Weekly round-up: Authorities raid marijuana dispensaries, investigating ties to Colombian drug cartels

By Lars Gesing

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials raided several marijuana dispensaries in the Denver Metro area on Thursday, various local, regional and even national news outlets reported. Members of the Boulder County Sherriff’s Office helped authorities search sites in north Boulder and Nederland. While those served with a warrant in some cases were unsure what the investigations are about, state officials said those businesses had disregarded more than one of the regulations set in place before recreational marijuana retail becomes legal on Jan. 1, 2014. The Denver Post quoted sources on Friday saying that investigators were looking for ties to Colombian drug cartels.


Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum was re-elected for another two-year term during the weekly city council meeting on Tuesday. Appelbaum stayed atop his contender Tim Plass in a 5-4 vote, the Daily Camera reported. Also, newly elected city council members Mary Young, Sam Weaver and Andrew Shoemaker and re-elected councilmen Appelbaum and Macon Cowles got sworn into office during Tuesday’s meeting.


The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released the state’s unemployment rates for October on Friday. ABC 7News and other media reported that the number – 6.8 percent – was the lowest since unemployment reached 6.7 percent in January 2009, almost five years ago. The October number was also slightly lower than in September, when 6.9 percent of Coloradans where without a job. The national unemployment rate in October was 7.3 percent.


Weekly Round-Up — Nov. 21

By Kendall Brunette


Federal sequestration cuts hurt ongoing medical research by reducing research grant funding.  According to Boulder Weekly, Christopher Lowry, a scientist in the department of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder, is one of many CU scientists who are struggling to obtain funding for their research.  Lowry is researching new treatments for depression and is working toward a vaccination against it.  Although his research has received constant funding since 1995, he now faces the reality that the money will soon run out, leaving his research in question.


The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information about two recent incidents of illegal chemical dumping near Lyons.  According to The Denver Post, authorities found a 30-gallon barrel of zinc cyanide dumped at the Black Bear Inn earlier this month.  Four days later, a 20-gallon barrel of copper cyanide was discovered at an Environmental Protection Agency dump site.


CU-Boulder proudly announced the successful launch of its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission on Monday, Nov. 18.  The CU-led $671 million NASA mission to Mars will target the role that the loss of atmospheric gases played in changing Mars from a warm, wet and possibly habitable planet for life to the cold, dry and inhospitable planet it appears to be today, according to a CU-Boulder news release.

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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Boulder County arts educators will carry on, even without Amendment 66 tax revenue

By Jessica Caballero

Supporters of the failed tax-increase measure Amendment 66 touted that the money raised would give administrators flexibility in restoring arts education around the state. So the measure’s resounding defeat must mean a reduction in arts education, right?

Not in Boulder County schools, district officials say, at least in part because the county’s districts didn’t cut arts in the first place.

Before the vote, Douglass Elementary Principal Jon Wolfer said that the passage of Amendment 66 would “enable the district to funnel money towards other school needs that have been neglected in the past.”

Now, a full 10 days after the election, Briggs Gamblin, Boulder Valley School District’s director of communications, says arts education in the district will not need to borrow from other programs to remain.

“We did not cut arts programs as a result of budget cuts, so that part of it did not apply to us,” Gamblin said.

John Poynton of St. Vrain Valley School District said that their arts programs were safe as well. The district had money already set in the budget for arts funding, so those programs will not suffer.

In fact, arts programs throughout the state of Colorado seem to be flourishing.


In the 2012-2013 school year, music is the most widely offered program in Colorado schools, followed by visual arts, theater and dance.

Here is the breakdown of how many schools offer specific arts programs:

  • Music, 1,645 schools (90.8 percent of all schools)
  • Visual arts, 1,596 (87.9 percent)
  • Theater 612 (33.7 percent)
  • Dance 273 (15 percent)

The study also showed that out of 435 responding schools across Kindergarten to 12th grades, almost half of all schools believe that the funding for arts education has decreased in the last five years.

Yet, the study revealed that half of all schools, at every level, also received outside funding for their arts education programs. Half of the funding that those schools acquire comes from partnerships with other arts institutes and organizations.

The study approximates that only 29,000 Colorado public school students attend schools without any exposure to formal arts education.

The discrepancy in the course offerings in any discipline could be due to the availability of qualified teachers and time for those courses, according to Karol Gates, arts content specialist for the Colorado Department of Education.

“In general, providing full-time, highly-qualified teachers in the four arts areas can overstretch a school’s budgetary constraints. Scheduling issues – lack of sufficient time allotted – for arts programming is also a concern that often occurs,” Gates said.

