img

The Gazette reports today that President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the National Security Council, Army. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, “will be a familiar face in Colorado Springs.” He led a unit from the local Army base Fort Carson through a deployment in Iraq. “After leaving command of the Colorado Springs regiment, he’s become one of the Army’s gurus for tactics and doctrine,” the paper reports. “In a 2013 Colorado Springs visit, McMaster said that the military’s experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to be repeated by future enemies who watched American troops struggle against shadow insurgent groups.”

“Service contractors have agreed to restart work on a tar sands project in eastern Utah in exchange for stock in the endeavor or deferral of payments,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “US Oil Sands Inc. announced the deals late last week as it looks to complete commissioning of its project to use a citrus-based solvent to extract oil from tar sands in its PR Spring Project north of Interstate 70 not far from the Colorado border. The arrangements come just a little more than a month after US Oil Sands closed on a $7.5 million loan with its largest shareholder, allowing it to bring employees back to work after layoffs late last year due to cost overruns on the project.”

The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent reports how the Roaring Fork School District teachers association is questioning Riverview School’s hiring plan. Why? “After observing the initial hiring at the school, we are very concerned that the focus of the district is not on giving priority to current dedicated, quality district employees,” reads a statement from Roaring Fork Community Education Association President Rhonda Tatham. The paper reports “the district announced last week that up to 24 teachers could be displaced from their jobs or not have their contracts renewed.”

“Trampoline bungee jumpers along with downhill bikers and uphill hikers will have to wait until June 30 to take advantage of summer operations at Steamboat Ski Area while the mountain’s 30-year-old gondola is updated,” reports The Steamboat Pilot & Today. “The news, announced Monday by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., came as a surprise so soon after Intrawest, Steamboat’s parent company, announced in early February the company’s capital improvement plan for its resorts for 2017. Steamboat appeared to be left out of planned upgrades.”

A story about dogs running geese off a golf course beat out news of how local progressives are reacting to GOP U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on the front page of the Fort Collins Coloradoan. And how are they reacting?” A group of Fort Collins progressives plan to answer a question Tuesday night that few would have thought of six months ago: What happens when you throw a town hall for a senator and he doesn’t show up?” the paper reports. “There’s enough interest in what a U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner-less town hall looks like that IndivisibleNOCO, the organizing group, closed registration for attendance due to space concerns, member Tara Morton said. The Colorado Republican’s Fort Collins office has played a front-and-center role in the spate of protests that erupted here since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. His staff here and in Washington, D.C., have also grappled with an explosion of emails, phone calls and social media messages.”

The Boulder Daily Camera reports how the Public Utilities Commission’s chief engineer is recommending “the commission deny Boulder’s pending application to acquire certain Xcel Energy assets and form a municipal electric utility. In testimony filed late Friday, Gene Camp wrote on behalf of PUC staff that the city’s latest proposal — an application supplemental to one partially dismissed just over a year ago — “lacks sufficient detail” and cast doubt on several key aspects of Boulder’s plan. It was one in a series of testimonials filed Friday, many of which are confidential. But among those available to the public were filings from the state Office of Consumer Counsel, the local branch of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and IBM — all of which are also skeptical of Boulder’s municipalization plan. Arguments before the PUC will be held starting in April, with a ruling expected late this summer.”

A story about property taxes frustrating fire districts pushed out news about two southwest Colorado companies pulling ads from Breitbart.com for front page real estate at The Durango Herald. The paper reports how in November, “a Twitter account called Sleeping Giants began alerting companies that their advertising was appearing on Breitbart News, which has been accused of publishing racist, misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic content.” “We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars,” the Sleeping Giants profile says, according to the paper. “Many companies don’t even know it’s happening. It’s time to tell them.” Within months, the Herald reports, “more than 1,130 companies fled the publication formerly headed by President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon.”

The Denver Post reports how Highland Ranch students are using virtual dialogue with the WWI kaiser to spark an interest in history. “The students have also created a virtual-reality world that charts the rise and fall of major civilizations. Using 3-D programs and Oculus Rift virtual-reality goggles, anyone can go into a carefully detailed museum, walk through several rooms and examine exhibits.”

 

img

As fears spread in immigrant communities about enforcement crackdowns, Denver Public Schools officials took extra steps last week to assure families that the district will protect students’ constitutional rights.

The school board unanimously approved a resolution Thursday night affirming DPS’s approach to doing everything “in its lawful power” to protect students’ confidential information and ensure “students’ learning environments are not disrupted” by immigration enforcement actions.

“Above all else, this is for our students to have their fear replaced by confidence and hope,” Superintendent Tom Boasberg said.

Board member Rosemary Rodriguez, who represents southwest Denver, praised the “tenacity and fierce love” of immigrant parents who brought their children to the United States.

“This is a terrible time,” Rodriguez said. “But together we’re going to get through it.”

Among the steps the district promised in the resolution:

  • Continuing its practice of not collecting or maintaining any information about students’ immigration status.
  • To contact the district’s general counsel immediately about any request by a federal immigration official to talk to a student while in school or in any school activity or using district transportation.
  • That in response to any such request, the district’s general counsel won’t share information or provide access to students unless required by law, and will fight to protect students’ constitutional and legal rights.

The resolution does not represent a policy change, but spells out clearly the DPS’s position at a time of anxiety in a district with a large immigrant population. To date, DPS has not had to respond to any immigration enforcement actions, spokeswoman Nancy Mitchell said.

Leadership of the 92,000-student district took its stance on a national day of protest, “A Day Without Immigrants,” meant to spotlight immigrants’ contribution to the U.S. economy and society. Across the country, thousands skipped work and school, business owners hung “closed” signs on their doors and marchers took to the streets.

Guadalupe Tarango, a North High School senior and member of DPS’s student board of education executive team, called the resolution a way to help students feel safe.

“For most of us, school is our second home,” she said. “School is a place where we can learn and grow. And school can be a distraction from the realities we face at home.”

The resolution falls short of a demand from an activist group, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, that DPS create a strong “sanctuary schools” policy.

Board member Lisa Flores, who represents northwest Denver and parts of west Denver, said at a news conference before Thursday’s meeting that district officials had talked about including “sanctuary” language in the resolution but decided against it because a lack of a clear definition of the term. The term “sanctuary city” is generally used to describe a city that will not cooperate with federal officials on immigration enforcement.

Flores also encouraged families to update students’ emergency contact information provided to the district.

“There is great strength in solidarity,” Flores said, referring broadly to the resolution. “There is great strength in standing together as a community to protect the rights of our students.”

DPS has taken several steps in response to concerns about how immigration policy and enforcement will play out under President Donald Trump. The district in November produced a fact sheet in four languages answering immigration questions, and last month gave voice to South High School students following Trump’s controversial executive order on refugees.

 

Photo by Eric Gorski. DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg , school board members and others. Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Eric Gorski on February 16, 2017. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

 

img

Airbnb use is soaring across Boulder County, reports the Boulder Daily Camera. The total number of guests booking with the short-term rental service increased 90 percent countywide from 2015 to 2016.

The Denver Post reports that prairie dog habitats occupy almost twice as much acreage statewide as expected, according to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife survey completed last week. That’s good news for the black-footed ferret, the nation’s most endangered species, as well as for the hawks, owls and foxes that feed on prairie dogs.

Diminishing open space in Lafayette has prompted the city council to consider a measure Tuesday to require more public land designation for future developments, reports the Longmont Times-Call this morning. Residents are fearful that a surge in development will eclipse the area’s increasingly rare natural space. “We are behind our neighbors in public land dedication,” resident Karen Norback told planning commissioners last month.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan fronts a story today about giving high school dropout risks a second chance — using marijuana funding. Opportunities Unlimited allows at-risk students at Poudre High School to take classes at Front Range Community College for free.

A New York man who spent five days lost in Great Sand Dunes National Park has been rescued, the Canon City Daily Record reports. “Bryan Skilinski was found just over a mile south of the park’s visitor center,” and was found “in relatively good health,” all things considered.

An early-rising black bear, brought out of hibernation due to warmer weather, will be relocated, writes the Loveland Reporter-Herald. The bear was tranquilized and captured in a Colorado Springs backyard Saturday after he was spotted in a tree.

Red Rock Canyon was considered a site for a Trump-branded property in the 1990’s, a Colorado Springs real estate has told the Colorado Springs Gazette. It’s unclear what President Trump had in mind for the $15-million refuge, but he ultimately passed on the property — on gold-embossed letterhead.

img

You’re not likely to read a better piece on Donald Trump and his war on both the media and the truth than this from conservative Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens. In a speech honoring the legacy of Danny Pearl, Stephens says those conservatives who think supporting Trump is the pragmatic road to take are “hitching a ride with a drunk driver.” Via Time.

John McCain on Meet the Press: Suppressing the press “is how dictators get started.” Still waiting for Trump’s tweeted reply.

While Trump’s war on the media continues, the failing New York Times is reporting that a group of Trump associates is pushing a back-channel plan to resolve the Russian-Ukraine conflict. The plan was delivered in a sealed envelope to Michael Flynn in the days before he was dumped as national security adviser. No one knows what Trump might think of the plan, but you can guess which country (not Ukraine) comes out ahead.

