Climate Change Protests, Ralphie Retires, Rockin’ In Iceland, RTD Woes And More Photos From The Week

November 16, 2019
Dana Miller, an environmental activist in Denver, helped organize the disruption inside the Colorado's Governor's Residence., Nov. 7, 2019Dana Miller, an environmental activist in Denver, helped organize the disruption inside the Colorado's Governor's Residence., Nov. 7, 2019Sam Brasch/CPR News
Dana Miller, an environmental activist in Denver, helped organize the disruption inside the Colorado's Governor's Residence., Nov. 7, 2019

Richard Dash of Alumina Energy stood in front of a small crowd at the Colorado Governor’s Residence. This was his chance to pitch oil and gas executives on his company’s thermal storage system to capture energy from renewable or fuel-fired power plants. 

He was among entrepreneurs from 13 companies in Denver for the Oil And Gas Cleantech Challenge, an annual event to gather ideas to reduce the environmental impact of the fossil fuel industry. But before he could even begin, a young woman in black dress stepped in front of the podium. 

“There’s no such thing as clean oil and gas!” she shouted. And from there the disruption continued. Many of the demonstrators were with Extinction Rebellion, a global movement advocating direct action to force people to confront the climate crisis. — Sam Brasch

Ralphie V Retires

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A statue commemorating CU Boulder's mascot Ralphie, and her runners, outside Folsom Field Thursday Nov. 14, 2019.
Handlers, RalphieAP Photo/David Zalubowski
Handlers guide Ralphie, mascot of the University of Colorado, around Folsom Field in Boulder before Colorado hosted Utah in 2014.

One of the most popular mascots in college football is ready to retire. The University of Colorado Boulder announced Tuesday that Ralphie V's run has come to a close.

For the past 12 seasons, it's been Ralphie V's job to hype up the crowd at home games by thundering down the field with her student handlers, "Ralphie Runners."

But she hasn't run at the last two games. John Graves, the manager of CU's Ralphie Live Mascot Program, said she hasn't been taking cues from her handlers like she's trained to do. — Xandra McMahon

7 Awesome Acts At Iceland Airwaves Music Festival
Jessi Whitten
Iceland was an ideal destination for discoveries both natural and musical.

Indie 102.3's Jessi Whitten went to Iceland's cool music festival Iceland Airwaves. She told friends it was sort of "Iceland’s SXSW." "Never having been to the festival before, I had no idea how ignorant that comparison was. Short version: she loved it. And she got to take in some awesome sights too. Read her full story here and check out the videos.

It's Illegal For Non-Citizens To Vote. Should Colorado Change Its Constitution Anyway?

191105 ELECTION DAY PM VOTING DENVERHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Last minute voters at the Denver Elections Division headquarters on Bannock Street in Denver.

The national group Citizen Voters has poured more than $1 million into an attempt to change a few words in Colorado’s state constitution. It’s part of a well-funded, multi-state campaign to explicitly ban anyone without U.S. citizenship from voting in elections, which critics say is already part of Colorado’s existing law.

Organizers say they’re on track to get on the ballot for the 2020 election. The Colorado effort has collected more than 200,000 signatures ahead of a Tuesday deadline, likely ensuring they’ll have more than enough ruled valid to qualify for the election, according to Joe Stengel, registered agent for the initiative. — Andy Kenney

Hundreds Sick At Palisade High School

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Book Cliffs rise behind orchards in Palisade.

District officials are hoping to reopen Palisade High School Monday after the school was closed Thursday and Friday by an unknown ailment that prompted hundreds of students and staff to call in sick

Officials estimate that 300 of the school’s 1,050 students didn’t show up for classes Thursday, along with 20 percent of staff. The campus was closed at 10:30 a.m.

The school is currently undergoing a deep clean due to what the Mesa County Health Dept. is calling “an infectious disease,” likely a virus, whose main symptom is vomiting, typically for 12 to 24 hours.  — Stina Sieg

Now It's Mayor Coffman

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Former Rep. Mike Coffman declares victory in Aurora mayoral race on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman declared victory in the Aurora mayoral election at a press conference outside the Aurora Municipal Building on Thursday. He was in a close race with Aurora NAACP President Omar Montgomery — so close that, "On Election Day, I only wrote a concession speech," Coffman said. — Taylor Allen

'Feeling The Pain’

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
The RTD bus lane on 15th Street downtown. Nov. 5, 2019.