But not to worry, the study found that on the whole, Colorado school administrators believe in the value of arts education, though emphases have shifted in the past five years.

According to the Colorado Visual and Performing Arts Education Survey published in March of 2008 by Cypress Research Group, formal arts education was available for 93 percent of kindergarten through fifth grade students, 86 percent of sixth through eighth graders, and 83 percent of high school students in ninth grade and above.

In the 2007-2008 school year, visual arts education was the most frequently represented in middle schools and high schools, with music courses in a close second, with theater arts and dance lagging behind by a huge margin.

In elementary schools, 88 percent had visual arts courses, 94 percent had music, only 11 percent had theater, and 20 percent had dance instruction.

In middle schools, 66 percent had visual arts, 61 percent music, 22 percent theater and 11 percent dance.

High schools had the least overall arts instruction. Only 30 percent had visual arts, 26 percent music classes, 9 percent theater and a mere 3 percent had dance classes.

The Colorado education round-up for November 15

By Lauren Maslen

CU-Boulder’s annual Diversity Summit

CU-Boulder held its 19th annual Diversity Summit on Wednesday, Nov. 13 and Thursday Nov.14. This year’s summit was entitled “Building the Road Map” and allowed summit speakers, campus leaders, and the public to discuss how far the university has come and what steps it will take in the future to increase campus diversity. 

Dazed and confused

The Denver Post reports that pot usage among Colorado high schools students has increased since the 2012 vote to legalize recreational marijuana. School officials say that students see the drug as safe, widely available and acceptable, and “cool.” Although numbers are not yet available, marijuana use among high school students at school appears to be increasing nationally, according to The National Institute of Drug Abuse.

To infinity and beyond 

Students from Crest View Elementary visited CU-Boulder’s campus on Monday, Nov. 11 for a sneak preview of the CU-led MAVEN mission to Mars, complete with tours and experiments, lunch with two astronauts, rocket building, and a launch party. The students won an international art competition last year under the instruction of kindergarten enrichment teacher, Jill Williams. Photos of their artwork will be hurled into space aboard Monday, Nov. 18’s MAVEN launch.

You settled here: how the Boulder Tattoo Project inked and linked a community forever

A participant of the Boulder Tattoo Project gets tattooed at Claw and Talon. // Photo by Lauren Maslen

A participant of the Boulder Tattoo Project gets tattooed at Claw and Talon. // Photo by Lauren Maslen

By Lauren Maslen

Where can you call home? Is it the town your family lives in? The city you grew up in? Or maybe it’s where you choose to raise your own children. Do you choose your home or does it choose you?

Line 77 of the “Boulder Zodiac,” a poem written by Anne Waldman for the Boulder Tattoo Project, reads “you settled here.” This phrase rings true for many participants of the Boulder Tattoo Project, including the project’s manager, Chelsea Pohl. These participants all had a word or a phrase from Waldman’s poem inked onto their bodies as an ode to Boulder.

“The rest of the world is just not as perfect. It’s contradictory: it’s easy to live here, yet it’s challenging. It’s challenging to become an adult here, but it’s a desire,” Pohl said.

Pohl originally hails from Lexington, Ky. She started the Boulder Tattoo Project as an offspring of the original Lexington version. Her husband, Vincent Bachert, welcomed the task of inking over 200 project participants in the couple’s studio, Claw and Talon, with the help of several other Boulder tattoo artists.

Two-hundred Boulderites were brought together through the collaborative efforts of Pohl, Waldman, and many others along the way. These tattoo artists were essential in manifesting the art, poetry, and above all, the feeling of Boulder’s interconnected community, onto project participants’ skin.

In May 2013, Pohl summed up her 13 years of experience in Boulder along with her feelings about the town in her “Love Letter to Boulder.” She also set forward her intentions for the Tattoo Project.

“I think if I’m going to ask people to commit so permanently to their love for this city, I better be clear that I love this city just as deeply as I’m expecting them to,” she wrote.

A Blessing or a Curse? 

During the mid-19th century, Chief Niwot was a leader of the Southern Arapaho tribe in the area that is now the Boulder Valley. Upon the arrival of white settlers searching for gold in 1858, Niwot supposedly cursed all future settlers. This is now known as “Niwot’s Curse.”

“People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty,” Arapahoe Chief Niwot supposedly said in 1858 – or so the legend goes.

And how do you get rid of such a curse?

“Go up to a certain part of the Flatirons and eat some dirt,” Pohl said. “That’s the only way to get rid of the curse.”

While some may call Niwot’s words a curse, others only read them as a blessing.

One tattoo recipient regaled fellow ink enthusiasts with Chief Niwot’s tale at Claw and Talon on Saturday, Nov. 2nd during one of the busiest days of the shop’s week-long tattooing marathon. Participants also shared stories about why they chose their specific word or phrase from Anne Waldman’s “Boulder Zodiac.”


Why Ink?

Tom Klenow is no stranger to ink needles; his arms are home to full, colorful tattoo sleeves. Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Tom said recently moving to Boulder gives his tattoo and the project more significance, “in the sense that I feel more at home here than I ever did in North Dakota.” Up the Boulder was his chosen phrase.

Lisa Roberts got her tattoo on the side of her right foot. It was her first. “I’m getting who. You can make it mean anything,” Roberts said. Although not originally from Boulder, Roberts has lived in in the town for over 25 years and said it’s “home.” Boulder was her number one reason for joining the project.

Kim Goldman received over surface just below her left collarbone. “It’s a unique phrase and a unique spot to get it,” she said. “It will have meaning for me… someday.”

Sean Held and Sierra Held are father and daughter. They were tattooed together on the project’s second day. Sean got the phrase keep scales aligning on his shin while Sierra chose go asymmetrical along her thigh.

“‘Asymmetrical means nothing’s the same: be unique, be yourself; be awesome. It’s hide-able, but also show-able,” Sierra said. Her father had a different reason for his chosen phrase.

“I always work hard at being the best person I can be. I’m balancing back and forth between the things I need to do and the decisions I need to make,” Sean said.

Jessika Fleck’s forearm is now labeled, “your mind stays.” She wrote about the meaning of her tattoo on her blog, harking back to an accident she had two years ago in which she hit her head. At times, Fleck said, she thought she was losing her mind.

“No matter how many loops the roller coaster has or if you happen to hit your head on a window, your mind can’t be lost or stolen,” Fleck wrote.  

A participant of the Boulder Tattoo Project at Claw and Talon. // Photo by Lauren Maslen

A participant of the Boulder Tattoo Project at Claw and Talon. // Photo by Lauren Maslen

Forty-five Boulderites were tattooed on Saturday. Despite the constant flow of people waiting for tattoos in Claw and Talon that weekend, the artists maintained their excitement. “Their attitudes are amazing. They’re getting the energy of the people,” Pohl said. “They’re juiced on it.”

Stories like this are what make the whole project worth it to Pohl. During the first weekend of tattooing for the project, word of mouth spread as participants began posting photos, blog entries, poems, and Facebook posts as odes to their tattoos and the Boulder Tattoo Project.

“I cried out of joy, because that’s what makes it worth it – when people share their stories. I’m hoping we’ll get more of that,” Pohl said.

Where do you call home?

To participate, project volunteers had to meet certain criteria, including but not limited to: “Consider Boulder home” and “love Boulder,” the latter being the number one motivator for participants.

“We were told Boulder is a very transient town,” said Kremena Todorova, one of the founding artists of the original Lexington Tattoo Project. Todorova said that although she and Kurt Gohde, her partner in the Lexington Tattoo Project, were primed to feel this way before visiting Boulder, they also spoke to many project participants who are Boulder transplants.

“It gets harder to stay here as you get older, because you have more responsibilities,” said Pohl.

“I have settled here, and it’s like a settling. It’s a work in progress and it’s a challenge to leave my hometown and to drive my stake here and hope it stays. I definitely feel like it’s my home, though.”

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Health and Recreation Round-Up for November 15

By Kirsten Ellis

Winter Sports

On Tuesday, the forecast did not anticipate that the mountains could get up to a foot of snow this weekend.  But its time to sharpen and wax your skis, snow is fluttering down, and the mountain resorts should see 12 inches by Sunday afternoon, according to The National Weather Service.

The Daily Camera reported that this year is already Boulder’s ninth-snowiest year on record.  Here’s to the beginning of a great ski season!

The Affordable Care Act

It has been an uncertain week for private health insurance and the Affordable Care Act.  250,000 lower end policies in Colorado alone were due to be cancelled this year because they did not meet new law requirements effective Jan. 1, but President Obama announced that these policies can be extended for another year if the state regulators and insurance companies decide to allow customers to renew their existing policies.  The Denver Post explains what you need to know about Obamas cancelled policies.

The most common advice to consumers is to call your insurance company to ask what your options are, and check the online marketplace to see if you might have better coverage options through the Affordable Care Act.

Boulder Ice Rink

The downtown Boulder ice rink announced today that they will not re-open for the 2013-2014 season, citing major mechanical issues.  They are also unsure if they will open next year, according to The Daily Camera.