It was the final farewell for three members of the Douglas County Board of Education. One of their last decisions: rejecting a call to punish teachers who don’t provide enough competing viewpoints on politically charged topics.

Board member Jim Geddes sponsored the resolution, innocuously titled “Balanced Instruction and Critical Thinking,” which touched on an issue he’s pushed in the past: making sure students hear conservative viewpoints.

Geddes’ latest resolution for DougCo came after he saw a student project at a high school social studies fair. One student focused on the Japanese who died when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Geddes said the student explained that the United States had committed a serious war crime against the Japanese, analogous to the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

The student hadn’t heard the other side of the story, said Geddes, who proceeded to lecture the student about the deaths at Okinawa: 15,000 Marines, 150,000 civilian casualties, and 130,000 Japanese military casualties. The total number of U.S. casualties, Geddes said, from all battles in the Pacific in the effort to defeat the Japanese, approached 800,000. Geddes said the number of deaths from the bombs were far fewer than that, about 100,000 military and civilians each, and that the Japanese emperor could have prevented the second bomb at Nagasaki had he surrendered.

“I tried to be as objective as I could and give him a little history lesson,” Geddes said, in recounting the story. He found out later that the teacher who reviewed the project had a history of not asking students to look at the other side.

Geddes shared another incident, where a parent had complained that her daughter was being indoctrinated by a teacher at one of the district high schools who was championing the election of Democrat Hillary Clinton as president.

Geddes also showed a slideshow explaining white privilege that was used in a sixth-grade class, arguing the other side, presumably white persecution, had not been presented.

While most teachers “would never do this kind of thing,” Geddes said, these examples are egregious and stymie quality education. “This kind of indoctrinating behavior” is an insult to the teaching of critical thinking skills, he said.

Geddes’ resolution would direct teachers to provide a balanced approach to controversial topics, one that would “avoid teaching students to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.” Such topics would include religious, ethnic, racial, economic, political and philosophical subjects, “for which a reasonable teacher will anticipate may lead to concern in the school community should a balanced discussion/study not occur.”

Teachers who repeatedly violate the policy wouldn’t be punished until properly notified and counseled on initial violations, Geddes explained.

But his fellow school board members weren’t having any of it.

Board Vice President Doug Benevento wasn’t present but submitted a statement that got buy-in from everyone on the board except Geddes. The district has processes in place to deal with complaints, Benevento’s statement said.

“I fundamentally disagree” that this issue should be legislated by the board, especially with a resolution with a “vague” standard that would subject teachers to discipline, including being fired, “if they don’t hit the mark.”

Benevento also said such a policy would suppress discussion of controversial subjects, or require teachers to figure out just how many different points of view should be included.

Community members applauded the board’s review of the issue, and that included at least two incoming board members. David Ray said he didn’t think he would often agree with Benevento in the future, but he did in this case. He indicated the board had fairly and appropriately reviewed the resolution and the issue. But he also complained that teachers had been excluded from the discussion.

The resolution appears to be “a poor solution in search of a problem,” according to Parker teacher Brian White. He pointed to a 2014 article in Colorado Peak Politics in which Geddes said a similar resolution he pushed as a University of Colorado regent was part of an effort to advance the conservative agenda.

“Geddes seems to have the same idea in mind for Douglas County,” White said.

Will teachers now be required to teach creationism along with evolution, or that the earth was created only 6,000 years ago? White asked.

“Make no mistake, this is an attack on academic freedom…On November 3, this community let it be known it was sick and tired of the board and superintendent bringing its politics into the Douglas County classrooms,” White added.

New board member Anne-Marie Lemieux pointed out that requiring a balanced approach is not always appropriate. Concerning some topics, the other perspectives could be illegal. But she also complimented the board for its robust discussion. “That shows we’re already taking a step in the right direction.”

The resolution never got to a vote. It failed when no other board members would second it for that purpose. Geddes, a surgeon, wasn’t around for the final decision. He left midway through the discussion to handle medical duties.

