Editor’s note: The Camera is profiling candidates for the five vacant Boulder City Council seats before the Nov. 2 election. Stories about candidates will be published in alphabetical order, and profiles will also be available online at dailycamera.com.
Jacques Decalo wants Boulder to become as sustainable as it can be, and he has some ideas about how to help the city get there.
At 25, he is the youngest City Council candidate. Decalo attended the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Washington University, where he studied hemp policy and sustainability. He now works in sales for Tesla.
In terms of activism, Decalo has been involved with the Access Fund, a national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing areas. He also was part of the Standing Rock protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which began in 2016.
However, when it comes to local politics, Decalo is inexperienced, relative to his nine fellow City Council candidates. He hasn’t been involved on any boards, commissions or working groups nor has he worked with any city initiatives or within any city processes.
But that’s not too concerning for him. Decalo said he’s already been in touch with some City Council representatives who have walked him through some of the ins and outs of city government in Boulder, and he recognizes there will be a learning curve if he is elected.
“I’m excited to jump in,” he said. “I’m not going to be at the forefront of every issue that I don’t know about. … But when it comes to the environment and sustainability, I’ll push harder for a transition to a sustainable living situation than any other candidate. I can guarantee it.”
And he has something others don’t: He’s a Boulder native. His father, a French immigrant, and mother met in Boulder, and most of his family lives in Boulder County currently.
This connection to the city is part of the reason Decalo decided to run. The candidate said he knows where Boulder’s been and “where we should be going.”
If elected, Decalo has remained consistent in his support for measures that he argues could drastically improve sustainability. He supports making solar more accessible; taxing all single-use plastics; and implementing greywater recycling, or the treatment of wastewater from appliances such as showers and sinks to be re-used and fed back into a property for non-potable sources such as flushing toilets.
He’d like Boulder to consider an autonomous electric transit vehicle — such as the one being piloted in the neighboring city of Golden.
Decalo also said he’d push for Boulder to instate a CityCoin, a form of cryptocurrency that can be mined to provide rewards to individual contributors and city governments. Miami is the only city currently using such a system, and Decalo said it could be a form of passive income for Boulder and its residents. The money could be used for community events, infrastructure and more.
Mining Bitcoin uses a lot of energy, which has been a source of criticism. However, Decalo said Boulder could avoid this by using solar power.
While many of his ideas are unique, Decalo doesn’t foresee much issue getting people on board.
“People are pretty excited to hear what I have to say,” he said. “It’s like generational knowledge that they’re not so familiar with.”
Aside from climate action, Decalo sees affordable housing, transportation and public safety as other challenges in Boulder that must be addressed.
As someone who used public transportation through the Regional Transportation District for much of his early life, Decalo said he sees the real benefit of the city’s partnership with RTD and would hope to improve that relationship.
Decalo was endorsed by PLAN-Boulder County. The group had a conversation about it, largely because of his lack of city experience, according to co-chair Allyn Feinberg. But at the end of the day, she said the group is “always looking for younger people.”
PLAN-Boulder appreciated that Decalo had unique ideas for fighting climate change and creating a more sustainable Boulder.
“He struck us as somebody who had a lot of real ideas and good ideas and was thoughtful and could be part of the generational change in city leadership,” Feinberg said. “We thought it was worth promoting that.”
Since announcing his candidacy, some of Decalo’s opinions have shifted to more closely align with those of PLAN-Boulder.
For example, at an Aug. 25 Boulder Chamber forum, Decalo spoke in general support of the CU South annexation agreement, which was approved last month by Boulder City Council and sets the stage for development and flood mitigation at the 308-acre property.
PLAN-Boulder is firmly against it and has been involved with both a referendum and ballot measure that generally seek to reverse the City Council’s decision and force a vote of the electorate on annexation of the property.
Since his response at the Boulder Chamber forum, Decalo’s stance has changed. He suggested a land swap; said he worried about whether the 100-year flood mitigation would be sufficient; and argued development at the site would clog up traffic.
“If we do look to expand Boulder in the future, we have to do it in sustainable ways, built around these areas that contain less congestion,” Decalo said. “Personally, I have a little bit of an issue with CU South and the way that’s being planned out right now.
“I think it’s going to create too much congestion around Table Mesa (Drive) and (U.S.) 36.”
This article has been updated to reconfigure the headline.