I interviewed Valerie Mitchell yesterday. Valerie is a member of the demographic we are doing our best to drive out of Boulder – a blue collar worker. She is a high energy person and has depth on the issues she discusses.
So what does Valerie bring to the council? She rents her home and is working class. I cannot recall any council member who rented their home (although there must have been one sometime). And I don't think we've ever had anyone who is not upper middle class or richer on the council. She undoubtedly brings a different perspective to council.
I then asked if these specific background traits are useful on council. She immediately dived in to the value of having a renter on the council. She says over 50% of the people in Boulder rent, and they should have someone who understands how the city impacts that and what it can do.
She was also quick to say that she does not think landlords are bad or that renters need to be given complete power over the landlords. But she does want to see a couple of issues addressed. The first thing she proposed is working to make sure all rental properties are inspected and has a great suggestion for the city to provide a web page where you can enter an addressed, see if it's licensed for rentals, and if so when it was last inspected and when the next inspection will occur.
We then got on to housing. She would like to see affordable housing for families that don't make that much money. What was interesting is she was contemptuous of the affordable housing program saying that what's the point of buying if the most you can profit from the house is 5K. So we put all this effort into affordable housing and her response is it's not what people want.
I'm not saying Valerie is right (or wrong) on this. But it brings up a strong argument for having someone of limited means on the council. Because we presently have designed and implemented affordable housing without having anyone who qualifies for it on the council. It's like back in the '50s when all the women's magazines were edited by men – and everyone wondered why they were not writing about the issues women really wanted to see discussed.
Valerie's big proposal on making housing affordable is rent to own. She's light on the mechanics of it but thinks that this is a way to get more blue collar families into owner occupied homes. She did state that she doesn't want to use tax money for this because it's not fair to ask others to pay for her home.
She also talked about increased densification and she is in favor of a bit – but not a lot. She wants to keep Boulder as it is, but return to the affordability of a couple of decades ago. This seems to be a constant theme among all the candidates – they want to return Boulder to 1950 (oh my god – they're all Reagan Republicans!!!).
We also discussed the revenue shortfall and Valerie would like to see Boulder have more events like the Bolder Boulder that bring in lots of tourists (and their money). One specific she would like to see is our having fairs during the summer with the carnival rides. Because we don't, she takes her kids to Longmont for the ones there – and Longmont gets the sales tax from that spending. It would be fun for the kids to have those carnival rides here during the summer – not everyone in Boulder limits themselves to events that require 2K or more in equipment.
The biggest thing Valerie brings to the council is a perspective that represents a large chunk of our community and yet historically has not been represented on council at all. What is really interesting is she is campaigning directly to that part of our community. Historically not a lot of people in that group vote, but historically they are not offered someone who will represent them. It will be interesting to see how she does.
podcast: Download ValerieMitchell