“We seem to have struck a nerve of agreement tonight,” quipped Board President Kevin Larsen.

Photo credit: Blondinrikard Fröberg, Creative Commons, Flickr


Days before sheriff’s deputies restrained Michael Lee Marshall into unconsciousness, Colorado Independent editor Susan Greene met him. And he was scared.


The man looked up from petting the dog. Joy dropped from his face. He was afraid of us.

It was a Sunday morning, the day after Halloween. I’d gone with my partner and his son for bagels on Denver’s Welton Street. Just outside, there was a cute dog on a leash tied to a window grate. The man was stroking its tan and white fur. He noticed us approaching and must have thought it was our dog and that we were upset he was petting it. And so he jumped, startled, spun up and scared.

My partner, Andrew, tried to put him at ease with his gaze, his voice, his conversation. “I said something like, ‘Great day, huh?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s actually not that great of a day. You got no idea, man. I’m homeless.'” Andrew offered him breakfast. The man — who’d introduced himself as Mike Lee — said he’d just like coffee. Because the line was long at the bagel shop, they walked across the street to a cafe.

Andrew was gone about a half-hour. While in line for coffee, he and Mike Lee talked about growing up in Denver as black and brown boys and later as black and brown men, and about all the changes in the city, especially around Five Points. Mike Lee’s initial fear faded. His edge softened. He wanted Andrew to see his muscles, so he lifted up his sleeve to show him. He wanted Andrew to know about his dragon — the one he said followed him wherever he went. So he pulled out a small plastic figurine to show Andrew. The two laughed.

Mike Lee wanted Andrew to know just how he likes his coffee — split into two cups, diluted with cool tap water and mixed just right.

As Andrew tells it, Mike Lee teetered between a childlike chattiness and a painful sense of self-consciousness that maybe the folks in the cafe thought he sounded kind of crazy or noticed he did things sort of differently or looked kind of disheveled. It was with a fearful self-awareness, Andrew told me, that Mike Lee glanced over his shoulder as he poured dozens of teaspoons of sugar and Splenda into his coffee cups. And as he stirred each for several minutes. And as he spilled some coffee on the counter and rushed for a towel to clean it up, as if everyone had noticed. Maybe they did.

The two men chatted some more, and then hugged as they said goodbye. “See you around,” they told each other. Andrew left Mike Lee at the cafe eating the two bananas he ordered and sipping the cups of coffee with cream that matched his cafe con leche eyes.

Six days later, a man was arrested on charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace at a Colfax Avenue hotel where he sometimes stayed. He was taken to the Denver jail, where he was held on a $100 bond he couldn’t possibly pay. It’s unclear if the sheriff’s deputies knew he had paranoid schizophrenia. And it’s unclear exactly how it happened that four days into his incarceration a sheriff’s deputy restrained him in one of the jail’s sally ports and other deputies joined in until he went unconscious and then brain dead before his family ended his life support nine days later.

On Friday night, while I was writing the story about the death of that inmate — Michael Lee Marshall — Andrew recognized his face in a photo on my laptop. That same face. That fear. Those eyes.

It’s bad enough that yet another detainee in Denver’s dysfunctional jail has died at the hands of the city’s wayward Sheriff’s Department. But it’s worse, somehow, that it was Mike Lee — the guy petting the dog, with the dragon, who, as it turned out, had every reason to be scared.



Officer charged

In Chicago, a white cop is charged with murder a year after the shooting death of a black teen, and the city finally releases the chilling dash-cam video of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times. Via The New York Times.

Dashcam video

Mary Mitchell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times that the hideous dash-cam video tells an even more hideous story.

Hooded men

From Minneapolis, where three have been arrested in the shootings of five Black Lives Matter protesters: Hooded and angry, men came “locked and loaded.” Via The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Plane down

Turkey shoots down a Russian airplane that had strayed over its territory. Where does that leave NATO? And, more important, where does it leave the chance for a diplomatic resolution in Syria? According to Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker: It leads nowhere good.

Fear monger

Jeff Greenfield: Trump exploits our fears. Obama pooh-poohs them. Can’t someone get this right? Via Politico.

Supporting refugees

Why Obama is standing by the Syrian refugees: It’s all a matter of history. Via The Atlantic.

Frankly speaking

And for more on refugee history, there is this: Anne Frank and her family were also refused entry to America as refugees. Via The Washington Post.

Cruzing ahead

Establishment Republicans have been waiting for someone other than Trump or Carson to make a move. But they couldn’t have been waiting for Ted Cruz, who has moved into second place in the latest Iowa poll. Via The Nation.

Busting Cruz

A Rubio backer is behind the new anti-Cruz ad showing in Iowa. Via Politico.

Sexist letter

Ralph Nader writes Janet Yellen what many call a sexist letter on monetary policy. And now Yellen’s response. Via Vox.


Hillary Clinton came to Colorado Tuesday looking for another opportunity to close the enthusiasm gap between her and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Her speech in Denver touched on staple issues like education, raising the minimum wage, economics, gun control and terrorism, but she steered clear of subjects weighing on Colorado: legalized marijuana, fossil fuels and water.

Tuesday was Clinton’s second appearance in the state since announcing in April she would seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. She was last here in August.

This time, Clinton was looking for grassroots Democrats who would support her in Colorado’s March 1 caucus against Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Her trip to Colorado began with a visit to Boulder and a rally at the Boulder Theater, where she said she would continue to defend the Affordable Care Act. She also expressed support for Colorado’s universal healthcare ballot initiative, according to a news release from ColoradoCare Yes, which backs the ballot measure.

Following the Boulder appearance, Clinton came to Denver, where a crowd of more than 600 greeted her at Manual High School.

Local and state politicians were surprisingly in short supply at the event.

Clinton was led onto the stage by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. Also speaking to the crowd prior to Clinton’s appearance: state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster; former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former state Sen. Polly Baca, D-Denver.

Missing from the Denver rally: Gov. John Hickenlooper and many members of his cabinet, although his chief strategist Alan Salazar was there. Denver Deputy Mayor and former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy was in the VIP section of the event, as was former First Lady Dottie Lamm.

Clinton spoke for just under 30 minutes. Chief among her pleas: asking people to commit in writing to support her for the March 1 Colorado Democratic caucus, since the state will not have a presidential primary in 2016.

She advocated for stronger gun safety laws, referring to the mass shootings at Columbine High School, the Aurora theater, and Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Clinton said she supports eliminating loopholes for background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows and online, and she also wants to remove the federal liability waiver that protects gun manufacturers from being sued.

She pointed out that nationwide, 92 percent of Americans support these measures, including 83 percent of gun owners.

Those numbers do not reflect the attitudes of Coloradans, where a July poll from Quinnipiac University found that 56 percent oppose stronger gun control laws.

Clinton took special umbrage with Congressional Republicans who refuse to sign onto a bill that would prohibit people on the so-called “no-fly list” from buying firearms.

She also outlined her plans to take on Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. “We need to fight them in the air, on the ground and online,” and the United States  can do that by drawing together a coalition of countries and working with Muslim communities, she said.

As to the current Syrian refugee situation, Clinton pointed out that the hijackers on 9/11 weren’t refugees. They were terrorists who entered the country legally. She did call for a “clear and careful vetting process” for refugees entering the country.

The audience was split about 60/40 women to men. Several women said prior to the rally that they were looking for comments on how Clinton would address wage inequality and restore the middle class.

Gloria Holbert of Denver said she hoped Clinton would discuss how she would help college students avoid student debt, a topic that Clinton did touch on in her remarks.

But not everyone there was ready to jump on the Clinton bandwagon.

Several said they were on the fence between Clinton and Sanders, and that Tuesday’s appearance would help them decide.

Teacher Eva Bridgeforth said she hoped Clinton would stand up against politics as usual, help the middle class and improve education.

