Andy Celani, a 2019 candidate for Boulder City Council, former owner of the Smooth Motors auto dealership, and a multi-decade Boulder resident, is not shy to say he’s concerned about the city’s future.
“I’m compelled to run because I see the town changing in a very fast manner, and it’s changing in the direction in which our stewards would be absolutely fraught with dismay if they saw what was happening. Our many decades of stewardship, of keeping this place distinct and wonderful and neighborhood family-friendly, is about to get changed in a very short time,” said Celani of his decision to run.
Celani was born and raised in Rivervale, New Jersey, which he described as an affluent suburban area outside of New York City. He recalled that his neighborhood included many sons of immigrants, who were “hard-working, very self-motivated people.” He came to Colorado at the age of 18, and lived in what was then the ghost town of Keystone, on land that was eventually sold to Ralston Purina (owner of Keystone Ski Resort) for $400,000. Celani drove concrete trucks for a living for part of the year, and also worked at the Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville, joining the union so he said he is “familiar with labor and management issues.”
He enrolled in the journalism school at the University of Colorado in 1975, but said he was self-funding his education and “couldn’t stand to be broke all the time,” so he went back to work. He started Smooth Motors in 1984, owning and operating the business for about 33 years and closing it for good in late 2017.
ON THE ISSUES
Alpine-Balsam-Broadway: In mid-September, Celani called the most recent Alpine-Balsam proposal from city staff an “outrage,” which led to significant neighborhood opposition, and said the process suffered from lack of neighborhood input. He believes the city should re-think plans to locate city offices at this site, and said he would favor instead moving the city offices to Diagonal Plaza, where he believes transportation access would be better, as opposed to drastically changing what he called one of Boulder’s oldest and nicest neighborhoods.
Growth, Density, Jobs-Housing Balance: Celani said he believes the city should pursue preserving the integrity of existing neighborhoods, and pursue the engagement of Boulder’s citizenry to see if people really want a very dense city. He said the city has a great system of Open Space surrounding the city, but also would like to see preservation of urban open spaces inside the city. Celani said the city’s existing transportation system already can’t keep up with its volume, and to add more density without better transportation would only lead to a quagmire of congestion. He was very critical of the city signing on to the Opportunity Zone program, saying he supported the moratorium on projects established after the city signed on, and that opening the city up to what he called the “Trumpian interest” is a “tragedy foisted on the people of Boulder by a city government and staff that is out of touch.” Like several other candidates, he also disagrees when people say that more housing density will lead to greater affordability.
Climate: According to Celani, one of the first things he would work on to help reduce carbon emissions is to work toward establishing a citywide Eco Pass program. He noted that riders paying fares make up a relatively small percentage of RTD’s revenue, and said a community Eco Pass would boost ridership and reduce what he called the “empty bus syndrome.” He also said it’s incredibly frustrating that city and county residents have been paying the FasTracks tax since 2004, yet conservative estimates show it could be in the 2040s or later before Northwest Rail service begins through Boulder and to Longmont. He has met with Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley, who has talked about suing RTD over lack of rail. While Celani said he isn’t sure a lawsuit would be the best course of action, he also rhetorically wondered how we can put a man on the moon or have U.S. troops in more than 100 countries, but the region can’t get Northwest Rail in a timely manner.
Boulder Municipal Electric Utility: Celani said his position is in the middle of this issue, neither for municipalizing nor against it. He said after years of negotiation with Xcel Energy, the process is still at a standstill, and the populace doesn’t yet know what the effort will cost. Once the cost numbers and other details are clear, he supports putting a decision to move forward with pursuing the muni or not before voters in a future election.
Social Equity: Celani said any incidences of racism or sexism need to be investigated immediately and offenders need to be held accountable for their actions. He said current city efforts to protect people who may be more likely to suffer human rights abuses, including the Human Relations Commission and plans for a police oversight board, are necessary. However, he added that social inequity is not just a Boulder problem, it’s also national and international. “I’ve been around the world, and I’ve never been in a place that didn’t have racism,” he said.
CU-South: Like most candidates, Celani said the health and safety of residents living downstream from the CU-South property to be the highest priority, and that everyone involved was lucky that there were no fatalities in the downstream area during the 2013 flood. He said flood mitigation should be the starting point in the process, and he does not favor annexation without a site plan for development. Like many candidates, he said the process moving forward needs to be a true collaboration between the major interests, but added the city should not be “adversarial” toward CU.
Open Space Ballot Measure, Ballot Issue 2H: Yes
Middle-Income Housing Ballot Issue 2I: Yes
Right Decision at Hogan-Pancost: Yes
More Protected/Separated Bike Lanes: Yes, Celani said Boulder needs more of them but not at the expense of gridlock.
Celani was at the center of controversy because of his public opposition and protest to the 2015 “right-sizing” project along Folsom Avenue, in which bollards to create a protected bike lane were installed directly in front of where Smooth Motors once stood, and auto traffic lanes were removed. The city reversed this project after a relatively short period of time, but this story from Westword shows that auto travel times in the area increased significantly and the city received a variety of complaints, by no means only from Celani. He recalled during this interview that some drivers also chose to avoid Folsom, shifting more traffic to other streets including 19th Street, and past neighborhood schools which threatened safety. He said he believed the right-sizing project was “frivolous” and suffered from a lack of adequate community engagement.
More City Resources for Homelessness: Yes, he said the city is currently trying hard, and providing services is a cost-effective alternative to incarceration. Celani is encouraged by local collaboration among many Boulder-area people and human services agencies, and says homelessness is a national issue.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/andycelani
Endorsements: Celani is supported by Save South Boulder.
Key Donations: As of Oct. 15, Celani had received a maximum $100 donation from former Council member Steve Pomerance.