Editorial: Limit jobs? Councils should be careful what they wish for

It’s not a prevailing sentiment, but members of at least one city council have voiced a disturbing idea in recent months, that the city should limit the number of jobs within its borders.

We’re speaking of Boulder, where city council meetings or study sessions are apt to include that idea, which would be anathema to elected officials in most other communities in the region. Can anyone imagine Greeley complaining of “an excess of jobs,” as some members of the Boulder city council do? What other community would actively seek to limit jobs to cure a perceived imbalance?

It’s not that problems don’t exist in Boulder: High housing costs have pushed many residents to outlying communities, even as the city’s population declined for the second year in a row. Boulder’s population dropped from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, to 107,353 from 107,895. That followed a similar decline the prior year.

That’s what happens when the median home price repeatedly flirts with $1.3 million. Pushing residents out of the city through high housing prices can cause increased congestion on roads as workers come in to the city from Weld County, north Denver or elsewhere.

But does this mean the city council should actively seek to limit jobs, which are the engine of any economy?

The current council seems to have forgotten what prior councils came to recognize: Downturns happen. And when they do, city governments tend to lament the loss of jobs, the declining tax base and the inherent hit on retail sales-tax collections.

Economic forces alone will cause some jobs to shift out of Boulder, as rising rents for office space or lack of available industrial space cause companies to move to Longmont, Broomfield, Denver or Weld County. We’ve seen it repeatedly:

• Agilent Technologies Inc. built a new plant in Frederick.

• Webroot Inc., now part of Carbonite, moved to Broomfield in 2010.

• Sendgrid Inc. moved to Denver in 2016.

• More recently, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. shifted some jobs out of Boulder to Westminster, where it will build its new worldwide headquarters.

Would Boulder be better off without Ball? Without Google? We think not.

Yet, even as economists increasingly predict the next recession, Boulder considers new policies and programs to reduce the city’s job base, such as a “head tax” on employees, a job-killing tax if there ever was one.

It’s only a matter of time before a major employer says, “enough.”

It’s not a prevailing sentiment, but members of at least one city council have voiced a disturbing idea in recent months, that the city should limit the number of jobs within its borders.

We’re speaking of Boulder, where city council meetings or study sessions are apt to include that idea, which would be anathema to elected officials in most other communities in the region. Can anyone imagine Greeley complaining of “an excess of jobs,” as some members of the Boulder city council do? What other community would actively seek to limit jobs to cure a perceived imbalance?

It’s not that problems don’t exist in Boulder: High housing costs have pushed many residents to outlying communities, even as the city’s population declined for the second year in a row. Boulder’s population dropped from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, to 107,353 from 107,895. That followed a similar decline the prior year.

That’s what happens when the median home price repeatedly flirts with $1.3 million. Pushing residents out of the city through high housing prices can cause increased congestion on roads as workers come in to the city from Weld County, north Denver or elsewhere.

But does this mean the city council should actively seek to limit jobs, which are the engine of any economy?

The current council seems to have forgotten what prior councils came to recognize: Downturns happen. And when they do, city governments tend to lament the loss of…