Junie Joseph has been one of the estimated 64,000 daily in-commuters to Boulder.
When she moved to the area to attend law school at the University of Colorado, she was told there was no capacity in the graduate student housing program. Joseph was unable to find anything else she could afford here, staying on the floor of a friend’s place for a few days until landing a spot in Louisville, forced to make daily trips into Boulder.
After six months, a graduate student unit opened up, and for the past year, Joseph has been a Boulder resident. But she is running for city council with hopes of championing policy that helps future CU students, Boulder’s teachers, public servants and other workers avoid the same challenges she encountered in her search for affordable housing in city limits, and the impacts on air quality and traffic tied to the huge number of commuters.
“I realize part of the concern is you don’t want to make Boulder too dense, but I think density is important because it’s better for climate, because sprawl is not a good thing,” Joseph said. “… We are changing, whether we want it or not, Boulder is changing. I think it’s very important we all come to the table, and have the discussion and find out how we will provide housing to the people who come to work here. “
Joseph, a 33-year-old former human rights monitor for the United Nations and Obama White House intern, is one of 15 candidates vying for the six open council seats.
She believes the city forming the Police Oversight Task Force in response to the troubling encounter between a now-former Boulder police officer and Zayd Atkinson, a black Naropa University student repeatedly questioned while picking up trash outside his apartment, is only a first step to addressing local social inequities.
Rather than focusing only on law enforcement policy, Joseph believes a broader approach that allows more people of color to attain housing in Boulder is needed to address the issues that led to the controversial Atkinson incident.
“A task force is great, but until we diversify this community, (until) police officers get to see black people in this community, get to see Native Americans, Hispanics and all the other colors and get to interact with all of them, the problem will happen again,” Joseph said “It may not happen every day, but it will happen again.”
The problems in Boulder aren’t overtly racist attitudes, she explained, but its cost of living barriers.
“Even as a minority, it is money that kept me away from Boulder for six months, it’s not the color of my skin,” Joseph said. “It’s money. It’s a class structure, a class issue. We can make this about color and race, but it’s about class.”
She believes the city should continue to examine easing limits on accessory dwelling units as a housing option, and consider more efficient land uses that promote not only adding homes, but also consolidation of the amount of space businesses require.
“I think we have to look at mixed use, how we do change some of the zoning regulation to make sure people get to stay here,” Joseph said. “But also create more opportunities for companies to have co-sharing or co-working space.”
She also claims the city may need to show a greater willingness to compromise with CU on the South Boulder Creek flood mitigation effort and south campus annexation, while still erecting a floodwall and holding CU accountable.
“We are coming to the table from an inferior position, because (CU) owns the land,” Joseph said.