It’s Friday, Boulder. Huzzah. Here’s what’s going on near you.

For today, I spoke with Fred Mosqueda, a Southern Arapaho elder about Boulder’s link to the Sand Creek Massacre, part of our local history coverage. As more is written about the tragedy, I wanted to know what comes next. After you acknowledge the past, how do you move into the future? Mosqueda said there’s hope for his people to return to the Front Range, but that the media isn’t helping when we push a narrative of divide.

Also, Boulder released its emissions report for 2021. Emissions are down from 2018, but up from 2020, as life bounces back from the pandemic. We’re going to have to get back to those pandemic-level emissions, and fast, if we want to hit our climate goals. And keep scrolling for much more news.

Enjoy your weekend.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Cold sun: In the 30s today and tomorrow with the sun shining. We might be getting some moisture next week, heavy emphasis on “might.” You know those Colorado clouds: so shy, so easily scared away.
  • 2021 city emissions report shows emissions were down from 2018, but up from 2020: Boulder has lofty climate goals: Reduce emissions 70% by 2030 (against a 2018 baseline); be net-zero by 2035; and be carbon positive by 2040 (meaning the city will absorb more carbon than it emits). Getting there, however, will test feasibility and political will. The pandemic caused a drop in emissions as people drove less. As life returns to something resembling normal, if Boulder is going to hit its goals, emissions can’t follow suit.
    • The report, reflective of trends through 2021, reveals that most emissions came from commercial buildings and transportation, at 45% and 37% respectively. In those commercial buildings, most emissions came from electricity and a grid that is still largely powered by fossil fuels via Xcel Energy, the main source of electricity in Boulder.
    • Boulder needs to accelerate its efforts. In order to hit its goals, emissions have to drop by an average of 5.83% of the 2018 total per year. But since 2005, emissions have dropped by less than 2% a year. New rebates on solar, heat pumps and electric vehicles should help, but only if they’re utilized.
    • Though commercial buildings accounted for most building emissions, residential buildings did sport a decent chunk. So don’t lose hope. Your electrification efforts still matter.
    • “Climate change is innately difficult to solve,” said Climate Initiatives Director Jonathan Koehn. “It’s easy to feel like your personal actions don’t matter, but they really do. Individual action leads to collective action, which encourages systems change. So, keep planting pollinator gardens, insulating your home and riding your bike for a better world.”
  • New members on Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel on hold: Since its creation more than two years ago, Boulder’s civilian Police Oversight Panel has faced turnover, due in part to overwork. In response, Boulder City Council increased its size to 11 members. That opened a new application process. Fifty-seven people applied. A selection committee of current members and nonprofits NAACP Boulder County and El Centro Amistad nominated six people. Last night, city council opted not to approve the new members yet.
    • Instead, it sent questions back to the selection committee. Council wants to understand what criteria was used to pick candidates and ensure city code was followed (including, councilmembers suggested, on “bias”). The panel reviews investigations into misconduct by the Boulder Police Department.
    • The nominated members are: Danielle Aguilar, Maria Soledad-Diaz, Madelyn Strong Woodley, Sam Zhang, Lisa Sweeney-Miran and Talithia Cason. (Bios on page 328 here.) Their terms would start Feb. 9, 2023.
    • The selection process comes at a high-profile time. The panel is key to the department’s transparency pledge in its “reimagine policing” plan. But members feel restricted in what they can say publicly, and they want to be allowed to speak more freely about cases of alleged misconduct.
    • Disagreements between Police Chief Maris Herold and the panel over disciplinary measures are seemingly rare. Among recent exceptions is a high-profile case involving five officers — one detective and four others within his chain of command — who allegedly had not been investigating their cases. The panel recommended all five officers be terminated. The police chief recommended suspensions without pay and letters of reprimand. One of the officers retired by resignation. The case is being audited by the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office.
  • Modular housing factory gets greenlight. In a unanimous vote, the Boulder City Council approved — with conditions attached — an annexation agreement with Boulder Valley School District that allows the city to build an $8.5 million factory for making affordable modular homes. The location is an East Boulder property (6500 Arapahoe Road) owned by BVSD. Under the deal, the facility can operate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. 
    • The annexation deal has drawn ire from neighbors. Residents voiced concerns about potential noise and truck traffic from the factory. Some are worried about potential environmental and wildlife impacts from dust, noise and light on the nearby Sombrero Marsh, which is protected city open space and used as nature lessons for students. The marsh is located near 63rd Street. The agreement originally said all trucks carrying supplies and materials would enter the property via 63rd, which runs along the Columbine Mobile Home Park.
    • Compromise language from the city and BVSD was added to say, use of 63rd would be “minimized to the greatest extent possible.” Councilmembers criticized the language as ambiguous. So they passed a motion stating the city “would strive to” eliminate all traffic on 63rd and cap deliveries on the street at 10 a month. It also committed Open Space and Mountain Parks to monitor the marsh for impacts on wildlife.
    • The city is working with Habitat for Humanity on the facility, which would construct 12-15 modular homes a year.
  • Sheriff’s Office offers update on Marshall Fire investigation: Almost a year out from the most devastating fire in Colorado history, the Sheriff’s Office released an update to let the public know they haven’t forgotten about it. In looking into what caused the fire, the department has followed up on more than 200 tips as well as reviewed footage from 266 body cameras of first responders. Some of that footage has been released for public viewing.
    • In every fire investigation, a list of causes is considered, such as lightning, campfires and children playing with matches. Many of these, the release says, were eliminated early in the investigation. Whatever the actual cause turns out to be, it will be shared with the public. The investigation is expected to be completed early in the new year.
    • “The Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office are committed to sharing all the findings with the community,” the release says. “We understand the importance of this investigation and we appreciate the community’s patience and support.”
  • North Boulder Library to get $700,000 for outdoors spaces: The Colorado Health Foundation provided the money to the Boulder Library Foundation for a playground, garden and outdoor learning space. The outdoor spaces will be in addition to the new library that will break ground in January and take about a year to complete . The playground and garden were cut from the original plans due to growing building costs.
    • Those living near the site were able to engage in the planning process, as were “more than 250 local children” who “will be delighted when they see that vision become a reality in their neighborhood,” said Mara Mintzer, executive director of Growing Up Boulder, a nonprofit organization housed at the library. 
    • “This grant will allow us to more fully realize the community’s vision for a multipurpose, dynamic community anchor in north Boulder, making this long awaited library the most amazing family amenity in the area,” said Antonia Gaona, the library’s public services manager.
  • Fire in Lyons business district: At 11 a.m. yesterday, a fire broke out in the 400 block of Main Street in Lyons. The building sustained severe damage. Several people, including a Sherriff’s Office deputy, were treated for smoke inhalation and/or minor burns. One resident was transported by ambulance to a local hospital for evaluation.
    • “Today’s fire at 400 Main Street is a tragic loss for the many small business tenants, particularly the week before Christmas,” Lyons Mayor Hollie Rogin said in a tweet. “We are so fortunate and thankful that there were no lives lost. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.”

