Boulder's Quest to Municipalize -- From Independence Day to the Next Election

"Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... I ask, 'What is real?' Because we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms." -- Philip K. Dick

In novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, science fiction author Philip Dick influenced a generation of readers on sociological themes. Having died in 1982, how appalled would he be to know what powerful entities can now do with data sifting -- from governments knowing when a person is emailing terrorists, to a corporation such as Target discerning if a woman is pregnant and her likely due date with plans to mail her coupons for diapers thereby.

A bit less invasively, but with no less threat to our sovereignty, Boulder has been offered a "Trojan horse" charter amendment by a large monopoly interest aiming at our quest to create a local-control clean energy municipal utility. The ballot language amounts to a sandwich of policy-boloney with language extruded through corporate polling to give the aroma of voter rights and fiscal prudence, but it's actually loaded with civically inedible fake food that if passed can functionally, and perhaps only, overturn the election results of 2011 for municipalization.

Well thank you Xcel Energy for doing the polling and backing the ballot initiative. Did the company worry that an honest ballot question such as: "Shall Boulder nullify the 2011 election results for municipalization," would not pass? That would directly reveal the company as a meddler in our freedoms, so it would be better to beguile people into believing they could vote for a pie-in-the-sky scheme to enfranchise county residents who would be included in Boulder's utility service area. It's a toxic, phony-boloney additive -- if it's true that state law does not allow the creation of special districts for this purpose as told by proponents of municipalization. Also in the ballot language are debt limit procedures that would outrank TABOR for imposing hardship and more importantly would prevent Boulder from entering condemnation hearings (which the city can only enter with clear bonding authority). By a 4-point margin, voters approved that authority in 2011 in measure 2C, empowering Boulder to find the true price tag of municipalization. That's the big number that provides the big off-ramp, said former Mayor Susan Osborne at a recent presentation by Empower Our Future to the Camera's Editorial Advisory Board.

The debt limit and service area boundaries are fundamental to the ballot language and being two issues they drew official caution from City Clerk Alicia Lewis about breaking the "single subject" rule in the state's constitution. There's also the problem of the language unduly limiting voters' chance to vote only on odd years. This hoagie of fake food can -- and should -- draw legal challenges from the city or citizen groups, because it's not right to stand by as a moneyed interest mangles our electoral process for its commercial activity while cementing its already tremendous power.

Supporters for the "debt limit" question have submitted their petition signatures to the Clerk and if enough are confirmed as valid the item shall proceed to this fall's ballot. But those who support the ballot item should wonder if they want to back a policy bundle that can deprive people of a vote on their electric supply by killing Boulder's goal to bring utility governance within reach of city voters. The county rate payers to be included in Boulder's muni can probably never get a vote in its affairs (as is true with county users of municipal power of Fort Collins and Estes Park), but they could get representation through seats on the utility governing board, according to Sam Weaver in speaking to the Camera's Editorial Advisory Board. And that is a heck of a lot more representation than anyone has with Xcel and the Public Utilities Commission now.

On that note, and in honor of Independence Day, let's hear James Madison on large monopolies, the sort this nation was created to escape:

"Monopolies tho' in certain cases useful ought to be granted with caution, and guarded with strictness against abuse. In all cases... it would be well to reserve to the State a right to terminate the monopoly by paying a specified and reasonable sum. Perpetual monopolies of every sort are forbidden not only by the genius of free Governments but by the imperfection of human foresight." -- James Madison; Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments