Where Have We Heard This One Before?

Boulder, Colorado is a town of roughly 107,000 people which has on its books an interesting law that allows only 3 non-related people to live in a home together. (Four non-related people in some specialized cases.) This meant that in a four bedroom home, only three non-related people could reside in the house.

A group called “Bedrooms Are For People” decided to try and change the law after the City Council declined to change it. The change was minor, allowing for the same number of non-related people in a home as there are bedrooms.

This is where the “stop us if you heard this before” comes in.

The group needed gather signatures on petitions to have the item placed on the ballot in November. The group was told by the City staff that the deadline for collecting the required 4,048 signatures was August 5, 2020, which is 90 days before the election.

While the number of signatures is relatively small, collecting signatures during a pandemic creates its own sets of problems as you can imagine.

Still the group trudged on.

Then this happened:

City Attorney Tom Carr later determined that deadline was inaccurate, based on an evolved understanding of how the municipal charter and state law interact surrounding the petitioning process for proposals that would amend the charter. The new deadline of June 5 was provided to Bedrooms and another active campaign called Our Mayor, Our Choice that wants to institute ranked-choice elections of the mayor, earlier this month, after it already had passed.

Instead of a deadline of 90 days before the election, as was initially said, Bedrooms had just 90 days from the time the city clerk certified its petition to gather signatures, based on the interpretation that a majority of Council adopted Tuesday.

In short, after being told by the City Staff that Bedrooms Are For People had time, the City Attorney said “nope. The deadline has already passed.”

Sounds a lot like Palm Bay, Florida, where the City Staff gave false and erroneous information to the Assessment Petition group.

But it gets even worse:

Instead of a deadline of 90 days before the election, as was initially said, Bedrooms had just 90 days from the time the city clerk certified its petition to gather signatures, based on the interpretation that a majority of Council adopted Tuesday.

That gave the campaign a little more wiggle room than it would have had under the rules of solely the municipal charter, which states signatures are due 150 days before the election, which would have been June 5. It is the Council’s duty to interpret the charter, Carr said, but the way in which the majority leaned, by saying that state law plays a significant role in determining deadlines and signature thresholds for petitions to make the ballot, meant that the Bedrooms initiative still can’t hit its deadline. It would have been in late June, and the guidance given by Council on Tuesday to clear up the confusion also means both charter amendment proposals need 8,096 signatures from voters to make the ballot, because state law considers even-year elections “special” elections for municipalities, which means the signature threshold is twice as high as in regular elections.

Hutchinson Black and Cook, a Walnut Street-based law firm, wrote to Council on Tuesday on behalf of the Bedrooms campaign, calling the development rendering the petitioners’ signature gathering efforts legally meaningless “Kafkaesque.”

“Bedrooms relied on the Aug. 5 deadline that the city established in its guidelines, and the multiple communications reiterating that deadline, when incurring the expense to circulate its petition, and when undertaking the Herculean effort of collecting over 4,048 signatures in the midst of a pandemic, at considerable personal risk to its circulators,” Daniel D. Williams and Lauren E. Groth wrote for the firm.

They cited a Colorado Supreme Court recognition in the case Committee for Better Health Care v. Meyers in arguing that “equitable estoppel may lie against a governmental entity in the context of a ballot initiative when a citizen reasonably relies on an incorrect representation from the governmental entity, to the citizen’s detriment.” (emphasis ours)

What is happening now is that Bedrooms Are For People is suing Boulder.

More tax money being spent because of City government incompetence.

(Once again, where have we heard that before?)

If people cannot rely on government employees to give complete and accurate information, what good are the employees? Aren’t taxpayers paying for employees to do the job which includes knowledge of the subject matter?

The Boulder City Council still has the ability to put the change on the ballot, but at this time has declined to do so.

So much for listening to the people.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The home we used as the graphic for this story is an actual free use image of a home in Boulder.

Here’s the description:

2,072 SQ.FT.

Charming ranch home in the highly desirable Table Mesa neighborhood!!! This 3 bedroom plus an office, 2 bath home is situated on a quite street just minutes from Pearl Street. A beautifully landscaped front yard leads you into this lovingly maintained home that has lots to offer. The home has been updated and features new windows, a fully finished basement, granite counters, stainless steel appliances and more. The large backyard has a great patio for barbecues, attractive landscaping and feels private. Don’t miss this great Boulder home close to great schools, shopping, I-36 and in the heart of it all!

We got the picture from a real estate listing which shows the home having been sold for $939,000. That’s not a typo. $939,000.

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