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The inside story of how Boulder and Xcel reached a settlement by Matt Cortina and Angela K. Evans
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What emails and conversations uncover about how Xcel Energy and the City of Boulder came to an agreement that paused municipalization by Matt Cortina and Angela K. Evans
After 15 years with The Lumineers, Jeremiah Fraites goes it alone for ‘Piano Piano’ by Angela K. Evans
Sandie Yi’s ‘disability-experience art’ now on display at East Window by Caitlin Rockett
Olive Films gives ‘Rio Grande’ the signature treatment by Michael J. Casey
Try these local mocktails, potions, ciders, kombuchas and more to scratch the itch during Dry January by Matt Cortina
Former Boulder ER nurse launches program to support restaurants and feed frontline health workers by Matt Cortina
departments 5 6 18 21 22 23 25 30
The Anderson Files: The for-profit barbarity of mercenary Erik Prince Letters: Signed, sealed, delivered, your views Events: Learn more about tiny homes for homeless vets, faerie magick and zooids Words: ‘hewn and hallowed,’ by Greg Alston Savage Love: Should I stay or should I go? Astrology: by Rob Brezsny Food/Drink: Vegan Cajun pasta at Fresh Thymes Marketplace Weed Between the Lines: What’s in store for cannabis in 2021?
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Publisher, Fran Zankowski Editor, Matt Cortina Circulation Manager, Cal Winn EDITORIAL Senior Editor, Angela K. Evans Arts and Culture Editor, Caitlin Rockett Contributing Writers, Peter Alexander, Dave Anderson, Emma Athena, Will Brendza, Rob Brezsny, Michael J. Casey, Sarah Haas, Jim Hightower, Dave Kirby, John Lehndorff, Rico Moore, Amanda Moutinho, Katie Rhodes, Leland Rucker, Dan Savage, Alan Sculley, Ryan Syrek, Christi Turner, Betsy Welch, Tom Winter, Gary Zeidner SALES AND MARKETING Market Development Manager, Kellie Robinson Account Executives, Matthew Fischer, Sami Wainscott Advertising Coordinator, Corey Basciano Mrs. Boulder Weekly, Mari Nevar PRODUCTION Art Director, Susan France Senior Graphic Designer, Mark Goodman Graphic Designer, Daisy Bauer CIRCULATION TEAM Dave Hastie, Dan Hill, George LaRoe, Jeffrey Lohrius, Elizabeth Ouslie, Rick Slama BUSINESS OFFICE Bookkeeper, Regina Campanella Founder/CEO, Stewart Sallo Editor-at-Large, Joel Dyer
January 7, 2020 Volume XXVIII, Number 21 As Boulder County's only independently owned newspaper, Boulder Weekly is dedicated to illuminating truth, advancing justice and protecting the First Amendment through ethical, no-holds-barred journalism and thought-provoking opinion writing. Free every Thursday since 1993, the Weekly also offers the county's most comprehensive arts and entertainment coverage. Read the print version, or visit boulderweekly.com. Boulder Weekly does not accept unsolicited editorial submissions. If you're interested in writing for the paper, please send queries to: editorial@ boulderweekly.com. Any materials sent to Boulder Weekly become the property of the newspaper.
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The for-profit barbarity of mercenary Erik Prince by Dave Anderson
onald Trump violated the U.S. government’s “obligations under international law” when he pardoned American mercenaries Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, according to the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries, a division of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The four men were employees of Blackwater, a private security firm owned by Erik Prince, a loyal Trump ally and brother of Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education. In 2007, the firm’s armored convoy engaged in an unprovoked indiscriminate shooting frenzy in downtown Baghdad in the middle of heavy traffic at noontime. They opened fire with weapons including machine guns and grenade launchers. They murdered 17 unarmed civilians and seriously injured 20. The U.N. body said Trump’s pardon would “open doors to future abuses when States contract private military and security companies for inherent state functions.” The working group called on all nations that are party to I
the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardon, warning that “by permitting private security contractors to operate with impunity in armed conflicts, States will be encouraged to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law by increasingly outsourcing core military operations to the private sector.” The mercenaries killed two children ages 9 and 11, a mother and her infant son, a 26-year-old taxi driver, a 20-year-old medical student and his mother, a car dealer, a delivery truck driver, a 77-year-old gardener on a bus, a woman doctor, an Iraqi soldier standing at a military checkpoint, a blacksmith commuting to work on his motorcycle. No Iraqis fired shots, displayed weapons or threatened the Blackwater thugs in any way. The incident inspired at least five investigations, including one from the FBI. It was the agency’s largest, most comprehensive and expensive criminal investigation since its inquiry into the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Over 70 witnesses, including 30 from Iraq, testified in an exhausting seven-year-long legal consee THE ANDERSON FILES Page 7
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More context needed on housing issue In reading this week’s guest column in the Boulder Weekly (Re: “Welcoming more racial diversity through affordable housing,” Dec. 24, 2020), the author seems to be seeing the world through a special lens. Through that lens he is trying to create a narrative that connects the dots between Boulder in the 1800s, the 1920s, to the Greenbelt amendment of the 1960s, all the way to today’s lack of affordable housing in Boulder. In the author’s narrative there are a couple of data points missing, though. For example, with the opening of NIST in the 1950s, NCAR in the 1960s, as well as large IBM and Ball Aerospace facilities, the Boulder citizens voting for the Greenbelt amendment were not Native American killers and KKK members, as the author suggests, but rather university professors, peace-loving hippies as well as scientists and engineers who had come to Boulder from all over the country and all over the world. In many of the places where all these people came from, urban sprawl had destroyed the natural environment. It was in the spirit of preventing that from happening in their newfound home here in Boulder that they voted for the Greenbelt amendment. The other motives that the author is suggesting in his article are simply not based on fact. Michael Klein/Boulder I
More on housing Regarding the Guest Column, “Welcoming more racial diversity through affordable housing,” I have a few wonders. I wonder what it will take to stop traditionally equating “minorities” with “low income” and needing “affordable housing”? I wonder how we would ensure a racially diverse population will inhabit any additional housing, and that it will actually be “affordable” wherever it is built? I see a lot of residential homes, townhouses, apartments, condos, hotels, etc. being built in Boulder now on land where previous structures have been razed. Why aren’t these places affordable? Rent control and accessory dwelling units are good ideas, and if only we could regulate the greed of landlords and realtors. I also wonder if a solution to absolving Boulder’s racist history, and inviting racial diversity, is really to cover more of the stolen Ute (Arapaho and Cheyenne) land with structures and parking lots (building on Greenbelt or Open Space), or to block the sacred mountain view with taller buildings (exceeding Boulder’s height limit)? I wonder if the Greenbelt was not, as suggested, established to restrict minority and low income residents, but was to simply protect wildlife and prevent the out-of-control, and unsustainable, urban sprawl we are seeing in Colorado now? R. Lawrence/Boulder BOULDER COUNTY’S INDEPENDENT VOICE
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flict. Hassan Jaber Salman, a lawyer who survived the attack with his son, testified, “Anything that moved in Nisour Square was shot. Women, children, young people, they shot everyone.” Nicholas Slatten was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary manslaughter and other charges. John M. Patarini, the FBI’s lead investigator in the case, said he is “disgusted with the president’s actions” in a letter to the New York Times. He explained: “We originally went to Iraq thinking this shooting was some form of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire between Blackwater guards and insurgents. After only one week, we determined that this incident was not as presented by Blackwater personnel and their State Department lackeys, but it was a massacre along the lines of My Lai in Vietnam.” Justice Department lawyers presented evidence that “several of the defendants had harbored a deep hostility toward Iraqi civilians which they demonstrated in words and deeds.” Slatten said that he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as “payback for 9/11,” and he frequently bragged about the number of Iraqis he had shot. In a series of civil law suits, two former Blackwater employees anonymously claimed that the company encouraged the wanton murder of Iraqi civilians for “sport or game.” One of them said the firm’s founder, Prince, “intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.” This country may be dealing with more situations like this in the future. As Sean McFate argued in a 2016 article in The Atlantic, “Today, America can no longer go to war without the private sector.” He says that during World War II, about 10% of American armed forces were contracted. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that share jumped to 50%. He warned: “No international laws exist to regulate the mercenary industry. What we’re left with: If anyone with enough money can wage war for any reason they want to, then
new superpowers will emerge: the ultra-rich and multinational corporations. Oil companies and oligarchs should not have armies.” Mercenaries can be helpful to a president who wants to wage war without any restraint. Those of us who pay the taxes fund them but they are invisible since they aren’t formal “troops.” During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested that he would kill families of terrorists and institute
BOULDER COUNTY’S INDEPENDENT VOICE
interrogation methods worse than waterboarding, which is itself a form of torture. Retaliatory executions and torture are both war crimes under international law. After he became president, Trump ignored the advice of U.S. military leadership when he aided soldiers who were accused or convicted of war crimes in four separate cases. Trump had promised to get us out of the endless wars. In response, Erik Prince proposed to privatize the
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U.S. war in Afghanistan with an army of contractors and a private air force. He also wanted to provide Trump with a private global spy network that would circumvent U.S. official intelligence agencies. Prince is allied with Steve Bannon and has intriguing ties to Russia. Who knows what might have happened if Trump had been reelected? This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.
