Boulder Tomorrow hosted Mayor Matt Appelbaum and Councilwoman K.C. Becker for the Boulder City Council Update on January 24th at the Spice of Life Events Center. The conversation included an update from the Mayor and Councilwoman on work that had taken place over the prior weekend during the Council’s yearly retreat, as well as progress on some of the city’s most pressing issues for 2013.
Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum
The Mayor shared some of the Council’s top goals for the year, including Boulder’s energy future, the Climate Action Plan, affordable housing, and the Civic Area Plan. Other important issues for the city that received attention during the audience question and answer session included homelessness, affordable housing, fracking (hydraulic fracturing), and a potential transportation fee.
Boulder City Councilor KC Becker
There were a variety of questions fielded relating to the work being conducted towards the municipalization of Boulder’s energy grid. There was an evident interest in this issue among most audience members, and the importance of this work was echoed in Councilwoman Becker’s statement that “the energy future clearly is the lead effort of the city.”
One audience member urged the Council to remember the importance of off-ramps as due diligence is being conducted on the feasibility of municipalization. Mayor Appelbaum reassured the crowd that off-ramps are in fact being taken seriously, and explained that at this point there are two pieces to the municipalization puzzle that are being worked on. The first is the condemnation of the existing system, of which the community will receive a report on sometime in February or March. The second piece is the issue of stranded costs, something that is dealt with by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“We don’t know if municipalization is going to work,” said Mayor Appelbaum. “We have to be open to other solutions.”
Issues of affordable housing and homelessness also received much attention. Councilwoman Becker noted that homelessness has been on the work plan since last year, triggered by events such as Occupy Boulder and certain park closure rules, however admitted that “we don’t have a comprehensive housing plan – for a city that really likes to do planning, it’s really a big gap.”
Both the Mayor and Councilwoman did stress the need for more proactive measures to address these issues, including looking specifically at affordable housing for middle class citizens to address the fact that over 50,000 people commute into Boulder daily to work. In addition to local government efforts, there is work being conducted and services being provided by other local organizations such as the Bridge House’s “Ready to Work” program, and the need to address homelessness as a region was stressed in order to solve some of these tough issues.
One audience member was curious on the city’s position regarding fracking. The Mayor noted that Boulder has been lucky in the sense that they have not had to deal with this issue too much as there do not seem to be any great resources. However, he said that the city is going to look at the issue, specifically at the current protections in the code that date back to pre-fracking days that are not tailored to the current environment. Ft. Collins is currently looking at banning fracking, and the city of Longmont is still waiting on the courts to weigh in on various issues. These are local examples of how fracking still is a pretty grey area.
“There are a lot of moving parts on this,” said Mayor Appelbaum. “For me right now, something like a moratorium makes some sense just because there are so many moving parts. I don’t want to start inventing this when I don’t know what I’m allowed to do.”