Boulder is the largest city in Colorado that does not directly elect its mayor. But that may change in future years. KGNU’s Roz Brown reports that voters rather than fellow City Council members may soon select the mayor.
Listen to the report:
As long as anyone can remember Boulder City Council has spent its first meeting following an election selecting the group’s leader. The mayor is usually someone who’s served on council a couple years, and someone the other eight members agree should preside at council meetings and act as head of the city at official ceremonies. But some Boulder residents feel it’s time for a change.
“The charter amendment petition that you are considering has met an incredibility high bar of support during the most extraordinary times and in unfortunate circumstances,” said Matt Benjamin during a city council public hearing Tuesday night. Benjamin helped collect signatures for a ballot measure called “Our Mayor, Our Choice.”
“We have taken the original petition that has been studied and researched for nearly a year and signed by nearly 6,000 people and modified the language based on feedback from the city,” noted Benjamin. “It’s a solid piece of legislation.”
If approved in November, voters will elect the mayor, replacing the current system where City Council members select the mayor. Boulder resident Allie Fronzaglia told council she believes it would create a more fair and equitable local government.
“I understand some feel this is rushed, but it wouldn’t go into effect for three more years,” said Fronzaglia. “If the year 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we should never wait to improve our processes and systems, and we should never wait on issues of equity and representation.”
Conversely, Neal McBurnett, who described himself as a long-time student of election methods, argued the measure should not be moved to the ballot this fall.
“Direct election of the mayor is not a good idea,” said McBurnett. “It would introduce gridlock and tensions on council that it could handle by itself. But we do need reform, so please create a task force to study the very complex issues involved.”
Boulder City Council agreed to put Our Mayor, Our Choice on the ballot with revisions after the city attorney gave the group incorrect information about the number of signatures needed and date for submission. Councilmembers Aaron Brocket and Bob Yates were enthusiastic about letting voters decide.
“I think it’s pretty likely to succeed because it’s giving the whole city a voice on who the mayor is,” said Brocket.
Yates added, “I see there’s already 18 cities in the country that have ranked-choice voting, including three in Colorado, so this is something that works and we’re not really out on a limb here.”
Other councilmembers, including Sam Weaver were of two minds about the ballot measure.
“I’m ambivalent about this because I don’t know what problem we’re trying to fix,” said Weaver. “Maybe I wasn’t everyone’s favorite for mayor, but it’s a process we’ve had in Boulder for years, so what are we trying to fix? I don’t know the answer.”
(Featured Image logo credit: ourmayor-ourchoice.org)