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That's what she said

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Kevin Hotaling Hoping Third Time’s the Charm


This is the seventh in a series of candidate profiles written by students in Instructor Jeff Browne’s CU News Corps course at CU-Boulder. Gloria Dickie is a master’s of environmental journalism student. Originally from Ontario, Canada, she studied media, information and technology at the University of Western Ontario while working as an editor for The Gazette, Western’s daily student newspaper, and freelancing for many other local publications.

Candidate Kevin Hotaling (photo from Facebook)

Kevin Hotaling isn’t afraid to rock the boat.

Coffee in one hand, phone in the other, the 31-year-old City Council hopeful opens with a statement that seems to set the tone for the rest of our interview.

“I’m running with a higher purpose,” he announces. “I want to change the way that people think about and interact with government. Too often we get a lot of bold, dreamy-eyed claims with very little follow-through. My goal is to get candidates to pin down what they’re actually promising, and I want voters to pay attention and then hold them to account.”

Hotaling, a partner at a local web development business, isn’t new to the political game—this election season marks his third time running for a slot on Boulder City Council since his first attempt in 2009.

Donning a white jacket and blue button-down, Hotaling, who also happens to be the youngest candidate in the running, explains it hasn’t been easy to break through the prevailing mindset on council, nor some of the barriers he feels have been put in place to prevent people like him from participating in city politics.

“Boulder has set up their political process to specifically exclude students and young professionals,” he says. “That comes in the form of pushing young professionals out to Layette and Louisville so they don’t have a vote. It comes in the form of having a mail-in only ballot which means people who move frequently, like students, believe themselves to be properly registered, when, in fact, they’re not.”

His message, too, clearly targets a different demographic.

Hotaling is a passionate proponent of car-sharing, technological development and late-night businesses on the Hill.  And, unlike many of his co-candidates, he’s vehemently against municipalization.

The Energy Debate

With the Front Range sprawling behind him, phone buzzing on the windowsill, Hotaling hardly takes notice. He’s landed on what seems to be one of his favorite topics of discussion at the moment—Ballot 310.

“The height of Boulder mismanagement, and pie-in-the-sky, bleary-eyed thinking is this municipalization scheme,” he proclaims. “That somehow by buying up dilapidated poles and power lines we’re going to save the world is absolutely false.”

Instead, Hotaling pushes for a technological solution, citing Boulder’s robust energy start-up scene as an excellent starting point.

But Steven Pomerance, a former City Council member who has been actively involved in the energy debate, says the solution isn’t that simple.

“The first thing to know is that, under Colorado law, there are only two options for Boulder—sticking with Xcel or becoming a municipal utility. No third option, as desirable as many might be, exists,” he says, stating Hotaling has ignored the obvious issue.

Still, Hotaling stresses his unease at a 35-year bond.

“Our bet is that from now until 2050, no disruptive technology will come through that significantly challenges the pre-eminence of grid-based distribution—and that’s a really bad bet to make.”

Affordable Housing & Development

“If you look out to your right, you’ll see a 10-story building,” Hotaling says, casting a nod to a brown-brick complex. “It’s not destroying anybody’s view, or neighborhood—and that’s much closer to town than the ones I would like to build out near 30th and Foothills. “

As the catalyst for our discussion, Hotaling makes note of the larger number of commuters traveling to and from Boulder on a daily basis.

“We have 55,000 to 75,000 commuters everyday—these are people who can’t afford to live in Boulder, but they work here. Most of these people, I imagine, would like to live in the city where they work,” he says.

Hotaling pauses, contemplating his pitch.

“Let’s get serious about the facts here—you’re creating a 10-mile commute for 55,000 people, five days a week, 52 weeks a year. That is not environmentally responsible.”

His proposal? Build upward, not outward into urban sprawl.

Boulderites, he says, have a misconception that development is bad and going to ruin the character have the city.

“In fact, in the right places, confined to the right areas with the right plan, development can be really good.”

Third Time’s the Charm?

With two campaign seasons under his belt, Hotaling, a native of upstate New York, has learned to appreciate the small victories.

“This year I’ve made it into the top five of the ballot,” he says with a slight smile. “Ballot order is important—these are things people don’t really think about.” He turns serious. “When you get further down the ticket, votes significantly drop off.”

I venture to ask what he thinks his chances are this time around.

Hotaling takes a breath. His demeanor tenses.

“I don’t think I have a good change of winning,” he admits, slightly sheepishly. “Because my message is nuanced—it’s counter to the prevailing political winds, and it’s going to take me some time to condense it properly and get it to the right people.”

But that doesn’t mean Hotaling has lost hope.

“Last election I went up 37 percent, and this election I expect to go up even more,” he says, a sense of accomplishment creeping into his voice.

And what if he does lose again, as he predicts?

“My promise to Boulder voters is that I will keep running until I figure I’ve fixed the system, or it’s completely unfixable.”

While some have dismissed Hotaling as a black hat candidate running counter to the goals of council, the passion he has for Boulder comes across clearly when he speaks.

“I’ve traveled the country many times, I’ve been to every state except Hawaii and I’ve never found a place that’s quite like this,” he says with a small dose of affection. “However, that doesn’t mean that I think Boulder is perfect and set in stone. We’re not succeeding in the areas that we claim to be, but we can—it’s just going to require effort and change, rather than the echoing of hollow clichés.”

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