Big wins for gun control, but business as usual for unhoused policy

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Boulder’s $3M plan to remove homeless camp (still) not working

One year after approving $2.86 million in new spending for cops, park rangers and a dedicated “cleanup” team, the number of camps and tents on public land continues to grow.

More than 389 camps have been “addressed,” staff wrote to Boulder City Council this week—the update was tucked into page 566 of a 613-page packet delivered during a week in which elected officials also considered controversial gun control measures—without making an overall dent in the number of people living unsheltered.

“After a brief decline in early 2022, April and May reports of camping have risen significantly beyond 2021 levels,” staff wrote. “The number of structures (i.e., tents, tarps) in camps inspected by the clean-up team has also increased in recent months.”

This has long been an issue for cities attempting to police away people living on the streets, who simply relocate to other locations. In Boulder, camps are concentrated near Boulder and Goose creeks. It’s unclear how many unique individuals were represented in the 389 camps removed by the city; that information was not provided.

The approach is part of an 18-month pilot meant to test the efficacy of aggressive enforcement and the need for continued funding. City council approved the spending and plans in July 2021. Only two of six police officers have been hired to the dedicated “encampment cleanup team” as the department struggles with more than two dozen vacancies. Rangers meant to patrol urban parks began their work this month.There have been some successes, staff insisted. The internal cleanup team dedicates five days a week to beautifying creek corridors, which has freed up the city’s short-staff maintenance team for other maintenance. But costs for that team have overrun its budget by $53,695.

Most of the money allocated to removals remains unspent: more than $1 million, primarily for to-be-hired cops. 

The city is also facing a lawsuit from Colorado’s ACLU, two nonprofit providers of homeless services and three unhoused individuals who cannot access shelter and have been ticketed under Boulder’s ban on tents and sleeping in public.

Don’t take your guns to these towns

Boulder and Louisville passed a historic suite of gun control measures Tuesday night, with Lafayette, Superior, Longmont and Boulder County set to follow.

The package of laws being considered are similar but not identical across the six municipalities. In Boulder, elected officials unanimously passed:

• A ban on assault weapons, magazines holding 10 or more rounds, and devices intended to increase the rate of fire;

• Raising the age limit for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21; 

• A ban on 3D printed guns without serial numbers;

• A prohibition on the open display of weapons in public (all guns must be in a locked, opaque case);

• Restrictions on concealed carry in city facilities, polling locations, and protests, and a ban on concealed carry without permission of the property owner in places licensed to serve alcohol, hospitals, facilities providing mental health or substance abuse services, places of worship, sporting venues, courthouses, financial institutions, day care centers and preschools, and grocery stores;

• A 10-day waiting period to purchase a gun, following a background check

Many members of the public testified about the importance
of a waiting period in preventing suicides, which are typically impulsive acts. 

State Rep. Judy Amabile shared that her son, during a mental health crisis, attempted to purchase a gun. She was able to persuade the gun store not to sell to him, but noted that there was no legal mechanism to prevent them from doing so.

“Even if we saved one kid,” she said, “I think it would be worth it.”

Boulder, briefly

The city landed a $4 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to help build a housing factory. The facility will manufacture prefabricated homes for the residents of Ponderosa Mobile Home Park in north Boulder, replacing old and outdated trailers.

The loan will be repaid over 10 years using Community Development Block Grants. 

See You Next Tuesday

Next week, council will have yet another discussion about how and when to move local elections to even years, a proposal that received majority but not unanimous support last month. There will also be a public hearing on landmarking an entire city block surrounding downtown’s historic Glen Huntington Bandshell.

June 14 and 21 will be the last two Tuesday meetings of Boulder City Council—ever. Meetings are moving to Thursdays starting July 14. 

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This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

Email comments and questions to editorial@boulderweekly.com.

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