It’s Monday, Boulder, and the day before the election. Here’s the news.

Today, I bring you a local history story covering Boulder Fire-Rescue’s wildland division. Though the division didn’t germinate until the 1990s, land purchases that eventually necessitated its existence began in the late 1800s when Boulder bought the Silver Lake Watershed up near the Continental Divide.

Since its inception, the wildland division has struggled for survival. In years of fire, Boulderites are happy to pay for a wildland firefighting force, but unless a fire is fresh in their memory, many start wondering why we need to fund something we’re not actively using. And mitigation efforts — preventing fires before they start — have proven especially difficult. When you do mitigate well, nothing happens, so people think you’ve done too much.

“We would do mitigation projects where we could show we made a difference in fire [severity],” said Larry Donner, Boulder Fire-Rescue’s Chief from 1991 to 2014. “And while interviewing people whose homes were saved [by our mitigation work], they would still be complaining that our crews cut down too many of their trees.”

Three measures on this year’s ballot, due tomorrow, could potentially aid the wildland division: 1A, 1B and 2A. The first two are countywide measures. The third is a city tax, but it is unclear how much of it will trickle down to the division.

Also, the city released heat maps of where in Boulder it gets hottest in the summer. A takeaway? Plant more trees.

Enjoy your day.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

Mostly sunny with a breeze: 50s and 60s will encapsulate this week, with gusts of wind throwing fallen leaves from that pile you carefully raked them into.

Boulder’s hot spots revealed: The city has posted heat maps from data collected this summer in an initiative we reported on. Funded by a NOAA grant, volunteers biked around the city on some of its hottest days, carrying heat sensors as company. One of the takeaways: The more trees, when it comes to cooling, the better. Neighborhoods and parks with more canopy cover retained less heat and even cooled adjacent neighborhoods. Areas with more paved space, however, sported temps as much as 17 degrees higher than the average.

  • “Now that we have a better picture of heat exposure across our city, we can begin focusing nature-based cooling strategies to protect and improve the lives of those most impacted by hot and dry weather,” said Natural Climate Solutions team lead Brett KenCairn. “This data also illustrates the importance of a diverse, healthy and resilient urban landscape as we work to cool and protect our community.”

Final campaign finance reports before the election: Filed last Thursday, the latest campaign finance reports indicate this year’s city election has generated about $160,000 in campaign contributions. That’s not counting taxpayer money the University of Colorado spent to fight the ballot measure attempting to block CU South development. All campaigns are spending most on consulting, mailers and yard signs.

  • The city ballot measure that brought in the most money was 2F, which would repeal Boulder’s annexation agreement with CU regarding CU South. The group backing the referendum, Repeal CU South Annexation, has raised $52,000. The largest single chunk of that money came from PLAN-Boulder County, which donated $10,000.
  • The group fighting the repeal, No More Delay for Flood Safety, has raised $76,000. Its largest supporter is Comprise, a public relations firm that contributed $35,000. (Note: Comprise is a BRL business sponsor — sponsoring our monthly Local History beat — and has no influence on reporting or editorial decisions.)
  • The ballot measure to move council elections to even years, 2E, has generated less cash. Supporters have raised $12,000, and opponents have raised $13,000.
  • Boulder Library Champions, the group seeking to create a library district across much of the county — and hoping to pay for it with a property tax increase — has raised nearly $100,000. Its largest donor, Boulder Library Foundation, has contributed $50,000 this election cycle.
  • The group opposing the measure, Keep Our Libraries, raised about $21,000. Some notable donors include: Eli Feldman, a lawyer and investor who donated $2,000; Palmos Development, a real estate company, which donated $1,000; and Councilmember Bob Yates, who contributed $1,000.

Criminal charges against Rep. Tracey Bernett: Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty has filed criminal charges against Democratic state Rep. Tracey Bernett for allegedly lying about her primary residence in order to run for reelection in House District 12, which stretches from Niwot down to Louisville.

  • Bernett first ran for office in 2020 under a Longmont address that, through the redistricting process in 2021, was drawn into House District 19, a more conservative district mostly in Weld County. She has said she lives in Louisville and is running for reelection in House District 12.
  • Following a complaint from Theresa Watson, the chair of the Boulder County Republican Party, Dougherty launched an investigation to determine whether Bernett was living in Louisville. According to the investigation that relied on witness interviews, search warrants and cell phone location data, prosecutors determined she was renting an apartment in Louisville, but did not live there.
  • Bernett faces felony charges. She referred questions to Jarrett Freedman, a spokesman for House Democrats. According to CPR, Freedman “declined to comment further on whether party officials had previously advised Bernett on her claimed change of residence.”

