Rise and shine, Boulder! 🐓 Ready for your Wednesday edition of BRL Today?

Today’s top story from John Herrick looks at how Rep. Edie Hooton’s withdrawal from the statewide race for House District 10 is playing out locally. Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett and Councilmember Junie Joseph have thrown their hats in the ring, which could potentially leave an empty seat at City Hall for much of 2023.

We’ve also got a primer on “the hidden level of government” that is the Board of County Commissioners now that Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzmann is the official winner, from our summer reporting fellow Henry Larson. Plus a proposed ordinance to expand the city’s prohibition on “unreasonable noise” on University Hill, ALCU of Colorado’s latest response to the city regarding its camping ban lawsuit, a new category for Covid transmission in Boulder County and more.

Until Friday,

– Jezy, managing editor

Surrounded by fire-charred trees, Colorado youth climate activist Madhvi Chitoor joined community members and Marshall Fire survivors yesterday in Superior as part of the National Day of Climate Action, urging President Joe Biden and Gov. Jared Polis to declare a climate emergency. Participants gathered in front of plots of land where homes once stood before the Dec. 30 disaster, which President Biden called a “code red for our nation.” Credit: Anthony Albidrez

Quickly

Mostly cloudy and hot: Expect highs near 90 today under plenty of cloud cover, with isolated storms possible this afternoon. Things should warm up into the mid-90s throughout the rest of the week, before a weekend cool-down pushes us back down into the low-80s.

🥵 Historic heat: Aug. 1 marked a milestone of 30 days above 90 degrees in Boulder this summer, higher than the 21-day average from 1991–2020, according to local meteorology service BoulderCAST.

🆕 County passes gun reforms: The Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday passed a package of gun-violence prevention measures, including a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons. The vote comes after gun rights groups persuaded a federal judge to temporarily halt enforcement of similar measures in the Town of Superior. Emboldened by the recent court victory, advocates said the county would soon be sued. “That may be true. But that’s what courts are for. I’m not going to try to be a constitutional law lawyer here. I think we do what we think is right for Boulder County citizens,” said Commissioner Matt Jones.

🗳️ Commissioner election results certified: And speaking of the county board — Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzmann has officially been certified as the winner in the race Boulder County Commissioner District 3, after the contest’s razor-thin margin of victory prompted a mandatory recount. The county’s canvass board met yesterday to certify results, shifting Stolzmann’s margin of victory from 68 to 71. To learn more about what Board of County Commissioners does, and why it’s important, see today’s top story.

🔊 Noise on the Hill: City staff have released a proposed ordinance to expand the city’s prohibition on “unreasonable noise” to daytime hours on University Hill. The current noise ordinance only applies from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. The measure is the first of several changes city staff are considering to appease residents bothered by partying and nuisance issues in the CU Boulder student neighborhood. The city council will decide whether to give the measure initial approval Thursday. A public hearing and final vote is planned for Sept. 1, according to a city staff memo.  

⚖️ Latest on camping ban lawsuit: The ACLU of Colorado responded to the City of Boulder’s motion to dismiss the group’s lawsuit seeking to halt enforcement of the city’s ban on public camping. The civil rights group used the July 29 filing in the Boulder County District Court to flesh out its arguments against the city. In previous filings, city attorneys argued the ban is a “reasonable exercise of the police power” necessary to prevent “tent cities” occupied by homeless people from becoming a public health issue. The plaintiffs in the ACLU case responded: “If Defendants are truly motivated by concerns about public sanitation, public urination, or public accumulation of refuse, they can address those concerns by expanding access to handwashing facilities, restrooms, and garbage collection, all of which public health authorities recommend over criminalizing people forced to survive outdoors.” The city will have a chance to reply before the judge weighs in.  

🟡 Yellow (medium-risk) Covid level: Last week, the CDC placed Boulder County in the yellow category, designating medium-risk for Covid transmission, based on the region’s cumulative case rate. That number has dropped just below 200 per 100,000 people. The next update should come prior to the Boulder City Council meeting tomorrow, Aug. 4.

🌊 Reservoir closed for Ironman: Boulder Reservoir will host the Ironman 70.3 triathlon on Saturday, Aug. 6. As a result, the reservoir will be closed to the public from Thursday, Aug. 4 (beginning at 11 a.m.) to Saturday, Aug. 6 (9 p.m).

🚌 Boulder Junction feedback: Want to play a role in helping residents navigate the Boulder Junction Access District? The city is seeking feedback on three design options for wayfinding signage in the area’s public right of way. Offer your thoughts here, and be sure to read our reporting on the fast-growing residential area designed with public transit in mind.

Top Story

Newly vacated seat at Colorado Capitol sends ripples through the Boulder City Council

By John Herrick

Colorado state Rep. Edie Hooton, a Democrat from Boulder, announced on July 30 she is withdrawing from the race for House District 10, in part to spend more time with her family. The sudden announcement, which came a month after the Democratic primary election in June 2022, has brought on a wave of questions and implications  — especially for the Boulder City Council.  

