Boulder’s Top Ten 2020 News Stories

Twenty-twenty will be remembered as the year of the global coronavirus pandemic, but there were many local stories that also vied for our attention. The Boulder Daily Camera compiles a list of what it considers the top 10 local stories each year. KGNU’s Roz Brown and Carl Armon countdown what the newspaper thought made the 2020 list. 

#10: The surprise announcement in February by CU’s newest football coach – Mel Tucker – that he was leaving the Buffalos for the head coaching job at Michigan State University. Tucker was just one year into a five-year $15M dollar contract.

#9: Police departments across the country were forced into the spotlight in 2020. Much of the conversation included a reference to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed that event. Boulder responded by hiring a new police chief in 2020 – the first woman to ever serve in that position – while Longmont saw its longtime chief retire.

#8: The announcement from the Boulder Valley School District that it would discontinue its school resource officer program by January of 2022.  The school board voted six-to-one in November to end having police officers visit local schools. In doing so, the board noted students of color in the Boulder Valley School District are more likely to be ticketed, arrested, suspended, or expelled than white students.

#7: Approval of updated oil and gas regulations by the Boulder County Board of Commissioners. A major change requires future oil and gas well pads in unincorporated parts of Boulder County be set back at least 2,500 ft. from any residential dwelling, school, or licensed child care facility. One commissioner called the oil and gas regulations, the strongest and most protective in the state.” 

#6: was related to #9 and #8 on the 2020 list – a call for police reform and racial justice in response to the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police officers. On May 30, 2020, about 500 people packed Boulder’s Central Park – five days after George Floyd died while being detained by police in Minneapolis. Protestors also noted the senseless deaths of Breona Taylor and Denver’s Elijah McClain – both following police encounters.

#5: The fiasco over the local ballot issue, Bedrooms Are For People. The grassroots group was attempting to expand the number of people allowed to live together in the same house in Boulder. Three-thousand signatures beyond what was needed had already been submitted when the city attorney said he’d made a mistake – not only about the number of signatures needed – many more – but also the date for submission – much earlier. The error kicked the measure off the ballot and city council declined to intervene.

#4:  In October, smoke filling the skies and creeping under windowsills was no longer coming from wildfires in western Colorado but caused by two wildfires in Boulder County. The CalWood Fire ignited on October 17, three miles northwest of Jamestown and was soon the biggest fire in the county’s recent history. It destroyed at least 20 homes in its path. The Lefthand Canyon Fire ignited the next day in Lefthand Canyon Drive. It was mid-November before the CalWood Fire was 100% contained. The two fires burned more than 11,000 acres.

#3:A decade-long and controversial issue resulted in Boulder voters approving a 20-year franchise agreement with Xcel Energy in November 2020, effectively ending the city’s historic effort to form its own municipal electric utility. Municipalization is essentially dead, but the franchise agreement offers the city six exit opportunities: three for any reason and three if Xcel is not meeting certain benchmarks to create green energy goals. City officials expect the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to approve the Boulder/Xcel franchise agreement early this year.

#2: On March 12, 2020, the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts learned that the first person in Boulder County had tested positive for COVID-19. Colorado’s state health department requested both districts close schools the next day. It wasn’t long before the state had ordered that all schools stop in-person learning. That began the process of moving classes online and making sure students had working devices and Internet access.

#1: The year had barely begun when “novel coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “pandemic” were making headlines, upending nearly every aspect of life within weeks. New York City experienced the first wave in the U.S. and by April 7, almost 95% of all Americans were under lockdown as 42 states issued stay-at-home orders. In addition to schools, businesses, stores, and restaurants closed their doors and all large-scale events were canceled. As the death count spiraled up, the virus exposed shortcomings in healthcare systems around the world but also increased our appreciation for “frontline workers” – the backbone of all societies. To them, we say thank you.