Boulder poised for progressive majority on city council

From left, SarahDawn Haynes, Shawn Coleman and councilwoman-elect Nicole Speer celebrate unofficial election results early Wednesday morning. (Shay Castle / Boulder Beat)

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021 (Updated Friday, Nov. 5)

By 9 p.m. on election night, the mood was good at a watch party for candidates endorsed by PLAN and Safer Boulder, et al. Speeches had been given and some attendees — future, former and current elected officials, mostly — had wandered over to the Coalition party a few blocks away.

There was reason to be hopeful. Three of the four PLAN/Safer candidates were in the top three spots, and the fourth was just 28 votes shy of earning a place on city council.

By Thursday night, one of those candidates was no longer in the running, another had dropped into third-to-last place, and the previous second-place finisher now earned a two-year term rather than a full four-year seat. Only the top vote-getter, incumbent Mark Wallach, was untouched.

Boulder city council

Mark Wallach: 17,468
Matt Benjamin: 16,279
Nicole Speer: 16,066
Lauren Folkerts: 15,545
Four-year terms

Tara Winer: 15,025
Two-year term

Michel Christy: 14,375
Dan Williams: 13,432
Steve Rosenblum: 13,154
David Takahashi: 8,300
Jacques Decalo: 3,847
Did not earn a seat

The stark shift was somewhat unprecedented. In recent years, races have mostly been called the night-of. But this year, thousands of ballots continued to be counted Wednesday and Thursday, drastically changing the outcomes and setting Boulder up for its first modern progressive majority on city council — a body that has been dominated by slow-growth factions for nearly 40 years.

There are still votes to be counted. Boulder County Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick on Friday evening tweeted that 480 ballots held in reserve will be counted, and an additional 572 ballots that need to be cured — that is, matched with signatures and/or identification — may be counted. Military and overseas ballots have until next Wednesday to arrive.

Processing will continue until Friday, Nov. 12, when another unofficial update will be posted. Results are not certified until Nov. 22.

Coalition-majority council

Elections spokesperson Mircalla Wozniak on Wednesday wrote that vote counting was proceeding at a normal pace given the 45,000 ballots that were submitted countywide on Election Day.

“This is all pretty normal time frame for ballot processing, especially with the last minute flood of ballots,” Wozniak wrote in response to emailed questions, adding that there were “no staffing issues. Every election takes several days after election day to process the bulk of ballots.”

Late voters in Boulder clearly favored Coalition candidates, those endorsed by Boulder Progressives and the University of Colorado employee union, among other groups. Benjamin moved into second place and Speer into third, followed by Folkerts, who in the earliest returns sat at seventh out of 10 candidates. Williams also moved ahead of PLAN/Safer’s Rosenblum, though neither earned seats.

All four Coalition candidates campaigned on increased housing and services for the unhoused, as well as opposition to the city’s ban on sleeping in public places with tents, sleeping bags or blankets. They join fellow Coalition endorsees Aaron Brockett, Rachel Friend and Junie Joseph on city council, forming a non-PLAN majority for the first time in years. (Councilman Bob Yates was also not a PLAN endorsee, and instead campaigned with Coalition candidates in 2019, but this year allied with PLAN/Safer.)

“It’s a mandate,” said Benjamin at a Thursday evening watch party, “to get shit done and help people.”

Fur ban too close to call

Late voters also gave a boost to Bedrooms, a campaign that for two years has been seeking to loosen Boulder’s laws on unrelated adults living together. It wasn’t enough to overcome the initial 17.62-point deficit, though later returns shrank that to 4.9 points.

Bedrooms organizers conceded on Friday.

Ballot Question 302, another measure that started out as a citizen petition, also failed. Organizers of Let the Voters Decide on CU South annexation conceded to the Daily Camera on Wednesday night, saying their focus was moving to the in-process referendum to overturn city council’s Sept. 21 approval of annexation that added 308 acres into city limits, the site of an eventual southern CU campus and flood mitigation project.

A third petition-originated measure was the tightest race on Boulder ballots. The Humane Clothing Act, a ban on the sale and manufacture of certain animal products, is passing by 599 votes, having flipped from majority opposed to majority support on Thursday.

That gap, though slim, is not enough to trigger an automatic recount, according to election rules.

All other ballot measures passed handily, including a renewal of the Community, Culture, Safety and Resilience sales tax. The extension will raise some $200 million for infrastructure and arts over its 15-year lifespan.

Ballot Question 300 (Bedrooms Are For People)

Yes…47.56% (15,508)
No….52.44% (17,102)
Total ballots counted: 32,610

Ballot Question 301 (Fur ban)

Yes…50.96% (15,931)
No….49.04% (15,332)
Total ballots counted: 31,263

Ballot Question 302 (CU South)

Yes…43.23% (13,692)
No….56.77% (17,981)
Total ballots counted: 31,673

Ballot issue 2I (Community, Culture, Safety, Resilience tax extension)

Yes…86.35% (27,540)
No….13.65% (4,354)
Total ballots counted: 31,894

Ballot issue 2J (Debt related to tax extension)

Yes…80.53% (25,080
No….19.47% (6,063)
Total ballots counted: 31,143

Ballot issue 2K (Council subcommittees)

Yes…75.01% (20,868)
No….24.99% (6,952)
Total ballots counted: 27,820

Ballot issue 2L (Petition signatures)

Yes…87.01% (26,106)
No….12.99% (3,899)
Total ballots counted: 30,005

Ballot issue 2M (Council pay schedule)

Yes…79.87% (24,182)
No….20.13% (6,093)
Total ballots counted: 30,275

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle

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3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Finger crossed that the Coalition will prevail. Boulder needs to get out of the go slow rut that is easy to understand, but just is not appropriate for the future. I have lived here 52 years, so I have lived in a wide variety of situations and always financially on the edge. I know it is tough and I know that change is hard for all those who want things to stay the same. Things will NEVER stay the same. So lets be smart about change and learn to admit when we are wrong and change again when necessary. Unlike the 10 years and $30 million lost due to the Muni boondoggle where we were just sheep with no critical abilities, we need Plan B in so many ways.

    Plan C(oalition) may be here now, I am hopeful again.

  2. Let’s work together to solve Boulder’s problems. No “side” ever has a mandate because we need, as City Council, to represent the entire community.

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