The email I sent to Daily Camera / Julie Marshall
Here is the e-mail I sent to Julie Marshall (as well as Al Manzi and Deborah Swearingen), wherein I requested a retraction or correction. I fear that today's piece by Julie might offer some mistaken impressions or lead to assumptions about what I might have written, so I am simply offering the fact of what I submitted.
Sent Aug 23, 2021, 11:40 AM:
There were spots in Sunday's editorial where facts were misstated, assumptions were made, or solutions were proposed as actionable when they have been vetted and rejected as non-viable. I previously expressed concerns to Julie about misinformation in editorials, guest opinions, and columns - but it's a graver situation when the editorial board fails to fact check itself.
I therefore encourage you to consider retracting this editorial. If a retraction is a bridge too far, then I believe the next best thing would be to issue a robust correction, including needed retractions/corrections, but also increased transparency such as disclosing who all participated in the listening tours (including their depth / degree of involvement), and citing sources for assertions.
The editorial got some basic facts wrong, eg by stating that the city owns a 6000 acre planning reserve - where the reality is that the City is one of many owners of a 500 acre planning reserve. This means that the printed version of Sunday's editorial told people that the city is flush with acreage in North Boulder, a fractional portion of which could be used to swap out land. (FYI, an updated online version of the piece now says 600 ac, but staff told us recently that the acreage is approximately 500 ac).
The piece states that: "Councilmember Rachel Friend [is] understandably determined to represent the voices of these neighbors who want protection and right now." This appears to be an assumption, as I was not interviewed for this piece and I was not asked who I am determined to represent. It's inaccurate, because it implies that I don't represent everyone. I've said repeatedly that I am charged with representing the best interests of Boulder as a whole when looking at CU South, and not just nearby neighbors.
The editorial indicates that there was a diligent "listening tour with all parties involved.” Sadly, many of the fiercest advocates for flood protections, flood survivors from Frasier Meadows, have died in recent years. The delays to date in this project have already made it impossible to hear from all relevant parties. I'm told that leadership from 1 of the 2 primary advocacy groups engaged on this issue (South Boulder Creek Action Group) were not included in outreach efforts. The piece also mentions the vantage point of dog walkers, viewshed-appreciators, and minimal land-use advocates. But I can't tell if, say, our Fire Department, in-commuting CU staff, and pedestrian / cyclist advocacy groups were included, even though these groups stand to potentially benefit from annexation (but not from an easement). Given the editorial's focus on project opponents' perspectives, I am left feeling unsure whether the "all parties involved" goal was achieved / whether various project supporters had equal representation as opponents.
Here is an example of an assertion that will be helpful to have a citation for, in the event of a correction: "The large city-owned parcel does not come with the myriad of problems to solve at CU South.... Most appealing is that the land lacks ecological sensitivity." This tells the community that the planning reserve park's land lacks ecological sensitivity. But I was previously told that we've never studied the planning reserve and therefore no experts can confirm what habitat (ecologically sensitive or otherwise) may exist across the 200-ish acres there. What was the source for the Daily Camera's statement? (The relevant comparator here being the limited portions of CU South where development could occur / the western portion / old gravel pit)
Overall, statements like the land swap one above - asserting that myriad problems vanish with a land swap - lack context that renders them misleading. The piece doesn't mention the heightened traffic and social impacts from a more physically disassociated campus, the fact that a difficult PRAB disposal would be needed, the neighbors in North Boulder who oppose, and of course the unknown habitat that would be impacted. The piece claims that our problems will vanish, but fails to let the community know that equally concerning problems pop right up in their stead.
Counter-points and potentially fatal flaws concerning ideas like land swap and CU granting an easement largely went unmentioned. If one tugs the string and runs these concepts to ground (as the City has done, repeatedly), the premises on these points begin to unravel.
As an editorial board, you have every right to your opinion to oppose CU South annexation. But given the glut of misinformation in our community on this project (see eg this doozy), it was imperative for this board to get facts correct, avoid assumptions, and include necessary context that may render recommended paths non-beneficial or non-traversable. In my opinion, it is now you all who have the chance to "be the hero in this story," by recognizing that you were given faulty information, had some fact-checking lapses, and as a result want to start over. This would offer the chance to ensure that you consider any neglected viewpoints and only propose solutions that avoid every opponent's best hope: Delay.
Thank you for considering, and I'm happy to talk further through my concerns with anyone.