Tara Winer has settled into the realities of governing

Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023

Two years into her time on Boulder City Council, Tara Winer feels like she has a handle on governing. It’s not that different from what she thought it would be (and what she campaigned on) — lots of compromising and contenting herself with slow, slight improvements. 

In government terms, she said, “two years is not long enough” to get much done. It took “at least a year to learn the ropes, what you can’t get done, what you can get done and how to get them done.”

The “how” is something Winer, 65, “does behind the scenes very well: collaboration and compromise.

“Getting things done by yourself,” she said, “that’s impossible. You have to win a majority to get something done.”

What does Winer want to get done if she’s re-elected? “The most important thing to me is safety,” she said.

Several of her preferred approaches and priorities nod to that: improving lighting in multi-use path underpasses, increasing secure bike storage and exploring alternatives to unsheltered homelessness. There’s a fair amount of housing in her work plan, too.

In classic Winer style, most of her proposals aren’t grand or sweeping changes. They’re small, measured tweaks that will hopefully “make things a little bit better for as many people as possible,” she said. 

Holding a seat of power also awakened Winer to the tradeoffs inherent in so many decisions. 

She is proud of policy changes in affordable housing, which she pursued on behalf of residents struggling with drugs, crime and untreated mental illness in their buildings. But she’s cognizant that it’s now harder for people with certain backgrounds and conditions to be housed. 

She’s grateful for state legislation meant to reduce evictions, but concerned for neighbors who may be impacted by problematic behavior. “What starts out as a great thing that the state government does has unintended consequences,” she said.

She’d like to deter drug use in public places, but acknowledges that America’s criminal justice system isn’t set up to facilitate rehabilitation. 

“Should people go to jail for smoking meth?” she asks. “We already did that, and it didn’t work.”

“We have a lot of problems that I can’t solve. You can get depressed if you try to solve everything.”

For the more persistent societal problems, Winer turns again to collaboration. She has spent a lot of time talking to state representatives, county commissioners and nonprofit organizations to communicate the level of need and lack of local control. 

“A lot of what I do is behind-the-scenes begging to the various people who work here to make things a little bit better,” she said. “I’m only on the City Council; I can’t figure out everything. But I can do a lot of good.”

“You have to keep at it.”

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.

Proudest accomplishment(s) from this term

“Prioritization of safety for bike tunnels as transportation,” which means moving them higher up on the list of places from which encampments and unhoused people can be removed immediately.

“Quality of life” improvements, particularly strengthening of the nuisance ordinances as well as getting more stringent screening criteria put in place for potential affordable housing residents, to solve problems of chronic disturbances, crime and drug use that impact tenants.

Reopening West Pearl to cars after the pandemic closure also makes the list. 

“The businesses on West Pearl didn’t sign up for that,” she said. While she acknowledged the “600 letters” from angry residents, “if the businesses on West Pearl say, ‘Don’t do this to us,’ who do you listen to? People said, ‘Don’t listen to the businesses,’ but they are West Pearl.”

Did Winer accomplish what she campaigned on in 2021?

Safety and accessibility of Boulder Creek downtown 

  • “We have two [encampment removal] teams, so I’m feeling good about it. I also feel like we have so many social issues that it’s hard to solve that one without solving some of the upstream problems.”

Securing federal and state funding to help solve our mental health crisis

  • “We definitely secured more funding. The biggest problem we’re having is labor shortages” in the industry. “The county didn’t want to do a mental health tax,” but council is asking them to dedicate some of the affordable housing tax (if it passes this fall) to fund supportive services and housing. 

Environment and climate

  • “We have definitely gotten more people into electric vehicles and e-bikes. Xcel started undergrounding” power lines. “Our fire mitigation is really doing well. Our building codes are better. I think we’ve made a lot of progress. There’s more to do.”

Restoring economic vitality and arts

  • The sales tax extension on the ballot, if passed, would increase arts funding. “As far as business goes, we have done some good things” like keeping West Pearl open to cars and working to reduce the time it takes to get building permits. Work to reduce red tape will continue next year.

Creative housing solutions

  • “We have a lot in our lower-income pipeline, but we don’t have any for middle-income” housing. “If we’ve gotten anywhere, it’s very little. Having no solutions yet for workforce housing is problematic.”

What Winer wants to do with her next term (top work plan priorities)

  • Middle-income housing: Changes to city requirements to encourage on-site, for-sale and price-restricted housing for middle-income earners
  • Make progress toward developing the Area III Planning Reserve in North Boulder
  • Transitional housing with 24/7 support services (pallet homes or tiny homes)
  • Better lighting in underpasses
  • Bike valet and other (unspecified) ideas to secure bicycles and decrease bike thefts
  • Minimum wage increase: “A must for 2025. Move up and shorten the community engagement to the first four months of 2024 to further secure this.” 

