City Council has placed three measures on the fall ballot and this column has my take on two of them. The first is Ballot Measure 2I, which was thought up by Councilmembers Bob Yates and Sam Weaver as way to help middle income workers afford to buy a home in Boulder. 

Sean MaherFor the Camera

The proposal is a bit complex and I don’t have space to explain it in detail but here is a quick recap. Measure 2I authorizes the city to borrow up to $10 million to create a pool of funds that would fill the financing gap between Boulder home prices and what middle-income buyers can afford. An example provided by the city assumes a $600,000 home with a buyer who qualifies for a $432,000 mortgage. If the buyer puts down 5%, or $30,000, that leaves a gap of $138,000. The city loan pool could be tapped to provide a second mortgage that covers that gap and would be payable in 10 years.

In exchange for the public financing help, buyers would agree to a deed restricted appreciation cap of 2% annually so the homes in the program would become permanently affordable.

This is a relatively untested idea but it comes at low risk since the city would not borrow any money until it has qualified buyers apply for the program. It also does not require constructing new housing units, since buyers would be purchasing existing homes. 

On the downside, it’s a relatively modest proposal that would likely help dozens of buyers and not hundreds. But it’s a creative and admirable effort by Sam and Bob to offer an option to middle-income workers who have been priced out of Boulder. If nothing else, it will provide a great learning experience that could lead to more ambitious efforts in the future. Measure 2I definitely merits a “yes” vote. 

Now let’s look at Ballot Measure 2H, which is a really tough one for me. It’s tough because I love our open space and I have always supported more funding for expansion and maintenance. Open space tops the long list of what makes Boulder such an amazing place. 

But Measure 2H goes too far in restricting revenues only to one department while cutting off future funding options for other important priorities with equal or greater budget shortfalls. 

If you have not read up on the measure, here is what it does: 2H will extend an existing 0.15% sales tax for 20 years. The estimated proceeds of $5.3 million in Year One will go toward a conservation easement at Long’s Gardens. This is absolutely a great idea and I support it 100%. But, after Year One, the money keeps flowing to the open space department for 19 more years with no regard for other critical needs in Boulder including transportation, public safety, libraries, affordable housing, etc. 

Transportation is just one example. The city is facing a $23 million annual shortfall in paying for basic maintenance and improvements for streets, bike paths and public transit. I hear complaints almost every day about congestion and the condition of our streets. It is rare that I hear anyone complain about the condition of our open space.

Supporters of 2H point out it is not a tax increase and that voters can always approve new taxes in the future to fund other priorities. Both of those statements are technically true. However, the reality is that at 8.86%, the Boulder sales tax rate is already one of the highest in Colorado and raising it even more will likely encourage shoppers to go elsewhere. This would hurt local retailers and may wind up reducing city revenues instead of growing them. Raising our sales tax rate to fund other needs is simply not realistic. 

Measure 2H would be a much stronger proposal if it shared the revenue with other city funding priorities or if it sunset in five or 10 years. Then voters could choose to continue the tax for open space or to reallocate it based on future needs. But restricting the money for 20 years to a single department when others are also short on funding is just too risky. I will reluctantly vote “no” on 2H. 

Wherever you land on 2H and 2I, I hope you take time to fill out your ballot and vote. The passion and commitment of those who live here is right up there with open space on the list of what makes Boulder such an amazing place. So be sure your voice is heard. 

Sean Maher is the CEO of RRC Associates. Views expressed in this column are his own and do not reflect the position of RRC or any other organization. He can be reached at

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