Metro Denver voters will fill seven seats on the Regional Transportation District’s board in the Nov. 3 election — likely thrusting a mix of new and returning officials into arguably the least enviable positions in local government these days.

They will join a 15-member Board of Directors that is guiding the transit agency through its biggest crisis in decades, as the coronavirus pandemic has sent ridership plunging and blown sizable holes in its budget. The triage likely will continue well into the next term, even as board members and RTD officials, including incoming CEO and General Manager Debra Johnson, hope to map out new strategies to grow ridership. They also will need to weigh equity challenges and reckon with RTD’s unfulfilled rail promises in some parts of the district.

All the while, the agency is facing intense scrutiny from state officials, community leaders and an outside advisory committee that’s undertaking a top-to-bottom review of the agency.

“This is a defining time for RTD,” said Denver City Councilman Chris Hinds. The agency’s success or failure will have a bearing on challenges as far-reaching as traffic congestion, economic development and climate change.

“I’m very interested in breaking Denver’s dependence on cars,” said Hinds, who represents neighborhoods in central Denver that are among the most heavily dependent on public transportation. “Obviously, ensuring that we have reliable, frequent, cost-effective transit is a critical component to that.”

Three incumbents are in contested races to represent RTD board districts that cover central and east Denver, several south suburbs and far-southeastern reaches that include Parker. Another incumbent is running unopposed, while three newcomers — including a couple former elected officials — face no competition in open seats, guaranteeing wins.

An eighth position was supposed to be on the ballot, but no candidate qualified. The director for District

There’s a peculiar sound coming from inside the magenta building at 623 Valencia St.

The muffled crinkling of plastic sanitary gloves accompanies customers as they hurriedly sift through secondhand clothing racks, unusually tidy bookshelves and rows of assorted knick-knacks. Laughter rings out from another corner of the shop, where a group of masked teenage girls unfurl posters to reveal faded images of Gumby and Vincent Van Gogh. The synth pop drawl of Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me with Science” echoes over the speakers as more people line up on the sidewalk outside of Community Thrift, where in-store shopping has resumed for the first time in months.
 
The steel garage door typically intended for moving large donations has been lifted to safely allow customers through. In its place is a seated employee shielded by a clear, glass divider. One by one, she provides each guest with a pump of hand sanitizer, followed by a pair of disposable gloves, and gestures them toward a pile of multicolored shopping baskets, sending them on their way.

The bustle is a relief for this rummager’s paradise, and though business is unusual, the oldest independent thrift store left in San Francisco is doing what it can to survive.

“Things are definitely picking up, but we’re not doing business like we used to,” interim executive director Brian Stump tells me over the phone.

Community Thrift, in the Mission District of San Francisco, opened in 1982 and supports over 200 Bay Area charities.

Community Thrift, in the Mission District of San Francisco, opened in 1982 and supports over 200 Bay Area charities.

Blair Heagerty / SFGATE

The Mission District was once considered a thrifter’s haven, peppered with retro boutiques and resale shops. But circumstances proved challenging for small businesses, even prior to the pandemic. As rents soared, independent retailers simply couldn’t keep up. Secondhand shops in particular have disappeared from the neighborhood in rapid-fire succession: Clothes Contact,

KEY POINTS

  • Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson has stepped down from Boeing’s 2021 crewed flight test
  • In a Twitter video, Ferguson stressed his dedication to the Starliner program and said it was a difficult decision
  • He will be replaced by a veteran NASA astronaut, giving the mission an all-NASA crew

The commander of the 2021 crewed Boeing flight test has stepped down from his position for “personal reasons.” He will be replaced by another veteran astronaut.

NASA and Boeing announced on Wednesday that astronaut Chris Ferguson will no longer be the commander of next year’s Boeing Crew Flight Test to the International Space Station (ISS). In their respective statements, both NASA and Boeing said Ferguson decided to step down from the mission for “personal reasons” but did not go into further details.

In a video Ferguson shared on Twitter, he stressed his dedication to the Starliner program, saying it was a difficult decision. He added that 2021 “is very important” for his family. 

“I have made several commitments which I simply cannot risk missing,” Ferguson said in the video. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m just not going into space next year.”

Although he too did not specify why he stepped down, a Boeing spokeswoman told Associated Press that one of the “commitments” was his daughter’s wedding.

“I’m taking on a new mission, one that keeps my feet planted here firmly on Earth and prioritizes my most important crew – my family,” Ferguson said in the tweet.

In the Boeing and NASA statements, Ferguson reiterated his confidence in the Starliner vehicle, calling it the “safest new crewed spacecraft ever fielded.” And even though he will not fly in the mission, he will remain active as the director of Mission Integration and Operations. This will be the first crewed mission of the Starliner

Moreover, since the recent shift of jurisdictional responsibilities, my staff has worked around the clock to hold criminals accountable in a court of law and ensure victims experience a full measure of justice. It has been humbling to see these passionate civil servants in action and doing their sworn duties. They do so in partnership with tribal, state and local law enforcement authorities as part of our collective justice mission to ensure the seamless provision of public safety services to all citizens of northeastern Oklahoma.

This past week, the Cherokee Nation hosted U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who reiterated his commitment to prioritizing public safety in Indian Country. This pledge by Barr is yet another reminder that we need not look far for examples of good faith and good acts by the United States, and, in particular, the Justice Department, upholding the federal trust responsibility to tribes, a duty rooted in generations of treaties and laws.

Demonstrating that commitment, last year Barr unveiled an ambitious new initiative to address the disproportionate rates of missing and murdered persons, especially women and girls, from American Indian and Alaska Native communities. As part of that initiative, he deployed coordinators to U.S. Attorney’s offices in 11 states to work closely with tribal communities and law enforcement to develop community action plans to respond to the crisis. This initiative promotes the utilization of the best available investigative resources, including some of the FBI’s most advanced technology. In Oklahoma, our coordinator is Patti Buhl, a Cherokee citizen with robust experience in tribal and state law enforcement agencies who is already advancing our understanding of the scope of the problem in our state. These efforts are bolstered by President Donald Trump’s Operation Lady Justice, a multiagency task force designed to enhance the operation of the criminal justice

By Michael Anderson, Co-Founder of Framework Ventures

In the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC), regulators tightened their belts around the types of financial instruments and industry best practices considered acceptable for banks. One of the causes of the crash was that legacy banks controlled most of the lending industry and consolidated a lot of its consumers’ financial data behind closed doors. Regulators’ response in England was to pass the Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which enabled outside financial technology (fintech) companies to create secure solutions for banks to safely share financial data with consumer consent. PSD2 emphasized open source solutions, which grant public access to the underlying technology. This development has come to be called “open banking.” 

At its core, open banking uses open source APIs to securely connect consumers’ financial data across multiple services on the backend in order to display an integrated picture of consumers’ financial health on the frontend. A separate desired outcome for open banking was to increase competition among third-party providers (TPPs) and legacy banks. However, it may have caused the unintended consequence of consolidating financial power. In response to this trend of legacy bank consolidation is something new and egalitarian called “open source finance.”

Open source finance empowers individuals to participate in a novel, open framework of financial governance, where access to assets and financial services extends to anyone with an internet connection. In this new model, opt-in consumer consent is a prerequisite to participation. As such, open source finance can help expand the mission that open banking set out to accomplish. 

Historically, large legacy banks and financial institutions have had outsized influence on the financial flexibility of those who bank with them and those who exist outside of the system. While financial inclusion has been a priority for many legacy institutions, the