I interviewed George Karakehian yesterday. George is a local businessman who has been in Boulder forever. He's served on boards, worked on issues, etc.
The first thing that jumps out about George, and was there throughout the entire conversation, is he is very earnest in his effort to run. It's an interesting combination – George has been around long enough involved in City politics to know how things actually work, yet he still approaches the election as a discussion of ideas.
George is in for one big reason – the F.A.R. legislation. He was very upset when the council first tried to ram it through as "emergency" legislation (the emergency being that several council members were having a case of the vapors that someone built a house they didn't like). He was very active in the efforts to stop it being passed that way.
And now? He sees the F.A.R. legislation as an unnecessary and unreasonable taking from the homeowners. He showed a very detailed knowledge of the issues around the legislation as well as the 14 specific houses that are viewed as the serious issue that requires a restriction on every remaining house in Boulder.
What's interesting is George is not in favor of unrestrained growth or McMansions, he just sees this as using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat. And in so doing it adds significant expense on any development, limits reasonable development, and depresses home prices. This issue is clearly of major importance to George and took up over half the interview time. And he will be an unequivocal vote to repeal the F.A.R. legislation if elected.
The next issue he brought up is Boulder's shrinking revenue. And he sees it continuing to decline even when the economy turns around (which is true). He sees two initiatives which can improve our revenue significantly. First is increasing tourism. He would like to see us put more effort in to bringing more tourists here. And he would like to see a conference center to also bring more people here – not just for the conference but they return with their families on vacation. He was contemptuous of the existing Council for killing the proposed conference center (and the revenue it would have brought).
His second suggestion for increasing revenue is to relax the restrictions on commercial development on the Hill a bit. He thinks that if owners of the property there had a bit more leeway in their designs, we could see a renaissance, first in the properties there, and then in the stores in those properties. It would be nice to see the Hill fixed up, and not just because of the increased revenue.
The final issue he brought up was relations between the city and C.U., which he characterized as abysmal. I asked if that wasn't normally the case in college towns but he thinks it is much worse here than most comparable cases. He will definitely focus on working to improve this, based on numerous contacts he has in the C.U. administration from his work there. He also thinks the city and C.U. should cooperate on conference centers (he thinks C.U. will build one soon).
He spoke to the environment a bit, mainly saying that it is important to him and he did not mean to give it short shrift. And that he walks the walk – he's on his second Prius.
Then at the end he did something no other candidate, for any office, has ever done. He asked me for my vote. This was interesting in that this is what is required to win – that you ask people for their vote. I'm not sure what it says that he is the only case, but I think it speaks well of his approach to running.
So what do you get with George? First you get someone who is direct and will tell you where he stands on issues. Politicians like to equivocate so they don't upset anyone, and we're left wondering. With George you know what you're getting. Second you have someone who wants to make sure that we don't pass legislation where the cure is worse than the disease.
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