News briefs: Red Letter Books closing, oil and gas leasing pause and more

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Caitlin Rockett

Red Letter Secondhand Books set to close at end of April as building is scheduled for demolition

After more than 30 years in business, Red Letter Secondhand Books will close at the end of April.
Surrounded by partially emptied bookshelves, owner Seth Rowland says he hopes to move the business elsewhere, but has yet to find a location.

“We plan to continue selling books online until we find a space,” he says.

The building, at 1737 Pearl St., along with 1724, is a pair of adjacent retail spaces that will be demolished to make way for a three-story commercial and residential project, according to a June 25, 2020 summary by the Planning Board.
The plan calls for the construction of a new 28,222-square-foot structure with more than 9,400 square feet of retail space and a public courtyard on the first floor, and 14 apartments on the second and third floors. Parking will be added in an underground garage.

“Primarily, I would like to notify the community of our departure,” Rowland said in an email. “I would also like to communicate that it was not our choice. We’ve survived economic downturns. We could have survived the pandemic. Development is what is killing us.”

Rowland has owned Red Letter since 2013. He worked at the store for more than five years prior to buying it from original owner John Murray, who opened Red Letter in 1990. Rowland’s father owned a bookstore in Fort Collins for many years, and prior to working with Red Letter, Rowland owned Happenstance Books and Curiosities just a block east on Pearl.

“I think that the emotions are going to hit me later,” Rowland says of the store closing. “We’ve had customers from all over the world. From Patti Smith to the former ambassador to Mali to the same out-of-town family that we’ve seen every summer for the past 20 years.”

Rowland says he’s trying to keep Red Letter open until April 24 to allow community members to drop by and say goodbye, though the shelves may be bare as he and staff work quickly to vacate the property by April 29.

A GoFundMe has been started to support Red Letter Books.

Katie Rhodes

House observes a moment of silence in honor of the Boulder shooting victims

On April 20, Rep. Joe Neguse led a moment of silence on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington D.C. to honor the 10 victims of the shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers on March 22 in Boulder.

“There are no words to express how the Boulder community is feeling in the wake of this tragedy,” Neguse told the chamber. “Our hearts are broken. The loss of life is unimaginable.”

Flanked by his Colorado colleagues, he named all 10 victims: Officer Eric Talley, Denny, Neven, Rikki, Tralona, Suzanne, Teri, Kevin, Lynn and Jody.

“Today may we remember them and honor them as we lift their names and express our deepest condolences to their families.”

Also on Tuesday, Boulder City Council passed a resolution urging state and federal lawmakers to pass gun control legislation that would hopefully prevent mass shootings in the future, including a ban on assault rifles.

Courtesy Jessica Cirino Seth’s last job in Boulder was at a Michael’s craft store, where he snapped this photo.

Update: Seth Franco lawsuits

Sage Franco, the brother of Seth Franco, who died by suicide while at a Boulder halfway house in March 2020 (See News, “He wanted to be heard,” Dec. 17, 2020), filed a complaint in federal court this week alleging his brother’s death could have been prevented, citing the facility’s “deliberate indifference and callous disregard toward residents and their rights.” The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a declaration that Intervention Community Corrections Services (ICCS), which runs the facility, Seth’s case manager and the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, as the state agency that sets standards and audits facilities like ICCS Boulder, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Eighth Amendment by both their actions and inactions.

This comes on the heels of a March 8 court order, whereby a federal judge allowed a different civil rights lawsuit brought by Seth Franco against the City of Boulder and its police department to proceed. Filed prior to his death, the lawsuit alleges police officers did not receive adequate training specific to probation violations, emergency mental illness response or welfare checks. It stems from a 2017 interaction between Seth and several officers, after his probation officer called for a welfare check that ultimately led to Seth’s arrest.

“What happened to Seth was truly awful,” Christian Griffin, attorney for Seth and Sage Franco, writes in an email. “In response to a request for a welfare check due to a reported threat of suicide — not a report of any criminal activity — BPD officers arrested him for a crime that did not exist, and then took him to jail.”

Although the judge ruled the individual officers are covered by qualified immunity, he said there were credible allegations that Boulder police lack adequate training and allowed the lawsuit against the City of Boulder for its policies to proceed to a jury trial, set to start in October.

Drilling rigs in the oil fields of Wyoming

Enviro groups and businesses defend Biden’s pause on federal lands oil and gas leasing

When President Biden issued an executive order to pause oil and gas leasing on federal lands shortly after taking office, it was quickly met with legal challenges from the industry group Western Energy Alliance. In March, several states that receive revenue from such drilling projects also filed federal lawsuits against the Biden administration, including Wyoming.

Now, a diverse coalition of 21 different Western conservation organizations have intervened in two lawsuits in Wyoming in support of the Biden administration, stating a review of the federal oil and gas leasing and permitting program is long-overdue. A group of Western businesses, including Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company and other outfitters, ranchers and farmers have also intervened in support of the federal government, arguing that their businesses rely on clean air and water, which is degraded by oil and gas extraction on federal lands. The businesses also argue continued and “unabated drilling on public lands” contributes to climate change, which is damaging rural economies in the western U.S.

“The threat to our business from climate change may be exacerbated if Western Energy Alliance succeeds in overturning the leasing suspension and requiring the Interior Department to continue offering additional oil and gas leases,” Auden Schendler, senior vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, said in a statement. Aspen is the largest employer in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley.

The extraction of fossil fuels on public lands accounts for a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The federal leasing pause does not stop oil and gas development of current leases, of which the industry has plenty. According to the Biden administration, oil and gas production is happening on less than half of the 26 million acres of federal lands currently under lease, and there are more than 7,000 undeveloped federal drilling permits.

In conjunction with the executive order, the BLM announced on April 21 it wouldn’t hold its second quarter lease sales.
“Canceling these oil and gas lease sales is a small but vital step as the Interior Department conducts its top-to-bottom review of America’s rigged oil and gas leasing system,” Policy Director Jesse Prentice-Dunn of Center for Western Priorities said in a statement. “Despite the crocodile tears the oil industry is likely to shed today, their own CEOs admit they are sitting on years worth of unused leases and drilling permits right now, and this delay will have no effect on their bottom line.”