Happy Monday, Boulder! ⛰️ We hope you’re rested and ready for the week ahead. Here’s what you need to know today.

Members of the Boulder City Council met over Zoom this weekend to set their policy agenda for the next two years. In this morning’s top story, reporter John Herrick breaks down their priorities — from middle-income housing to non-automotive transportation, homelessness and city election reform.

Also in today’s newsletter: volunteer opportunities at the Marshall Fire Donation Center at Flatiron Crossing, and more essential curated information like trail closures, the latest on fire relief efforts, Covid-19 updates and more.

Before we go! Wanna write for BRL? We’re looking for enterprising freelance journalists to help us tell stories that matter about life in Boulder. Send me your clips and a resume, and we can talk details.

– Jezy, managing editor

Looking west near the Bear Canyon Trailhead on Sunday, Jan. 23. Credit: Jezy J. Gray

Top Story

Boulder City Council sets agenda for the next two years

The top legislative priorities include middle-income housing, homelessness, non-vehicle transportation and city election reform. Several policies that didn’t make the list risked overwhelming a short-staffed city government. Read the full story

Quickly

⏱️ Mostly cloudy with highs in the mid-40s. “Noteworthy snow” possible later tonight through Tuesday morning, per NWS.
⏱️ Colorado Department of Human Services is activating the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) in partnership with Boulder County Housing and Human Services in response to the Marshall Fire.
⏱️ Did you miss last week’s community meeting for Boulder County residents affected by the Marshall Fire? It’s available now on YouTube.
⏱️ Got a question about indoor volatile compounds (VOCs)? Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has answers.
⏱️ The deadline for Coloradans looking to sign up for health coverage has been extended through March 16, due to the Marshall Fire and Covid-19 pandemic.
⏱️ Elaina Shively, Lafayette resident and director of Diversion and Restorative Justice in the Boulder District Attorney’s Office, is running for Boulder County commissioner.
⏱️ With many BVSD families displaced, the district is encouraging people to join its SchoolPool carpool network. “The more families we have signed up, the more effective the network will be.”
⏱️ Deadline alert: Property owners whose homes were fire-damaged or destroyed need to complete Right of Entry forms by Jan. 26 to allow debris removal program teams to get started.
⏱️ UFCW Local 7 has reached a tentative agreement with King Soopers after union employees picketed for nine days over wages and working conditions. Union members will vote today on whether or not to approve the contract, the details of which have not been released.
⏱️ With yesterday’s closure of the Picture Rock Trail, all trails at Heil Valley Ranch are currently closed.
⏱️ Left Hand Trail is also currently closed, according to an OSMP update on Friday, Jan. 21. Trails in the Doudy Draw area are slowly drying out.
⏱️ The Parks & Open Space Advisory Board (POSAC) meets at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 27, to discuss the Wallace (Debra) Acquisition along with updates and proposals on the management of elk, vegetation and prairie dogs.

Covid-19 in Boulder County: Jan. 24, 2022

  • 746 daily new cases (7-day avg.)  🔺Up 30% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 82 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) 🔺Up from avg. of 40 since July 2020.
  • 67% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 72% since July 2020.
  • Data: Here’s how and where we’re tracking all of the above.

Latest Covid news

  • Masks for businesses. The City of Boulder and Boulder Chamber are teaming up to make free masks available for any Boulder business with 25 or fewer full-time employees. Reach out here to get yours.
  • Upgraded masks at public libraries and CU Boulder. You can get up to five free KN95 and surgical grade masks per month at Colorado public libraries, including the Boulder Public Library at 1001 Arapahoe Ave., and other community sites across the state. Here’s the full list. CU Boulder began distributing N95 or KN95 masks to students, faculty and staff on Jan. 21.
  • Grim milestone. Research indicates Omicron is more mild than previous variants for vaccinated people. Even so, the death toll among Boulder County residents with Covid-19 exceeded 300 earlier this month, a grim milestone as the pandemic stretches into its third year. 

BRL Picks

🌮 T/aco Tuesday. Marshall Fire victims get free food from T/aco every Tuesday in February at the Museum of Boulder (2205 Broadway) with dessert from The Post. Space for the free events are limited, so be sure to RSVP.
🛠️ Rebuilding tips. Boulder County residents affected by the Marshall Fire and associated straight-line winds can get rebuilding tips from FEMA mitigation experts at McGuckin’s Hardware at 2525 Arapahoe Ave. today at 3 p.m. A final morning session will be held tomorrow morning at 8 a.m.
🥩 High steaks in Niwot. Loosen your belt for this fire relief fundraiser at Niwot Tavern (7960 Niwot Rd.), featuring a full prime rib dinner and dessert from Joan’s Petite Sweets. Live music by Tim Stiles is also on the menu. There’s a takeout option, too, which you can pick up 30 minutes before the event.
💪 Pitch in. Volunteers are needed at the Marshall Fire Donation Center at 21 West Flatirons Crossing. Shifts are available to assist with collecting, sorting and organizing donations. “This project requires physical strength and stamina.” Via Colorado Responds.

What We’re Reading

  • Indoor air sampling update. Preliminary results from indoor air sampling in a single smoke-affected home by a UC Boulder research team show indoor benzene levels higher than levels outdoors. “But the indoor measurements have consistently been below the short-term or acute health guideline value of 9 parts per billion.” Via Kristy Richardson, State Toxicologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: “We want to reassure you that so far the levels of chemicals seen in these measurements do not reflect an immediate health risk. We do need more information about how long benzene and other chemicals might stay at these levels to evaluate the potential for long-term health impacts.” [CDPHE]
  • Coal fire investigation. Could flames from a dormant coal mine have caused the Marshall Fire? Investigators are looking into the possibility. “An estimated 38 abandoned coal mine fires are burning underground in Colorado, according to a 2018 state report – including one in the area where the Dec. 30 Marshall Fire is thought to have originated.” [9News]
  • More on Colorado’s underground mine fire problem. From June 2020: “Overall, Colorado is keeping tabs on 38 high priority underground fires. It worries about fires that burn close to towns, or fires that are at risk of spreading quickly. … One big concern are underground fires that can quickly turn into wildfires.” [CPR
  • More than 90 vacant jobs (and rising?) in the City of Boulder. “HR is dealing with positions we’re still looking to reinstate and fill” following Covid furloughs, Sarah Huntley, city spokesperson, told Boulder Beat. “They’re trying to fill the new positions, and they’re trying to keep up with people who are leaving. The pools we are seeing, we have way fewer applicants than we used to see. And they’re less qualified.” [Boulder Beat]

ICYMI

❤️‍🩹 ‘We need some help, too’: Sans Souci looks for support after the Marshall Fire. The resident-owned mobile home park was spared the worst of the destruction from the Dec. 30 wildfire, but the needs of its low-income and elderly residents are many and multiplying.
🦠 Covid-19 cases are trending down in Boulder County, according to state data. But the toll of Omicron is still unclear. State health officials are cautiously optimistic. New daily case counts remain high, they said, and residents should remain vigilant as unknowns surrounding Omicron (including data gaps) persist.

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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.