Boulder’s treacherous journey to flood recovery and resilience

By Lars Gesing

Meteorologists estimate that one inch of rain generally equals about a foot of snow, depending on the snow’s density, of course. That means early December’s 6-inch snowfall, inconvenient as it may have been, was the equivalent of about a half-inch of September rain.

Now flash back just three months, when dozens of Colorado communities were drowned in the misery of a relentless surge of rainwater, mud and debris that broke its way through major portions of the state’s Front Range and Eastern Plains.

Seventeen inches of rain poured down during those eight days in mid-September. Do the math — that’s somewhere around 17 feet of snow, if that precipitation had come this month. As rain, though, the water came down as what the National Weather Service quickly described as a 1,000-year event. The scars it carved into canyons and communities alike will remain palpable for years to come.

In those three months that have passed since the flood, the city of Boulder has managed to re-establish a facade of normalcy. City life soon fell back into routines once the waters receded and the worst – meaning most visible – impacts had been cleaned up.

Yet much work still remains to be done. The city plans to complete repairs of the water system and wastewater facility by spring 2014 and restore a majority of city areas to pre-flood conditions by the end of 2015.

Created with infogr.am

Created with infogr.am

Also, as nearly one-third of all Colorado households damaged by floodwaters lie within Boulder and about 15 percent of all city households were damaged (see graph) three months is barely enough to get back to normal.

Just ask Michele Vion and you’ll learn how fresh the wounds cut by disaster still are.

Physically ripping out the toilet

While the floodwaters spared Vion’s family home in South Boulder near Table Mesa, five inches of raw sewage accumulated in her basement.

A Boulder City Council summary of the flood noted: “The majority of impacts were located outside of regulatory floodplains due primarily to groundwater and sewage backups.”

Vion translated the official jargon: “The sewage came literally out of every hole.”

In her desperation, she ripped the toilet out of the ground with her bare hands, hoping to cap the welling fountain it had turned into. It did not work.

“At some point, we just gave up and waited for it to be over,” Vion said. She and her family waited six days.

Three months later, Vion’s basement is still a construction site. To physically restore normalcy in her home, the mother of five had to spend $40,000. A sewage insurance policy paid her $5,000, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cut a $2,000 check. Vion will spend years to repay the remaining $33,000 through a low-interest loan.

She shares her fate with many families across the city. Some, like Christine and Ari Rubin who suffered an estimated $30,000 damage, were covered by FEMA flood insurance they had just recently bought after the city mailed a postcard to their home advising them to do so. But many others are now shaken with regret because they did not do the same thing.

Faced with many residents’ anger, the city has since deliberated over possibilities to prevent similar damage from occurring. Councilwoman Suzanne Jones urged city council during a Dec. 3 “lessons learned” meeting to take immediate action.

“If we have another flood and we have these kinds of sewer backups again, people will have our heads if we haven’t at least looked at this,” she said.

Flood recovery costs $43 million

Jeff Arthur, director of the Boulder utilities division, estimated the city will need $400 million to improve existing wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to a level where it would be able to withstand a disaster like this year’s flood. Usually, his department spends about 1 percent of that amount, or $4 million, on improvements.

He told Jones during the meeting that it was a question of how much investment the city was willing to make over time.

With an already tight budget, money is scarce within city government post-flood. Recovery costs keep rising and are currently estimated at $43 million.

That number includes repair bills for more than 50 damaged city buildings; water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure; Open Spaces and Mountain Parks (OSMP) restoration, sediment and debris removal as well as repair costs for damaged roads and sidewalks.

FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of the city’s recovery costs, another 12.5 percent of expenses will flow back into city pockets from the state capitol, leaving Boulder with a bill of least $5 million. The bulk of that money comes from a disaster reserve fund and flex repair dollars, pretty much emptying those pots.

The situation left Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum worried about “the next event that is going to happen without those funds,” whether it would be a fire – “or something else.”

