Category Archives: In the News

2016-04-20-04PM-20: Transcending Protest

April 20 at 4:20PM has been a long-standing day of support for cannabis legalization, and practiced for decades at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In recent years the University has gone to extreme measures to prevent this protest, closing the campus and hiring hundreds of extra police to enforce that closure. Last year this policy was quietly scrapped, and Dr. Caroline Conzelman and the CU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy began holding a Cannabis Symposium with the blessings of University administration.
I applaud their efforts and look forward to this event.

What’s Next for the Sheriff of Love?

Daily Camera 2014-11-08 Toby Fernsler, Boulder's self-proclaimed "Sheriff of Love," won 166 votes in this week's election. (Jeremy Papasso : Daily Camera)

There was a followup article to the November 4th election in the July 8, 2014 edition of Boulder’s Daily Camera, which was pitched and sort of is “What’s Next for the Sheriff of Love”. With only 0.15% of the vote, will I run again? What kind of campaign will it be? What’s the point? Let me tell ya.

I see things that need to be done, and I am capable and willing to do them: end the drug war, scale back police militarization, restore the balance of justice between the big and the small, heal both victims and perpetrators. But it doesn’t have to be me to do this, and I certainly can’t do these things on my own. So I will continue to build awareness for the possibility and necessity of these ideas. As before I will insert myself into local issues and present love-based solutions to the topic on hand.

County Candidate’s Forum

I participated on Saturday October 11, 2014 in the Boulder County Candidate’s forum, organized by the League of Women Voters. As Clerk and Recorder candidate Ralph Shnelvar commented, “I’m glad to see more people in the audience than on the stage”, refering to our previous outdoor appearance when the audience wilted under the sun and a relentless parade of cautious political statements. This forum was more lively, with brief opening and closing statements and the majority of the time devoted to questions from the audience. John Fryar was the only reporter present, and his brief report is available here. Our local radio station KGNU posted the full audio.

Boulder Public Access Channel 22 streamed the show:

The rules of the forum do not allow me to post excerpts, but I have re-recorded my opening and closing statements here:

Meet the Candidates

Side Portrait

I will be appearing along with various other local candidates this Saturday, September 27 in Lafayette at a “Meet the Candidates” event  between 3:00 and 5:00 at Affinity Apartment 860 W. Baseline Road, Lafayette.  We will be on the south lawn.

I will also participate in the League of Women Voters county candidate debate on October 11 at 6500 E. Arapahoe Boulder, which will be streamed online by channel 22 and posted by KGNU.

I have a solution: Free Beer.


“Suffering from a lack of sleep, just how is a homeless person supposed to do all the things necessary for overcoming their homelessness?” asks Barbieux.

I have a solution: Free Beer.

Just kidding, sort of. Hear me out.

The Methodology of Universal Love states that the best solution is the one that is a solution from all points of view. Downtown business owners would like their customers to be able to visit their stores without tripping over a sleeping person at the entrance. So the owners want the homeless to sleep elsewhere. Homeless people need a place to sleep. Urgently. Perhaps even tonight. Perhaps earlier. Anywhere they can.

How can we meet the needs of both?

Software developers speak frequently of two kinds of Free: Free as in speech, or free as in beer. Free-Speech sleeping is being able to sleep past dawn, which doesn’t happen in a homeless shelter (read the article). Free-Beer sleeping is not having to pay for it.

“Sometimes, when I make enough out here, I check into a hotel just to sleep in a room by myself.”

What if the homeless didn’t have to choose between those options?

Here’s my proposal: pick a plot of land on the edge of town, and declare it ok to camp there. Sleep in a tent, past dawn. Provide basic necessities for free: toilet, shower, laundry. Put in a kitchen and serve regular wholesome meals. Create community gardens, raise chickens. Put up a free thrift store, food drop-off, bicycle repair, yoga studio (this is Boulder). Run it like an Occupy encampment; serving and run by the community. Create micro-neighborhoods like Burning Man camps; family, rowdy, newcomers, etc. Those communities will decide what they’ll allow in camp.

Call it Free Town: Free living for the Free People.

