Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer and the beginning of the local campaign season in Boulder. Our city council election this year will be one of the most significant in recent history with six of nine seats up for grabs. That is big news but what makes this year even more important is that four of those seats are guaranteed to have new occupants.

Sean MaherFor the Camera

This election also is a big deal because the new city council will chart Boulder’s future course on jobs, housing, retail and a host of other factors that impact our lives every day.

I don’t make endorsements, but I do urge you to get to know the candidates and their positions and vote for those who most closely align with your vision of where Boulder should go. As stated above, there are big issues in this election and there are big differences among the current crop of council hopefuls on how to deal with them. Here are a few questions I plan to ask:

Do you support keeping jobs in Boulder? 

With recession fears growing by the day, Boulder is fortunate to be an employment center with a diverse mix of industry sectors providing stable, high-wage jobs. These include tech, natural products, outdoor gear, clean energy and aerospace, among others. In the Great Recession of a decade ago, it was this diversity of jobs in our local economy that kept us relatively unscathed compared to the rest of the country.

However, some now argue we have too many jobs and city council needs to go beyond limiting future employment growth. They want council to use tools like zoning, new fees and regulations to push existing businesses out of the city. With or without a recession, this could be a disaster. The recently completed Citywide Retail Study showed us that both our local small businesses and our city tax coffers depend heavily on employees who commute. Roughly one-third of our retail spending is done by people who don’t sleep here.

Yes commuters driving in to Boulder cause traffic and produce carbon. But so would commuters driving out of Boulder to get to jobs in Longmont or Broomfield. Let’s continue to work on creating more attainable housing options near employment centers and transit corridors before we start pushing local jobs and business out of town.

Do you support small businesses? 

The retail study also highlighted the difficulty that small retailers face in navigating the city’s dense thicket of regulations and permitting requirements. Our next council should make it a priority to streamline and simplify the city’s approval process. Our young entrepreneurs and their creative ideas are a big part of the Boulder magic. Those ideas should be encouraged and supported instead of choked off with red tape.

Do you support our visitor economy? 

For a small city, we have amazing restaurants in Boulder and one of the most vibrant downtown districts in the country. A survey taken last summer of downtown retailers and restaurants revealed the biggest factor in this success is visitors and their wallets. More than 60% of restaurants and almost half the downtown retailers said they would fail without tourist spending.

The Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau does an amazing job of managing and mitigating visitor impacts as well as promoting Boulder to audiences around the world. Our current city council has cut support for the CVB and some members would like to cut it more. This would be disastrous for our small businesses and those of us who love them. We need the next council to understand and support our local visitor economy.

Of course, there are more big questions looming for Boulder and these are just a few at the top of my list. Whether you agree with me or think I’m totally off base, I urge you to get informed. Read the candidate websites, attend a forum and ask them directly about what’s important to you. And when ballots are mailed next month, make sure you vote.

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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