Happy Wednesday, Boulder. I hope you’re well.

For today’s top story, John Herrick covers more on CU South, one of the most contentious issues in this year’s election. For this story, John is covering the flood plan. Why does the annexation agreement only provide protection for 100-year floods and not 500-year floods? After all, a 500-year plan is what was originally pushed for — by everyone. How the city settled on the smaller project exemplifies the tradeoffs of projects that hope to manage climate risks.

Also, John Herrick (again!) put together a voter guide for Boulder. It provides an overview of ballot measures to pay attention to, and helps you know what’s at stake and which ones you don’t have to waste much energy thinking about.

Enjoy your day, and the next, and we’ll see you Friday.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Mid-70s and gorgeous: A moderate breeze and marvelous sun will make the rest of this week magnificent. A possibility of rain doesn’t show until Sunday.
  • High fire danger today: A red flag warning is in effect due to low humidity and that moderate breeze possibly gusting this afternoon. Ways to prepare include having a “go kit,” making sure you’ve got gas in your tank. Also, abstain from using anything that might cause sparks.
  • Voter guide takeaways: You can read our full guide below, but here are some of the heavy hitters for those who are in even more of a rush than the average bear:
    • 2F: This would repeal the CU South annexation agreement between Boulder and CU. The agreement sets the terms for building housing, university facilities and a flood mitigation project on the 308-acre property known as CU South.
      • Those who want the annexation agreement to stand say it is a good deal with CU and will help get flood mitigation work underway. Detractors say it should be more robust flood protection, and also cite wildlife concerns for the property.
    • 2E: This would move city elections from odd to even years, coinciding with state and federal elections. This would boost turnout for CU Boulder students — among other people who vote less in off-year elections. 
      • Proponents say higher voter turnout is a good thing. Detractors have voiced concerns about potential down ballot drop-off and impact on school board elections, and that the switch could result in an electorate more weighted to CU students.
    • 6C: This would create a new library district across the City of Boulder, and much of Boulder County. It would boost funding for the city’s libraries, create a new government to oversee them (like the Regional Transportation District), and pay for it all using a new 3.5 mill property tax rather than city sales tax revenue.
      • Proponents say it would be good for libraries. Detractors are against extra funding — and extra property taxes — and concerned the funds wouldn’t have as much community oversight.
    • 2A: This would create a tax on utility bills to pay for climate change resilience and mitigation projects. It would replace existing surcharges on utility bills. The measure is backed by the City of Boulder’s climate initiatives department and is intended to help the city prepare for a hotter and drier future.
  • Boulder county commissioners are also asking residents to pay a 0.1% sales tax — one penny for every $10 spent — to raise about $11 million per year for each of the following measures: 
    • 1A, a wildfire mitigation tax.
    • 1B, a tax to support emergency response programs, including volunteer organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group. 
    • 1C, extending a transportation tax aimed in part at supporting people who walk, bike or take the bus. 
  • There are also races for House districts, and some uncontested races that should be easy to vote on. Other than that, you should be golden.
  • Your ballot should be in the mail. To check whether you’re registered to vote, visit the Colorado Secretary of State’s website
  • Provide feedback on grant use: Boulder County applied to the Denver Regional Council of Governments for $16 million to help with several transportation projects. To ensure citizens’ voices are heard, the county is now soliciting feedback on the funding by Oct. 26.
    • The grant would fund:
      • Intersection safety queue bypass lanes.
      • Bus Rapid Transit stop platforms.
      • Park-n-Ride improvements.
      • An underpass at Niwot Rd.
      • The commuter bikeway segment from Niwot Road to Airport Road.
    • The bikeway segment continues an effort to connect Boulder to Longmont via bike path after the Colorado Department of Transportation designated CO119 as a “Tier 1 High Demand Bike Corridor.”
  • Apply to cut your own tree: If cutting your own Christmas tree is a priority, you should probably enter a raffle for a chance to do just that. A hundred permits will be drawn for residents to cut a Lodgepole Pine on a ranch in Nederland. Cutting windows will be either on Saturday, Dec. 3, or Sunday, Dec. 4. You must throw your hat in the ring for a permit by Sunday, Nov. 13.
  • CU Police increasing transparency: CUPD recently launched two crime dashboards, one for service calls and another for incidents reported. The dashboards mirror those already in use by the City of Boulder Police and the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office.
    • “This is a really great way to just understand what is actually happening on campus, instead of relying on what crime ‘feels’ like on campus,” said Chase Cromwell, CU student government’s director of legislative affairs. “Smart data use is the future of policing because it lets administrators and community members understand what is happening in a concrete way.”
    • The dashboard comes as the CUPD is investigating another report of sexual assault on campus, the sixth sex offense in 90 days, the CU Independent reports.
  • Halloween and Día de los Muertos guide: From Halloween zumba to a Munchkin Masquerade, the city has put out a guide on how to best entomb oneself in the spooky season. Face painting for Día de los Muertos and an overview of the city’s creepiest properties are included.
  • CU to update parental leave policy: CU has enacted an interim parental paid leave policy that gives CU staff the same rights previously only enjoyed by faculty. While regular tenured/tenure-track faculty members were able to take advantage of the parental leave policy right away, staff members and non-tenured faculty had to work at the university for a year before enjoying the benefit.
    • The interim policy will apply retroactively to those who had a child between Jan. 1, 2022 and Sept. 30, 2022, but weren’t previously eligible.
    • “While we will be reviewing the parental policy as a whole in the near future, we enacted this interim policy now so that we could create greater parity between our faculty and staff employees,” Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke said. “We will continue to look for ways to enhance wellness and equity across our community.”

Go deeper

Opponents of the CU South annexation want a deal with 500-year flood protection. So did everyone else in Boulder.

By John Herrick

This November, Boulder voters will decide whether to repeal an agreement between the city and the University of Colorado that sets the terms for developing the South Boulder property known as CU South. At stake is a flood mitigation project designed to protect about 2,300 residents who live in the South Boulder Creek floodplain. 

As the city moves ahead with the plan, some residents want to start over. 

Among the issues they have raised is that the flood project made possible by the annexation agreement should protect more people. The project would reduce the flood risk for approximately 1,100 homes located in the 100-year floodplain — meaning those homes have a 1% risk for flooding in any given year.

The deal “fails to address climate change and 500-year flooding as recommended by experts,” a recent campaign mailer states.

The larger, 500-year project would protect 800 more dwelling units than the 100-year plan, according to city estimates. Those homes have a .2% chance of flooding in any given year. 

At one time, all members of the Boulder City Council from across the political spectrum supported a 500-year flood project, at least conceptually. So did CU Boulder. But the project that everyone wanted ran into major hurdles — technical, political and philosophical. 

The 100-year flood project the city is now pursuing is the result of years of push and pull between the perfect and the possible.

“There’s no perfect solution,” Councilmember Mark Wallach said during a meeting in which the 100-year design was approved. “I’m not sure there’s even a good solution. There’s only a choice that each of us has to make and will make to the best of our ability.”

Continue reading…

Boulder’s 2022 election: What to know and what’s at stake

By John Herrick

With the Nov. 8, 2022 election less than three weeks away, ballots should be in hand any day now. Boulder Reporting Lab is here to help voters make sense of what’s at stake in this year’s election. Our guide this year is centered around city and relevant county issues, as well as races for seats at the state legislature.

Continue reading…

BRL picks

🎸 Folk music at BOCO Cider: At 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, go hear Micki Balder who “is known for her vulnerable folk music, with people, relationships, and a search for home at its core.” There’s stand-up comedy after starting at 8 p.m.

Learn to avoid skiing and snowboarding injury: On Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. Neptune Mountaineering will host Dr. Charlotte Robinson. A graduate from CU with a Doctorate in physical therapy, Robinson will cover the mechanisms of skiing and boarding, the risks therein, and offer tips on how to deter the most common injuries.

🍷 Swirl and sniff and sip some wine: Every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Dedalus Wine Shop on Pearl offers “a chance to mingle with our team, learn more about wine in a relaxed environment, and travel to new places with every sip.” This week is “Alternative Burgundy.”

Covid in Boulder County: Oct. 19, 2022

  • 50 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬇️ Down 28% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 14 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬆️ Up from a high of 11 last week.
  • 37% percent of ICU is occupied. ⬇️ Down from avg. of 65% since July 2020.

What else we’re reading

  • How Boulderites, and Colorado residents as a whole, can take advantage of the student loan forgiveness program. Those who qualify have to apply, but have until December of 2023 to do so. Probably better to not wait.


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: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.