New Era Colorado today launched a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising $40,000 to support pro-municipalization efforts in Boulder.
The money raised through Indiegogo will go to a grassroots campaign to support a municipal energy utility.
New Era Colorado is part of a larger campaign supporting a municipal energy utility called “Empower Our Future.” On Friday, the campaign received a $60,000 donation from the national Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club is donating $25,000 to Empower Our Future, $25,000 to New Era Colorado and $10,000 to the Indian Peaks chapter of the Sierra Club to help those organizations defeat a utility debt-limit charter amendment supported by Xcel Energy.
Supporters of a municipal energy utility have raised the prospect of Xcel spending considerable money in support of the charter amendment, though, so far, the issue committee formed by the utility has reported just a few thousand dollars in staff time toward the initiative.
“To us, it's a David and Goliath fight,” New Era Executive Director Steve Fenberg said. “We're going to need to raise a lot of money on the grassroots level to combat the big checks we expect Xcel to write.”
Xcel spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo declined to comment on New Era's fundraising efforts, but noted that Xcel has not spent any money on the charter amendment campaign.
Voter Approval of Debt Limits, the group supporting the charter amendment, had raised $22,000, most of it from Boulder individuals and companies, as of its last campaign finance filing in July. Empower Our Future had raised $1,790, and Voters Against Xcel Buying Elections — the New Era Colorado issue committee — had raised $2,140.
In the 2011 election in which Boulder voters narrowly approved a charter amendment that authorized the City Council to form an energy utility, private proponents of municipalization spent $106,760. Xcel Energy spent $960,689.
The city of Boulder spent roughly $86,000 on communications efforts related to the utility.
Fenberg said he expects to be outspent by Xcel, adding that the company is indirectly campaigning through a public relations campaign aimed at Boulder.
“It doesn't say vote yes, but it is definitely targeting the election,” he said.
Fenberg said he decided on an Indiegogo campaign because it's a way to reach a broader audience and get people involved. Rewards are offered based on the amount of the donation, including a free pass to a campaign party, stickers, posters, T-shirts and, for $5,000, an “opportunity to take our bus, Tiny Dancer, for a night on the town.”
He said the money raised between the Indiegogo campaign and the Sierra Club donation will help pay community organizers to work with volunteers and get the group's message out.
The charter amendment would require that voters approve the total debt limit of a future municipal utility and that affected county residents be allowed to vote in that election if Boulder extends service beyond city limits.
The city is preparing to put a competing charter amendment on the November ballot as well.
Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley declined to comment on the grassroots fundraising effort because it's directly related to campaign activity by an outside group.