The Issues Continued
Air pollution impacts our well being as a species. Corporate greed intensifies and accelerates water and air pollution. Corporations, especially the oil and gas industries, have to be held accountable for their actions that have led to more and more days when it is dangerous for many people to breathe the air outside. I believe that corporate polluters should be held accountable for the emissions they create and the effects of those emissions on our community. Since they create a disproportionate amount of pollution they need to be a large part of the solution.I also believe we should be much more proactive in meeting air quality goals.
The Regional Air Quality Council recently met to approve steps to reduce ground level gasses that impact ozone pollution. Unfortunately, they have already admitted the steps they are recommending do not go far enough and will not meet the EPA’s deadline for reducing these harmful emissions. The EPA continues to downgrade our region’s air quality, and we keep coming up with plans, but we are simply not taking strong enough action to make meaningful change.
In Colorado oil and gas is responsible for not only a large portion of our greenhouse gas emissions, but also significantly contributes to our ground level ozone. This can not continue unaddressed. We need to stop adding new wells, and force companies to take responsibility for the wells and associated emissions they are already creating. More research is showing that air pollution doesn’t just impact our ability to breathe and our physical health, it impacts children and their brain development. We should not be extracting more oil and gas when it harms neighboring communities, exacerbates the climate crisis, and pollutes air across our region. And if oil and gas continues to profit off of our communities’ health and wellbeing, we need to be taxing them much more heavily to account for the extensive harm they are doing to us and future generations. We can make real progress on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. We implement summer timeouts for the oil and gas drilling activity that is one of the worst contributors to ozone-creating gasses. We can also require large employers to reduce driving by their fleets and by their commuting employees, and we can put strict limits or outright denials of air pollution permit applications from large polluters like Suncor’s fuel refinery in Commerce City. We can also put strict emission limits on small gas-powered engines, like lawn mowers and leaf blowers, while offering accelerated rebate or exchange programs for electrified versions to avoid burdening small businesses.
There are ways to improve our air quality and meet the EPA’s air quality standards and deadlines on time instead of falling farther behind our goals. We just need elected leaders who have the courage to stand up to large corporations and to the oil and gas industry.
When we had unusually heavy rains a couple of weeks ago, many of my neighbors’ garden-level apartments flooded. Walkways that usually have children’s toys and bikes and chalk drawings outside their doors had water-logged carpet and cords for fans. Low income workers and families and retirees are always the first to suffer in the climate crisis – or any crisis – and I want to make sure our safety is finally prioritized in climate efforts.
The new Inflation Reduction Act is going to bring us one channel of work toward mitigating the climate crisis, but it is missing a critical component the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified as critical to our ability to limit global warming: the intersection of transportation and housing in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning us to a clean and sustainable future.
The IPCC report released this past spring focused on things we can do right now to stabilize the climate, and encourages governments to take an ASI approach: What do we need to Avoid to reduce the underlying need for energy? How can we then Shift to more efficient uses and modes of energy consumption? And, finally, How can we Improve what is left?
For example, we avoid energy inefficiencies and reduce energy demand by providing incentives and rebates to make sure all homes – and especially the lowest income homes – have well-sealed windows and well-insulated homes to reduce energy usage for heating and cooling and make their homes less vulnerable to power outages during extreme temperatures. We can shift our transportation infrastructure to have more abundant and safer walkways, bike paths, and public transit so we aren’t using 5,000 pounds of vehicle to move 150 pounds of people a few miles across town. Finally we can improve what is left by electrifying vehicles and appliances, and eliminating fossil fuels as an energy source. This framework will help us stabilize the climate and make sure we stop increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Walkale, bike-able, transit-oriented housing is one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gasses from transportation, which is one of the biggest contributors to global emissions. Most cities can decrease their greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 25% by shifting to compact, transit-oriented development. Our current system of car dependence is oppressive and harmful. Cars negatively impact our health, our safety, and our wealth. Strong bus/bike/transit communities give people back their time, money, freedom, and joy. They help create abundance for our communities.