The immediate impact on the city’s financial situation is even worse. Boulder Chief Financial Officer Bob Eichem told city council it would take FEMA between six months and two years to transfer the money back onto city bank accounts.

However, he said, they wanted to “rebuild the reserves within one year.”

More financial help is coming from Washington, D.C. On Dec. 5, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a $63 million cash injection “to help our communities recover from the flood.”

Days after the floods hit town, then-candidate and now elected councilman Sam Weaver said the event would “give the city a chance to assess how we did with the flood” and improve accordingly.

Three months later, those mitigation efforts have gathered momentum.

“We don’t want to take things back to the way they were, but we want to make them better,” Eichem said. And city manager Jane Brautigam made a case during a recent city council meeting to recover from the flood in a way that would leave the community “more resilient than before.”

While Mayor Appelbaum supports the city’s mitigation efforts, he emphasizes financially sound decisions, distributing existing funds to where they are most needed.

“For certain types of floods, there is just nothing we can do,” he said. “Especially because the water doesn’t always go where we think it is going.”

City trying to help aching business community

According to Boulder Chamber of Commerce CEO John Tayer, those in need are to a great extent local businesses.

“They have borne a heavy toll in terms of infrastructure damage and business disruption,” Tayer said.

The Canyonside Office Park at 100 Arapahoe St. was completely destroyed by the September floods. Credit: U.S. Small Business Administration

The Canyonside Office Park at 100 Arapahoe St. was completely destroyed by the September floods. Credit: U.S. Small Business Administration

Flood-related closures and dislocations ranging from reduced sales traffic to lost inventory worsened the situation.

As Brautigam noted in a memo sent to city council members on Dec. 3, the non-profit organization Downtown Boulder Inc. still receives calls from people asking if it was possible again for them to get to Boulder after the floods.

Tayer said there was a general sense that the flood has had a long-term economic impact because residents and tourists have reduced disposable income to spend at retail stores and in restaurants around town.

“Finally, the floods dampered tourism to our community,” Tayer said.

The Chamber president himself was among those who had to gut their basements after the floods. As did so many others, the Tayer family dealt with serious stress. His wife, Molly, the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder, had to respond to a number of unique challenges herself. It was her task to ensure that those who were displaced in the aftermath of the flood still had a chance to vote in the November elections.

Boulder city government tried to respond to local businesses struggles by partnering with Downtown Boulder Inc. and Twenty Ninth Street to run the marketing campaign “Buy into Boulder.” The ads placed in late November and December are supposed to remind holiday shoppers that for every $100 spend in Boulder, $3.41 flows into the pockets of community services and programs.

The more the city sends the message “buying and dining local,” the more money it makes through sales taxes.

New data from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) shows just how much local businesses need help to get back on their feet.

The SBA has approved $7.5 million in business and economic injury loans for businesses from all around the county that were affected by the flood.

SBA spokesperson Garth MacDonald said he was unable to break down the data to city-level, but his organization would “work with Boulder County applicants to fully complete and process applications” that have yet to be approved.

Flood Rebuilding & Permit Information Center there to assist

Despite all the efforts, it is common political consensus that recovery efforts can be successful only in cooperation with the county.

Therefore, Boulder County opened the Flood Rebuilding & Permit Information Center at its Land Use Department in downtown Boulder three weeks after the disastrous surges hit the Front Range.

The center is a “one-stop portal for people with their various flood-related questions and issues,” staff member Cindy Pieropan said.

Up to six employees deal with a couple dozen daily inquiries, a lot of them related to damaged or destroyed homes, access issues because of broken roads or problems with the septic system.

Pieropan said the center would remain open for at least one, but more likely two more years to deal with the aftermath of the flood.

“A flood is different than for example a fire, which doesn’t damage roads,” she explained. With winter approaching rapidly and with brutal force, it becomes increasingly hard to repair roads before spring, Pieropan said, pointing out that flood impacts tended to be long-term.