The inside story of how Boulder and Xcel reached a settlement
What emails and conversations uncover about how the energy utility and the City came to an agreement that paused municipalization
by Matt Cortina and Angela K. Evans
JANUARY 7, 2021
BOULDER COUNTYâ€™S INDEPENDENT VOICE
fter Boulder voters approved Ballot Issue 2C tin November 2020, which entered Boulder and Xcel Energy into a 20-year franchise agreement and paused the City’s pursuit of municipalization, several community members reached out to Boulder Weekly with concerns that the process wasn’t as transparent as it could’ve been. So BW filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for communications between City Council members, City staff and Xcel from the middle of July 2019 through the election. As is often the case in Colorado, our CORA request came with a hefty price tag: $1,050 for the City’s time to locate and review the documents for sensitive material. Unable to devote that kind of money alone, BW launched a GoFundMe online fundraiser and within three hours, the funds were raised by you, the community, to get the records. After receiving and reviewing the hundreds of documents in our request, BW spoke with Council members involved in the negotiations, state lawmakers, citizen activists and Xcel representatives to put the documents in context. You can see all the documents at boulderweekly.com. Together, the documents and our conversations depict a clearer, if not definitive, timeline of the City’s and Xcel’s negotiations. We also got a better sense of the motivations of City and Xcel officials at various points of the negotiation process. And, we got a sense of the questions about the agreement that still remain if Boulder is to reach its 100% renewable energy goal by 2030. Here’s what we’ve learned so far. Thank you, again, to those who donated to help make this investigation possible. Boulder Mayor Pro Tem Bob Yates first met with Xcel Colorado President Alice Jackson on July 19, 2019. Jackson assumed her position at the energy company in May 2018. The two were introduced by Tim Wolf, a Boulderite and Xcel board member, whom Yates says is a friend of his wife’s. Yates says “nothing substantive” was discussed at that meeting — it was a meet-and-greet more or less, as he just stopped by the Xcel office on the way to a Rockies game. “It was a very short meeting,” he BOULDER COUNTY’S INDEPENDENT VOICE
says. “I met her in her office and it was very cordial.” Jackson agrees, adding, “At that point in time, I know we had said, ‘You know, it’d probably be good to visit with a broader group just to continue to get to know [each other] and build relationships.’” Yates then followed up with Jackson a few days later, looping in fellow Council member Sam Weaver and suggesting the three of them get together. Nothing came of it until later in the year, however, when Yates again emailed Jackson, letting her know Weaver was about to be elected mayor and that, “Sam Weaver and I believe that it may be constructive if the three of us meet.” After several rounds of back-andforth scheduling emails, eventually the three did meet, on Jan. 9, 2020 — Yates and Jackson at a restaurant in Boulder, while Weaver, who was sick at the time, called in. Yates’ notes from the meeting indicate plenty was discussed. Yates writes that Jackson was “desirous of continuing dialogue, even if in parallel with litigation,” and that she expressed she had the authority to “commence discussions.” Topics at the meeting included community choice energy (CCE), local network distribution systems planning, and a mention of “time constraints (e.g. ballot measures).” Weaver says his motivation for the meeting was to communicate with Jackson the sticking points, from his perspective, as to why earlier negotiations in 2017-18 with Jackson’s predecessor at Xcel ultimately didn’t amount to anything. This included Xcel’s secrecy around distribution planning and grid modernization, as well as his skepticism of the company’s ability to reach its goal of 80% emissions reduction by 2030. Yates and Weaver both say this discussion was “non-substantive,” and that it didn’t include talk of a potential settlement agreement. The “discussions” outlined in the notes were about distribution systems planning, Yates says. None of the three could remember any talk of ballot issues, even though it’s in Yates’ notes from the meeting. “Some of the collaboration around network planning and grid I
modernization that Alice and Sam discussed at the Jan. 9 meeting sounded potentially expensive to me and so I may have been considering whether it would be necessary to ask the voters for funding for that,” Yates says. “I really don’t recall.” Of the meeting’s content, Jackson says, “I asked a lot of questions to try and get perspective. ... It was really getting their take on where things were [and] why the relationship was where it was at.” It was the first time, she says, she had even heard of Boulder’s goals of decarbonizing, decentralizing and democratizing its energy future, which became key factors in later negotiations. She doesn’t recall any mention of a settlement agreement at that meeting either — Weaver says she may have mentioned it offhand — but did say the end result of that conBOB YATES versation was to set up further meetings with City of Boulder and Xcel staff “to have a deeper conversation on distribution planning and how we move together on that one.” Yates adds, “Sam and I asked Alice several times at that meeting whether the collaboration that she was proposing was conditioned upon the City slowing down or stopping the municipalization litigation and she said that it was not.” After the meeting, Yates emailed Jackson on Jan. 11 telling her that he and Weaver would brief City staff on the meeting on Jan. 17 and that they would reach back out to her “to discuss next steps.” The next meeting between the parties didn’t occur until April 20, according to both a review of the emails and comments from Yates, Weaver and Jackson. The meeting was arranged at the request of Jackson, according to emails from City Attorney Tom Carr, with the discussion to be focused on distribution planning. It included City staff members within the Climate Initiatives department, Steve Catanach and Jonathan Koehn, along JANUARY 7, 2021
with other Xcel employees. Weaver says the point of this conversation was for City officials to learn about Xcel’s distribution planning and how Boulder could have a seat at the table in the process — a key provision in the eventual settlement agreement and a major reason why previous negotiations with Xcel had fallen apart. According to all three, Jackson asked Yates and Weaver to stay on the virtual call after this meeting, which is when she first explicitly mentioned the potential for a settlement agreement. “I simply posed the question and I said, ‘OK, you’ve now heard how we approach distribution planning. If we were able to find a pathway to get you more comfortable with the decentralization conversation, we’re obviously making dramatic moves on the decarbonization side and that’ll be taking place at the Public Utilities Commission, should we open the door to having a conversation on how do we do this together again?’” Jackson recalls. Yates says he and Weaver were “shocked” that Jackson “mentioned settlement, because we thought this was all about network planning and distribution.” Weaver says select members of City staff were notified the day that Jackson had proposed settlement discussions. City Council was notified of the discussions on April 22, via a confidential memo from Carr. And a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the City and Xcel was executed on April 30; it included, among other items, ways the company could meet its 80% carbon emission reduction target by 2030 and an agreement not to use the proceeding negotiations in the ongoing municipalization litigation between the two parties. The NDA prohibits the City of Boulder, however, from publicly sharing any confidential information from Xcel, including the company’s emissee MUNI Page 10
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sion reduction planning, even in executive session but had special through an open records request. permission from voters to meet priThe City and Xcel announced to vately regarding legal strategy in purthe community that negotiations had suit of municipalization. In 2017, commenced via a press release on Boulder voters did not approve a balMay 12. lot measure extending this privilege. The early timeline is important in Jackson says she believes there order to determine if anyone was enough public outreach and coninvolved violated the City Charter or versation in the negotiation process the Colorado Open Meetings Act. this year, as the City held several lisThe latter requires meetings of three tening sessions on the topic throughor more members of a “local public out the summer. Weaver agrees, addbody” to be public. The Charter, ing that there were items from conmeanwhile, requires that “all meetings of the council or committees thereof ” shall be public. In a response to former Boulder City Council member Steve Pomerance, who raised the Charter issues, Carr wrote in an email “there is no precedent” to consider the meeting Yates and Weaver had with Jackson “to be meetings under the charter,” and thus, public. The idea, Carr wrote, is that the SAM WEAVER Council did not specifically ALICE JACKSON refer negotiations to a committee, versations with citizens that made it and Yates and Weaver were acting in into the agreement, like counting all an “informal advisory role without a greenhouse gas emissions and not just delegation.” (This email was provided carbon dioxide in Xcel’s emissions to BW by Pomerance separate from metrics. Still, some citizens would the CORA request.) have liked to have been more involved. DIFFERENT THAN PRIOR “I think you can make the arguNEGOTIATIONS ment we could always have done it better,” Weaver says. “I don’t know he City entered into settlement how exactly we would have done it negotiations with Xcel four times better except to have citizens at the over the last decade. Weaver was a table during the negotiations with part of the last round of discussions Xcel. That was something they just in 2017 and ’18, and says that experi- were not going to allow. It would ence helped inform discussions in have stopped the discussions in their 2020, particularly from a transparency tracks to have had that condition.” standpoint. Yates and Council member Mark “Could it have had more transWallach, for their part, agree the proparency? I think the answer’s always cess was transparent. yes,” he says. “My lesson from 2017 “I felt as soon as there was someand ’18 was that we didn’t do that thing that was substantive and early enough. We were having conmaterial and interesting to disclose, versations, we were speaking with it was disclosed,” Yates says. “I think Xcel, but we never shared anything of it was pretty public and pretty transsubstance until a few weeks before we parent. It’s kind of hard for me to had the hearing about whether to put prove a negative when someone it on the ballot. And I always regretsays it wasn’t transparent. I’m like, ted that and the community took well, tell me what you would have away our executive sessions at the wanted in retrospect.” next election as a result of that.” Wallach adds: “I think we were pretAccording to the Charter, City ty open and transparent in the process, Council is prohibited from meeting except for the very initial stages when
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we were trying to find [whether] we’ll be talking to the wall or we’ll be talking to somebody who wants to actually engage and do a deal.” The landscape in which the two entities entered negotiations was also different this year. The pandemic and subsequent financial limitations presented an opportune time for a compromise to be struck between the City and Xcel, even if none of the parties involved explicitly framed it that way. “In a lot of ways, COVID was probably the motivating force here,” Wallach says. “The City is in financial difficulty and it becomes increasingly hard to say, we’re going to subsidize from the general fund $4 to $5 million a year of legal fees (for the muni effort) when our revenues are declining and we’re laying off people.” Jackson says, however, the City’s potential financial issues did not factor into the company’s decision to enter settlement negotiations. From her perspective, as the relatively new president of the company, community engagement was a motivating factor, as was the lull in municipalization legal proceedings. “We had a window of opportunity to have a conversation without ardently being in the litigation room,” Jackson says, given that PUC had already finalized what assets were on the condemnation list, district court proceedings were in a holding pattern, and key steps hadn’t yet been taken with federal regulators. So the City and Xcel began the negotiation process, officially announcing it to the public on May 12. TRANSPARENCY ON MESSAGING
cel had a hand in crafting how the City of Boulder was communicating the negotiations to its citizens. According to emails obtained by BW, on May 8, Yates told Jackson that language of the agreement is coming so the company can review it ahead of the public announcement. There are also some back-and-forth emails making sure the discussions stay under wraps until the public I
announcement. Later, on June 2, Yates tells Jackson that he’ll let her review his talking points for a public meeting: “I didn’t want you to hear it for the first time at Friday’s first public engagement session, and I will be happy to receive any suggestions you’d like to offer,” he wrote. And on June 27, Jackson sends changes to a PowerPoint slide to be presented at City Council. On June 9, Jackson also sent Yates and Weaver language from Xcel’s agreements with other cities, as the two parties began to develop the franchise agreement. Jackson says the franchise agreement itself is relatively “cookie-cutter,” with the exception of the addition of the opt-out provisions at five, 10 and 15 years, as well as other times if the company fails to meet its emission reduction targets. The part of the agreement package that covers Boulder’s pursuit of local renewable energy projects in concert with Xcel wasn’t “copy and paste,” Jackson says, from other agreements with other cities, but it does share some “flavors.” Weaver says this level of input was unique, because this partnership is unique, given that Xcel is a monopoly and Boulder partners with it to provide electricity whether in franchise agreement or not. “It is that status that they have as a monopoly and that means, you know, on the bus or off the bus with them through a franchise or not, we operate differently in this messaging with them,” Weaver says. “When you have two parties that are making a joint announcement on a pretty big deal, it’s not unusual for them to work on the language together to make sure that they’re in sync and aligned,” Yates adds. “I’ve seen that in the [corporate] world where you have a pretty big thing that’s been announced. And I think this was a pretty big thing. It was kind of abrupt, it was abrupt for me, certainly, and so I think everybody wanted to get it just right and make sure that they weren’t, you know, stepping on the other person’s toes or overstating things.” He adds: “I don’t have an impression that Xcel was really driving the messaging around that; they were just see MUNI Page 11