The IPCC chose compact, multi-modal development as a recommendation because it creates a measurable impact on greenhouse gas reductions. We have a lot of scientific confidence in compact, multi-modal development as a way to reduce warming. Not only does it shift us to more energy efficient modes of transportation, it increases the efficiency of transporting goods and people, and lets us unlock land from parking lots and create more homes, parks, and mixed use spaces for businesses and for neighbors to come together.
We do not need to turn into Manhattan to achieve these outcomes! Gentle density is sufficient, and it will create a more livable community for all of us.
There is also industry opportunity. For example hemp is a drought tolerant plant that has a lot of sustainable building industry potential, but is currently typically imported because we don't have enough manufacturing capacity in the US. Colorado has abundant agricultural land that is suitable, and good train connections, and could be a leader in transformative industries like hemp.
We really need to change the way we live, and as a state representative I will advocate for the land use changes we need to meet our climate goals and build communities where more of us can thrive.
The economy and COVID pandemic have increased the economic hardships that are root causes for criminal activity. Consequently we have to proactively address the root causes of crimes through social services implementation and also other community resources.
We also must look closely at some of the criminal justice processes, and stop thinking that prisons and incarceration are the solutions to problems like drug addiction and mental illness. If we continue incarcerating people for possession of drugs, as we did this past legislative session with the so-called fentanyl accountability bill, we will have to open a new prison. Most of us don’t want that, because we understand that more than two years after George Floyd’s death exposed the level of injustice in our criminal justice systems, Black and brown people are still incarcerated at much higher rates than white people. We need to require all of our district attorneys to track data on arrests and incarcerations and implement changes to address inequities, as our Boulder County DA has done.
We also need to end for-profit prisons and get rid of the cash bail system. As a lawyer, I have personal experience of seeing the impact of cash bail in people’s lives. I recently had a client in jail. When I met him for the first time he had a huge gash over his eye lids and I asked him what happened. He told me he was beaten at the jail. My client explained that he was in jail because of traffic tickets and he had a 100 dollar bail he could not pay. I was shocked by learning that my client almost lost his eyes because he could not pay a $100 charge to bail himself out of jail. The cash bail system is downright dangerous because it can lead to a person losing their life behind bars for a mere 100 dollars. No one in our community should be held in jail and separated from their family due to a 100 cash bail.
Drug Use and Addiction
Addiction is a disease. We should focus on prevention and treatment of drug use, not punishment and incarceration. Prevention and treatment are effective in reducing rates of use and addiction and these are the approaches a majority of us want to pursue. 1 in 5 people in our own country are incarcerated for drug offenses in their life. If incarceration decreased rates of drug addiction and use, we’d have solved this problem by now. We need more prevention and treatment, not more people in prisons.
Arrests and prison time for drug possession and use disproportionately impact communities of color, who are more likely to be charged and convicted for drug-related offenses. The Vera Institute recently highlighted some of the biases in our criminal justice system. Most Coloradans know someone who struggles with addiction. This is one of the hardest problems facing Colorado families and I will support Colorado families in getting their loved ones the real support they need, not mandating one-size-fits-all punishments.
I did not support the so-called “fentanyl accountability” bill that was passed this spring, HB22-1326. Drug possession was already a misdemeanor in our state and this bill is a slippery slope to higher incarceration rates and less investment in treatments. If we continue down this path of making drug possession a felony, we will need to open a new prison. I want to invest your tax dollars in more treatment facilities for people struggling with addiction, not more prisons. Prevention and treatment are much cheaper solutions for drug use and addiction than incarceration.
Right now one of the biggest problems facing our K-12 schools is a shortage of workers, including: teachers, support staff, bus drivers, and before- and after-school care providers. I am hearing from working families in our community who are not only struggling with preschool and daycare, but who have school-age children who do not have after-school care due to staffing shortages. As Colorado is among the lowest in the country in terms of teacher salaries, it is no surprise we are struggling to find teachers for our schools.
Polls earlier this year overwhelmingly showed voters wanted to support a ballot measure to allocate nearly $1 billion into teacher pay, to go toward recruiting and attracting, retaining, and boosting the pay for teachers and paraprofessionals. Just this week we learned that Initiative 63 supporters didn’t get enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot, but I would support similar legislation to increase school funding for teacher retention and recruitment. We need a strong education system to support our state's families and to create and sustain our next generation of workers. It is inexcusable that we are among the lowest paying states for the people who care for and educate our children.
