I had lunch today with K.C. Becker who is running for Boulder City Council. She was a refreshing breath of direct answers. Most politicians couch what they say at least somewhat carefully. But a few (Jared Polis & Ali Hasan are two others) speak directly to issues and tell you what they think. It's a wonderful thing and unfortunately all too rare in our elected officials.
K.C. tells you what she thinks. It will be interesting to see how the voters react to someone being upfront about the trade-offs we face.
Ok, so what drives K.C. to run for council? She presently sits on the planning board and is frustrated that the planning board will reach decisions that match the priorities and requirements set by the city – and then there is a giant hue & cry, major objections, and the process has to be fought again. She brings up an excellent point here – that we have our supposed criteria and yet making decisions by those criteria is not accepted.
She wants to see us all sit down, talk through the trade-offs that we face, decide how to balance them, and then not fight that in each specific case made. Without calling out Washington School by name she used the example that we want high-density housing along major transportation arteries, yet building buildings that match those goals are then a contentious decision.
That all sounds good but… I pointed out that Boulder's politics are such that 15 highly motivate people can put a stop to almost anything. And you always have 15 people opposed to any decision. She granted that that was true and discussed the positives and negatives of having a politically active & vocal community. She did discuss the wish that we can all talk these things through but had no magic answer to this issue (I don't think there is an answer).
This sums up a large part of why K.C. decided to run and how she would like to change the political conversation. What I find really interesting about this is she is focused on making things work. Figuring out how we should balance out needs, bringing everyone in to the process, listening to all voices – and then make a decision. And have it stick.
Next we discussed what she sees as the big issues facing Boulder. She sees one – do we keep a middle class or do we become a country club composed of rich retired people. What's really interesting about this is what didn't come up – the tax revenue squeeze. Generally sitting council members are much more cognizant of this, but candidates should be aware of it as it is the other giant issue facing the council.
Ok, so on to do we kick the middle class out. K.C. is firmly on the side of the middle class. She wants to keep Boulder affordable for the middle class. She has a very good grasp of the specifics of this including increasing density where it makes sense, building up along major transportation corridors, and making use of infill. She also hopes to see some areas evolve into better use, but sees that that is a neighborhood decision.
In this discussion she was defensive at times discussing how she is supporting approaches that are encouraged by most of the main environmental groups, including the national Sierra Club. But she is worried that the local Sierra Club will not be happy with her desire to implement the national guidelines. It's a quandary for her because she knows what will get the local Sierra Club endorsement, but she also knows what the City needs to do. It speaks well of her that she chooses to speak honestly about the issue rather than say what she knows would get her an endorsement.
We then got in to how council members gauge community views on issues. She is concerned that most council members talk to the same group of people. So they all come in and say they have talked to 50 people who agree with them, and the council assumes that they've gotten feedback from 350 people when actually it's been feedback from 55 people repeating themselves to all the members. I think there is a large element of truth to that.
She also has a young child and with Angelique leaving it is important to have a councilmember with a child. It gives you a very different view of what's important and priorities.
We then discussed what she would propose if she could get one bill passed. She would like to see mobile home owners get some protection & rights such as they must be given 90 days notice for rent increases and ending month to month leases. She sees mobile homes as the only open market homes for lower income (true) and wants to keep that workable.
So what do we get with K.C.? First we get someone who is trying to be politically astute, but will state what she thinks needs to be done. That would make her a great voice on council, but hurts her election chances. Second we get someone who will work to figure out what needs to be done – and then will work to get it implemented. Third you get someone who has a good understanding of one of the two key issues facing the city (affordable housing) and will work to address it. Fourth you get someone who has a young child and brings that perspective to council.
It's going to be interesting to see how the electorate & the environmental groups react to someone who speaks forthrightly on the trade-offs we face about development.