Tayer: Boulder Chamber election positions: Analysis trumps passion

Some will tell you this is the most important election of all time. You’ve heard that before, but there’s no question the heat is high and the hyperbole is full throttle as we head into the campaign homestretch. On a personal level, I’ll admit I can get swept up in the passion. I’ve got my personal concerns about the direction of our country. ‘Nough said.

As this is a business journal and I write as a representative of the Boulder Chamber, I know passions generally are to be tempered. Whether it’s an investment decision, a human resource policy or an election issue endorsement, the best decisions rely on thorough analysis of the options and their impacts.

The Boulder Chamber takes that same thoughtful approach when deciding its position on ballot issues. Our analysis begins with input from our membership and guidance from our policy committee — the Community Affairs Council. Ultimately, coupled with staff synthesis of all relevant considerations, our board of directors renders its final judgment and offers it as counsel to business colleagues and Boulder citizens.

Given the print deadline for this story, I note that our board of directors hasn’t had the chance to review all relevant ballot issues. That said, here are the positions we’re taking on three important state and local initiatives:

Ballot Measure 2C: Xcel / Boulder Franchise Agreement — They say some issues won’t die. Well, in this case, one might. For the past 10 years the city of Boulder has been pursuing the municipalization of our electric utility system, currently owned and operated by Xcel Energy. The Boulder Chamber has always been a skeptic of this effort, primarily because we believe our community can achieve its clean energy and climate protection goals much more efficiently through a partnership with Xcel rather than through a process that has taken far longer and cost much more than anticipated. We applaud the commitments Xcel is making to reduce its reliance on carbon-based fuels in its energy mix. We also welcome the special opportunities for Boulder to pursue additional green energy resources included in the settlement agreement Mayor Sam Weaver and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Yates negotiated, assuming voters approve the franchise agreement. It all represents a positive step forward for our environment and our community, which is why the Boulder Chamber urges a yes vote on Ballot Measure 2C.

Proposition 118: Paid Family and Medical Leave — In this case, you might be tempted to say, “Put your money where your mouth is.” The Boulder Chamber recognizes the need to offer paid family and medical leave benefits for employees. Gender equity and income security concerns are the paramount interests at play. These types of benefits also improve worker retention and ensure sick employees remain home, keeping their co-workers healthy. Further, the insurance model Proposition 118 establishes does offer a relatively cost-effective opportunity for businesses to provide this benefit and waives the premium for businesses with 10 or fewer employees. At the same time, the Boulder Chamber isn’t comfortable imposing any additional cost burden on businesses during a time when many are struggling to keep the lights on. We also are troubled by the lack of clear definition around who is covered under this initiative’s leave provisions. With that balance of interests at play, the Boulder Chamber stands in a neutral position on Proposition 118.

Amendment B: Gallagher Amendment Repeal — And then there are those issues that should be a relative no-brainer for business leaders, like Amendment B (though we did give it our same thorough level of analysis, we assure you). The Gallagher Amendment, and the added tax burden it imposes on commercial property, has meant the difference between healthy profit margins and the demise of many businesses. Fully explaining the mechanics of the Gallagher Amendment (think of a Rubik’s cube) would take more space than I have. Fundamentally, commercial property pays about three-quarters more for every dollar of tax on residential property. That difference gets even wider as the assessed value of residential property rises. The impact is a trickle-down increase on rents for business tenants. While repealing the Gallagher Amendment won’t immediately eliminate this property tax imbalance, at least it will avoid exacerbating the gap. The Boulder Chamber asks you to support Amendment B.

Whatever the results of your own analysis on the above ballot initiatives or any of the other election issues or candidate campaigns, there’s one thing we want you to be passionate about …  Vote!

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.