Sheriff of Love

Groovik's Cube

Restorative Justice and Murder

Cahill apparently had barged into a modest home where he knew no one, with cocaine and alcohol in his system. And although the shooting has been ruled “justified” by police, to his loved ones, that finding doesn’t equate to an adequate explanation.

If an intoxicated and belligerent stranger broke into my home, I too would be inclined to forcefully evict them. If I was intoxicated and had head trauma from being beaten in the street, I might seek shelter where I could find it and be in poor condition to explain myself. If my brother died suddenly, I would be sad and want to know what happened. This is the Methodology of Universal Love; considering each point of view without prejudice and seeing the validity and truth in them. My favorite description comes through Charles Eisenstein, “Love is seeing through the illusions which separate us”.

New Orleans police have never revealed his identity because they consider the shooter in a justified homicide to be a victim.

Here the New Orleans police are acting to protect the shooter, out of fear that he may be the target of retaliatory actions. There is no love in this action for those who grieve Cahill’s death as their perspective and needs go unaddressed. And in fact there is no love for the shooter, who has only his gun collection and a poorly guarded secret as defense against the unknown. It is hard to know his mind, but I know when I hide from my fears I give them strength. Even the police who were involved before and after may hold trauma from this event.

“No matter how much we wish we could turn back the clock and stop this senseless tragedy, our sense of helplessness lingers, and nothing we can do will bring him back,” said Ken Cahill

This helplessness and fear need not linger, because there is an ancient practice interpreted as modern programs with an excellent track record of addressing the needs of all parties to traumatic events such as this. The essence of it is to gather these parties together with public witness and a moderator, and tell the many-sided story. Sometimes agreements come of this which ease fears and sooth wounds, sometimes there is no need, and I have never heard of a case where it was less effective than fear and punishment alone. In South Africa it was called the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission“. Here in Boulder County the sheriff’s office hosts the small but potent Restorative Justice program, run by the tireless volunteer Jennifer Quilling.

I believe the Cahills, friends of Joe, the New Orleans police, the shooter and his family would all benefit greatly from participating in such a process. So too would those of us who read this newspaper article, and wondered “Is that it? Is that how the story ends?”. Let us tell some stories, and write a new ending to this one.

Safety Check

For the third consecutive year, the University of Colorado Boulder will spend upwards of $100,000 to close campus on April 20 in its effort to smother anything resembling a 4/20 marijuana smokeout, which the university says has become too disruptive.

This year’s 4/20 marijuana folk holiday falls on Easter Sunday, a joyous Christian holiday welcoming Spring and rebirth, with roots in the Babylonian holiday celebrating Ishtar (“ees ter”), goddess of war, fertility and sex. It’s going to be a potent day. Campus officals, fearing reckless behavior,  are trying to prevent a celebration of what just last year was a protest. But it’s a valid fear; People, especially inexperienced people, will sometimes handle their medicine poorly.

There is a wonderful possibility hidden in this crisis, where both need and fear are satisfied. We will educate the inexperienced and guide them to responsible behavior. Rather than punishing future misbehavior, we will teach mindful indulgence.

From California surfer culture comes the concept of a “Safety Check”; speaking to a fellow on the beach you declare the present moment and space to be sacred, speak only beautiful and kind words, and smoke a joint. A similar ceremony could be created to acknowledge both the responsibility and bliss The Herb delivers.

Picture the sheriff, the chancellor, a Rastafarian and Catholic priest introducing the 420 celebration on Farrand Field, each with their own caution and blessing. There is a moment of silence, a moment of noise, and a moment of shared experience. I’d like to be there. Wouldn’t you?

In the News

There is a brief announcement of my candidacy in Longmont’s Times-Call which was also carried in Boulder’s Daily Camera. It is what I meant to convey, except for the part about focusing on justice for victims. When someone is injured my first priority is not going to be to avenge their injury, but rather to make sure they’re ok. I want the perpetrator to be ok too, even if that means putting them in time-out for awhile.

I suppose this all makes me look soft on crime, and in terms of individuals it is indeed my goal to avoid punishment and facilitate their wellness in the world. In terms of crime there are many that are being ignored by the justice system in Boulder County that I will pay close and loud attention to. This will mean challenging elements of the oil industry, the Federal government, the prison industry, and the banking sector. I am ready to do this, if you are ready to let me.