Boulder County Flood Recovery Manager Gary Sanfacon explained in a recent video-message to citizens that debris was still one of the core issues in the recovery process.

“A lot of debris has come up on private properties,” Sanfacon said. It was also still in the creeks and could pose future hazards, which is why the county started to implement a debris pick-up program, a collaborative citizen cleaning effort.

Meanwhile, the city of Boulder has managed to break down the number of key objectives for the near-term flood recovery to five. A memo to city council members lists the following activities:

  1. Help people get assistance;
  2. Restore and enhance infrastructure;
  3. Assist business recovery;
  4. Pursue and focus resources to support recovery efforts; and
  5. Learn together and plan for the future.

The city also focusses on restoring the 10 percent of trails in the open spaces that remain closed at this point. A special case is the popular Royal Arch Trail. It was the most severely damaged of all trails in the system. OSMP director Mike Patton and his team keep evaluating best practices on how to rebuild Royal Arch Trail.

In his letter to the editor of the Daily Camera dated Oct. 8, Boulder resident Jim Martin sums up the 17 lessons he learned from the flood. Despite all the misery the devastating floods brought over the city, the county, and the state, Martin’s ultimate lesson is an acknowledgement of outstanding community recovery efforts.

Martin wrote: “There is a little bit of heaven in every disaster area.”

Related links:

Flood Rebuilding & Permit Information Center: http://www.bouldercounty.org/flood/property/pages/floodrecoverycenter.aspx

Mapping the flood: https://bouldercolorado.gov/water/flood-maps

Tell your flood story: https://boulderflood2013b.crowdmap.com/main

Boulder County flood information: www.bouldercountyflood.org

Weekly round-up: Authorities raid marijuana dispensaries, investigating ties to Colombian drug cartels

By Lars Gesing

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials raided several marijuana dispensaries in the Denver Metro area on Thursday, various local, regional and even national news outlets reported. Members of the Boulder County Sherriff’s Office helped authorities search sites in north Boulder and Nederland. While those served with a warrant in some cases were unsure what the investigations are about, state officials said those businesses had disregarded more than one of the regulations set in place before recreational marijuana retail becomes legal on Jan. 1, 2014. The Denver Post quoted sources on Friday saying that investigators were looking for ties to Colombian drug cartels.

***

Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum was re-elected for another two-year term during the weekly city council meeting on Tuesday. Appelbaum stayed atop his contender Tim Plass in a 5-4 vote, the Daily Camera reported. Also, newly elected city council members Mary Young, Sam Weaver and Andrew Shoemaker and re-elected councilmen Appelbaum and Macon Cowles got sworn into office during Tuesday’s meeting.

***

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released the state’s unemployment rates for October on Friday. ABC 7News and other media reported that the number – 6.8 percent – was the lowest since unemployment reached 6.7 percent in January 2009, almost five years ago. The October number was also slightly lower than in September, when 6.9 percent of Coloradans where without a job. The national unemployment rate in October was 7.3 percent.

Weekly round-up: Appelbaum and Plass run for Boulder mayor

By Lars Gesing

Boulder city council will elect a new mayor during its next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19. This past week, both current mayor Matt Appelbaum and contender Tim Plass gave short presentations asking for their fellow councilmen and women’s votes, the Daily Camera reported. The presentations were a novelty after accusations of behind-the-scenes-dealing emerged during the 2011 selection process.

***

Boulder County posted the lowest foreclosure rate of all 12 metropolitan counties in Colorado earlier this week, according to the Boulder County Business Report. Thus, the county had only 32 total foreclosure sales in the past three months, or one for every 3,853 households. These numbers mark a 55 percent decrease versus those posted after the 2012 third quarter. The paper based its findings on data released by the Colorado Division of Housing on Thursday.

***

It’s been about two months since the historic Colorado floods hit the Front Range. Over the course of the last weeks, a growing number of reports on road re-openings accumulated. The Blue Line recently published a timelapse video showing how construction crews rebuilt one of the hard hit roads in just 3.5 days.

