New Bonus: with permission, local business and community leader Bob Morehouse‘s picks:
Dear Friends, ballots have arrived in our mail boxes, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a quick shout-out for three people and two initiatives I’m enthusiastic about this year.
The first initiative is the vote to explore forming a Municipal Utility in Boulder. I’m voting YES on 2B and 2C. I feel this is the right direction for our community, and that it’s at least worth exploring the costs and risks to see what can be done. If you’re confused by all the heavy breathing from the Xcel-led campaign, I encourage you to look at New Era’s “Top Ten Lies About Municipalization.” Also, there are some nice short videos of support by various communities leaders here. I’m convinced we can have a more reliable, greener energy future and one that benefits the community, too. A YES vote at least lets us explore that possibility.
The next issue is Proposition 103, a statewide effort of our own Rollie Heath, which would return our taxes back to the level they were in the 90s (5% income tax, 3% sales tax) for a five year period, raising $3 billion for our badly-battered schools. The Yes on 103 website is here. It’s really a no-brainer in my estimation. Current funding of our schools by some measures ranks us below Alabama. As the 13th richest state, I surely think we can do better.
I’d also like to single out three excellent candidates running for Council. There are a lot of good people running, but these three are my top choices: Suzanne Jones, Tim Plass, and Lisa Morzel. All three are smart, experienced, progressive candidates with a healthy respect for our environment and all the things that make Boulder a remarkable place to live. Take a look at their websites and I encourage your support.
Please ask all your friends if they are planning to vote. It’s easy and convenient with our mail-in ballots. It’s the least we can all do to help shape the future of our community.
Feel free to comment if you think I got something wrong–happy to update and make changes, this is a “living document.” ~ Waylon Lewis.
I grew up here, and have considered running for City Council. Luckily, we have a wealth of strong candidates who are better equipped to devote many hours to public service without adequate pay: our current setup unfortunately favors retirees, wealthy, or workaholics to run and serve on Council (serving involves as much as 20 hours a week for next to no pay, which is hard for a businessperson or younger candidate to make work).
I love this community. I love that we think medium and long-term, and value getting things done over rhetoric. I appreciate how we find a way for business and sustainable issues to not only work together rather than opposing one another, but actually to support one another. Just one generalized example: our tourism dollars are largely dependent on a vibrant dining scene and the Open Space trails and natural beauty of our extraordinary town. I love Naropa, and CU, our many cafes, our climbing gyms and trails, our farmers’ market and tech scene, our incredible farm-to-table local-supporting restaurants, our bike lanes (more, please) and dog parks (more, please).
This year I’ve been less involved in local issues and candidates—in the past, with New Era Colorado (I serve on their board), elephant has helped host debates, conducted interviews, and announced formal endorsements. This year, I’ve been traveling and working too much, so am offering the below just as how I’ll be voting. If you have a different experience of an issue or candidate, please leave a constructive, respectful comment below—I’d appreciate it, as would the elephantjournal.com readership, which is nearly as populous as dailycamera.com, now. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.
Boulder City Council.
(Five open seats)
Finally, candidates I like but whom we haven’t had enough contact with to know whether we vote yes or no:
Daniel Ziskin or Jonathan Hondorf seem like “my kind of” candidates (I look for accessible, moderate/liberal/green/business-friendly public servants who seem genuine and passionate about Boulder—and who are efficient, savvy and curious presences in meetings, generally).
I also respect George K, though he’s far more conservative than I prefer, he brings intelligence and a different pov to the Council. He’s also got a great sense of humor.
Mark Gelband has been respectful of all and good to get to know, and it’s my fault I don’t know him well enough to know whether I’d support or oppose. Next time ’round, perhaps.
I also respect and like Fenno Hoffman, who may be the most out-of-the-box, truly sustainable/business candidates we’ve ever seen. I just don’t know enough, not having met with him this year (that’s my bad).
I’ve been somewhat active and supportive of this issue: it’s the single most important vote you and I will make, this year (I’ll copy recent conversation between both sides from my FB Wall at bottom): 2B and 2C: Yes
Boulder Valley School District
Director District C
Director District D
Co Ballot Issue
Proposition 103: Yes
BOCO Ballot Issue
County Question 1A: Yes
> Here’s how Yellow Scene “votes.”
12 of my friends on FB “like” Boulder municipalization? No way.
Pretty sure half of them “like” it so they can comment, read, debate. But half of them, including City Council candidate (and nice guy) Mark Gelband, seriously, personally support Xcel? I’d genuinely love to know why: seems like a dishonest, well-funded, fear-based, corporate-lovin’, pro-profits campaign from start to finish.
*Amy Guinan, Ben Alexandra and 2 others like this.
Waylon – Having skepticism about 2B and 2C doesnnotnequate to “support” of Xcel. I walk my talk on local and renewable energy, net producing to the grid with my PV system. $300-$600 million for outdated infrastructure and another $10-$12 mi…llion for 3-7 years of bitter litigation do not get us closermto one kWh of local or renewable energy. Go to www.marincleanenergy.info and learn about community choice aggregation. We need to own local and renewable generation, not own, manage, maintain and repair lines, poles and substations – a 19th century transmission system. Call – 303-522-1192 – and we can chat about it. Enjoybthis beautiful day.See More
Marin Clean Energy
Marin Clean Energy
23 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 1 personYou like this. ·
Mark Gelband Sorry about the typos.
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Roz Lynn Dorf We need to get rid of Excel.
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Mark, my understanding of a Yes vote is that it funds our ability to find out if we can municipalize safely (which we’re required to do by law, the NO crowd’s commercials with lights going off is pure fear-mongering, on which count alone I’…m surprised you support ‘em?) and affordably. Given that Xcel is spending 10 million fighting this, clearly they’ve got some profits they’re afraid of losing—profits we could put back into our City and renewable energy, clean air…stuff all citizens of Boulder mights support. Doesn’t mean we even leave Xcel, I understand, just that we have more control.See More
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We won’t have to do $10-$12 million of “bitter” litigation if our energy “partner” simply disclosed costs to us. This effort is not about the next 3-7 years, but about the next three to seven decades. If the numbers add up (and we’ll only f…ind out if they do by voting YES on 2B and 2C) this path will allow our community to invest much more in renewables over the next few decades. That’s why the Denver Post in addition to so many other orgs supports a YES vote!See More
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Waylon Lewis Thanks, Ted, I was hoping you or Steve or another more educated citizen might weigh in. From what little I know, it seems like a no-brainer. And I can’t stand their fear-pushing ads.
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Ted Rose feels like a no brainer to me. Each of us will pay an extra 12 bucks a year to find out if we can do this. that’s the truth, despite the scary ads.
Waylon Lewis And we could save some money, right? Xcel is making $12 mill a year in profits off of us?
· 1 person
Does anyone know of the best place to find accurate information on the issue? There’s been much heated debate and seeking out information from either persuasion leaves one leery of whether or not the real facts are being presented. That s…aid, I personally am leaning heavily toward a yes vote for a slew of reasons. One being that I loathe corporations, second being that I believe we will have greater power as citizens to change the way our energy is handled if it is in the city’s hands vs. staying in a large corporation’s. A small piece of me, just because of the disgusting amount of money xcel has spent on negative campaign ads (when they could spend that money on, I don’t know, anything else -maybe jobs/employees??) is voting out of outrage for how much I’ve been bombarded with xcel’s point of view via the internet. I could be persuaded otherwise were there clear and fully supporting points in anthesis of municipalization. Loosing power here and there isn’t enough to persuade me. I like reading by candle light, always have an extra blanket, and usually have an unplugged instrument lying around. Worst comes to worst, Boulder asks xcel back and you know, I bet they wouldn’t hesitate to take people’s cash.
