It’s Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

Welcome to Wednesday, Boulder. I hope you’re well.

For today, John Herrick has a story taking the temperature of this year’s election in Boulder. If, as Herrick reports, the last city election was dominated by the issue of housing access, this one has been monopolized by homelessness. As the City of Boulder is home to more people sleeping outdoors, and especially more of those who are experiencing homelessness for the first time, the question of how to deal with that influx seems to be the one dividing candidates, and voters.

This comes as Boulder prepares to elect its mayor for the first time, and elect five of nine city council seats. A majority of council is what you want when you have political goals, and a majority is what’s up for grabs. Some want to prioritize faster removal of homeless encampments. Others want to focus on subsidized housing and other longer-term solutions.

Also, plaintiffs were denied by a judge in their request for the City of Boulder to stop clearing encampments before their lawsuit against the city is settled. The lawsuit argues ticketing people for sleeping outside is unconstitutional. Because Boulder denies many of the allegations, the judge said it would be inappropriate to make a partial decision.

Finally, I need a new winter coat. The wax jacket I’ve had for 10 years has lost all warming ability and gives the false impression that I understand how engines work. I’m hoping to replace it with a coat that makes people think I ski, or snowshoe run, or do anything, really. If you find what we’re doing valuable here, I hope you’ll chip in to support BRL bringing you in-depth Boulder news — and help me get a coat in the process. A coat that makes people think I’m interesting, despite the plethora of evidence otherwise.

Have a great day.

— Tim

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Featured stories

Boulder’s response to homelessness takes center stage in the 2023 city election

Political organizers are working to secure a majority on the Boulder City Council that would support increased funding for clearing out homeless encampments. Continue reading…

Man in custody for attempted murder after driving truck through Boulder’s Central Park, narrowly missing people

“We don’t know his intentions,” Boulder Deputy Police Chief Stephen Redfearn said. “Some of the individuals that were in the park at the time, we believe, were unhoused. But we do not know if that was his specific intent.” Continue reading…

In other news

Sunny with a pleasant breeze

Today and tomorrow will be in the high 70s. A gentle breeze will rustle the leaves in the trees and tell the bees it’s almost time to leave. Or the breeze will tell the bees to do whatever bees do in winter. Do they leave? Hopefully. Hibernate doesn’t rhyme with breeze.

Judge denies request for partial judgment in camping ban case

A Boulder County District Court judge has denied the plaintiffs’ request in a lawsuit challenging the city’s camping ban. The request sought to stop the enforcement of the controversial ordinance before the lawsuit is resolved. The judge’s decision was, in part, influenced by the city’s rejection of key facts presented in the case.

The lawsuit, filed in May 2022 by the ACLU of Colorado, argues that the city’s camping ban, which allows officers to ticket homeless people for sleeping in public spaces, is unconstitutional.

In an April 21, 2023 motion, the plaintiffs argued that the city has admitted to enough “key factual allegations” to substantiate their claim that the ordinance violates the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Colorado Constitution. They asked a judge to declare the city’s camping ban a violation of the state constitution and to halt its enforcement “when unhoused individuals cannot access indoor shelter.” The ruling means the high-profile case is all the more likely to go to a trial or result in a settlement. The lawsuit is the latest effort by civil rights lawyers to overturn the city’s camping ban, which was first adopted in 1980. Read more on BRL.

Sawhill Ponds and Walden Ponds closure for sewer updates

Starting Oct. 2, the City of Boulder is temporarily closing Sawhill Ponds for a multiyear sewer upgrade project. Some of the Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat — no association with Thoreau — will also be affected. Closures aim to expedite the project. As of now, they’re estimated to last until March 15, 2024, though extensions are possible, and probably likely. The city’s Water Resource Recovery Facility, or wastewater treatment plant, is right by the ponds, which explains the piping that passes nearby.

The sewer upgrade is part of an update to the city’s wastewater system that pressurized during the 2013 floods, backing sewage into some Boulderites’ basements. “There has been a real push to address the wastewater collection system capacity,” said Joe Taddeucci, the director of utilities for the City of Boulder. This capacity project is part of the reason why Boulder’s water rates are increasing. But capacity isn’t the only reason for updates. Much of the city’s wastewater infrastructure is just old. And you don’t want old, worn out pipes carrying your sewage.

Taddeucci also told BRL it’s not just the piping that leads to the treatment plant that needs updating, but the plant itself.

“We have a really good [wastewater] plant, and we’ve invested a lot in it over the last couple decades,” he said. “However, there are more stringent regulations coming for the wastewater plant. Everything we treat goes back into Boulder Creek, so it’s important that it’s of the highest quality for the people who use that water downstream. We have several big projects coming up to meet those more stringent requirements.”

JLF Colorado returns to Boulder Public Library

From Sept. 21-23, the ninth annual Jaipur Literature Festival will take place at the Boulder Public Library. Featuring over 50 local and international authors, the festival is free, but pre-registration is strongly encouraged.

Some authors include Angela Saini, author of The Patriarchs; Amitava Kumar, who wrote A Time Outside this Time; and Martin Puchner, a professor at Harvard University who writes about technology, philosophy and the arts.

Boulder Reservoir trail improvement

Boulder Parks and Recreation is set to being work on the north shore trail at Boulder Reservoir, farther west from its previous trail work. Scheduled from Oct. 9-13, weather permitting, the project will introduce squeegee rock and crusher fine for better drainage and reduced mud, preserving the trail’s integrity. During construction the trail will be closed, but alternative routes will be available on the more southern shoreline trail.

Donate food, get a cake

As part of an Emergency Family Assistance Association food drive, if you bring in some food or a personal care item to Nothing Bundt Cakes, you can support local families and get a free slice of cake. The drive is happening now through Thursday at 2710 Arapahoe Avenue.

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Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other related topics. He is also the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Email: