Tina Marquis: To meet Boulder’s challenges, ‘we need to lead together’

Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023

As a member and president of Boulder Valley School District’s governing board, Tina Marquis had a front-row seat for the effects of policies beyond her control: especially Boulder’s continued housing affordability crisis, which she blames in part for the district’s declining enrollment.

As Americans overall have fewer kids, shrinking student bodies are a problem for many schools. But Boulder’s decline in enrollment is happening faster.

“If we want to continue to be a community with children,” Marquis said, “we need to focus on housing.”

While Boulder has added 3,947 price-capped units since 1992 when tracking began, just 598 of them are three bedrooms or bigger. And those bigger homes aren’t necessarily all that affordable. Three-bedroom dwellings can cost upward of $3,000 per month to rent under the city’s program.

The lack of viable options motivated Marquis, 52, to run for City Council. Her vision is for Boulder to be “a really accessible place to be a family and raise children,” as it was for her when she moved here 20-plus years ago, and where “everyone is housed, and all the cities work with us” on affordable housing, homelessness and climate change.

She’s not making any grand, sweeping promises. Her experience in governing has led her to believe that change comes from making deliberate, consistent policy choices and changes over time.

“I’m more interested in framing the problems I want to solve: public safety, affordable housing and the climate crisis,” she said. “I’m a policy-focused person and outcomes-driven leader.”

Marquis would rather work together to figure out where Boulder wants to go — and then empower city staff to figure out how to get there — within the constraints of the city budget and community desires. 

“My focus will be trying to get consensus on outcomes,” she said. “That’s the goal; I’m pretty ambivalent [as] to how you do it.”

Consensus and collaboration are key to Marquis’s approach, particularly bringing in county commissioners and surrounding towns. Boulder’s problems are too big to solve alone, she said.

“Boulder has been a leader in so many things, but we’re going to need to lead together.”

Top work plan priorities

  • Declare a humanitarian crisis for homelessness and housing insecurity, in collaboration with Boulder County and other municipalities. The joint resolution would also include a work and communication plan. 
  • A survey of post-COVID in-commuters to Boulder and their housing needs. It would “focus on ‘essential’ workers such as teachers and staff operating our public schools, medical providers, and those working to maintain our infrastructure, including understanding the housing type this group is interested in and how important it is to provide ownership opportunities.”
  • A study of vacant (occupied less than six months a year) homes in Boulder, to understand the impact on housing stock and sales tax revenue.

Why you might want to vote for Marquis

Marquis is incredibly informed and deeply familiar with issues and policies at the local, county, state and federal levels — even more so than some current council members. She takes a thoughtful approach to problems, carefully weighing the impacts and outcomes. Her positions are nuanced and always grounded in reality. 

That doesn’t always translate well on the campaign trail. Deep and considerate responses are not as easily digestible or as inspiring as catchy slogans. But Marquis’s level-headedness could prove valuable when it comes to actual governance.

While Marquis hasn’t worked within the city government, her role on the school board did give her relevant experience for overseeing and managing a large organization, such as being an elected official on a cooperative body and dealing with large budgets and bureaucracy.

Why you might not want to vote for Marquis

Marquis can be short on actual solutions. Most of her strategy involves data-gathering, collaboration and/or undertaking studies, something Boulder already does a lot of. “Analysis paralysis,” as critics call it, can prevent progress rather than actually achieving it, although Marquis seems earnest in her willingness to follow the data through to actual solutions. 

Because Marquis has already held elected office, voters might hold her to a higher standard than other, unproven candidates. She had eight years on BVSD’s board, including a stint as president, and the district’s biggest problems (declining enrollment and an achievement gap based mostly on socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity) were not resolved during her tenure.

Declining enrollment is not something the district can control, Marquis responds (hence her run for City Council). As for the achievement gap, progress has been made. 

Sanchez Elementary in Lafayette, once on the state’s academic watchlist, was taken off the list after an infusion of resources and a careful plan to raise performance. The approach is being implemented in more schools, Marquis said. The school board adopted a strategic plan and made key investments to close the achievement gap district-wide — “more progress than school boards prior” made.

