Climate change tops Boulder’s 2020 lobbying agenda

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Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019 (Updated Wednesday, Nov. 20)

Boulder will spend $95,000 lobbying state and federal lawmakers in 2020. Once again, efforts to combat climate change are among the city’s most important wishlist items.

City council on Tuesday took its first look at a list of 62 goals lobbyists have put together, including six state and three federal priorities. Council members new and old made a few adds to the agenda; they will give final approval Dec. 3.

How much is Boulder spending on lobbying?

$40,000 for 2020 on federal lobbying. Washington, D.C.-based Smith Dawson & Andrews represents Boulder’s interests.

$55,000 for state lobbying. Denver’s Headwaters Strategies is Boulder’s representative at the state level.

What does Boulder care about most?

There are a couple ways to measure this. One is to look at the number of priorities under each issue: Where Boulder concentrates its efforts can reveal what the city feels is most important.

The city’s 62 priorities fall under 16 topics. Below is a count of agenda items per issue, from most to least.

Climate change and community resilience (14)

Public health and safety (9)

Transportation (8)

Human services/human rights (7)

Housing (4)

Natural resources, wildlife and parks (4)

Internal administrative matters (3)

Economic vitality (2)

Municipal courts (2)

Tax policy (2)

Water (2)

Democracy and governance (1)

Local control (1)

Rocky Flats (1)

Telecommunications (1)

University of Colorado (1)

Another way to measure where Boulder’s heart lies is to look at the top priorities it pulled out for action at the state and federal levels:

State priorities (and progress report or plan)

  1. Further strengthen rights of/protections for mobile home residents. Significant progress was made on this last year, but another bill is in the works for 2020, according to Boulder’s policy advisor Carl Castillo. Legislators may pursue avenues to allow mobile home residents to purchase their communities, along with further protection against retaliation from park owners and additional transparency around fees and charges. The city is working with Rep. Edie Hooton to craft legislation.
  2. Repeal state prohibition on local plastics ban. Boulder is working with the Colorado Municipal League around this topic. Legislation is all but certain, Castillo said: “A bill will be introduced to restore that authority” to local governments. “I think your chances are good we’ll get that.”
  3. Restore local gov’t authority to ban certain pesticides and pass protections for pollinators, human health and environment. Similar to the materials ban, Castillo said this is something local governments once had the authority to do, until laws were changed in the mid-’90s. Boulder is working with People and Pollinators Action Network and Senator Steve Fenberg on legislation.
  4. Discourage vape use, particularly among youths. At the request of councilwoman Mary Young, the language was expanded to recognize that some people believe vaping is useful in quitting smoking without explicitly endorsing the practice, which has not been endorsed by the scientific or health communities. Boulder is working with CU, BVSD and Boulder County to advocate for legislation around flavor bans, higher age limits and increased taxes — all efforts Boulder has already taken at the local level.
  5. Allow inclusionary zoning to include rental development, establishing that required affordable housing is not a form of rent control. This would allow Boulder to require on-site affordable units as a condition of approval on development, whereas developers can now make a cash payment to the affordable housing fund. Boulder is working with Colorado Municipal League to develop legislation.
  6. Make driving while talking on the phone illegal except with hands-free device. Legislation is expected to be introduced.

Council members made some additions to the state lobbying goals, including support for a statewide age limit of 21 to purchase any gun along with a waiting period. Both were suggestions of councilwoman Rachel Friend. Friend also asked that Boulder support abolishment of the death penalty, which council members agreed to put in the agenda.

Adam Swetlik proposed support for overturning the statewide prohibition on rent control, something Boulder has advocated for in the past. It was added. Boulder will also collaborate on a higher regional minimum wage, another Swetlik suggestion.

There were quite a few additions made to enhance Boulder’s efforts to fight climate change, suggested by new Mayor Sam Weaver and councilman Aaron Brockett.

Federal priorities

  1. Support funding for federal labs and CU, a perennial goal. Funding is routinely threatened, Castillo said.
  2. End mistreatment of migrants under ICE detention and non-detention programs. Congressmen Joe Neguse and Jason Crow are co-sponsoring HR 282, the POD Act of 2019, to allow members of congress increased access to and oversight of detention facilities. If passed, “congress people can see firsthand whether or not (facilities) are within standards of decency we can expect,” Castillo said.
  3. Promote a greater understanding of the nexus between pesticide use and climate change mitigation and adaptation, particularly the ability of regenerative organic agriculture to reduce emissions … and sequester carbon.” Neguse is in the “early stages” of considering a legislative “package” to “advance exploration” of these topics, Castillo said.

Mark Wallach proposed to add an item stating Boulder’s support for increased local control over opportunity zone investing, something being considered at the federal level. Council agreed.

What else is Boulder asking for?

Quite a few things, some more realistic — overturning a state prohibition on local materials ban so that Boulder could, for instance, outlaw styrofoam or certain types of plastic — than others, like supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn corporate personhood.

