There won’t be a starting gun or the drop of a green flag, but the mayor and City Council candidates are ready to take their positions and the race for public office is about to begin. And for those of us who care about the policy implications for business and community interests at play in each municipal election . . . buckle up for a wild ride to Nov. 7.
Sure, I could say that about every election season, but this time things are really different. That’s because, like never before (at least, as far back as anyone around today can remember), this year we will directly elect our mayor. It’s also noteworthy that we will be electing our mayor through the ranked choice voting method, but more on that later.
Back in 2020, the Boulder Chamber supported Ballot Issue 2E, “Direct Election of the Mayor.” We did it for sound reasons, as outlined in our annual Ballot Scorecard, that I believe still resonate today:
“The Boulder Chamber recognizes the importance of the role of mayor as a leading representative of our community’s vision and direction on key policy issues. We see opportunity for increased community engagement in shaping that vision and guiding policy direction if citizens directly vote in a mayoral election. We also anticipate it will give the mayor greater influence to encourage collaboration and achieve balance in City Council’s policy making activities.”
This year we begin testing that proposition. Specifically, as of this writing, we already have three individuals who have indicated their candidacy to be our first elected mayor — Aaron Brockett, Nicole Spear and Bob Yates. While there often is alignment in the direction these two sitting council members and our appointed mayor take on various policy issues that come before their dais, each of the three candidates represents a decidedly different array of perspectives on key community and business concerns.
I won’t attempt to characterize those differences here, though we do plan to tease out some of those differences in our annual ballot scorecard as we close-in on the election. Most importantly, though, is recognizing that you — business owners, employees and residents — have a very important stake in identifying the individual who best reflects our desired direction on issues ranging from homelessness and business regulation to government spending. Consider your vote in this head-to-head competition a barometer for where our community stands on these top policy concerns.
As mentioned above, the method for selecting our new mayor also will have a twist, using the ranked choice voting method. This system offers voters the chance to select their top candidate, but also encourages them to register their second and third mayoral choices, and so-on, depending on how many folks ultimately file as candidates. That means there’s an extra layer of responsibility to understand where each candidate stands on your focus election issues. The penalty for failing to vote wisely on the full list of preferences could result in political leadership you least want to follow.
Hopefully not lost amid this year’s likely focus on the mayoral race, there also will be a slew of city council candidates battling for your vote this election cycle. They, too, represent a wide spectrum of policy interests and perspectives. It is important to remember that the balance of council candidates our community elects this year will have the same impact on policy direction for our city as in previous years. Just because our new directly elected mayor will hold the meeting gavel, the mayor’s vote will have no more weight than the other eight council peers.
All that to say, and as my first reminder for this fall election season . . . get informed, register to vote, and get ready to cast your ballot.
Among the many important sources of information regarding this year’s election, please consider the Boulder Chamber a partner in that education effort. It starts with our bi-annual Candidate Forum on Aug. 29. Falling just after the registration deadline for all mayor and city council candidates, we’ll put them under the spotlight in an open forum that provides the first comprehensive screening of their positions on the most pressing policy issues. This will be a hot ticket, so register here to reserve your free seat: https://business.boulderchamber.com/events/details/2023-city-council-candidate-forum-29437.
There will be much more for the Boulder Chamber and me to offer as this year’s mayor and city council races heat-up, but for now I just want to make sure you’re prepared for the wild election ride ahead.
John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 303-442-1044, ext 110 or email@example.com.