Something’s not right among the planning mandarins
Bob Wells | Jun 9, 2015
Many are gradually realizing that something has gone seriously wrong inside a bureaucracy that calls itself Planning and Development Services at the City of Boulder.
Latest evidence comes in the form of an astute, strongly worded critique of what’s called the “Housing Boulder” process. This critique, just published on The Blue Line website, an organ with philosphical (but not financial) ties to PLAN-Boulder County, comes from Gail Promboin, and is based on her partipation in an affordable housing working group.
A couple of passages from her article:
The problems were pre-defined by staff, as were all of the potential “tools” to address them. All attempts to provide different perspectives on what the problems are or suggest different tools were rebuffed or ignored by staff. Every exercise in every meeting of the working groups and the neighborhood workshops was designed to select top priorities from among this limited, pre-defined set of actions. It’s important to note that none of these actions focused on preserving the character of existing neighborhoods, that most of them promoted higher densities and relaxation of development regulations, and that the “do nothing” option was never discussed, even as a straw man.
And the writer astutely weaves in the recent flap involving one Becky Boone, a Code for America consultant to the city, and her expletive-dotted speech to an Ignite Boulder gathering May 13 — an appeal to young techies to get involved in city politics:
A minor correction is that most of the crowd at the Ignite Boulder event hailed from Boulder’s bustling tech-startup community, few of whom are pursuing “studies” in Boulder as suggested. Most are slaving long hours in hopes of their code factories striking it rich in the current tech bubble. Most are too exhausted or too (as the writer suggests) just-passing-through to be ruminating about Boulder’s quality of life 20 years hence.
The F-bombs thrown by the Code for America consultant aside — a transparent and tasteless attempt to look cool — the blatant attempt to arouse students and other young residents to oppose (even hate?) their elders and other long-time residents was much more offensive than her language. I’m all in favor of reaching out to groups that typically don’t participate in local affairs, but I’m mystified at the focus on those with the most short-term perspective on Boulder, many if not most of whom will move on after they complete their studies.
My biggest concern is that the City Council seems to be unwilling to confront the misguided policies and processes being pursued by Boulder’s “planning mandarins.” I’m with those who believe that reforms should have started years ago with reining in the growth of Boulder’s employment base, which has grown hideously out of whack with available housing.
I’m also worried that opposition to the error-ridden steps of the Planning bureaucracy will be taken out in next November’s Council election, where the people I view as liberals hold a still-precarious majority.
Truth be told, the above-cited Gail Promboin article, as welcome as it is, doesn’t dig into the heart of the matter: Which individuals are behind the questionable planning strategies and tactics we see being played out day by day? How did these people gain power? On the basis of what ideology — or whose coercion, or whose shower of favors — are their decisions being made?
And … Can’t something be done to right the course?
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article implied that The Blue Line might have financial ties to PLAN-Boulder County, which is not the case.–Ed.