July 30, 2005
By RICHARD VALENTY Colorado Daily Staff Writer Macon Cowles, Chair of Boulder's Planning Board and an attorney, formally announced Tuesday he will run for a seat on Boulder's City Council in 2005.Cowles said he and his wife Regina made the decision together Monday night, but said he had been mulling a run for "quite some time," in part because his five-year Planning Board term expires in March 2006."I was really looking for a way to serve my city and continue the work I've done with the Planning Board," said Cowles. "I want to serve my city with greater depth and extend what I do to other parts of the city besides the built environment."Cowles' name is also frequently associated with the natural environment. As an attorney, he represented major environmental groups suing Exxon Oil after the 1989 Valdez oil spill, and also sits on the board of the University of Colorado Natural Resources Law Center.He said one of his goals as a Council member would be to develop a retail sales tax strategy to help boost Boulder businesses and make the city more prosperous.Still, he said it's important to recognize a difference between "development" and "growth" in managing the economy."Development is something I think improves qualitatively the lives of people and the extent to which the city they live in brings them joy," said Cowles. "The growth of the global economy is really wrecking natural systems. We have to find a way to restore natural systems and get the services we need from the environment without destroying it."Cowles said his career experiences will prove valuable to Council as the city's franchise agreement with Xcel Energy nears its 2010 expiration date. The city could choose to "municipalize" and operate its own utilities instead of renewing with Xcel, but Cowles said municipalizing is only one option."This doesn't necessarily mean replacing Xcel, but it means making them provide better service to the city and meeting the demands of the people of Boulder to get energy from more renewable sources," said Cowles.Cowles is a graduate of the CU School of Law and said he is looking forward to working on improving University Hill student / long-term resident issues and restoring CU's reputation in general."I think the university needs help right now," said Cowles. "I think the hallmarks of our city government; openness, transparency and listening to all the people with an important stake in it, is a very important lesson in governance we might be able to bring to the table."He said the Hill is a "precious" neighborhood with quality architecture from the early 20th century, and said it is possible for Hill renters and homeowners to coexist peacefully."We have a really devoted group of residents who do appreciate the energy and vitality the students bring and they want to get it right," said Cowles. "They also want to lend their hands revitalizing the business area around 13th and College so it works for the students and the neighborhood and will become a place that's a cherished part of Boulder again."Cowles said his experience will be handy as the city develops the Boulder Transit Village at 30th and Pearl Streets. He currently serves on a Transit Village Area Plan working group discussing not just the bus and commuter rail depot, but also multimodal transportation connections and development strategies in nearby neighborhoods."We're ushering in a whole new age of transportation in Boulder with commuter rail," said Cowles. "I want to be involved in building a really vibrant Transit Village that will be well-used, well-loved and a place that will make Boulder people proud."As a Planning Board member, Cowles has voted to approve major development at Twenty Ninth Street and the Holiday Neighborhood, but said he would oppose "filling the city with big boxes" to solve city sales tax woes.Cowles said the funding of municipal services is now too closely tied to retail sales, and corporations such as Wal-Mart now pit city against city to see which one will offer higher business incentives. He said the city should lead statewide efforts to alter the existing service funding structure."Boulder's not the only city suffering from retail leakage," said Cowles. "I believe there will be many great business opportunities as we move towards a different type of economy that's more within the limits of natural systems than we have now."