Report from Boulder County Commissioner, May 2023
HOMELESS IN BOULDER COUNTY: I am receiving a lot of email about what Boulder County is doing to address the increasing numbers of unhoused people living on our streets and public spaces. With already-high meth usage and now the introduction of Xylazene into Boulder County, the health care needs of those on the streets will be rising precipitously. Boulder County is part of a collaborative effort with the city of Boulder and Longmont called Homeless Solutions for Boulder County to get as many people housed as possible. But this only helps people who are ready to be housed and who have the stability to be good tenants with supportive services. We cannot rent an apartment to someone who will use meth in that apartment or whose behavior would cause a nuisance to other residents. As you have probably observed, many of the people living in tents are not candidates for housing – yet. Some people would have us just put them in jail. But that doesn’t really do any good beyond whatever short-term sentence may apply to nuisance violations.
The HSBC website will tell you what Boulder County is already doing. You may be surprised at the services already being provided and at the numbers already being served. For those whose addictions are getting in the way of being housed, I have been talking with community members and policy experts about how to provide a safe place to detox and recover as a first step towards transitional and then permanent supportive housing. I don’t have anything to announce yet. Just know that I am actively engaged.
LAND USE: I was going to dedicate a big portion of this message to the governor’s land use bill, SB213. The bill died on the calendar because the House and Senate could not agree on how to resolve their differences. We are likely to see another bill next year so I will share my view on how Colorado’s land use laws should be revised.
First, we need to stop low-density “greenfields” development that consumes valuable agricultural and open space lands, requires lots of water and requires a car to go anywhere. Homes, schools, grocery stores and jobs should be sited so that people can leave their car at home. We also need to be providing the type of housing that current and future residents need instead of letting the developers control what gets built. Ambitious economic development plans absolutely must be accompanied by concrete plans to house the employees along with the ancillary service workers those new jobs will require. The legislature should direct funding for transportation and economic development to areas whose development priorities are meeting the needs of the people who work in their communities. Municipalities should be encouraged to fully develop underutilized lands within their boundaries before expanding. Areas should be identified that are ripe to transition to higher density housing. Lastly, the state must also provide significant funding for transit and multi-modal transportation improvements.
MINIMUM WAGE: I am leading Boulder County’s exploration of adopting a minimum wage that would be higher than the statewide minimum wage. The state minimum wage is $13.65/hour. A 2019 law allows local governments to adopt a higher minimum wage. Several Boulder County municipalities are interested in joining with Boulder County to adopt a higher wage on a regional basis. Some community advocates are arguing for a phase in that would result in a $25/hour wage by 2028 based on the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Boulder County. That would obviously help minimum wage earners better afford to live in Boulder County. But how would that affect small businesses, restaurants and childcare providers? I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this topic.
Two more quick notes. First, Boulder County and the city of Boulder seated the first Board of Trustees for the new Library District. Here is a list of trustees and their terms. The next step will be for the Library District Board, the city of Boulder and Boulder County to adopt an intergovernmental agreement to guide the transition of the city library to the new district and to provide for robust community input into the operations of the new library district.
Second, I wanted to share that as a result of community comment at our townhall meeting in Sunshine Canyon in March, I walked a few miles of the Switzerland Trail with a resident of Gold Hill who wanted to show me how heavy ATV usage has degraded the landscape and driven everyone else off the trail. Well, I saw it. There is a real problem with these heavy ATV’s plowing off-road straight up sensitive slopes. What’s tricky is that ownership and control of the trail isn’t clear. The US Forest Service has asserted control and is allowing these vehicles to go everywhere. But it is possible that Boulder County controls some portions of it. I have asked our County Attorney to research this issue so we can bring some balance back to this beautiful part of Boulder County.
Don’t forget that we will hold a townhall meeting the third Thursday of each month, 18 from 5:30 – 7:00. — During the May meeting, our Boulder County Assessor was on hand to explain how her office came up with the value of your property.
We also set aside time on the first Thursday of the month for public comment, three minutes each, at the courthouse or virtually at 10:30 a.m. This website will lead you to all the ways you can follow what the commissioners are doing.
Thank you for the privilege of serving. Please keep your thoughts coming my way.
…………….Claire Levy, Boulder County Commissioner