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
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 2021 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, @shayshinecastle
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