Boulder’s activist organizations and their city council endorsements

City of Boulder preps for upcoming November elections

By Tatyana Sharpton Oct 4 2019

As the Boulder City Council election season rolls quickly in, residents will decide who will fill six of the nine city council seats in the local election on November 5.

Tracking candidates and issues can be difficult, which is why a few Boulder activist groups have cropped up who endorse certain candidates in addition to advocating for specific policies. To provide them in one place and give readers a view of who they endorse, we profile some of the larger ones and who they endorse here.

They include: Boulder Progressives, Open Boulder, PLAN-Boulder County, Better Boulder and The Coalition, a new group formed this past August.

Heading into the election, housing, open space, transportation, climate change, flood mitigation and inclusiveness stand as Boulder’s primary issues. Many of these groups have a desire to help Boulder maintain its environmental integrity and, despite its many regulations, address the city’s chronic housing affordability challenges.

Debates often center on keeping areas more open with low-density development and creating more livable spaces for mixed-use housing for a more connected, walkable, eco-friendly city.

While individuals can donate to candidates, these groups (Unofficial Candidate Committees) cannot give money directly to candidates under Boulder law, but rather advocate for issues and provide endorsements.

The official list of candidates certified for the ballot was released in late August. They are:

Boulder Progressives

Formed this year, Boulder Progressives emerged from a group of residents wanting to advocate for human rights and inclusivity. In June, it held a community gathering of all candidates at the Elks Club in North Boulder to help residents better understand candidates in the runup to the election that it called the Raucous Caucus,

Raucous Caucus launches Boulder’s city council election season

The group has 10 residents on the steering committee and approximately 150 who participate in a dedicated Slack channel who contribute through donations, writing or other support.

Boulder Progressives is primarily focused  human rights, climate change, housing, jobs and transportation, through a human rights lens. This means that more than any other active political group we reviewed, it pays attention to police interactions around race and homelessness. Another big issue it focuses on is the job-to-housing imbalance and how that affects the workforce and environment.

As prices in Boulder rise, the people most affected are the more marginalized groups, who are being pushed out of the city and which contributes to longer commutes for local workers.

“We’ve created a situation in Boulder where for decades we have more jobs than housing, so now over 65,000 people commute into Boulder daily … that is a climate disaster,” says group member Jasen Thorpe. “We want to challenge that.”

Boulder Progressives chose candidates to endorse based on their qualifications and experience, and had demonstrated a focus on the issues of human rights, housing and transport and climate, policing, race and homeless as inextricably linked.

Boulder Progressives endorses five candidates for the 2019 Boulder City Council election:

  • Aaron Brockett
  • Junie Joseph
  • Rachel Friend
  • Benita Duran
  • Mark McIntyre.

Open Boulder

Open Boulder has a focus on government transparency and open space. It describes itself as “a grass roots, nonpartisan movement of open-minded, pragmatic and moderate individuals of all ages, cultures and economic backgrounds,” and their aim is to preserve the amazing assets of our city to make sure all future generations can enjoy them.

The organization’s primary goals include more transparency and inclusiveness from local government, access to open space, responsible stewardship, and an open and inclusive Boulder.

The candidates that Open Boulder is endorsing for the 2019 Boulder City Council race include:

  • Aaron Brockett
  • Benita Duran
  • Rachel Friend
  • Junie Joseph
  • Mark McIntyre
  • Bob Yates.

PLAN-Boulder County

PLAN-Boulder County is a slow-growth advocacy, grassroots activist organization that places great importance on careful growth and planning to reduce Boulder County’s carbon footprint and overall environmental impact.

Two issues the organization supports are the Open Space Tax extension and the Pilot loan program for middle income housing ballot measure. While PLAN supports the city’s affordable housing movement, the organization would rather see this happen in the form of a tax that would directly support affordable housing projects would be a better idea rather than by doing so through increased density.

For Boulder City Council, PLAN-Boulder County endorses:

  • Adam Swetlik
  • Susan Peterson
  • Mark Wallach
  • Corina Julca
  • Brian Dolan.

Better Boulder

Better Boulder believes that a sustainable urban design will help Boulder evolve into a more inclusive city with a smaller carbon footprint and dynamic culture.

It was formed to bring together a diverse set of residents interested in bicycling, environment and business to bridge the gap between environmental groups and environmentalists and business groups and people.

With a few hundred members, Better Boulder wants to help the city remain compact and connected, and to improve affordable housing, transit and walkability, environmental stewardship, civic engagement and inclusiveness.

This November, Better Boulder is endorsing:

  • Aaron Brockett
  • Benita Duran
  • Rachel Friend
  • Junie Joseph
  • Mark McIntyre
  • Bob Yates

The group feels that candidates’ stances on housing and slow growth will decide this election.

The Coalition

The Coalition stands as a group of groups, including Open Boulder, Boulder Progressives, South Boulder Creek Action Group and Better Boulder. The organization includes leadership from former Boulder Mayor Leslie Durgin and former Councilwoman Jan Burton.

The Coalition doesn’t have its own membership; instead, it aims to align other groups and individuals to focus support on the candidates they all feel will best support the city around housing affordability, improved transit, social justice and climate issues. It also focuses on improving government and fiscal management.

More than anything, the group feels Boulder needs strong, effective leaders who know how to bring issues up to council and execute efficient solutions, and needs to create the environment to support these leaders.

The Coalition is endorsing:

  • Aaron Brockett
  • Benita Duran
  • Rachel Friend
  • Junie Joseph
  • Mark McIntyre

Currently, the Coalition is supporting these candidates by raising and spending money on education and outreach to lesser-represented communities. One of the biggest issues they see is that less than half of Boulder’s population actually votes in these elections, and the ones who don’t are usually under 35 and/or marginalized groups that don’t feel properly represented.

Reaching these groups is one of the primary things the Coalition spends money on, such as running ads in the Daily Camera or Boulder Weekly (where a half-page ad can run for between $600-$900, and a full-page ad quickly creeps up to $1,600) and boosting ads on social media. What one issue do you think will decide this election?

It feels the CU-South flood mitigation will be a deciding factor in this election.

What’s happening with CU South

Feature Image: Candidates at the Boulder Progressives’ Raucous Caucus in June 2019. Photo: Paul Hagey