation we inherited from Boulder’s far-sighted early residents. They created the blue line and open space, but they also fought to host the state’s flagship university and important federally-funded laboratories that fuel our economic vitality. Indeed, they recognized that happiness is integrally tied to business success and a strong economy, which was no more true then than it is today. In this season of often discordant political dialog, let’s keep sight of all that makes Boulder “The Happiest City in America.”

John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at (303) 442-1044, ext 110 or john.tayer@boulderchamber.com.

Ignore the intense remorse and recrimination about the direction for our community that is at a fever pitch during the height of this year’s election season … “Boulderites” are happy. In fact, we live in the happiest place in America, according to National Geographic, Gallup, and Dan Buettner of Blue Zones, an organization dedicated to helping “people live longer, better lives by improving their environment.”  Why is Boulder so happy? Because, according to National Geographic, we have “a sense of community, access to nature, sustainable urban development and preservation policies, and perhaps even that clean mountain air, Boulderites overwhelmingly feel ‘active and productive every day,’ according to Buettner’s research.” Add to that other factors related to health and financial security.

But how do we maintain our “happiness rank,” and also improve what makes us No. 1, cementing our rightful place as a role model for other communities? The answer lies in the decisions we make and the policies we pursue in key areas that can enhance the “happiness factors” identified by Blue Zones. Here’s my list, and I note that these attributes are not mutually exclusive:

Economic vitality and inclusive opportunity — A prosperous economy creates a basis for much of what we enjoy — parks, open spaces, trails, education, arts and culture. And it provides the financial security that the National Geographic report cites as an important contributor to happiness. To keep our economy vibrant, we need to encourage and facilitate…