Fellow teacher Melissa Settelke said she thinks Clinton will be an advocate for all kids, but also said she’s still deciding between Sanders and Clinton. Settle hoped Clinton would advocate for better funding for public education, noting that Colorado ranks near the bottom nationwide in per-student spending.

“I’m gung-ho Clinton but not sure where I stand on Hillary,” said Miriam Koker. What would get her on board? Put Sanders on the ticket.



Monday Denver became the latest municipality to enact so-called construction defects reform. City Council approved a proposal out of the Mayor’s office that will make it harder for homeowners to file defects claims about sinking foundations, moldy walls, or leaking roofs. The rationale is that developers will build more if they’re not so scared of getting sued all the time.

Councilmember Debbie Ortega said she wasn’t thrilled with the measure, but voted “yea” because the city desperately needs more affordable housing.

“I don’t want to see Denver become a Manhattan where only people with the highest incomes can afford to live here,” she said. “I’m crossing my fingers this (ordinance) will result in further construction.”


Indeed, the measure was crafted to spur a segment of Denver’s housing market that’s lagging behind the rest: new, for-sale condominiums.

The city has seen an influx of new residents (60,000 over the past five years, and another 50,000 expected over the next five), but a nosedive in condo construction. Data from Metrostudy shows that condominiums make up just under 4 percent of new owner-occupied housing — a 21 percent drop from 2007.

Screenshot from 2015-11-23 22:21:18

According to city attorney David Broadwell, homebuilders are deterred by high liability, exorbitant insurance premiums and the risk of pricey litigation.

“Denver officials believe that the dearth in condominium construction is a direct result of recent trends in construction defect litigation brought by some condominium homeowners associations against homebuilders,” he wrote in an October memo. “Simply put, the costs and risks associated with high-rise condominium projects have made the construction of these projects prohibitive, except at the very highest price point.”

Denver’s new ordinance is modeled after legislation cooked up at the state level.

That bill had bipartisan sponsorship. It passed the GOP controlled state Senate before dying (narrowly) in the Democratic controlled House. Had it become law, mediation or arbitration would be the preferred method to resolve construction defect disputes in Colorado, rather than in court. And the majority of homeowners would have to be on board to sue.

But since that legislation failed, construction-defects reform has been playing out on the local level. Lakewood was the first municipality to pass a defect ordinance, with Lone Tree, Aurora, Littleton, Parker and Commerce City all following suit.

Denver’s ordinance looks similar to those others: It ensures disputes get settled through arbitration or mediation, not in court; requires the consent of most condo unit owners for litigation to move forward; and prevents homeowners associations from rewriting community bylaws to make room for lawsuits. But Denver’s adds some new dimensions: A project can’t be called “defective” if it’s built and maintained according to the city’s building codes; and defects that do violate code only count if they’re linked to actual damage or injury.

As someone who moved into a defective condo himself, Denver native Jonathan Harris doesn’t think shifting even more risk onto consumers is a viable solution to the city’s housing woes.

He and his partner bought a new condo in Five Points in 2004. When it rained for the first time, he discovered it leaked. Water seeped into the stucco facade, and soon the building’s shoddy awnings and balconies began to sag. And he wasn’t alone — two other units in the complex became uninhabitable.

Housing Crunch

When Harris’ homeowners association tried to resolve the issue with the developer, friendly talks failed, mediation failed and arbitration didn’t really do the trick either.

“It became apparent they weren’t really trying to fix things — they were just trying to stall for time.” 

Harris and the other plaintiffs had time, but not endless money. In the end, moving forward with the suit was too risky a prospect.

Binding arbitration clauses — like the kind homebuyers will be forced into under this new ordinance — are designed to resolve disputes quickly and cheaply by avoiding court. But when the non-negotiable bylaws governing a common-interest community like a condominium complex are drawn up by the developer, details like who arbitrates a dispute, where, when and for how much end up stacking against homeowners.

