Good morning, Boulder! 🌄 In the mood for some community journalism? We’ve got you covered.

Today’s top story from John Herrick looks at new gun-control reforms passed last night by Boulder City Council. The package of ordinances — which includes a ban on assault-style rifles and rapid-fire trigger activators — are among the most restrictive local policies on gun ownership in Colorado. Similar measures were passed by Superior and Louisville in a regional effort to help protect Boulder County residents from gun violence, while cities bordered by Weld County made fewer reforms.

Plus the Superior Town Board’s decision to nix residential sprinkler requirements for fire victims, a new homelessness working group seeks volunteers, this weekend’s Arts in the Park festivities and more.

See you Friday, folks. ✌️ And quickly, before I go, thank you so much to our new BRL members who donated so far during our summer member drive — and thank you so much to those members who donated before it.

– Jezy, managing editor

The last light of a late spring day fades above Mount Sanitas at 9:08 p.m. on Monday, June 6. Credit: John Herrick

Quickly

🌤️ Mostly sunny and warm: Expect highs in the upper-70s today with plenty of sunshine. A warming trend should continue through Saturday, when highs should inch near 90 degrees.

Cost of clearing encampments: In the last 18 months, the City of Boulder has spent $2.9 million clearing homeless encampments, according to a city staff memo. On April 27, 2021, the Boulder City Council rejected a proposal to create a sanctioned campsite and approved a pilot program that included hiring six police officers and creating a city “Clean-Up Team” largely dedicated to removing tents and other belongings of people sleeping in public spaces. The city’s data indicates the number of encampments has increased since the crackdown.

🚲 Bike theft arraignment: Seven people who were indicted for allegedly participating in a statewide bicycle shop burglary ring had an arraignment hearing on Tuesday at the Boulder County Courthouse. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office said the defendants collectively stole or damaged more than $1.5 million in private property between 2019 and 2020. The majority of the cases heard on Tuesday were moved to early August, so attorneys from both sides can continue to prepare their cases. In court, counsel from the district attorney’s office said they would be extending plea deals to some of the defendants in the near future.

💧 Fearing water shortage, stricter conservation passes in Lafayette: The Lafayette City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution requiring residents to limit outdoor watering to three days a week. The city already prohibits watering during the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The resolution came in response to worrying trends. This year residents turned on their sprinklers a month earlier than is typical, adding to demand, according to the city. At the same time, water supply is low amid drought. Its reservoir storage volume is now just slightly above where the city typically ends the summer. The goal, the city said, is to change watering behavior to avoid extreme restrictions in the future.

🙋‍♀️ Homelessness working group seeks volunteers: June 30 is the deadline to apply to be part of a new working group within Homeless Solutions for Boulder County’s innovation and design team. The county says the role is “an opportunity for new and creative ideas to be evaluated for potential inclusion within the HSBC system.” Apply here.

➡️ Title IX Advisory Council: In more volunteer opportunity news, BVSD is inviting students, parents, staff and community members to apply for membership on the district’s Title IX Advisory Council. “BVSD’s Title IX Advisory Council reviews and make recommendations to the School District’s Title IX Compliance Officer(s) and BVSD staff regarding the School District’s policies, procedures, and initiatives addressing sexual violence and harassment.” Apply here.

👨‍💼 City hires new chief human resources officer: David Bell, who currently oversees human resources for the Jefferson County School District, will join the City of Boulder as its new chief human resources officer starting July 11. Per the city: “Bell brings 26 years of professional HR experience, with much of it in service to local government. For the past 15 years, he has worked for the school district, serving in progressively more complex roles. Previous employers included HR departments in Jefferson County and Whatcom County in Washington, as well as a variety of private sector employers.”

🏳️‍🌈 Out and about: Festivities are underway for this year’s Boulder County Pride Week, running through Sunday, June 12. Today’s events include a 50+ mixer, presented in partnership with Boulder County Area Agency on Aging, along with an LGBTQ+ video game tournament at the Equality Center of the Rocky Mountains (3340 Mitchell Ln). Full schedule here.