Why you might want to vote for Winer

With four of her peers potentially leaving (depending on who wins the mayoral race), Winer would be one of the most tenured council members remaining. She has just two years under her belt, but those two years of knowledge and experience will come in handy on a council that, without her, would be majority first-timers.

Winer is less of a hard-liner than some council members, willing to work across the aisle to form relationships and forge solutions. That may or may not matter to you, but coalition building and buy-in are often essential skills for actually getting things done. And it’s admirable that Winer (occasionally) is willing to upset her base in order to vote for projects and programs.

She is also extraordinarily receptive to criticism. Winer admits and apologizes when she’s wrong and actively seeks out and deeply considers opposing opinions and information. 

Why you might not want to vote for Winer 

Of all the council members, Winer comes across as the most wishy-washy. (Note how during the Raucous Caucus candidate forum, she often waffled on lightning-round questions.) Her desire to people-please or avoid incurring the wrath of constituents often results in what feels like faux consideration.

Winer sees that frequent indecision as a good thing, indicative of her open mind and willingness to learn, evolve and compromise. She earnestly struggles with many of the votes and positions she has taken, and the impact they have on the people she was elected to govern. 

“The only person who agrees with you 100% is yourself,” she said. “Sitting down with people who think the opposite of me, that’s how you reach solutions.” 

Winer on the Issues

Housing + Development

Housing is one of Winer’s core issues, but she mostly sees the obstacles preventing true affordability, from the high cost of land and construction to neighborhood opposition. To reduce these frictions, Winer looks to areas where the barriers are less, such as the planning reserve, airport and undeveloped lots like the one at 27th Way and Moorehead Avenue

“To me, that’s a good example of space activation,” she said, “because right now, what is happening there? Glass in a giant parking lot, a creek that has garbage in it, and it doesn’t feel like safe for women.”

Another focus is improving conditions for residents of affordable housing, who have complained about criminal activity, drug use and other disturbances. While she’s not sure of exactly what to do — or how to do it without making housing less accessible for a larger group of people, as mentioned above — she would like to make progress on it.

“Shouldn’t we treat people in affordable housing the best we can? People in affordable housing should have good housing where they feel safe and things aren’t falling apart.

Voting record

May 17, 2022 — Winer voted to approve the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan, which includes allowances for 5,000 additional housing units.

Dec.15, 2022 — Winer voted to annex 6500 Arapahoe, owned by Boulder Valley School District, for eventual use as a modular home factory.

April 20, 2023 — (Informal vote) Winer did not support endorsing SB213, the failed state legislation that would have required cities of a certain size to allow more housing by overriding local control of land use. (At the Raucous Caucus candidate forum in June, Winer said she would support this legislation. In response to a questionnaire, Winer said she supported some parts of the legislation but not easing restrictions on occupancy limits.)

May 1, 2023 — Winer voted to ease rules for accessory dwelling units, allowing more and bigger dwellings.

Aug. 17, 2023 — Winer opposed raising occupancy limits (rules on how many unrelated adults can live together) from three to five people per household in most of the city.

Sept. 7, 2023 — (Informal vote) Winer supported moving forward with changes to middle-income affordable housing rules to encourage its construction.

Sept. 21, 2023 – Brockett, Yates, Winer and Speer approved new regulations to allow increased density and promote construction of smaller homes, including allowing duplexes and triplexes in single-family neighborhoods if current density regulations are followed.


Housing is the answer to ending homelessness, Winer said. In the meantime, though, she supports expanding options for mental health treatment and recovery from substance use. She’s hopeful that the county will take the lead on this — preferably without the need for more city investment. 

“Do we have to start spending city money on that as well? I hope not. Because we have no tennis courts, our rec centers are aged out, they’re falling apart,” she said. “Cities are going to buckle under that pressure. Without help from the federal government, we cannot house everyone. What are we going to do and where are we going to get the money?

“We can’t just only spend money on housing and human services.”

Winer said she would be in favor of allowing people to live in their cars (at designated sites), but not of sanctioned encampments, preferring alternative solutions such as tiny home villages or pallet homes.

“I don’t like the encampment culture,” she said. “If you’re trying to get people out of homelessness, putting them in a one-bedroom studio, tiny home or whatever, is better than a tent. But I do think we need more housing for people with a low barrier, where they feel safe.”

Voting record

Council has not had any formal votes related to homelessness during Winer’s tenure. Informally, she has supported the expansion and funding of a pilot removal strategy that includes an in-house removal team and dedicated police officers, and the implementation of a day center/shelter. 

Oct. 5, 2023 — (informal vote) Winer supported continued exploration of a safe outdoor space for the unhoused, such as a campground, tiny home or pallet home village

Public Safety, Policing + Oversight

Winer mentioned the creek path and bike underpasses as unsafe places where she would like to see improvements, as well as a better connection between University Hill and downtown. 