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cautious about a few points.” Wallach, who was not involved in any of the email back-and-forth about language, says he isn’t concerned by how the two parties (Xcel and the City of Boulder) worked together on the language. “This was going to be a prospective partnership between the City of Boulder and Xcel and how it is rolled out to the community, I think is of great interest to both parties. The idea here is to evolve from where we have been, which has been enemies at each other’s throat, to something that is more cooperative and hopefully more productive,” he says. “The fact that there was discussion between the parties as to how it’s to be phrased and how it’s to be announced does not bother me at all. I think that would be a normal procedure.” However, Wallach was concerned about an uptick in the politicking around the negotiations in August, on the part of Xcel. In an email dated Aug. 19, just a few days before Council was to vote whether or not to put the franchise agreement on the ballot for Boulder voters, Wallach emailed Jackson about a public relations firm he says was hired by Xcel to recruit speakers for public meetings. “I cannot overstate my distress to learn that Xcel is already taking steps to participate in this election,” Wallach writes. The two agreed to a phone discussion, after which the email chain trails off. When asked recently, Wallach says he was pleased with Jackson’s response to his concerns. Jackson tells BW the company Xcel uses for public outreach, EIS Solutions (led by Josh Penry, about whom BW has written extensively, See “Behind the Curtain,” Sept. 17, 2015), likely subcontracted with the PR firm in question, which she says was tasked with encouraging public engagement before the election. She says she understood the concerns of those who thought it amounted to political campaigning, and it was a lesson for Xcel in learning more about the Boulder community. She apologized at the public meeting a few days later. “It’s obvious that we didn’t recognize how important it was for nonengagement essentially in that process,” she says. “And so we apologized, we learned from it and we’re BOULDER COUNTY’S INDEPENDENT VOICE
moving forward.” In the final agreement, Wallach worked in language that prevents Xcel from campaigning or financing campaigns should either City Council or Boulder citizens hold a vote to opt-out of the franchise agreement in five years. “The five-year, they really have no basis for contesting. That’s simply going to be a decision by the City of Boulder’s voters as to whether or not they think this has gone well,” Wallach says. Even without Xcel involved, a robust campaign organized in support of the franchise agreement, spearheaded in part by Yates. In August, Yates encouraged every Council member to speak with Jackson individually ahead of STEVE FENBERG its vote on whether to send the agreement to voters or not. And when Doyle Albee, head of Boulder-based MAPR Agency, told Yates in an email he supports the efforts to get the franchise agreement on the ballot and is willing to help, Yates responded by encouraging Albee to join a “strategic advisory committee” for the campaign. MAPR eventually helped launch the pro-2C campaign website after the majority of Council voted to put it on the ballot on Aug. 20. The day after, Yates wrote in an email to several dozen people that, “It never hurts to thank council members for doing the right thing and encouraging them to continue.” To all this, Yates, who admittedly has never supported the municipalization effort, says: “It’s not unusual for us on Council, if there’s a question coming before Council, for us to reactively or proactively work with members of the community. I mean, we’re members of the community as well, right? ... And I thought this was a pretty good deal. I thought the staff did a good job on it. And I was bullish on it.” The state also weighed in ahead of City Council’s vote to put the I
franchise agreement on the ballot via a familiar Boulderite: Will Toor. The former Boulder mayor, who’s now at the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), offered support in the form of a formal letter in conjunction with John Putnam at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on Aug. 4. In an email, attaching the letter to City Council, Toor urged “the full council to support this agreement, and outlining the statewide climate and clean energy benefits we see from this agreement, and providing our commitment to support its implementation, including through intervention at the Public Utilities Commission.” He followed up separately to Yates and Weaver, offering to speak at the public meeting on Aug. 20, to which Yates responded, “My opinion is that this would be helpful.” The state really shouldn’t have been involved, given Xcel, per state law, is the only utility at the moment authorized to provide electricity to Boulder and holds a monopoly over Boulder’s electricity, says state Sen. Steve Fenberg, who helped launch the muni effort in Boulder 10 years ago. “It’s an odd thing for the state to be involved in. It’s very much a contractual relationship between a city and a utility,” he says. “And frankly, the state doesn’t give cities an alternative. ... So it’s weird for the state to then be like, ‘I think you should sign this good deal with Xcel because we’re not allowing you to ever have any other deal.’” Leslie Glustrom, a long-time muni advocate and PUC watchdog, adds that having both Weaver and Toor, both long seen as progressive energy leaders in Boulder, in support of the franchise could have made it seem more appealing. “If Sam Weaver says it’s OK and Will Toor says it’s OK, then what’s the problem? It certainly creates an impression,” she says. Toor’s involvement also added clout to the 2C campaign, she says. “The 2C camJANUARY 7, 2021
paign made a strong effort to create the impression that Gov. Polis and his administration were supportive of a yes vote on the franchise.” CLARITY ON LOBBYING AND DISTRIBUTION PLANNING
mail conversations indicate Xcel asked the City of Boulder if it would be willing to lobby for issues, like Community Choice Energy (CCE), in concert with the company. City officials regularly remarked, internally, that retaining the right to lobby for certain issues was critical. This was especially true when it comes to CCE, for which Boulder’s state Rep. Edie Hooten has been leading the statewide effort. “If we got to a place where CCE was actually enabled through legislation, then what it does is it gives communities who are served by [investor-owned utilities] the opportunity to contract directly with renewable energy sources,” Hooten says. “So that is a threat to [the industry] financially.” An earlier version of a CCE study bill was tabled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but before that, on Jan. 23, Yates, on behalf of the City, testified in support of Hooten’s bill at the statehouse, a position neither he nor Weaver were willing to give up. Still, an internal City email indicates that Xcel had asked the City of Boulder to run policy positions by the company first as part of the negotiations. “As far as future legislation, we had a lot of conversations around, OK, let’s make sure we’re not undermining the partnership that we’re trying to build here,” Jackson explains. “What we ultimately came down to is the language that ... says, look, if we know there’s a bill or a legislation that we’re going to take a position on that impacts the other party ... and we’re going to take positions on it, what we’ve committed to is to use the established processes to try and notify each other of this is coming up, this is going on. It’s not a matter of we’re going to pass things by each other.” The language in the agreement is loose. It says both Xcel and the City see MUNI Page 12
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are committed to “establishing open and effective channels of communication regarding policy positions relating to electricity generation, transmission, or distribution in Colorado taken at the local, state, and federal levels,” and that “to the extent practical, both Parties agree to provide notice to the other of those public meetings where the specific policy positions relating to electricity generation, transmission, or distribution in Colorado before the Colorado General Assembly will be discussed.” Yates doesn’t see an issue with this agreement, since the City is pretty clear on its energy goals. “I do very much remember them trying to persuade us not to take certain positions and us pushing back very, very firmly saying, ‘No, we reserve the right to take all positions,’” he says. “We have complete freedom to advocate on anything we want.” The only thing the City and Xcel have already agreed to lobby together for is “abolishing or modifying,” according to Yates, the statewide 120% rooftop solar statute, which would allow people to add more than 120% solar capacity to their rooftops compared to their energy consumption for a year. The sticking point here, according to Fenberg, who is sponsoring a bill related to this in the next legislative session (beginning Jan. 13), isn’t “whether you get rid of the 120% cap or you expand or you increase it. The real question is the next question, which is what do you do with somebody’s excess energy?” He continues: “During the campaign for the franchise that part of it was never discussed. It was just like, finally, we can all agree. The 120% rule is silly [but] why was it ever put in place in the first place? It’s not because it was some arbitrary number, it’s because Xcel wanted to limit their exposure and they don’t want people producing their own energy and then being able to share it. They want to be the one who provides energy to us. And that makes sense. That’s their business model.” For Boulder, eliminating or altering the 120% rule is key in future projects and distribution as the City looks to become more resilient to wildfire and other natural disasters by establishing infrastructure like 12
microgrids. Fenberg says he’s still negotiating with Xcel and other stakeholders in finalizing his bill and what will eventually be a part of it, the “tough conversations” occurring around what will be done with excess energy. But according to Jackson, Xcel and Boulder will have to agree on both sides of the discussion — both amending the 120% cap and what can be done with the extra energy. “It’s the whole kit and caboodle,” she says. “We have to line up on both pieces and that was discussed in our negotiations and in the settlement.” Perhaps the biggest selling point of the franchise agreement is that Boulder, somehow, is going to be able to be able to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030 due to shifting attitudes about microgrids and distribution system planning from Xcel. This is lined out in the energy partnership agreement, a document that has a list of projects Boulder and Xcel have agreed to consider working on to meet the City’s renewable energy goals, as part of the settlement and franchise agreement. Many who have reviewed it see only potential and prioritized projects, but no guarantees. “The only real commitment is that they will talk to us. And that’s not a very big promise. I mean, it’s better than it was, but to me it’s not a very robust achievement,” Glustrom says. “Usually businesses talk to their customers. That’s kind of part of Business 101. And the fact that Xcel, as a monopoly, didn’t feel they had to JANUARY 7, 2021
talk to their customers is just a reflection in my mind of what happens when you let a monopoly run loose for a century.” Weaver agrees there are no guarantees on a project-level — figuring out how to fund projects makes guaranteeing specific projects difficult — but there’s still a lot he thinks will keep Xcel engaged. He says Xcel can work with Boulder to launch pilot projects that it can then take to other communities; plus, he says, the energy industry is shifting rapidly toward renewables anyway, so the company will be motivated to work with Boulder to find projects that work for both parties. Weaver also says the City will be integrated into Xcel’s distribution planning process, which enables the City to see how their system functions in an energy-flow context — something to which the City hasn’t previously had access, and a major point of contention in the municipalization fight. Future local, renewable projects will be reviewed jointly by Xcel and City of Boulder leadership teams, including Jackson, meaning the City will still have to get approval for local projects from Xcel, and from the PUC, which may not approve costly projects in Boulder if it forces Xcel to spread those costs to other communities. “What we agreed on was, here’s how we’re going to meet; here’s how we’re going to pick projects; here’s how we’re going to move them forward; here’s how they’re going to be I
potentially funded,” Jackson says. “And that repeatability piece is an important focus, not only for us, but you’ve heard it from the leaders in the City as well, is that they want to provide an example for others that actually helps others do what it is that have been the goals of Boulder.” Weaver also points to another guarantee in the agreement: Xcel will pay to underground its power lines in Boulder, a costly endeavor that was put on hold during the ongoing municipalization litigation but would make the City’s electric grid less susceptible to outages and extreme weather. With voters approving the agreement in November, work on this effort has already begun, and per the agreement, Xcel will spend $15 million to complete it within the first five years. But undergrounding ties into another aspect of the agreement: broadband, which Yates made sure to include. The agreement allows Boulder to use Xcel’s infrastructure to attach fiber for municipal broadband, which has also been on hold during the muni fight. Because Yates had requested that language, and because he previously worked for Level 3 Communications, from which members spun out to create Zayo Group, which recently was awarded a broadband contract in Boulder, and because Yates lists only “dividends” on his financial disclosure document, we asked if he would stand to benefit financially in any way from municipal broadband, or if he had stock in Zayo. To both, Yates said no. CAN XCEL MEET ITS CARBON TARGETS?
hat was the biggest question Weaver had before and during the early negotiations with Xcel. Through the NDA executed on April 30, the City saw how Xcel thinks it can get to 80% carbon emission reductions by 2030 based on 2005 levels, which is required by the state. Because it was under an NDA, it was redacted in our open records request and we don’t know exactly what’s in there — nor does anyone who voted for 2C — but Yates and Weaver say they saw enough to proceed. “What I can tell you is they have see MUNI Page 13
BOULDER COUNTY’S INDEPENDENT VOICE
2020 plausible scenarios for making the targets, as far as I’m concerned,” Weaver says. “After our staff review and my independent look at their scenarios, I became convinced that they had plausible ways of getting there.” Jackson says the City saw “possible permutations that could come out as the pathway forward” for Xcel to reach its 2030 carbon reduction requirements, but it wasn’t a step-bystep plan. That is still being finalized before the company is required to present its energy resource plan to state regulators at the PUC in March 2021. The reason, she says, it wasn’t possible for Xcel to make this information public so voters could judge it for themselves is because “when we make those announcements, there are real impacts.’’ Revealing the information to just one community could impact filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), accounting standards or shareholders, she says, since Xcel is a publicly traded company, as well as other communities the company serves. With that, we still don’t know if Xcel plans to close coal-burning plants in its portfolio, which Fenberg says would be the fastest way of reducing emissions. On Monday, Jan. 4, the company announced its plans to retire both units of the Hayden Generating Station in northwest Colorado by 2028, ahead of schedule. However, it has yet to change its plans for the Pawnee Generation Station and Comanche 3 coal-fired plants, both of which are slated to run for decades to come. “I’ve had meetings with Xcel where they said they cannot meet their goals unless they are allowed to build large and expensive projects that rely on untested technologies. And when asking what those are, they talk about nuclear energy and they talk about carbon capture and sequestration and things like that,” Fenberg says. “That, to me means... they are going to try to get there in a way that is as profitable as possible because we actually do know how to get there. It’s actually not a mystery. You’ve got to shut down your coal plants. That’s the first step.” Fenberg says, too, that “we’re going to do everything we can to make sure” Xcel can’t count wholesale energy clients that no longer buy
energy from Xcel (but which still burn fossil fuels) toward its carbon reduction goal. Jackson says wholesale wasn’t a big piece in its carbon reduction calculations. “We have a couple of customers that we were serving in 2005 from a wholesale perspective that we no longer serve. And the carbon associated with those customers is not included in the accounting for either the starting point or the ending point,” she says. Both Yates and Weaver view the opt-out clauses built into the final agreement as the ultimate check on Xcel and impetus for the company to work with the City in good faith on local projects and to meet its carbon reduction goals. “Just the press of walking away, because they’re not hitting their emissions targets or at year five walking away because they’re not a good partner on projects,” Weaver says, “that’s going to be worse than not having done this in the first place.” The City can opt out of the agreement in 2022, 2024 and 2028 if Xcel fails to meet its carbon reduction benchmarks, or every five years starting in 2026 for any reason whatsoever. Council could elect to put an optout question on the ballot, or citizens can file a petition to do the same. According to emails BW obtained, there were some back-and-forth conversations between Jackson and City Attorney Carr about the timeline for citizen-initiated petitions in relation to when Xcel files its climate registry report. This resulted in the City building in an expanded timeline for an opt-out election, after it became clear there wouldn’t be enough time in a given year between when Xcel’s reports become public and when citizens would need to submit signatures for a ballot question. Several people with whom we spoke believe if Xcel brings something to court, they’re going to win. So, what happens if the City claims Xcel hasn’t met its targets and Xcel says it has? “They can contest the opt-out on emissions. If they want to dispute the science and the measurement, I think that’s not inappropriate,” Wallach says. “If we say you didn’t
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“So will Xcel do some interesting and cool and innovative projects with the City of Boulder? I hope so, but I also think we shouldn’t confuse that with them necessarily doing that out of the goodness of their heart.” — State Sen. Steve Fenberg MUNI from Page 13
meet your two-year target and they say, well, but we did, and here’s why, they should have that opportunity to contest that.” “Obviously there are the optouts in the franchise. But I have just seen enough of Xcel that I don’t trust them,” Glustrom says. “I’ve been in court five times with Xcel. I’m 0 for five and the attorneys are like, ‘Wow. The only rule that matters here is Xcel always wins.’” Still, it was a difficult decision to put the agreement before voters. In the end, a majority of Council approved it, including Weaver and Wallach, who were on the fence about it. Weaver calls it “one of the more difficult decisions in my entire life,” and that he lost friends over it. “I had to ask myself the question, what is good enough?” he says. “The reason this was hard for me was, if you’re going to be a policymaker there has to be something besides all or nothing that’s good or not. And what is that? What is that in this case, what is good enough that the voters should be allowed to decide for themselves?” Although Weaver did vote to put the agreement on the ballot, he did not take a side for or against ballot measure 2C. SO, IS IT GOOD ENOUGH?
uch of the judgment of this deal — from those involved in negotiations, from interested parties and from community members — will be 14
delayed until critical parts of the agreement are executed. “To me it met the threshold of good enough to take to the voters,” Weaver says. In his view, it gives Boulder a seat at the table, where it previously didn’t have one, and a pathway to meet the City’s 100% renewable energy goal by preserving its right to lobby at the statehouse for solutions like CCE. “And we tied up a bunch of legal loose ends,” he says. “If we ever come back to [the muni], it’ll actually be easier than what we’re facing as we sat here today.” Still, given all of the City’s messaging before the election on this agreement about how much the City extracted out of Xcel, there still isn’t much that’s going to push the energy giant toward sustainability more than what the state is already requiring it to do. “We see their commercials, we see their billboards about how green they are. Most of that advertisement around those programs are things that we, as a legislature have required them to do,” Fenberg says. “So, will they do some interesting and cool and innovative projects with the City of Boulder? I hope so, but I also think we shouldn’t confuse that with them necessarily doing that out of the goodness of their heart. They’re doing it and probably will do it in a manner that guarantees that they benefit from those projects, whether it’s a return on their investment or something that JANUARY 7, 2021
solidifies their control over the City of Boulder and them being our monopoly utility for the future.” And again, it’d be good to know how much it’ll cost burden to implement the types of projects the City needs in order to get to 100% renewables by 2030, especially since the cost of continuing to pursue the muni was a major selling point of this franchise agreement. Unfortunately, with no projects guaranteed in the agreement, it’s impossible to know. “There’s a big gap between 80% carbon reduction and 100% renewable,” Glustrom says. “So there’s a big gap between where we want to be and where Xcel wants to be. And we have not a clue how we’re going to fill that gap. But the one thing we can be sure of is, on this path, it will be very expensive. This is not a low-cost way to achieve our goals because we’ll pay more for Xcel’s renewables than we should because they’re a monopoly ... then we have a gap to fill, so that’s going to be very expensive. And Xcel said, we’ll try to help you find funding. If they fail, do we have any recourse? Absolutely not. And that’s the whole thing: a commitment to try is no commitment at all.” But both the City and Xcel have cheered the opportunity this agreement presents to use Boulder as a trial area for new technologies and projects that the company can take to other communities. If it does, the City can be recouped for its expenses.
“The big goal here is not to get Boulder to 100% renewables. The big goal is to get everybody to 100% renewables,” Yates says. “I think that’s going to be a pretty big factor in deciding things. Not so much who pays for it or what the economics of it are, but are these things that can help other cities get to a higher level renewable energy.” In the end, Boulder voters passed the franchise agreement with Xcel, including the energy partnership agreement with the list of possible renewable and innovative projects in a close vote. Time will only tell if Xcel can and will meet its emission reduction targets, and in a way that helps Boulder achieve its 100% renewable energy goals by 2030. But in all of this, the silver lining, according to Hooten, is the fact that under this agreement the door is still open for municipalization. And if the agreement hadn’t been on the ballot this year, voters would have been definitively deciding the future of the muni in 2021. “I would have to say, that is a silver lining here, that if we were going to wait until next year to vote on how much money we’re willing to pay for their infrastructure, and if that failed, that would have been the end of the muni,” she says. “But at least here, we do have off-ramps and if we take an off-ramp, we can revisit muni. So it does leave the door open for that.” BW will continue investigating this story as events warrant.
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ON THE BILL: Jeremiah Fraites’ ‘Piano Piano’ out Jan. 22 via Dualtone Records/Mercury KX.
Little by little
After 15 years with The Lumineers, Jeremiah Fraites goes it alone for ‘Piano Piano’
by Angela K. Evans
mages of grizzly cubs traipsing and tumbling through lush Alaskan meadows are set to meandering and mesmerizing piano melodies. Large grizzlies stand on the river’s shore, scanning the rolling waters for fish. A dripping wet bear pounces and emerges with a salmon clenched in its jaw as the drum beat builds and strings are added. It’s a music video for Jeremiah Fraites’ — multi-instrumentalist and cofounder of The Lumineers — single off his first solo album, Piano Piano, but it’s also a conservation plea. Until very recently, the grizzlies of Bristol Bay, Alaska, were threatened by the development of a proposed copper and gold mine that would have destroyed the watershed and salmon fisheries the bears rely on. In late November 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the Pebble Mine, effectively killing the controversial project. “It felt just really disgusting, the idea that these bear habitats and fish habitats and just the whole nature would get desecrated for money,” Fraites says. Fraites, as part of The Lumineers, has long held music as a conduit for speaking out about causes he believes in. But it’s also a way of life, a religion if you will. It’s something he, acting as an antenna, receives from some other-worldly place or maybe he conjures up the notes himself, broadcasting the music outward into the universe.
“Honestly, the way I think about it, I’m addicted to music. I’m obsessed with music,” he says. “I think there is a spirituality to music and I’ve always thought of music as like my religion without the church or without the idea of a specific god.”
The new album, set to release Jan. 22, is a piano-centric instrumental album 15 years in the making, and Fraites’ first foray into the world of solo musicianship. When he started The Lumineers with Wesley Schultz more than a decade ago, he says he barely knew how to string chords together on a keyboard. But he
JANUARY 7, 2021
was raised on classical music and always imagined he’d compose an instrumental album one day. In high school, he even rejected the idea of being in a band with a singer, he admits. “I was probably arrogant — 16 or 17 years old and just sort of thought I’ll never be in a band with a singer because everything that’s been said, everything that’s been talked about and sang about love and sadness, it’s all been said before,” he says. Nevertheless, he and Schultz have found worldwide success with The Lumineers, painstakingly cowriting every song for the band’s three full-length albums. They were scheduled for a world tour for most of 2020, even into 2021, in support of 2019’s III. Like most people, Fraites’ world came to a screeching halt as the coronavirus pandemic descended on us in early March. He quickly found himself holed up at home in Denver with his wife and toddler son, along with their dogs and a large construction project underway next door. At his wife’s urging, he began to mine a Dropbox folder full of 15 years of song ideas he’d stored away, ones that didn’t quite fit in with the rest of The Lumineers’ repertoire, but that he’d kept with the intention of someday recording a solo album. For the first few weeks of shutdown, he’d spend hours sifting through the files, drinking coffee, revisiting more than a decade of memories — a melody here, a certain
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chord progression there. “It was a painstakingly difficult and tedious, meticulous task,” he says. “But in some ways it was a lot of fun too, because I would hear ideas [and be] like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember being in that green room in Boston on tour; I remember being in Prague, writing this piano idea; I remember being in Tokyo when I thought of this.” Although he writes plenty of songs on the guitar with The Lumineers, piano is Fraites’ muse. As such, Piano Piano centers itself around the instrument, but isn’t beholden to it. Only a couple songs made it as singularly piano performances, while most of the tracks “have a little subtle salt and pepper” to complement the music. The album is both intimate, evoking a sense of sitting next to Fraites on the piano bench as he intended, but also expansive, creating worlds around sweeping instrumentation and melodic drumbeats, most of which Fraites performs himself. He also decided to record the album himself home, and that wasn’t without its own challenges. He collaborated with engineers and producers over video chat, attempting to get equipment placement just right to capture the sounds he was after. Drowning out the construction noise, he had to essentially force inspiration as soon as his son went down for a midday nap or his dog Spaghetti wasn’t around barking and singing along or after the rest of the family went to bed at night. “Noise is sort of the kryptonite to recording, especially a quiet piano album so I had to get very creative,” he says. It was stressful, he admits. Some days he’d spring out of bed, grateful he had a project to keep him going, something he could contribute in such an unpredictable year, an answer for subsequent generations when they asked, “What’d you do in 2020?” Other days he’d be overcome by self-pity, unmotivated, defeated, listless, wallowing in the difficulty of doing everything — writing, recording, playing almost every instrument and part — alone. He would waiver between boredom and depression, the lines between the two often blurring into a level of creative depletion he was unaccustomed to. “I think just the isolation, even just being in the house all the time, being around the same people all the time, these little things,” he says, “they’re very difficult to cope with sometimes.” In the end, he says, it always came back to an amorphous impulse, “this thing” that was “sort of tapping me on the shoulder being like, ‘Hey, keep going.’” Sticking with the religious metaphor, he adds, “For me it was really something that saved me.” In spite of the challenge — or perhaps because of it — Fraites says he has a romanticized view of the album, as it invokes sweet memories at home with his wife, son and their dog, elements of which can be heard if you listen closely. There were times when Fraites would record what he thought was a perfect take, ending with a drawn-out note using the sustain pedal and letting it resolve. But then the sound of a hammer next-door would interrupt, or the heavy bass of large trucks driving down the pot-holed street. Or the sound of his son playing in the background, which can still be heard on the song “Arrival.” But Piano Piano, translated as little by little in Italian, his wife’s native language, isn’t so much an album about the pandemic, he says, as it is a product of time the pandemic afforded him. “It was like the most beautiful and the best thing that I’ll probably never do again.”
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MOTUS THEATER PRESENTS UNDOCUMONOLOGUES: STORIES FROM OUR UNDOCUMENTED NEIGHBORS.
6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, via Zoom, motustheater.org/events. This event is free. In collaboration with Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s award-winning virtual reality experience, CARNE y ARENA, Motus Theater presents: UndocuMonologues: Stories from our Undocumented Neighbors. Motus Theater’s undocumented monologists invite you, via Zoom, into their homes to share personal stories about their lives, fears and dreams. One story will be read aloud by each of the special guest readers, Representatives Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, who will then reflect, alongside the monologists, about the impact of reading the story. Each monologue is followed by a powerful musical response from Uruguayan musician Elisa Garcia. There will be a closing Q&A with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
FAERIE MAGICK AND LORE: WITH MAGICIAN ERICA SODOS.
11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, via YouTube, calendar.boulderlibrary.org. Do you have a love of faeries? Call them nymphs, elves, banshees, brownies, changelings, goblins, leprechauns, household spirits, pixies or pookas, mystical nature beings have existed in folklore throughout all of history, and these supernatural creatures can be found in every culture. In this workshop, participants will explore stories of wee folk from all over the world, learn to understand the different types of fae and how to interact with them. Taught by magician, speaker, psychic entertainer and faerie delegate Erica Sodos.
LONGMONT LIBRARY PRESENTS ‘BOOK CHATTER.’
8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 8, http://bit.ly/LibPrograms.
7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, via WebEx, longmontcolorado.gov. The Veterans Community Project (VCP), based in Kansas City, Missouri, has broken ground on a new tiny home village in Longmont that will help change the lives of homeless veterans in the community. Paul Melroy from the VCP will be giving a presentation about what the VCP does, what the Longmont tiny home village will look like (including design specifications that are tailored to veterans who have PTSD), and what services will be available to the veterans during the time they are living in one of the homes. Melroy will also be answering questions from the audience. This program may be recorded and available on the City of Longmont’s YouTube playlist and Watch Recent Programs page a few weeks after the program’s date. Registration is required and limited to 100 participants. Once registered, you’ll receive an email confirmation with information on how to join the Webex meeting.
FIREHOUSE ART CENTER SECOND FRIDAY OPENING RECEPTION: ‘FLIGHT OF THE POLYCHROMATIC ZOOIDS, ’BY JEN ROSE.
6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, Firehouse Art Center, 667 Fourth Ave., Longmont, firehouseart.org. Firehouse Art Center is pleased to present a solo exhibit consisting of one, center-hung sculptural installation by Dallas-based artist Jen Rose. Made of 1,250 forms, the sculpture is divided into five colors that progress through a value scale from high to low color saturation, designed as an inviting experience that mimics an underwater environment. “In the ocean, Zooids are individuals that live in swimming colonies called Pyrosomes, resembling large sea tubes,” Rose wrote in a statement about the installation. “This artwork speaks to the journey of people and groups through subtle changes in color and sound. It is a microcosm of society, representing a community of interrelated objects/people that function at their best with active participation and cooperation.”
Pop in your earbuds and get ready for a whole new way to get book recommendations from your local librarians. On Jan. 8 at 8 a.m., the Longmont Public Library’s new podcast, Book Chatter, will premiere, with Longmont librarians discussing Golem Girl: A Memoir, by Riva Lehrer. On the second Friday of each month thereafter, another new 30-60 minute episode, featuring a different book and a rotating group of librarians, will be available via most podcast services. A complete list of upcoming titles is available at bit.ly/LibPrograms. Patrons are encouraged to participate by reading the selected
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book, submitting their thoughts, comments or questions, and then listening in as their favorite librarians share their own reactions to and perspectives on that month’s title. Participating is easy; just send your thoughts: by email to LibraryAdult. Programs@longmontcolorado.gov; by Facebook comments or Messenger at facebook.com/longmontpubliclibrary; by Twitter direct message at twitter.com/longmontlibrary; or by leaving a recorded voicemail message at 303-774-4875. All reader comments must be received two weeks prior to the podcast release date, at the latest.