🚂 Tebo Train returns: Boulder’s youngest residents can once again take a spin down the Pearl Street Mall on the city’s 100% electric recreational mini-train. The free shuttle runs from 9:30–11 a.m. on weekdays, picking up riders (kids and parents) in front of the Wells Fargo Bank at the intersection of Pearl and 13th street.

Top Stories

Boulder’s gun laws are now among the most restrictive in Colorado

The Boulder City Council on Tuesday, June 7, unanimously voted to approve a package of gun laws that are among the strictest in Colorado, capping off a nearly year-long effort to enact stronger protections against gun violence following the King Soopers shooting in South Boulder. 

“Gun violence continues to escalate in a maddening trend upward that is daunting to watch and horrific to experience. But shrugging or turning away and accepting a worsening status quo is not OK,” said Councilmember Rachel Friend, who helped lead the effort to pass the new gun laws. 

The new ordinances ban the possession of semi-automatic assault rifles purchased after July 1, 2022. The laws also make it illegal to own rapid-fire trigger activators, large-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and guns without serial numbers, often known as “ghost guns.” The legal age to possess any gun in Boulder is now 21. And the city now prohibits carrying firearms on city property, near polling locations and inside businesses selling alcohol. 

The city’s gun shops will have to post the following signage: “WARNING: Access to a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide, death during domestic violence disputes, and the unintentional death of children, household members, or others. If you or a loved one is experiencing distress and/or depression, call 1-844-493-8255.” 

And in an effort to reduce suicides by firearms, anyone who wants to buy a gun in Boulder will have to wait 10 days after initiating a background check before they can bring the weapon home.

Similar measures also passed in the City of Louisville and Town of Superior. The City of Lafayette gave initial approval to a scaled-back package of gun measures, too. In neighboring Broomfield County, city Mayor Guyleen Castriotta said the city council has directed city staff to consider gun legislation for a discussion in September. 

Why is the Town of Superior allowing Marshall Fire survivors to opt out of its residential sprinkler requirement? Decision highlights dilemma facing local governments.

Superior Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Lacis struggled to decide whether to support an ordinance exempting Marshall Fire survivors who are rebuilding their homes from the town’s residential sprinkler requirement during last week’s town board meeting on May 23.

“The nightmare scenario I was wrestling with — and I know a number of my fellow board members were wrestling with — is what if we have a fire in the future and one of the homes that gets rebuilt didn’t have a sprinkler system, and then… somebody died in that house,” Lacis said at the town board meeting on May 23. “Having that on my conscience would be very difficult.”

But Lacis ultimately decided to support the sprinkler opt-out ordinance, which the board approved in a 5–2 vote. He initially opposed the measure, but changed his mind in response to an outpouring of concern from survivors about the steep costs of rebuilding.

Since the Dec. 30 wildfire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in southern Boulder County, the governments of Louisville and Superior have tried to ease the financial burden for rebuilding homeowners in various ways, including exempting them from the most recent energy efficiency building codes. The vast majority of residents who lost homes were underinsured and may have to dig deep into their own pockets to cover the full cost of rebuilding — if they rebuild at all.

Only 8% of homes lost in the fire had guaranteed replacement coverage that will fully cover the cost of rebuilding. For the remainder of rebuilding residents, the Colorado Division of Insurance estimates their underinsurance burden is between $99,000 and $243,000 per household, depending on construction costs. 

The Superior Town Board’s approval of the sprinkler opt-out ordinance exemplifies the thorny dilemmas facing local governments as they try to facilitate the rebuilding of homes in the burn area: whether to lower costs for individuals by carving out exceptions to regulations designed to protect residents from future wildfires amid accelerating climate change. 

“I didn’t want to be in the position where the board’s decision would prevent someone from rebuilding,” Lacis said in an interview with the Boulder Reporting Lab. “I talked to a lot of fire victims. … The underinsurance problem is a potentially insurmountable problem for them. If we mandated this cost for sprinklers, a lot of residents told me they weren’t going to be able to rebuild.”

