Problems on the Hill

The unusually cold winter this season has given Boulder a few months of calm from the recurring problem of wildly inappropriate behavior up on the Hill. As a mix of retail, housing, and Greek organizations, the area west of the CU Boulder campus known as the Hill has become a real black eye for both the University of Colorado and the city of Boulder. While several approaches have been used to bring the occasional riot under control, the problem does not seem to be going away. While I don’t claim to have all the answers (or even to know what all the questions are for that matter), I have observed various conditions in the area that seem to aggravate the younger residents of Boulder and may be part of why this situation on the Hill is far from being resolved.

Anyone that has been on the CU Boulder campus for more than three seconds has more than likely encountered a parking Nazi hard at work writing tickets for illegally parked cars. I’m not sure exactly how they do this, but just pulling into a metered spot when you know you don’t have any change in your car attracts their attention. I suspect the CU Parking Department has formed an alliance with the National Security Agency to use high level military satellites and state-of-the-art computer algorithms to monitor each car that enters the campus. I think the rules such as, “don’t take up three handicapped parking spaces if you are on your way to participate in a sporting event” and, “No matter how late you are for class, please don’t abandon your car in the middle of busy intersections” should be strictly enforced. The parking situation on campus isn’t going to get any better by ticketing every single car that has gone over the meter. It gives the general impression that the University is more interested in parking revenue than providing students with an education. This, in turn, adds to the general frustration level in the area.

Another issue in the Boulder area at the moment involves closing down local raves. If you are not familiar with the concept, it’s a place where young people go on the weekends to listen and dance to music all night long. The organizers of these events work with local law enforcement officials to keep the situation under control. People are searched for drugs and weapons before going in and undercover officers patrol the event to discourage drug use. In the wake of some highly publicized incidents in the metro area involving teenagers and Ecstasy, the city of Boulder is considering using “nuisance laws” to shut down local raves. Eliminating this relatively controlled environment by classifying these young people as a nuisance is going to lead to more negative energy in the town. While sitting in an abandoned warehouse listening to alternative rave music until the sun comes up may not be everyone’s idea of fun, as far as I understand it does not involve vandalizing storefronts, lighting things on fire, or dispensing tear gas canisters.

In general, I like to think of myself as being on the side of the police. Sure, I’ve received an occasional speeding ticket, but I don’t hold a grudge when I knew all along that I was going twenty miles an hour over the speed limit as I flew by the police car parked in the convenience store parking lot. My view changed a little bit after attending a CU verses CSU football game at Mile High Stadium two years ago and watching police officers in full riot gear deploy pepper spray from behind a chain link fence at people who were sitting in their seats after the game had ended. I’m not sure what the commanding officer at the game was thinking, but if you put fourty or so fully armed police officers around the field at the end of a college football game you are going to have a whole bunch of curious people waiting around to see what happens. I can understand the desire to keep students from pouring on to the field, but the overt display of police force aggravated the situation more than it helped.

So the next time an unruly group of people gather up on the Hill looking for trouble, consider the big picture. Some part of the group is saying, “I believe the CU Parking Department is over zealous with their enforcement of parking regulations”. The next couch or dumpster that is lit on fire in the street is a statement of, “Thanks for trying to shut down the raves.” And when a drunken, unruly mob starts throwing empty beer bottles at the responding riot police officers they are saying, “This is for Mile High Stadium– where we were unfairly brutalized and beaten up by the CSU football team two years in a row!”

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