The New York Times recently did a tour-de-force report on how clauses buried in the fine print end up screwing those who sign them. And it’s not just condo owners — just about everyone who participates in the economy likely sacrifices their constitutional rights.

“Over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without agreeing to private arbitration,” reporters Jessica Silverstein-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff wrote in part one of the three part series. “The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.”

Jonathan Harris founded Build Our Homes Right in the midst of his decade-long legal headache. The homeowners’ rights group has been pushing back against these construction defect ordinances everywhere they crop up in Colorado. He recognizes that their efforts have been somewhat futile — every municipality that considers a defect ordinance adopts it — but remains committed to getting his message out.

“From my side it looks like they (city officials) feel it’s more important to cater to developers than to take care of their constituents,” Harris told The Independent. “I’m just worried people aren’t paying attention to what’s going on.”

Michael Hancock campaign videoGovernment watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch found that nearly 80 percent of campaign contributions in last year’s municipal elections came from corporations and Political Action Committees. Mayor Michael Hancock ran unopposed but nonetheless raked in $372,659.51 from business interests.

“I hear anecdotally from citizens all the time, ‘all of our City Council people are in the pocket of developers’ or ‘developers run this city,’” Ethics Watch senior counsel Peg Perl told The Independent‘s Bree Davies in August. “What I think people don’t realize is that developers are actually allowed to give money. People aren’t aware that companies can just cut checks and give them to candidates’ campaigns, because that’s not the norm at the state or federal level.”

Council member Paul Kashmann of District 6 was the sole “nay” vote Monday night.

“It (the ordinance) gives a small nod to the interests of homebuyers when something goes amiss, but it’s just not designed to protect them,” he said. “With all these warnings in mind, I just can’t support it this evening.”

Councilmember Raphael Espinoza of District 1 agreed. “There are things in here that give me pause … but I do think there’s an opportunity to make corrections down the road.”

He voted to pass the ordinance.

At-large councilmember Debbie Ortega acknowledged that the measure “won’t do anything to help people who have already purchased and have issues,” like Harris, and promised she would “pay very close attention to the effect this has on consumers.”

She also voted to pass the ordinance.


“Wood-framed house” by Jaksmata via Wikimedia CommonsButterbean, Creative Commons, Flickr“Housing Crunch” by Tessa Cheek; still from Mayor Hancock’s campaign ad.


Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration says it’s “committed to transparency” about the death last week of Michael Lee Marshall after sheriff’s deputies restrained him at the city jail.

Nevertheless, the city is refusing to make public any information about the deadly incident.

“Transparency means allowing the Marshall family and the community to see the video showing what happened to Michael. Anything less isn’t transparency. It’s a hollow promise,” says the family’s lawyer, Mari Newman.

The city has denied all parts of a lengthy freedom of information request filed by The Colorado Independent. The inquiry — filed under Colorado’s Open Records Act and Criminal Justice Records Act — asked for video or audio recordings of the November 11 incident at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center in which deputies restrained Marshall until he lost brain function.

Marshall, 50 and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, died on Friday after his family ended the life support that had kept him alive for nine days after his confrontation with deputies.

The Independent asked for the names of those officers as well as their previous disciplinary reports. It also requested radio transmissions, 911 recordings, incident reports, a list of inmates housed near Marshall’s cell, a list of inmates who witnessed the confrontation and witness’s statements.

“Your request for those records is denied because it would be contrary to the public interest to release records related to the incident before the completion of the current investigations,” reads a letter written Monday by the Department of Safety.

The city didn’t respond to a follow-up question about how a blanket denial of The Independent’s public information request is consistent with the “commitment to transparency” it has pledged in a press release.

Denver has a long record of trying to avoid disclosing records in use-of-force cases. After sheriff’s deputies fatally restrained Marvin Booker in the jail in July 2010, the city stalled for ten months before showing videotape of his killing to his family. During a federal civil trial in 2014 – during which Booker’s family won a $6 million jury verdict against the city – it was revealed that Safety Department officials destroyed evidence in that case, withheld key facts about the incident and lied in their accounts of it.