“The fact that [the achievement gap] is still there doesn’t mean we’re not moving in the right direction,” she said. “It’s pretty important to know when I get on City Council, we’re not gonna have middle housing for $400,000. It’s more about putting the systems in place to move in the direction we want to go.”

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Marquis on the Issues

Housing + Development

As mentioned above, Marquis’s focus will be on affordable family housing. She wants to redo a 2014 study of in-commuters to determine what types of housing may allow them to live in Boulder and implement a tax on vacant homes to help fund city efforts to create affordable housing. 

“I want to be careful and considerate of how housing needs have changed after COVID,” she said. “There’s a whole group of people who aren’t going to be here five days a week. I want to make sure we’re building housing for people who are open to it and it makes sense for their lifestyle.”

Marquis is a big believer in ownership versus renting. She wants Boulder to explore a rent-to-own strategy similar to Denver’s renter wealth-building program, the first of its kind in the United States.

“I want people to feel they can be here permanently,” she said. “Ownership would keep our workers here.”

Marquis “appreciates density” but does not believe it is the answer to all of Boulder’s housing woes. That’s particularly true for families with children, she said, whose housing needs might be best met by “lower-density” development versus “stacked housing.”

“We need to be really intentional on how we create that, and think about housing type rather than just density. I’m all for duplexes and townhomes, [but] it may not be as helpful if we’re creating more vehicle trips in places far from paths and buses.”

Sites like the Area III Planning Reserve in North Boulder are the best option for “deed-restricted affordable housing” and family housing, she said, because the city has so much control over undeveloped land — from the types, amount and affordability of homes to the placement of streets and services. 

Quick q’s: 

Do you support rent stabilization? “Yes, in some cases. How it is implemented is important, but in general I hope fewer people face housing insecurity and this can be one tool to accomplish that.” 

Do you support the City Council’s recent vote to increase occupancy limits? No

Would you support a ballot measure to undo the recent change to occupancy? No

Did you support SB213 (the failed state bill requiring cities to allow certain types and amounts of housing, overriding local control)? No


Marquis said the current approaches are “moving in the right direction” (with more attention on the issue, the planned opening of the day center/shelter and every candidates’ willingness to expand services of some type) but she “would like to do more of it, and more of it in the county.” 

She’d like to see the county commissioners and elected officials in other Boulder County towns commit to expanding mental health treatment options and housing, both transitional and permanent. 

“Lafayette is starting to see camping, Longmont is seeing encampments. There’s vested interest [in] picking a strategy and going all in, but in collective action,” she said. “I hope we try a couple different things. I hope we don’t spend a ton of time picking one definitive option, understanding we have so many different needs.”

That’s why she won’t commit to supporting sanctioned encampments. That’s too limiting of an option, she said. 

“I’d like to see some goals: this many more units of supportive housing, this many more beds of mental health care, reduce encampments by a certain percentage,” she said. “We need other options besides dispersed camping along the [Boulder] creek path.”

Expansion of preventative measures should be on the table, too: “My biggest fear is the rate of people entering homelessness is faster” than the ability to house people after they become unhoused. 

Marquis does support encampment removals “while we accelerate solutions.” When asked at what point enforcement could be lessened, she said, “There probably will always be some enforcement … for behavioral reasons.”

“It’s hard because I understand the idea that you’re taking someone’s living space away and causing more disruption, but at the same time, you’re also creating a less-welcoming space. I believe the local government should provide a sense of safety for all its community members, including property owners, but also people who are having a harder time in their life. 

“How we provide that safety sometimes comes into conflict.”

Quick q’s:

Do you support the Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure? Yes

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

Would you continue the city’s current encampment removal strategy? Yes

Are encampment removals an effective use of resources to address homelessness? “No, but I am sensitive to concerns about behaviors such as drug use, violence and abusive language around our schools that I believe are inconsistent with providing children a positive, welcoming and supportive learning environment as well as safe biking and walking opportunities to and from school. Unfortunately, while we are still behind in our ability to provide the housing and behavioral supports our unhoused neighbors need and deserve, and that would eliminate the need for encampment removals, I support encampment removals in the interim.”