***

According to a Denver Post report, Colorado regulators have begun surveying marijuana business in the state in an effort to determine the price of pot. That information is essential for lawmakers to implement an excise tax that voters across Colorado approved earlier this month.

However, regulators face a challenging task. As marijuana businesses will initially grow pretty much everything they sale, the wholesale price that is subject to the new tax is really just pot shifting from one entity within the business to another one without cash flow.

That’s where an “average market rate” comes into play that regulators are trying to determine with the help of a questionnaire in order to be able to still collect taxes on these in-house sales.

***

In the ongoing energy municipalization debate, Xcel spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo told Newsteam Boulder last week that her company expects energy rates to rise if the city build its own utility. Click here to see the report on how prices might develop in case of one outcome or the other.

Long road out of misery: Boulder searches for answers to imminent transportation questions

By Lars Gesing

Next time you are stuck in traffic during your morning commute, remember this: you are not alone.

In fact, you share your fate with about 54,000 Boulderites who travel to their jobs — by car, bus, bike, or foot — on every workday, according to the 2012 American Community Survey.

Add another 50,000 daily in-commuters from out-of-town that the 2013 Boulder Trend Report lists, and you start to understand the mayhem that tends to reign on main Boulder transportation corridors during rush hour.

Newly elected city council member Sam Weaver called transportation the “most underfunded city program.”

And Mayor Matt Appelbaum said: “We have all kinds of funding problems. There is no money.”

The recent election results offer some kind of silver lining. Voters this month overwhelmingly approved of several ballot issues that will over time shift tax revenue from open spaces programs to the city’s general fund and into public transportation.

Still, both Boulder County and the city face difficult decisions – some of which can be made in tandem – in order to reduce the crowding on local roads.

The 2012 Boulder County Transportation Master Plan sums up five strategies to address the issue:

  1. Developing a multimodal transportation system,
  2. Creating the complete trip,
  3. Investing in key transportation corridors,
  4. Increasing accessibility, and
  5. Enhancing mountain area connections.

These goals pinpoint the effort to get people out of their cars and accustomed to alternative transportation means.

Programs like Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) between Denver and Boulder are designed to reduce the city’s projected growth of in-commuting-numbers.

However, Mayor Appelbaum warned that “doing Bus Rapid Transit right” means including the east corridor and not just U.S. Highway 36 in corresponding scenarios.

There are several options for the north metro rail. Image by RTD

There are several options for the north metro rail. Image by RTD

According to a recent Blue Line report, completion of the scheduled Northwest Rail line might also be no longer just a distant figment. The extension of the train to Boulder, Longmont and Louisville among other cities (see graph in sidebar) is another regional approach.

Thus, a statewide coalition called Impact 64 is seriously considering placing a 15-year, 0.7 percent sales and use tax for transportation needs around Colorado on the November 2014 ballot, hoping to raise $1.8 billion for metro Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) and for several other statewide transportation improvements.

However, the recent failure of Amendment 66 and its plan to increase income taxes to fund statewide education is a cautionary tale of what Colorado voters think of additional taxes.

CU-Boulder doctoral student Shannon Sindorf used to commute into Boulder five times a week from her family home in Englewood. Even though she managed to reduce that number to two trips a week, she still calls for action.

“We need a light rail going from Denver to Boulder,” Sindorf said. “I used to take the bus and it took two hours each way. Who has time for that?”

Former Boulder city council member Crystal Gray offers an additional, environmentally-based argument: “Bringing the train to the North Metro area offers the biggest gains in carbon reduction.”

But improving public transportation possibilities can only reduce the eight million miles that vehicles travel on Boulder County roads each day by so much.

Whether or not the city’s efforts to encourage people to abandon their cars will be successful depends to a large extent on housing market developments.

As Boulder remains an attractive place to live, housing prices are soaring accordingly. Councilman Sam Weaver said it was a “measured fact” that “people want to live where they work.” A lot of those working in the city simply can’t afford a home within Boulder’s boundaries, though.