As a part of this bill I would also include funding for teacher training and accountability for cultural competence, as well as recruitment of teachers whose diversity matches the diversity of our students. Many students of color, LGBT children, and children with disabilities, and their families, experience bias and discrimination in our schools that make them feel unwelcome, that threaten their physical safety, and that exacerbate rates of mental illness and drug use. Our children and families deserve school climates where they are physically and emotionally safe, and where differences are respected and welcomed. Our teachers and school administrators love our children, but when so many of our students are not represented by their teachers, it is far too easy for teachers to perpetuate racism, homophobia, and ableism.
Rather than simply resurrecting Initiative 63 to invest more income tax revenue into teacher recruitment and retention efforts, I would work with education advocacy groups and groups that advocate for youth from marginalized groups to identify the best ways to: set aside specific funding in teacher recruitment and retention for cultural competency training, set in place appropriate measurement and monitoring of school climate, and incentivize districts and schools that are investing these additional recruitment and retention funds to measurably improve school climate.
As a Black woman, especially as an immigrant for whom English is not my native language, our lack of equity has major impacts on my life. In my daily life I experience discrimination personally and professionally. Sometimes it is explicit, but most of the time people do not even think about the ways they are treating me differently because of my skin color. The doctors who talk down to me or ignore my health issues altogether, the people who include me in committees to check a box but do not listen to my ideas or treat me as an equal partner, the lack of family wealth that keeps me trapped as a renter with rising housing costs. For Black women, working for racial equity isn't a hobby. It is a survival mechanism.
Here is one specific example of what I have done to improve racial equity in our community, one I am often criticized for: my vote in March 2021 to provide more funding for encampment cleanups. I do not believe that sweeping people who have no place to go is an effective approach to getting people out of homelessness. However, in that approval for additional funding in March 2021 was a request for additional police support at San Juan del Centro, whose mostly Latino residents had been asking the city for additional police officers to address their significant safety concerns for quite some time. I voted for more police because it was what one of our lowest-income, Latino communities asked for.
Equity isn't just about doing what benefits my race, because people of color are not a monolith. Equity requires a willingness to work against our own interests to meet the needs of people of different races and ethnicities. I have proven I have the courage to work against my own interests in the service of others in our community whose voices are too often silenced, even when it opens me up to attacks.
Gun Violence Prevention
I wholeheartedly supported Boulder’s recent common-sense gun violence prevention ordinances and as your House District 10 Representative, I will be a supporter of statewide bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Guns don’t just cause deaths in mass shootings, they affect rates of death in domestic violence, suicide attempts, and police violence. Some legislators are afraid of angering the NRA and its supporters with bans on assault weapons, but I value people’s freedom to stay alive more than I value people’s freedom to have military-grade weapons.
Gun violence is an epidemic and we need to end easy access to guns across the state if we want to keep our community safe. I will be honored to take Boulder’s fight to the state legislature.
People are understandably concerned about visible unhoused community members. Many believe people are on the streets because of addiction and mental illness, but experts agree that the number one reason people become homeless is the high cost of housing. Following that is homelessness due to partner separation.
Every $100 increase in median rent is associated with a 9 percent increase in the estimated homelessness rate, according to a 2020 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. We cannot just throw more police at the problem of homelessness and ignore the drivers that place our formerly housed neighbors on the streets.
Everyone should feel safe in our communities and have a safe place to lay their head at night. I will champion policies that address the root causes of homelessness, such as increasing shelter and affordable, accessible housing. Studies have shown that providing housing is approximately three times less expensive than leaving someone on the streets to cycle through emergency rooms, the courts, and jail. In this instance, the compassionate response is also the best financial response.
Homelessness is also an equity issue. As the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative stated in its State of Homelessness report for 2021-22, "[t]his year’s report once again demonstrates the over-representation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals experiencing homelessness across all data sources. This is the result of systemic oppression and policies which continue to perpetuate this racial disparity."