Some watchdogs say the city’s track record of being less than forthcoming about excessive force cases, as well as its repeated failure to live up to promises for sweeping reforms in its Safety Department make transparency more necessary than ever.

“While the Denver Sheriff’s Department has discretion under the law to withhold many records related to Marshall’s death, there must be compelling reasons to do so,” said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. “Given past incidents at the Denver Jail and promised reforms, the public interest in this case is understandably high, and it’s imperative that officials release as much information as possible as soon as possible.”


Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall, Creative Commons, Flickr


Once, not so long ago, it was great fun to mock the Donald. And it was so easy. He was the short-fingered vulgarian, as the late, great Spy Magazine had dubbed him.

There was the fake sneer. The naked narcissism. The 18-karat, gold-plated seat belts in his helicopter.

When he decided to actually run for president, it seemed like a Palin-sized gift to those of us who write about politics for a living. And when he shot up to the top of the polls, the joke, it seemed, had gone viral.

The one person in America who couldn’t be taken seriously was suddenly the leading GOP candidate for the most serious job in the world. And Republicans, who had welcomed Trump into the race as a novelty act, were shocked to discover that they had no idea how to get rid of him.

It was irony. Or payback. Or nativism run wild. Or something. Whatever it was, it was certainly politics at its most ugly and also most absurd, which is how Trump has come to lead in the polls for four months now. And no matter how many times Nate Silver insists that the polls tell us nothing about what will happen a few months from now, there’s still the fact that one-third of Republicans say that they would vote for him today.

And there’s this, too: Somewhere along the way, the joke just stopped being funny.

I’m not sure when the end date was, but the day that the terrorists attacked Paris, and the world really got serious, certainly fits. It was around the time that Trump extended his anti-Mexican-immigrant rhetoric to anti-Muslim rhetoric, one minority group apparently being as good to demagogue as the next. And it just gets worse.

In fact, when it comes to fear-mongering, Trump has had a few days that must be unmatched since the time of George Wallace. Here’s the short list: He condoned a crowd of supporters who had roughed up a protester, saying the man had probably deserved it. Trump’s campaign retweeted a fake Tweet citing a fake institute saying that most white murder victims were killed by African-Americans, when, of course, most white people are killed by white people. He said that Obama intends to take in as many as 250,000 Syrian refugees — Trump calls them “strong young men … tough cookies” — when Obama has put the number at 10,000, many of them, just guessing, women and children.

But what’s worse is that it’s not just Trump, who simply goes further — trashing much of the Bill of Rights along the way — than everyone else. It’s also the nearly 30 governors who say they don’t want Syrian refugees in their states. It’s Marco Rubio who goes old school to talk about “clash of civilizations.” It’s Ted Cruz who goes all crusader and says we should set a religious test — Christians only — when taking refugees from Syria. Trump, meanwhile, talks of Muslims having to register, just to be sure that no one could possibly top him. And it goes on and on, in what Michael Gerson calls a “raw and repugnant nativism.”

Trump may have hit his own personal low by taking us back to 9/11, back to a time when George W. Bush was warning against blaming Islam for the terrorist attack. Trump tells how, on that terrible day, he was watching TV as thousands of Jersey City Muslims celebrated when the towers were coming down. Were you watching TV that day? The fact-checkers say it never happened. Do you remember it happening?

Strangely, the only person who briefly remembered the celebrations was, yes, Ben Carson, who said he saw the newsreels. In other words, Trump’s top competitor in the polls said he saw the same thing that never happened that Trump had said he saw that never happened. And so the Carson campaign was once again forced into damage control, saying that Carson had been, well, confused, and noted that the candidate “doesn’t stand behind his comments.” OK, maybe that is funny.