One of the Trump “associates” went to a prison for a couple of years, The Washington Post wrote, for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass.

This is what fake news looks like: Trump citing a nonexistent terror attack in Sweden based on a fake-news-interview he saw on Fox News. Via The Guardian.

A chilling moment to mark the 75th anniversary of the executive order that led to Japanese-American internment. Via The Los Angeles Times.

The British oddsmakers are already taking bets on whether Trump will last one full term. Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof asks what can be done to be rid of Trump. You already know the answer: probably nothing. Via The New York Times.

The Washington Post goes all in on a sympathetic, in-depth profile of Neil Gorsuch. The main takeaway is that Gorsuch is “surprising,” meaning not as predictable as a Scalia acolyte might seem to be.

How does Facebook fit into Mark Zuckerberg’s theory of human history? Via Vox.

From The National Review: The president Trump most resembles may be LBJ, except that Johnson actually got things done.

Why the anti-vaxxers are winning and what can be done,  short of a measles outbreak, to stop them. Via The New York Times.

Photo by Jorge Van Nande via Flickr: Creative Commons 

img

In 2009, before Colorado repealed its controversial “show me your papers” law, Jeanette Vizguerra was pulled over on her way to work for driving with an expired license plate. The police officer’s first question to Vizguerra, she says, was, “Are you legal or illegal?” Her answer set off a lengthy legal battle to remain in the U.S. that she is still fighting today.

Vizguerra, a 46-year-old mother of three U.S.-born children, is undocumented. During that traffic stop eight years ago, she was caught using a false Social Security number to work, a misdemeanor. Four years ago, she returned home to Mexico to visit her dying mother. Upon re-entry to the U.S., she was detained at the border and given a deportation order.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has since granted Vizguerra at least five stays of removal — ICE says six — allowing her to remain with her family in Denver, where she has lived, worked and volunteered for nearly 20 years. But on Wednesday, to the dismay of a large crowd of supporters and immigration activists, Vizguerra’s most recent stay of deportation was denied.

She is now living in sanctuary in a downtown Denver church. She has a pending application for a U Visa, a special visa reserved for victims of violent crime. While her attorney, Hans Meyer of the Meyer Law Office, works to determine the next steps, Vizguerra spends her days in the church basement, hoping ICE will uphold its informal policy of leaving churches and schools alone. She will see her children only on weekends; during the week, they will stay with her husband.

In short: A woman who was repeatedly given permission to remain in the country under President Barack Obama, whom immigration advocates repeatedly criticized as the Deporter-in-Chief because of his aggressive deportation policies, has now been told she needs to leave under President Donald Trump.

Trump’s recent executive order on immigration has stoked fear among immigrants across the U.S., including legal permanent residents — green card holders — and those who were granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The recent arrest of DACA recipient Daniel Ramirez in Seattle has increased uncertainty in the immigrant community.

The Colorado Independent spoke with three local immigration attorneys — Meyer, who has represented Vizguerra for years; Camila Palmer, of the firm Elkind Alterman Harston, and James Lamb, of the Chan Law Firm — about how the two presidents prioritized who should be deported and who should be allowed to remain in this country.

 

What does President Trump’s executive order on immigration say about who should be deported?

Trump’s executive order, which can be found here, lists seven types of people who are now prioritized for removal. These include people who: “have been convicted of any criminal offense; have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved; have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense; have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency; have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”

Attorney Hans Meyer:  It’s a blanket deportation dragnet, plain and simple. The policy is designed to accomplish a very simple goal, which is to deport as many human beings as possible, no matter the cost. It includes people who have been charged with any offense, regardless of whether they’re guilty or not. It also includes people that immigration suspects may be guilty. It includes, by definition, every person that is undocumented, every person who unlawfully entered the country and, I believe, everyone who overstayed their visa.

Now, if you have your legal permanent residency, you’ve earned your green card from the government — you’ve obtained your status. The only way for the government to take that away is if you’ve done something that would allow them to legally take your green card.

But Trump is trying to push the limits of an executive order in order to try to deport residents, including legal permanent residents, based on minor or very old crimes. That’s something that under the law ICE has always been able to do, so he hasn’t changed the law; he’s just turned up the volume. He’s saying, ‘If there’s anything we can get you for — that marijuana conviction from 16 years ago — we’re going to do it.’

Attorney James Lamb: The enforcement regime is going to look a lot like it did during the Bush years, and the early Obama administration, except there’s going to be more of an edge to it. With Obama, there were so many concerns about use of force that he appointed a non-border patrol guy to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Trump says, ‘We’re not going to continue to demonize our brave law enforcement officers,’ and ‘We’re going to free their hands.’ So there’s not so much concern that any of this is done ethically.

Attorney Camila Palmer:  It seems to me that the executive order was so broad that pretty much anyone could fall under it, or certainly most people. It is going to be 11 million immigrants who are now going to be priorities.

Meyer: It’s a monolithic deportation plan — by design. It’s not meant to be nuanced.

How do Trump’s priorities differ from those of President Obama?

Palmer:  The main thing is that [Trump’s orders] are much more expansive in terms of who becomes a priority. I also thought Obama’s executive orders were much clearer than Trump’s are now. Now, it’s any crime, and you don’t even have to be convicted of that crime. If you’re letting your dog run at large, that’s a crime — so does that mean you’re now a priority?

Lamb: Before Obama, there was a program called Secure Communities, which tried to leverage local law officers to assist in federal immigration enforcement. Deputies or officers in a municipality would get training and be deputized as ICE agents.

Colorado counties don’t participate in that program anymore. The ones who did ultimately withdrew from it, because they realized that one, ICE wasn’t going to pay them back for expenses they incurred, and two, ICE wasn’t going to indemnify them in any resulting lawsuits — and there were lawsuits.

Obama ended Secure Communities in 2013, and he kept a sort of vague policy in place for a while before then announcing the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). It set up five enforcement priorities, with recent arrivals, felons convicted of serious crimes and so forth at the top, all the way down to the bottom with people who have lived in the U.S. for a long time, people who have been convicted of nothing.

PEP resulted in noticeable changes in immigration enforcement: You just didn’t see as many people in removal proceedings without a criminal record. Under PEP, if you were just minding your business, you weren’t likely to face immigration proceedings.

Now, we’re back in this world where things have not been articulated very clearly. When the order says ICE will prioritize ‘An illegal alien that has been arrested or charged,’ what they’re say is that they’re ending PEP and returning to Secure Communities.

Palmer:  In addition, under Obama, the Department of Homeland Security would occasionally entertain administrative closure requests, and it seems that that has stopped. Previously, somebody who was in removal proceedings who was maybe stopped in 2010 when police were still asking about status during stops, those people might have their cases closed. Now, it appears that they’re no longer entertaining these motions.

Meyer: Trump’s immigration enforcement order shows his complete lack of respect for due process. The Obama administration, after years of attention and advocacy and pressure, realized that the deportation machinery [Obama] had inherited was destructive. What it was designed to do was deport people en masse, and that’s exactly what it did, including students, Dreamers, longtime residents and people with no criminal history. So in the later years, the Obama administration pulled back from that enforcement paradigm and tried to put together a compromise: Let’s try to take our enforcement resources and use them toward people who present a tangible risk to the community.

Now, many of us in the immigration community didn’t agree with that policy, but now, the Trump administration has inherited the rusted-out pieces of that machine, and they’re oiling them back up to use again. They’re going to try to make it more efficient and more brutal with new policies building on old ones.

What does this mean going forward, both for Jeanette Vizguerra and for Colorado’s immigrant community?

Palmer: It’s a new era. We have no idea what they’re going to do, which makes it really hard to advise clients. I try to share information, try to spread the word about knowing your rights, but it’s just having such a chilling effect on everybody. Everybody is freaking out.

I personally think there was something intentional about that DACA kid in Seattle who was arrested — it was an intentional move, to make people afraid. Nobody knows what’s going on, and everybody is afraid.

Meyer: A lot of [Trump’s policy] is old wine in new bottles. Trump is oiling up the Obama administration’s old deportation machinery, the primary tool of which is to use the local criminal justice system as a force multiplier, allowing ICE to use local sheriff’s offices, probation officers and courts to pick up people en masse, move them into immigration detention and remove them from the country. The difference is that this time, the person updating it is part of an administration that wants to see everyone in the immigrant community deported.

Palmer: We’re getting calls from people who are really scared, who don’t want to leave the house, don’t want to go to their kids’ schools. There is so much anxiety right now. From my legal permanent resident Australian client to people who may already have a removal order, it’s pretty unsettling to a lot of people.

And the courts are already so backlogged [with immigration cases from the Obama administration]. Combine that with [the federal hiring freeze Trump announced in January], and how are we ever going to process this number of cases? I saw that the hiring freeze won’t apply to ICE, but what about the rest of the Department of Justice? What does this mean for the cases that are already pending?

Lamb: It’s kind of easy to guess where enforcement is going to come when it comes. There will be major workplace raids. If history is prelude, it’s going to be the employers that ICE thinks hire a lot of undocumented people.

