Welcome to Wednesday, Boulder.

Today, John Herrick reports more about the police oversight panel that has been struggling with issues of transparency, members questioning their ability to provide feedback for policing in Boulder, and appointing new members.

This Thursday, the Boulder City Council will vote for the third time whether to approve new members to the city’s volunteer oversight panel following continued pushback from residents and the police union concerned about the potential appointment of an outspoken advocate for police reform.

The prolonged skirmish over how to select the panel members is just one example of how the ordinance that established the panel is ripe for debate over how to implement it. After the appointment process is complete, city council is likely to consider revisions around disciplinary powers and transparency. Some have also said they want to consider ways to avoid a drawn-out public appointment process.

Also, RTD is seeking community feedback on a potential commuter rail that will run from Denver to Longmont with many stops along the way. Almost 20 years after the idea first got the support of voters, RTD is seeing if they can finally afford the project.

Enjoy your day.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Sun tomorrow: Tomorrow, tomorrow, it’s only a day away. While it’s still today, make the most of the clouds and possible precipitation. And though it feels cold, after Friday another descent into the teens begins, so enjoy the heat while it lasts.
  • City helping repair Marshall Fire wind damage: Boulder is launching a new grant program to continue funding repairs to manufactured homes damaged by winds that fanned the Marshall Fire. The repairs will be funded by the climate tax passed in November.
    • The grant comes as the city expands its efforts to create a community that’s resilient to the effects of climate change. The repairs made to the manufactured homes will help increase efficiency in homes where repairs and upgrades are often out of reach, the city says. New windows, improved insulation and appliance upgrades will reduce the pull on Boulder’s energy grid.
    • “Climate resilience and housing are deeply connected,” said Laurel Mattrey, the city’s senior policy advisor for building efficiency. “Severe winds and weather extremes are year-round threats to our community, and we need to prepare for this ‘new normal.’ This means making sure every community member has access to sturdy, efficient housing that conserves energy, provides adequate heating and cooling, and withstands the natural disasters climate change throws at us.”

  • Take a pic of your favorite tree — reminder: The City of Boulder will be putting out its first “State of the Urban Forest Report.” Appropriately, it’s soliciting pictures from residents to feature in the report. The report comes after the Cool Boulder initiative showed that more trees led to cooler areas, suggesting increased urban tree growth might be a way to combat heat waves brought by climate change.
    • You can submit your photo via the online form or on social media. Submissions are due today.
  • RTD still considering a train from Denver to Longmont: The Regional Transportation District is hosting a couple in-person open houses to discuss its Northwest Rail Peak Service Study. The study, part of RTD’s FasTracks plan first passed in 2004, will determine the costs and feasibility of a commuter rail that starts in Denver and ends in Longmont, with stops in Westminster, Broomfield, Louisville and Boulder.
    • Why has it been almost 20 years since the FasTracks was passed without a commuter rail built? RTD said cost feasibility is the main issue.
    • The first open house where the public can let their questions be answered and concerns be heard is on Jan. 31 at the Hampton Inn & Suites, 6333 Lookout Rd. in Boulder.
    • The second will be on Feb. 2 at the Westminster City Park Recreation Center at 10455 Sheridan Blvd. in Westminster. Both will be from 5 to 7 p.m.
    • “We have faced challenges making the Northwest Rail a reality due to escalating costs and evolving train operation requirements and constraints,”said RTD Study Manager Patrick Stanley. “RTD remains committed to working with our regional partners to bring a rail solution to the northwest area.”
The proposed route for a commuter rail, per RTD’s website.

Go deeper

The fight over Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel emboldens calls for reform

By John Herrick

January 25, 2023

For more than a month, the Boulder City Council has delayed approval of new members to serve on the city’s volunteer Police Oversight Panel, which reviews city investigations into complaints of officer misconduct. 

The prolonged process is a response to allegations by several community members  — and the Boulder Police Officers Association — that the selection committee violated city law when it nominated an outspoken advocate for police reform to serve on the 11-member panel. They argue the nominee is too partial, citing a provision in the law establishing the panel.

The 2020 law — which has come under close scrutiny amid debates over public safety and police reform — requires that members be free of “any real or perceived” bias, while at the same time it emphasizes the importance of a perspective shaped by a “difficult relationship with law enforcement.” 

These and other seemingly contradictory requirements have caused confusion about how the panel works and how to select new members. 

Several people involved in the creation of the panel, for instance, told Boulder Reporting Lab the provision about bias was at least in part intended to prevent police officers, or people who are racist or homophobic, from serving. Regardless of why it was included, it can be too open for interpretation, some experts say. 

“It is hard to identify the ‘bias-free’ individuals who do not have a preconceived notion about police work,” said Maria Haberfeld, a professor at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has been involved in training New York City police officers. “Some cities require the members to have a legal background, for example. Others advocate for members with law enforcement experience. There is also the issue of diversity that seems to play an increasingly important role.”  

Continue reading…

Join us Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. at DJ’s Watering Hole (998 West Dillon Road in Louisville) for a discussion with BRL, KUNC and CU Boulder graduate students, who worked with the editorial teams of both organizations to produce stories focused on Marshall Fire standing home survivors.

BRL picks

🏘️ Volunteer for Housing and Human Services: The city is seeking volunteers for several boards, commissions and committees situated under the Housing and Human Services department. Some of the committees currently accepting applications include the Human Relations Commission, Housing Advisory Board and Youth Opportunities Advisory Board, among others.

🩻 Shakedown Street at Boulder Theater: This Saturday at the Boulder Theater, the band that has been performing The Grateful Dead’s music for over 30 years will continue doing so for a town still home to many Deadheads. Shakedown Street “happily finds itself in the trusted role of connecting past, present and future Grateful Dead fans with the vital and vibrant energies of improvisational live music.” Tickets start at $15.

🌸 Plant swap: At 12 p.m. at Terracotta on Saturday, trade a well-loved plant for a new one. New year, new plant, as they say. The event is free and all plants are welcome unless they’re dead or laden with pests. Get ready to chat plants with other plant-loving community members.

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


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.