Written by Dominic Dezzutti

The city of Boulder and its residents have always danced to their own unique drummer. Frankly, it’s that quality that helps make Boulder a great and quirky place to live.

Boulder voters also have a strong tradition of making collective decisions based on what’s best for the greater good of the world. Boulder voters have approved massive amounts of open space and supported initiatives on world peace.

However, it seems that Boulder voters, despite their collective work to make the world a better place, are not trusted by Boulder City officials to make the right decision when it counts.

The City of Boulder and Xcel Energy were in negotiations over the conditions of potentially renewing Xcel’s franchise agreement to provide power to the Boulder community.

Boulder wants to make a considerable effort to get almost all of its power from renewable sources. Xcel is willing to build a wind farm that would be dedicated solely to powering Boulder, agreeing to provide 90% of their power from renewable sources in nine years.

However, there was a significant sticking point in the negotiations which ended up being a deal breaker for both parties. Xcel wants to propose to Boulder voters two questions, one to renew Xcel’s franchise, and a second question regarding the dedicated wind farm and the accompanying $4 monthly household fee.

The City of Boulder insists that the voters are only asked one question, with both issues combined, basically saying to voters, if you want Xcel, you’ll automatically get the expensive wind farm.

There’s no going a la carte in Boulder.

But for this particular point to be a deal breaker, it must be based on the point that city officials must not trust that voters will do the “right” thing in the privacy of the voting booth.

Basically, Boulder officials want the renewable energy option so badly, that they want to be sure that even Boulder residents can’t derail the plan.

If this were happening anywhere but Boulder, the citizens might be offended. But in Boulder, this kind of distrust of voters might actually be accepted.

Imagine if this was a question on the state level. Can you imagine the uproar from just the Western Slope if state officials walked away from a significant deal based on not trusting voters?

But beyond imagined reactions to hypothetical situations, this scenario does prove a certain cynicism that significant progress on environmental issues can only be made through coercion, and not by choice.

While certain industries need their arms twisted for particular safety and environmental advantages, that isn’t usually the case.

Cities do not mandate recycling; they simply make the choice more attractive. Even the federal government doesn’t mandate everyone install solar panels, they simply provide tax credits for those that do install them.

Cynicism and mistrust are not the kinds of qualities people generally think of when they think of Boulder. But obviously Boulder officials must know better than the rest of us.

They know that even people who consistently show that they are willing to go the extra mile to do the right thing need to be pushed there once in a while.

About The Blogger

– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

  1. Renee Hummel says:

    I don’t think this is about cynicism and mistrust of voters. I think it’s a case of trusting that voters haven’t changed their minds in one year’s time. Last year, Boulder voters voted against renewing Xcel’s standard franchise agreement. So why should the city allow Xcel to force an issue that was decided last year onto the ballot again? If citizens vote down related measures this time (e.g. municipalization) then that would open the door again for a future vote on an Xcel franchise. Boulder voters have already made their preference for an alternative energy future quite clear. By trying to force the standard franchise agreement onto the ballot, Xcel appears to be acting in bad faith.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s