Weekly round-up November 23: Crime & Punishment

Boulder police shot and killed a knife-wielding man at 30th and Madison Sunday, believing a fellow officer was about to be stabbed. The deceased’s father has called his son’s death “murder.” The officer has been placed on administrative live with pay while the “shoot team” investigates.

On Friday, Hector Diaz, 49, was arrested and charged in connection to a series of raids last week on marijuana facilities in Denver and Boulder County. Diaz, a Colombian, is charged with one count of being an alien illegally in possession of a firearm.

Metro Denver police are striving to reconnect theft victims with stolen goods. Over 600 items are available to be claimed, the result of several auto-theft incidents in September and October. Them items range from skis to Halloween costumes.


U.S. crushes six tons of ivory

By Gloria Dickie

VO: For many conservationists, it’s the sound of change.

Hundreds gathered in Commerce City, Colorado Thursday for the destruction of six tons of ivory. The United States government has been stockpiling illegal ivory since the 1980s.

Director of Traffic North America Crawford Allan applauded the action the U.S. has taken in combating the illegal wildlife trade.

ALLAN: What this symbolizes is also that the United States is recognizing its role as a major consumer nation of ivory and it really doesn’t want to be part of that anymore. And it’s trying to make a difference. What this is about, I believe, is the U.S. government getting involved and saying it’s going to help.

VO: But some members of the community were divided on crushing a stockpile worth millions of dollars.

Kai Bernstein is a local elephant activist in Colorado. In early October Bernstein led Boulder’s International March for Elephants through the city’s downtown core.

But Bernstein has mixed feelings about the crush.

BERNSTEIN: It’s kind of a Catch 22, but personally I’d say just go ahead and sell it. Especially in respect to the elephants who died for all that ivory and you’re just going to burn it? It’s kind of a sad situation, in my opinion, I would get out there and distribute it. What are they going to do when all that ivory is gone? They’re going to get back out there and kill more elephants because there’s no more ivory to have. They’re not going to stop this trade.

VO: Even those working for U.S. Fish & Wildlife expressed dissatisfaction with the situation.

Richard Ruggiero is chief of the department’s African branch and has worked with elephants for more than 30 years.

RUGGIERO: Every time I see a tusk I see a failure of people in my field. I feel my own failure. Every time I see a tusk. That is the symptom of the disease. Every time you see a tusk that is a failure of people like myself who have dedicated our lives, professionally and personally, to keeping elephants alive.

VO:  With more than 30,000 elephants killed each year for their ivory, Thursday’s crush was only a small sample of global ivory traffic. But for those who have spent the past two decades on the frontlines, it was a memorable way to commemorate lives lost.

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Financial giant Xcel falls to the middleman

By Gloria Dickie

Xcel Energy proved money really isn’t everything last Tuesday night, when Ballot Question 310 failed by 68.88 percent in the city of Boulder.

The multimillion-dollar energy corporation threw hundreds of thousands of dollars behind “Yes on 310” campaigns in the region, hoping to prevent the city from breaking away and creating its own municipal utility fueled by clean energy. But, despite their best financial efforts, local grassroots campaigns prevailed at a fraction of the cost.

“Xcel and [company] ‘officially’ outspent the Empower Our Future campaign by approximately 3:1,” said Alison Burchell, a spokesperson for Empower Our Future and Clean Energy Action. “If you consider what Xcel spent on advertisements prior to the official campaign start date and indirect campaigning, the ratio is even higher.”

With more than half a million dollars wrapped up in “Yes on 310” campaigns, Xcel seemed like the Goliath to many of the clean energy issue campaigns.

“To be honest I think it was an uphill battle from the start,” said Steve Fenberg, executive director of the New Era Colorado Foundation, pointing to the cash flow behind the opposing side, as well as the misinformation he believed had been spread during the campaign season.

According to the latest expense and donor filings from the issue campaign, New Era’s campaign Voters Against Xcel Buying Elections was able to raise nearly $200,000 through crowdfunding via Indiegogo.

While both sides of the issue threw their weight behind local advertising, Fenberg stressed the importance of direct conversation with the community.

Since the beginning of their campaign in July, Fenberg estimated New Era had made contact with 120,000 citizens, by way of knocking on doors, visiting classrooms and cold-calling citizens to inform them of the advantages of municipalization.

