Town Gown Forum

Jan. 14, 2014 Town/Gown Forum Wrap-up and Next Steps

Event Overview

On January 14, 2014 the University of Colorado Boulder hosted the first Town/Gown Forum. This event, conceived and organized by CU-Boulder, was intended to demonstrate the ongoing unity and collaboration that exists between CU-Boulder and other institutional entities in the region, as well as identify other potential opportunities.

The Community Foundation’s Josie Heath moderated the event, held in CU-Boulder’s Glenn Miller Ballroom. The panel consisted of City of Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam, CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano, Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) Superintendent Bruce Messinger, and Boulder Chamber CEO and President John Tayer. Approximately 300 members of the Boulder community and surrounding area attended the event.

After introductory statements, the panel addressed questions raised by both the audience as well as by Josie Heath. The following summarizes common issues of interest that emerged through panel discussion.

  • Transportation: Transportation is recognized as a vital area that needs to be addressed. Boulder’s growth as a population and business center have resulted in increasing stresses on the existing transportation system – both within the city, as well as to and from it. Boulder’s transportation issues cross into a variety of areas, including municipal and regional planning, climate mitigation, workforce housing, and transit alternatives. In addition, Town/Gown participants – BVSD, CU-Boulder, and the Chamber – recognized that they play a part in driving Boulder’s transportation challenges.
  • Resiliency: In December, 2013 the City of Boulder was one of 33 global cities selected by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of its 100 Resilient Cities Challenge (the remaining 67 will be announced in the coming months.) In light of wildfires and the September 2013 floods, as well as a history of municipal sustainability and climate mitigation initiatives, Boulder is exploring ways to become a more resilient community. (Other U.S. cities involved in this initiative are El Paso, Texas; Berkeley, California, and New York City, among others.) The Resilient Cities Challenge is intended to develop and implement approaches to better allow urban areas to address increasing disruptions in the twenty-first century. As demonstrated by the recent floods, all institutions in Boulder have the potential to be directly impacted by natural disasters. Efforts towards enhancing resiliency require active coordination and implementation by each of these.
  • Engaging Lower Income Populations: While Boulder is a wealthy community, all participants recognized that sizable and increasing numbers of Boulder residents are lower income. Engaging this community – from job, language, internet access, and educational standpoints – were seen as necessary actions to addressing challenges faced by lower income communities. In addition, given the rapidly changing demographics across the state and in Boulder, providing better access to funding, innovation, broadband, and entrepreneurial opportunities will help to provide resources to future civic and business leaders.
  • Workforce Housing: Forum participants recognized multiple benefits could be gained from a Boulder housing market that is more amenable to mid-tier incomes. Benefits include decreased transportation pressures and greater affinity to the city from both cultural and civic perspectives. In addition to retaining an existing workforce in Boulder, affordable housing options will attract both high tech workers and federal laboratory employees to the area.
  • Broadband Access: Increasing broadband access was an issue viewed by the panel to have multiple benefits. The Chamber views increased broadband access as reinforcing and building upon Boulder’s reputation as an innovation and creative class hub. The City views increased broadband access across a variety of areas – including economic development, as well as reducing the ‘digital divide’ to Boulder’s Latino community. BVSD recognizes that increased broadband access to all of its students will raise outcomes – but certainly with regards to lower income parts of the community. CU-Boulder has indicated that increased broadband access would be of benefit to its faculty working and students studying off-campus, and would therefore be consistent with the university’s mission. 

 

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