Main things I know are fact, Meg: a yes vote still allows us to “vote no” and return to Xcel. Xcel is making huge profits off Boulder that could be managed in our own interest for savings and renewables. And to municipalize we have to by la…w have a safe, dependable utility–so all the fear mongering about lights turning off is just that: fear-mongering. But, yes, I’d love to know more facts and hear less yes/no from both sides.
Roz Lynn Dorf
Excel’s add-ons to our bills are outrageous. Last month my actual usage was $8.77. My bill was $32.25, due to Excel’s adjustments. I called to complain one time and was told the adjustments were because Excel didn’t make as much money th…e prior year as they should have, so they were making adjustments to make the money they should have. I told the person I have a small business and I can’t go back to my clients and tell them I didn’t make enough money last year, so I am retroactively recouping what I should have made.
Roz Lynn Dorf I’d rather pay more money to Boulder than to Excel.
Mark Gelband Waylon – Thank you for starting a great discussion. And thanks Meg, Roz, Ted for participating. zi would have responded earlier, but we had 24 thirteen year olds over for a Halloween party last night, very fun to watch as a parent. Come by and check out our haunted basement.
As to 2B and 2C, I do not think Xcel is a “trusted” partner, but this started as a discussion ariund local and renewable energy, and a muni does not get us there effectively, efficiently or quicly. This is not about Xcel. It is about the mo…nopoly energy paradigm. I agree, Ted, that this is about the next 100 years, which is why it is important that we spend limited dollars on as much local and renewable generation as possible – not going into debt for three times the city’s annual budget for lines, poles and substations. Please take time to read about Community Choice Aggregation. If this is about the next 100 years, we need a real paradigm shiftmin the energy market, not an either/or monopoly fallacy. Call me sometime -303522-1192. As Waylon said, and I am sure Meg would agree, I am good guy, committed to mindful, environmental practice.
Meg and Roz – CU is having a forum, and I think you will get a fair perspective there. Xcel has done a horrible job, but the city’s water utility has been far worse. In the past decade Xcel’s rates hsve gone up 47% and and the water rates h…ave gone up 159%. This while the city let the Chautauqua cistern leak 28,000 dollars A DAY. My family of five uses 3,000 gallons a month? 30 families and several businesses are currently fighting the city over sewage main (part of the water utility) backups. Why? Our waste water system is in horrible disrepair, we have a long-term structual deficit in the city budget, and the city, while painting a rosy picture, is broke – with over $170,000,000 in deferred maintenance. We cannot maintain the infrastructure for our water utility and the commodity is free with our senior water rights.
Why has this morphed into “off-ramps”and “bargaining” and away from local and renewable? Again, I am happy to meet and discuss. I live with the most beautiful woman, who is far more intelligent and creative than I am, and we often disagree on big issues AND we love each other and respect each other and listen to each other.I respect and admire Leslie Glustrom, and our community is lucky to have her activism and commitment. We just happen to disagree on the most effective and cost-effiecient ways to locsl and renewable energy. And please remember, this from a guy net producing to the grid who would like others to more rapidly have access to local, renewable energy.
Roz Lynn Dorf
Delta, Glenwood Springs, Oak Creek, Estes Park, Center, Springfield, La Junta, Las Animas. Lamar, Julesburg, Hollyoke, Granada, Holly, Burlington, Wary, Yuma, Fort Morgan, Fleming, Haxtun all have municipal utilities according to the Colora…do Association of Municipal Utilities. Boulder should be on that list. We shouldn’t be afraid of Excel, and the amount of money they are spending on ads, and the threats they are making.
Yes, Mark, I will vouch for your being a super good guy. Regardless of our differences of opinion on this particular issue, I do believe we share a lot of beliefs -I’m still voting for ya! I’ve seen some of the posts for the CU forum, unf…ortunately I work quite a lot so physically making it to much of anything is a difficult task. I hear what you’re saying. I certainly agree that there are multiple ways to address every issue and that, perhaps, the city doesn’t have the most effective or efficient plan. I personally can’t say what a good plan looks like as I’m no expert on energy plans. I just want to know that we have the power to tell a corporation where to stick it. I want to know that we, as a city, a city I love very dearly, have the wherewithal to try and try and try again to make things better, even if that’s a somewhat daunting process and there are a few blunders along the way.See More
Waylon don’t indulge the easy excuse that anti-2B & 2C folks love Xcel. Give in to the sincere curiosity you mention and ask what anyone has to gain by championing the status quo – you’ll find dissatisfaction with the current paradigm of renewable energy sourcing doesn’t automatically make Issue 2C the best and only alternative.
I support 2B to create a tax to research and even pursue lawsuits to get all the info necessary to make a bold step but to ask today as well for open ended permission to then make those steps with what amounts to a “we’re pretty sure this can work, trust us” message is just too far a stretch. People are taking their anti-Xcel opinions and allowing them to cloud more deep analysis of what 2C does and doesn’t do.
I want to also emphasize that by state law Xcel will continue to provide Boulder power while we discern our best path – a vote supporting 2C is a politically contrived urgency. Voting no on 2C does not then mean we’re “locked into” anything… with Xcel and I’m surprised at the number of 2C supporters selling that “message of fear.”
It shows how a complex policy decision gets all mucked up when it becomes a ballot issue.See More
Fenno Hoffman and Meg Maybe like this.
Mark, I appreciate the thoughtful comments. Truly. I’ve found it hard to get opponents to these measures to talk about specifics, honestly. And while I hear you about your concerns about the city’s ability to pull this off, I’d love to unde…rstand your perspective on why we should stop before we understand the true costs involved. How can any of us really know the trade offs before we get the numbers? It’s all supposition until then right?
Waylon Lewis Stephen Fenberg I know you’re working, but if you’re online, it’s your kind of discussion.
Mark Gelband Roz – The key difference with the other munis is that they own or co-own a significant portion of their generation
Generation is the key.o
Ted – I am happy to meet and talk specifics. Just let me know, and I appreciate so much Waylon raising the discussion. My two general ideas are around rapid deployment of community solar and geothermal distridbuted generation in a lease bac…k model, in combination with a statewide effort for CCA, which opens the energy market. Our biggest mistake is the focus on the transmission system and how costly it will be, likely three times the city’s annual budget.
I appreciate the invitation, but I’m asking a straight forward question about due diligence and why you oppose it.
One of the reasons I support these measures is they open the door to creative hybrid solutions like an Xcel subsidiary ju…st for Boulder – or a community aggregation model that apparently interests you. Wouldn’t we have more leverage for those options after these measures pass? What incentive does Xcel have to work with us on them if they don’t?
Starting from the premise of having watched various city tax-payer funded purchases go astray from what was sold as the cost & programmatic expectations, (think Valmont Butte & Transit Village as a start) I then add the inherent lack of acc…ountability connecting today’s muni champions with the ultimate cost outcomes, and the permission 2C seeks is just unreasonable. To vote today to empower an unknown future City Council to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on anything without voter approval once much more info is collected is choosing to disempower yourself as a voter.
2C supporters are voting to create a tool without knowing how and by whom it will be wielded. The research tax enabled by 2B is a step forward showing Xcel Boulder will not relent and even in the face of other budget shortfalls in basic infrastructure Boulder is prioritizing getting renewable energy. But 2C shows a hubris that whatever the lawsuits and research reveal over the next several years, “obviously” voters should give permission today for a monster policy choice down the road that they will not be allowed to vote on directly again.
My Occupy Wall Street friends support the theme of that effort in part to protest the disempowerment they feel within the financial structures of power. Why would they then vote themselves out of the renewable energy structure with 2C? If voting for your representatives has worked poorly in the realm of the economy, why presume voting for representatives will work so well in this one? My point is I distrust the mechanism and inertia to move ahead at all costs that 2C would create.See More
Daniel, my understanding is that a vote yes is a vote to find out if we can do this responsibly. What might likely happen is that we’d ask for bids, including from Xcel, based on prices and renewables, and that they’d likely win it–only we…’d get much more of what we’re looking for, instead of taking what we can get from them. It’s not like Ken and Crystal etc are gonna be wearing hardhats down at some fictional electric utility, arguing about which button to press.
