It’s Friday, Boulder. You made it. Here’s the news, quickly! so you can cut off early:

For today’s top story, I chatted with Brian Oliver, Boulder Fire-Rescue’s wildland division chief about my recent reporting on a group of neighbors undergrounding their power lines. While Oliver agreed buried power lines are less inclined to start a fire than those waving about in the breeze, he also said other, cheaper mitigation tactics should be utilized first. Glamorous undertakings shouldn’t distract from the basics. There’s nothing sexy about removing mulch from around your house, but it’s effective nonetheless.

Also, John Herrick reports on the Steve Rosenblum defamation case. Political organizers — sued by former Boulder City Council candidate Rosenblum for alleged defamation during the 2021 election — filed their opening brief in the Colorado Court of Appeals on Wednesday, setting the stage for a potentially high-stakes and certainly lengthy legal battle over free speech. In other legal news, we also have the latest on the CU South ballot measure skirmish, plus plenty more community info.

Enjoy those blissful days off and we’ll see you Monday.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Autumn? Is that you?: In the 70s today and 50s tomorrow with a smattering of rain possible. Next week things warm back up, but will hopefully remain shy of 90. For the next two days though, break out that sweater. It looks so good on you, and who knows when you’ll get the chance to wear it again.
  • City officials to pitch West Pearl car reopening plan: A memo filed Wednesday, Sept. 7, gave more insight into what we reported Monday, and what officials will present to the Transportation Advisory Board on Monday, Sept. 12. Citing the end of pandemic emergency orders and “safety and equity concerns,” city staff recommend reopening West Pearl to cars in the timeliest of manners.
    • The plan has generated frustration from many members of the community who enjoy the car-free segment of the street despite concerns from affected restaurants who rely on nearby parking and car traffic.
    • The two sans-car blocks are indicative of the national push for “open streets” — an effort to favor pedestrians and cyclists and get cars off the roads. City councilmembers, many of whom bike to meetings, are gathering feedback from the community ahead of next week’s discussion on the street closure.
    • City staff suggest opening the street while studying the possibility of “city street repurposing.” According to the memo, the “West End Multimodal Analysis” would rethink many downtown street patterns, completing such rethinking in 2023.
  • Mosquitos abound with West Nile: Boulder County Public Health is asking residents to take precautions to protect themselves from West Nile virus as cases increase across the county and in surrounding areas. Ten Boulder County residents have been hospitalized due to the virus since Aug. 1, 2022. To reduce your risk, Boulder County Public Health encourages citizens to follow their four Ds, five if you include Deet:
    • If outside during the evening, nighttime, and dawn hours, consider using an insect repellant containing 10% to 30% DEET.
    • DRESS in long sleeves and pants.
    • Avoid the outdoors from DUSK until DAWN.
    • DRAIN standing water outside your home.
  • 30th Street Closure — reminder: From Sept. 10-23, if your commute takes you through the intersection at 30th and Colorado, you’re going to want to find another way: The intersection, one of the busiest in the city, will be closed to pedestrians, bikes and cars for the completion of two bike and pedestrian underpasses. The work is part of the city’s Core Arterial Network (CAN) project, aimed at providing safer driving, biking and walking through protected bike lanes and intersection enhancements.
  • Motion filed to dismiss CU South referendum title change: The City of Boulder is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed to change the title of a ballot measure that would block CU South’s annexation agreement. The agreement — between CU and the city — sets terms for a flood mitigation project, housing and university facilities in South Boulder.
    • Residents who filed the lawsuit are aligned with PLAN-Boulder County, a nonprofit dating back to the 1950s that helped conserve open space around town. They previously petitioned to put a measure on the November ballot to repeal the annexation agreement. But in a move that could delay the vote until next year, they have challenged the ballot title language drafted by the city. Arguing the title is not clear and concise, the anti-annexation residents say it violates rules in the city charter regarding ballot measures. On Sept. 1, they filed a lawsuit in the Boulder County District Court seeking a judge’s judgement.
    • The city’s response, filed Wednesday, argues the residents who filed the suit failed to cite laws that would allow them to challenge the ballot tile. “Contestants have not complied with the requirements of the statute to bring this action,” Kathleen Haddock, a city attorney wrote.
    • The ballot title needs to be certified to the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder by Sept. 9, today, in order to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot unless the county intervenes, city attorneys say.
  • Two cycling events this weekend impacting traffic: The Harvest Moon Triathlon on Saturday, Sept. 10, and the Buffalo Bicycle Classic on Sunday, Sept. 11 will temporary close westbound Jay Rd. on Saturday, and westbound CO 119 in Boulder Canyon on Sunday. Maps and specific times for the events can offer guidance for beleagured drivers.
  • Updated pool hours: BRL isn’t the only one watching the forecast. “Summer is winding down and we’re preparing for Fall operations,” says the City of Boulder. Scott Carpenter pool is closed. So is the pool in South Boulder Rec Center, but only for repairs. If the city can find enough lifeguards, it will reopen in October. Thankfully, the South Boulder sauna is still open for those who haven’t gotten enough heat outside. North and East rec center pools are open for both lap and leisure.