“The most successful [method] is really old-fashioned, grassroots work — talking to people face to face. We used Facebook, we did commercials, we did a little bit of mail-outs, but at the end of the day it’s the face to face stuff.”

Burchell, too, emphasized the need to engage in honest community outreach, noting Xcel had dedicated a lot of its time and money toward polling.

Indeed, many groups on the ‘Yes’ side of the question put their resources toward research, with Boulder Citizens for Rational Energy Decisions — sponsored primarily by Colorado Oil & Gas — putting a large chunk of change toward consulting and research.

Still, Xcel spent close to $440,000 on advertising, delivering their message via television and online advertisements and mail-outs, choosing to forego the yard signs that were popular with many residents.


Graphic 1.1. Breakdown of campaign expenses and contributions on 310 & 2E. By Gloria Dickie

Leslie Glustrom of Clean Energy Action and Empower Our Future noted they had distributed over 1,500 yard signs to encourage a ‘No’ vote.

“For a normal campaign, you would get 100 to 200 campaign signs — that’s kind of the standard for Boulder campaigns. It is a wonderful testament to the Boulder community that over 1500 people helped get the message out.”

And while Xcel may have conceded a visual presence on every corner, Burchell observed many citizens were unhappy with Xcel’s strategies, which included offering up gift certificates to citizens who answered questions about the company.

“The most common feedback we have received is how disgusted people are with the volume of Xcel advertising,” she said, adding it seemed many people hoped to never see the name ‘Xcel’ again.

While the ballot question failed by more than two thirds, backers of clean energy recognize there’s still a long way to go.

Empower Our Future, Burchell said, will be looking to work with Xcel to make a “truly smart transition” to clean energy and not continue to strand communities with their bad fossil fuel investments. In addition, they will be directing efforts toward the 31 percent that voted ‘Yes.’

In the meantime, she’s proud of the accomplishments clean energy groups have made in the unequal battle to pursue alternative power sources.

And, if there’s one lesson Burchell learned from her experience, it’s this:

“Clearly, more is not a ‘given’ better, and it is no longer true that the side that spends the most money always wins.”

For a complete breakdown of expenses and contributions, enlarge graphic 1.1.

Weekly Round-Up November 15: Law & Order

The Boulder District Court handed out several servings of justice this week, ranging from an assault charge against a CU Buff to a five-year jail sentence for a man who smashed a pint glass into a woman’s eye at Catacombs this spring.

On Wednesday, University of Colorado lineman Alex Lewis learned that felony charges he received in May would proceed to trial. The incident in question involved a drunken fight on the Hill, where Lewis and CU quarterback Jordan Webb left one man unconscious.

Twenty-seven-year-old Joseph Bosveld was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury. Bosveld allegedly smashed a shotglass into his girlfriend’s eye after she asked him to clean up shards of a broken glass during a pool game at Catacombs.

And lastly, the driver behind a fatal collision with a cyclist this fall received a municipal citation this week. Bradley Hansen, 50, failed to yield the right-of-way when making a left-hand turn.

Weekly Round-up: A new sheriff in town?

On Friday, Sheriff Joe Pelle announced his intention to run for a fourth and final time as sheriff. Pelle has been serving as the county’s sheriff since 2002.

The death of a young woman in early September has been ruled a homicide by the Boulder County coroner. 18-year-old Premila Lal was hiding in the family home, hoping to jump out and scare Nerrek Galley. Upon hearing noises, Nerrek Galley armed himself and fired a shot into Lal’s chest.

A Denver man has been accused of providing two teens with marijuana-laced cookies in early November. Davirak Ky faces charges of child abuse, assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.


Renewable energy groups celebrate 310’s failure

By Gloria Dickie

“Xcel can go to hell.”

Although it may not have been the most politically correct way to phrase it, this sentiment, uttered by deputy mayor Lisa Morzel, seemed to encapsulate the spirit of Hotel Boulderado Tuesday night, when ballot measure 310 was shot down.

With less than a third of voters voting in favor of the Xcel Energy-sponsored measure, Boulder citizens made it clear to the Minnesota-based corporation they wanted to pursue clean energy.

Hotel Boulderado // Gloria Dickie

Hotel Boulderado // Gloria Dickie

The measure, often described as a “Trojan horse” by renewable energy groups, would have seen limits placed on the amount of utility debt the city could incur, as well as restrictions placed on extending a municipal utility service to areas outside city limits.

