Skip to content

Boulder Council downplays potential political influences in virus-delayed advisory appointments

Boulder Mayor Pro Tem Bob Yates is among those council members playing down the political influences behind recent votes affirming board an commission appointments.  (Camera file photo)
Boulder Mayor Pro Tem Bob Yates is among those council members playing down the political influences behind recent votes affirming board an commission appointments. (Camera file photo)

Boulder City Council members downplayed the potential political influences behind advisory board and commission appointments this week, which were made for several crucial bodies after a nearly half-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic and officials rearranging municipal business to respond to the crisis.

As a couple 5-4 votes to fulfill vacant advisory seats kicked off Tuesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Rachel Friend, who had taken issue with what she perceived as a somewhat partisan process prior to the outbreak, raised concern.

Philosophies around governing growth and development, and which advisory applicants shared such stances with Council majorities, have played roles in the past, some believe, and may have on Tuesday.

“We did agree to be non-partisan in our appointments, and I’m a little bit worried that we are acting in a partisan way,” Friend said. “If we go 5-4 again, even if the applicants themselves don’t have a label next to them, if we’re aligning in partisan (fashion), it sort of indicates to me, given that we have a lot of applicants and I thought about nominating several, it would seem we would have a wider diversity of who we’re backing, and that smacks of something partisan to me.”

While most boards and commissions do not make final decisions on city policy or development proposals, that being left mostly up to Council, some, like Planning Board, occasionally do, and most hold sway over the outcomes of Council determinations.

“While it’s interesting that the first three (appointments) we tackled all came down to 5-4 votes, I don’t want people to come away from this discussion that this is a deeply divided Council, or that we have very deep philosophical differences,” Mayor Pro Tem Bob Yates said after Lisa Smith’s appointment. “… The fact that votes are 5-4 reflects the nine of us represent lots of different people, lots of different interests and views and policies and considerations in this community.”

Mayor Sam Weaver agreed. Council appointed members of the Water Resources Advisory Board, Open Space Board of Trustees and Planning Board, all of which could play a role in the outcome of city flood mitigation and University of Colorado development work at the property known as CU South, future plans for which have long been debated. It also handled appointments for the Transportation Advisory Board, affordable housing program asset manager Boulder Housing Partners and the newly established Cannabis Licensing and Advisory Board. It still has to appoint members to a handful of other boards and commissions with upcoming vacancies, which Council has put off until further notice as it continues to keep the pandemic response its top priority.

“It has often been true that the boards like this where there is a lot of decision-making power, that the votes do not all go unanimously. … It’s quite common to not have unanimity on these particular boards and many of the other boards, in fact,” Weaver said. “It’s not an indication of any kind of animosity or acrimony.”

As a result of Tuesday’s appointments, the powerful Planning Board will no longer have an architectural professional on the body, with the departure of longtime member and architect Bryan Bowen and appointment of Smith ahead of architect nominee Erin Bagnall.

Council technically violated city rules in performing appointments outside March, after cancelling a meeting at which they were scheduled to be completed in the middle of last month as the pandemic took hold locally, in order to hold an emergency gathering via video conference to take initial steps on the city’s response to the crisis.

Officials have sought to minimize the egregiousness of the municipal charter violation for declining to appoint members to vacant advisory seats in a regular March meeting, as normally required, in the context of the unprecedented public and private sector response to the novel virus involving widespread building closures, stay-at-home orders and limits on gathering put in place across the globe.

2020 partially complete Boulder City Council advisory appointments

Water Resources Advisory Board

Appointee: John Berggren, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates (5-4 vote, with Council members Yates, Friend, Junie Joseph, Aaron Brockett, Mark Wallach in support).

Outgoing member: Kate Ryan.

Open Space Board of Trustees

Appointee: Caroline Miller, registered nurse (5-4 vote with Weaver, Wallach, Adam Swetlik, Mary Young, Mirabai Nagle in support).

Outgoing member: Tom Issacson.

Planning Board

Appointee: Lisa Smith, master of urban and regional planning (5-4 vote with Weaver, Swetlik, Young, Nagle, Wallach in support).

Outgoing member: Bryan Bowen.

Cannabis Licensing and Advisory Board

*Appointees: Brian Keegan, computational social scientist and University of Colorado professor; Tom Kuntsman, medical director of CU student health center; Michael Christy, attorney; Rick Muñoz disabled veteran, self-identified medical marijuana user; Robin Noble, small business owner; Alana Malone, CEO of Green Dot Labs marijuana cultivation and extraction business; Ashley Rheingold, director of compliance for Terrapin Care Station dispensary chain.

Outgoing members: Not applicable, newly established board.

Boulder Housing Partners

Appointees: Matt Bissonette, managing director at Berkadia, specializing in affordable housing; Julie Schoenfeld, real estate attorney experience.

Outgoing members: Valerie Soraci, second seat filled was already vacant.

Transportation Advisory Board

Appointees: Lauren Lambert, Google head of public Policy and government relations, for southwest U.S.; Robert Hutchinson, managing director of Rocky Mountain Institute.

Outgoing members: Bill Rigler, Johnny Drozdek.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.