BARHA Question 9: Proactive - Boulder Area Rental Housing Association

BARHA Question 9: Sometimes council decisions end up being reactive instead of proactive with little time to really dive into the details and/or unintended consequences.  In fact, often the best solutions do not require a new ordinance at all but could be worked out in other ways.  This can often be overlooked if there is a rush to action.  Do you have suggested solutions to prevent quick reactionary ordinances in the future?  And what would you do as a council member to encourage solutions prior to or other than an ordinance?  


Aaron Brockett:  One of my focuses on council has been to advocate for good governance. Decisions made in haste and at the last minute are rarely done well, and I have been distressed with the short timeframe council has acted on some initiatives in the last two years. Barring true emergencies, I think council should always take the time to consult thoroughly with the community and stakeholders when working on an issue, and consider creative solutions that may or may not involve ordinances.

Rachel Friend:   I love this question too! When we are reactive, it’s often evidence of lack of planning, lack of foresight, and lack of efficiency. At its worst, it can also evince a lack of bravery, a lack of leadership. It’s kicking the can down the road and hoping that somehow a problem will be less complicated when you next catch up to it.

If City Council limits its priorities, and moves efficiently through those priorities, we will be able to deal timely with what’s coming down the pike. Sometimes ordinances are necessary. The Assault Weapons Ban is an example of an action that could not happen without codification. And sometimes they are not. Moratoriums are often the result of dilatory planning. My proposal is for council to: empower boards and staff, which will result in council doing less micromanaging; prioritize and move through the work list efficiently, in a way that aligns with Boulder values; and remove politics (trading instead in facts and data) on all issues.

Bob Yates:  Using the press as the principal method to understand what actions are under consideration by council will inevitably lead to surprises, given that the local press typically previews matters only a day or two in advance. Therefore, I encourage businesses that might be affected by council actions, including landlords, to send representatives to the weekly Council Agenda Committee (CAC) meetings and to subscribe to the CAC meeting minutes. Every Monday morning at the CAC meeting—which is open to the public—council members discuss the agendas, presentations, and ordinances for the next six to eight council meetings. Groups, like the Boulder Chamber, who attend the weekly CAC meetings gain tremendous insight into what actions council is considering, when matters will be heard, and how they might interact with council members using the most effective advocacy.

Junie Joseph:  Sometimes Council makes snap decisions, but sometimes the City takes years and years to make relatively simple changes. Council does need to take a longer-term view than it sometimes does, listen to its experts, and (as discussed above) get input beyond the usual loud voices. But I’m not sure reactionary ordinances are a particularly big problem in Boulder right now, compared to our other problems.

Mark Wallach:  It is the situation that governs. Take the Opportunity Zone, for example. I advocated in front of Council for the moratorium, because, given the time limits for investment in OZ properties it was likely that a number of projects would be filed in order to comply with the statute. And the recent NY Times article detailing the scandal that has become of the program and the perversion of its original intent (high-end waterfront condos on the Jersey shore, courtesy of the Kushner family, upscale hotels in Scottsdale, projects in upscale portions of San Francisco and Los Angeles), it is hard to argue that the concern over the program, and the actions taken, were misplaced. On a public health level it is hard to argue that the rapid action on vaping was inappropriate. But I do agree that a number of issues require a more deliberative process, and that sometimes less is more. I do not have a hair-trigger approach to legislating, and I will advocate for a more deliberative process when it is appropriate. I am also sensitive to the Law of Unintended Consequences, and will seek to understand all of the implications of the Council’s actions.

Adam Swetlik:  I think the communication between Staff and Council could be greatly improved so these issues don’t arise. Take the Opportunity Zone for example. This was a project not asked for by Council, and not well-communicated by staff, so a moratorium had to be put in place so that existing affordable housing units wouldn’t be replaced with much

higher-priced units. If there was more transparency and a better assessment about potential impacts there would be less need for moratoriums and ordinances. Council could also stand to take on less projects so that they can focus and give better attention to what is happening. We may even be at the point where a change in our government structure is warranted, as we’re a much larger city now than when our city government was adopted.