“This is about a measure put on the ballot by a company simply trying to protect its profits,” Steve Fenberg, executive director of New Era Colorado Foundation, explained Monday night. The organization has been a central figure in the municipalization debate in recent months, raising close to $230,000 for the cause, knocking on hundreds of doors and making thousands of phone calls to Boulder citizens.

With campaign signs piled in the corner, ‘Pick a Side’ stickers plastered on the walls and a chorus of anti-310 phone pitches providing an audible accompaniment, New Era Colorado’s headquarters, located on Spruce Street, was buzzing with anticipation Monday night — the eve of the election.

“We didn’t really leave a lot of stones unturned. We’ve been targeting older voters, middle-aged voters, young voters,” Fenberg said while rifling through a pile of mail-outs on his desk.

And their hard work paid off. Greeted by a round of cheers, whoops and applause, the group arrived at the Hotel Boulderado midway through election results Tuesday.

“I think Boulder voters are smart — they researched the issue going in and they voted the right way,” Fenberg said, unable to keep from smiling.

Crystal Gray, a former city councilor who saw the original municipalization question put on the ballot in 2011, described the win as bittersweet, as she hadn’t been able to follow the effort through during her time on council.

Under the Flatirons / Kirsten Ellis

Under the Flatirons / Kirsten Ellis

“This is kind of overwhelming — I thought it was going to be close,” she said, proudly sporting a green ‘I Love Local Power!’ button.

Conceding defeat at 8:25 p.m., Voter Approval of Debt Limits, the Xcel-backed group pushing for a ‘yes’ on 310, released their official statement, calling the outcome a “partial win.”

“Had we not put Question 310 on the ballot, the city never would have contemplated including the voters in the utility debt decisions,” Meg Collins, founder of VADL, said.

However, Collins noted this was the second vote where the city “believes they can impose their will on county voters and force them to help pay for the city’s utility. It also marks the second election where county voters were excluded from having any say in the decision.”

Others, too, were unimpressed by the outcome.

Kevin Hotaling, a city council hopeful and the only candidate not in favor of municipalization, cautioned against celebrating too soon.

Standing amid a small crowd at West Flanders Brewing Co., Hotaling expressed doubt that creating a city utility would fall under the projected $214 million.

“I think the people who put it on the ballot might be cheering right now because they think they won,” he said. “But the reason they don’t know they didn’t win is because they have no business experience whatsoever, and they don’t understand the tech world.”

In the end, Hotaling said, the move toward municipalization will “almost certainly” require another vote.

Back at Hotel Boulderado the celebrations continued. A string quintet strummed mellow music in the corner of the mezzanine while waiters chaperoned hors d’oeuvres around the room.

Leslie Glustrom, research director for Clean Energy Action, has been one of the community’s more vocal opponents of 310.

“We all deserve a huge amouphoto(9)nt of credit,” she said. “But on the other hand it’s really dastardly that we’ve had to spend all this time and money to battle a large corporation yet again. That just because a corporation has bottomless legal and financial pockets they can force a community to spend this amount of time and money trying to defend what we already did in 2011 is sickening.”

Fenberg, however, took a more optimistic approach toward the measure.

“This ballot measure engaged the community in such a deeper way. Xcel would have been better off just not doing this ballot measure.”

While Boulder won’t be the first city to create local electric utility — 29 already exist in the state of Colorado, and there are thousands across the nation — it could earn the title of being the first to break off from a big utility for the sole reason of addressing climate change.

Quick facts:

– 31.12% in favour of Ballot 310

– 68.88 against Ballot 310

– 30,634 total votes on 310

– 66.52% in favour of 2E

– 33.48% against 2E

– 28,503 total votes on 2E

Crime & punishment weekly round-up: Nov. 1

Boulder police are searching for potential victims of an escaped Denver sex offender living in a transient camp on Arapahoe. On Oct. 19, police arrested Eugene Felix Martinez, who was found to be in possession of several items that did not belong to any of his known victims.

According to The Denver Post, a Denver police officer won’t face criminal charges after fatally shooting a man near a Five Points light rail stop this past August. The man, wielding a knife, allegedly came at Officer Adam Bechtold, attempting to stab him. Video surveillance from an RTD camera captured the incident.

At the trial of Matthew P. Burnett Friday in an Adams County courtroom, it was revealed that James Clifford, 34, of Westminister was killed by strangulation at his friend’s home in August, not of head wounds as was previously thought.