“The best thing to do about that is to activate spaces that should be safe,” she said. “And by safe, I mean that you would feel comfortable having your 13-year-old walk there alone.”

An improved strategy for dealing with repeat offenders is crucial to the safety and economic health of downtown Boulder, she said. 

“There’s a fair amount of low-level crime, and it’s a small amount of offenders. It affects small businesses the most, because they can’t afford to constantly have to shoulder the burden for all of these societal problems. I would like to see people be held responsible and have some consequences.”

At the Raucous Caucus, Winer answered “no” to the question: Is the police budget too high? And “yes” to: Should the Police Oversight Panel have more authority to discipline officers found guilty of misconduct? She later clarified: “A little more, but not much more.”

Winer called the protracted appointment and removal process of police oversight panelists “the most miserable six months of my life.” 

She strives to balance support for more effective oversight and support for the police. She acknowledges that her experiences with the police are not the same as those of marginalized communities.

“It’s not my place to speak; I’ve never been hurt by police,” she said. “That’s why we need a panel that has had those experiences. A lot of people have suffered under the police.

“I believe we can do both: We can have a good oversight panel and also support the police, who do a good job in this town. I’m not trying to say they’re perfect. [But] if people feel thrown under the bus, they won’t stay.”

Voting record

Feb. 1, 2022 — Winer approved the Boulder Police Department entering into an agreement with the FBI designating an officer to a joint terrorism task force.

Jan. 26, 2023 — Winer opposed the appointment of Lisa Sweeney-Miran to the POP over her public criticism of the police.

May 1, 2023 — Winer voted to remove Sweeney-Miran from the Police Oversight Panel.

June 22, 2023 — Winer voted to impose a moratorium on review of new complaints by the Police Oversight Panel, providing legal cover for their work stoppage.

Sept. 7, 2023 — Winer voted to approve the Reimagine Policing plan.


Winer didn’t offer much on the city’s finances, acknowledging the City Council’s limited role in determining yearly spending. 

“We don’t make the budget,” she said, “we approve the budget.” Because of federal pandemic-era recovery programs, “we’ve had more money than usual. That’s coming to an end.”

In future years, the council’s role may shift from telling staff what to spend extra money on to deciding what gets funded and what doesn’t.

“Our new budget is now constrained,” Winer said. “There won’t be much room for new ideas if they are expensive.”

Although she said she would consider a tax or fee to fund better bus service, Winer is generally wary of over-burdening the population.

“There’s only so many taxes you can tax people,” she said. 

Voting record

Oct. 6, 2022 — Winer voted to approve the 2023 recommended budget.

(Informal vote) Winer voted to exempt menstrual products and diapers from sales tax.

Aug. 3, 2023 — Winer supported advancing to the voters a ballot measure that would extend a 0.15% sales tax, splitting the revenue evenly between the city’s general fund and arts and culture programming.

Transportation + Parking

Winer has been pushing for better lighting in bike underpasses for her entire term, with little success. (She did get $30,000 added to the 2024 budget to improve lighting.) More secure options for bike parking and storage made her list of priorities as well.

In public appearances, Winer has also (briefly) mentioned potholes, protected bike lanes and public transit as areas of concern.  

At the Raucous Caucus, Winer said she opposed removing parking minimums for housing development. When asked the question again, via email, she clarified that she would support decreasing the amount of required parking, but not eliminating the rules altogether.

(Some quick context: Parking minimums provide space for residents to have cars, but also add to the cost of building housing and reduce the amount of housing that can be built, according to critics.)

Other votes


Sept. 1, 2022 — Winer voted to expand Boulder’s noise ordinances to daytime hours.

Feb. 16, 2023 — Winer voted to strengthen “nuisance” ordinances — laws on things like weeds, trash and noise, reforms largely aimed at reducing conflicts with students and homeowners on University Hill. The laws apply citywide. 

Aug. 24, 2023 — (Informal vote) Winer voted not to accelerate work on pursuing a higher minimum wage, continuing the planned implementation timeline of Jan. 1, 2025 rather than joining Boulder County in pursuing a wage increase on Jan. 1, 2024.

GUN CONTROL: June 7, 2022 — Winer voted to approve a suite of gun control legislation, including raising the age of purchase from 18 to 21 and banning assault weapons.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION: June 21, 2022 — Winer voted to support extending the historic landmark of the bandshell to include the entire Central Park.

LIBRARY DISTRICT: July 14, 2022 — Winer did not support endorsing the library district ballot measure.

FLOOD MITIGATION: May 18, 2023 — Winer voted to approve the Upper Goose and Twomile Canyon Creeks flood mitigation plans.

OPEN SPACE: June 1, 2023 — Winer voted to allow e-bikes on certain open space trails.

These profiles take hours of work: interviews, pulling voting records, attending public events and fact-checking candidate claims. If you appreciate 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: