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PlatteForum's latest exhibit asks pointed questions about homelessness in Denver. Photo courtesy of PlatteForum

ICYMI: Local Stories that Defined December

Life is busy, but the news cycle doesn’t stop. Here’s a quick primer to some of the top Centennial State stories from December.

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Between end-of-the-year festivities, school breaks, and, oh yeah, the impeachment hearings (quick take: On December 18, Colorado’s Representatives voted along party lines—Democrats for; Republicans against—to impeach President Trump), December was a bit of a blur. So it’s understandable if you missed a few local headlines. Before you fully embrace the new year (c’mon, we know you’re still sorting through 2019 emails, too), here are five local stories from December that we’re still talking about.

The Cost of Plastic (and Paper)
Come July, it’s likely that you will need to dole out a dime for each plastic and paper bag you use at the grocery store. On December 23, the Denver City Council approved a plan that would add a 10-cent fee for single-use plastic and paper bags at retailers. The plan, which has been discussed at Council in previous years, aims to decrease bag waste and has worked to do just that in other metros. Yes, we’re not the first place to institute a plan like this (Chicago, Boston, and many other metros have similar policies, as does the entire state of California). We’re not even the first in Colorado, as Aspen, Boulder, Crested Butte, and others already headed down this path.
The takeaway: If Mayor Michael Hancock signs this measure into law—which is expected—Denver will soon have a 10-cent plastic bag fee.

Camping Ban’s Final Chapter? 
Back in 2012, the Denver City Council approved an ordinance effectively banning camping in public and private spaces (read the current municipal code text here: Sec. 38-86.2). The ban has been a near-constant topic of debate (activists argue that the rules negatively impact people experiencing homelessness) in the Mile High City ever since. That continued in 2019 when Initiative 300 aimed to dismantle the ban, but failed by a significant margin in May’s municipal election. But (spoiler!) that still wasn’t the end of the discussion. A Denver County Court judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional on December 27. Days later, Westword reported, the Denver City Attorney filed an appeal and the Denver Police Department had stopped enforcing the ban.
The takeaway: Denver’s urban camping ban is under continued scrutiny.

Ad Wars
In a month associated with Hallmark movie sentimentality, Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff’s apocalyptic campaign ad sent a different sort of message. The video, which runs more than four minutes, is set in a future time scarred by climate change. The ad gained a lot of attention for the candidate, who—along with the other Democratic hopefuls in the race—has been overshadowed since John Hickenlooper ended his presidential bid and entered the race in August. The ad focused the spotlight back on Romanoff (at least for a few days) and helped him take shots at both Hickenlooper and Cory Gardner, his ultimate target.
The takeaway: The 2020 general election is still more than 300 days away (the primary election is on June 30), but the political ad season is starting.

Return of the Wolf? 
Yes, this sounds like something out of a Game of Thrones plot, but in November, Colorado voters might vote on whether to reintroduce wolves to the Centennial State. Last month, members of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund turned in signatures to try to put the topic on the ballot (we should hear if they met the requirements very soon). Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates that Colorado’s gray wolves were killed off in the 1940s. In the decades since, several Western states have brought back wolves, including our neighbors Wyoming and New Mexico. There will be plenty of time to hear arguments from both sides of the issue, so in the meantime, here’s a list of some other animals that have been reintroduced to the state. 
The takeaway: There’s a chance you’ll be able to weigh in on whether Colorado should reintroduce wolves in the November election.

Ash Piles Up
Unless you drive past it regularly or live nearby, you might forget that the metro area is home to Suncor Commerce City Refinery. On December 11, the refinery made news when, according to the company’s statement, the facility “experienced an operational upset at one of its units resulting in an opacity event.” Put another way, people reported ash falling from the sky. That day, Suncor issued a statement with details on the event and offering a free car wash to rinse away the dust. Suncor has released additional updates about their investigation (see here and here.) The refinery is the state’s only facility of its kind and, as the Denver Post reports, has made headlines before for air pollution. In short, don’t be surprised to hear more about Suncor’s impact on the region in coming months.
The takeaway: The Suncor refinery in Commerce City emitted ash that fell on nearby areas on December 11.

Bonus: News to Smile About
The Colorado Department of Transportation launched Snowstang, a seasonal bus service to Arapahoe Basin, Loveland Ski Area, and Steamboat Springs. The Broncos won their final two games of the year. Aurora’s getting an In-N-Out Burger. Oh, and you already know this, but there are still more than 120 of Claude Monet’s pieces on display at the Denver Art Museum (but only until February 2).

Winter in Colorado

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