BOULDER COUNTY’S INDEPENDENT VOICE
Sandi Yi creates ‘disability-experience art,’ now on display at East Window by Caitlin Rockett
ALL PHOTOS BY SANDI YI
hun-Shan “Sandie” Yi creates fashion you won’t find on any catwalk. The Chicago-based, Taiwanese artist makes wearable art — garments, accessories and footwear — that reflect the experiences of disabled bodies, including her own. Yi’s family carries a genetic trait that can lead to being born with a variable number of fingers and toes. Yi has two fingers on each hand and two toes on each foot. (Her sister, who also had a 50% chance of expressing the trait, was born with the standard number of digits.) Yi develops prosthetics, but not as correctional aids tasked with “normalizing” the body. Rather, Yi’s pieces tell stories about individual disabled experiences — from medical and surgical interventions, to daily interactions with other people — creating intimate and empathetic narratives around beauty standards and the tenuous concept of “normalcy.” Photographs of Yi’s work are on display at East Window (4949 Broadway, Unit 102-B) — an outdoor viewing space — through Jan. 29. Yi came to the U.S. as a high school exchange student in the early aughts and stayed to attend college at The School of the Art Institute at Chicago. “That’s when I began making art about personal experiences,” she says over a recent phone call. “At the time, I didn’t make the connection that this was disability-experience art.” But as she continued her studies — an MA in Chicago, an MFA at UC Berkeley, then back to Chicago where she’s working on her Ph.D. — she found other disabled artists who had proudly taken back the term “crip” as a way “to describe who we are as a distinctive artistic and activist-oriented community.”
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Yi had always loved wearable art, but the world of fashion admittedly scared her. (“In college I had this idea that fashion people looked snobby,” she says with a laugh.) “But when I was taking a costume design class [at Berkeley], I decided I’m going to make something called Crip Couture, the crip version of high fashion,” she says. “Instead of more commercial-based clothes, trying to play with the concept, making it disability-culture centered. “I don’t want to make work that aims to please people then they want to buy it,” she says. “I wanted to integrate disability narratives, and having the art, the body adornment, reflect the wearer’s socio-cultural political experience, how talking about having a disability is a perspective we need to look at as a society.” In a 2005 piece called “Animal Instinct,” Yi created high heels for herself, with a horn-like protrusion between the two toes of each of her feet, and a platform base that requires Yi to balance precariously on her toes. The horn reads as a chilling symbol for the way some people have reacted to Yi when they learn about her genetic difference — as though she were a monster. In another work from the same year, Yi takes a softer approach. In “Can I Be Sexy for Once?,” synthetic stones are ergonomically shaped to fit between her toes, with gladiator style leather straps climbing up her legs. Juxtaposed against the more jagged “Animal Instinct,” the level of comfort of “Can I Be Sexy for Once?” suggests celebration... even joy. But Yi says that’s a one-sided view. “For myself, when I look at various pieces I did, there was never a moment where I felt I was going to only show this side, like joy,” she says. “I think there
were a lot of feelings [during ON THE BILL: ‘Crip Couture,’ by Chunthe making of that piece], just Shan “Sandie” Yi. like how the disability experiEast Window, 4949 ence is complex.There’s still Broadway, Unit 102pain that went into it.” B, Boulder, eastwindow.org. 10 a.m.-10 East Window founder and p.m. daily. Herman curator Todd Herman first suggests coming in experienced Yi’s art during a the evening, when the space “really shines.” disability justice performance by Sins Invalid at UC Berkeley some years ago. As Yi led the audience in a breathing exercise, Herman says he was “stirred” by her poise and compassion. He went on to find the same energy imbued in her physical artworks. “She just doesn’t engage in the shame that’s attempted to be imposed on people with significant differences from the rest of us typically bodied humans,” he says. “I think what I really admire about her work is that she does it with so much grace and so much humor and whimsy and elegance. She advances a very strong narrative without being pedantic.” Yi says her art has offered her a connection to “the larger collective experience.” “I feel like when we talk about disability experience, it’s not just about disability; it’s about our differences, whether that’s height or weight or race. It’s about intersectionality,” she says. “Making art about my experience, I see how I’m not just speaking for myself. My intention is to make art and make connections, because other people who have similar experiences need to see identifications in other people. I think that’s what I have discovered from the disability art movement: I realized I had been looking for role models.”
JANUARY 7, 2021
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t’s 1950, and John Ford wants to make a movie: The Quiet Man, from a story by Maurice Walsh, about a retired boxer who returns to his birthplace in Ireland and falls for a vivacious redhead. The movie will star John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, with Ford in the director’s chair. When all is said and done, The Quiet Man will be a commercial and critical success, earning Ford his fourth Best Director Oscar — a feat unmatched to this day. The only problem: Herbert J. Yates at Republic Pictures doesn’t want to make The Quiet Man. He wants a western; he’s got Ford and Wayne under contract, after all. So, Wayne intercedes and offers a quid pro quo: We’ll make your western if you finance our Technicolor love story on the Emerald Isle. Yates agrees, Ford relents and Wayne offers a script from a James Warner Bellah story he likes: Rio Grande, about a U.S. cavalry outpost on the Texas/Mexico border. A group of Apaches attacks army soldiers on this side of the river, abduct the children and slide behind the Rio for sanctuary. The cavalry, led by Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke (Wayne), cross the Grande, rescue the captured and save the day. Wayne, one of Hollywood’s staunchest conservatives, saw shades of the Korean War in the story. Ford, one of Hollywood’s most powerful liberals, saw racism and bigotry. It seems fitting that Rio Grande, recently released on Blu-ray from Olive Films, should reenter the discourse at a time when audiences are extra-receptive to cinematic representation. For the narrative, Rio Grande uses Apache as both antagonists and associates of the cavalry. They are played by the Navajo Nation, whom Ford became friendly with when he first worked with them in Monument Valley for Stagecoach (1939). Some of the stereotypes are cheap, but the casting of indigenous Americans in both speaking and non-speaking roles was a significant break from the rest of Hollywood, who were still using white actors in brownface. But that’s only one component of Rio Grande. The rest is much more traditional. Wayne stars as York — the dusty D’Artagnan Wayne first embodied in Fort Apache (1948) — O’Hara stars as York’s estranged wife, Kathleen, a Southern aristocrat harboring ill-will toward the cavalry 15 years following the end of the Civil War. The two of them coming together mirrors Ford’s hope that America will reconcile its differences. Rio Grande was the first of five Wayne/O’Hara pairings, and their chemistry is evident. Wayne may have been tall and solid, but no one could chop him down like O’Hara. The shot of his face when Kathleen shows up is priceless. So is her reverse. You can almost see her flaming red curls blazing behind Bert Glennon’s Ansel Adams inspired black-and-white cinematography. Then there’s the supporting cast: Ford mainstay Victor McLaglen, stuntman turned actor Ben Johnson, family friend Harry Carey Jr., not to mention Chill Willis, Grant Withers, J. Carrol Naish, Peter Ortiz and Claude Jarman, Jr. Even better, Ford leans into the heritage of each actor, painting a picture of the American frontier as populated by immigrants. Therein lies the beauty of Rio Grande: Popular entertainment from a complicated time made by strong personalities with contradictory beliefs. It would be another year before Ford would head to Ireland to make The Quiet Man, but his pit stop way down Texas way was worth it. Olive Films has released a new high-definition digital restoration of Rio Grande on Blu-ray with a bevy of special features: A (somewhat underwhelming) feature-length audio commentary by Nancy Schoenberger, author of Wayne and Ford; interviews with actor Claude Jarman Jr., John Wayne’s son, Patrick Wayne, Indigenous American actor Raoul Trujillo and historian Marc Wanamaker; an archival making-of program hosted by Leonard Maltin; a video essay by Tag Gallagher; and a written essay from Paul Andrew Hutton about James Warner Bellah’s original story. I
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BY DAN SAVAGE Dear Dan: My boyfriend and I have urge you to give him a little more time been together for four years. I am 25 — not infinite time — to get his shit years old and he is 33 years old. I’m together. And not everyone is ambitious thinking about ending our relationship. I for professional success; some people’s love him but I don’t see it working out. ambitions are harder to recognize Our sex-life is almost non-existent. I because they don’t revolve around makhave low sex drive and can go long ing money. Two people with no professtretches without the need for sex. His sional ambitions might find it hard to sex drive, on the other hand, is very make their way in the world — somehigh. I’ve brought up opening the relaone’s gotta pay the rent — but a suptionship but he is very opposed to the portive non-striver often makes a great idea. The reason I brought up outside partner for a striver. And I don’t know if partners besides the sexyou’ve been following the ROMAN ROBINSON drive thing is that we both news, CAREER, but have different kinks. there’s a pandemic on and Some overlap, but a a lot of people are strugmajority of our interests gling financially right now. aren’t shared. Your boyfriend isn’t the I will be moving to only person who had to Belgium soon to advance declare bankruptcy in my career. When I told 2020. my boyfriend, he said he But I nevertheless wanted to go with think you should end this because he wanted to be relationship. You obviously wherever I was. He didn’t aren’t sexually compatible, say anything about his CAREER, and you’re defiown goals for the future. He has mennitely going to wanna explore your kinks tioned to me on several instances that — without guilt or encumbrance — once he would like to write a book but he has you get to Belgium. Openness is the not written a word in all the time we’ve only way to make it work when two peobeen dating. He doesn’t seem to have ple have a lot of kinks but not a lot of any drive or passion which kind of kink overlap. Kinks can’t be wished scares me. Another big issue is that my away or waved off, as much as people boyfriend is having serious financial dif- like to pretend they can be (and not just ficulties and declared bankruptcy a few vanilla people); kinks are hard-wired months ago. I was blindsided by this and some outlet — some way to since we don’t have combined finances express and enjoy them — is necessary or live together and he never indicated for a kinky person to feel fulfilled and that he was having financial trouble. As content. You might’ve been able to I mention earlier, I am thinking of ending make the relationship work if your boyour relationship. I love him but I just friend was willing to open it up but he’s don’t know if staying with him is the not; and you’re not comfortable, at least right thing. I don’t want to hurt him and I at this stage of life, with a partner who don’t see things going down well if I isn’t a striver. Getting dumped is going break up with him. Should I stay? to suck for your boyfriend, of course, Should I go? but he’ll be better off in the long run — Concerned About Relationship with someone who comes closer to Enduring Economic Repercussions matching his libido and who doesn’t care that his ambitions, whatever they Dear CAREER: You haven’t moved might be, don’t revolve around his in together, you haven’t mingled your career. And who knows? Maybe he’ll finances, you haven’t adopted a housewind up writing a book about your plant or a dog or a child. Which makes breakup. going — leaving your boyfriend when Enjoy Belgium, CAREER, it’s a you leave for Belgium — pretty painless good place for a young gay man to and uncomplicated logistically, explore his kinks. CAREER, even if it’s still going to be Send questions to mail@savagelove. painful emotionally. net, follow Dan on Twitter @fakedansavYou say you love your boyfriend, age and visit ITMFA.org. CAREER, and I believe you. And if everything was working except your If only this column were a podcast... boyfriend’s financial issues, I would Wait, it is! www.savagelovecast.com
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SEPT. 23-OCT. 22: The Kabbalistic Tree of
BY ROB BREZSNY ARIES
MARCH 21-APRIL 19: The pandemic has made it challeng-
ing to nurture our communities. In order to make new connections and keep our existing connections vibrant, we’ve had to be extra resourceful. I hope you will make this work one of your holy quests in 2021, Aries. In my astrological opinion, you should be ingenious and tireless as you nurture your web of allies. Your assignment during our ongoing crisis is to lead the way as you show us all how to ply the art of high-minded networking.
