July 28, 2020
Dear esteemed City Council members—
I thank you sincerely for your service to the City, especially during these challenging times. As a recent past Council member and mayor, I have stepped back these past six months to give breathing space to the new Council we have entrusted. But I am compelled to break this silence now to urge you to make no rushed commitments on the issue of municipalization this evening.
When we began the municipalization journey over a decade ago, we knew it would be a long, arduous and expensive process, and indeed Xcel has ensured that it has been so. But the grand vision was worth it: to be able to decarbonize, decentralize and democratize our energy supply, a pursuit which the Boulder voters have repeatedly endorsed. Our last promise as a Council to our public was that we would determine the final full costs of municipalization in the courts and then bring that number back to the voters so THEY could decide whether to take the final step of municipalizing. Putting a franchise settlement agreement on the ballot this November instead does not give voters this choice that was promised. Any franchise settlement would have to meet very high standards in order to warrant breaking faith with this commitment.
Xcel has a long history of engaging the City in protracted energy negotiations, typically offering a settlement deal at the last minute, often before a big election, with little time for public review. Repeatedly Xcel’s proposed deals have failed to meet the City’s energy objectives, though they often sounded too good to be true (and were); time and again, Council and/or the voters have wisely rejected these offers as insufficient. Despite this history, the City has always maintained an open door for discussions with Xcel to see if there is a mutual path forward that meets Boulder’s goals—and tonight you will be hearing from staff whether the latest round of negotiations have borne any fruit. Based on past experience, I strongly urge you to apply a skeptical eye to any proposed settlement, look past the rhetoric and closely examine all of the details, and take the time to hear from outside energy experts and the public before committing to any path forward that would thwart municipalization.
The decision of whether to municipalize our electrical system is a generational decision, one that will outlast a recession and pandemic; it will shape the city’s course long into the future after we are all gone. Our neighbors in Fort Collins and Longmont, who municipalized long ago, show us the possibility of that future—one that is much more environmentally sustainable, financially profitable, technically reliable and publicly responsive than the energy future of cities who are tethered to an outdated, investor-owned utility business model. We owe such a future to our residents (and the planet).
Xcel’s progress in decarbonizing up its energy supply is being driven by cities like Boulder who are threatening to break free to chart our own course. It is our boldness and insistence that is helping to drive change. So, do not let up now! While we should all listen carefully and ponder deeply what is being proposed, please make no commitments tonight — and certainly do not give up on Boulder’s journey to decarbonize, decentralize and democratize our energy future.
Former Boulder councilmember and mayor