Go deeper

In opening brief, Boulder organizers sued for defamation by former city council candidate make their case for free political speech

By John Herrick

Political organizers who were sued by former Boulder City Council candidate Steve Rosenblum for alleged defamation during the 2021 election have filed their opening brief in the Colorado Court of Appeals, setting the stage for what is expected to be a high-stakes and lengthy legal battle over free speech protections. 

The legal filing comes in response to a Sept. 22, 2021 lawsuit filed by Rosenblum against several high-profile, politically active Boulderites who ran campaigns against him. The suit accuses them of conspiring to spread false and defamatory information to damage his reputation in the “heat of the 2021 Boulder City Council race.” 

Continue reading…

Fire mitigation doesn’t have to break the bank. The ‘low-hanging fruit’ is what can be done right around your Boulder home.

By Tim Drugan

If you have the money — that insidious caveat. 

In Boulder Reporting Lab’s most recent wildfire story, we covered a group of neighbors working to bury their utility lines. With power lines’ wildfire-igniting potential, especially in high-wind areas, putting them below ground is worthwhile — if you have the money.  

Without laws forcing utilities to bury their lines or financial support from the city aiding civilians, Boulderites wanting to underground their power lines must fend for themselves. This raises the question: Is fire mitigation providing a new foothold for inequality? If you have the money are you less likely to have your home turn to ash?

“A lot of our fires in recent history have been started by power lines breaking and coming down, or blowing together in wind events,” said Brian Oliver, Boulder Fire-Rescue’s wildland division chief. Oliver used the term “arcing and sparking” to describe how power lines can start fires without ever toppling. When wind blows adjacent lines together, electricity can travel between the two and shower sparks onto receptive vegetation below. 

But burying lines isn’t cheap. After working with the three companies that share space on Boulder’s telephone poles — Xcel, Comcast and Century Link — the cost for the profiled Boulder neighborhood came to about $300 per foot, or $120,000 for 400 feet of line. Such a cost is irritating to some but impossible for others. 

Continue reading…

TOGETHER WITH Settembre Cellars

After nine years of greeting guests at our North Boulder Tasting Room, Settembre Cellars is moving to a smaller space. We’d rather sell these wines than move them, so come on in and stock up. All wines are made in Boulder from Colorado grapes. Learn more about the sale at Settembre Cellars.

BRL picks

🌶 Studio Arts Boulder presents Chili Bowl: The street party? It’s back. Sunday Sept. 18 brings with it a “celebration of art, food, music, and community.” For $20 you buy yourself a handmade ceramic bowl and fill said bowl with five different kinds of chili — presumably one at a time — before casting your vote for the “people’s choice award.” A panel of judges then blind taste to establish which chili is best in their opinion. There’s also live music and beer, hands-on art activities, and the Fall Pottery Sale — all items within made by staff, students, and friends of Studio Arts Boulder. All proceeds will support the Studio Arts Bus and Studio Arts Boulder free programs.

🍕 ArtWalk Longmont: On Saturday, Sept. 10, Left Hand Artist Group is hosting “five blocks of fun” on Main Street in Longmont. From 4-8 p.m. visitors can enjoy “cultural arts” in historic downtown.

🎸 ‘Straight up Steely Dan’: Tonight and tomorrow, Sept. 10, Citizen Dan: A Steely Dan Experience will be at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre, starting at 6 p.m. The band is the “culmination of talent, dedication and the obsession of a dozen musical brothers and sisters in groove, to master and perform the incredible music of Steely Dan.”

👩‍🎤 Jeff & Paige Benefit Concert @ WOW! “Jeff and Paige’s fun-filled concerts are jam-packed with a love of the outdoors and ecology, bringing concepts like insect anatomy, energy conservation, and plate tectonics to the whole family.” The concert, on Sunday, Sept. 11, is at the WOW! Children’s Museum in Lafayette, from 4-6 p.m.

Covid in Boulder County: Sept. 9, 2022

  • 112 daily new cases (7-day avg.) Up 28% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 16 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Up from a high of 12 last week.
  • 38% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 66% since July 2020.

What else we’re reading

  • A man is suing the Boulder County Sheriff and several deputies after being beat on April 4 at the Boulder County Jail. Body camera footage, released by the victim’s lawyer, is graphic and should not be viewed by those faint of heart. The lawsuit alleges deputies punched him in the face, pinned him to the ground and kicked his ribs while he was alone in a solitary confinement cell. The suit reflects the state’s broken mental health safety net and growing number of people detained in jail, which are generally ill-equipped to provide adequate mental health care.
  • Boulder police have recovered a slew of items from 3200 Pearl Parkway. Recognize them? Contact Detective Raul Montano-Banda at 303-441-1906.

ICYMI


Tim Drugan

Tim Drugan covers wildfires, water and other climate change-related issues for Boulder Reporting Lab 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.