Two elected city officials — Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett and Councilmember Junie Joseph —  swiftly jumped into what could be an increasingly crowded race to represent the city at the Colorado Capitol. 

Other potential candidates include RTD Director Lynn Guissinger, whose district includes the City of Boulder, and Celeste Landry, a member of the House District 10 vacancy committee and local elections expert. Others may still join the race. 

House District 10, stretching from South Boulder to Gunbarrel, mostly east of Broadway inside the city’s limits, includes more than 48,000 active registered voters. 

The bid for the vacant seat has major ramifications for the Boulder City Council. It could leave an empty seat at City Hall for much of 2023. According to the City of Boulder’s Charter, the city will hold an election in November of next year to fill any vacancies resulting from the election. 

If Brockett wins, Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend will assume the position until a new mayor is elected. (The city is working to reform its election procedures to elect its mayor by direct vote as soon as 2023.) 

The race for higher office has prompted councilmembers to publicly align themselves with one of their two colleagues at a time when the city is reeling from a divisive 2021 election. So far, Councilmembers Matt Benjamin and Bob Yates have backed Brockett. Councilmembers Nicole Speer and Lauren Folkerts are supporting Joseph. 

The process for filling the vacancy has drawn the ire of some community members who would prefer the seat be filled through a primary election.

Ashley Stolzmann’s victory in the hotly contested race for Boulder County commissioner has officially been certified. Here’s what you need to know about the powerful elected position and why it matters.

By Henry Larson

When results began to trickle in on election night during Boulder County’s recent primary on June 28, only one race was closely contested by voters. The county commissioners’ District 3 seat came down to a razor-thin projected margin of victory decided by merely 68 votes, a small enough margin to trigger an automatic recount. 

Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzmann is now the official winner in her contest against Elaina Shively, director of the Center for Prevention and Restorative Justice at the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office. By the time election results were certified on Aug. 2, Stolzmann’s margin of victory increased to 71 votes. No Republican is running for the position.

In the wake of this electoral nail-biter, a question may have understandably surfaced on the minds of some Boulder County residents: What, exactly, does the Board of County Commissioners do — and why does it matter?

County commissioners, while among our most powerful local elected officials, are often overlooked, according to Eric Bergman, the policy director for Colorado Counties, Incorporated (CCI). The organization is a non-profit advocacy group that educates Coloradans about the role of their county governments. 

“I think many people just don’t really know what the county commissioners are responsible for doing,” Bergman said.

BRL Picks

🎤 Hot mic: How prepared are we for the next big wildfire? That’s the subject of a live conversation coming to Boulder Theater on Thursday, Aug. 11, as KUNC welcomes the NPR project 1A: Remaking America, “a series looking at how our democracy — and our government — is working for us.” Host Jenn White will lead the free discussion from 7–10 p.m. Register here.

🏳️‍🌈 LGBTQ BBQ: Out Boulder County presents an afternoon of grillin’ and chillin’ when its BBQueer event kicks off this Sunday, Aug. 7. Join members and allies of the LGBTQ community Cottonwood Marsh Shelter at Walden Ponds for a fun hang in the park from 4–7 p.m. Feel free to bring a labeled dish to share.

🙋 Lend a hand for lit fest: Boulder Public Library is seeking volunteers for the 2022 Jaipur Literature Festival on Sept. 17–18, when the largest free literature festival in the world returns to the main branch. Billed as “the greatest literary show on Earth,” the event features authors and stories from across the globe. Sign up here.

Covid-19 Updates: Aug. 3, 2022

  • 135 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 13% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 13 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from a high of 13 last week.
  • 30% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 67% since July 2020.
  • Note: Stazio Ball Fields in Boulder is now the only free community testing site in Boulder County. It’s open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What We’re Reading

📖 With August free transit push, driver shortage leaves money on the table for some agencies: “More than $2 million in state money allocated to make public transit free this month — in a push to boost ridership and ease pollution — will go unused as some regional transportation agencies say they don’t have enough drivers to handle a ridership surge. Statewide, 14 transportation agencies, including the Regional Transportation District in the Denver metro area, will waive fares on buses and trains during one of the hottest and smoggiest months of the year. But two of the largest agencies didn’t seek grant funds for free transit rides.” [Colorado Sun]

ICYMI from BRL

🐮 Grazing livestock can help fight invasive species and encourage native plant growth in Boulder’s open space. But management is key. From the type of animal to the desired results, many factors determine where, how and why the city puts hungry cattle to work on the landscape.

👮 After early growing pains and high turnover, Boulder’s volunteer-led police oversight panel releases its first findings. The eight-member panel summarized 58 complaints of alleged misconduct and how the Boulder Police Department responded. Its recommendations on use-of-force are expected to prompt some reform.

💡 Boulder considers acquiring public streetlights owned by Xcel to reduce consumption and gain more autonomy over its energy infrastructureThe conversion to smart LED lights would lower the city’s electric bill, provide more responsive maintenance and reduce light pollution, according to a city staff memo.

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.