Go deeper

Fred Mosqueda in his own words; Southern Arapaho elder says Boulder should amend Fort Chambers sign but leave it up

By Tim Drugan

Fred Mosqueda is an elder with the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes. Though he lives in Oklahoma, his ancestors, the Southern Arapaho, wintered in the Boulder Valley, where “the land took care of us. We could survive the roughest winters right here.”

In this wide-ranging interview, BRL wanted to understand, now that the story of Sand Creek is being told, what comes next? How does Mosqueda feel about Boulder? After horrors of the past are acknowledged, how do you move forward?

Continue reading…

Through Dec. 31, the Colorado Media Project and NewsMatch will each match your new monthly donation to BRL 12X or DOUBLE your one-time gift, up to $1,000. This means your gift can fund triple as much vital journalism for Boulder County and help us continue to build a great local newsroom. Give today to triple your impact!

BRL picks

🌅 Boulder Homeless Memorial: Will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 20 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Boulder Bandshell.

🧥 Ugly sweater bar tour: Today, grab some ugly sweaters and your (ugly) co-workers for drink discounts at select Boulder bars. From 4-6 p.m. you can go to Avanti, Bohemian Biergarten, the Rio and more.

🎶 Ars Nova Singers sing SOLSTICE: If you’re looking to “bask in the ethereal glow of the cosmos” then this is your thing. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. at First United Methodist, the Ars Nova Singers, who offer “artistically adventurous and ambitious concerts,” present one of the holiday variety. Tickets are $30.

Covid in Boulder County: Dec. 16, 2022

  • 28 patients hospitalized with Covid. ⬇️ Down from a high of 30 last week, according to the Boulder County Public Health.
  • Boulder remains in the high community level for Covid per CDC guidelines, which indicates transmission is high.
  • Order your free COVID tests through USPS. You can place one order per household, with each order providing four tests. The tests should ship next week.
  • We’re suspending our reports on case counts for a bit. Instead, we’ll be reporting county data on the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19. That data can be found here. You can find a chart of the trend in Covid by age group here.

What else we’re reading

  • Club Q survivors and co-owner testified in Washington. Though there were pleas for gun control, central to many statements was the LGBTQ+ hate perpetuated both by anonymous trolls on social media and politicians saying that those in the community are “grooming” children.
    • “Hate starts with speech,” said survivor James Slough. “The hateful rhetoric you’ve heard from elected leaders is the direct cause of the horrific shooting at Club Q. We need elected leaders to demonstrate language that reflects love and understanding, not hate and fear.”
  • Your energy bill is probably way higher than it used to be. Most of the increase can be traced to the high cost of natural gas, a cost that is expected to continue increasing into 2025. Perhaps another reason to quickly switch to renewables?
    • “We do talk a lot about, ‘Expect to see an increase,’” said Denise Stepto, a spokesperson for Energy Outreach Colorado, a state nonprofit that helps people with high energy costs. “It’s a totally different thing when it actually happens, and it’s shocking when it’s double.”

ICYMI


Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other climate-related issues for Boulder with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.