By Shay Castle. Originally published in the Boulder Beat on October 8, 2021.
"Casual observers of politics in Boulder might have noticed that candidates for Boulder city council — and even elected officials themselves — tend to fall into one of two “camps.” Though city council is a nonpartisan body, this split mimics the U.S. two-party system of Democrats and Republicans.
The divide usually occurs over issues of growth and development, with candidates falling into the slow-growth camp (led by PLAN-Boulder) or a more pro-density camp. That’s changed somewhat slightly in 2021 (more on that later) but the slates are as prominent as ever.
A slow-growth slate has been standard for the past few elections, at least. PLAN has endorsed a majority of city council members nearly every year for the past 40 decades. Pro-density groups typically split their support among a number of candidates; political insiders recount with dismay the 2017 election in which non-PLAN candidates received slightly more votes than PLAN ones (67,188 vs. 66,054) yet gained only one seat. The votes were spread among seven people, whereas PLAN endorsed five candidates — one for each open seat. (Two independent candidates, with a combined 3,040 votes, may have factored as well.)
That changed in 2019 with The Coalition. Disparate organizations coalesced into a bloc that interviews and endorses candidates as a sole entity. Each member group gets to vote during that process.
This year is no different. Among 10 candidates vying for five seats, four have been backed by The Coalition: Dan Williams, Dr. Nicole Speer, Lauren Folkerts and Matt Benjamin. Another four — Tara Winer, Mark Wallach, Steve Rosenblum and Michael Christy — have been endorsed by PLAN and related slow-growth groups that typically follow their lead.
Two “independent” candidates have picked up the odd endorsement as well, and a few candidates have shown some cross-party appeal.
What has changed is the dividing line. Slow-growth sentiment is not as stark as in past years. All candidates recognize the need for additional housing, though they differ in their views on where it should go and how to add it.
The Winer-Wallach-Rosenblum-Christy group might more appropriately be called the Yates’ slate. Councilman Bob Yates was the first to endorse them as a set (along with The Coalition’s Benjamin as a crossover candidate) and they all mirror Yates’ centrist ideals and pro-business leanings that, in past years, would have been anathema to PLAN. (PLAN also picked up Jacques Decalo, a climate-focused candidate who, in his first public appearance as a candidate, said that 'big companies should pay their fair share' to located in Boulder.)
Some slow-growth remnants remain. All Yates’ picks, like Yates himself, don’t believe that anything other than single-family homes should be allowed throughout Boulder. Denser development should be clustered near transportation options, they say, leaving existing neighborhoods (where they live) alone. Aside from Benjamin, the Yates’ slate also seems opposed to Bedrooms Are For People, as is PLAN-Boulder. Yates has been a vocal opponent of less-restrictive occupancy limits...
...Boulder is for People
This group was formed by the organizers of Bedrooms Are For People, which successfully placed a petition on the 2021 ballot to amend the city’s occupancy limits. While Bedrooms is an issue campaign, Boulder is for People is an unofficial candidate committee.
Dr. Nicole Speer