Public Safety, Policing + Oversight

Marquis is “really supportive” of the recently adopted Reimagine Policing plan, because it provides “accountability metrics” for the police while also reaffirming their role and importance in maintaining public safety.

While on the school board, Marquis voted to remove police officers from BVSD’s schools. That’s a decision she stands by, given the historic disparities in punishments for Black and brown students. (Unarmed ‘safety advocates’ took over the roles previously held by cops.)

At the same time, she opposed a state bill that would have limited police officers’ ability to be present on school campuses throughout Colorado. (The bill ultimately failed.)

“Sometimes, you are going to need an officer at the schools,” Marquis said. “There are situations we don ’t have staff that are trained to deal with.”

“Ultimately, I support the police, because I believe we ultimately need them. It’s concerning to me that I hear we may not have a great relationship right now. I don’t want the police to feel unsupported.”

Quick q’s:

Should the Police Oversight Panel have more say over officer discipline in the case of misconduct? “More say is simply too ambiguous. If it means the panel can provide feedback, yes, but I don’t view the Police Oversight Panel replacing or overriding the existing process used by the police department.”

Do you support the City Council’s decision to remove Lisa Sweeney-Miran from the Police Oversight Panel over her public criticism of the police? Yes

Do you think the police budget is too high? No


Marquis takes a cautious approach to the city’s budget, noting the sustained slowing in sales tax (Boulder’s main source of revenue). Although she is generally “a big fan” of taxes, she’s also “a little worried about our ability to tax.” 

Taxpayers may have reached their limit, she said, noting the property tax increase recently approved to fund the new library district. (BVSD also may have contributed to taxpayer fatigue: More than half of property taxes go to schools, and the district has asked for, and received, numerous additional taxes over the years.)

She supports the city’s move toward outcome-based budgeting, but she would prefer that officials be more explicit about economic realities when floating new projects, programs, etc.

“Everyone can make a wishlist for Boulder,” Marquis said. When voters are asked about their priorities, questions should be framed not as “what do you wish for, [but] what would you actually pay for.”

If current trends continue, “We’re gonna have a budget crisis, for sure,” she said. “We’re going to make some really hard choices about what we want.”

Her own priorities are basic city functions like road maintenance, family housing and services for the unhoused tied to reductions in encampments. 

Marquis would consider “a healthy tax” on vacant homes.

“My sense,” she said, “is that if you can afford a second home in Boulder, you can afford a large tax.”

Quick q’s: 

Do you support the sales tax extension and arts funding bill on this year’s ballot? Yes

At candidate forums, Marquis also expressed nuanced and conditional support for a transportation funding tax or fee (more below) and a tax or fee to fund child-care options.

Transportation + Parking

Marquis believes different solutions are needed for in-commuters and Boulder residents.

“For people commuting in, that’s where it’s more of a housing solution,” she said. For residents, “we can go hard on safer biking, safer walking.  For those who are able, the e-bike rebates are great.”

More frequent buses would be beneficial to both groups, Marquis said. “I am hopeful the state is going to help” with funding.

She also acknowledges that, for families with children, driving is often the easiest option. 

“I’m very realistic about the choices families in particular are making,” she said. “It’s difficult to use the bus system when you’re a parent.”

Quick q’s:

Would you support a tax or fee to increase public transit frequency and services? “Probably, but the structure of taxes and how the money is managed is important to me. I would support a tax managed by the city or possibly the county and am less likely to support a new transportation district.”

Do you support eliminating minimum parking requirements for new housing developments? “In some developments, I support reducing requirements, and possibly eliminating them, but there are many variables to consider. I am not sure how parking is included for individuals with disabilities and those who might have them in the future, and those people with jobs and with children. Again, I am hoping to consider the needs of people who need to work and take kids to and from daycare, and then to after school activities, doctors, dentists and an affordable grocery store.”

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

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle

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