Taishya Adams has a vision for Boulder’s ‘just and joyous’ future

Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023

Taishya Adams’s ideal Boulder is one that doesn’t yet exist. To use one of her favorite words, it’s a city where climate and culture are not competing for attention and resources but both are attended to; a city in which habitat and housing are provided and protected in equal measure, for the benefit of people and planet. 

“We don’t live in a single-issue world,” she said. “We will fail our city if we continue to silo our conversations around the issue we face around housing, transportation and habitat.”

Boulder’s challenges — from housing to homelessness to climate change — are unprecedented in scale and severity. Our approaches should be, too, Adams believes. 

“The systems we have in play are not working,” she said. “We need new ones.”

Adams, 49, has a plethora of experience in designing and redesigning systems. Her resume is stacked with organizational leadership and service with various groups related to education, equity and environmentalism.

A Boulderite since 2012, her introduction to local politics was around issues of race and policing; specifically, the confrontation of Naropa University student Zayd Atkinson by armed police officers in 2019 and the 2022 film, “This Is [Not] Who We Are,” which contrasted Boulder’s image with the experiences of its Black residents.

Adams was appointed to the inaugural Police Oversight Panel in 2021, her first time engaging with the City of Boulder. Although the POP is (intentionally) diverse, most of Boulder’s government entities are not — especially City Council, which in the past 10 years has had one renter and two women of color as members.

“The dimensions of our community need to be represented on this council,” Adams said. “Ethnic, gender, sexual expression, education level — when we are not sufficiently represented, it results in the disproportions that we see in housing, in workforce, in wages.”

Social justice issues are another place where Adams employs the favored word, “and.” Her platform includes a vision of Boulder as a “just and joyous community.” 

“Justice is shared happiness,” she said. Governance and official systems are “so important, but so is that informal relationship-building that you can lean on. I think of the incredible things Boulder has: the Bolder Boulder, the farmer’s market, Bands on the Bricks — things we do that are joyous. But we’re not using them strategically. How are we leveraging those opportunities to create the conditions where healing relationships” occur naturally?

Adams believes in a world that doesn’t yet exist, because the alternative is disastrous.

“Our systems are consuming more, and the inequities are deepening,” she said. “I have the excitement and courage to believe in something I haven’t yet seen.

“If I just stayed with the rules of engagement that were created by our founding fathers, I would not be sitting with you today.”

This news doesn’t write itself. Throw us some cash if you’ve got it, so we can keep this community news source free for all.

Top work plan priorities

Adams did not submit specific work plan items to Boulder Beat but said her priorities are the following areas: 

  • Habitat for All: Affordable housing, green building, water and energy use reduction policies, expanded density, home ownership for low- and middle-income residents, increased services “for the entire unhoused population and not just those seen on Boulder Creek.”
  • Just and Joyous: Increasing collaboration and accountability in local government to “the people they serve and the natural resources they steward,” and “centering the voices and prioritizing inter-generationally disinvested and marginalized communities.” Inserting a co-focus on “increased climate demand and cultural unrest” into the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.
  • Equitable governance: Analyzing and revamping boards and commissions and making sure the city is using equitable research and outreach practices.
  • Water infrastructure and flood mitigation

Why you might want to vote for Adams

Adams has an impressive career full of leadership in many areas critical to Boulder, most notably the intersections of equity and environment. Her time on the POP gave her insight and experience in how the city government operates and helped her establish relationships with city staff. Past posts have allowed her to work at the state (Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission) and federal (United Nations Association) level. 

Her professional career also endowed her with crucial skills for governing and organizational management. For example: a seven-year stint at the American Institutes for Research will help with the vast quantities of data and outreach City Council must analyze in its decision making.

Adams is the only person of color running and one of only three candidates who rent rather than own their homes (Silas Atkins and Aaron Gabriel Neyer are the others; Jacques Decalo lives with family). Her perspectives and lived experience are largely absent from Boulder’s City Council, all of whom are white homeowners except one member who is departing this year. 

Why you might not want to vote for Adams

While Adams’s vision is undeniable, she doesn’t always connect it to on-the-ground policies and proposals. It’s unclear if that’s because she is less informed on the local level, or if her devotion to high-level, conceptual thinking is a quirk of campaigning or communication style.

Adams can make the jump from visioning to implementation, she said. Her entire 30-plus-year career has involved building and remaking systems.

“I love systems building,” she said. “I have vision and I’m tactical.” 

The vision is what Boulder needs to survive the existential threat of climate crisis, Adams insisted, not only to craft solutions but to identify “bottlenecks and blind spots” that keep proven policies from being implemented.

“How do we build a strong ecosystem across housing, transportation and natural resource management?” she said. “I’m looking at every single policy the council has authority over, every single relationship we have for the areas we don’t have authority over [and] making sure we’re looking at it from an intersectional perspective.

“We are addressing questions that previous generations did not address,” she said. “A myopic focus on affordable housing” — or any other single issue or policy — “will not get us there.”

Adams on the Issues

Housing + Development

When Adams thinks about development and density, her mind goes to what’s being left out of the conversation: diversity — not just of housing types, but biodiversity too.

“I’ve noticed a lot of newer developments will have open space [or] community gardens,” she said. ”Those pieces are not sufficient to meet the amount of people who are going to be living, working and playing here. I want an increased density of people and trees, shrubs, plants, pollinators.”

It’s important to lock these policies in place now, she said, before Boulder embarks on developing the Area III Planning Reserve, Boulder Junction (Phase 2) or other large, vacant areas.

“I can’t just have a bunch of houses there,” she said. “I don’t want another New York City.”

While there is a “call to action” on climate change and housing “at every socioeconomic piece of the spectrum,” Adams would prefer that the burden for innovation be placed on those with the highest incomes.

“I need more than net zero [greenhouse gas emissions] in your mega-homes,” she said. “I need you to innovate in a way that makes technology more accessible for more people. I need them to do solar, I need them to do the virtual fencing so we’re not” interrupting wildlife corridors.  

“Right now, with our focus primarily on humans — our comfort and our needs — it takes away from the deep relationship with all other beings. Bear and deer… they need a home, too.”

Quick q’s:

Do you support rent stabilization? Yes

Do you support the City Council’s recent vote to increase occupancy limits? Yes

Did you support SB213 (the failed state bill requiring cities to allow certain types and amounts of housing, overriding local control)? No
(Note: At a candidate forum hosted by Boulder Progressives, Adams answered yes to this question.) 


Adams would like to see a better understanding of current investments and services, across government agencies and local nonprofits, and an expansion of options for people experiencing homelessness. In particular, she mentioned a basic income pilot program like the one Denver recently completed (Boulder’s is launching this fall but is not focused on people experiencing homelessness) and more housing for people struggling with addiction — but also more housing, period.

“If we don’t want encampments on Boulder Creek,” she said, “we need to make sure we have housing.”  

That includes anticipating future needs rather than responding only to the immediate crisis. Adams thinks with trepidation about Boulder’s aging community, knowing that in many places, older adults are becoming homeless quicker than other populations.

“The next piece is housing for the aging community,” she said. “If you’re on a fixed income and you have an increase in rent? You’re done. An increase in medical expenses? Done.” 

Adams is critical of encampment removals that, according to the data, counteract progress on getting people into housing.

“We cannot criminalize,” she said. “That does not work. I am not going to throw good money after bad.”

At the same time, Adams said, “I understand the fear. To me, this Safe Zones 4 Kids [fall ballot measure] is a fear response. I want to respond with love.”

She is concerned about environmental impacts to the Boulder Creek corridor and water quality, but “I’m not gonna demonize the people who are on the receiving end of inequitable policy. It’s not a people problem, it’s a policy problem. It’s a systems problem.

“How do I dismantle the conditions where homelessness is possible?”

Adams also empathizes with frustrations that Boulder does more than its fair share in providing services to unhoused people from around the county. She would focus on collaboration and relationship-building to shore up services elsewhere, while recognizing the outsize role Boulder plays in contributing to homelessness through its astronomical housing costs. 

“The City of Boulder has more responsibility in our county because we have a higher socioeconomic threshold,” she said. “The City of Boulder has a stronger obligation, for now. [But] I look forward to not being the only city in the county who has a navigation center.” (Editor’s note: Longmont also provides emergency shelter and navigation services through nonprofit HOPE. Longmont and Boulder County partner with Boulder on a coordinated approach to homelessness.)

Quick q’s:

Do you support the Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure? No

Should the city dedicate more of its own money toward services/solutions for homelessness? Yes

Would you continue the city’s current encampment removal strategy? No

Public Safety, Policing + Oversight

“I want to expand the definition of safety,” Adams said. “We tend to focus on what we can see,” namely unsheltered homelessness downtown. “That’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s what you don’t see that also needs to be addressed.”

Adams would prefer “intersectional” approaches to public safety that include everyone. Crime, she believes, is often “the voice of those who have been disinvited and unheard.” As such, she would focus on solutions that address the needs of community members and, in turn, increase safety across the board.

“I have spoken to people in our community,” she said. “Six hundred to 800 children and families are experiencing housing insecurity. That’s the number one safety concern: affordability [of] housing, food, transportation.”

“When people are saying they have issues around safety, are we putting our money into enforcement after behaviors occur, or are we putting our money into evidence-based approaches around prevention?”

As a (previous) member of the Police Oversight Panel, Adams has spoken about the lack of support and active resistance members felt from the city and the police. She is hopeful that the newly hired independent monitor and changes to POP’s governing ordinance will result in a better relationship and, ultimately, increased accountability.

“Solutions are most often found by those who have experienced the negative impacts of those inequitable policies,” she said.

Quick q’s:

Should the Police Oversight Panel have more say over officer discipline in the case of misconduct? Yes

Do you support the City Council’s vote to remove Lisa Sweeney-Miran from the Police Oversight Panel over her public criticism of the police? No

Do you think the police budget is too high? No
(Note: Adams answered “yes” to this question at the Raucous Caucus candidate forum, prior to the release of the 2024 budget.)


When it comes to how Boulder spends its money, “we have the values identified,” Adams said. “I feel good about them. It’s the strategies to get there” that might need some tweaking, “the revenue and resources.” 

One example she mentioned repeatedly is Boulder’s many citizen boards and commissions. With a few exceptions, community members do this work for free, part of the reason the city has struggled to recruit and retain diverse candidates.

“I’m not seeing the same level of investment, nor am I seeing the same amount of power” in lifting up marginalized groups to these and other roles in city government. “Those meetings often happen at the time parents are coming home from school, parents coming home from work. We need to pay people to do the work. We cannot live in volunteerism.”

Adams is wary of raising taxes, aware of the impact they can have on people with lower or fixed incomes. She would like to see the city make better use of federal and state funds through increased collaboration with government and nonprofit partners and “blended and braided funding” to make better use of what money the city already has.

“We leave too much on the table,” she said. “I want to leverage every single dollar.”

Government bureaucracy can create barriers to problem solving, Adams said, noting how different assistance programs require the same documentation but have separate application processes. That wastes time and, therefore, money.

“Why are we asking these people for information the state already has?” she said. “To hear there is money being left on the table because the bureaucratic hurdles of accessing it are too hard” is frustrating.

Adams would also like to reduce the city’s reliance on sales taxes and its historic practice of tying revenue to specific services or programs.

“People want restricted funds because they don’t trust their representatives because of actions [they’ve taken] in the past,” she said. “I understand it. I’m not gonna villainize them for it, but I’m also not going to agree with the path forward.”

Quick q:

Do you support the sales tax extension and arts funding bill on this year’s ballot? No

Transportation + Parking

With her focus on the environment, Adams sees “the incredible need to reduce our emissions through reducing our car dependency.” But she is sensitive to the fact that Boulder’s transportation system, as it exists today, is not set up in a way that allows most people to live car-free, as she does. 

“I’ve really been relying on my e-bike. But I work remotely, I have strong control over my schedule, I’m able-bodied, I have access to my partner’s car,” Adams said. “I recognize the structural transformation that would be necessary for a car-free city. A $500 rebate on a $1,200 e-bike for a family of eight? That’s not going to work.”

What would work, Adams said, is a public transit system with greatly expanded service and frequency, increased infrastructure for bike commuters, and paths and sidewalks that are clear of snow, ice and stray Lime e-scooters and accessible to people with mobility devices and families with strollers.

“I’m very interested in ensuring communities of disabilities are not forgotten,” she said. “Transportation is not just about the cars in our community. Transportation is bigger.”

Quick q’s:

Would you support a tax or fee to increase public transit frequency and services? Yes

Do you support eliminating minimum parking requirements for new housing developments? Yes

These candidate profiles take hours of work: interviews, attending public events, fact-checking candidates’ claims. If you value this in-depth information, please consider paying for it.

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle

Want more stories like this, delivered straight to your inbox?
Sign up for a weekly newsletter from Boulder Beat.

* indicates required



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: