Capitol Hill, looking as green and sunny as ever. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)
Good morning from the historic, sun-dappled sidewalks of Denver! Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone? (apologies to Joni) The re-emergence of the sun this morning really put a spotlight on how green Denver has gotten under all these rainy clouds. And with the state being not just drought-free, but free of “abnormally dry” spots for the first time in at least 19 years, I think Colorado is just getting started showing off what it can do with a little moisture.
We don’t want to keep you from drifting into the event horizon of the upcoming long weekend, so let’s pave this paradise already, shall we?
>> ABOVE THE FOLD
While the Trump administration backtracks, Colorado is plowing forward on transgender rights
Lu Lo Coco and spouse Chris Lo Coco, who both use they/them pronouns, at dinner in Boulder this month. Lu said health care never felt more unfair than when their insurance company paid for adult braces but refused to pay for testosterone so that Lu could transition to a nonbinary gender. (Jennifer Brown, The Colorado Sun)
Just this morning, the Trump administration announced that it is replacing an Obama-era anti-discrimination rule, leading advocates to worry that the government is allowing emergency rooms, doctors and insurance companies to deny transgender patients care. But as Jennifer Brown writes, Colorado is going full-steam ahead in the opposite direction with a series of moves to expand transgender and nonbinary rights to health care, birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
A new state lawmaker’s first session is over. And she got an earful about it at a town hall meeting.
“I don’t want to invite trouble. But it’s better for me to have town halls where people disagree and we can have honest conversation. I appreciate push back a little. I really do.”
— First-year state Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton
Despite the fanfare of the last day under the state Capitol dome, the Colorado legislative session isn’t over. It continues in town halls held across the state, and first-year lawmakers like Lisa Cutter are learning that after a busy session, their constituents have plenty to say.
>> “IT WAS A ROLLER COASTER.” Click to read the final part of a series following Cutter from Women’s March organizer to lawmaker by John Frank.
This is the final story from an occasional series that is part of The Colorado Sun’s Capitol Sunlight project explaining how state government works. Read part one and part two.
Colorado’s avalanche season claimed 8 lives. Experts say there’s much to learn from how they died.
“Young and old alike can take a lot out of a season like this. It was an eye-opening season for all of us.”
— John Donaldson, backcountry guide director with The Eleven Experience
There just hasn’t been an avalanche season in Colorado like the one we just experienced. Jason Blevins spent all winter covering the slides — and the record number of people caught in them — and has put together a sobering look back at the deadly season to see what the people who live, work and play in avalanche territory are hoping to learn from it.
I-25 traffic jams are shifting northern Colorado transit plans into high gear. But are commuters ready to ditch their cars?
Passengers pass by commuter Jayne Niemann as they unload the Bustang from Loveland on May 22, 2019, in Denver. (Josh Polson, Special to The Colorado Sun)
Once upon a time, residents of northern Colorado could look at the Denver metro area’s choking traffic and think, “At least that’s not a problem up here.” But here in 2019 — when housing costs and urban job markets have more people than ever living north of Denver but working in the city — the northern section of Interstate 25 is packed.
More from The Sun
Benj Mickel, rafting guide with Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Tours, hits the rapids in the Durango Whitewater Park with a group of boaters on April 15, 2019, as they travel down the Animas River. (Jerry McBride, Special to The Colorado Sun)
- As we mentioned in the intro, drought levels in Colorado haven’t just dropped, they’ve been obliterated. In fact, there are only about eight square miles of the state that show abnormal dryness (out of 104,100 square miles) — and according to the guy who drew the map, that could just be a drawing error. Jesse Paul has more (plus a fun slider map of just how much drought has improved since February) including what needs to happen to have a “well-behaved runoff.”
- We have some more details about the Greeley Police investigation that prompted former state Rep. Rochelle Galindo to resign: She was cited Wednesday for providing alcohol to minors amid an investigation into allegations that she sexually assaulted a campaign worker.
- Xcel Energy — which hasn’t asked for a rate increase in five years — is seeking a 6.5% bump in rates to “increase profit margin, pay for wildfire mitigation and keep up with the state’s explosive growth.”
- Speaking of power: The Trump administration lifted a moratorium on coal sales from public lands that will release an estimated 5 billion tons of greenhouse gases over the next 20 years, but a Bureau of Land Management report basically says that it would make “little difference in the overall emissions” of the U.S. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Colorado changed its laws around sex ed. Here’s what you need to know from our partners at Chalkbeat Colorado.
