Last Thursday, four of the candidates for Boulder City Council — Matt Benjamin, Lauren Folkerts, Nicole Speer, and Dan Williams — met for drinks and conversation with local constituents at the Rayback Collective, a food truck park and beer garden located in Boulder.
“Bring your running, climbing, cycling, hiking friends to hang out with us and our allied City Council candidates, and learn about other important ballot measures this fall,” the Facebook event listing said. “We’ll have an informal meet n greet atmosphere with a short formal introduction at 7:30.”
The four candidates are officially endorsed by Boulder Progressives, a political organization that says it is “committed to elevating the voices and concerns of underrepresented communities in Boulder County.”
“The following four candidates have distinguished themselves among their peers as being most aligned with these vital goals and criteria,” Boulder Progressives writes on its website. “All have shown a level of empathy we believe is required in honorable and progressive city councillors.”
All five of Boulder’s city council seats are available this November. These four candidates are among the ten who have registered to run an election campaign.
Four other candidates — Michael Christy, Steve Rosenblum, Mark Wallach, and Tara Winer — have received their own group endorsements from multiple other Boulder organizations, including Forward Boulder, an unofficial candidate committee which is fundraising in support of their campaigns.
At the Rayback Collective on Thursday night, attendees gathered on a wide outdoor patio, with the speakers convening beneath a large tent. Several food trucks, each belonging to local businesses, were parked on the edge of the patio.
As the event began, the candidates chatted freely with attendees and made themselves available for questions.
“We want politics in Boulder to be accessible, fun,” said Clare Gallagher, an environmental activist who helped to organize the event. “Not scary, not controversial. … Politics is life, right? And these people represent this for us.”
As the night went on, each candidate took the time to speak to the audience about their values and their goals as prospective councilmembers.
First to speak was Dan Williams. Standing up on a nearby bench, he spoke about his career as an attorney and what brought him to run for City Council.
“The wealth disparity in Boulder is just increasing and increasing and increasing. And at the same time our population is decreasing,” Williams said. “What we’re doing is really locking out the next generation that’s going to rejuvenate our cities.”
Williams also spoke on his goals to advance racial equity in Boulder.
“You know, again, we talk the talk but we’re not walking the walk,” Williams said on the issue. “And that’s tragic to me.”
Next was Nicole Speer, who talked about what she feels her unique position as a neuroscientist would bring to City Council.
“As a scientist one of the things that I usually look at is data and evidence, and that’s what I would like to bring to City Council,” Speer said.
After mentioning her own extensive history of volunteer work, Speer also stated a desire to change the way that public boards and committees treat experts brought in for key issues.
“We’ve also talked about paying people for the work they do for our city on boards and commissions, so that when we’re bringing people in for their expertise, we’re paying them for their expertise,” Speer said. “Volunteering is a privilege that’s not available to many people in our community.”
Third to speak was Lauren Folkerts, who spoke about Boulder’s issues from her perspective as an architect.
“I’m not an architect because I love building, I’m an architect because I love what buildings do for people,” Folkerts said.
Like her colleagues, Folkerts was outspoken on both affordable housing in Boulder and the climate crisis.
“Affordable and attainable housing is key to addressing these issues, and if we don’t address them, we’re going to continue down this path,” she said.
“I’ve known for a long time in my work that I can’t do some of the work I want to because of the way our codes are written,” Folkerts also said. “And now is the time for us to change that. We need duplexes, triplexes. We need bike paths that go from North Boulder to South Boulder that are safe.”
Matt Benjamin was the last candidate to speak, following Williams’ example by standing up on a nearby bench.
“[We’re not here] to just chip away and make things slightly better, but to make things dramatically better for those that want to enjoy our community, not tomorrow, but for a long time to come,” Benjamin said.
Speaking on the housing crisis in Boulder, Benjamin said that “One of the most important things I learned is that the reason why more people don’t get to live here isn’t by accident. It’s been deliberately set up to keep people out of this community. People that are lower income, people that are generally students, people that want to just work here, and more importantly people of color. It is deliberately set up to keep this community older, wealthy, and white. That is not the future of our community, and we have to fight to make a new future for ourselves.”
Benjamin also echoed his colleagues’ statements on taking action in the face of the climate crisis.
“It is incumbent on every single one of you to think about how we build a climate resilient community,” Benjamin said. “Because at the end of the day it is not about us. It is about the next generations that are fortunate enough to live here. We are paying it forward with our actions and our values.”
After the candidates’ speeches concluded, they remained open to questions and comments from community members throughout the night.