A view of the Southern Ute Boarding School campus outside of Ignacio around 1910 hints at its agricultural emphasis. The tribe is mulling if and how it will preserve a painful chapter in Colorado, and U.S., history. (Southern Ute Drum Archives)

Compiled by Jennifer Brown, jennifer@coloradosun.com
Co-founder/reporter, @JenBrownColo

I went to a news conference yesterday, something I actually try to avoid, because the stories you report on your own are almost always better than the ones you report alongside a pack of your fellow journos. But a really cool thing happened at this news conference, held at the Lookout Mountain youth corrections facility in Golden. 

When state officials repeatedly refused to release a taxpayer-funded review that found rampant drug use and other problems at the youth lock-up, a row of reporters did not relent. The questions piled on. The answers fell short. It got a little feisty. And a few hours afterward, the state Human Services Department reversed course and agreed to release a redacted version of the document. 

Journalists talk a lot about holding the powerful accountable. I watched it live yesterday. 

So thanks for helping power journalism in Colorado. We’re grateful for your support of The Sun and promise you that those dollars ensure we can continue to stick up for the public’s right to know. 

If you’re reading this newsletter, that means you’ve joined us in spirit. But how about making today the day you support us by becoming a member? For as little as $5 a month (sign up from your phone in just a few taps!) you can be part of the future of journalism. A membership to The Sun is an investment in your community, in democracy and in a smarter, more-engaged Colorado. 

Let’s file some more open records requests, shall we?




From backcountry skiing to hot tub hangouts and whiskey sipping, there are plenty of excuses to visit Estes Park this winter. Need one? Check out 9 here.




The Latest from The Sun


After a heated discussion, Colorado lawmakers move closer to historic vote repealing the death penalty

“I am revictimized and retraumatized every time I have to tell this story.”

—Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, whose son’s murderers are on death row

Our state senators debated the death penalty for six hours yesterday and, unlike last year, gave initial approval to a bill to abolish it. Reporter Moe Clark was at the Capitol for all the emotional and impassioned testimony, including from Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora whose son’s killers are two of the three people on Colorado’s death row. The 19-15 vote defied party lines, with two Democrats voting against the measure and three Republicans voting to end capital punishment in Colorado. >> STORY



Colorado boarding school, where government sought to assimilate tribal students, listed as a “most endangered” place

“Fighting against all odds of cultural genocide via forced assimilation, it also represents the resilience of Southern Ute ancestors, descendants from the Mouache, Capota and Weeminuche Bands of Ute, and others from various Indigenous Nations.”

—Lindsay Box, Southern Ute tribal spokeswoman

It’s a place with a dark past, where American Indian children were “assimilated” by the federal government (in some cases, beaten if they spoke their native language). Now, the remnants of the Southern Ute Boarding School near Ignacio in southwest Colorado are listed among the state’s “most endangered” places. Reporter Kevin Simpson explains how the campus, closed since 1920 but intermittently repurposed afterward, could now be restored as a site of historical and cultural significance. >> STORY



A youth corrections center plagued by escapes, drugs and a riot is headed for a reorganization

It was the spring from hell for Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center, a boys-only youth lock-up facility in Golden. There was a riot, a gang fight in which three guards were injured, multiple escapes and a staff member accused of sexual exploitation. And, according to a review by an outside party, the place was full of illicit drugs. Read about the Division of Youth Services’ plan to turn the place around. Hint: It involves fewer kids, remodeling and a big budget request. >> STORY



Where’s the line between political speech and credible threats? A Colorado bill is asking the question.

“The world would be better if your home burned down with you and your family in it.”

—an email sent to State Rep. Kyle Mullica

Politics are hyperpolarized these days, and with that comes some pretty aggressive constituents. So what’s the difference between political speech and a criminal threat? That’s the key question behind a bipartisan bill that would make it a class-four felony to retaliate against an elected official or their family with a credible threat or harassment. John Frank has the details on the nasty emails Rep. Kyle Mullica received after the legislature debated childhood vaccinations. >> STORY



