Good morning, Boulder! 🌄 Welcome to your Wednesday edition of BRL Today.

This morning’s top stories look at new details surrounding the dispersal of most of the remaining $28.5 million in earmarked disaster relief raised through the Boulder County Wildfire Fund, along with the latest on the possible expansion of the City of Boulder’s affordable housing program to communities across the county.

Plus, a new campaign to repeal the CU South annexation, commencement congestion for the week ahead, a new chief of staff for Boulder County Commissioners, today’s Flatirons Loop trail closure and a whole lot more.

Don’t forget to send us your photos while you’re out on the town, and you just might see them featured right here in our newsletter. 📸 👀

– Jezy, managing editor

Local residents protest on Pearl Street on Tuesday, May 4, 2022, in response to the news leaked Monday evening of a draft majority opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that guaranteed federal constitutional protection of abortion rights for half a century. Credit: Joanne Brothers

Quickly

☁️ Cloudy and cool: Expect plenty of cloud cover today with a high near 50. Chance of showers. Things should start warming up tomorrow, with sunshine in the forecast for Friday and Saturday.

🚗 Commencement congestion: Plan ahead for high traffic and tight parking this week, as CU Boulder celebrates the class of 2022 during the commencement ceremony at Folsom Field on Thursday, May 5.

🎓 Hats off to CU grads: And speaking of graduation — CU Boulder says more than 9,000 degrees will be awarded at Thursday’s commencement ceremony. (That includes our spring intern, Harry Fuller. Congrats, Harry!) Whether you’re joining the festivities virtually or in-person, you can find more info here.

🆕 Personnel change: On May 12, Clay Fong will succeed Michelle Krezek as chief of staff for Boulder County Commissioners. Fong most recently served as manager of community relations and the Office of Human Rights at the City of Boulder. Krezek is retiring after nearly 20 years of service with the county.

👮 Police chief’s town hall: Boulder Police Department Chief Maris Herold will hold her May town hall Thursday, May 5, 5–6 p.m., to discuss crime trends and workforce analysis/staffing. The public is invited to share their comments, questions and concerns (in-person and virtual). Learn more here.

✍️ Repeal CU South Annexation campaign: On Monday, advocates announced the launch of a campaign to repeal the City of Boulder’s annexation of CU South, the residential development and flood wall project in South Boulder many years in the making, via referendum on Nov. 8, 2022.

🥾 Trail closure: Per Open Space & Mountain Parks (OSMP): “A portion of the Flatirons Loop Trail will be closed from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4 [today] while OSMP conducts work and staff trainings along the path.”

🪵 Free wood disposal (opens today!): Reminder — Nederland Community Forestry Sort Yard opens for the 2022 season today at 9 a.m. County residents can drop off tree branches and logs free of charge.

🏠 First Marshall Fire rebuilding permit in Superior: Per the Town of Superior: “Congratulations to Terri and Ed who just received the first Marshall Fire rebuilding permit in Original Town Superior. This is a great milestone for all of us. Together as one community we will recover and rebuild!”

🐻 Bear necessities: Springtime means increased bear activity in Boulder County. “If community members see bears inside the city, do not follow them or disturb them and call the city’s non-emergency dispatch number at 303-441-3333. If you see bears on open space, follow several tips provided by city Open Space and Mountain Parks.”

Top Stories

Plans for the remaining cash in the Boulder County Wildfire Fund are coming into view. What will it mean for survivors?

Four months after the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Superior and Louisville, Community Foundation Boulder County on May 2, 2022, held its second public meeting on the dispersal of the remaining $28.5 million in earmarked disaster relief raised through its Boulder County Wildfire Fund.

During the first public meeting at the Superior Business Center on March 28, Community Foundation CEO Tatiana Hernandez outlined the nonprofit’s plan to dedicate the vast majority of the funds — approximately $20 million — to help affected homeowners rebuild in southern Boulder County. 

On Monday night at the Louisville Recreation and Senior Center, she provided details for the first time about how that money would get divvied up among households. 

Hernandez presented an estimated formula that would determine who gets what. She laid out details for a Recovery Navigators Program, a one-on-one resource counseling service expected to be up and running as soon as mid-June, administered as a public-private partnership between Boulder County and a yet-to-be-named nonprofit. The presentation also included plans for the $2.5 million pot of money for “unmet needs.” This money would be given to renters and the uninsured to help with everyday expenses. Unlike the rest of the funding, it is not restricted to those staying in the county.

The sheer amount of money raised and distributed by the Community Foundation – by comparison, $2.2 million was processed by the foundation after the 2013 floods – has added complexity to the task of dispersing aid. Hernandez called the amount “unprecedented” during the March 28 meeting. 