As to why we haven’t had crackdowns in Colorado yet? I have no clue. It could happen any day. It may be that [ICE] just calculated that they don’t get as much bang for their buck here. But ultimately, there are going to be a lot of people in the same boat. As an attorney, it’s my job to advise people not to break the law, but people aren’t stupid; they can see the writing on the wall. What’s going to happen to a lot of them is that they’re going to have to drop off the radar, and then they become fugitives.

Meyer: Let’s put aside Jeanette Vizguerra’s case for a moment, because there really is a bigger question: What do we believe as a country? Do we believe in separating mothers from their children? Do we believe in bullying immigrants who have lived here for years? Jeanette’s case is ultimately the looking glass through which we are going to judge what we believe.

What we see now is the human cost, the human face, of the cheap political rhetoric of the Trump campaign.

Lamb: Jeanette is currently in sanctuary in a church. Churches have historically been places where ICE won’t go, but we’re also concerned — at what point is ICE going to say “screw this, we’re going in”? The policy of respecting sanctuary is not a law; it’s a PR practice. And the Trump administration is not as likely to be as susceptible to PR concerns, because their constituents would love this.

Meyer: Jeanette’s case presents an opportunity to bring the humanity back to this discussion. We’re going to have to have to huddle and figure out what the next steps might look like, but we are going to be asking that ICE, locally and nationally, take another look at her request to stay, and proceed on the adjudication process for her U Visa.

But just as things have now become dark, there’s always a dawn. We are not going to rest.

 

Photo by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Department of Homeland Security) via Wikimedia Commons

img

An informational meeting organized by Colorado Department of Transportation officials was overtaken by local protesters Thursday night at the Swansea Recreation Center in Central Denver.

Officials had come to detail next-step plans on the $1.2 billion “Central 70” interstate project set to begin early next year. Construction crews will remake 10 miles of I-70 that cut through the neighborhoods of Elyria and Swansea between Interstate 25 and Chambers Road. The officials never got the chance to give their planned presentations. The protesters wanted answers, not information, and mostly, they wanted to halt the project.

“The Ditch the Ditch people just kind of took over our meeting,” said one of the CDOT staffers greeting attendees.Inside, protesters were speaking into a portable sound system they brought themselves. They wore black scarves over their mouths to call attention to the fact that they’ll have to live for years amid the pollution generated by the construction.

Cars filled the parking lot and lined neighborhood streets outside. Kids played among “Ditch the Ditch” signs stuck in the lawn. A train horn sounded nearby and the floor of the building rumbled lightly.

Officials lined up to address the crowd included CDOT Director Shailen Bhatt and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

Duran this year is at the center of high stakes ideological and practical negotiation at the Capitol over billions in transportation funding. Any deal would likely include a statewide campaign to ask voters to approve tax increases to help back bond proposals. Protesters in Elyria-Swansea threatened to work hard to undercut that kind of campaign. Duran represents the angry House District 5 Elyria-Swansea residents.

“The Speaker will address the crowd now,” said the event’s bilingual facilitator.

“Please, it’s just ‘Crisanta,’” Duran said. “We’re here to listen tonight. We want to do everything we possibly can to make sure that the resident in every community of Denver, including Elyria, Swansea and Globeville, that your voices are being heard and that we’re doing everything in our power as it relates to health, economic and environmental concerns. We want to listen. We want to continue to problem-solve.”

But Duran didn’t have answers the crowd sought. As some of them have been saying all along, they want the highway re-routed north out of the center of the city and into Adams County.

“The challenge is, if there is a reroute — and I’ve talked to leaders and community members, the people in Adams County,” said Duran “The problem is I have heard over and over again that they are adamant they don’t want the reroute in their area.”

We are adamant!” the crowd shouted.

“We have to figure out how to bring people together,” said Duran. “Perhaps there’s a need for new conversations with Adams County leaders to find a way forward.” She was shouted down again.

“The people! Not the leaders!”

“All I’m saying is bring data,” said organizer Candi CdeBaca, whose family has lived in the neighborhood for generations. “We want to see census-tract data on how many people will be affected because it shows one to twenty-five.”

The protesters, during the meeting and afterward in interviews, circled back to the census data. They said it shows that there are 25 times more people who will be affected in the central Denver neighborhoods at the site of the proposed project than would be affected in the northern Adams County neighborhoods that would host the reroute.

But the decision on the location of the project had been made. The only way forward for the objecting residents is to sue the project authorities and win and/or to propose ways to make the project on the Elyria-Swansea site more palatable and more longterm beneficial — or at least less burdensome — for residents.

“We’re here to talk about next steps,” said Bhaat. He knew he was in for a rough night and he prepared for it. His line, the one he stood by throughout, was that the Central 70 project was moving forward and that part of that project process was dissent in the form of lawsuits. There would be no re-route, no reworking the project for health or safety reasons, he explained, unless the courts and “dispassionate judges” found that the planners hadn’t followed all the rules, hadn’t sufficiently considered all the options and properly made their intentions known to all the parties entitled to know.

“You still have an opportunity,” Bhaat said, moving back and forth on his feet, left hand in his suit pocket. “Some folks here talked about lawsuits. That is the American process. We don’t build roads like they do in China. I don’t get to just come in and say ‘I’m taking this property,’ or ‘I’m moving this here.’ There’s a NEPA process — the National Environmental Protection Act — that says these are the steps we have to follow. We had a record decision issued from the Federal Highway Administration that said we followed all the precepts of federal law. They’ve looked at water issues…

“If you don’t agree with our decision, there’s a 150-day window in which the Sierra Club — any group — can come forward and challenge our case,” he continued. “Now, if we’re wrong, if we got this wrong and you’re right, then we’ll do something else. Right? If we didn’t do enough communication, we’ll do more communication. If the court says we didn’t do enough mitigation, then we’ll come back and do more mitigation. If they say we didn’t adequately consider other alternatives, then we will follow what the court tells the Federal Highway Administration to do. That’s my commitment to you.”

“I came to tell you that this is the project we’re moving forward,” he said, and then repeated himself. “If a court decides… If there is evidence and proof we have not followed the law…

“Look, the Sierra Club has stopped other projects,” he said. “They have incredibly sophisticated lawyers… I’m not saying this is a fait accompli.

Residents were unpersuaded. Many were offended.

“We’re looking for your leadership – leadership, so that the community doesn’t have to get justice in a court,” said a woman at the front of the crowd.

“Laws and policy have created oppression in this community,” said a man in the back. “You’re asking a community to follow the same laws that have oppressed this community for generations. There is environmental racism — and there is another cycle coming. This isn’t about laws. This is about morals. It’s about not repeating the same mistakes.”

One of the organizers, Brad Evans, said that the idea that the best way to interact with a historically oppressed community is through lawsuits seemed especially cynical. Lawsuits cost money. They drag on. But men like Bhaat don’t stick around.

“He’ll be gone in two years,” he said. “Off to something better.”

Duran sat in the front row and watched the residents’ faces as they spoke.

“I think it’s a shame I-70 was placed where it was,” she said. “I know you’re angry and I’m sorry.”

“It’s hard to make these decisions,” said Bhaat. “There has been 50 years of industrial development in this area and there are 200,000 vehicles driving that road.”

A resident said proposed health protections would not be adequate.

“We will follow all the federal laws” meant to safeguard health, said Bhaat. “And we’ll hire 20 percent of the labor for the project from this neighborhood,” he added.

“So we can be digging our own graves,” came a shout.

A woman holding an infant on her hip asked Bhaat what she described as a simple question. “Would you choose to live here while this project is being done?”

“What is the point of the question,” said Bhaat. He never answered her.

“We’re going to fight, fight, fight this project,” one of the protesters said to the officials. The crowd cheered.

 

Photo of I-70 through Denver from The Colorado Independent

img

Should legal immigrants be police officers in Colorado? Senate Republicans say no, and today passed a bill on straight party lines that would bar legal residents who are not citizens from joining state and local  law enforcement departments.

However, the bill is expected to be dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled House.

Sen. Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican, defended his bill this morning as it neared a final Senate vote. “It ‘is not an anti-immigrant bill,” Gardner said. “This bill is about what it means to be a peace officer, someone who has the authority to carry a concealed weapon without other license, stop you in the dark of night on a lonely road, stop and frisk you on a street, or execute a warrant at your home.”

This is not an extraordinary requirement for law enforcement, he explained, pointing out that federal law enforcement officers must be U.S. citizens. Gardner stated earlier in the week that no other nation allows non-citizens to be police officers, but today, Sen. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat from Cherry Hills Village, pointed out that the British Home Secretary just this week authorized British police departments to recruit foreign residents.

Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat, spoke to what she indicated is the real idea behind the bill: to demonize immigrants, an idea that she claimed is led by President Trump. “This presidency is impeding our value that we embrace immigrants,” she said.

“This bill could not come at a worse time. With this presidency, and how immigrants are being spoken about today…I feel like passing this bill would advance this ‘vision’ that immigrants are somehow less.”

Then there’s what would happen to legal immigrants who are already police officers in departments across the state. Democrats reminded their colleagues that some local governments in Colorado allow legal immigrants to join their police forces, and that passing the bill would interfere with local government authority. The bill requires police departments to revoke the certifications of their non-citizen police officers no later than July 1, 2021, effectively firing these officers if they do not take steps to become U.S. citizens.

Gardner’s measure drew opposition from the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police and the state association of chiefs of police.

