Boulder, CO October 12, 2021
GUEST OPINION: BY STEVE ROSENBLUM AND MICHAEL CHRISTY: FORWARD THINKING ON ENCAMPMENTS
We welcomed the Oct. 8 guest commentary by Dan Williams and Nicole Speer clarifying their positions on encampments. While we agree with many of their points, we disagree that their suggestions are fresh or new. The policies they offer have already been tried in Boulder, currently exist, or have already been rejected by staff and Council after significant research and discussion. According to HUD, between 2009 and 2019 homelessness decreased 10% nationwide, but increased substantially in California, Oregon, and Washington. We cannot follow the example of these West Coast states, which have sanctioned public camping and decriminalized property crime with terrible results. States with successful outcomes decreasing homelessness have rejected this permissive approach by pairing services and housing with enforcement.
Do we believe we can “solve homelessness with tickets and arrests?” — no. We tackle chronic homelessness through programs that keep people housed (Housing First) and that get at the root causes of chronic homelessness, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment. However, enforcement of the camping ban is an important tool to address public safety and connect people with services.
In the early 2010s, Boulder’s programs were focused on temporary sheltering. Boulder had extensive night and day sheltering services, similar to what candidates Williams and Speer are suggesting today. Despite dedicating extensive resources to this sheltering-first approach, the city failed to shelter everyone, and offered no paths to stable housing. Boulder’s failure was not unique, no city in the world claims to have solved homelessness through sheltering.
By 2017, in the face of ever diluted funding and a large homeless population from outside the county, Boulder adopted the strategy endorsed by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which includes: a coordinated approach to delivering services, a recognition that housing is the solution to homelessness, and prioritization of the most vulnerable. Through Coordinated Entry, Boulder began to collect data on who we were serving and their needs so that we could measure progress and allocate resources. The strategy shift to Housing First has been enormously successful: Boulder assisted more than 1,100 people to end their homelessness with supportive housing, reunification with support networks, and/or work training. By utilizing federally funded vouchers to house people, the city saves money on policing, emergency room care, and court appearances. Additional programs such as rental assistance and landlord/tenant mediation successfully prevent homelessness.
Today, the City and County of Boulder collectively spend more than $100 million per year on these and other robust services, which is four times the amount per capita as neighboring communities. We must ensure our substantial, yet limited funds are invested as effectively as possible.
Despite these successes, encampments continue to proliferate in our public spaces, often inhabited by individuals who refuse to engage with services. Police describe deplorable conditions in these encampments: violence, sexual assault, weapons, human feces, stolen goods, propane tanks, thousands of needles, methamphetamine, and heroin. Candidates Williams and Speer suggest the solution to ending encampments is adding several sheltering options including a “no questions asked” shelter and safe campgrounds. However, one must ask, how many people will these new shelters serve when the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless operates at only 75% capacity on an average night and only 30 individuals are suspended from the shelter at any point due to “serious, violent or multiple infractions?”
Safe campgrounds were rejected by city staff and Council because they would divert resources from a proven solution (housing) and duplicate existing services. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness notes: These environments [sanctioned campgrounds] have little impact on reducing homelessness. (See the April 2021 Study Session for a full discussion of Safe Campgrounds.)
There are no data supporting that providing several more sheltering options will end encampments. There is, however, the reality that adding more sheltering options will draw funds from Housing First and other proven programs
Enforcement of the camping ban and related laws is one tool we have to discourage encampments. The camping ban does not “criminalize homelessness.” Our Municipal Judge Cooke has said during multiple presentations to Council that court appearances are a touch point to connect people to services, not an opportunity for incarceration. Even if individuals are jailed for a more serious crime than camping, a criminal record — even a violent one — does not preclude an individual from accessing Section 8 housing assistance or supportive housing. The only exceptions are: sexual offenses and methamphetamine.