Waylon Lewis So, C Fenno Hoffman, are you voting “no”? You’re a smart guy–would love to hear why.
Daniel Powers, I find your response really helpful.
And I’ll admit that I have more experience on the renewable development side of things than the city initiative side, so I hear your points. On the other side, I’ve seen investor-owned u…tilities promise one outcome and then actively work behind the scenes to undercut it, usually by spending money harvested from their ratepayers including me.
As you point out, 2B is necessary to give the City the money to continue to explore options, but my understanding is that 2C is equally necessary in order to achieve legal standing to pursue the option of municipalization. If the City doesn’t have the right to raise money to finance its utility, how can it legal challenge Xcel over its system? (This is not a rhetorical question, incidentally. If you have the answer, please share it.)
And 2C is not a blank check. The utility cannot come into being if certain conditions aren’t met. I would think you would be comforted by the requirement that the utility finance its operations with a minimum 1.25 debt-service coverage ratio. There’s also the rate parity mandate. Have other municipal projects has such conservative off-ramps? (Again, not a rhetorical question.)
I agree, in principal, it would be good to have another popular vote if the stars aligned and the numbers favored municipalization. But after this campaign my concern would be that a reasonable debate over a weighty question we’d then face would be overwhelmed by fear-based advertising campaign produced by the one party with a naked self-interest.
Isn’t it problematic that the entity spending almost all of the money opposing this initiative is the one that directly financially benefits from it? Isn’t it problematic that the same entity just last week threatened an illegal action against its Boulder customers if they dared vote to approve these measures?See More
If there is one thing you take from this, it should be this: Passing 2B & 2C doesn’t create a municipal electric utility. The only thing these measures will do for certain is obtain the remaining information we need to be able to make the d…ecision about if a municipal utility is feasible. Xcel has refused to release the remaining information about the cost of their infrastructure and the only way we can force them to disclose this information is if we pass 2B & 2C and allow a judge to negotiate a fair price. And if, and only if, the following 3 requirements are met will the city even be allowed to move forward with forming the municipal utility:
1. Rates need to be cheaper than or equal to Xcel’s rates at the time of acquisition (and if they’re cheaper at this point, logic says they’ll always be cheaper because costs of coal are rising and costs of renewables are dropping)
2. The municipal utility needs to be able to bring on more renewables than Xcel can offer us (currently Xcel’s power comes from about 90% fossil fuels. Modeling shows a municipal utility could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half within the first few years of formation)
3. The municipal utility needs to have better than or equal reliability than Xcel’s current Boulder territory reliability
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So, what does all this mean? If even just one of these 3 requirements aren’t met, then we don’t move forward with the municipal utility. If all 3 are met and we decide to move forward, then we’re guaranteed to have good reliability, good rates, and more renewable energy.
So why would someone still vote no? Why would you prefer to have less options and stick with Xcel for another 20 year contract instead of get all the necessary information to make an informed decision about our choices?
And the “less renewables” argument just doesn’t make any sense. If passing 2B & 2C would result in less renewables, then why would organizations like CO Solar Energy Industries Assoc, Center for Resource Conservation, Solar Gardens Institut…e, Sierra Club, 350.org and companies like Namaste Solar and Renewable Choice, all be endorsing? Not to mention the fact that all 3 major newspapers, Daily Camera, The Denver Post, and Boulder Weekly have endorsed.
