Good morning and happy Wednesday, folks! It’s the day after a runoff election here in Denver, which represents possibly the longest lull between elections that Colorado will see for a while. I’ll pause for you to exhale a sigh of relief. But the issues affecting Colorado don’t take a vacation, which you’ll see in today’s wide-ranging newsletter, where we address homelessness, tax policy, ocean junk, health care and so much more. This is one of those days that you’re going to feel a lot smarter after you finish reading, so I won’t dilly-dally any more.
Let’s upcycle this ocean waste, shall we? (more on that below)
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>> ABOVE THE FOLD
DEVELOPING: After a bruising runoff, Michael Hancock will continue to be Denver’s mayor, besting political newcomer Jamie Giellis in last night’s election. But as many as three incumbent city councilors, as of this writing, appear set to lose their seats. Even if you’re not from Denver, you should care about these elections because they will influence everything from the airport to Red Rocks to traffic.
The dorm at the new Delores Project shelter in Sun Valley was designed using feedback from women who had stayed at other, outdated shelters, CEO Stephanie Miller said. Some of the most-requested amenities were personal power outlets and lights, which were incorporated into every bed. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)
The well-funded campaign against Denver’s Initiative 300 (which would have reversed the city’s ban on camping that advocates saw as punishing people for homelessness) had a slogan: “We can do better.” But in the wake of the vote, what is actually being done in Denver and around the state — where skyrocketing housing costs and stagnant wages are creating pockets of housing insecurity from Durango to the suburbs — to end homelessness?
>> WHAT’S WORKING, WHAT ISN’T: Jennifer Brown writes about some of the innovative approaches in Colorado — like a new “trauma-informed” women’s shelter and supportive housing facility by The Delores Project in Denver — even as those in the trenches say Colorado needs to drastically increase its investment in solving the problem. I promise, you’ll get a whole new perspective on the issue by reading this story.
Turns out, it’s really hard to (legally) rewrite TABOR. Critics are testing 18 different ways to do it.
“Why don’t we just get rid of Gallagher, TABOR and Amendment 23? Well, I don’t know. We’re not posing the question, ‘Is that a good idea, or is that politically possible?’ We’re just posing the question of could that be done in one single measure.”
— Carol Hedges, executive director of the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute
“Nothing fires up our side like TABOR does.”
— Michael Fields, leader of conservative advocacy group Colorado Rising Action
There’s an all-out fight coming over Colorado tax policy, and the stakes are about as high as anything else happening in the state. But tackling the tangled mess of constitutional amendments that critics say are keeping the state from effectively funding schools, transportation and higher education (which we’ve explained in detail here) can’t begin unless critics can figure out what they’re legally allowed to do.
>> FROM PULLING THREADS TO THE NUCLEAR OPTION: Brian Eason, as he does, gives a clear, useful and context-filled explanation of this complicated fight. You’re going to want to read it to be ready for the next *checks calendar* several years of elections.
How Summit County residents, fed up with high health care prices, banded together and negotiated a better deal
I’m just going to quote directly from John Ingold’s examination of the surprising success of organized action by Summit County residents:
In the stodgy world of health policy, this is about as cinematic as it gets: A group of small-town locals, fed up with high prices, fighting together for a better deal from two powerful industries. And, despite those challenges, they appear to have pulled it off.
>> CAN IT BE REPLICATED AROUND THE STATE? Read John’s full story to see the details of how Summit County organized itself, what deals were struck and why officials hope it can become a model.
Scavengers look for plastic bottle trash at a garbage dump in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province, Indonesia. (Zikri Maulana / SOPA Images/Sipa USA, via AP Images)
Golden may seem like it’s a million miles from the nearest ocean (it’s actually only about 840 miles to the beaches of San Diego, but I digress), but inside the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, researchers are working on a process they hope can be one part of the plan to start getting plastics out of the world’s water.
>> FROM POLLUTANT TO SNOWBOARDS: Mark Jaffe explains how the NREL process of turning the junk threatening to literally outweigh the fish in the ocean into materials for snowboards, wind turbines and more could kickstart a market-driven system to clean up our water.
More from The Sun
- Auto dealers have been dead set against Colorado’s plan to adopt California’s aggressive standard for zero-emission vehicles in the state. But one part of their plan — to voluntarily work to sell more ZEVs without regulation — seems to have fallen apart, writes Tamara Chuang.
- Huh: Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia — who is term-limited and not up for reelection — is spending $20,000 on a 30-second ad touting his work in the legislative session.
- In an NTSB report, witnesses to the deadly crash of a Beech 60 aircraft in Loveland last month — the state’s first aircraft death of 2019 — said the airplane was on fire before the crash.
- More bills signed into law: Gov. Polis signed bills to help protect individuals and news outlets from “strategic lawsuits” that seek to curb free speech as well as a bill to start exploring a media literacy studies program in public schools.
- A northwest Colorado housing authority has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a case surrounding companion animals. Attorneys argued the agency refused to make exceptions for two tenants whose cats and dog were recommended by doctors to cope with depression and anxiety.
>> THE SHORTLIST
// Here are a couple of relevant stories to go along with our piece on homelessness in Colorado:
- Over in Durango, a familiar conversation: Garbage from homeless campers is piling up in open space, straining park ranger resources. // Durango Herald
- Just north of West Sixth Avenue on Santa Fe Drive in Denver, in one of Denver’s historically poorer neighborhoods, three homes and two commercial buildings could be replaced with 117 condos — with no mention of affordable units (at least in this story). // BusinessDen
- Meanwhile, in Finland: “‘It’s a miracle’: Helsinki’s radical solution to homelessness” Spoiler: It involves giving people housing when they need it, without conditions. “Look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.” // The Guardian
- Why does city life feel so isolating? And is that lack of civic life making existing problems worse? That’s what Eric Klineberg argues in his book “Palaces for the People” about the importance of “social infrastructure” like schools, libraries and other institutions (here’s a review and an episode of 99 Percent Invisible about the book). // CityLab, 99PI
// As reported by Dan England in The Sun, one of the runaway successes in Colorado transportation has been the Bustang. And now the bus service is beefing up its roundtrip offerings from Fort Collins to Denver to keep up with extra demand. // Coloradoan 🔑
// Hoo boy, if you thought (some) people hated electric scooters, I can’t imagine what the reaction to Bird’s two-person electric mopeds is going to be. (Also: I want one) // 9News
// A small church north of Denver that primarily serves Latinos is going to battle with the Vatican to get its services restored. // Denverite
// Here’s a cool photo from /r/Denver of the northside’s ancient rail lines emerging from under the asphalt of West 32nd Avenue, which is a great excuse to look at these old photos of Denver’s streetcars, including a heartbreaking (in a “Toy Story” kind of way) sign of a streetcar saying goodbye near its last day in service — though nothing can compete with the sheer maudlin craftiness of Halifax’s last streetcar. // r/denver, Denver Urbanism, @mike902 on Twitter
>> TODAY’S THING
Why You Might Like It: Roky Erickson, the enigmatic frontman of the 13th Floor Elevators — even if that doesn’t sound familiar you’ve most likely heard “You’re Gonna Miss Me” — died last week at the age of 71. I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said (the lede of this obit at NPR is particularly poignant), but I can point you to one of my favorite songs and a perfect example of the deeply soulful way that Roky approached the art of songwriting and creating an audio landscape.
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!
Just because the Denver election is behind us and Gov. Jared Polis has signed or vetoed all of the bills passed during Colorado’s 2019 legislative session doesn’t mean that we’re slowing down. If you have anything you want our team of reporters to dive into just drop us a note at email@example.com. I know a few people on staff are itching to get to get out of the city and report from all over the state.
We will see you back here on Friday (we’ve got some cool stuff in store!) to send you off into the weekend.