Rise and shine, Boulder! 🐓 It’s your morning edition of BRL Today, right on time.

Our latest top stories include a rundown on Colorado’s new LGBTQ data collection requirement designed to address health disparities, recently signed into law with the help of local nonprofit Out Boulder County. We’ve also got your guide to countywide Juneteenth celebrations in store for the holiday’s first official observance here at home — from youth arts workshops at the Longmont Museum to an outdoor celebration with Rep. Joe Neguse.

Plus public access restrictions for the St. Vrain Creek and River, details on this week’s CU Boulder mobile food pantry, tonight’s Bands on the Bricks kickoff and a whole lot more.

Friday will be here before you know it. See you then. ✌️

– Jezy, managing editor

CU Buffs turn out during last year’s annual Juneteenth parade in Denver. Check out our guide to honoring the holiday in Boulder County in today’s top stories. Credit: Brent DePaepe

Quickly

☀️ Sunny and warmer: Expect highs near 87 today under plenty of sunshine. A warming trend should push us near the 100-degree mark by Friday, followed by a slight cool-down over the weekend.

🗳️ Ranked-choice voting advances: The Boulder City Council voted last night to move ahead with a November ballot measure that would hold the first direct election of city mayor by a ranked-choice vote in 2026. The council also gave initial approval to a potential ballot measure to begin holding even-year elections of city councilmembers in 2024. Both measures are aimed at boosting participation in local elections and could tilt the political makeup of the Boulder City Council. The council will decide whether to refer the measures to the ballot later this summer.

🔢 Homelessness by the numbers: 183 people experiencing homelessness were placed into a home through Boulder County’s homelessness program in 2021, according to the annual report of Homeless Solutions for Boulder County. During that same time period, the county reported nearly 1,000 people sought shelter and completed its Coordinated Entry screening process, the first step in the city and county’s housing first strategy designed to determine eligibility and priority for homelessness services and subsidized housing. The report does not indicate how long people remain housed or how long it took them to obtain housing.

🌊 High water mark: Restrictions are in place for the St. Vrain Creek and River due to potentially hazardous conditions caused by fast-melting snowpack, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. The announcement comes after two children were rescued on the water at Lavern Johnson Park in Lyons on June 12.

☁️ Smoky skies: Per Boulder County Public Health: “Smoke from the Pipeline Fire near Flagstaff, Ariz., is drifting into Boulder County, causing poor air quality. Children, older adults, pregnant people, and folks with pre-existing respiratory conditions should avoid outdoor activities if smoke can be seen or smelled.”

🏗️ Rebuilding better: Save the date — The Town of Superior, City of Louisville and Boulder County are hosting the second meeting in a series of in-person workshops on July 13, designed to help Marshall Fire survivors navigate the resources and tools available on the county’s Rebuilding Better website.

🦬 Feed the stampede: CU Boulder hosts its mobile food pantry at the Wolf Law parking lot (no. 470) from 3–5 p.m. on Thursday, June 16. Attendees will receive up to 30 pounds of food during the event, which is free and open to CU Boulder students, faculty and staff along with residents of Boulder and Broomfield counties.

🌎 Climate convo: Join the City of Boulder from 5:30–7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29 for the first event in its three-part webinar series on addressing the climate crisis locally. Renewable and resilient energy systems will be the topic of conversation during the virtual information session. Register here.

👍 Thumbs up for proposed climate tax: In more local climate advocacy news, the city is reporting broad support for its proposed new climate tax, according to findings from a poll it commissioned. The city says more than three-in-four respondents (78% of the 1,180 surveyed) say they would support the measure. More findings here.

🧒 For the kids: Boulder is also one of 15 cities participating in the Early Childhood Nature Connection program, presented in partnership with the Children and Nature Network and the National League of Cities. The initiative is designed to “bring nature’s benefits to young children while also advancing city priorities related to health, school readiness, park expansion, and equity.”

👮‍♀️ Police town hall: Tune into this month’s Boulder Police Department virtual town hall meeting this Thursday, June 16 at 4 p.m. The session will include opportunity for public comment. Register here.  

Top Stories

Colorado becomes latest state to collect LGBTQ data to address health disparities. Out Boulder County helped make it happen.

When you book a Covid-19 test or vaccine appointment in Colorado, you’re almost always given just two choices for selecting your gender: male or female. Few providers list “other,” and there’s rarely if ever an option for nonbinary or transgender. There’s no option to report sexual orientation.

As a result, the state health department hasn’t been collecting basic data that advocates and health experts say is needed to address health disparities among LGBTQ people. And it means the state hasn’t been tracking, or addressing, Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in the LGBTQ population, a known challenge in a community that has faced discrimination from health care providers. 

“If we can’t be seen in the data, systems will never change,” Mardi Moore, the executive director of Out Boulder County, told Boulder Reporting Lab. 

This need to be seen is why Out Boulder County led the effort this year to pass a law requiring health care providers to ask patients to voluntarily disclose their sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, race and ethnicity. The organization formed in 1994 in part to organize the annual Boulder County Pride Festival before growing into a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. 

“We know that when we look at the social determinants of health, the LGBTQ community as a whole is way behind the curve,” Moore said. “And then if you intersect that with race, those numbers are even worse.” 

When Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on June 2, Colorado joined about a half-dozen states seeking to collect similar data in an effort to better understand and tackle health inequities. Other states gathering health data on sexual orientation and gender identity include California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Rhode Island, as well as the District of Columbia.

The law had the backing of Boulder’s delegation at the state Capitol, including Rep. Karen McCormick of Longmont and Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of unincorporated Boulder County. Both lawmakers were lead sponsors. 

“It is the first bill that Out Boulder, in our 25-plus-year history, has run. And we got it passed,” Moore said.

What’s in store for the first official Juneteenth observance in Boulder County?

Freedom took its time reaching the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Mexico in June of 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with an earth-shaking announcement: “In accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

The ink had been dry on that crucial proclamation for more than two years — and the slain president who signed it, buried for nearly three months — by the time news reached the 250,000 remaining people enslaved in the Lone Star State. But for those last victims of America’s wicked experiment in chattel slavery, the song of liberation was better sung late than never. 

True emancipation would prove complicated for those trying to escape the yoke of the slavemaster, but that belated pronouncement on June 19 carved a new space for joy in African American life. Known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, the occasion has been celebrated among Black communities throughout the United States for more than 150 years since, but was only last year acknowledged as a federal holiday when President Joe Biden signed a bill on June 18, 2021.

The City of Boulder followed suit this year, joining the state and federal governments in observing Juneteenth as an official holiday. 

“It’s been said that if you don’t know your past, and if you don’t really understand the errors of your past, you’re bound to repeat them,” Madelyn Strong Woodley, executive committee member at large for NAACP Boulder County and founder and president of Executive Committee for African American Cultural Events (ECAACE) told Boulder Reporting Lab. “It’s important that we know our history. And I think if we’re going to ever improve as a society, if we’re ever going to unify, we absolutely must learn about and appreciate the cultures we all represent.”

In the lead-up to the City of Boulder’s June 20 observation, NAACP Boulder County and ECAACE are partnering with local organizations to present a slate of community happenings across the county in honor of the day, funded in part through grants from the city’s Human Relations Commission.

This year’s Juneteenth festivities in Boulder County will include a special focus on young people, with arts workshops and more designed to inspire a new generation of leaders. “It is important that we encourage our youth. Times are very different in terms of the challenges they are faced with,” Strong Woodley said. “We want to do all we can to encourage them. After all, they are the voices of tomorrow. We want to equip them as well as we can.”

Here’s everything you need to know about upcoming local celebrations.

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BRL Picks

🧱 Hit the Bricks: Boulder County’s premier outdoor concert series returns to Pearl Street Mall tonight with a performance by Hazel Miller & the Collective. The beer garden opens at 5:30 p.m., followed by opening act Julia Kirkwood at 6 p.m. and the headliner performance from 7–9 p.m.

🌲 Say ‘trees’: Know a street that could use a spruce? The City of Boulder’s street tree planting program gives residents the opportunity to potentially have their very own tree planted by Boulder Forestry staff in a public street right-of-way. Residents must plan to be in Boulder for the long-term and agree to adequately water and care for the tree, among other qualifications. Submit a request form here.

🏊 Troubled waters: Museum of Boulder presents a historical exhibition focusing on racism and discrimination against Latino families at the Lafeyette Swimming Pool in 1934, and the resulting lawsuit that went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court. The photo-forward show running June 22 through August 14 draws on historical research to highlight “the brave efforts of Latina Rose Lueras, who fought for civil rights and justice in Lafayette in the 1930s.”

Covid-19 Updates: June 15, 2022

  • 293 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 20% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 14 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬇️Down from a high of 26 last week.
  • 51% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 69% since July 2020.
  • More BoCo testing sites to close: Centaurus High School and Nederland Community Center are among the Covid-19 testing sites that will cease operations at the end of June.

What We’re Reading

📖 Denver-area Starbucks union workers allege retaliation: “In filings with the NLRB, workers at the stores at 16th Street Mall, Colfax (The Barn) and on Leetsdale Drive, the union alleged that Starbucks reduced store hours, engaged in surveillance of employees and threatened one worker while terminating another ‘because she engaged in protected concerted activities and after the store’s employees collectively voted in support of Union representation,’ according to the filing.” [Colorado Sun]

📖 Colorado’s new 8th congressional district is anybody’s race: “‘We rate the district as a toss-up, although it has the profile of the kind of seat where, at the end of the day, Republicans might have an edge in November given the political environment,’ said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. ‘Open seats like this are often the kinds of districts that break in favor of the wave.'” [Denver Post]

ICYMI from BRL

💧 Fire, flood and pollution: How Boulder Watershed Collective navigates a network of concerns in its mission to keep local water sources clean. With lessons learned from the Fourmile Canyon disasters, nonprofit stewardship organization founder Maya MacHamer takes ‘a landscape-level view of our watersheds.’

🗳️ Ahead of primary election, candidates for Boulder County commissioner are about evenly matched in campaign cashThe only two Boulder County primary races on the June 28 ballot are for county commissioner and county sheriff. No Republican candidates are vying for either office.

✍️ Boulder’s gun laws are now among the most restrictive in Colorado. By pursuing regional gun-control ordinances, the City of Boulder is now flanked by several communities with similarly stringent gun laws. Cities bordered by Weld County are pursuing fewer reforms.

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Thanks for reading!

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

Jezy Gray was the former managing editor of Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, he 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.