It’s Monday, Boulder. I hope the weekend let you stock your fridge for the week.

For today, I cover 1A spending in the county and a tension that has arisen over the new funds. A ballot measure that passed with more than 70% of the vote, the sales tax will raise roughly $11 million for county-wide mitigation efforts. But the measure’s language was vague, and that’s opening a door for distress.

Marshall Fire recovery groups are concerned that the money, with much of it funneled through the county’s Planning and Permitting Department, will end up in the hands of groups that will focus mostly on mountain communities. But as the Marshall Fire showed, that’s not the only place for wildfire risk anymore. The groups want the county to establish a “vision,” or an overarching philosophy for how to approach countywide fire mitigation, before spending the money. The county is already approving new positions for mitigation efforts, many of which will be funded by the tax.

Also, a sanctioned campsite for the homeless might become a new priority for the Boulder City Council. The possible site would have limited amenities like bathrooms, mimicking some major cities’ strategy with homeless populations.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you Wednesday.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Another beauty before snow: Today should be gorgeous. Take an extra walk to soak in those rays because snow might return mid-week. But this is Colorado and the sun will come back soon. In New Hampshire, the sun leaves in October and doesn’t show itself until May. That’s why I moved here. Today and tomorrow might also bring some impressive wind, so if you’re enjoying the last of the sun hold on to your proverbial hats.
  • Sanctioned campsite for homeless people could become new council priority this year: The Boulder City Council spent much of the second day of last week’s retreat, on Friday, discussing a “safe outdoor space,” or a place where homeless people can sleep outside legally and access limited amenities. Such spaces exist in Denver and other major cities, where the operators provide a temporary campsite with heated tents and bathrooms. Sanctioned campsites are part of a harm-reduction strategy that acknowledges some people may have no option but to sleep outside.
    • No decisions were made during the retreat. But the message from most councilmembers was that they wanted city staff to consider hiring an expert to study creating a sanctioned campsite in Boulder.
    • Kurt Firnhaber, the city’s director of Housing and Human Services, said his department will report back to councilmembers on April 13 and let them know when it has the capacity to do so.
  • Meanwhile, city officials consider expediting process for clearing out homeless encampments: During the first day of the city council retreat, on Thursday, officials said they are considering changing the city’s policy of providing notice before clearing out an encampment from 72 hours to a shorter timeframe. Such a change would apply “in certain circumstances when there is a significant public safety risk,” Joe Taddeucci, director of the Utilities Department, told BRL. He cited the example of multi-use paths, where people often sleep beneath underpasses for protection from the elements.
    • The potential changes come as some residents call for stricter enforcement of the city’s camping ban, particularly near schools and along Boulder Creek. Revising the city’s policy for providing notice could sound alarms for civil rights lawyers, as courts have ruled officers must provide “reasonable notice” before confiscating people’s belongings in order to comply with due process protections under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
    • The discussion happened just hours before Boulder County District Court Judge Robert R. Gunning issued his ruling allowing a lawsuit to halt enforcement of the city’s camping ban to proceed. The camping ban makes it illegal to sleep in public spaces during the night with “any cover or protection from the elements other than clothing.” Lawyers refer to it as a “blanket ban,” because basic bedding is prohibited under the law.
  • Comment sought for East Boulder Creek site — reminder: Boulder County is starting the planning process for a 1,337-acre swath of land east of Gunbarrel. Made up of five separate open space properties, the East Boulder Creek site includes a dozen ponds, five miles of streams, wetland habitat and pastures. Mining happened on the site, with oil and gas extraction still ongoing. Yet the county says they see the site as an “opportunity to welcome the community to a new public space while ensuring a thriving habitat and agriculture values.”
    • Through a questionnaire, residents can share what they would want from such an open space site, be it a place for quiet contemplation or one to hang out with their kids. There’s also the opportunity to suggest a name for the site.
    • The survey will be open until Feb. 28, though more input opportunities will be available through the project’s duration.
  • Dry air a better transmitter of Covid: Recent research from CU Boulder has revealed airborne viral diseases are more infectious in drier environments. The study found that airborne particles carrying a mammalian coronavirus (closely related to the virus that causes Covid-19) remain infectious for twice as long in drier air. The research suggests managing indoor air filtration and ventilation as a means to counteract this dryness effect.
    • “We can add simple, inexpensive air filters that will take particles out of the air faster,” said Mark Hernandez, senior author and professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We can increase the ventilation rate, open windows, and make sure we get more fresh air through. We’ve known this from the beginning, but this research gives us a target.”
    • A humidifier also isn’t a bad idea, though getting Colorado’s air to the recommended 40% humidity isn’t cheap.
  • King Soopers vehicle registration: Boulder County residents now have another option for renewing their vehicle registration. A new self-service kiosk has been installed at the King Soopers in Louisville at 1375 E South Boulder Road, available during store hours every day of the week. The yellow and blue kiosk, resembling an ATM machine, is simple to use and accepts credit, debit and checks. The kiosk charges a fee of $3.95 per transaction, as well as a $0.50 charge for checks or a 2.3% charge for credit and debit cards. The kiosk can also issue replacement tabs for a small fee.
    • This is the third MV Express Kiosk in the county, with others located at the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder’s office in Boulder and at the Longmont King Soopers. Appointments are now required for all in-person Boulder County Motor Vehicle services.

Go deeper

Marshall Fire recovery groups push for transparent wildfire mitigation ‘vision’ in Boulder County — for the mountains and plains

By Tim Drugan

February 27, 2023

Boulder County ballot measure 1A passed overwhelmingly in November, promising to raise upwards of $11 million each year for fire mitigation efforts through a new sales tax. Now that it’s time to begin allocating the money, however, the measure’s vague language is providing a foothold for tension. 

Broad priorities outlined in the measure included protecting the county’s water sources, improving forest and grassland health, and “proactively” addressing the “increasing risk of climate-driven wildfires.” 

To begin meeting these sweeping goals, the county approved 12 positions it will begin filling as soon as this month. The hires include fire mitigation specialists, a forestry planner and a chipping coordinator. Nine will be funded through the new tax, accounting for about $780,000 in 2023.  

The county plans to funnel the remaining money through its Community Planning and Permitting Department, in part to do home assessments and forest thinning that have historically focused on the mountains. Parks and Open Space will partner in the effort.

But Marshall Fire recovery groups have a different idea for how 1A money should be spent.

Continue reading…

Boulder camping ban lawsuit can move forward after judge rejects city’s attempt to dismiss

By John Herrick

February 24, 2023

A Boulder County District Court judge on Thursday rejected an attempt by the City of Boulder to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to halt enforcement of the city’s camping ban, an ordinance that makes it illegal for homeless people to sleep outside in public spaces.

Continue reading…

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BRL picks

🎥 BIFF festival: The 19th annual Boulder International Film Festival will take place from March 2-5. The four day “celebration of cinema” will showcase films and filmmakers from around the world, including local, national and international talent. Attendees can expect a variety of events, including happy hours with filmmakers, opening night galas, musical performances and appearances by renowned chefs.

🌅 Mountain Sun live music: On Friday, March 3, Rolling Harvest, a Neil Young and Bob Dylan tribute band composed of Colorado music veterans, will perform two free sets at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery on Pearl Street in Boulder. The show starts at 9 p.m.

🏭 20th century workers fights: Ahmed White, author of “Under the Iron Heel: The Wobblies and the Capitalist War on Radical Workers,” will speak and sign copies of his book at Boulder Book Store on Wednesday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. The book details the Industrial Workers of the World’s rise and its eventual destruction due to legal repression and vigilantism.

For more ideas on what to do this week, check out BRL’s Local Events page.

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.