Tayer: Time to get serious during silly season

The term, “silly season,” has its political roots in periods when election candidates will talk about any frivolous issue they think will grab public attention for their campaign. In Boulder, where seemingly every issue is important to someone, I’m not sure we experience the quintessential silly season . . . but regardless, with a City Council election fast approaching, we all better get serious.

John Tayer

The Boulder Chamber doesn’t endorse candidates for public office. We want to work with every elected official to advance our community goals, and we don’t believe expressing support or opposition to specific candidates sets the right tone for that relationship. We also know that, depending on the issue, we will have differences of opinion and alignment with all political office holders. Public policy is complex and few organizations, or individuals, share agreement on every issue up for debate.

That said, the Boulder Chamber does stand for important principles and looks to educate voters on where each City Council candidate sits with respect to our concerns. This typically takes the form of a report card on issues that are important to our local businesses and economy and the position of each City Council candidate. We also host a community-wide candidate forum that includes a focus on those same issues. We consider this a community service, recognizing that some voters will have an interest in the concern candidates demonstrate for the business and economic impacts of their policy decisions.

It’s in this serious vein that I offer a few issues that will be the focus of attention for the Boulder Chamber in the upcoming election:

Economic Vitality: It took a pandemic to make some in our community fully aware of the fragility of our economic vitality, something they otherwise take for granted. Library closures and reduced infrastructure spending are among the consequences we face when our economy slows and sales tax revenue drops. The Boulder Chamber works very hard to support the success of our local businesses — and to maintain a healthy balance of businesses at all scales, scope and size — with the goal of lifting our collective economic fortunes. We need a strong municipal partner in that work, which is why the shared interest of each City Council candidate in preserving our economic vitality is something we take very seriously.

Residential and Commercial Redevelopment: It’s been said that “density is the new open space.” The concept generally means that we need to match our pride in protecting the open space ring around Boulder with an equally environmentally sensitive and well-planned accommodation of mixed-use infill and redevelopment that facilitates an affordable blend of housing choices, sustainable transportation options, and walkable amenities. The Boulder Chamber also recognizes the contribution this same character of development makes to our economic vitality. We seriously need to know where our City Council candidates stand on this issue.

Outdoor Encampments and Crime: Two pressing community issues that have become conflated over the past few years are concerns about outdoor encampments in public facilities and rising criminal behavior. While I will not debate here the correlation between these concerns, it’s very clear they will animate the 2021 City Council election. Phrases like, “safety first” and “defund the police,” have come to define the gulf that has emerged between the different public policy camps. The Boulder Chamber believes the solution lies in both enforcement of our prohibitions against camping in public spaces and other criminal behavior, while being open to support innovative programs that avoid direct police engagement. We’re seriously interested to know how each City Council candidate proposes to tackle these issues. 

There are other issues the Boulder Chamber will prioritize as important to business and economic interests during this election. Where the City Council candidates stand on those issues will tell a lot about how they will govern if sitting at the council dais. That is why we embrace our public education responsibilities, including the report card I mentioned earlier and the City Council candidate forum we’re hosting on Aug. 25 in partnership with a wide spectrum of local civic organizations. We urge you to attend the candidate forum and look for our report card on the Boulder Chamber website.

Most important, it’s critical that we all get serious during this silly season and educate ourselves on the City Council candidates. The policy direction our community takes lies in the hands of those you vote to elect on Nov. 2. That is serious stuff and demands your serious attention, seriously! 

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.