The bill’s fiscal analysis also reminded lawmakers that the law could impact law enforcement officers at state colleges and universities and at a variety of state agencies, including corrections and revenue, as well as the departments of law, public safety and natural resources.

 

Photo credit: Banspy, via Creative Commons license, Flickr

 

 

In Cory Gardner’s Yuma

He’s getting skewered on the Front Range, but back home, it’s all Trump, all the time.

img

YUMA, Colorado  — If you want to see the American political divide up close, pull up a chair around noon to the bar of the Main Event, a restaurant in this tiny Eastern Plains town home to U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

There, in true swing-state fashion, you’ll find people like Mike Fech, a Democrat and union man who works for a railroad company, debating Republican Bill Heberlein who owns a tavern down the road— a “Trump bar,” he calls it, where a pig skull wearing a turban is mounted on the wall as a sign that his establishment is a “Muslim free zone.” Obamacare, trade, immigration, Muslims, it’s all there at the Main Event where Fox News is on the TV and a handwritten sign near the cash register reads “No out of town checks.”

Fech, in a denim shirt and with matted hair and thick glasses, explains over a burger how the Affordable Care Act allowed, for instance, his son to pay for chemotherapy when he was 18. Fech voted for Hillary Clinton. Heberlein, looking a bit like a weather-beaten Kevin Bacon in a Yuma Indians ball cap and open gray fleece over a white T-shirt and jeans, says he pays a tax penalty because he doesn’t want the government forcing him to buy insurance. He thinks President Donald Trump, for whom he voted, will keep the good parts of Obamacare anyway.

On a recent Friday there isn’t much on which these two can agree, except that they won’t punch each other when they get to talking politics. Fech believes Democrats are about people, and Republicans are about corporate profits. It’s that simple, “and it’s playing out with Trump,” he says. The look on Heberlein’s face says “You must be kidding me.” He, for one, has been happy with the first few weeks of this Trump presidency.

“It’s been dizzying, but loving every minute of it,” he says with a wide smile.

This is the town where Gardner lives, two hours from the bustling Front Range, miles from the urban corridor of Colorado Springs to Fort Collins where protesters have been flocking to his regional offices in a backlash against Donald Trump and the Republican agenda.

Since Trump’s election and a chaotic first three weeks for the White House, Gardner has been getting skewered up and down the Front Range. “Liberal country,” Heberlein calls it. Hundreds have protested outside Gardner’s Denver offices, waving signs urging him to vote against Trump’s cabinet nominations, not to repeal the ACA, and to stand up to the new president. Plenty of signs these days also point out those holding them are not, as Gardner has accused, “paid” professional protestors, but ordinary people shocked into a fearful resistance against Trump.

In Colorado Springs, posters with Gardner’s face on them and the words “missing” have popped up around the city. The senator has lately been holding regional town halls via telephone. Perhaps never has there been as much focused attention on Colorado’s congressional delegation. At the end of January, Gardner’s office said it had gotten nearly 90,000 letters and emails, and 22,000 calls and voicemails.

IMG_2130But not in Yuma. In this flat, windswept prairie town with its skyline of white grain silos and water towers, it has been a while since the senator had a town hall. Here, Gardner the native son, a source of hometown pride, is someone separate from Gardner the politician, who just seems to do what politicians do, blow with the wind maybe a little more than he should.

“You know, we don’t really talk about him too much,” Heberlein says, rolling a mug of coffee in his hands at the Main Event. “We’re more worried about what Trump’s doing.”

***

A rising star in the Republican Party, Gardner still lives in Yuma where everyone knows him. Heberlein recently fixed the roof of the Gardner family home when a tree limb fell on it.

pioneerInside the Main Street office of The Yuma Pioneer, editor and publisher Tony Rayl, hands covered in printing ink, pulls out a blue dusty book from the paper’s archives from the early 1990s and flips through pages. There it is, a photograph of a young Cory Gardner in high school as a prominent young Democrat posing with then-Democratic Gov. Roy Romer.

“He’s a local boy,” Rayl says. And, these days, a local boy some in town, Democrats and Republicans alike, tell a visiting reporter they wish was covered more closely by the local paper, especially with all the recent outside attention to him. Especially now that he is probably the most prominent Republican in Colorado after switching parties in 2000 and getting elected first to the legislature, then to Congress and now the U.S. Senate. Rayl says he probably should try to get a sit down with the hometown hero soon and he’s glad to hear locals want a local angle on him.  

“There hasn’t been anything out here, protests at his office or anything,” says Rayl. Gardner is well known and well-liked at home and any locals who have a negative reaction to anything he’s doing in D.C. would likely find a way to let Gardner know personally rather than publicly.

“I’m sure it’s not a total sanctuary when he comes back,” Rayl says. “I’m sure he catches some stuff here and there from locals.”

Gardner comes back plenty enough, say the handful of locals who spoke about him. He goes to church and shops for groceries, usually with his young children in tow. A waitress at one local Mexican restaurant says she’s not happy with Trump’s harping on Mexicans— Trump has said a federal judge could not do his job impartially because he is of Mexican descent, has called Mexicans rapists and murderers, and said Mexico will pay for a border wall— but the waitress said she likely would not say anything to Gardner the next time he comes in for a meal. What difference would it make?

Some in town see Gardner as an ambitious politician doing what he needs to do to get ahead in Washington where he likely always wanted to wind up— a hometown boy now navigating a toxic system in D.C.

You can hear that in morning conversations among the ladies at Daylight Donuts along 8th Avenue in Yuma.

“A lot of us try to stay in the middle,” says Shirley Haruf, a retiree who remembers Gardner at the local school where she worked.

“We try,” says Lucille Koenig, who lives on a farm.

“And Cory, yes, he’s local, we know him as an honest, good person,” says Shirley.

“But he’s too into it,” says Lucille.

“Politicians today, I think they get so caught up in being politically correct,” Shirley says. “You want to think, ‘What, Cory, do you really believe?’”

“I think that’s true,” says Lucille.

“He has tried to be in the middle, and he’ll try to see both sides, and he’ll get blasted because this is strong Republican [in Yuma],” Shirley says

“He’s between a rock and a hard place,” says Lucille. “He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.”

***

Yuma County went for Donald Trump by 80 percent over Hillary Clinton on Election Day. In 2014, only 513 people in the county voted for Gardner’s Democratic opponent Mark Udall and Gardner hauled in 3,678 votes. The town of Yuma has roughly 3,500 residents and is about 37 percent Hispanic. Most people who live there work in farming, administration and construction. Immigrants work on the large hog and dairy farms and feedlots. There’s an ethanol plant, a health center, and a little downtown entertainment district. Today there are about 3,000 registered Republicans in the whole county, and about 800 Democrats.

Yuma

One of those Republicans, a Gardner and Trump voter who works at the local ethanol plant, is Dan Chancellor. He’s a big man in a blue T-shirt and big beard, standing outside his house in the shadow of a Yuma water tower, a child’s scooter dangling from one hand.

“No one is talking about him,” Chancellor says of Gardner whom he sees sometimes at church down the road. “They’re talking about Trump.”

There was a time, though, when people did talk about Cory Gardner plenty in Yuma.

It was just before the election, in October, when in responding to published tape recordings of Trump demeaning women, the fresh-faced junior senator from Colorado called Trump a candidate “whose flaws are beyond mere moral shortcomings and who shows a disgust for American character and a disdain for dignity unbecoming of the presidency.” Gardner pledged he would not vote for Trump, and said he would write in the name of Mike Pence instead.

“A lot of people were talking about that,” Chancellor says. “A lot of them said ‘We’ll see where he goes, he can change his mind.’”

A similar story unspooled at the Main Event.

“That hurt him out here. That pissed a lot of people off out here,” Heberlein said about Gardner’s Trump diss just before the election. “When he first went against Trump there was a lot of people talking, ‘Well he just killed his political career out here.’ They were pissed … Everybody was pissed. Really upset. Couldn’t believe it.”

But not so much anymore. Now it’s all Trump all the time.

Spend a day talking to a dozen or more people in Yuma with a press badge dangling from your neck, though, and eventually word gets around. Someone calls someone who says they want to talk.

You’ll get a phone call from a 970 area code and a text message directing you to a place without a physical address just outside of town. But no tape recorders, and no names in print. You have to understand a lot of people do business with the Gardner family. Gardner’s father runs a farm implement dealership in town. 

But an older man and a middle-aged man want you to know not everyone in Yuma is a right-wing Republican, and not everyone in town thinks their U.S. senator is “the glory from Yuma.”

There might not be a lot of Democrats out here in the country, but there are some and they tend to keep it quiet, they’ll tell you. They watch CNN while they do work in their garage and they say they’re very worried about Trump, and have never seen anything like it. They don’t have too much hope Gardner will stand up to him, either, because he’s always got his nose in the air, they say, always sniffing to see which way to tack to make it to the top, maybe even a run for president one day. Sure, they got a brief rise out of the hometown backlash when Gardner bad-mouthed Trump before the election, but “he’s sniffing his way back now.”

