Consider community balance in voting

Elections have consequences. And at the end of the day, I won. So I think on that one I trump you.”

Those were the words that newly minted President Barack Obama supposedly uttered in a closed-door meeting with then-House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. The Republicans characterized this statement as emblematic of President Obama’s intransigent approach to governance. While I think it’s reasonable to note that the Republicans did a fair job themselves of digging in their heels to stymie much of the president’s policy agenda, I think the dust-up over this quote from 2009 still carries important lessons for us today here in Boulder.

Elections do have consequences; that is why candidates and campaign committees fight so hard to win them. We also have critical local issues to address, many with global implications, that aren’t susceptible to decisions based on narrow agendas or one-sided political control. Given these conditions, I believe we all want thoughtful, reasoned balance in our decision-making. It’s with that brand of governance as our target that I urge you to carefully choose the City Council candidates you support in this year’s election.

I offer these thoughts against the backdrop of what clearly is the defining election issue: The future vision for a more welcoming and inclusive community and how best to achieve that vision.

For the first decades of Boulder’s existence, city leaders followed a strategy that combined knowledge-based growth with environmental stewardship. They fought to secure Boulder as home for the state’s flagship university, welcomed federal labs and attracted leading and diverse industries. At the same time, we created policies like the Blue Line and acquiring Open Space, to protect the environmental assets that we so cherish. This multi-faceted approach fostered an economic vibrancy and quality of life that make Boulder an attractive environment for business activity and a beloved place to call home.

What makes Boulder so very attractive, though, could also sow the seeds for a much less attractive future. The forces of supply and demand are taking their toll, as high-priced housing and commercial real estate are limiting access to our community for a wide spectrum of our workforce, businesses and nonprofits. Local government policies that apply excessive restraints on future development only exacerbate the drive toward exclusivity and homogeneity.

Fortunately, attention to a few basic principles can reverse these trends and build a community that is more reflective of our inclusivity values: 

Supporting Compact Development: There are many benefits to compact development that increases the number of housing and commercial units on a parcel of land. These include using land more efficiently, reducing sprawl, mitigating traffic congestion and fostering environmental stewardship. Top among the benefits is the chance to make Boulder accessible to a more diverse population and mix of businesses. And we don’t have to disrupt established neighborhoods to achieve this vision, as some fear. Instead, we need to focus on developing compact spaces where it makes sense, beginning with currently underutilized areas of our community, like Diagonal Plaza and other sole-use commercial zones that are close to transit corridors. 

Supporting “People-Centric Infrastructure”: We need to complement compact development projects with well-planned infrastructure that is people-centric, not vehicle-centric, as is the case in many parts of the city. We can accomplish this goal without punishing those who drive. Through investment in efficient transit systems and safe pedestrian and bike facilities, we will incent the use of alternative transportation modes for both regional commutes and local trips. These investments will make workforce and resident travel more convenient and sensitive to our environment, while also providing more affordable mobility options.

Incentivize Innovative Projects: Nationwide, we’re seeing examples of environmentally friendly, compact design projects that create affordable live-work environments and actually reduce vehicular traffic. Such innovation arises out of close collaboration between development interests, including our university, and city leadership. Instead of our too-often adversarial atmosphere and reliance on the regulatory stick, we should set a clear vision and provide the incentives to realize it.

I appreciate that some might not share the vision I’ve just described. That’s OK. The Boulder Chamber organization that I represent will always be open to listening, learning and narrowing the differences between us. Still, elections have consequences. That’s why I urge you to vote by Nov. 5 for City Council candidates who recognize our current trend toward exclusivity and, instead, offer a balanced vision for a more inclusive and welcoming community.

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.

Elections have consequences. And at the end of the day, I won. So I think on that one I trump you.”

Those were the words that newly minted President Barack Obama supposedly uttered in a closed-door meeting with then-House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. The Republicans characterized this statement as emblematic of President Obama’s intransigent approach to governance. While I think it’s reasonable to note that the Republicans did a fair job themselves of digging in their heels to stymie much of the president’s policy agenda, I think the dust-up over this quote from 2009 still carries important lessons for us today here in Boulder.

Elections do have consequences; that is why candidates and campaign committees fight so hard to win them. We also have critical local issues to address, many with global implications, that aren’t susceptible to decisions based on narrow agendas or one-sided political control. Given these conditions, I believe we all want thoughtful, reasoned balance in our decision-making. It’s with that brand of governance as our target that I urge you to carefully choose the City Council candidates you support in this year’s election.

I offer these thoughts against the backdrop of what clearly is the defining election issue: The future vision for a more welcoming and inclusive community and how best to achieve that vision.

For the first decades of Boulder’s existence, city leaders followed a strategy that combined knowledge-based growth with environmental stewardship. They fought to…