Good morning and happy(?) Monday, everyone. Hope your weekend was as good as my dog’s. He spent it diving into snow banks, making friends with some very fat squirrels and sleeping in front of the radiator.
I do plenty of writing a little later on in this newsletter, so I won’t dilly dally here. Let’s chase this squirrel, shall we?
JUST IN: The Colorado Supreme Court just ruled in favor of the oil and gas industry in the closely watched COGCC v. Martinez case. John Ingold and John Frank analyze the decision and look ahead to how it will shape how the Democratic majority will pursue oil and gas regulations at the statehouse.
What in the world could make someone want to run 279 miles on one hour’s sleep?
Several paragraphs into Sun contributor Dan England’s profile of ultramarathoner and Golden resident Courtney Dauwalter, he asks “by now you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with [her].” And after a list of the things she’s willingly suffered through (running through driving hail, hallucinations and even losing toenails) it’s a pretty fair question. Even if you’re not a runner, you’re going to want to read this piece just to get a glimpse inside a rare kind of mental toughness that you might be able to imitate (a little) in your life.
A new bill was supposed to pay to transport foster kids to their school of origin. So why is no one using the money?
Colorado made headlines in the foster care system last year when the legislature set aside $2.75 million to pay to keep foster kids in their original schools by reimbursing foster parents or sometimes hiring HopSkipDrive, an Uber-like ride-sharing service for kids. But as of now, only eight counties out of Colorado’s 64 have asked for reimbursements, spending less than 2 percent of the funding.
Unemployment claims by federal workers hit Jefferson County hard
Unemployment claims by federal workers hit 1,642 since the shutdown began 24 days ago, and Jefferson County, home of the Denver Federal Center, is seeing the lion’s share of them.
From the Opinion Page
- Gary Wockner writes that while Colorado has made great strides in cultural inclusivity, “environmental inclusivity” is at an all-time low.
- The closure of midwife practices in Denver (story) could escalate the gaps in opportunity faced by Colorado children, write Jacy Montoya Price and Christina Walker.
- Mario Nicolais argues that the bill tying Colorado’s Electoral College votes to the national popular vote winner would be contributing to the “tyranny of the national majority.”
I want to talk about Taco Bell. And public transportation. And slime mold.
I had some time to think this weekend and my mind, as it does, turned to tacos. Specifically, the image above that I saw on reddit.com/r/denver. The map shows what a rail system that stopped at every Taco Bell in the Denver metro area would look like (the original idea comes from the subreddit /r/SubwaySubway. I’ll let you figure out what they do there). The map is a joke, one step up from a meme, but I haven’t stopped thinking about the fact that it looks a heck of a lot like a map of rail that Front Range residents would actually use.
That made me remember a story about the Japanese rail system, the most obsessively engineered and efficient public transportation in the world. Researchers put oat flakes roughly where the country’s major cities would be in a Petri dish and turned loose some slime mold. The mold created a network of tubes to feed that looked almost exactly like the existing rail lines.
It’s no secret that Denver’s public transit is anemic, at best. We were even held up as an one of the worst cities for transit in this Vox article, with the memorable quote, “in the process of building a huge amount of transit, they haven’t actually reached a lot of the places where people want to go.” We’ve opened entire light rail lines that struggle to move even 7,500 people per day. Meanwhile, traffic gets worse and we keep missing federal standards for air quality, year after year.
Transit is hard. Hard to fund, hard to plan, hard to build and hard to market (at first). So we can’t just go chasing our Chalupa-fried dream transit map. But making transit more natural — which undoubtedly means more lines that go more directly into places people actually live — wouldn’t be a bad North Star to guide future plans.
Because we should be at least as good as slime mold. I believe in us that much.
Stuff about Colorado worth checking out
// The New York Times picked 52 places to go this year and while Colorado didn’t make the list, our neighbor directly to the north is representing the Mountain West. // NYT
// Good and bad news about worker deaths in Colorado: Overall worker deaths are down, but in the fast-moving construction industry, deaths are slightly up. // Colorado Public Radio
// Statewide, there is an average of one school administrator for every 11.3 teachers. In Denver, where negotiations over teacher pay have the union threatening a strike, that number is 1 in 7.5. // Chalkbeat Colorado
// We talk a lot about the urban/rural divide in Colorado, but this piece is a fascinating look at how the divide can exist even between a city as small as Durango and its rural neighbors. // Durango Herald
// Denver’s park system was once the envy of city planners around the world, with abundant green space platted and designed to give workers who couldn’t afford to go to the mountains a chance to experience nature. But as Bruce Finley writes at The Post, that green space is being rapidly paved over. // Colorado Encyclopedia, The Denver Post
// Not only is this a great story about the rise of female ranchers in the West (including here in Colorado), but the photos are absolutely stunning. // NYT
// If you care about who “owns” the news (which if you’re reading our newsletter is a pretty good bet) some big news broke last night: Digital First Media, the company that owns The Denver Post, is leveraging a bid to buy rival newspaper chain Gannett. This is the same company that cut the newsrooms of The Post and its other papers by 30 percent in 2018 and posted the highest profits in the industry. The Wall Street Journal broke the story (paywall) and this morning, USA Today, a Gannett paper, wrote this story about the attempted takeover.
I’m not going to belabor the point here: It’s hard for out-of-state, profit-margin-focused ownership of local news outlets to share the same mission as the journalists it employs. I love The Denver Post and the people still putting out great work in that newsroom, but as long as decisions about their future and business are made at a massive scale, with little regard for the communities that they serve, the future of local coverage isn’t promising.
That’s why we started The Sun — owned by the journalists that founded it. We live here, we care about the community and while we’re working to be sustainable, our goal is to serve Colorado, not get rich doing it. We’ve already received support from so many Coloradans (thank you, if you’re reading this) but we still have a long way to go. Please consider a membership (starting at $5/month) to help us create a sustainable future for journalism in Colorado.
Your Thing for Today
The Thing: “Tidying Up” (Watch on Netflix)
Why You Might Like It: So you’ve probably already heard of this one, as the book this show is based on has been a bestseller in the U.S. since 2014 and the show is, in just a few weeks since its debut, a cultural phenomenon. But as someone who has spent his entire adult life in a series of one-bedroom apartments, the TV version really hit home. The thing about HGTV-style shows is that they almost never show apartment living (and no, the tiny home craze doesn’t count, because they usually have a yard of some kind). The Netflix show has reignited a decluttering crazy around the country — and sparked both a surge in thrift store donations and a backlash from book lovers — and it did it while frequently showing apartments that looked a lot more like mine.
Editor’s note: Every Sunriser will include one … thing … to cap off our time together. The Thing will be just about anything, like a TV show or a book or a particularly cool dog toy.
OK, you made it to the end. I’m giving you permission to call that an accomplishment. Is it running 279 miles through hail? No, but it counts. Have a great day.
We’ll see you back here on Wednesday.