Consequently, they look for a house in surrounding communities, accepting the hassles of a daily commute.

John Tayer, president of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, recently urged city government to adopt policies to increase workforce housing. Such steps would “provide more opportunities for employees to live and work in Boulder, thus avoiding a burdensome daily commute,” he said.

City deliberates about Eco Passes, parking fees and additional bike lanes

While more than 50,000 daily in-commuters require regional policies, Boulder’s primary concerns are those who don’t want to quit driving within city limits.

According to the 2012 American Community Survey, 71 percent of Boulder residents worked in-town. But more than half of the city’s working population (see graph) still rely on their cars instead of other transportation commuting possibilities.

Distributing community-wide Eco Passes that allow holders to use public transportation for free is among the debated approaches to change that.

However, the measure encounters broad resistance.

“Many areas in town still have poor access to transit. Until that is improved, the vast majority of people will still drive, free bus or not, because the bus just isn’t very convenient,” said Sue Prant, director of the Boulder-based non-profit organization Community Cycles.

And then there is the price tag. The Blue Line recently quoted Zane Selvans, a member of the city’s Transportation Advisory Board, who explained that a recent preliminary cost estimate for community-wide Eco Passes amounted to $21 million annually, about double the funding the city currently makes available for Eco Passes.

Still, 56 percent of all bus riders countywide are Eco Pass or college pass holders, according to the 2013 Boulder Trend Report – numbers that prove at least a partial effectiveness of the measure.

Meanwhile, councilman Macon Cowles pointed to the city’s limited power in the realm of a much broader picture. “As long as we have no national energy policy, we have cheap gas,” he said.

Ray Bridge, co-chair of PLAN-Boulder County, said in order to reduce single-driver vehicle use, the city needed to support mass transit, cycling and walking and “reduce subsidies for parking.”

Some – like Mayor Appelbaum – argue that imposing parking fees would harm the local economy and drive businesses away rather than helping with the commuting problem.

Chamber of Commerce President Tayer said recently that parking fees could be “an appropriate way to recover the cost to build and maintain parking and, under certain circumstances, reduce congestion.” However, he warned, parking fees as a tool for promoting alternative transportation use “should not be implemented lightly.”

New city council member Weaver on the other hand advocated pilot projects in cooperation with local businesses to see if parking fees would actually reduce the number of times workers relied on their car each week.

Instead, Weaver hoped, workers might climb on their bikes at least every once in a while. First, he admitted though, the city had to “make biking in town safer and more attractive” by further exploring the possibility of fully separated bike lanes such as the one on Baseline Road.

Boulder politicians, businesses and community leaders are still hunting for the golden key to solving the transportation issues that both the city and county face. While each party favors different approaches, it is common consent that no single-handed measure will bring ultimate success.

Or, as Mayor Matt Appelbaum puts it: “Consensus won’t be easy. I think we will do it. But it won’t be easy.”

So for now, just remember this in the midst of the next traffic jam: you are not alone. They are thinking about you.

Weekly round-up: Boulder and Xcel keep up the fight

By Lars Gesing

After Boulderites said no to ballot question 310 in Tuesday’s election, making a strong statement in the ongoing municipalization debate, Xcel Energy didn’t wait long to reply to the vote. On their website, the energy provider posted a statement saying that the approval of the competing ballot question 2E showed that “Boulder customers are giving serious thought to how much debt they are willing to incur in this effort as they are giving city leaders more guidance in spending.” To read the whole statement, click here.

***

In the meantime, Tuesday’s decisions on 2E and 310 don’t put an end to the debate. The Daily Camera quotes the final unofficial election results, explaining that the margin in this year’s vote (2-to-1) on the electrical utility was much wider than in the 2011 initial decision to explore municipalization. Back then, only 1000 votes separated supporters and opponents. However, the fronts remain hardened two years later. While municipalization supporters argue that the vote – along with four proponents of the city’s path being elected to serve on city council – was an endorsement of the efforts, opponents point out that the passage of ballot question 2E still puts a debt limit on the process.