>> THE FUN STUFF
// Drew Litton looks at Denver’s decriminalization of magic mushrooms and sees … really groovy colors, man.
// Ossie grapples with his aspirations to do video exposés, and all he exposes is his own uncertainty in this week’s installation of “What’d I Miss?”
UCCS professor David Havlick grew up close to two of America’s most toxic sites — Rocky Flats and Rocky Mountain Arsenal. That nurtured an interest in how those militarized landscapes, and others around the world, have undergone transformations with ramifications on both history and the environment. In this week’s excerpt from his book “Bombs Away,” he takes a closer look at both Rocky Flats and the Hanford nuclear site in Washington. In the SunLit interview, he explains how his field work took him all over the world.
John Frank’s Beer Pick
Odell Brewing’s Small Batch Festival on Saturday in Fort Collins is one of my favorites in the state. Even though it’s a one-brewery event, the range of beers never disappoints with sours, IPAs, barrel-aged offerings and lighter beers. (Here’s the list for this year.) Tickets cost $40 in advance, and may sell out the day of the event. More details here.
>> THE SHORTLIST
// As Dan England’s piece above demonstrated, traffic is a huge (and growing) problem for Colorado. That’s why this story about Seattle, a similarly sized metro area facing similar growth issues, really jumped out at me this week. The city has grown at about the same pace as Denver, but by heavily investing in metro-wide, holistic public transportation programs including buses, light rail and even monorails, it has done so without increasing the number of cars on the road.
I highly encourage you to read that story, because politicians and planners can claim they want to fix traffic and get more cars off the road all they want, but until they acknowledge just how much time, effort and money is required to create a metro area that can be navigated without a car, those desires aren’t going to translate into the real world. // POLITICO Magazine
// Another bit of solutions journalism from outside Colorado: Four years after Connecticut implemented a system to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses (very similar to Colorado’s troubled program), the state is showing that the program may lead to safer roads. // KUNC
// The people* of Stapleton will vote on whether the neighborhood will change its name to avoid association with the former Denver mayor and Ku Klux Klan member Benjamin F. Stapleton.
*By people, though, we mean only property owners, including developers who own multiple rental properties and get multiple votes, raising concerns that the vote ignores renters (who are, you know, actual people who live in the neighborhood). // Denverite
// “Firetruck factory” sounds like a place where every little kid wants to work when they grow up, but up in Fort Collins, the SVI factory that churns out the specialized vehicles is a real and thriving business. // 9News
// A study led by researchers from NOAA and the University of Colorado found that methane emissions from new oil and gas drilling haven’t increased as much as anticipated — which energy companies are highlighting — but also found that emissions of ethane and propane did increase on a “substantially larger relative basis.” // Daily Camera 🔑
// A very cool-sounding project will use data collected by tens of thousands of trail hikers to create an app to help wildland firefighters map out rapid routes to escape flames. // High Country News
>> TODAY’S THING
Today’s thing comes from senior editor Dana Coffield, who was inspired by my Wednesday recommendation of undershirts for people.
The Thing: ThunderShirt for cats and dogs (starts at about $40)
Why You Might Like It: As the threat of powerful storms settles in as a regular guest in the Colorado weather forecast plenty of us will be trying to figure out how to help when lightning strikes and our furry pals are terrified. What works for us is the ThunderShirt, kind of a swaddling system for animals. Floyd T. Dog, president of the Nervous Little Dog Club, has been using the tight, flannel-like garment for a couple of years and it works. The shirt goes on easily, is pulled tight with a few Velcro fittings and takes enough of the edge off that he’s able to sleep, rather than pace around the house panting and trembling.
What’s your thing? If you have something that you just can’t stop raving about that you’d like to share, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be published in a future Sunriser!
And with that, you’ve reached the end of your Friday Sunriser. Hopefully it left you feeling informed and ready to dive headfirst into your Memorial Day weekend. Even though you’re likely halfway out the door, sunscreen in hand, we always appreciate it when you share our stories with your friends, family and the rest of your social network (especially if you can get them to join us here for The Sunriser at coloradosun.com/newsletters).
Have an absolutely wonderful weekend and we’ll see you for a bite-sized Sunriser on Monday!