Editor’s Note: This was a phone interview, grammar and some minor details have been updated for correctness from the published article on Yellowscene.
Background: van Woudenberg is an incumbent candidate up for re-election to Erie’s board of trustees. He is the editor-in-chief of Erie Protectors, which keeps the community up-to-date on local oil and gas activities. He did his graduate work at the University of Colorado Denver in computational biology.
Economic development: The key to attracting and bolstering downtown business presence is the downtown Urban Renewal Authority. Now that we’re getting additional revenues into that URA from the Erie Commons building and other developments, they’re able to do things like help Birdhouse, 24 Carrot, and 105 Wells get into their buildings and make the improvements. By the time we start building up from the ground in Town Center, we will have a healthy and thriving economy down Briggs Street, and frankly, Kattell Street as well. That’s really going to cement that downtown area as an entertainment district where you can go grab a coffee, have dinner, and attend the concert. We also need to invest in business incubator programs and work to improve our airport. It’s a very multi-pronged approach.
School masks: I don’t think schools should have the authority to set their own health and safety standards. I think that belongs squarely with the public health department. And that brings up the unique but slightly different composition of Erie where we are splitting between Boulder County and Weld County. I think that some of the divisiveness that we’ve seen over the past two years has really been about Boulder County taking some very protective measures up until recently and Weld County doing the opposite. So I really do feel that boards of health in the county are responsible for the health and safety of all of us whether we’re working at home or at school.
DEI: I vigorously support the DEI efforts that the town has undertaken. It is such an important thing that really came to a boiling point with the Black Lives Matter movement and is a very present topic. Representation matters. And it’s so important for us as a society to recognize where we have our privilege to dismantle those power structures so that we can have an equitable and just participation by people from all races, religions, colors, and creeds. By having candid conversations, we can learn to treat each other with kindness.
Oil and gas: There really is no balance between oil and gas and residential development. I tell every developer when they come to the town of Erie that they have a choice. Either they can operate an oilfield, or they can help build a thriving community. They cannot have both. Without exception, every single developer now offers to plug and abandon all of the producing wells on their site before a single home is sold. And that, to me, speaks very much to the change in the conversation and an understanding of the cumulative health impacts of oil and gas development. We have to aggressively move toward a just and equitable transition to renewables future.
Home rule: I’ve recently become more hopeful about the process of becoming a home rule municipality. Where I am today is that 93% of Coloradans live in a home rule municipality, so if you moved from somewhere else in Colorado to Erie, then you probably came from a home rule municipality. We also need to dispel some of the myths around home rule such as it being a power grab by the current Board of Trustees. Home rule is not a mechanism designed to raise taxes but is a mechanism whereby we can recognize what makes us different, celebrate that, and charter destiny as a community that will ultimately be 70,000 people.
Bipartisanship: For me, it’s about leading by example. It’s about being true to my oath of office, to represent the residents of Erie, and to do what’s right. And the struggle most often is to separate the loud voices from one side or another and really incorporate that into what you know to be true for the bulk of Erie residents. And that really is a nuanced conversation. Being a scientist at heart, I really embrace that notion that you’re allowed to change your opinion when presented with new evidence. And that’s such an important thing for me to hold true. That is, in no small part, why I ran for office to begin with and why I’m running for re-election.