Axios Denver

Picture of the Denver skyline with DEN written across it.

πŸͺ Welcome to Wednesday and the first day of Black History Month! Let's dive right in.

  • Today's weather: Warmer, thankfully. Sunny with highs near 41Β°.

Today's newsletter is 918 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Denver's watchdog and the public

Denver's independent monitor Liz Perez Castle. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Denver's new law enforcement watchdog says she wants to work closely with the people keeping her accountable.

What's happening: Liz Perez Castle was confirmed as Denver's independent monitor in January following a lengthy search to fill the role. Castle is a former public defender who most recently worked as a defense attorney in Denver.

  • The monitor is a civilian position overseeing public and internal complaints made against the city's law enforcement agencies.

Why it matters: Castle starts the job as police and community relations are thrust back into the national spotlight following the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis officers.

Driving the news: Castle told Esteban in a recent interview she plans on combining feedback from law enforcement agencies and the public to make policy recommendations involving training and other policing methods.

  • She said she's already met with Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins and Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas about collaborating more with the public.

What they're saying: Local police reform activist Alexander Landau, who runs the Denver Justice Project, said Castle is the right person for the job because she envisions her office collaborating with the public β€” which he said the previous independent monitor did successfully.

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2. Meth contamination challenges local leaders

A man lighting a crystal meth pipe. Photo: Shannon Morris/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Denver metro leaders are wrestling with ways to address and prevent costly fallouts from meth contamination in public places.

Why it matters: Heavy meth use in metro Denver is hurting its users and limiting people's access to public services. At the same time, it's costing cities β€” and taxpayers β€” hundreds of thousands of dollars to deal with.

Driving the news: Arvada Library closed indefinitely Saturday after testing revealed traces of methamphetamine that exceeded state safety levels β€” the region's fourth library to close for similar reasons within a month.

  • Denver Public Library isn't testing for meth contamination because crews clean the buildings daily and bathrooms are monitored by staff, the city says.

State of play: Denver's health department is now working with industrial hygiene contractors to formalize its cleaning protocol into a policy, which should be finished in "the next few weeks," agency spokesperson Emily Williams tells Alayna.

Meanwhile, Boulder's central library β€” the first to test positive and close in late December β€” has already shelled out $188,000 in testing and cleanup efforts, says library spokesperson Annie Elliott.

  • The city has since reopened its main branch without upholstered furnishings or access to public restrooms and computers.

Keep reading ... the other side

3. ✊🏾 CU Boulder's CAAAS Center

Reiland Rabaka, director of CU Boulder's Center for African and African American Studies. Photo: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado

CU Boulder's new Center for African and African American Studies will host a grand opening today β€” the first day of Black History Month.

Driving the news: The center resides inside Macky Auditorium and is referred to as "The Cause" due to its acronym CAAAS.

  • Professor Reiland Rabaka, its founder and director, said the center will provide space for research, arts and student services. It was started through a collaboration of faculty and students.
  • The overarching goal is to increase public awareness and understanding of African and African American scholarship opportunities in Colorado and across the Rocky Mountain region.

What's next: The grand opening runs from 3:30-6pm. It will include remarks from Rabaka, Chancellor Philip DiStefano and CU President Todd Saliman.

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4. Mile Highlights: Pain at the pump

Fuel pumps at a Kum & Go gas station in Colorado Springs. Photo: Chet Strange/Bloomberg via Getty Images

β›½ The temporary closure of Colorado's only oil and gas refinery has led to a spike in gas prices in the state, which industry experts warned could happen. (CPR)

βš–οΈ A federal judge has awarded $10.5 million to the family of a Denver woman who was killed after a metal gate swung open at Arches National Park in Utah. (Denver Post)

πŸš— State lawmakers are proposing a measure that would make stealing any car a felony punishable by one to three years in prison. The bipartisan effort is prompted by a jump in auto thefts across the state. (Colorado Sun)

🚲 Denver's e-bike rebates sold out within 20 minutes yesterday. The next round of rebates goes live March 28. (Denverite)

🌟 Denver Nuggets guard Bones Hyland β€” who's rumored to be on the trade block this season β€” has been named to the 2023 NBA Rising Stars Game. (NBA)

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πŸ’Ό See current open positions on our Job Board.

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5. πŸ‘‹ Say hello to Sean Payton

Sean Payton prior to a game against the Atlanta Falcons. Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos are hiring Sean Payton as their next head coach, according to ESPN.

  • Payton, who coached the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory in the 2009-10 season, will replace Nathaniel Hackett.

What to watch: Payton's top task will be getting quarterback Russell Wilson to resemble the player Denver had in mind when they traded three players and five picks for him.

🏈 Our thought bubble: Welcome to Denver. We, too, hope you can maximize Wilson's potential and return us to the winning ways we expect.

More details on the deal

6. πŸ’˜ Where to dine on Valentine's Day

Fresh ceviche and margaritas from Toro in Denver. Photo: Courtesy of Toro

Valentine's Day is just two weeks away. Yeah, it snuck up on us too. 😬

What's happening: If you want to kindle the romance without burning dinner, we rounded up 14 Denver restaurants (see what we did there?) featuring special offerings to celebrate with your sweetheart.

  • Pro tip: Make your reservations ASAP.

Noisette in LoHi will offer a $125 three-course dinner, featuring live langoustine with sea urchin cream and filet mignon with bordelaise sauce. Reservations.

Duo in North Denver will serve a four-course dinner for $90, with highlights such as a trio of West Coast oysters, wild mushroom cavatelli and bison short ribs. Reservations.

Goed Zuur in Five Points is hosting an $80 four-course dinner, featuring tasty meats and cheeses, plus $60 drink pairings of sour beer β€” their specialty β€” or wine. Date night specials are also available on Saturday, Feb. 11. Reservations.

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Our picks:

πŸŽ₯ John is sad reading this story about the end of the Warren Miller film era.

πŸ’ͺ Alayna is feeling proud and honestly pretty great after finishing Dry January and these two 30-day workout challenges.

🀎 Esteban has this song on repeat because it provides a nice dance break during the day.

Thanks to our editor Ross Terrell and copy editor Bill Kole.