***

The vote on ballot questions 2E and 310 has been what the Denver Post has called “a battle of campaign dollars.” The paper cited Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum, saying that “for ballot measures, a lot of money has been spent.” According to figures the Post obtained from finance reports filed with the city, supporters and opponents spent a total $864,000.

Young, Appelbaum, Weaver, Shoemaker and Cowles to sit on new Boulder city council

By Lars Gesing

Boulderites chose three new faces and two old ones Tuesday to join four holdovers in forming the next nine-member city council.

Newcomers Mary Young, Sam Weaver and Andrew Shoemaker, along with current Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum and Macon Cowles all won election Tuesday night. Young, Weaver, Shoemaker and Applebaum will serve four-year terms as they finished in the top four. Because he ended up in fifth place, Cowles will have a two-year term, his third consecutive one on the board.

According to final, at this point still unofficial results announced on Wednesday, Young had gathered the most votes (13.81 percent), followed by Appelbaum with 13.39 percent, Weaver with 12.85 percent, Shoemaker (11.74 percent) and Cowles (11.32 percent). Cowles biggest contender was sixth-placed Micah Parkin with a 10.15 percent share of the overall vote. The new council will be sworn in on the morning of Nov. 19.

The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Office had send out a total 201,654 ballots this year, of which 101,896, or 50.5 percent, returned. That number was higher than in the 2011 coordinated election, when 171,167 ballots were distributed and 82,724 (48.3 percent) came back.

Matt Appelbaum and Macon Cowles were the only two incumbents running for re-election this year, and both their campaigns were successful. Current council members Suzy Ageton, K. C. Becker and Ken Wilson all decided not to run for re-election.

Re-elected city council member Macon Cowles (left) anxiously awaiting results of Tuesday's election

Re-elected city council member Macon Cowles (left) anxiously awaiting results of Tuesday’s election (Photo by Lars Gesing)

Despite finishing fifth, Cowles felt reinforced in his policy approach to make this world a better place: “The vote shows that the community supports three main things I stand for: fighting climate change, 15-minute neighborhoods, and addressing the needs of the underprivileged.”

Right before the first results were announced shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday night, his wife and campaign manager Regina Cowles was uncertain whether a robocall campaign, targeting her husband for his vote in favor of making the Palestine city of Nablus Boulder’s city sister, affected Cowles chances of re-election.

“That is just pure spite. Macon has a strong human rights record,” Regina Cowles said. The campaign had asked citizens to call Cowles directly, something that did not happen. “All we got were a whole lot of calls from friends asking us if we heard about this,” the campaign manager said.

Mary Young takes away election victory

With neither Appelbaum nor Cowles winning the election though, no representative of the political establishment took away the largest share of votes. Instead, Mary Young, who served on the city planning board for five years, was Boulder’s favorite.

“I think it was my honesty that made the difference,” Young said. “I just kept my head down and kept working hard.” She used her moment of victory to point a finger to what she identified as one of the most significant shortcomings in Boulder politics: “It is not that people don’t care. They just don’t bring issues up. That prevents those issues from being thoroughly discussed.” She said she was ready to address that problem.

Sam Weaver, who was among the favorites to win a seat on city council during the preliminary stages of the election, at least partially attributed his success to sheer luck.

“The position of your name on the ballot makes a difference,” he explained. While an alphabetical order would have favored him, he needed to rely on being lucky in the ballot slot lottery. “I ended up on the very bottom, which was good. You don’t want to be in the middle.”

But Weaver’s high vote total was not just merely luck but could much more likely be attributed to the strong stance the CEO of a Boulder-based clean energy company took on issues involving climate change and carbon emission reduction. He took the unambiguous defeat of the Xcel-supported ballot question 310 as a powerful statement.

