The Safe Zones initiative will provide the necessary measures to ensure the safety of our children
On April 21, A.J An opinion piece by Doug Hamilton was published in the Daily Camera In response to the 4 Kids Safe Districts ballot initiative. While we appreciate his point of view, he got a few things wrong.
Existing laws, which Mr. Hamilton says are redundant with the Safe Districts Initiative, were not, in our opinion, properly enforced until a month ago when propane tanks exploded next to Boulder High School. These dangerous conditions were reported to the city and BVSD repeatedly for ten days prior to the eruptions. No action was taken – even after the first tent fire in the city center and then a second and third gas tank exploded as the students had to be evacuated due to their proximity to the fire. It took the third thing that the accident occurred near the school to finally make the town acknowledge its responsibility to its most vulnerable citizens.
Legislative changes proposed by the Safe Zones Initiative call for the removal of priority prohibited items, including propane tanks and tents, within 500 feet of schools and 50 feet of mixed-use trails. They do not mention the 72-hour notice requirement, or any other enforcement strategies, because “how” to enforce is at the city manager’s discretion and cannot be legislated. So while the city has a clear ordinance banning these items in our public spaces, there is little transparency about implementation priorities and timelines. However, in the wake of the tent fires along Arapahoe Avenue, the City Manager announced an abrupt change in its notification policy to immediately remove tents near certain multi-use trails—presumably to address the known and persistent presence of propane tanks hidden within them. This sudden policy shift signals that the city is finally acknowledging that immediate action is not only legally defensible, but necessary for everyone’s safety.
Hamilton also suggests that police intervention when people break the law may cause an unwanted escalation. So what does he suggest doing if a man chases a young man with a knife? Or when a drug addict man threatens to kill his dealer over the bad fentanyl trade? These are actual incidents, witnessed or recounted to us, that occurred during school hours across the street from BHS. Are vulnerable people experiencing homelessness and other challenges helped by our do-nothing policy? Are the many young people in our schools and along our paths helped by our inaction?
Over the past six months, Safe Zones 4 Kids has met with all levels of city, school and municipal leadership, and time after time, our calls to prioritize youth safety have fallen on deaf ears. Many of the parents who supported our ballot petition are signing up out of great frustration at not responding to a clearly escalating and charged situation. So while recent changes to the city’s enforcement policy address many of the concerns raised by the Safe Districts Initiative, we are seeking to codify this priority through our ballot initiative in order to send a clear signal to our city leaders that we, as a community, value our children and will not allow their safety to be politicized. .
We know that the Safe Zones Initiative is not the answer to the complex challenges facing our society. It is just a temporary measure to bridge the gap between our children and the dangerous activities that take place in our public spaces. Asking voters to debate and express their views on this initiative does not preclude the continued pursuit of other much-needed child safety measures that Mr. Hamilton is referring to, and we welcome his leadership in addressing these issues. But solutions take time and we cannot continue to ignore the mounting threats to the safety of our youth.
Mr. Hamilton admits that “children have had to experience really scary and traumatic situations… The public spaces are here for everyone to share and use.” Then he concludes that our initiative will do nothing and that we should focus on solving broader problems. So, apparently, until the perfect solution has been found, built, and implemented, Mr. Hamilton thinks that doing nothing is the only reasonable response. We are fully aware that this initiative is a small step, but doing nothing is not a viable option.
Christian Kerr is treasurer of the Safe District Children’s Voting Measures Committee. Kerr lives in Boulder.