Let’s face it, what happens in Boulder affects the rest of Boulder Valley in terms of housing, transportation, economics and myriad other dimensions. If you want to know where your neighborhood is headed, it’s informative to know what Boulder is doing, even if you live in say, Erie. And, if you even casually follow Boulder politics these days, you might be perplexed and concerned by the (seemingly) increasingly bizarre actions coming from Boulder’s City Council.
For a council that purports to support the environment, public safety, and inclusivity, its recent actions don’t seem to match its rhetoric. In my opinion, however, its actions make sense when you understand the true underlying motivations and desires — and to do that, you have to understand Boulder’s CAVE people.
Who are Boulder’s CAVE people and what do they want?
Simply put, I call these people “Citizens Against Virtually Everything” (CAVE), and they seem to have the ear of the majority of the current council. It appears that the plurality of Boulder’s CAVE people arrived in Boulder in the 1960s and ‘70s as students, hippies, ski bums, etc. They decided to stay, bought homes here, and have become relatively well off as Boulder’s home price appreciation outstripped virtually everywhere else in the country. At the same time, they seem not to like the multiple dimensions of growth Boulder has enjoyed over the last several decades; indeed, their strongest desire is apparently to see Boulder return to as it was “back then,” with fewer people, fewer businesses, less crowding, etc. Their apparent goals, then, are to slow, stop, or reverse growth of all kinds in Boulder. Their tactics appear to be to (disingenuously?) cloak themselves in the rhetoric of environmentalism, populism, and liberalism in order to achieve these goals.
Recent examples of CAVE people tactics and their effects:
1. South Boulder Flood Mitigation Plan. The 2013 flood brought the issue of flood mitigation to the front of everyone’s minds in Boulder Valley, but the study of how to best deal with this issue in South Boulder goes back well before then. After nearly a decade of study, and more than $2 million in fees and environmental studies, and extensive public engagement, the City Council had a few feasible flood mitigation plans, one of which (500-Year Variant 2), had the support of the University of Colorado (the property owner), the city’s Water Resources Advisory Board, and general public. One would think, then, that it would be an easy decision for the City Council to support. One, however, would be wrong.
Recently, the Boulder City Council voted to proceed with a different flood mitigation plan, one that is opposed by CU, disregards expert testimony, the preferences of the city’s Water Resources Advisory Board, and general public sentiment.
Why would the council disregard science, experts, reason, common sense and nearby residents? Using the lens of CAVE people logic, it may be because they believe that taking a position in opposition to all of these things will greatly slow the process of CU developing that land, which fits the goals of “slow, stop, reverse.”
2. Sales Tax Revenue. Cities like Boulder depend on sales tax revenue as an important component of their budgets. Earlier this year, Boulder reported a $4 million budget shortfall, attributable primarily to flattening sales tax in the city — at a time when nearby cities are enjoying double digit growth in their sales tax revenues. Members of the City Council held a study session on the topic on July 10 in which some members declared that they apparently want fewer visitors to Boulder (both tourists and locals from neighboring cities). They expressed these opinions even with the knowledge that locals already visit downtown Boulder an average of seven times per month, but tourists spend several times what locals do per visit.
Why, in a city that prides itself on being welcoming and at a time when sales tax revenues are falling, would members of council declare an apparent desire for fewer tourist (and accompanying tax dollars)?
3. Increased housing density. Council members often voice their support for efforts to provide inclusive housing, reduce Boulder’s carbon footprint, and improve our city’s environmental sustainability; however, when it comes to increased density — the thing that would arguably go the farthest toward achieving those aspirations — the council’s words do not match their deeds. Boulder’s draconian housing restrictions, including the 1 percent cap on annual residential growth (which we’ve never actually hit), blanket height restrictions, severe occupancy limits, among other measures, has forced our workforce to largely live outside the city. This, in turn, causes the more than 60,000 daily commutes into and out of Boulder. By simply ameliorating some of these harsh policies, and allowing a modicum of sustainable and smart development, Boulder could include more of its workforce within city limits and could considerably lessen its environmental impact.
Why, then, has the city actively resisted efforts that would address these critical housing and environmental issues? One possibility — CAVE people logic: if it is extremely difficult to add housing density, not only will it slow population growth, it will force workers into longer commutes and growing frustration. Over time, businesses will relocate to areas more accessible to their workforce, and there will be fewer people, fewer jobs, less congestion… like it was “back then.”
What’s to come?
Rather than building a bridge to the future, Boulder’s CAVE people seem intent on digging a trench to the past. In fact, their efforts seem to be achieving results — not only did Boulder run a budget deficit, but its population actually decreased between 2016 and 2017. There is no stasis for cities — they are either growing or dying. It seems the CAVE people are succeeding at pushing their agenda of “slow, stop, reverse,” through council. And if they win, all of us who are truly for the environment, public safety, and inclusivity will lose.
Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.
Transportation and housing go hand in hand as critical components of infrastructure and quality of life. In Boulder, citywide enthusiasm for biking and alternative transportation came into sharp focus on the 42nd annual Bike to Work Day held June 27. Beginning at 6:30 a.m., thousands took to their pedal-powered wheels – or simply their feet – to go from home to work. In strong support, local companies and organizations hosted nearly 50 breakfast stations, keeping Boulder riders and walkers well fueled on their morning commute.
At the corner of Canyon Boulevard and Folsom, commuters were energized at such a station. Sponsored by RE/MAX of Boulder with Embassy Suites Boulder and Hilton Garden Inn, they treated riders to a hydrating Skratch Labs drink, refueling snacks, and giveaways. The station was manned by RE/MAX of Boulder Realtors with deep cycling roots including Art Schwadron along with biking enthusiast Chip Bruss, both of whom rode 150 miles in two days during Colorado’s Bike MS event to support multiple sclerosis research.
It’s only natural that Boulder’s Bike to Work Day is one of the largest nationwide. Presented by the City of Boulder, GO Boulder, Community Cycles, and a long list of corporate sponsors, Boulder Walk and Bike Day has grown into a month-long celebration of walking and biking highlighted by more than 60 free walks, bike rides, and other events.
The activities aim to encourage people to change their transportation behavior by experiencing Boulder’s 300+ miles of award-winning bike trails. It’s these multimodal corridors that elevate Boulder’s alternative transportation culture. Boulder was ranked #3 Bike-Friendly City by PeopleForBikes in 2018.
GO Boulder – part of Boulder’s transportation department – is focused on enhancing the city’s multi-modal transportation system and reducing single-car usage. The goal is to increase the travel choices available and create an innovative transportation system that sustains the quality of life valued by Boulder residents.
But bikers and walkers who share the road with cars can be at risk of harm. That’s why the City of Boulder developed its Vision Zero program. Vision Zero focuses on making other-than-car transportation safer by reducing the number of traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries to zero. Program components include targeted improvements to street design, enforcement, and outreach efforts in places where they are needed most.
Bike to Work Day 2018 has come and gone, but in Boulder, every day is a great day to commute by a means other than car. Get more information on alternatives and bike paths and get out there!
Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Friday, July 13th, 2018 at 10:18am.
Boulder County excels at attracting talented and skilled workers. But change is in the air, says futurist Josh Davies, CEO at The Center for Work Ethic Development and keynote speaker at the recent Boulder Economic Summit 2018: The Workforce of the Future.
Statistics presented by futurist Davies suggest that if the last decade rocked with rapid change on the job-front, hang on to your Smartphone – the future promises to be a rocket-ride.
And, the future starts now.
Today, Boulder County employers are going head-to-head with the rest of the world. Local businesses compete globally for highly skilled workers integral to business success, yet these workers are too few in number to fill the demand. If corrective steps aren’t taken, the worker shortage will continue and potentially worsen, predict speakers at the Summit. Success is critical, since Boulder County’s thriving economy, vitality and quality of life depends on local businesses continuing to engage world-class, highly skilled people.
Hosted by the Boulder Economic Council (BEC) and the Boulder Chamber at CU-Boulder, the Boulder Economic Summit brought experts and hundreds of community leaders together to evaluate Boulder’s competitiveness in the global demand for talent. In breakout sessions and roundtable discussions, the group explored how education and workforce development must evolve to keep up with the impacts of automation, immigration, globalization and other forces affecting future jobs.
There Will Be Robots. Lots of Robots.
People, get ready. Futurist Davies says the robots are coming and in more ways than ever expected.
The growth will be explosive: 1.7 new industrial robots will be in use by 2020, with robots performing tasks in homes and offices – not just in manufacturing, says Davies.
In his talk, 2030: The Workplace Revolution, Davies highlighted how technology will change our jobs in the coming decade and the pressing need for skill development and preparation.
With advances in technology and creative disruption in industries, employment has shifted, explains Davies, adding that 85 percent of jobs in 2030 haven’t been created yet. By then, computers will function at the speed of the human brain. He warns that increased automation and artificial intelligence will significantly alter employment needs and businesses should be prepared.
Low-skilled and entry-level and other jobs that perform repetitive tasks will no longer be available to human workers – computers and robots will fill that need. While companies do not like to replace people with robots, if robots cost 15-20 percent less, humans will lose out.
Davies predicts retail jobs will be replaced by robots at a very high rate, even though it is the leading profession in most states. Sixteen million retail workers will need to be retrained for new jobs.