We agree that jail is not a solution to homelessness. We also agree we need more addiction and mental health treatment options. For those who have committed serious crimes, we support alternative sentencing facilities when appropriate. Methamphetamine use is a challenge to housing and treatment. Any program with greater than a 10% success rate is worth exploring. According to the Department of Housing and Human Services, the city is also pursuing the creation of a residential meth recovery house. For sex offenders, the city is purchasing units specifically for housing this population.
We have heard concerns about the police enforcing the ban as opposed to people trained to intervene in mental health situations. Police were previously not responsible for enforcing the camping ban until their help was requested by city staff. Parks & Recreation Director Ali Rhodes told Council: “Our staff has been assaulted, threatened. It is traumatic.” Though the police do play a primary role in camping ban enforcement, they do not intervene alone. Trained outreach teams, such as BETHERE and the CIRT, are part of enforcement.
Finally, as proof that enforceable rules can increase access to services, after the City Council passed an emergency ordinance banning tents and propane tanks in city parks and allocated more funds for enforcement, coordinated entry screenings increased by 30%, with 25 more people regularly utilizing the shelter according to Housing and Human Services data.
It would be insane to follow in the footsteps of the failing programs of our past and of the West Coast of today; let’s commit to learning from past mistakes and build a better future for Boulder.
Boulder, CO October 10, 2021
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: SUPPORTERS GETTING INVOLVED
Steve Rosenblum and Mark Wallach: They know how to do the job
A Jimi Hendrix lyric often comes to mind as I hear well-intentioned people talk about what they want for Boulder. (The song title is a little out of context here.) “I know what I want, I just don’t know how to go about getting it.”
I’m writing today to encourage you to vote for Steve Rosenblum and incumbent Mark Wallach for Council. Four eligible members have chosen not to run again. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly how arduous and thankless — and often past “thankless” — it is to serve on Council.
But Council is critical here in Boulder. The city is run by its Council. The mayor (regardless of the selection process) is co-equal and has no greater role in running Boulder than any other member of Council. Therefore, Council members must be intelligent, diligent people with a demonstrated record of accomplishment. They must be expert in areas central to the vast and multi-dimensional challenges facing Boulder including equitable and fair housing, safety, social services, public finance and budgets, and of course flood mitigation and the associated complex annexation.
Like many other issues facing Boulder, CU South is clearly not simple. And it is very likely not a done deal. The university has hired clever people to work its side. We Boulder citizens have the chance to elect smart, reliable and experienced people to work our side. We must vote for people that every Tuesday evening have done the reading, understand the issues and can work successfully for us.
It is unquestionable that we must cast our votes for those who share our values. But for Council, we must also vote for those who in addition to knowing what they want, also know “how to go about getting it.” Steve Rosenblum and Mark Wallach know.
David M Gross
Christy, Winer, Rosenblum and Wallach: Attuned to reality
Few problems affecting our community can be solved with a simple slogan or a single, sweeping policy change. Housing and growth are two such areas that require consideration of the causes of current problems and the myriad impacts policy changes will have on the city at large.
Among the candidates who are vying for the five open seats on the City Council this fall, four strike me as especially attuned to this reality – Michael Christy, Tara Winer, Steve Rosenblum, and Mark Wallach. They are thoughtful and caring and have realistic strategies to support Boulder‘s growth and challenges. Mark espouses smart growth, not simply by densifying residential units but by doing so while protecting current building-height limits and the open space that has made Boulder the envy of cities around the country. Tara and Steve speak of increasing the supply of affordable housing in less-developed parts of the city, like abandoned parking lots, old shopping centers and undeveloped transit corridors. Michael calls for careful planning for strategic growth that avoids the pitfalls of rapid overdevelopment he witnessed in California and focuses on the housing needs of low- to middle-income people of all ages.
All these approaches are aimed at prompting an open-minded examination of the development pressures Boulder currently faces and opening a civil, fact based, intelligent conversation about steps to improve housing affordability and access in our community while preserving Boulder’s neighborhoods and open space.
