January to February: Denver Teachers Strike For Fair Pay
After negotiations between teachers and administrators from Denver Public Schools (DPS) broke down in January, more than 2,000 teachers went on strike to demand higher salaries and a more reasonable salary structure. After three days of picketing and an all-night marathon bargaining session, the Denver Classroom Teachers Union (DCTA) and DPS reached an agreement to reopen schools, ending the district’s first strike in 25 years.
March: The Bomb Cyclone
As we look back on 2019, we may remember the weather as much as anything. The winter began with high snow totals across state prompting historic avalanche slides, the likes of which Colorado hadn’t seen in hundreds of years. Then March came in like a lion. A really aggressive lion bringing intense wind—with nearly 100 mph gusts!—and snow to the Front Range. The month’s “bomb cyclone” was the strongest storm in the state’s recorded history. And sure, we got a nice reprieve in the summer (except for the typical hail), but autumn brought even more intense weather. In October and November, we saw some of the snowiest and coldest weather in Colorado’s recent history. However, it remains to be seen if the early snow will translate to an epic, powder-filled winter or not.
The spring brought with it a sobering anniversary for Coloradans—and for all Americans. April 20, 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School tragedy, during which 13 people were murdered. It was one of the first school shootings to reverberate across the country and remains in the collective consciousness of America. To mark the anniversary, 5280 published a special issue dedicated to the legacy of Columbine, which you can read in full here. The special report is a multi-pronged effort that explores four critical issues: the media, gun laws, school security, and mental health.
May to June: City Elections Get Contentious
If you felt like it took a long time for Denver to decide the races for mayor and City Council, you’re right. May brought with it a historic municipal election in which five vocal opponents challenged incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock. And the race was close enough that one of those candidates, Jamie Giellis, pushed Hancock to a runoff election in June. Though Hancock ultimately prevailed, earning a third (and final) term, the election made it clear that Denverites are frustrated by the city’s response to growth, homelessness, and more. Beyond the mayor’s race, the City Council saw a serious shakeup. Three incumbents were defeated by progressive candidates in runoff elections, and ultimately five new members joined the Council.
May: Denver Decriminalizes Magic Mushrooms
The election in May wasn’t just about a few city offices. It also featured a history-making ballot measure: whether or not to decriminalize the recreational use of psilocybin, otherwise known as psychedelic mushrooms. Initiative 301 came from behind to win approval with 50.6 percent of the vote, making Denver the first city in the nation to approve such a measure. The surprising result has led to many questions surrounding things like enforcement, but also: Could magic mushrooms be used for therapy in Denver?
Summer: Central 70 Construction Heats Up
Though the Central 70 project broke ground in August 2018, construction (and accompanying road closures) picked up steam this summer as the Colorado Department of Transportation worked to improve the 10-mile stretch of highway between I-25 and Chambers Road. The $1.3 billion project, which will expand the highway to eight lanes and put a portion below grade (and cover it with a park), is expected to be completed in 2022(ish). Until then, commuting along the freeway might be a pain. But here’s a guide to how it all came to be and what it will look like when it’s done.
September: Crush Walls Celebrates 10 Years in RiNo
Ten years ago, street art was still taboo in Denver, and it took some convincing for property owners in RiNo to let artists paint graffiti on their walls. But over the past decade, street artists and muralists in the city have helped transform RiNo into a premier destination in Denver. The driving force behind that transformation, of course, was the CRUSH (Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony) Walls festival—which celebrated its 10th anniversary in September. Before the festival kicked off this year, 5280’s Managing Editor Jessica LaRusso produced this guide to the week-long art celebration, including details ranging from the best local artists to social media etiquette for posting murals, and much more.
(Read More: 20-Plus Street Artists to Seek Out in RiNo)
October and November: Sports Betting and Television Blackouts
The past year has been one of mixed emotions for Denver sports fans. After all, both the Nuggets and Avalanche made deep playoff runs last spring and are off to promising starts this season, too. But the Rockies really underperformed over the summer and the Broncos have been an embarrassment most the season. But that’s not to say there haven’t been intriguing sports stories to follow. In November, voters in Colorado passed Proposition DD, which legalized sports gambling in order to fund Colorado water projects—which most people see is a win. But on the other hand, potential gamblers can’t watch the exciting hockey or basketball being played right now because of an ongoing dispute between Altitude Sports and the major cable providers.
If 2018 was the year of the electric scooter, 2019 was the year of transportation advocates wondering what will happen next. It’s still unclear: Denver has a new city office dedicated to transportation and a new request-for-proposal system to evaluate micro-mobility. But all the change led to at least one casualty: B-Cycle, the original bike-share program that launched in Denver 10 years ago, announced in November it would end operations in Denver by January 2020. The nonprofit that ran B-Cycle, Denver Bike Sharing, says it hopes to launch something more innovative next year—though it remains to be seen whether or not they will find renewed success.
All Year Long: The Never-Ending Campaigns
Two of Colorado’s most prominent politicians, former Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennett, joined the (very) crowded field of Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Neither of their campaigns gained significant traction, and Hickenlooper dropped out in August only to weeks later join Colorado’s equally crowded senate race, in which he hopes to earn the Democratic nomination and defeat Republican Sen. Cory Gardner next November. Bennett, though, is still running for president even though he hasn’t qualified for any recent debates and is consistently polling under one percent.