His strategies for the future are to recognize that whether tasks are cognitive or non-cognitive, repetitive tasks can be automated. To succeed, workers need to develop non-cognitive skills: problem-solving, critical thinking and empathy.
Acquiring New Skills Critical to Success
Andi Rugg, executive director of Skillful Colorado, says one-third of the American workforce will need new skills to find work by 2030.
In her talk, Understanding the Skills Gap, Rugg emphasizes that training and retraining are the path to success, not only for the coming decade, but for today. There are 6.3 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. today because there’s currently not enough talent to bridge the gap between employer requirements and the workforce.
Rugg stresses that hiring needs to become skills-based, since we are in a skills-based economy. Her statistics are hard hitting:
- Jobs requiring college degrees exceed the number of workers who have them.
- Seventy percent of job ads for administrative assistants ask for a college degree, but only 20 percent of administrative assistants have a college degree.
- Only 3 in 10 adults in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree – demand for bachelor’s degree is outstripping supply of workers who have them.
- Only 35 percent of Boulder County’s skilled workers have a degree and Colorado ranks No. 48in the nation for the number of people of color with a degree.
- Employers need to be more agile in hiring and realize that skills can bridge the gap.
- Employers need to focus on skills to address inequities in the labor market.
- Employers should also offer upskilling and lifelong learning for employees.
- Skills-matching improves employee retention and engagement as well as reduces the time to hire and ultimately reduces turnover costs for the employer.
Housing and Transportation Keys to the Solution
In a roundtable discussion led by RE/MAX of Boulder Broker/Owner Jay Kalinski, the team tackled one of Boulder County’s looming challenges in attracting workers to Boulder County – affordable housing and transportation options that enable commuting. The group developed possible solutions to ease transportation and affordable housing issues.
Photo caption for photo above: Jay Kalinski, RE/MAX of Boulder Broker/Owner (left} leads a roundtable discussion to develop transportation and affordable housing solutions.
Learn more about the discussion in Jay Kalinski’s article in BizWest, “Where will Boulder’s workforce of the future live?” at: https://bizwest.com/2018/06/01/where-will-boulders-workforce-of-the-future-live/?member=guest
In breakout sessions and the closing plenary, discussions revolved around ways the community can address workforce and economic development by bringing together private sector businesses and industry with educational institutions and organizations, government, and nonprofits in collaboration.
Through this joint effort, our community can prepare students with the workforce skills needed in the future that cannot be automated; develop business-relevant class content; roll out real-life technical projects in classrooms; re-train workers; and offer apprenticeships, internships, and work-based learning alongside education or as standalone, all of which can help workers gain skills.
Learn more by reading the Boulder Economic Council and Boulder Chamber’s recently published “Boulder Innovation Venture Report” at: https://bouldereconomiccouncil.org/whats_new_with_the_bec/boulder-innovation-venture-report/
Boulder is readying to change the paradigm of transportation mobility as a result of being named one of 35 Champion Cities selected as finalists in the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge. The competition is based on city leaders proposing bold solutions to each city’s toughest problems.
Three Colorado cities – Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins – were selected from a pool of more than 320 applicants. Selected cities now begin a six-month testing phase supported by a grant award of up to $100,000 for each to conduct a public prototype.
In Boulder’s application, the city proposed to combat climate change through accessible and affordable transportation alternatives for low- and middle-income residents. City officials will conduct experiments on mobility options – including ridesharing, subsidies, and an electric car loan program – to determine the most effective way to improve low-income residents’ mobility.
Currently, more than half of Boulder’s low- and middle-income residents depend on fossil-fuel, single-occupancy vehicles.
Denver will use cutting-edge air pollution sensors to create a city-wide air quality monitoring program at public school buildings to make better informed decisions on policies. The city aims to address the negative economic and health impact of air pollution. Denver families spend an average $3,100 a year on asthma-related medical costs.
Fort Collins will make more energy efficient rental housing for low and middle-income households to reduce health and economic disparities. Nearly 50,000 Fort Collins households are energy-inefficient.
“We received hundreds of bold and creative ideas from cities around the country in response to the 2018 Mayors Challenge, and these 35 really stood out for their potential to improve people’s lives. The next six months are a great opportunity for the cities to test their ideas and make them even more innovative and effective,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City.
During the six-month “Test, Learn, and Adapt” phase of the competition, Boulder and the other Champion Cities will refine their ideas, and then submit new applications in August. In October, five selected cities will be awarded funding to put their ideas into action – four will receive $1 million and one will receive $5 million.
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in over 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. In 2016, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $600 million.
For more information and a list of all 35 Champion Cities, visit mayorschallenge.bloomberg.org
Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Monday, March 19th, 2018 at 9:37am.