Values, Experience, Determination
We need council members like Steve Rosenblum who will listen and work hard to improve public safety throughout our community. My business on Pearl Street for more than 30 years has faced challenges over the past 18 months due to escalating crime, including increased shoplifting, break-ins and vandalism, verbal and physical assault to me, my staff and our customers. Some current candidates and council members are not interested in working on real solutions and have less empathy for their constituents than those committing these crimes. I am a compassionate person and very active in DE&I initiatives. I want these individuals to be helped, but I also need my employees, most of whom are young women and students at Colorado University, to be protected from abuse and harassment. To offer some level of protection, I have had to made self-defense classes available.
I am grateful to Steve Rosenblum and Safer Boulder for giving us a voice and raising awareness of the victimization downtown businesses have been facing. I am impressed
by his outreach to all stakeholders, his ability to listen, the depth of his understanding, and the commonsense solutions he proposes. Steve is committed to addressing our housing
crisis and he lives his values. He has personally created safe housing for those in need. He understands that some people need more than housing and has innovative ideas to connect them with services. He also understands that our parks and business districts need to be restored as safe places for the community. It is critical that we fill the five open council
seats with candidates who are driven by facts and data vs ideology and will work for all community members. Vote for Steve Rosenblum: he has the values, experience, and determination to lead Boulder in the right direction.
Many specific, thoughtful ideas
I am a small business owner in Boulder. I recently met with Steve Rosenblum to discuss how Boulder could better support our local businesses, which have faced many challenges from COVID-19, from closures to rising rents and rising crime. Steve was not only an excellent listener, he had many specific, thoughtful policy ideas about how we can meet Boulder’s challenges and make our city even better. It’s very clear that Steve does his homework, listens to the community, and will bring forward effective solutions, not the empty slogans and promises I’m hearing from other candidates. Although I haven’t historically been a “PLAN” voter, I wholeheartedly agree with their endorsement: “Steve has the greatest depth of experience of any City Council candidate PLAN-Boulder has seen in many years. We think he will be an exceptional Council member.”. Steve has the experience, values, temperament, and work ethic to represent and lead our city. I strongly encourage everyone who cares about Boulder’s future to vote for him.
Extensive experience in housing
I urge everyone to go to Steve’s website at www.steveforboulder.com/ and click on the “about” tab and the “issues” tab to see what he is about. Housing is a very complex issue and requires more than doing away with single family zoning, as some of the Boulder Progressive candidates seem to want to do. We need someone who has extensive experience in this area to begin to solve our housing problems. Steve has that experience. He isn’t someone who just spouts platitudes but has done the work in housing over many years. He has literally created affordable housing in Denver for those in need.
He knows how to work at all levels; local, state and federal, to get the money and governmental approvals required to get housing built. Other candidates like to talk about how they are going to solve the housing crisis in Boulder but they literally have no experience in doing so. And because of that, they won’t be able to take actual steps that leads to more housing for our workers and government employees, like our police and firefighters. Steve has that experience. And that’s why Boulder needs him on Council.
We need someone who can step in from day one and get the process moving, not someone who will take two years to even understand the complexities of this difficult area. I urge you to vote for Steve. Along with Mark Wallach, that will give us two experts on housing on City Council to solve Boulder’s most pressing issue. He may be the most important Council vote you can make this year. He literally is the housing candidate in this year’s City Council election.
He solves complex problems
If, like me, you want to elect a Boulder City Council candidate who is intelligent, compassionate, honest, and has a demonstrated track record of delivering solutions to complex problems, I urge you to join me in supporting Steve Rosenblum.
For years we’ve had to choose from City Council candidates that were either hyper-passionate about a single issue like housing or focused mainly on global issues like climate change. While these are important issues, our public spaces have become unsafe to visit, our roads and alleys are sometimes impassable due to potholes and our police force remains understaffed by some 42 officers. Candidate Steve Rosenblum has the energy and intellectual capacity to take local steps on national issues AND provide focus and solutions to urgent local issues.
