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|October 30-November 5, 2008
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• City of Boulder Ballot Questions
City of Boulder Ballot Question No. 2A
Pay increase for City Council members
City of Boulder Ballot Question No. 2A asks city voters whether the City Charter should be changed so that city council members can be compensated at the rate of $1,000 a month, an amount that would be adjusted in the future based on the Consumer Price Index.
The proposed payment would replace the current compensation of $174.31 per meeting for a maximum of four meetings per calendar month. Those who oppose the increase say the city shouldn’t be paying its leaders more when the economy is in a state of downturn and the city is having difficulty funding various programs.
But those who support the measure say that the small increase will help to make up for hours that city council members must take away from their jobs in order to fulfill their obligations to the citizens of Boulder. In addition, they say that unless pay is increased for city council members, only those who are wealthy or don’t need to work full-time will be able to consider serving on council. We find these arguments persuasive. Anyone who thinks that serving on City Council is more about perks than work simply has no idea of what a city council member is required to do if they take the position seriously (and we hope they do!). The demands city work makes on their time are likely to increase. If the voice of Boulder citizens is to be heard with regard to transportation planning, environmental issues and other countywide and statewide issues, we need city council members to be involved not just locally but regionally. In addition, we don’t think a person should have to be rich to participate in local governance. It’s possible that this increase doesn’t go far enough to address these concerns adequately, but it’s a start. Vote YES on City of Boulder Ballot Question No. 2A.
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2B
City Council executive sessions
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2B asks voters to change the City Charter to allow City Council to meet in executive session — i.e., behind closed doors — to discuss “sensitive” matters where premature public disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. The measure states that executive session would be held in compliance with procedural rules that are at least as restrictive as those required by state law, and that the council could only go into executive session upon a two-thirds vote of its members. It limits the topics that may be discussed in executive session to: confidential real-estate issues; legal advice; security issues or investigations involving City Council; issues relating to negotiation or negotiation strategies; hiring and personnel matters involving a council employee. It prohibits council members from taking action behind closed doors and requires that public discussion must take place before a decision is made.
One can certainly understand that it might be nice if City Council members could discuss some things in private, but open doors are what our city government has always been about. Those bodies that take advantage of executive session — the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents comes immediately to mind — sometimes end up abusing that privilege, using it as a way to discuss controversial issues and decide on a course of action in a way that prevents the public and the media from holding them individually accountable. Also, it makes us uncomfortable to change the City Charter without knowing exactly what the rules would be. Uphold Boulder’s tradition of open government. Vote NO on Boulder Ballot Question 2B.
City of Boulder Ballot Question No. 2C
Amendment of recall election procedures
If passed, Question 2C would reform the recall election procedure in Boulder to allow more time for the process to take place.
Boulder Municipal Clerk Alisa Lewis says that, as the charter currently reads, she would not be able to meet the requirements of a recall election by the deadline. She explains that 2C is not trying to change the intent of recall elections; it is attempting to clarify the process. Question 2C would extend the time frame of a recall election from 40 days to between 75 and 90 days.
In order to conduct a recall election, the city has to develop a mail ballot plan; determine the layout of the mail ballot plan; have the mail ballot plan approved by the Secretary of State; and organize and prepare the ballot for printing delivery. Lewis says that, under the current system, it would be physically impossible to complete this entire process in compliance with the charter.
Hey, if it’s important enough to merit a recall election, then it’s important enough to do correctly. Let’s give the city clerk enough time to get the job done right. Vote YES on City of Boulder Ballot Question No. 2C.
City of Boulder Ballot Question No. 2D
Permit city lease up to 40 years
Currenty, the City of Boulder is allowed to lease streets and public places or property for a maximum of 20 years. If 2D is approved by voters, it would amend the City Charter to allow the city to grant a lease of streets and public places or property for a maximum of 40 years instead. The leases would be contingent on approval by a two-thirds vote of all council members. City folks say they need this provision in order to enter into public-private partnerships on public land. They say that many private businesses need to amortize their investments in these partnerships over more than 20 years, just as many homeowners need 30 years to pay off their home loans.
This was on last year’s ballot and failed to pass, as well. Boulder Weekly opposed it then, and we can’t bring ourselves to support it now. There’s something about entering into an public-private agreement that’s going to outlive the City Council members who voted for it that unnerves us. Though we understand that these arrangements would help the city stretch its dollars by bringing in private investments, 40 years is just too long to entrust public lands into private hands.
Vote NO on City of Boulder Ballot Question No. 2D.
City of Boulder Ballot Question 2E
Qualifications for appointment to city commissions
If passed, Ballot Question 2E would amend the City Charter so that people who are not “city electors,” i.e., not U.S. citizens, can be appointed to city boards and commissions if they are 18 and have lived in Boulder for at least a year. Proponents of this measure say that Boulder is an international community and that we are losing valuable insights because non-citizens are excluded from our boards. They point out the Boulder County doesn’t require citizenship for participation on county boards and commissions, nor do the governments of Portland, Ore., and New York City. They say a “yes” vote would bring a wider range of voices to the table.
Those opposed say that citizens have a higher stake in what happens in their hometown than do non-citizens and that participating in governance is one of the many privileges that citizenship confers. We agree that citizenship ought to confer special privileges, and we believe there are ways to get diverse voices onto our boards and commissions without turning to non-citizens. We find the arguments in favor of this issue to be weak and the evidence to be anecdotal. But when it comes to democracy, we’d rather err on the side of participation than on the side of exclusion. So we’re offering a lukewarm YES endorsement on City of Boulder Ballot Question 2E.
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