BRL Picks

🩰 Ballet at the Bandshell: Don’t miss a stirring selection of short works by Boulder Ballet at Glen Huntington Bandshell at 7 p.m. this Friday and Saturday, June 10-11. The mixed-repertoire program is presented as part of City of Boulder’s Arts in the Park series, featuring a diverse slate of outdoor events all summer long. Full schedule here. Boulder Ballet tickets here.

🎨 Panelists wanted: Got thoughts on public art? Boulder Arts+Culture is reminding residents that every artwork installed in a public space goes through a panel of local members of the community — and you can join them. Interested applicants should email a one-page letter of interest and resume. Read more about the city’s public art program here.

🇲🇽 BoCo Latino history tour: Want to experience Museum of Boulder’s Voces Vivas: Stories from the Latino Community in Boulder, Past and Present with the guidance of a local expert? Saturdays in June, 1–3 p.m., patrons can take a tour of the exhibition with local historian and activist Phil Hernandez. (Be sure and read our story about the show before your visit.)

✈️ Take flight: Know a young person with an eye for the sky? Experimental Aircraft Association Boulder Chapter 1627 is hosting an event this Saturday at the Boulder Municipal Airport as part of its monthly Young Eagles flights series. Kids ages 8–17 are invited for free flights in a small airplane from 7 a.m. until noon. Register here.

Covid-19 Updates: June 8, 2022

  • 140 daily new cases (7-day avg.) Down 40% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 23 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up from a high of 14 last week.
  • 43% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 70% since July 2020.

What We’re Reading

📖 Former Rocky Mountain News editor John Temple on publishing images of carnage after a mass shooting: “The former dean of UC Berkeley’s graduate school of journalism, Ed Wasserman, argues that media, for reasons of taste and decency, have unthinkingly been ‘withholding from the public the pictures of the dead,’ a practice he thinks should change. The former Seattle Times executive editor David Boardman, now the dean of Temple University’s journalism school, agrees, but adds that this should be done only ‘with the permission of a surviving parent.’ The reality, based on my experience, is not quite so simple.” [The Atlantic]

📖 Leftward lunge for Denver City Council? “Three first-time city council candidates are running on a progressive platform, focusing on issues and policies that put them on the leftward side of their own party. Tiffany Caudill and Shannon Hoffman are challenging incumbents in southwest District 2 and central District 10, respectively, while Sarah Parady is seeking an open at-large seat in the April 2023 municipal elections. In the June 28 Democratic primary, state legislative candidate Elisabeth Epps, known for her criminal justice advocacy, is vying for the party’s nomination for House District 6 against Katie March, a former Democratic caucus staffer.” [Axios Denver]

ICYMI from BRL

💪 A personal trainer for fire mitigation: Wildfire Partners helps homeowners address unique challenges to protect themselves and their neighbors before the next blaze strikes. ‘It’s a lot of work; it’s not necessarily cheap, and it’s not something you just do one time,’ says program coordinator Jim Webster.

🏘️ City of Boulder seeks to redevelop a mobile home park without pricing out its residents. As builders break ground, some remain skeptical. The city is investing millions in the Ponderosa neighborhood in North Boulder to help existing residents afford replacement homes. The financing model, never before tested in Boulder, could be expanded across the city to address the housing crisis.

💵 How close is Boulder to providing a guaranteed income program? A pilot project being developed by the Boulder Health and Human Services Department would give several hundred low-income residents cash with no preconditions for up to two years, using $3 million in Covid-19 relief funds.

Join us! Only 60 new members to reach our goal.

On Monday, in honor of BRL’s recent 6-month anniversary, we launched our first member drive. Reader support is vital to ensure we can continue our work and grow much bigger to provide more local news coverage. In two days, we’re already 40% to our July 4 goal of 100 new members. Thank you for your generosity! If you haven’t yet, will you join us today to become one of the our new BRL members? Any amount qualifies you as a member.

Thanks for reading!

Our journalism depends on you.
Have a story tip for us?
Send us your ideas at tips@boulderreportinglab.org.

– 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.