What I did see on TV was George Stephanopoulos grilling Trump on the matter and Trump refusing to back down because the best way to tell a lie is to repeat it for as long as it takes to seem like the truth. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Not when you’ve got the tough-talking, no-surrender, Jersey boy Chris Christie himself being asked about the Trump statement and you watched as he, uh, hedged. Man, did he hedge, saying he couldn’t remember Muslim celebrations in his state, and “I think if it had happened, I would remember it. But, you know, there could be things I forgot, too.”

Yeah, maybe. But when the history of this campaign is written, it won’t be any problem remembering who stood up and who stood silent. No joke. No joke at all.


Photo credit: Thierry Ehrmann, Creative Commons, Flickr


Could Colorado be in line for an eighth congressional district?

That’s the scenario put out recently by the University of North Carolina, in an analysis of the realignment of the nation’s 435 congressional seats.

According to UNC’s Carolina Population Center, states in the South and West are likely to pick up seats after the 2020 census. States in the Midwest and Northeast are just as likely to lose them.

The UNC report based its prediction that there will be a new Colorado congressional district on the state’s population increase between 2010 and 2014, when the state grew by more than 328,000 residents.

More than 183,000 people moved to Colorado in that four-year period. The rest of the population growth is attributed to the birth and death rate.

Colorado’s population has boomed in the last 45 years. According to the state demographer, the state was home to a few more than 2 million in 1970. At that time, Colorado had five congressional seats.

Ten years later, the sixth seat was added when the state’s population neared 3 million. The seventh seat was added after the 2000 census when the state had well over 4 million. As of 2014, Colorado’s population was just shy of 6 million.


Photo credit: Photo credit: Larry Johnson, Creative Commons, Flickr

Michael Lee Marshall and Marvin Booker: Parallels in both life and death

“I have to wonder if they’ve targeted black homeless men. Street preachers.” — Spencer Booker, Marvin Booker’s brother


Michael Lee Marshall didn’t know about Marvin Booker until days before he died.

The two men had lots in common.

Both had mental health problems and spent much of their lives homeless in Denver. Both identified themselves as street preachers. Both were black, and in their 50s. And, weighing about 135 pounds, neither appears to have posed a physical threat to the Denver sheriff’s deputies who fatally restrained them.

Booker was wrestled to the floor, constrained by five officers, Tasered and choked in July 2010 after he ignored a deputy’s orders and tried to fetch his shoes in the jail’s booking area. The officers involved in his homicide kept their jobs and faced no criminal charges. Still, a federal jury ordered Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration last fall to pay Booker’s family a record $6 million for their wrongful death and civil rights claims against the city.

Hancock since has promised sweeping changes to the sheriff’s department, including reforms to how it works with mentally ill inmates, how it trains deputies on racial issues and when they’re authorized to use force.

But those reforms haven’t yet been put in place, creating what Booker’s family sees as the “inevitability” that another inmate would be killed in custody.

“Unfortunately, it’s all too little, too late for Mr. Marshall,” Pastor Spencer Booker, Marvin Booker’s brother told The Independent Sunday. “It comes as no surprise that a city that doesn’t prosecute — let alone fire — deputies who kill people is going to have yet another homicide on its hands.”

“How ironic is it that one year after we vindicated our brother’s civil rights with a jury of his peers, the city seems to have learned nothing and made no changes? Did all that money, all that tax money, get paid out with nobody having made any progress training deputies on sensitivity or how to de-escalate these kinds of situations?

“I have to wonder if they’ve targeted black homeless men. Street preachers. And I have to wonder if, in Mr. Marshall’s case, they’re just going to high-five each other once again and say ‘we got away with another murder of a black man’.”

Neither the Mayor’s office nor the department of safety responded to inquiries for this story.

Marshall, 50, had paranoid schizophrenia. He was arrested on November 7 on charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace at a motel on Colfax Ave. where he occasionally stayed. He was booked at Denver’s jail and held on $100 bond.

So far, the city hasn’t released a videotape that reportedly shows Marshall in the sally port on the jail’s fourth floor four days after his arrest trying to walk around a white sheriff’s deputy who appears to have been about twice his size. He was restrained by that deputy, then by two others who reportedly put a guard over his mouth to keep him from spitting at them. One early theory about Marshall’s death is that the spit guard may have caused him to choke on his vomit.

