Next public hearing: Changes to petition rules, including online petitions (approved by voters in 2018, debuting next month) and charter amendment petitions (still to be OK'd by voters this year)
Carr presenting, so he's going to move quickly.
Carr: Before we start, "I want to acknowledge a milestone. The city will have a functioning online petitioning system in January. ... A one-of-its-kind, first-in-the-world program."
I imagine he's doing this bc there have been a few residents who are unhappy about this. Namely, that petitioners will actually have to choose either online or paper petitions.
And some ppl don't like that you'll have to use your phone number for two-factor authentication.
"I'm hoping our community comes to respect and enjoy using it," Carr says.
You can brush up here:…
Even though voters OK'd online petitions, it still needs a council ordinance to implement. Like, voters gave them permission, but the law still needs to be passed.
Former council member Steve Pomerance, who has been a frequent critic of petition stuff this year, finally being called by name in council notes and at the meeting. He was previously referred to as an unnamed resident.
RE: petitioning guidelines, those are governed by Section 13-1-4 of the Boulder Revised Code. Today, that reads, “All aspects of the exercise of the initiative and referendum power reserved to the people by the charter of the city of Boulder shall be governed exclusively by...
... the provisions of the charter, this code, and any other applicable ordinance of the city, and no statute of the state purporting to regulate in any way the exercise of the initiative or referendum shall govern the exercise of the initiative or referendum, ...
...except for those criminal provisions of state law not in conflict with any provision of the charter or this code which prohibit fraud or deception in the circulation or signing of initiative or referendum petitions, or respecting affidavits concerning said petitions.”
Nonetheless, council decided in July that state law governs petitions that seek to change Boulder's charter. So now this language will be added:
“The power to propose charter amendments shall be governed by the Colorado Constitution and any state statute adopted thereunder. In the event of a conflict between the requirements of any state law and any provision of this charter, state law shall control.”
And a new section, 13-1-7, will address online petitions.
Brockett asking that, in that language, maybe we don't specify that petitioners have to pick either online or paper petitions. That way, if council chooses to allow both in the future, we won't have to change the charter language AGAIN. (which always requires voter OK)
We can do that, Carr says, as long as we have a city manager rule stating that you have to choose one or the other. It just won't be in the charter.
This, of course, doesn't apply to charter amendment petitions, which can ONLY use paper petitions. Since they will now be governed by state law.
Or at least they will if the voters OK this.
10 speakers for public hearing.
Looking at this list, I'm not excited for this.…
"In 2020, Tom Carr and the city made a mockery of our petition process," Peter Mayer, the chair of PLAN Boulder, said. "I'm simply astonished he is still employed."
oh dear god I hate this already.
Mayer is asking to allow both paper and online petitions.
"You guys oughta believe me on this. I've been the one correcting everything and sending it to you," says Steve Pomerance.
Pomerance has been pushing to use credit cards in the verification process, which the city has resisted bc it has to pay transaction fees and, more importantly, it's inequitable.
Per staff notes: “Perhaps the most important is the impression that a user must pay to access democracy. Access to democracy should never require payment, even a nominal amount.”
Pomerance "guarantees" he could "put together a system" using credit cards in "two weeks" that would be cheaper AND more secure. Amazing!
Giselle Herzfeld asking for online and paper petitions in a single campaign. Staff has said this would be too much work for the city clerk's office (in charge of elections) and wouldn't give an accurate picture online of how many people have signed a particular measure.
Chelsea Castellano, who was one of the Bedrooms Are For People organizers during this year's effed-up process, is also asking for online and paper petitions.
Castellano: The main reason for not allowing both is that it won't save staff time (as just online petitions would) "Respectfully, the residents of voter didn't vote to allow electronic signature gathering to save staff time," she says.
"We're still in a pandemic. The (new) system is still entirely untested. ... I can't imagine a campaign who would knowingly use this without a backup," Castellano says.
Eric Budd, also of Bedrooms, "It's critical to allow both systems to be used in parallel. ... While the system looks promising, it's untested. ... It's the dif between a unit test and an integration test."
I'll take his word for it, not knowing what either of those things are.
"I find myself in a strange position where I'm agreeing with PLAN Boulder," Budd — from Boulder Progressives/Better Boulder — says.
Isn't there a saying about politics and strange bedfellows?
Also, can we agree that bedfellows is a terrible word?
Carr: "We've designed a system that doesn't have an output to the city clerk." That's for security reasons. To allow paper petitions, we'd need an output; there isn't one. The firm who built it recommended against that.