APRIL 20-MAY 20: Taurus actor George Clooney is worth
$500 million. Yet his dazzling opulence is puny compared to that of Taurus entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, whose fortune exceeds $100 billion. It’s my duty to inform you that you will probably never achieve either man’s levels of wealth. Yet I do hold out hope that in the next 12 months you will launch plans that ultimately enable you to have all the money you need. 2021 will be a favorable time to formulate and set in motion a dynamic master plan for financial stability.
Life is a mystical symbol of the hidden structure of creation. At its heart, in the most pivotal position, is the principle of beauty. This suggests that the wise teachers who gave us the Tree did not regard beauty as merely a luxury to be sought only when all practical business is taken care of. Nor is it a peripheral concern for those who pursue a spiritual path. Rather, beauty is essential for our health and intelligence. In accordance with astrological omens, I invite you to take a cue from the Tree of Life. During the next 12 months, give special attention to people and things and experiences and thoughts and feelings that are beautiful to you. Meditate on how to nurture them and learn from them and draw inspiration from them.
OCT. 23-NOV. 21: According to motivational speaker Les
Brown, the problem for many people is not that “they aim too high and miss,” but that “they aim too low and hit.” I’m conveying this to you just in time for the Reach Higher Phase of your long-term astrological cycle. According to my analysis, you’ll generate good fortune for yourself if you refine and expand your personal goals. Here’s a key detail: Don’t borrow anyone else’s standards of success. Home in on your own unique soul’s code and give it fuller, deeper, wilder expression.
books is to discover thoughts and feelings I have never before encountered. That’s exciting! But it’s hard to force myself to keep plowing through an author’s prose if it’s full of stuff that I already know about from my own life or from books, movies and other art. Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels fit the latter description. I realize that many people love his fiction, but for me it is monumentally obvious and boring. What about you, Sagittarius? Where do you go to be exposed to thrilling new ways of looking at the world? Judging from the astrological omens, I conclude that this quest will be especially fun and crucial for you in the coming months.
JUNE 21-JULY 22: An extensive study by psychiatric
researchers suggests that well more than half of us experienced a potentially disabling trauma in childhood. You’re in the minority if you didn’t! That’s the bad news. The good news is that 2021 will be a time when you Cancerians will have more power than ever before to heal at least some of the wounds from your old traumas. You will also attract extra luck and help to accomplish these subtle miracles. To get the process started, make a list of three practical actions you can take to instigate your vigorous healing.
JULY 23-AUG. 22: Leo author Isabel Allende says, “We
are in the world to search for love, find it and lose it, again and again. With each love, we are born anew, and with each love that ends we collect a new wound. I am covered with proud scars.” I appreciate Allende’s point of view, and understand that it’s useful, even inspirational, for many people. But my path has been different. As a young man, I enjoyed my endless quest for sex and romance. It was thrilling to keep leaping from affair to affair. But as I eventually discovered, that habit made me stupid and superficial about love. It prevented me from having to do the hard psychological work necessary to continually reinvent intimacy — and become eligible for deeper, more interesting versions of love. I bring this to your attention, Leo, because I think 2021 could be your time for a personal rebirth that will be made possible by deep, interesting versions of love.
AUG. 23-SEPT. 22: Occultist Israel Regardie (1907–1985)
was an accomplished author and influencer. To what did he attribute his success? I’ll let him speak for himself: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” I hope you will write out this quote and tape it to your bathroom mirror for the duration of 2021, Virgo.
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MAY 21-JUNE 20: One of your main themes for the next
12 months comes from Leonardo da Vinci. He wrote, “To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” If you use da Vinci’s instructions as a seed for your meditations, you’ll stir up further inspirations about how to make 2021 a history-making epoch in the evolution of your education. I hope you will treasure the value of “learning how to see” and “realizing how everything connects to everything else.” They should be at the root of your intention to learn as much as you can.
NOV. 22-DEC. 21: One of my primary pleasures in reading
DEC. 22-JAN. 19: “I only want people around me who can do the impossible,” said Capricorn businesswoman Elizabeth Arden. In that spirit, and in accordance with your astrological potentials, I hereby authorize you to pursue two “impossible” goals in 2021. The first comes to you courtesy of fashion writer Diana Vreeland, who wrote, “There’s only one thing in life, and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.” Your second “impossible” goal is from actor Juliette Binoche, who said, “My only ambition is to be true every moment I am living.”
JAN. 20-FEB. 18: Your past is becoming increasingly
irrelevant, while your future is still a bit amorphous. To help clarify the possibilities that you could harvest in 2021, I suggest you suspend your theories about what your life is about. Empty yourself out as much as you can. Pledge to re-evaluate everything you think you know about your purpose. Once you’ve accomplished that, meditate on the following questions: 1) What experiences do you truly need and passionately long for — not the experiences you needed and longed for in the past, but rather those that are most vivid and moving right now. 2) What are the differences between your fearful fantasies and your accurate intuitions? How can you cultivate the latter and downplay the former? 3) What are your nightly dreams and semi-conscious fantasies telling you about how to create the most interesting version of the future?
FEB. 19-MARCH 20: Author Gunter Grass wrote, “Writers
know that sometimes things are there in the drawer for decades before they finally come out and we are capable of writing about them.” I would universalize his thought in this way: Most of us know that possibly useful ideas and dreams are in the drawer for years before they finally come out and we know how to use them. I believe this will be an ongoing experience for you in 2021, Pisces.
JANUARY 7, 2021
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Vegan Cajun Pasta @ Fresh Thymes Marketplace
Been vegan for a while? Trying it out as a New Year’s resolution? Just hungry for some good plant-based food? Fresh Thymes (its restaurant and nearby grab-and-go marketplace) is the spot you ought to be. We stopped by the Marketplace recently for the vegan Cajun pasta. Thick, tubular short pasta is drenched in savory cashew cream and tossed with mushrooms, red peppers, kale and topped with Cajun seasoning and sliced scallions. It is decadence without the guilt; the rich umami of the mushrooms and cashew cream create satisfying bites and the Cajun seasoning and bright scallions provide pops of bright spice that keep things in balance.
Color for a cause RadCraft, a company that supports brewers, distillers and other beverage companies, has released a downloadable coloring book that’ll support the James Beard Foundation’s (JBF) Open for Good campaign, which provides resources to independent restaurants. JBF launched the Open for Good campaign this year to help restaurants rebuild stronger once this whole COVID-19 thing goes away. “It’s been an incredibly challenging year for the independent food and beverage industry, which employs over 11 million people nationwide.” said Kris Moon, JBF’s chief operating officer, in a press release. For $5.50 you can download the coloring book (at issuu.com/radcraft/docs/industry_relief_coloring_book), and in doing so, you’ll help fund the Open for Good campaign. RadCraft took the lead on designing the book, which features local beverage industry stars Laws Whiskey House, Lone Tree Brewing, Root Shoot Malting, Ska Brewing, Boulder Spirits and Bonfire Brewing. I
JANUARY 7, 2021
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BOULDER COUNTYâ€™S INDEPENDENT VOICE
COURTESY OF TWISTED PINE
Participating in Dry January?
Try these local mocktails, potions, ciders, kombuchas and more to scratch the itch by Matt Cortina
e spent a lot of time at home in 2020. Some of us spent that time exploring new hobbies, and now I’m going to make the generous assertion that drinking booze is a hobby. Let’s add that some of us dove head first into this hobby, particularly as the politics got crazier than imaginable, the virus got worse and the holidays made this hobby a part of our daily routine. Now in a new year, some of us are thinking it might behoove us to dry out a little. Fortunately there’s a somewhat arbitrary framework in which to do that with Dry January, an informal pledge to quit the hooch until February. But as much of the appeal of imbibing at home is in discovering, preparing and tasting new beverages, you might long for something interesting to get you through the month. Here are a few options available from local makers.
THE ROOT KAVA CO. — DIRTY BADGER AND GHOSTBUSTER
If you want to feel something while you drink, get some kava. The root of the kava plant produces a beverage that provides sedative and anxiety-reducing qualities. Boulder’s The Root Kava Co. specializes in the beverage and offers variations on the theme. Try the Dirty Badger if you want to get in headfirst, a highpotency drink that’ll leave you relaxed, or
the Ghostbuster — Root Kava’s “most popular drink” — with 12 juice flavors mixed in, including grapefruit, passionfruit, blueberry and guava.
JAPANGO — HAPPY CHUGMORE
On name alone — a pun on an Adam Sandler movie, if you’re not in the loop — you should get the Happy Chugmore from Japango. But it stands up on taste, too. It’s an Arnold Palmer (iced tea and
elsewhere — and tasty. Grab the Intuition and Brain Power potion, made of butterfly pea flower, juniper berry, ashwaganda, lavender, lemon balm, rose hips, gingko biloba, vanilla, apple and a touch of Stevia. It’s a heady brew with flavor for days.
UPSTART KOMBUCHA — CBD LAVENDER
CBD (cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis) is a good fillin for alcohol. As is kombucha. So Boulder’s Upstart Kombucha’s CBD Lavender kombucha makes for a delicious and satisfying replacement. Its 25 mg of CBD is enough to let your shoulders untense, and the flavor is tart, bright and floral.
DRAM APOTHECARY — CBD SPARKLING SWITCHEL
If you want more CBD, check out the canned Dram Apothecary offering, CBD Sparkling Switchel. Switchel is a tart beverage that farmers used to drink to stay hydrated, and Dram adds in 25 mg of locally produced CBD. You’ll get strawberry, apple and a hint of vanilla. lemonade) made with Sencha green tea, honey, fresh lemon and lychee nectar. Piquant, cooling and satisfying, this is an interesting and refreshing drink.
SHINE — INTUITION AND BRAIN POWER POTION If you’ve been on the non-alcohol train for a while, you likely know about Shine’s potions. The blends are unique — really, try to find something similar
STEM CIDERS — HOT APPLE CIDER
Stem Ciders, with a cidery in Lafayette, makes a non-alcoholic version of its drins — available in both cold and hot variations (and you can drink it on Stem/Acreage’s outdoor patio, though check before going to be sure it’s open). We recommend the hot variation for this cold month, made from fresh-pressed apple juice.
Twisted Pine temporarily closes
iting “months of revenue downturn, ... colder weather and reduced guest visits,” Twisted Pine Brewing recently announced it would enter a “hibernation” period on Jan. 1. “We fully expect to reopen as soon as conditions allow,” said Bob Baile, president of Twisted Pine, in a press release. “And we’re hoping that’s sooner than later.” Baile added that the most difficult part of the temporary closure is the loss of jobs — the brewery employs more than 30 people during its busiest months. Fans of Twisted Pine did their best to support the brewery, Baile said: “We saw so much support from our customers over the last months but it just was not enough to provide a sustainable business. We want to thank all who came out to enjoy our beer, even in the cold.” If you need your Twisted Pine beer fix, though, good news: You can still order to-go beer Fridays from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. Find all the info you need at twistedpinebrewing.com
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Helping those who help
Former Boulder ER nurse launches program to support restaurants and feed frontline health workers
by Matt Cortina
hen the pandemic hit and forced restaurants to shut down (and eventually open, but restrict diners), there were several programs that popped up aimed at supporting these eating establishments while also nourishing frontline workers. Many of these programs came from the restaurateurs, who saw a needed opportunity to benefit both embattled groups. As the pandemic wore on, though, it became evident that more support was needed. And now, a local telehealth nurse is coming from the health care side to try to support people in both industries, again. Jill Cohen recently launched Save Restaurants, Feed Nurses — a program that runs a lot like the other “feed the frontlines” endeavors. It started in Boulder, but has since expanded to health care facilities and restaurants across the country. Cohen, who was an ER nurse at Boulder Community Health (BCH) for 18 years before switching to telehealth, started by raising funds to buy meals at Shine for ER staff at BCH. She says all those stories you hear and read about frontline health workers taking it on the chin during the pandemic are true — in fact, she asked her former colleagues just how bad it was before launching Save Restaurants, Feed Nurses. “I started calling my former colleagues from various hospitals I worked at, from Wyoming to Montana to California to the East Coast, just kind of doing an informal poll to touch base and say hello to my friends and say, ‘How are you doing, I’ve heard it’s tough,’” Cohen says. “I was kind of verifying if it was as bad as it looks. The unanimous answer, and I realize I have a small sample size, was yes. They all said it is every bit as bad as you think it is. ... We’re struggling, our heads are barely above water. We feel beat up, we feel traumatized, we feel exhausted.” Cohen’s experience in health care provides a different perspective when it comes to these collaborations between restaurants and health facilities. She knows, first-hand, how tough it can be to battle a pandemic head-on; let alone work in an ER or other health facility during normal times. “On any given day in 2017, it’s difficult in the ER. Patients are sicker. Generally speaking, people come to the ER when everything’s breaking
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down … whether that’s with mental health or heart and lungs or various other systems. So it’s a hard job,” she says. “When you stack a pandemic on top of that, it’s really hard because hospitals run at very narrow margins. They’re always trying to have enough people there that it’s safe but no more than that. Then you put a pandemic on top of that... a hundred more patients coming in who are really, really sick.” Cohen says health care professionals are stretched thin — whereas working with one or two patients had been the norm (and still a lot of work), now health practitioners are having to care for three or four extremely sick patients. It takes a mental toll, she says, and a physical one — health care workers get sick too, or take a necessary mental health day, stretching those on duty even thinner. “It’s tough to see patients dying every day,” she says. “It’s tough not to be able to give the care you would give if you had the resources to do it. It’s tough having people not able to see their families. When all the nurses are stretched that way, then you have less ability to help each other.” But, Cohen says, a meal can help. Certainly it can’t solve every problem, but she emphasizes just how much a little act of charity can mean to those who are steeped in sickness.
JANUARY 7, 2021
“People might underestimate their power to help,” she says. “‘Oh, it’s a plate of food, what’s the big deal?’ It’s a huge deal. I remember from working there that we’d be having a tough day, and the charge nurse would say, ‘Remember that guy whose life we saved, he brought in some cookies.’ Everyone would be like, ‘OK, I can do this another day.’” Cohen says she borrowed a lot of the lessons learned from earlier hospital-restaurant programs, and after reaching out to nurse groups across the country, found almost two dozen people interested in starting branches of the program in their own community. Cohen synthesized all that she’d learned and organized the materials to run the program and distributed them to some early coparticipants, and now Save Restaurants, Feed Nurses has operations in multiple states including California, New Mexico, Kansas and Michigan, with more places joining in. With a vaccine on the horizon, people might think this kind of support isn’t necessary anymore, Cohen suggests — but she says it’s going to be a while before the pandemic officially ceases, and with infection rates sky-high, the time for support is right now. As she says: “We’re not out of the woods.” To support the cause, go to gofundme.com/f/ backlinesfeedthefront.
A budding new year
— but it stipulated that recreational delivery wouldn’t be a legal option until 2021. Now that time has come, and soon cannabis users will be able to have their favorite dank delivered right to their door. Municipalities still must individually vote to approve this new service option. So far, only one has given it the green light, although more municipalities are sure to follow suit. Late in 2020, Aurora approved licenses for delivery exclusively to social equity applicants (those in low economic areas or who have been adversely affected by the war on drugs) for the first three years. Coloradans can also expect to see the fight for social equity in the cannabis industry continue. Nonprofits like the Color of Cannabis are putting greater pressure on lawmakers to remove the barriers of entry that have kept black and Latino communities iniquitously barred from participating in Colorado’s legal market. While 2020’s expungement bill (HB-1424) and the bill defining social equity (HB20-1424) were both great strides in levelling the playing field in the cannabis industry for minorities, there is a lot more that can still be done, according to Sarah Woodson, the founder of the Color of Cannabis. Activists like Woodson are working with lawmakers to develop and pass more social equity bills like
Cannabis made a lot of progress in 2020, and the new year is looking equally bright
by Will Brendza
020 was a rough year for almost every industry outside of mask and toilet paper production — and for Colorado’s cannabis industry, which experienced a year of explosive revenue growth and progress at both the legislative and social levels. Not only did 2020’s cannabis sales smash previous years’ records, but Gov. Jared Polis also signed a bill into law offering mass pardons for cannabis felons; the state legally defined “social equity” in Colorado’s cannabis industry; banks can now more easily loan cannabis businesses money; and out-of-state residents can finally work in the state’s industry. By all measures, it was a good year for cannabis in the Centennial State. Now, Colorado’s cannabis industry is poised to grow even more behind that momentum and all eyes are eagerly looking to 2021. So what’s next? What can people look forward to in cannabis this year in Colorado? To start, as of Jan. 1, recreational marijuana delivery became a legal business enterprise throughout the state. HB19-1234 was first passed in 2019 and legalized medical marijuana delivery
JANUARY 7, 2021
these in 2021, to help give those communities negatively affected by the drug war a firmer leg up into the legal cannabis industry. “Hopefully [this] year we’ll be working on a financing bill,” Woodson says. “And we’ll be doing a lot of local lobbying to try to get people to allow these social equity opportunities for delivery and hospitality.” Beyond legislation, Coloradans will also likely start to see new technologies changing the game on both the production and consumer ends of the market. New tools like Green Mill’s Supercritical Co2 botanical extractors aim to make cannabis extraction safer, faster and far easier, and will make entry into the oil production business a much more achievable goal. “The real victors in this will, of course, be artisan extract producers who will discover a newfound ability to make high-quality products that are consistent and safe,” says Jesse Turner, the director of R&D at Green Mill. In turn, that will give consumers more options as the market surges with new brands and products, and will raise the competitive bar for quality at the same time. New extraction technologies like this will undoubtedly change the market for THC and CBD oils in 2021. And finally, cannabis vending machines are also likely to become more commonplace this year. One such machine, designed by analytics startup company Anna, is already in use at Strawberry Fields dispensary in Pueblo and more will undoubtedly debut throughout 2021 now that they’re legal. These will increase customers’ access to cannabis while also reducing person-toperson interactions — making buying your weed as COVID-safe as buying a candy bar. There’s a lot to be excited about in the cannabis industry this year. Not only does it seem that the social, legal and financial levies surrounding it are breaking one House Bill at a time, but the technology for and access to cannabis, are also making exponential bounds.
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Published on Jan 6, 2021
news, Xcel Energy, City of Boulder, emails, buzz, The Lumineers, Jeremiah Fraites, Piano Piano, art, Sandie Yi, East Window, film, Olive Fi...