Nikki McCord, a candidate for Boulder City Council in 2019, is focusing on two major policy categories in her campaign – “sustainable infrastructure,” including a major focus on affordable housing, and a “safe environment for all,” including marginalized communities in Boulder. She turned to these categories often during an early October interview.
“One of the things that I love about Boulder is we love to talk about what we’d like to accomplish, but unfortunately I don’t think that we’re always that great at implementation, and when it comes to affordable housing I knew that there was public discourse but I really wanted us to start meeting those goals…In April of 2019 the City Council decided to raise the affordable housing goal from 10% to 15%, but one of the problems was we had not reached that 10% goal, and so I wanted to make sure that we were reaching the goals we set for ourselves,” said McCord, who has set an objective of creating 256 affordable housing units per year through 2035.
McCord said she grew up in Texas, and graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in political science and a minor in Latin. She then earned a master’s degree in public policy from Michigan State University.
While at Michigan State, she started working for the State of Michigan as a lobbyist, and continued in this line of work after receiving her master’s (2004-2010, according to her LinkedIn page). She mentioned among her top accomplishments working on a package of electronics recycling bills, which she described as “the first electronics recycling bills in the state.” The bipartisan bills passed with Democrats controlling the Michigan House, Republicans controlling the Senate, and a Democratic Governor, and McCord said her work included negotiating to address the concerns of the business community, the environmental community, and the state Department of Environmental Quality.
She also worked on the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact
during her time with the State of Michigan. The Compact was an agreement between eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces regarding large freshwater withdrawals from the Great Lakes. This effort included discussions between Michigan’s departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, and talks with businesses that would be doing freshwater withdrawals to help protect against degradation of the Great Lakes.
She came to Boulder about nine years ago, and held an Associate Director position with CU-Boulder’s School of Education, then worked as a policy analyst with the Colorado WINS state employee union. She started her own consulting business in 2013, McCord Consulting Group, in which she works with boards of directors and boards on issues including board governance, board recruitment and board diversity, and the business is still in operation today.
McCord’s civic engagement history has included membership on the Boulder County Community Actions Program board, Boulder Housing Partners board, Boulder Chamber of Commerce Community Affairs Council, and a number of positions with the Notre Dame Alumni Association.
ON THE ISSUES
Alpine-Balsam-Broadway: McCord envisions Alpine-Balsam as a future gem of the community in which “affordable housing, middle-income homeownership, city offices and transit will be existing in a way that seamlessly complements the surrounding neighborhood.” She said she is looking for the number of housing units that can be supported by available financing. She also hopes for a project that will serve as a model for other communities, in Colorado or even nationwide.
Growth, Density, Jobs-Housing Balance: McCord re-emphasized her objective of creating 256 affordable housing units per year through 2035, and said she would be open to more. When asked if this wouldn’t necessitate additional market-rate construction to pay for affordable housing subsidies, she mentioned Boulder Housing Partners’ recent Tantra purchase to show that units might not need to be built but could also be purchased, and said all strategies would be on the table to reach the city’s stated 15% affordable housing goal.
Climate: McCord said she’d like to make sure the existing efforts of Boulder’s low-income communities to conserve and help the city meet climate goals are recognized and celebrated. She spoke positively about FLOWS, a CU-Boulder group that helps “primarily low-income communities with energy and water conservation upgrades and information,” according to the FLOWS webpage. According to McCord, FLOWS personnel went out to deliver rain barrels, and some members noticed that they received funny looks from recipients. She said this was because they were used to much larger rain barrels, which they were familiar with in their home countries. To her, this was an illustration of how people might assume they’re helping marginalized communities, but the actions in practice might not accomplish what communities need. She said the city should recognize existing efforts, and she would keep a focus on what the communities actually need.
Boulder Municipal Electric Utility: McCord did not say whether she supports the muni effort or not, but said it will go before voters in a future election. She said she represented the Building Owners and Manufacturers Association (BOMA) in Michigan, and after Michigan passed its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) business owners were interested about how rate increases might impact their businesses, and she worked on a team to make sure people of low or fixed incomes didn’t bear the brunt of rate increases. She also worked for a state department on limiting permits for coal-fired plants and advocating for renewables, so in short she said she’s worked on “both sides” of electricity issues. She said she believes the City of Boulder should make sure it’s diversifying efforts to meet energy goals, and should keep lower-income individuals in mind in case of rate increases. When asked if she believes the Boulder muni will lead to rate increases, she said “everything’s a possibility.”
Social Equity: McCord’s first response was “representation matters,” and electing her, a black woman, would help address social equity issues. She said there are many marginalized people in Boulder, based on “race, gender, sexual orientation, language, and a variety of other things,” and she intends to make sure marginalized populations are at the forefront of every decision she makes. McCord said she can make decisions through a social justice lens of her own experience as a black homeowner, a black woman, and a black business owner – along with her connections to other marginalized communities in the city.
CU-South: McCord was in Boulder during the 2013 flood, and like most candidates said life and safety issues for residents living downstream from CU-South must be the top priority. She said flood mitigation needs to get done “quickly and correctly,” and would be interested in considering ways to speed up the process in the interest of protecting health and safety of residents.
Open Space Ballot Measure, Ballot Issue 2H: McCord did not choose to say whether she supported 2H or not, saying only that Boulder voters will pass this measure.
Middle-Income Housing Ballot Issue 2I: McCord did not directly say whether she supported 2I or not, but said she is always open to increase affordable housing for the “entire spectrum, middle income included.”
Right Decision at Hogan-Pancost: McCord declined to answer this question.
More Protected/Separated Bike Lanes: McCord did not directly answer this question, saying her focus is on affordable housing and marginalized communities.
More City Resources for Homelessness: McCord did not directly answer this question, saying instead that she supports making affordable housing available to people in a wide spectrum, from low-income on up, and homeless individuals are considered low-income.
Endorsements: McCord has received an organizational endorsement from the Boulder Area Labor Council.
Key Donations: As of Oct. 15, McCord had received a maximum $100 contribution from current Council member Mary Young.