Carr: This year, it took 13 ppl to verify petition signatures in the required 10-day threshold. There are currently 2 ppl in the city clerk's office. We relied on volunteers; normally, we'd hire ppl, but bc of COVID, we couldn't.
Carr: "My recommendation to council is, let's see how it runs in 2021. If it is a true problem, let's go back to Runbeck and reorganize the city clerk's office" to allow both paper and online petitions.
Swetlik: Do we have any quantification of how much it would cost / how long it would take to rewrite the system to allow that output?
Carr: The bidding process didn't include that. It wouldn't be ready by January; we'd have to go back to Runbeck for cost and timeline.
Wallach: I'm v sympathetic to the comments made by Ms. Castellano. Having to pick is likely to disenfranchise people.
"But I'm also impressed by your take on the difficulties and the cost," he says to Carr.
First Wallach sigh of the night!
Carr: "The way we designed the system was, how do we design this in the most cost-effective way. ... If we had spent the $$ to design a system to do both, and then ppl abandoned paper, that would be money wasted."
"My hope is that people are enthusiastic about this as I am," Carr says. Argues that online petitions will open up access, not suppress it.
Carr: You've heard a lot of attacks on me tonight. "This group particularly tends to attack staff. I only gave the names of staff members who left. That's to protect the innocent."
He's "very proud" of the work done on this by staff. "I'm not talking about me, because I didn't do it." He's here to "take the heat."
Brockett calls the "personal attacks" on Carr unfortunate and unwarranted. (Or something similar; I already forgot)
Brockett wants to go to Runbeck now and ask what it would take to design a system that does both paper and online petitions. Not for 2021, but the future.
Friend: I hear a lot about lost community trust. Can we have a plan b? Like you gather signatures for a week, we verify them, see if it's working, and if it's not, you can switch to paper petitions?
"Is there a way to baby step in and give people an exit ramp?" Friend asks.
Carr: "I think we can structure something" to give a Plan B for folks.
And then if you switch, your earlier signatures wouldn't count, Carr says.
Friend: "We're still going to be in pandemic" through most signature collection. "I'm not all that motivated" to go the paper route; the online system "is a great thing" for health and safety.
Friend taking issue with Pomerance's suggestions being written into the actual council memo. "I find it a little inequitable when we give any community member more or wider or more focused audience than anyone else in the community."
Swetlik: "I think many of us have made ourselves pretty clear about what we want in an ideal world vs. what we're going to get right now."
He volunteers to come and help verify petition signatures. "Idk that community members would love council members doing that."

I mean, you, yes. Other council members? No.
Swetlik: I hope we get a perfect system eventually. This is the "foundation" and I hope we build on it. I share many concerns of the community members. "I still want it, because it's better than what we have."
Young: "Like the comp plan that we just talked about a little while ago ... we gave the direction for staff to do what they did way, way back. To change at the last minute was not feasible."
She had doubts about the paper-vs-online thing, but staff explained it to her and it makes sense.
LOL she can't resist a jab at the Bedrooms petitioners. "Last year we were doing paper, and they were asking for online. This year, we're online and they're asking for paper."
Yates on attacks of staff members: It doesn't help. "We tend to discount what you say afterwards." And it makes it difficult to retain staff members.
We're currently hiring a new city manager, Yates says, "and I don't doubt" there are candidates around the country watching this tonight. We might lose excellent candidates bc of the way people speak to / about them.
If there are any potential city manager applicants out there who decide not to apply bc of this, PLEASE CONTACT ME.
Also, I have the tea, so you should contact me even if you still want to apply.
Yates supports Brockett's idea to start work toward a dual system right now, in times for 2022.
Wallach Sigh-o-meter: 2
He agrees with Brockett and Yates. And Swetlik.
Accept this system now, work toward a better one beyond 2021.
Weaver: Personal attacks don't make for "a more peaceful and understanding world."
"It hurts people," he says, "why would you want to do that?"
Weaver: This is a first-of-its-kind system. Is it perfect? No. Nothing is; we can make it better.

"I think everyone in the community should be proud of what we do here."
Weaver: "I'm happy that the citizens brought this to us. I'm sorry it's not exactly what you envisioned when you started out ... Hopefully it will be your vision in a year or two."
We've got a motion. There wasn't much talk about changing the charter amendment rules that set a higher threshold for signatures, and give half the time to collect them. I guess we handled that pretty thoroughly in July.
Motion passes unanimously.
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