His successful background in finance and housing means we’ll get a Councilperson well equipped to analyze and understand the complex livability issues facing our city. He places a high priority on improving public safety and knows how to restore our parks and paths to the clean and welcoming treasures they used to be. As he attacks these and other issues, he’ll do so with a listening ear and a humility that is too often lacking in our public officials.
I’ve now attended several candidate events involving a wide spectrum of those running. Many seem to care more about national issues than local struggles or don’t display the intellect or humility to carefully consider all sides and all options regarding the problem at hand. Steve Rosenblum has the energy, demeanor, and demonstrated track record to be an excellent leader for, and partner to, the rest of the City Council and I hope readers will join me in voting for him as soon as ballots arrive!
The right candidate for Boulder
Boulder has been my home for nearly 20 years. What a magnificent place to live, for children to grow up with respect for people and the environment. I am saddened that Boulder’s standing as a magnificent place to live has been tarnished. One example from my own perspective: I have been a victim of theft three times – THREE – in less than a year. That’s more than any other time in my life, and I grew up in Chicago.
My friends, neighbors, and colleagues know me to be a politically independent person of both compassion and common sense. I want to see our city help those in need and I also want our community to be safe. We know that crime is increasing and many of our residents no longer feel safe in our public spaces. We know that losing a significant portion of our police force and closing our jail has only made this problem worse. We know that camping on public land is unsafe for all people and bad for our environment. We know we cannot turn a blind eye to the destructive effects of drug addiction among a portion of individuals living in encampments.
I looked for candidates in this election who will support ALL of our values. Steve Rosenblum is the only candidate who has actually created housing for the homeless. He also has done his homework to understand the specific challenges our community faces and has specific proposals that reflect my values: He will help lift people up and restore safety to our community. There is a path to do both. Steve has the experience and compassion to lead us there.
Social media tactics: It’s chilling free speech
I can’t believe what I read this week about the sickening tactics being reportedly deployed against Steve Rosenblum by some community members and the Boulder Progressive Organization. (“Boulder City Council candidate files complaint against community members” Sept. 23.)
Creating fake websites and impersonation accounts on social media to spread lies and misinformation? Has the political discussion in our small city swirled this far down the toilet bowl? These people are clearly so desperate to “defund the police” and lift the ban on camping that they are prepared to “hack” an election and attempt to destroy anyone that stands in their way. Are they being funded by the Kremlin? Running for local office or participating in policy dialogue should not put anyone in the crosshairs of a few self-appointed zealots for whom the ends justify ANY means.
The behavior and tactics of these individuals has discouraged many residents from participating to avoid the nasty, bullying, and now alleged illegal tactics of this particular crowd. I hope we can all agree with our former District Attorney Stan Garnett, who is now representing Rosenblum that “it’s one thing to go after someone in politics because you disagree with his politics, it’s a whole different world we live in now, where people create fake profiles, where they feel like they can make up whatever lies they want in order to defame an individual. Our democracy deserves better.” Thank you Mr. Garnett. Their disgusting, alleged illegal behavior has now been exposed and you have done our community a great public service. These tactics and these people, if found culpable for this despicable behavior, have no place in our political dialogue. Boulder must reject those who use deploy tactics. If we do not, I fear what comes next for our community.
Sue B. McMillan
Boulder, CO September 27, 2021
ROSENBLUM: RESEARCH TOWARD TODAY'S NEEDS
Longtime Colorado journalist and democratic policy staffer Richard Valenty wrote extended candidate profiles for the upcoming election. Please take a look for in-depth coverage of Steve's background, vision and policy proposals.
Boulder, CO September 16, 2021
STEVE ROSENBLUM TALKS WITH SHARING BOULDER WHILE MARK WALLACH MAKES THE CASE FOR CIVILITY
Steve Rosenblum digs deeply many of the issues facing Boulder during this election cycle on Episode 15 of the Sharing Boulder Podcast.
Also in the news, city council member Mark Wallach writes an impassioned opinion piece for the Daily Camera calling out the damage being done to our democracy by those that seek to interfere in the election process with falsehoods and subterfuge.