“Xcel now needs to give some serious thought about the business model they put on the table,” Weaver said.

Appelbaum in for a final term

Mayor Appelbaum, a public servant of 32 years and also a strong advocate of having an honest debate about a municipal electric utility, said this next tenure will be his last.

“This is it,” he said. “This is my final term. I have had enough politics for two lifetimes.”

Even though Appelbaum never hid his jadedness from holding office during the months of campaigning, the results of the election seemed to re-energize him.

“It’s easy to get excited in a community like this one. They make this job fun, exciting, but also demanding.”

The New Era Colorado Foundation held an election night Party at the Hotel Boulderado on Tuesday (Photo by Lars Gesing)

The New Era Colorado Foundation held an election night party at the Hotel Boulderado on Tuesday (Photo by Lars Gesing)

Young, Appelbaum, Weaver and Cowles all celebrated their victory at the Boulderado Hotel, where the New Era Colorado Foundation hosted an election night party.

The fifth soon-to-be council member, Andrew Shoemaker, watched results come in with defeated candidates Ed Byrne and Kevin Hotaling at West Flanders Brewing on Pearl Street, a stone’s throw away from Hotel Boulderado on Spruce Street.

Shoemaker spent most of his weekends during the last month knocking on more than 1,000 Boulderites’ doors.

“I learned that every neighborhood is different, people have different needs,” he said. He explained that by talking to residents, he “found out how politics affect a citizen’s daily life better than you could have found out in any city council meeting.”

Mixed reactions to race outcome

Lisa Morzel, council woman and current deputy mayor, is looking forward to welcoming the three new faces on the board. “They all have a lot of courage and a lot of experience from their time on the planning board,” she said.

Crystal Gray served on city council from 2003 to 2011. During that time, she stood up to put the vote on the 2011 ballot whether or not the city should explore options for municipalization. While celebrating the defeat of ballot question 310 on Tuesday, she was extremely pleased with the outcome of the race for city council, too.

“Four out of the five elected are very strong supporters of the municipalization,” Gray said, leaving Andrew Shoemaker out of the equation, saying “he didn’t take a clear enough stand on the issue.”

But not everyone agreed that the voter’s decisions on how to proceed with a municipal electric utility necessarily favored the outcome in the race for the five vacant seats on city council.

With an overall 8.99 percent of votes, Ed Byrne finished seventh. He said it was PLAN-Boulder’s endorsement for four of those who got elected (Young, Appelbaum, Weaver, Cowles) that made the difference.

He added that he had no idea why he wasn’t on the list of the powerful citizen organization fighting for environmental sustainability. “I felt like I had a very congruent position on many of these issues,” Byrne said.

Kevin Hotaling (4.17 percent) was also among those defeated candidates in the race. He criticized the PLAN-Boulder-endorsed quartet. “They have been working together from day one, painting a very vanilla message. You just can’t get mad with their ideas.” However, their ideas like city wide eco passes were inapplicable to reality, he said.

Hotaling added that their policy approach was only back-looking. “PLAN-Boulder did a lot of great things for this city, but for the last ten to 20 years, all they thought about was how to stop people from changing what we have. It is either time for new ideas or new organizations.”

He said he would run again in 2015 to achieve just that.

For a recap of the live coverage during Election Night, click here.

Boulder Election Day: Live updates throughout the night

By Lars Gesing

It is Election Day in Boulder, in Colorado and in the nation. Voters have until 7 p.m. to drop off their ballots to make their voices heard on the various issues that are at stake. If you still don’t know where to say “yes” and where to vote “no,” check out the Under the Flatirons 2013 Voter’s Guide.

We will provide you with live coverage throughout the night and detailed analysis and reactions from all key players as soon as results are being announced around 9 p.m.

Be sure to follow on Twitter (@LarsGesing) for live updates.

Here’s a short video of what ballot drop off at the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Office looked like around 4 p.m. this afternoon three hours before the looming deadline.