More from The Sun

  • TELL LAWMAKERS HOW TO SPEND: Get your say on the most important bill of the legislative session: the budget bill. There’s a rare chance Monday afternoon to give your 2 cents to the Joint Budget Committee, a panel of six lawmakers who write the $32 billion bill. This is only the second time in recent memory the committee has given citizens the chance to comment, John Frank reports. >> STORY
  • PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION: Even outspoken climate activists burn fossil fuels. And they are sometimes heavily ridiculed for the perceived hypocrisy. Now a group called Protect Our Winters, on a mission to convert athletes from runners to skiers into climate change advocates, is revealing a new initiative called “Imperfect Advocacy.” Read more from Jason Blevins. >> STORY
  • REINSURANCE DEAL IN THE WORKS: The hospital association is in talks with lawmakers about a possible budget deal concerning Colorado’s reinsurance program. The association dropped its lawsuit against the state this week and announced it’s instead working on a proposal to defer the first $40 million hospitals are supposed to pay by June. Read more from John Ingold. >> STORY
  • WHERE ARE THE WOMEN IN THE GOP?: In the Colorado General Assembly, there are just seven Republican women. That compares with 37 female Democrats. The GOP has announced a new Women in Action program, Sandra Fish reports. >> STORY
  • AND WHERE ARE THE NON-WHITE TEACHERS?: One-third of Colorado school districts did not have a single teacher who identified as Hispanic. More than 70% did not have any black teachers, Erica Breunlin reports. >> STORY
  • WIPING AWAY EVICTIONS: A proposal to suppress eviction records is up for debate at the Capitol in an effort to help people find housing in a tight market. Moe Clark explains how the bill would work and how it comes only a session after a slate of bills aimed at giving renters more rights.  >> STORY
  • OP-ED ON BEER + POLITICS: Steve Fechheimer, CEO at New Belgium Brewing, writes “Like craft beverages and the great outdoors? Ask Cory Gardner to support the CORE Act.


The Fun Stuff




Vine Street Brewpub in Denver started the countdown long ago — a tease each time I passed their sign. But now it’s here. February marks the start of stout month celebration at all the Mountain Sun-affiliated breweries. Whether you go to Vine Street or the Sun pubs in Boulder and Longmont, enjoy one of the many varieties of the dark and rick beer style to endure these cold days.





// Drew Litton takes a deep dive — literally — on Cory Gardner’s comments regarding new witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.

// And in “What’d I Miss?” a bizarre tale of discrimination heaped on discrimination wears Ossie out — and he hasn’t even gotten out of his chair.





When Jodi Bowersox was looking for someone to co-author a novel that would combine elements of science fiction and romantic comedy, she didn’t have to look far. “Mars Madness,” whose excerpt hits the ground running with an element of slapstick, lists Rhonda Holloway as the collaborator. She’s actually a character (who wrote books) from one of Bowersox’s previous novels. And in the SunLit author interview, we learn how Bowersox adapted her own writing style to accommodate her co-author.

SAVE THE DATE: The Colorado Sun Book Club convenes Feb. 24 at 7 p.m., to chat with author Diana Holguin-Balogh about “Rosary Without Beads,” her historical novel featuring Billy the Kid and the fictional sheepherder’s daughter who becomes his love interest. The event is FREE — come mingle with other book fans in the Sun community — but please RSVP here.


The Colorado Report



// METH, GUNS and AGGRESSIVE TACTICS: Those three things helped give Colorado the nation’s fifth-highest rate for fatal law enforcement shootings, according to an investigation by Colorado Public Radio. Reporters Allison Sherry and Ben Markus found that Colorado law enforcement authorities shot someone, on average, once a week for the past six years. Don’t miss this one. // CPR

// JAGGED ROCKS: How do you prevent people from camping in your yard? Apparently by filling it with jagged rocks and chunks of concrete. Workers at a condo complex have filled the strip between the sidewalk and the curb in Five Points, leading to a community conversation on homelessness. // Denverite

// GIRLS WRESTLING: Girls for years have competed on boys wrestling teams throughout Colorado, but soon the state will join a growing number of others in officially sanctioning girls wrestling. The sport joins Unified Bowling and boys volleyball. // Aurora Sentinel

// HEMP IN SPACE: Front Range Biosciences will send hemp clones to low-Earth orbit on a SpaceX rocket in March. And no, it’s not because all the warehouse space in the metro is occupied by other weed growers. The Lafayette company is trying to figure out if the plants will mutate while growing on the International Space Station and, if they do, if there are commercial applications for the changes. // Denver Business Journal  ?

// GREEN BUT NOT GREEN: Growing cannabis consumes immense amounts of natural resources and pollutes kind of a lot. On Wednesday the state launched new pilot programs to help, including one that captures the carbon dioxide emitted while brewing beer and uses it to stimulate pot-plant growth. // The Denver Post ?

// BAKER GETS BOOK DEAL: The Masterpiece Cakeshop baker who refused to make a wedding cake for two gay men will release a book this summer. The currently untitled book will chronicle Jack Phillips’ journey to the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices sided with him. // The AP via U.S. News //CAN I GET A JENNIFER?: This one didn’t shock me at all (and it probably won’t surprise anyone else either), but guess what Colorado’s most popular baby girl name was in the last 60 YEARS. // KOOL 107.9

If you’re in this paragraph, you’re definitely filled up with enough news to power down your devices and enjoy the Colorado sunshine and fresh dusting of snow. As always, please share a Sun story or two with the people in your life who might enjoy it. It helps us build our growing community of loyal supporters. 

Happy weekend! I’m going skiing while the rest of you watch the game. Nobody steal my idea.


Jennifer Brown

Jen is a co-founder and reporter at The Sun, where she writes about mental health, child welfare and social justice issues. Her first journalism job was at The Hungry Horse News in her home state of...