The decisions made for the wildfire fund, Hernandez said, were driven above all by the need to create an “incredibly easy” process for fire survivors. “Every decision goes through that lens: ‘Is this easy for people?’ If the answer is no, we don’t necessarily go down that route,” she said. 

Hernandez suggested that using philanthropic disaster dollars for rebuilding post-disaster was uncharted territory for community foundations. And she criticized what she called the national model for disaster recovery.

“When we looked at the national model, it was all services, no financial support. [Ask] anyone who’s a fire survivor in California, or fire survivors across Colorado,” she told attendees. “We said, ‘That’s not going to work for us. That’s not what our need is.’” 

In a possible first for Colorado, City of Boulder may expand its affordable housing program countywide to jointly address the regional crisis

The City of Boulder is considering expanding its affordable housing program to communities across the county. The goal would be to shore up more housing for low-income families and provide services aimed at preventing evictions and foreclosures, in a first-of-its-kind regional partnership. 

The idea is being floated as part of a plan for how to spend $63.4 million allocated to Boulder County from the U.S Treasury Department under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which Congress passed in March 2021 to help address the economic and health disparities exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The plan comes after three working groups — made up of residents, city and county officials, and leaders of local advocacy groups — were appointed earlier this year to take feedback from the public and come up with spending recommendations. 

The members pitched their $44 million spending plan on May 3, 2022, to the Board of County Commissioners.

It includes major investments in childcare, grants for small businesses and a wide range of mental health services. 

But the largest portion of the spending plan – $14.7 million – would go toward addressing the county’s housing crisis, creating a regional housing program that would be the first in Colorado, according to working group members. 

BRL Picks

😂 Comic relief: Reminder —Mark your calendar for June 23–26, when Boulder Comedy Festival returns for its second year of laughs. Featuring national and local talent, the funny festivities highlight women and diversity in comedy. Keep an eye on the festival website for performer announcements at Front Range Brewing, License #1 at The Hotel Boulderado, Finkle and Garf, Tilt and Tiki on Main.

🇲🇽 Latino history program: Frasier Retirement Community is hosting a weeklong program of Latino-focused events and activities as part of Celebrando Nuestra Cultura: Past, Present, and Future. The event kicks off on Monday, May 9, and runs through Sunday, May 15. More info here.

💃 Slay the Runway: LGBTQ+ teens ages 13–18 are invited to this summer’s Slay the Runway workshop at Longmont’s Firehouse Art Center and Boulder Public Library’s BLDG 61 Maker Space. The two-week workshop takes place June 27–July 8, featuring fashion design, performance and sewing classes No fashion or performance experience is required.

Covid-19 Updates: May 4, 2022

  • 99 daily new cases (7-day avg.) 🔺Up 1% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 0 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from avg. of 40 since July 2020.
  • 51% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 71% since July 2020.

What We’re Reading

📖 Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains prepares for out-of-state patients: “We’ve been seeing this coming; we’ve been getting ready for it,” Cowart said. “The most important thing that we’ve been doing is moving as many of our services to telehealth as possible, and that includes medication abortion. So we have a service where an individual can call in and speak to a doctor over the phone or over a website connection and go through the proper explanations and procedures and the doctor can then send, prescribe and send the medication abortion to the patient overnight to their home or their designated location.” [Colorado Community Media]

📖 Colorado homeowners could get average $274 per year property tax savings under tax relief proposal. “Colorado leaders announced a second round of property tax relief measures Monday, to the tune of about $274 a year for people with $500,000 homes, while promising it wouldn’t undercut the local services those taxes typically fund. The measure, unveiled by Gov. Jared Polis, House Majority Leader Rep. Daneya Esgar, both Democrats, and Sens. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Bob Rankin R-Carbondale, would cut property taxes for homeowners and commercial property owners by about $700 million statewide over two years.” [Denver Post]

ICYMI from BRL

🏠 ‘I want to be in charge of myself’: As Boulder County’s older population continues to grow, finding solutions to help them stay in their homes is more pressing than ever. The region’s population of adults over the age of 80 is poised for ‘a dramatic increase’ by 2050, but most local housing wasn’t built for aging in place.

🌳 How can we live more comfortably on a warming planet? Boulder wants to start by turning down the temperature. As part of a new climate change strategy, the city’s Cool Boulder campaign aims to manage its urban landscape to help pioneer a new model for adapting to more frequent wildfires, floods and heat waves.

🏘️ The plan to redevelop industrial East Boulder includes housing. What kind, and how much, is still up for discussion. Members of the Boulder City Council want the plan to include more housing for middle-income residents. They are scheduled to vote on a final 20-year plan this month.

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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.