Heading into the 2018 elections, Boulder County faces two divergent futures — either extending the status quo with a dangerous game of insider politics, or creating a new vision for local government led by our community that prioritizes the health of the environment and the wages, benefits and living conditions of our local workforce. The people and natural environment of Boulder County need authentic representation and power. It’s time to redefine what local government can really mean.
Environmentally, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The current Commissioners and Democratic Party front-runner Matt Jones have accepted, and are currently brokering, a massive industrialization of the County at the hands of the oil and gas industry: 1,800-plus projected wells and associated well pads, pipelines, compressor stations and other infrastructure for the extraction of climate-destroying fossil fuels, both gas and oil. Extraction Oil and Gas’s spacing plan includes Escuela Bilingue Pioneer elementary school. Crestone’s plan calls for over 140 oil wells on Boulder County open space. There will be more to come. The County and its environment face their most destructive industrialization since the coalfields of the early 20th century. People will suffer and some will die in industrial accidents and traffic fatalities associated with the millions of truck trips, and through the short- and long-term health effects well established in over 900 peer-reviewed medical studies. Our environment, wildlife and climate will suffer in a permanent sense. This is not the future anyone of conscience in Boulder County desires. It’s a future that will only benefit the CEOs of the fossil fuel industry, and one that is currently being mandated by every level of government.
These are the most glaring ramifications of County politicians more loyal to party and collaboration with industry than to the protection of the health and fundamental rights of Boulder County community members and the environment we rely upon. This isn’t going to get better unless a meaningful change of direction takes place.
Boulder County can lead on issues as diverse as rail service and public transportation, sustainable agriculture, housing, workplace issues like wages, unionization and benefits, and a democratically run economy that functions for the people and environment. We can replace the current ingrained pattern of party politics with community involvement, mobilization and governance for a future that could serve as a global model. A home rule charter written and ratified by the people of Boulder County can establish the rights of workers, of the environment, and the empowerment of our immigrant community. For the sake of our children’s future, we must reverse the long collaboration between government and corporations and the resulting environmental destruction, racism and economic uncertainty. We need government of, by, and for the people.
I am running for Boulder County Commissioner after decades of community activism and with the understanding that changes of this nature require a real movement. I am not a politician, a CEO, business leader or political insider. I am a father, registered nurse and one of thousands of individuals working tirelessly to protect Boulder County and to craft a vision for what we can accomplish, together, as a community.
In the months to come I will be working with families, farmers, teachers and local leaders to build a grassroots alternative. Our campaign wants to hear from you, to bring in your voice and ideas, and to help us win more than a Commissioner’s office but a just, sustainable and democratically run Boulder County. Let’s think big and create potential for all of us along the way.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.
Cliff Willmeng is from Lafayette and is running for Boulder County Commissioner.