Everyone does better when everyone does better. I will be a champion as the representative for HD-10 to ensure safety for all people and will not use just an equity lens to make policy–I will use my personal knowledge that drives my commitment to the fact-based, data-driven solutions necessary to make any progress on this critical equity issue.
Housing cost continues to be a leading concern for communities across Colorado and the nation. Our housing policies incentivize building large, luxury homes while housing prices increase to the point fewer and fewer can afford to either purchase a home or even rent in the communities where they work.
The Marshall Fire caused the destruction of over 1,000 homes in Boulder County and showed how our failing housing policies hurt families and workers. Rents increased substantially after the Marshall Fire, and because of state preemption laws on rent control, we were not able to curtail rent increases caused by this sudden increase in demand for rental housing. Families and workers were driven out of Boulder County, and some may never return. Local communities need to have the flexibility to respond to the housing crisis in any way they see fit, and for this reason I will advocate for eliminating state preemption of rent control, including lot rents in manufactured home communities.
I believe housing is a human right, and I as your state representative I will act accordingly. From funding development of accessible, affordable housing, to repairing the harm done by historical zoning laws such as redlining that have segregated our communities, to preventing evictions so fewer people and families fall into homelessness, to finding safe places for families and individuals who cannot afford rent, I will support a spectrum of solutions to this problem and I will always be on the side of workers and renters like me who can barely afford to live in our community.
Collective bargaining rights are human rights. I believe that workers throughout Colorado should be empowered to organize in order to ensure the protection and promotion of their rights. As union membership has declined over the past 50 years, income inequality has grown. This is no coincidence. When workers are not able to collectively bargain and organize, their labor is exploited and they are at the mercy of corporations that care more for profits and shareholders than workers. The collective bargaining bill that passed in the last legislative session was so watered down as to be more harmful than it was helpful. I will advocate for strong labor policies that do not constrain workers’ abilities to organize, strike, and collectively bargain.
In building climate resilience, we also need more community organizations that bring people together. Social infrastructure is a key component of socially connected communities that help each other through disasters. Worker’s Unions provide community and connection and we should empower them in order to keep corporations in check.
The people of Boulder and the people of Colorado deserve a living wage. I have been a strong advocate for a living wage on the Boulder City Council and have been championing my fellow council member Lauren Folkerts in her efforts to get this regional effort supported by the appropriate stakeholders. One thing I would like to end is state control over minimum wage increases. Right now we can only increase our minimum wage by a maximum of 15%/year. It is good that local communities have the ability to increase minimum wage beyond the state minimum wage, but the amount of the increase should be up to local communities. The wages needed in Boulder to afford a 2-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30% of your money on housing is $33.15/hour. If Boulder decides to move to a $33.15/hour minimum wage, we should have the freedom to implement a $33.15/hour minimum wage on our own timeline and not take a decade to get there.
When companies do not pay their workers a living wage, us taxpayers pick up the slack. When workers cannot meet their basic costs of living, taxpayers have to provide housing subsidies, childcare subsidies, food stamps, healthcare, and other support that should be provided by their wages. Living wages empower workers to care for themselves and their families, rather than relying on the generosity of taxpayers to subsidize corporate profits.
I believe in free access to abortion for all, regardless of class or income level. Forcing someone to continue a pregnancy that they do not want or cannot safely maintain is inhumane and against everything I stand for as an advocate for human rights. Everyone should have the right to choose what they do with their bodies.
Rather than simply being pro-choice, I am an advocate for reproductive justice. As a Black working woman and an immigrant, I recognize more than most how class, race, sexual orientation, and immigration status affect a person’s access to healthcare. I know that people of color and poor people have sharp disparities in access to sex education, adequate health care, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, prevention of unintended pregnancies, access to abortion care, prenatal care, childcare, and family leave. My ability to make health decisions for myself and my family has always been severely under attack. I am not new to this fight.
Loretta Ross, one of the founding mothers of the reproductive justice movement wrote that “a woman cannot make an individual decision about her body if she is part of a community whose human rights as a group are violated, such as through environmental dangers or insufficient quality health care.” Abortion is a human rights issue, and as we fight for abortion rights we must work more broadly ensure that all people have access to the resources they need to live healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives.