The Regional Transportation District is tightening its belt as it tries to close a $40 million gap in its 2020 budget. The board is set to give its final sign-off to cuts in December.

The board is cutting $200,000 out of its own budget. Capital projects will be put on hold. But commuters are assured that RTD doesn’t plan to cut service to help meet the new budget.

The fiscal crunch comes as RTD is trying to weather another, more public crisis. The agency has a crippling bus and light rail driver shortage, leading staff to propose temporary service cuts to give its overworked drivers a rest. — Nathaniel Minor

Electric Lyft

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Gov. Jared Polis speaks at a press conference where ride-hailing company Lyft announced it would add 200 electric vehicles to its fleet in Denver on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.

The ride-hailing company Lyft announced Thursday that 200 long-range electric vehicles will be made available to rent in December for its drivers in the Mile High City. It estimates its drivers could save between $70 and $100 per week in fuel costs, based on similar programs in other cities. — Nathaniel Minor

Man Arrested With Gun At Denver Synagogue

Downtown Denver Islamic CenterKevin Beaty/CPR News
Downtown Denver Islamic Center on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.

Denver police said they have arrested a man who was armed at the Downtown Denver Islamic Center on Thursday evening. Four witnesses associated with the mosque told police they were standing outside the center and saw the man across the street. They said he shouted anti-Muslim comments at them and pointed what looked like a long rifle at them. The man did not fire any shots at them and turned and left the area.

Benjamin Casillas-Rocha, 24, was arrested by police Thursday evening after police said he brought what turned out to be an air rifle to the mosque on North Downing Street. — Esteban L. Hernandez

A Planned Synagogue Bombing Foiled

U.S. District Court
A photo of a single-family home in Pueblo identified in a search warrant in connection to the case of an attempted synagogue bombing.

A search at the home of a Pueblo man accused of plotting to blow up a historic synagogue yielded a host of white supremacist paraphernalia, according to newly-released court documents.

Richard Holzer, 27, awaits trial in federal custody in Denver after police arrested him on November 1 for intending to plant explosives at Pueblo’s Temple Emanuel Synagogue. What Holzer believed to be explosives were actually fake pipe bombs, provided to him by undercover FBI agents. 

Holzer had been communicating with the agents online and in person for weeks leading up to his arrest, expressing hatred of Jewish people and his wishes to engage in a racial holy war. — Dan Boyce

The Demise Of Sagebrush

David Zalubowski/AP Photo
An unidentified bird watcher emerges from a blind to watch the sun rise over the sagebrush where the greater sage grouse perform their annual mating ritual near the North Park community of Walden, Colo., April 21, 2007.

About 50 percent of sagebrush habitat across the West has been wiped out over the years, according to Audubon Rockies. Drought, urban and energy development, damaging grazing practices and climate change are all taking their toll.

But sagebrush is home to many birds and other animals, Tarantino said, including the sage grouse, a species that is in decline. The vegetation serves as food, and traps water, for many species. When sagebrush sheds leaves, they improve the soil for other plants. Sage grouse chicks huddle under it for protection from predators. Pronghorn and mule deer eat sagebrush through the winter. 

“Historically, sagebrush was actually written into a book called ‘The Weeds of the West,’ even though it's a native plant,” said Wildlife biologist Marcella Tarantino of Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. “It was considered kind of a trash plant." — Michelle Fulcher.

All That Glitters

191109 CENTRAL CITY AMERISTARHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Central City and the Ameristar casino Nov. 9, 2019

I was headed back to Denver through Central City after an assignment at a ghost town in Gilpin County and took a detour up into the hills above town just after the sun went behind the Continental Divide. There was about five minutes at my vantage point to capture the combination of blue twilight and the lights going on at the Ameristar casino. — Hart Van Denburg