Even-year elections, word on the street: Henry Larson, editor of the CU Independent and BRL’s summer 2022 reporting fellow, hit the streets recently to talk to CU students about where they stand on measure 2E. By moving the city’s elections to even years to coincide with state and federal elections, the measure would boost turnout amog CU Boulder students and others who vote less in off-year elections. He heard varying perspectives. Here’s a snapshot from his dispatches:

  • I’m still undecided on the issue … Right now, I would say I would lean slightly in favor. But I do want to explore more of the opposition’s points because I think there are valid points to be made [and] I think that the [ballot] proposition might not be as refined as it possibly could be … I think it makes sense to associate a higher voter turnout with coinciding [city] elections with national and larger state elections. I also see … possible ballot fatigue being a major issue with [the change], having that longer ballot every time an election cycle comes around.” — Amy Philips, junior at CU studying media production and political science
  • A lot of Boulder politics is rooted in a pro- or anti-CU perspective. … If state law and federal law allow students to vote here in Colorado, even if they don’t originally come from Colorado, we absolutely should be doing whatever we can to make sure that students are involved in that process. … If you talk to the least involved student up on the Hill — who you think would care the least about the city — they’re still going to talk about Boulder Police and gun violence on the Hill and safety … and all of these policies that the city council sets.” — Chase Cromwell, junior at CU majoring in political science. He is the legislative affairs director for the undergraduate CU Boulder Student Government (CUSG).
  • One of the biggest [criticisms] people seem worried about is that by moving the city council election and mayoral election to even years we’d be orphaning school board elections in the off year, and then people would have even less reason to vote on school board. You’re kind of stating the exact reason that we should move all those elections, including school board, to even years because you’re saying people aren’t paying attention to the odd-year elections.” — Anna Vernier, master’s student at CU Boulder’s School of Education. She’s also a BVSD substitute teacher and a member of the Graduate and Professional Student Government. She drafted the GPSG’s endorsement of 2E.

County Commissioners in Lafayette: On Thursday, Nov. 10, from 5:30 to 7 p.m, Boulder’s commissioners will visit the eastern part of the county. The town hall event will be at the Lafayette Senior Center, and will allow residents to express their concerns and/or appreciations.

Comment on grant spending: Boulder has secured $19 million in grant funding from the Denver Regional Council of Governments. A long list of possible uses for these funds are listed on the county’s website, but many entail reducing cycling stress through additional paths or increased shoulder widths. Those interested in having their opinions heard should submit their comments by Nov. 9.

Community behavioral health plan: Also on Nov. 9, the county is hosting a virtual meeting on a potential long-term plan that could provide mental health resources to all community members. The meeting will be from 4 to 6 p.m. and the Zoom link is on the county’s website.

Go deeper

The history of Boulder’s wildland firefighting division reveals a fight for survival since its inception

By Tim Drugan

Not many cities have their own wildland firefighting force, probably because most cities don’t own as much wildland as Boulder. But as climate change promises to increase the risk of that land burning, Boulder Fire-Rescue’s wildland division should become an ever-more valued part of our city’s infrastructure.

Yet this will require a mindset shift in both citizens and policymakers. For, like most projects aimed at combating the effects of climate change, Boulder’s wildland division has had to fight for survival since its inception. 

Continue reading…

TOGETHER WITH Comprise
A BRL Community Leader sponsor

By combining the messaging with the math, we’re multiplying our clients’ media coverage through an integrated fusion of PR, content, social media, SEO, web design and creative. Learn more at Comprise.

BRL picks

🦃 Donate to Boulder Shelter for Thanksgiving: On Wednesday, Nov. 16 through Friday, Nov. 18, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless is accepting donations for their Thanksgiving dinner that they provide for 160 people. On the given days, stop by “any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.  Ring the doorbell by the sign that says, ‘Deliveries’ and we will promptly assist you.”

🗳️ Vote! By tomorrow. You can do it. I know there’s a lot of folks and ballot measures, but it’s democracy, and democracy is good. Boulder County’s 24-hour ballot drop boxes.

☂️ Mary Poppins: Until Nov. 20, catch Mary Poppins at The Spark in Boulder. “Based on the books by P.L. Travers and the classic Walt Disney film, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins delighted Broadway audiences for over 2,500 performances and received nominations for nine Olivier and seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.” Tickets here. Run Time is approximately 2.5 hours.

Covid in Boulder County: Nov. 7, 2022

  • 53 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬇️ Down 7% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 18 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬆️ Up from a high of 12 last week.
  • 71% percent of ICU is occupied. ⬆️ Up from avg. of 64% since July 2020.

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.