C Fenno Hoffman
Hi Waylon, I’m still trying to decide. Today, personally, I’m leaning towards yes on 2B and no on 2C, but this issue is before the voters, who all have different needs. I don’t like how political this issue has become. I don’t want any City… Council controlling my power supply for political reasons – so they can get elected. Today, 2B/2C seems like some kind of litmus test – but there are so many questions and such shitty arguments – on both sides, that nobody with any sense really knows what to do. Nobody knows if we can increase renewables beyond what Xcel already plans, while maintaining rate parity and reliability. It’s never been done before. The cost of buying Xcel’s infrastructure is estimated at two to three times what we pay Xcel in profit today (bond interest to Wall Street instead of profit to Xcel isn’t an improvement) and I don’t like how Council fought the business community to limit their representation to 3 of 9 votes, even though they pay more like 7/9th’s of the total electric bill – that isn’t fair to the businesses that pay for everything else we love – and it reeks of politics – council panders to voters, not businesses who can’t vote – which this rate board decision proves beyond a doubt. Waylon, you know I’m all over protecting the environment – more than all the Sierra Club candidates combined – that is for certain. My skepticism about 2B/2C doesn’t come from Xcel, or any coalition. My skepticism comes from what proponents say and how they say it. The disingenious arguments make me suspicious. For example, they say Muni’s are cheaper because Longmont is cheaper, but Longmont burns mostly coal – and we want to use solar and wind – well – that’s not comparing apples to apples. If Longmont used solar and wind and had to buy it’s wires and poles from Xcel, they would NOT be cheaper than xcel is today. These kinds of shitty comparisons make the whole effort suspect. I could go on, but I’ve got to go meet with some smart voters. SmartVoters, vote for Fenno! You know I want Boulder to be as green as possible, as soon as possible, in a way that is regionally, nationally and globally exportable, not just to places like Boulder, Aspen, Telluride and Marin County, but to normal communities – to the 99%!
Your last question is misleading and plays right into what I see as the either/or fallacy. A NO vote does not have to mean “another 20 year contract” with Xcel. Not at all. It is the same kind of “scare tactic” proponentd accuse Xcel of. We… have no contract right now, and by law Xcel must provide electricity while we explore any option. In fact, the longer we go without a contract, the better our case for mitigating stranded costs and costs of ongoing concerns. The biggest issue not being addressed is why we have to overspend for outdatex tranmission infrastructure and not one kWh of local or renewable generation.
Valerie Soraci This was an awesome conversation between both sides. So nice to see / read. Still voting yes.
If we don’t pass 2b/2c AND don’t sign another 20 year contract with Xcel then we sure as hell aren’t going to get anything we want from them. Without a contract they don’t have to meet any of our demands on renewables, or anything else for …that matter.
And, to your question about why we have to buy the outdated transmission infrastructure: We don’t. We will only buy them if the cost for the infrastructure comes in at a reasonable price. And, this is a question we’ll never know the answer to if we don’t pass these measures in order to get leverage with Xcel and force them to disclose information for a judge to make the decision on that.
C Fenno Hoffman: Passing ONLY 2B (and not 2C) doesn’t really get us much more information than we currently have right now. If we truly want to know how much this whole thing is going to cost and if it’s feasible we need to pass 2C in orde…r to make Xcel disclose needed information. Passing 2B alone would only result in more studies that lead us to the same conclusion: we need to find out the true costs and feasibility of our options.
Bonus: Some of the many local businesses supporting Yes. I’m happy to post a list of businesses supporting No if someone shares ‘em with me.
And some of the businesses endorsing:
3rd Street Chai
Abraham Paiss & Associates
Action Marketing Group
Boulder Book Store
Boulder County Democrats
Boulder Electric Vehicle
Boulder ElectroRide, Inc.
Boulder Outlook Hotel
Clean Tech Law Partners
Climate Crisis Solutions
Congruity Technologies, Inc.
Creative Light Source
Ecological Lawn & Tree Care
HEI – Hartman Ely Investments
Kitchen Next Door
Lynn Hill Climbing
Natural Capitalism, Inc.
National Eco Wholesale
North Pines Energy
Openspace Store, Inc.
Ozo Coffee Company
Perry Shoe Shop
Renewable Choice Energy
Snackle Mouth, Big Mouth Snacks
Solar Gardens Institute
Stone Creek PR
Sunflower Farmer’s Market
Synergistic Building Technologies