***

26583358000_f8e8aeb1a7_zRecently Gardner has distanced himself from some of Trump’s more volatile moves. He said Trump’s travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries “goes too far” and that the new president should fix what Gardner called an “overly broad executive order” when Trump implemented his travel ban. He has also pushed Trump to take a “firm line” with Russia as well as keeping sanctions— and imposing new ones— on the country.

Gardner also has voted to confirm all of Trump’s cabinet nominees, and has voted with the president’s agenda 100 percent of the time in these first few weeks of the administration.

Skateboarding through downtown Yuma on a recent Friday, 18-year-old Benjamin Clawson says he, too, hears more about Trump these days than he does about Gardner, but he did hear about his latest vote on a nominee.

“The one lady doing education hasn’t had any experience with it before,” he says.

That would be Betsy DeVos, the billionaire pro-voucher cabinet choice with no degree in education and no experience as a teacher or administrator. Last week she became the first cabinet nominee in history to need a vice president to break a tie for her confirmation. Two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — joined Democrats in voting “No,” which led to a 50-50 tie in the Senate, broken by Vice President Mike Pence. In the days leading up to the vote, many of the protests against Gardner along the Front Range were by demonstrators lobbying him to vote “No” on her confirmation. DeVos is linked to more than $45,000 in contributions to Gardner’s successful 2014 campaign. (Murkowski has also gotten more than $40,000 from the DeVos family in the past.)

After he voted “yes,” Gardner said he spoke with DeVos, and said he believes in her commitment to public education.

“As someone who believes education decisions should be left to parents and their children with policy driven locally, Congress will hold her accountable and I will work to ensure she lives up to the commitment she made to me,” he said.

Playing with his skateboard outside a pizza joint and fiddling with a lip peircing, Clawson says he did not vote in the presidential election and wasn’t paying as much attention to politics before the election as he is now. He says he’s concerned with what’s going on in Washington, but is unsure what to do about it.

For his part, Gardner has said Americans “shouldn’t be afraid” of Trump’s policies.

Two women in Yuma taking that advice are Margie Chance, an elegant older woman with a silver necklace and rouge on her cheeks whose family used to run the local newspaper for 50 years before selling it to Rayl, and her friend Barbara Miller who owns the Main Event. The two are catching up in an art gallery on Main Street just after the sun goes down.

“Shame,” says Chance, shaking her head, about the protests in Denver. She voted for Trump and says she loves Gardner.

“I think he’s doing what he said he was going to do, that’s how we look at it,” says Miller of the new president. “We just want the United States to run as one. It’s so torn apart right now.”

Outside the gallery, on the sidewalk, Josue Chavelas, the Mexican-born minister and bookkeeper at a local Hispanic church, is concerned about the “crazy things” Trump will do in the White House, especially when it comes to immigrants. But from what he hears, he thinks Gardner, who he knows lives in town, is doing what he can, taking care of immigrants in his own community. Chavelas doesn’t hear much about Gardner at church because he tries to stay away from politics. “I don’t really like to make any trouble,” he said. “That would be a really bad idea.”

Down the block on the corner, within eyesight actually, is Bill Heberlein’s bar The Tavern, which has a flag with Trump’s face on it waving outside. Inside is that pig skull wearing that turban. Asked what he might do if a real patron came in wearing a turban, Heberlein quickly replies that he hopes it would be a Sikh. Muslims, he says, you just can’t trust. “We don’t need ’em here,” he says. And he understands how that might sound, too, and how it might look in print. But, he says, don’t take that as racist. He says he hired a Mexican bartender and is helping two undocumented immigrants with school. Under the pig skull is a large, blue Trump banner hanging over the bar. Other Trump placards are scattered on the walls throughout. One bar patron calls it “ballsy” in a town with so many Mexican immigrants.

IMG_2133In downtown Yuma, Heberlein has made a bet that a Trump theme won’t hurt business, though he recently found out school teachers won’t step foot in the place. “Because they’re Hillary fans,” he says.

And there it is again, that political divide, as clear in small-town Colorado as it is on the Front Range. Here, though, it’s just a lot quieter. Except at happy hour at The Tavern in Yuma where the bartender says, “I told you this is a Trump bar,” with a proud smile.

“Is this a Trump bar?” he shouts out to the dozen or so patrons gathered inside.

The answer comes back loudly in the affirmative.

 

 

Gardner photo by Gage Skidmore for Creative Commons on Flickr, others by the author

img

At least at one point in his unsurprisingly unhinged news conference Thursday, Donald Trump told the truth. This is headline stuff, because generally, as we know, Trump prefers to traffic in either alternative truths, gross exaggerations or outright lies.

But he was up there for 77 minutes, so it was bound to happen. Not, of course, when he said his administration was a “fine-tuned machine” or when he asserted that the rollout of his immigration executive orders was “very smooth.” No, it came when he explained that he wasn’t ranting or raving — as he was sure his erratic performance would be described  — but insisted, instead, that he was enjoying himself and that he loved mixing it up with the dishonest media.

And it was clearly true because, let’s face it, this was a rare opportunity for Trump to be Trump, who has the press at the top of his enemies list. For most of the hellishly long four weeks he has been on the job, Trump has been a disaster — true news that he tries to explain away with his morning tweets or with his afternoon Spicer. Neither is working. The tweets are starting to be ignored and Spicer has been Melissa McCarthyed into a late-night punch line.

The news conference was his way toward a Trump reset, in which he’d be the Trump everyone remembered before the job started — you know, back when he was an authoritarian in training. We guessed he’d be a disaster but couldn’t know just how chaotic and dangerous that would be.

It doesn’t have to be said that there has been no president like Trump. No president who claims, as if he’s a college freshman bragging about college board scores, that he had the biggest electoral win since Reagan. (Fact: It was the sixth biggest since 1984; that’s sixth out of eight.) And when asked to explain, he said he’d “seen that information around.”

Real presidents don’t call the Michael Flynn/Russia scandal a “ruse” and “fake news” promulgated by the media to divert our attemption from, yes, Hillary Clinton’s November defeat, as if anyone other than Trump is thinking about Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, he blames leaks and fake news for Michael Flynn being fired when, of course, it was Trump who fired him. And as to why the news was fake: “The leaks,” he explained, “are real. You know what they said, you saw it, and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”

And in maybe the highlight moment, out of dozens, he asks a black reporter if she knows the people at the Black Congressional Caucus — because, well, they’re all black — and could set up a meeting with them for him. Or maybe it was when he said he was “insulted” by a softball question from a reporter wearing a yarmulke about rising anti-Semitism.

I could go on, but I won’t because that makes it seem as if Trump is just a joke. He’s not just a joke. The unfunny moment that stuck with me — and I’m guessing the moment that stuck wth Jeanette Vizguerra, the undocumented immigrant and mother of three American-citizen children who has taken sanctuary from ICE agents in Denver’s First Unitarian Society church — was Trump’s answer to a question about immigrants: “We have begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers and others who pose a threat to public safety. We are saving American lives every single day.”

It’s not clear whose lives he saved when ICE agents were set to deport Vizguerra. Her crime is that she came to the United States illegally 20 years ago and was arrested in 2009 for using a fake ID to get a job. That’s it. Not a gang member. Not a drug dealer. Not a rapist. It was time for her annual check-in appointment with ICE, but she knew about the Dreamer who had been arrested in Seattle and the woman taken from the battered shelter in El Paso, and she thought better of it. And so she called in the dishonest press to tell them the truth, that the church was her sanctuary, basically daring Trump to come get her. He won’t. It’s a church, and Trump might take on a pope, but not a church.

It was under Obama that Vizguerra got her deportation papers, but it was also under Obama that the orders were annually delayed because, well, she’s not a danger. She’s an undocumented immigrant who chose not to return to the shadows, where millions are consigned. This refusal to deal with our large and often desperate undocumented population is an ugly chapter in America history and part of the ugly reason that Donald Trump is president.

But there’s more to it than that. Vizguerra, a community activist, has the direct support of Rep. Jared Polis and Mayor Michael Hancock, and her retreat to the church also gives lie to the whole sanctuary city ruse. In Denver, we’re arguing about whether to defiantly proclaim in writing that we’re a sanctuary city, with the rules put down on paper.

The sad truth is that whatever local laws are passed, Denver can’t protect Vizguerra. Police can refuse to cooperate on detainers. Sheriffs can refuse to provide more information than the law requires. ICE can be forced to get actual warrants. And the threat to cut off funds from cities like Denver can rightly be seen as a hollow threat, just as the reported memo of the National Guard’s use as a deportation force is almost certainly a hollow threat.

Trump may be president, but this is still America.

But in Trump’s America, he can take the podium to thrill his base and simultaneously leave the rest of the nation slack-jawed. It is funny in that funny/sad way. Unless you’re one of the millions like Vizguerra. Living in a church basement. Facing the most uncertain of uncertain futures, for her and her children. With nowhere else to turn. And for whom it’s not a joke at all.

 

Photo of Jeanette Vizguerra courtesy of Vizguerra

img

A West Slope post office limiting hours because of vandalism, assaults and vagrants, a local police force on the front lines of overdose medication, road funding, and local killings all grace the front pages of today’s Colorado newspapers. Here’s the roundup:

“Officials will no longer allow 24-hour access to Grand Junction’s downtown post office, after continual problems involving vagrants sleeping in the lobby, vandalism and assaults created safety concerns for patrons and the mail staff,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “The U.S. Postal Service announced earlier this month that it would discontinue overnight access to the lobby, which includes a self-serve kiosk for mailing packages and purchasing stamps, as well as post office boxes. The decision came after a pattern of trespassing, loitering, fights and harassment incidents, some involving drugs and alcohol and repeat offenders. In 2016, the Grand Junction Police Department responded to the post office’s address, 241 N. Fourth St., for 99 incidents, including periodic checks on the premises. Officers have already dealt with 20 incidents so far in 2017, according to information provided by the department.”

The Greeley Tribune reports on how local police champion the use an overdose-reversing medicine. “Colorado is just ahead of the game on how to put together a cooperative effort to handle drug issues,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. “I feel good about where we are at.”

“Pueblo County was granted a motion Thursday that allows the county to join in a federal/state lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. “The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also was allowed to join the case as an intervenor to protect the district’s interest during the litigation. “We are extremely pleased that the judges granted us the ability to intervene in the case,” said Commissioner Terry Hart. ‘We believe that we have an interest in the case to protect our citizens from anything that happens on Fountain Creek, and the judge apparently recognized that interest.'”

The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports how young professionals have emerged as the most vocal supporters of a new housing proposal. “The professionals see the proposal as a lifeline for younger community members who currently cannot afford to buy homes already available in the city limits,” the paper reports. “‘Will you make room for the future teachers and emergency service workers of this community, or are you guys going to be known as the council that was too scared to move forward, that was too obsessed with fiscal conservatism to think about where to put all the humans?’ realtor Matt Eidt asked the City Council Tuesday night.”

“The latest chapter in the long-running debate over the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, centers on who should be talking about the project,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “At issue is whether the city of Fort Collins should potentially enter into negotiations with NISP’s main proponent, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, on how to mitigate the project’s impacts on the Poudre River within the city. City staff members have proposed beginning in-depth discussions with Northern Water to explore areas of “mutual interest” and possibly negotiate an agreement. City Council would have to approve any agreement, if one were reached.”

The Durango Herald reports how a school district is set to vote on whether to help fund local road improvements. “The school board is scheduled to vote Feb. 28 to commit as much as $375,000 to bring the road up to La Plata County standards, which is required before the county will agree to acquire the road and assume maintenance costs,” the paper reports. ‘The homeowners associations are in partnership to bring closure on the road issue,’ district spokeswoman Julie Popp said. ‘We’ve been in discussions for a few years now.’ Popp said the school’s pledge would likely come from the fund balance. Private homeowners would help cover the remainder of improvements.”

“Recruiting and retaining law enforcement officers and the fight against illegal drugs are two issues the Cañon City Police Department and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office are challenged with daily,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “Sheriff Jim Beicker and Interim Police Chief Allen Cooper were two of several featured guest speakers Thursday during the 2016-17 Leadership Cañon class, hosted by the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce, at the Fremont County Judicial Center, both of whom talked about these issues and more. “We do have a significant drug problem in our county, our state and our nation — it is an epidemic,” Beicker said. ‘In southeast Colorado, we are part of the ‘hot zone’ for the opioid epidemic and overdose.'”

The Denver Post begins a story about an aging sewer pipe in Littleton with this imagery: “A methane-fueled fireball hurls manhole covers hundreds of feet, like giant circular saw blades slicing the air. A pipe more than 60 years old collapses 50 feet underground, causing millions of gallons of raw sewage to back up until the noxious stew flows into the South Platte River. It’s a disaster that hasn’t come to pass yet, but sanitation officials in the south suburbs say the doomsday scenario is “not beyond the realm of possibility.’ ‘This is something that has to be dealt with really quickly,’ said Platte Canyon Water & Sanitation District manager Patrick Fitzgerald.”

“The owner of an east Colorado Springs liquor store, described as someone a thief could not intimidate, was shot and killed during an armed robbery just minutes before closing time at midnight Wednesday, police said,” according to The Gazette. “The victim’s name has not been released by police, but employees of other businesses in the largely vacant north Academy Boulevard strip mall identified him as Donat Herr, owner of Empire Liquor. According to police, he was in his 60s.” Meanwhile, “employees of Falcon School District 49 were stunned after learning the district’s transportation director had been found shot to death on Valentine’s Day near his home in Denver. Richard Hammond, 63, was shot sometime early Tuesday morning while reportedly on his way to work, Denver police said Thursday. He had left his house between 3:30-4 a.m., police said. Hammond was found behind the wheel of his 2012 silver Subaru Impreza, shot to death in an alley half a mile from his house near Bruce Randolph Avenue and York Street, police said.”

 

Video: When boom times fail the bottom line

A conflict in the Colorado Constitution is helping to drive the state into a hole

img

It’s a paradox: In a booming economy, why would there be cuts to schools and local fire districts across Colorado?

When the governor released recommendations for next year’s state budget back in November, we learned the budget had a $500 million gap. Then, in December, we got more bad news for the budget, learning that a little-known amendment to the Colorado Constitution called the Gallagher Amendment was going to automatically change the ‘assessment rate,’ the percentage of a home subject to property taxes. This Gallagher quirk was going to exacerbate the state budget shortfall by at least another $138 million.

Since property taxes support local governments, what does this have to do with the state budget? Well, it’s a matter of how schools are funded. When local effort for schools falls, the state has to backfill the difference.

In this video, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Colorado Fiscal Institute explains how two conflicting amendments in the Colorado Constitution collide to automatically slash funding for schools and local fire departments and why the situation is especially unfair to businesses.

 

Photo by Rebecca Dongallo via Flickr:Creative Commons

img

UPDATE Friday, Feb. 17: the House did not vote this morning on a request to reconsider the Department of Law supplemental budget request and the bill died when the House adjourned for the three-day weekend. The decision to deny a budget change in this way is uncommon and hasn’t happened in at least 20 years.

The House on Thursday sent a message to Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and her Department of Law. Well, actually about three messages, and none of them complimentary.

The department asked state legislators for another $315,799 to supplement Coffman’s 2016-17 budget. The money would have been used to hire another attorney and to improve information technology security.

The House said no.

Of the chamber’s 28 Republicans, 25 voted against it, joined by 19 of the House’s 37 Democrats.

Supplemental budget requests often become a political football used by lawmakers irritated by something a state agency has done. Voting against a supplemental is one way lawmakers send a message to a state agency.

In this case, Republicans have for a few years now complained that the Department of Law isn’t managing its money well. Republican Rep. Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch said the department’s budget has grown about 20 percent in the last four years.  It’s a matter of priorities, some Republican lawmakers said, and they don’t like adding employees in a tight budget year.

But the real fire this week came from Democrats, particularly Boulder area representatives who were not happy with Coffman’s decision to sue the county over its decision to extend a ban on oil and gas development. That moratorium, which has been in place for the better part of five years, was extended last December by the county commission to May 1. Coffman, however, threatened to sue the county, citing a 2016 Colorado Supreme Court decision that said local governments did not have the right to ban oil and gas developments within their boundaries. She gave the county until Feb. 10 to lift the moratorium, and filed suit in Boulder District Court Tuesday.

“It’s virtually unheard-of for the state to sue on behalf of a private industry,” an irate House Majority Leader K.C. Becker of Boulder said.  “The Attorney General has decided to wield the power of her office for the benefit of private companies at the expense of local communities.” (Ticked as she was, Becker did vote in favor of the supplemental today.)

Not so Rep. Mike Foote of Lafayette, who said in a statement earlier this week: “The oil and gas industry has been working behind the scenes for months to get someone else to go after local governments. They finally found an accomplice. I’m glad the Boulder County commissioners are standing strong against this lawsuit.”

Foote told The Colorado Independent today that “the Attorney General doesn’t need any more resources if she’s able to use the ones she has to sue a local government on behalf of a corporation.”

Rep. Paul Rosenthal of Denver expressed similar views, saying: “It’s important to be fiscally responsible in the litigation our state conducts.”

Coffman said in a statement this afternoon: “I can’t remember a time when our General Assembly decided to play politics with supplemental funding bills – especially when the politics had nothing to do with the substance of the supplemental funding request.”

She said the supplemental request “has literally nothing to do with the lawsuit in Boulder where I am simply fulfilling my obligation to enforce Supreme Court precedent.  I hope they reconsider.”

If how the department is handling its budget is one message, and anger over its lawsuit against Boulder County is the second, the third may come down to conservation easements. Rep. Jon Becker of Fort Morgan is unhappy with the Attorney General’s office over its stance on conservation easements, an issue that has been close to Becker’s heart for the past several years. In a conservation easement, a landowner donates his or her land to a land trust. In exchange, the landowner gets a tax credit from the Department of Revenue.

The Department of Law, along with the Department of Revenue, tacked on a $2 million cost to a conservation easement bill carried by Becker and Rep. Kimmi Lewis of Kim that was defeated in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee two weeks ago. Becker pointed out to the committee that his bill was identical to one he ran a year ago, which carried an estimated cost of about $5,000.

“Either [the departments are] lying or they tacked it on to the bill” on purpose to kill it, an angry Becker said at the hearing.

Becker acknowledged the department’s hand in the failure of his bill played a role in his no vote today. 

Where we go from here: usually these dustups are resolved and the supplemental eventually passes. Rep. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat who voted against the bill, asked the House this morning to reconsider its vote.

In order to revive a bill, two-thirds of the chamber must vote to reconsider. Under the rules, that has to happen by tomorrow.  And while tempers may have cooled by then, whether enough members will change their minds is a good, and so far, unresolved question.

Stay tuned.

 

Photo courtesy Colorado Department of Law

img

Well this escalated quickly.

When a Republican lawmaker in Grand Junction recently called his hometown newspaper “fake news,” the family-owned Grand Junction Daily Sentinel didn’t let it go unchallenged. On Saturday, the paper’s publisher, Jay Seaton, wrote a pointed column taking the state senator, Ray Scott, to task over the allegation. And in an interview with me for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project, he said he intends to file a lawsuit. That’s right. As more politicians and sources weaponize the term “fake news,” here’s one newspaper fighting back.

From CJR:

“What I consider actionable is the attack on the Sentinel as fake news,” Seaton says. “I can take the criticism that we’re too far right, or we’re too far left, or our reporter was sloppy, or our editorial misunderstands the issue, that I can handle. What I can’t abide is an attack on the essence of what we do.”

The publisher used to be a practicing attorney who resolved business damages in court. “This industry has taken it and taken it and taken it over the last several years,” he told me. “And now we get diminished as fake news, going to the core of what we do. And we don’t push back. Well, I’ve had it. I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Read more about how this all came about here.

Consolidation reportThe Longmont Times-Call will close its office and move staff to Boulder

For the first time in nearly 150 years, the local newspaper in Longmont, Colorado, “will not have an office in the community,” the Times-Call reported about itself this week. On Feb. 27, 22 staffers will move into the offices of The Boulder Daily Camera, which is owned by the same company, Prairie Mountain Media, a division of Digital First Media, which is controlled by a New York City hedge fund. Digital First also owns The Denver Post and several other Colorado newspapers. “There are no job losses associated with the move,” The Times-Call reported. “I think you’ll be seeing this kind of thing happening all the time,” Publisher Al Manzi told newspaper staff Friday.

From the paper’s write up:

“The market forces in this hyper-competitive digital world force us to look for every option as a company to be more efficient,” Manzi said in the statement. … “the changes in our business and in the media landscape will continue to force us to change our structure, based upon those competitive pressures.”

According to my nifty corporate-speak decoder ring that means: The paper’s owners want to cut costs and maximize profit.

On The Loveland Reporter-Herald’s hotline, aka, ‘the bitch line’

Tweets by reporters attending city council meetings have been fodder for this newsletter since I started it. Who could forget the hilarious October 2015 tweet storm from the AP’s Kristen Wyatt who was reporting on whether the Fort Collins City Council would allow women to go topless in public? Anyway, this week a tweet jumped out at me from Saja Hindi of The Loveland Reporter-Herald as she covered a local city council meeting. “Councilman Rich Ball just referred to the RH Line as the ‘Reporter-Herald hotline or bitch line, whatever it is.'”

Is there really a hotline you can call at this newspaper and just bitch? Turns out yes! “Readers can call in to give their opinions on local and national topics, complain about issues locally or nationally, and thank people,” Hindi told me when I asked her about it. “Mostly, they complain. They remain anonymous and we transcribe their calls in the paper and post them online.” That’s what Councilman Ball was talking about. It seems the city council was getting hit pretty hard about traffic issues in calls to the Reporter-Herald’s hotline. A true barometer of a community as telegraphed to local government through the local newspaper. Call that impact.

When I started as a reporter at the alt-weekly Free Times in Columbia, South Carolina, one of my duties was to transcribe the calls that came into the Rant & Rave line, a similar feature in the paper we thought was unique. It was a real pleasure. My favorite kinds of calls were when something had just happened— someone cut someone off in traffic or something— and they would immediately call and just go off. We published the rants (and some raves) in the back of the paper, and a running joke in the newsroom was more people in town read the Free Times from back to front because of it. I recall Congressman Joe Wilson once telling me he read the Rant & Rave at a time when he was getting hammered on the page. He seemed genuinely affected by it. Another time, a police officer stopped by the newsroom to say they were looking into something someone pointed out in the Rant & Rave. Could we help them identify the caller? No way, but thanks for reading, officer!

Such a feature is something that seems pretty easy for any paper to pull off in order to build a certain kind of community engagement. And for those who call in, I bet they love hearing their councilman, cop or congressman is paying attention to what they say.

That crazy public records case in Colorado Springs came to some kind of resolution

Remember the story of the single mom from Monument who wants to know if the downtown Colorado Springs coal plant is polluting the air where her kid goes to school? The short version: Leslie Weise filed a public records request to find out, but was denied, took it to court, lost, and appealed. When the case was in the Colorado Court of Appeals, the court accidentally e-mailed her the record she wanted. Weise realized it was a mistake and sent it back. When Weise told The Gazette what she says she saw in the report— that the coal plant was consistently exceeding federal limits on SO2 emissions— Colorado Springs Utilities, whose board is the local city council, went on the warpath, seeking attorneys fees from her and punitive sanctions against her. So she had to go to court. Again.

Last week, the state Court of Appeals dismissed the case.

From The Gazette:

Weise suggested the fight to unseal air-quality reports isn’t over. “This case has only strengthened the resolve of local residents who demand access to air quality reports that contain information about the air we breathe,” she said.

Not long after, the environmental group WildEarth Guardians sued Colorado Springs Utilities “alleging more than 3,000 Clean Air Act violations and “seeking more than $112 million in fines.”

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado this week

The Greeley Tribune published an explainer about what a complex statewide property tax change will mean for Weld County. Football personality Tim Tebow made the front page of The Loveland Reporter-Herald when he dropped by town. Longmont is looking for a new museum director, reported The Times-Call. Pueblo Democrats re-elected Marybeth Corsentino as their county party chairwomanThe Chieftain reported. The fracking industry is optimistic in the Piceance Basin, reported The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reported the story behind a ski patrol shack. The Boulder Daily Camera reports on locals grumbling about the health of the Pearl Street Mall. Vail Daily reported on a “balanced” local real estate market. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins reported on a 30-year-old local cold case murder on its anniversary. The Army is changing its philosophy toward war, The Gazette in Colorado Springs reported. The Denver Post reported on how judge Neil Gorsuch’s faith might shape the U.S. Supreme Court. The Durango Herald reported on potential changes to marijuana licensing codes. The Aspen Times reported its county sheriff is going on the conference circuit to talk about legal weed.

Where is Trump’s Colorado nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court on issues facing the press?

The Denver Post this week dug into how Colorado judge Neil Gorsuch’s faith and writings could shape the nation’s highest court. SPOILER: People think he is likely to give a wide berth to religion. Meanwhile, The Associated Press analyzed his record and found the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who lives in Boulder “has been a defender of free speech and a skeptic of libel claims.” His record, write Jeff Donn and Geoff Mulvihill, “puts him at odds with President Donald Trump’s disdain for journalists and tendency to lash out at critics.”

From the AP:

In a 2007 opinion involving free speech, Gorsuch ruled for a Kansas citizen who said he was bullied by Douglas County officials into dropping his tax complaints. “When public officials feel free to wield the powers of their office as weapons against those who question their decisions, they do damage not merely to the citizen in their sights but also to the First Amendment liberties,” Gorsuch wrote.

Meanwhile, Gorsuch “repeatedly has interpreted libel law in light of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, rejecting claims based on small mistakes in the offending material,” Jeff and Geoff found. “He sided with a broadcaster who may have overstated a prisoner’s gang ties and a University of Northern Colorado student who mocked a professor in an online parody that showed him in a Hitler-style mustache.”

Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the AP that while Gorsuch didn’t break new legal ground on laws about libel, the judge had upheld existing news media protections “without any hesitation.”

That said, Gorsuch once “challenged speech that offended him at the time, threatening to sue over a poster he claimed misstated the financing of a newspaper he helped found.” The AP runs down other Gorsuch opinions that might be of interest to journalists here.

The Coloradoan newspaper gets another mention in a national thinky media piece

Last week I noted how the Gannet-owned Coloradoan in Fort Collins was mentioned in a major study about local newspapers. This week the paper got name-checked in a Reynolds Journalism Institute item at the Missouri School of Journalism about strategies to help journalists earn the trust of news consumers.

 The Colorado Independent’s statehouse reporter on covering the session so far

In this week’s e-mailed newsletter from the small but mighty digital-only nonprofit Colorado Independent, managing editor Tina Griego talks with my colleague Marianne Goodland who has covered the Capitol for 19 years, “the second-longest tenure among the statehouse press corps.” This part stuck out to me when Greigo asked whether the hyperpolarization that’s been on display nationally has made its way to the statehouse.

From the newsletter:

Yes, in that when you look at the leadership among the Republicans, the people who were picked to be the House Minority leader and Senate Majority leader are more conservative than their predecessors. You also have that same situation with the House Democrats. Some of the folks in leadership there are more liberal or progressive than folks in the past. That said, we’ve had far more constructive conversations than in the last two years. In the past, leadership drew lines in the sand quickly and that was pretty much the end of it. It’s early, but we are still hearing about bipartisan conversations on the big issues and some interesting bipartisan legislation you wouldn’t expect. So while leadership might be more to left and right, you can’t necessarily say that of the rank and file.

For more inside info like this, sign up for The Colorado Independent’s weekly newsletter here.

And speaking of The Colorado Independent

My colleague Kelsey Ray has a must-read piece out this week (with an awesome interactive map) about how without a statewide policy, sheriff’s departments in Colorado decide whether— and when— to inform ICE about immigrants in their custody. The piece is exactly how news organizations should illuminate for readers how new policies out of Washington are affecting communities they cover.

From the piece:

Trump’s executive order on immigration has some sheriffs worrying. The order, signed on Jan. 26, threatens to withhold federal grant money from so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions.” The term has no legal definition, but the order appeared to define it as localities that do not communicate with ICE. The order also says that the Secretary of Homeland Security “has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction.”

Read the rest of the story here. Oh, and if you need another testimonial: David Simon, the creator of HBO’s “The Wire,” tweeted about it. For real. Sheeeeeeit.

*This roundup appears a little differently as a published version of a weekly e-mailed newsletter about Colorado local news and media. If you’d like to add your e-mail address for the unabridged versions, please subscribe HERE.

Photo by Bogdan Suditu for Creative Commons on Flickr.

The Home Front: On same day lawmakers tried to repeal the death penalty a Colorado prosecutor says he’s seeking it in a case

Your morning roundup of stories from the front pages of Colorado newspapers

img

“Senate Democrats were looking to have Colorado join 19 other states that have eliminated the death penalty but the measure died on a 3-2 party line vote late Wednesday night,” The Durango Herald reports. “Senate Bill 95, which would have repealed the death penalty as the maximum sentence for Class 1 felonies in Colorado, was heard and killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.”

Meanwhile, The Gazette in Colorado Springs reports “El Paso County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the first time in a decade. The 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office made the announcement Wednesday at a hearing for Glen Law Galloway, who is charged in back-to-back fatal shootings in Colorado Springs last year. Separate trials scheduled for April and June may now be postponed. Galloway, 44, is due to return to court at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday for a hearing to decide the next steps in his case.”

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports how a “half-Latino” comment sparked a dustup on the floor of the Colorado House. “It shouldn’t matter what Rep. Dave Williams’ ethnic background is, even at a time when the Colorado House is celebrating having its first Latina speaker,” the paper reports. “And that ancestry shouldn’t be used in an attempt to diminish his position on issues facing the community, Hispanic or otherwise, the Colorado Springs Republican said. Without naming anyone on the House floor Wednesday, Williams said in a rare admonition of a fellow member that he was publicly insulted by that colleague for his political position on immigration reform when that representative said at a recent political rally that Williams was only ‘half Latino.’ ‘The term was used to demean my standing on this policy issue and to lessen my credibility with the Latino community,’ Williams said, adding to the tension that has been mounting for many in the statehouse over President Donald Trump and his policies about Hispanics and immigration.”

“Sen. John Kefalas’ bill to expand Colorado’s open records law is set to get a hearing after all,” The Coloradoan in Fort Collins reports. “Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, chair of the senate’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee, pulled the bill hours before it was scheduled for a hearing earlier this month. It’s back on the docket for a Feb. 22 committee hearing. Kefalas’ bill would require government and entities funded with taxpayer dollars that are subject to the Colorado Open Records Act to provide records in a digital, searchable format, provided they are kept that way. Kefalas, a Fort Collins Democrat, started the push last year after the Coloradoan’s effort to acquire the digital version of Colorado State University’s salary increase exercise.”

The Aspen Times reports a local restaurant won’t be serving today “because the tavern’s husband-wife owners decided to close the landmark Aspen-area bar today in solidarity with their immigrant workers for the Day Without Immigrants stance.” “If I didn’t do it, I’d be a hypocrite,” Kevin Willson, the tavern’s co-owner and a former British citizen who’s lived in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1991 and is now a U.S. citizen, told the paper. “Day Without Immigrants is a national boycott in which immigrants pledge not to attend work, open businesses, spend money or send their children to school to demonstrate the effect they have on the country.”

The Loveland Reporter-Herald reports how the Thompson school district might close two schools. “If the decision is made to close the schools, the students would be transitioned into other schools, and Van Buren and Stansberry would close for the 2018-19 school year. While none of the school board members relished the idea of closing schools, all agreed they should look at this option in light of the district budget, which has been pulling from reserves each year.”

“With all eyes trained on Washington, D.C., local leaders along U.S. 34 want a study of the corridor that could one day host more traffic than Interstate 25 completed sooner rather than later,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “It’s important because it looks like Congress and the new administration are committed to doing a major infrastructure bill this year,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway. ‘Having the (study) done sooner puts us in position to compete sooner for new federal and state funding, which means we may be able to get the safety improvements done years ahead of time.'”

The Longmont Times-Call reports on an alleged head-butting of a manager at a local Walmart. “After a man became agitated at Longmont’s north Walmart on Wednesday afternoon, customer Roman Avila’s instinct was to stop him by tackling him,” the paper reported. ‘I always tell myself I would do that if it happened, and it happened,’ Avila said. Police identified the man as Dustin Robinson-Beaty, 23, who they arrested outside the north entrance of Walmart, 2514 Main St.. Police said when store managers approached his camper that had been parked for several days, they told him to leave and he began yelling obscenities. Cmdr. Joel Post said police believe Robinson-Beaty followed the managers back through the parking lot to the store, where he began throwing things at the employees and another manager approached. He then reportedly head-butted the female manager, possibly breaking her nose. Avila, of Longmont, said he was checking out after shopping and noticed the argument turn physical.”

“Boulder County Planning Commission members voted 5-4 Wednesday night to reject any changes to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan’s current land-use designations for 20 acres of now-vacant government-owned land along Twin Lakes Road in unincorporated Gunbarrel,” The Daily Camera reports. “The county planning panel’s action likely halts — or may at least stall, possibly for several years — the Boulder County Housing Authority’s and Boulder Valley School District’s proposals to develop an affordable housing project on their properties. The Housing Authority and the school district had sought a medium-density residential comprehensive-plan designation for most of those 20 acres as a step toward seeking annexation and zoning by the city of Boulder in order to proceed with that project.”

The Denver Post reports on a double whammy for first-time home buyers along the Front Range. “The recent rise in mortgage rates could price even more prospective homeowners out of the Front Range housing market. The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has increased sharply in the months since the election, hitting a two-year high of 4.32 percent in late December, up from 3.54 percent in early November, according to Freddie Mac. Rates have stayed above 4 percent so far this year, averaging 4.17 percent last week. And while the change may seem relatively insignificant compared with historic mortgage rates, it’s enough to take a noticeable bite out of borrowers’ buying power.”

Cañon City has a new police chief, reports The Daily Record. “Daric Harvey, 42, will takeover as chief June 5, according to a news release from the city. Harvey replaces former Police Chief Paul Schultz, who left Cañon City in early January after he accepted a new job in Fort Morgan. Deputy Chief Allen Cooper has been acting as interim chief. Schultz was sworn in as interim chief in July 2012 after the resignation of former Chief Duane McNeill, who previously had been placed on administrative leave after an internal audit report overwhelmingly revealed negative feedback toward the administration. Schultz later accepted the position as Chief of Police.”

img

Donald Trump brings in a billionaire friend to review the intelligence agencies. The billionaire friend, shockingly, has no experience in national security. To say that the intelligence community is unhappy is to say that the Trump administration has a leakage problem. Via The New York Times.

Who does Trump blame for firing Mike Flynn? (Hint: It’s not the person who actually fired him, which would be, of course, Donald Trump). He does blame, and not necessarily in this order, the press, the intelligence agencies and Hillary Clinton. Via The New Yorker.

What do we know about the Dreamer who was arrested by ICE agents in Seattle? Was the arrest a mistake or does it herald a new and frightening beginning to Trump’s policy on undocumented immigrants? Via Vox.

Trump is taking a breather from all the turmoil at the White House to hold a campaign-style rally in Melbourne, Fla. Presumably, he won’t set up a situation room there. Via Politico.

Liberal columnist E.J. Dionne writes that it’s time to admit the truth that Trump is simply unfit for the job. Via The Washington Post.

Conservative columnist George Will writes that it’s time to face facts and have Congress take back from the president the ability to make war — trade war, that is. Via The Washington Post.

From The National Review: Charles Krauthammer says that Trump has done Israel a big favor in calling for new settlements, not to mention that whole thing about the two-state solution.

Peter Beinart: Why is it that Netanyahu doesn’t seem to care about the Iran nuclear deal any more? Does it mean he never really believed it endangered Israel? Via Forward.

No matter what Republicans try to do, including going from town halls to town calls, they won’t be able to escape town hall hell. Via Real Clear Politics.

Remember when Trump was going to erase Obama’s legacy overnight? Well, Trump is not quite a month into the job, and that seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Via New York magazine.

In the Trump era, journalists find a new sense of mission and a real loss of sleep. New Yorker editor David Remnick advises his colleagues: “If you’re already exhausted after three and a half weeks, you’d better buck up.” Via The New York Times.

 

Illustration by Thomas Galvez via Flickr:Creative Commons