Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones weighs in on what Republican presidential candidates can learn from Boulder, the city hosting tonight’s debate.
On Wednesday, Boulder is slated to host the third Republican presidential primary debate at the University of Colorado. Our progressive community is not typically included on the Republican debate circuit nor is it a regular stopover for the likes of Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
So, controversy over student attendance at the debate aside, this is a unique opportunity for us – to educate the candidates on what Coloradans really care about and to showcase some of our local policy solutions worthy of replicating across the country.
If you have paid even a little attention to the previous Republican debates, you have likely noted that far too much attention was given to fights between candidates; fights between candidates and debate questioners; and fights between candidates and the entire media sector — rather than the critical challenges of the day. (Looking at you, Mr. Trump.)
But since this debate is focusing on the economy, it is actually very fitting that it is occurring in Boulder.
Because quite frankly, Boulder’s doing a lot of things right. Our community has pioneered some elegant solutions to many of the important issues that the candidates have been busy ignoring.
For example, Boulder was the first in the U.S. to implement a tax to raise funds specifically for the acquisition, management and maintenance of open space, something we began back in 1967. Now, between Boulder County and the City of Boulder, nearly 150,000 acres of open space are permanently protected for wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and agriculture. This type of proactive vision led to Boulder being listed among the top “dream towns” by Outside Magazine, best cities for cycling by Bicycling magazine, and No. 1 most fitness-friendly city in America by Huffpost Healthy Living, in June.
Boulder has also consistently been a leader on environmental action. Local voters passed the nation’s first Climate Action Plan to tax and reduce greenhouse gases in 2006. Since then, the city has promoted net-zero building codes and is working toward creating its own utility to better green our electricity supply.
Through our award-winning EnergySmart program, Boulder County and the City of Boulder have helped more than 13,000 homeowners and 3,300 businesses install energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. And with help from Eco-Cycle, we’ve also been a leader in recycling and reusing waste since 1976, with a vision to achieve zero waste and transform our ethic to one of environmental stewardship.
Our commitment to sustainability has not, in fact, hindered our economy or jobs. In 2015 alone, Boulder was rated the No. 1 best city for starting a business in Forbes, the No. 3 best place to do business in Business Review USA, and the No. 3 best city for millennial entrepreneurs in Thumbtack. Job growth in Boulder has exceeded national averages, increasing by 2.7 percent in 2014.
So what is the lesson Republican presidential candidates can take from Boulder?
In short, we are proof positive that strong environmental protection can go hand in hand with a prosperous economy. That we can have good paying jobs, thriving businesses and a healthy environment.
It’s likely the candidates at the debate will try and outdo each other with proposals for flat taxes, more trickle-down economics and less “regulation” and government. Instead, perhaps they should look more at the success right outside their debate-room door.
To be clear, Boulder is not perfect. But unlike many of the presidential hopefuls, we are working constructively and collaboratively to find solutions to our problems, like making our community affordable for hard-working families and a secure, welcoming place for our immigrant residents.
What we strive for here in Boulder is a government that works for our community and reflects the values we all share. We strive to address not only our ongoing challenges of affordable housing, growth and equity but also to serve as an example to the rest of our country that people working together can be a force for change and good in the world.
What we are after here in Boulder is to meet the challenge from the great author Wallace Stegner to “create a society that matches our scenery.”
So Republican candidates, we welcome you to our community this week. Enjoy the lessons and the stunning views we have to offer. Remember to hydrate. And if you want to win come election time next year, here’s a little advice: #BeBoulder.
Photo credit: Photo credit: Waifer X, Creative Commons, Flickr.