Circulators hit the streets again as eviction petition falls 60 signatures short

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Shay Castle / Boulder Beat

Thursday, June 18, 2020 (Updated Saturday, June 20)

A group seeking to provide attorneys to renters facing eviction in Boulder fell just short of the signatures they need to put the issue to voters in November — 62 signatures short, to be exact. Volunteers for No Eviction Without Representation will again be seeking support during the 10-day period they have to close the gap.

Some amount of signatures are almost always rejected during the verification process. For example, in 2016 when 6,912 signatures were turned in for an effort to term-limit council members, 85% of them were initially rejected. The bid to tax sugar-sweetened beverages had more than 2,000 signatures tossed that same year; both measures were ultimately successful.

Campaigns are always given a chance to “cure” any issues, which could include missing information, unregistered voters or non-city residents, or illegible handwriting. NEWR’s new deadline is July 6.

A team of volunteers managed to collect 4,683 signatures, but two sections were not notarized on the same day the circulator signed them, according to a report from City Clerk Pam Davis. That left NEWR with 3,274 validated signatures. It needs 3,336.

Sign the petition:
Saturday, June 20
Noon to 6 p.m.
McGuckin Hardware, 2525 Arapahoe Ave

Sunday, June 21
2-4 p.m.
Safeway, 3325 28th Street

Or schedule home delivery of this and other petitions through Curbside Democracy: newrboulder.com/sign-the-petition/

End the Muni, a campaign to redirect funding from municipalization and toward other clean energy initiatives, failed to gather enough signatures. Organizer Patrick Murphy submitted 2,526 signatures.

Two other campaigns — Our Mayor, Our Choice and Bedrooms Are For People — are still collecting. They have until August to remit 4,048 signatures each.

Both measures are charter amendments. As such, city staff advised organizers that there were different rules than for the other initiatives. That’s not actually true, City Attorney Tom Carr revealed this week.
“City staff was unfamiliar with the new procedures” — passed by voters in 2018 — “and provided inaccurate advice to petitioners, treating petitions for charter amendments differently from petitions for legislative enactments,” notes to council read.

In a response to emailed followup questions, Carr confirmed that the deadlines and signature requirements for all initiatives are the same. That means that all four campaigns would have had to submit 3,366 signatures by June 5.

However, campaigns are being advised to stick with the incorrect advice they were given. “It seems unfair to change the rules in the middle of the process,” Carr wrote.

Carr proposed an ordinance to clarify what the city charter actually mandates for petitions. When asked if that might open Boulder to lawsuits in regards to the two ongoing campaigns, Carr replied, “Maybe. We’ll see if anyone challenges it.”

Legal action has already been threatened. That may have played a part in council’s decision to delay the passage of Carr’s clarifying ordinance, though council members’ stated reasons related to workload. Councilman Bob Yates made the suggestion.

“They won’t apply to any matters that are out collecting signatures right now for this year,” Yates said. “This would only apply for 2020 and forward. I suggest not going to second reading and doing a public hearing later this summer — we’ve already got a busy summer — and actually take this up at the end of the year.”

Mark Wallach seconded the motion, also referencing council’s busy schedule, and Aaron Brockett spoke in agreement. The vote was unanimous.

Campaigns have consistently and continually asked council to place their measures on the ballot rather than risk continued in-person signature collection. Murphy believes that elected officials should honor his efforts by doing so, given that the gathered more than half the required signatures in just over six weeks.

He and other organizers took a monthlong time-out when it seemed council would provide a workaround. They declined to set thresholds for self-placement, nixed online petitioning and did not schedule a vote to adopt state rule changes allowing e-mailed or mailed signatures.

Raffi Mercuri, chair of the Boulder County Democrats, on Tuesday roundly criticized council for its inaction.

“In effect, this body has forced residents to decide between risking their health and the health of others or foregoing their constitutional right to participate in direct democracy,” Mercuri said. “Boulder County Dems can plainly see that your decisions have put political expediency before public health and citizen’s right to participate in direct democracy.”

The organization has endorsed Bedrooms Are For People’s placement on the ballot, which if passed will amend Boulder’s limits on unrelated persons sharing a home. Boulder County nonprofit EFAA, which aids low-income residents, also endorsed the initiative this week. (Disclosure: The author of this article does contract work for EFAA.)

Council will revisit the issue of ballot petitions later in the summer, members decided Tuesday, but not until after submission deadlines have passed. Council is now on summer recess and will return July 7.

(Author’s note: This article has been updated to clarify the nature of the Boulder County Democrats’ endorsement and include signing dates, times and locations.)

— Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

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2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Isn’t this bizarre. The City of Boulder approved on-line petitioning in 2018 and here we are in the 2020 pandemic wishing that the City of Boulder was fast and efficient. We now know they aren’t. They are slow and inefficient. Well at least we got that documented. So we get to risk death and crippling side effects while Boulder fiddles. Political angst is understandable, but did we imagine that it would result in paralysis? This it the time for the greatness of Boulder to shine and it is just a dim light that we are seeing. The creativity and wisdom are locked in wishy washy uncertainty.
    The 4 initiatives deserve the debate and vote of the people but to achieve this (easy in a normal world) are now death defying. What exactly does it take to wake up City Council? This is not a coup, this is democracy begging to survive. Do we really need to beg? This is a pandemic! Do you not grok that? So you not understand that? Do you not get past the shock and awe and start thinking again?
    All of these initiatives need to make it to the ballot and all Boulder Citizens who are not killed by Covid should get to vote. LET THE LIVING VOTE. LET THE BRAVE VOTE.

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  2. Carr is completely misrepresenting the Boulder City Charter. It DOES distinguish between statutory, AKA municipal, initiatives and City Charter Amendment initiatives. They DO require different numbers of signatures, which are due on different dates!

    The reason he may be confused is that it was HIS 2017 ballot issue 2Q, sold to voters as a “charter cleanup” which treated both kinds of initiatives the same way. Council recognized 2Q was a mess and appointed the Campaign Finance and Elections working group to fix it, among other things. I was part of the group and we fixed 2Q with 2018 ballot issue 2E, which voters passed overwhelming.

    We cannot have a City attorney who doesn’t know the law and who regularly misinforms Council and misleads voters.

    Killing off online petitions, passed 71 to 29% by voters as 2018 Charter amendment 2G seems to be a top priority of city government. See tinyurl.com/petitionstory

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