Boulder City Council Election 2009
The ballot tells us to vote for up to five candidates. I've asked several people who they are supporting, and usually they can rattle off two or three or four names. But they're not sure who they are going to add to make up their five choices.
Here's what I tell them: Don't do it. If you really like three candidates, vote just for those three. If you also vote for two candidates you think are okay but not great, those two votes are votes against the people you support. Your second tier candidates may win against your favorites because of your votes and the votes of others who also just included them to get up to five.
There are many specific issues on which to evaluate the candidates. But I don't think this is about specific issues. I think this is about principles, and about the kind of person.
Here are some of the things that I think are important for council, and candidates should be on top of these:
- Council needs to learn to run this city without micromanaging. Council meetings cannot go until 2:00 AM just because they can't get through all the issues.
- Council needs to set direction, and staff needs to be on board and held accountable. Today there are too many rogue departments and rogue department heads who are interested in turf building, rather than supporting the direction defined by our elected representatives.
- Council needs to lay down the law with the City Manager to make sure she is enforcing this principle with all departments.
- There is no real understanding of business principles in the council. As far as I can tell, some departments don't even understand which aspects of their programs make money and which ones lose money. Council can't make sound fiscal decisions without this kind of information, and nobody on council seems to have the background to understand what is necessary.
- Fitting in with the national mood, it seems to be common belief that you have to be either pro-environment or pro-business. Yet our leaders need to embrace both in order to properly represent our interests and serve us.
- The relationship with the county government is good, and the relationship with CU is improving. But the relationships with Boulder Valley School District and RTD are dismal. It is critical that the city be able to work well with these other government agencies.
- It is a PR nightmare when the city moves forward with big, unpopular capital projects while cutting back library services. The city needs to better figure out how to remain flexible in its budgets and responsive when needed.
- In fact, in general the city government needs to work on its PR. They makes lots of decisions that are controversial, and the reasoning behind the decisions is only evident to the people who stayed to 1:00 AM at the council meeting at which the topic was discussed. Currently, the public discussion is often controlled by the opponents to these decisions, who make their own one-sided emotional appeals. There's nothing wrong with one-sided appeals to the public, but the council needs to figure out how to get its story out too.
- Make it a high priority to make information available and to make it easy for people to actually find that information.
- Be willing to drop an idea if the public is obviously opposed. For example, whether or not council deserves a raise, they should have dropped the idea once the public voted it down the first time.
I've known Barry Siff for several years, so perhaps I'm biased. But he is taking his council bid so seriously that it is impossible to ignore him.
When Barry started considering the run for council, he started going to every single council meeting, and he stayed until the bitter end. He even sold his booming business to be able to concentrate on this effort.
Barry has been in business for years and has business savvy. He understands all aspects of running a business, having been in senior management at a large company, as well as owning and running a small local business. He understands the bottom line, and he knows the value of having the best people working for him -- without that nothing can happen.
Barry is excited about changing the way council runs, stopping this crazy business of running meetings until the wee hours of the morning. After all, the way things are now, citizen participation is a joke.
Barry took a small local triathlon, and built it into a successful business that ran several races every year. So successful, in fact, that he had several suitors when he was ready to sell. He picked the buyer that would be best for the sport and best for Boulder -- Ironman is the biggest brand in the sport and is well-known outside the sport, and bringing that brand to Boulder without the city having to court them is a huge coup.
While running 5430 Sports, Barry did something he didn't have to. He turned his races into an environmental example for the entire multisport community around the country. It wasn't just having Eco-Cycle come in and collect recycling and compostables. It was actively pursuing what he called tri-sustainability. Using solar power at the races. Encouraging alternative transport. Even finding ways to recycle water bottles, bike parts, and energy bar wrappers. This shows that Barry is not just talk, that he can not only do the right thing, but also show the way to the rest of the world.
Everyone talks about having good relationships with other government entities. However, Barry called up Bruce Benson, the President of CU, made an appointment, and sat down with him. Our current council members are not doing that, much less the other candidates.
Barry has put a huge amount of effort into supporting low-income children in Boulder. He just doesn't talk about it, he does it.
Barry has more energy and enthusiasm than anyone I know. He's a former adventure racer, and so has unique qualifications to make it through marathon council meetings. He is also a huge Boulder booster.
Look at who is backing Barry. It's everyone from the most conservative to the most liberal. He doesn't have the biggest name recognition, but he is becoming well known all around town.
I say, when you make your city council selection(s) this year, include Barry Siff. I'm convinced he will make a huge contribution to the city. I don't agree with him on every issue, but on the guiding principles he is a perfect match.