Despite the city’s housing crisis, there are only four lobbying goals: two related to increasing funding for affordable housing at the state, federal and local level; one to establish through legislation that requiring affordable housing (or payment in lieu of) is not the same as rent control, which is prohibited by state law; and one goal to continue expanding protections for mobile home residents, an area where Boulder has made many strides.

And though there are several transportation goals, they are mostly aspirational and visionary rather than specific proposals.

Here’s a full list of agenda items by category:

Climate change and community resilience

  1. Reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions consistent with or greater than state’s goals codified into law in 2019
  2. Preserve and expand local municipalities ability to engage in climate action
  3. Ban or accelerate phase-out of forever chemicals and other refrigerants
  4. Support carbon cap and other market-based mechanisms to decrease emissions
  5. Facilitate electrification of buildings
  6. Enhance consumer electric choice
  7. Increase public access to energy data
  8. Reduce emissions from electric sector
  9. Increase energy efficiency
  10. Encourage widespread adoption of EV and a low-carbon fuel standard
  11. Support reform of PACE program so Boulder County’s can resume 
  12. Promote waste reduction and diversion efforts
  13. Support stricter oil and gas regulations
  14. Support for building community resilience

Democracy and governance

  1. Support an amendment to U.S. Constitution overturning corporate personhood

Economic vitality 

  1. Protect core elements of the Urban Renewal law, which helps redevelopment with provisions like tax increment funding and eminent domain
  2. Support continued funding for federal labs


  1. Preserve and expand federal funding for affordable housing
  2. Preserve and expand state and local funding for affordable housing
  3. Enhance and preserve the rights of mobile home park residents
  4. Allow inclusionary zoning to include rental housing development

Human services and human rights

  1. Support comprehensive immigration reform and state-level reforms
  2. End the mistreatment of migrants under ICE detention and non-detention programs
  3. Repeal Secure and Verifiable Identity Documents Act (prohibits local governments from deciding which forms of ID to accept for municipal services)
  4. Support indigenous peoples of Colorado
  5. Further rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender presentation
  6. Oppose further cuts or changes to federal funding for health and human services
  7. Support criminal justice reform (sentencing and bond reform, mental health care, addiction recovery, dismantling of systemic and institutional biases)

Internal administrative matters

  1. Protect workers’ compensation system
  2. Protect government immunity
  3. Allow local gov’t more banking options, including to create a public bank or bank with credit unions

Local control

  1. Oppose threats to local control and home rule authority

Municipal courts

  1. Balance autonomy and independence of courts with oversight to ensure constitutional rights for defendants
  2. Fund and protect municipal court’s ability to combat homelessness

Natural resources, wildlife and parks

  1. Protect ability of local gov’t, land trust community to acquire and protect parks and open space land
  2. Support state legislation furthering implementation of city’s ecological goals
  3. Support restoration of local gov’t authority to regulate pesticides and pass additional protections for pollinators, human health and environment
  4. Support efforts that protect Boulder from wildfires and promote forest health

Public health and safety

  1. Discourage vaping and tobacco use, especially among youths
  2. Support safe use and regulation of marijuana
  3. Promote health and safety concerns associated with alcohol abuse
  4. Support efforts to prevent gun violence
  5. Oppose mandates for local gov’t compliance with immigration laws
  6. Oppose infringements on employment and personnel decisions made by police and fire departments by continuing to allow collective bargaining
  7. “Oppose imposition of onerous information gathering and reporting requirements on public safety, especially when those requirements come with substantial costs that are not supported by adequate funding” (reporting arrest of undocumented immigrants to ICE)
  8. Increase financial threshold of property damage that triggers a police investigation of non-accident injury (currently $1,000)
  9. Expand municipal authority to operate red light cameras; oppose limitations

Rocky Flats

  1. Support continued funding, oversight

Tax policy

  1. Support state action to preserve and expand local authority to audit and collect taxes and issue sales tax licenses
  2. Preserve the municipal bond federal income tax exemption


  1. Expand and preserve local authority to provide municipal fiber


  1. Support funding for projects that maintain existing infrastructure or are multi-modal
  2. Support funding and policies to increase transportation options for vulnerable populations (youth, seniors, lower-income, people with disabilities)
  3. Promote legislation that encourages “complete streets” (all modes of transit)
  4. Oppose limitations on local authority to regulate vehicle use on paths, sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.
  5. Oppose transferring maintenance responsibilities for regional highways from CDOT to local governments
  6. Support flexible solutions and funding to address impacts of train noise; support implementation of quiet zones
  7. Support state and federal legislation that encourages automated vehicle deployment
  8. Support measures to further Vision Zero

University of Colorado

  1. Support renewed commitment by state, feds to increase funding for CU


  1. Promote efficient use and preservation of water and water quality
  2. Oppose significant threats to water rights

Author’s note: This article has been updated with comments from Tuesday’s meeting. Find a  play-by-play of the discussion here.

— Shay Castle,, @shayshinecastle

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