As your representative I would support amending the Colorado constitution to protect abortion rights. No legislation drafted in 1876 was drafted to protect all of us.
Revenue and Budget (TABOR)
TABOR is a law that puts a rigid and arbitrary limit on what our state can spend year after year, but TABOR is not about making the government more efficient or effective. It forces us to cut back on spending and prevents us from investing in the future of children, families, workers, and communities. TABOR prevents state and local governments from adequately funding good schools, quality health care, well-maintained roads and bridges, and safe communities.
Since we adopted TABOR, our state spending on education dropped so much that we are now 49th out of the 50 states in how much we spend on students relative to our personal incomes. Now families have to pay for basic needs like after-school activities, textbooks, and school supplies.
Since adopting, TABOR Colorado fell significantly in making sure children have all their vaccinations on time. And the share of low-income children in our state who didn’t have health insurance skyrocketed, especially under the Trump Administration’s cuts to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
We need to get rid of TABOR if we want to make progress on issues like education, healthcare, climate resilience, transportation improvements, and housing shortages and I will support efforts to free our state from TABOR’s restrictions. TABOR prevents us from addressing existing inequities and will prevent us from the investments we need in infrastructure, education, and healthcare to keep us safe in the coming decades.
I supported Senate Bill 233 and am glad it passed this year. Typically higher income earners get larger TABOR refunds. But thanks to our 2022 state legislators, this year more lower income Coloradans will benefit from TABOR refunds than higher-income Coloradans.
Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in our state. But moving to a greener transportation system isn’t just about electrifying our transportation system and moving to sustainable and renewable energy, it’s about changing the way we live and move around in our cities and regions. I am an alternate on DRCOG, the Denver Regional Council of Governments. One of DRCOG’s primary roles is to allocate federal and state transportation funding to cities and counties along the Front Range. At our retreat this year, 60 representatives from cities and counties all over the Denver Metro area identified housing as a key area of focus, because housing drives transportation (no pun intended).
DRCOG is just wrapping up a greenhouse gas mitigation plan, and one of the primary mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is strategic compact development – such as increasing housing development along transportation corridors. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that saving the planet will require denser housing that puts less demands on transportation.
The transportation bill our state passed in 2021 is leading to a lot of improvements in our transportation infrastructure that we are using here in Boulder for designing more protected intersections, walkways, and bikeways, like the work that we will soon start doing on 30th and Arapahoe. What we need now are the land use changes that will encourage communities to take advantage of all these investments in transportation infrastructure we are making.
We are putting in place improvements for more liveable communities that are walkable, bikeable, and transit-oriented and will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. But the missing piece is anything that incentivizes communities to embrace transit-supportive communities that are higher density and mixed use. That is what we need to move the dial on transportation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating resilient, sustainable neighborhoods.
Other states like Oregon and California have passed statewide legislation that require growth management and smart land use, such as getting rid of exclusionary zoning, which is a practice with a racist history that has severely limited our housing market and our ability to respond to the changing needs of our community. We cannot densify housing overnight, but we can start the work we need to do to undo exclusionary housing policies and promote infill development and redevelopment to open up options for more efficient housing for the future.
As for other solutions, we should have some good data on how transit use was affected by Free Fare August, which allows people to use RTD for free this month. Transportation must be free, fast, and frequent, and if we see that ridership increased, we need to seriously consider how we can make public transportation free on a regular basis.
We know that e-bikes are increasingly popular and as cities like Boulder lead the way on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, we need our state to support those able to ride bikes in choosing e-bikes as a transportation method. Getting more people in our community who are able to do so walking and biking will help with mental health too, because we know that exercise is the single best thing we can do to minimize symptoms and even prevent mental illness and neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Finally, we need to make sure our transportation infrastructure is climate resilient. Last weekend one of Denver’s train lines had to be closed because some of the tracks had buckled in the heat. Whether it is flood, fire, wind, or extreme temperatures, we need infrastructure that can quickly and safely move people and goods around our communities.