It took months of legal wrangling by lawyers with Killmer, Lane and Newman LLP to prod the city to release the video of Booker’s killing. The same firm that represented Booker’s estate –and won the $6 million jury award — is handling the Marshall case.

Attorney Mari Newman is calling for an outside investigation of Marshall’s death, saying the “city can’t be trusted to investigate its own.”

Spencer Booker said Marshall’s family should expect the city to stall, obfuscate, destroy evidence, cover up the facts and smear Marshall’s name “just like they did to Marvin.” He expresses his solidarity, saying, “The Bookers will be there for the Marshalls every step of the way through this ordeal – every single step of the way.

“They have our word.”

The Denver Medical Examiner’s office said this morning that an autopsy on Marshall’s body was done on Saturday, the day after his family ended the life support that had kept him alive for nine days after his confrontation in the jail. Release of his death certificate is pending toxicology results.

If his death is ruled a homicide, all eyes will be on Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office to press criminal charges against the deputy or deputies responsible. In nearly 11 years in office, Morrissey has never prosecuted a killer cop – a record that prompted an effort to recall him earlier this year. Morrissey’s detractors are especially critical of his decision not to prosecute the deputies who killed Booker.

“Now’s the time for action,” Spencer Booker said Sunday. “We’re urging the citizens of Denver to write to Mitch Morrissey with the message that the deputies — not the taxpayers – need to pay for the illegal activities in that jail.”

Marshall had expressed trepidation about law enforcement six days before his arrest and ten days before he lost brain function at the hands of his jailers.

He had been petting a dog on Welton Street the morning of November 1 when I was heading into a deli with my friend, Andrew Romero. Romero struck up a conversation with Marshall, first about the dog and then about the warm weather.

“I said something like, ‘Great day, huh?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s actually not that great of a day. You got no idea, man. I’m homeless’,” Romero says.

He offered to buy Marshall a bagel, but Marshall said he’d prefer just coffee. The two spent about half an hour at a nearby café where Marshall ordered and prepared his signature concoction of coffee with cool water, taking care to split it between cups into which he poured dozens of teaspoons of sugar and Splenda, and then stirred and stirred and stirred.

When Marshall told Romero he was a street preacher, Romero asked if by chance had known Marvin Booker or was familiar with how Booker died. Marshall said he wasn’t and asked what had happened.

“His response was that he avoids law enforcement whenever possible,” Romero said. “He said the cops really scared him.”




Last week The Colorado Independent reported that a group of Coloradans were asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to replace Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia with a woman appointee.

Jenny Willford, the Executive Director of Emerge Colorado, an organization working to get more women elected to office, wrote the governor today the  following letter suggesting 101 qualified women he could could appoint.


Dear Governor Hickenlooper,

Emerge Colorado recruits, trains and empowers women to run for office. Since launching in 2012, we have trained over 70 women from Delta County to Weld County. These women are teachers, members of the military, lawyers, activists and moms. To date, over half of our alumnae have run and this November alone, 9 out of 13 women on the ballot won- that’s nearly a 70% win rate. This means that we know how to identify qualified women and we know how to give them the skills and network they need to win.

From the ranches to elected office, Colorado has a proud tradition of electing women. As you know, not only were we the first parliamentary body in the world to elect women, but we were the first state to give women the right to vote and we are the number one state in the country for electing women to the state legislature.  While we excel at women’s representation in the state legislature, we have yet to elect a woman Governor or U.S. Senator. Furthermore, out of the 48 past lieutenant governors in Colorado history- only 4 have been women. We can and we must do better- starting with your next appointment.

Since Lieutenant Governor Garcia announced his resignation, we have been working publicly to recruit a woman to fill the vacancy. Too often women are left off the shortlist for political appointments. This is exactly why we have built a robust and diverse list of 101 women from across Colorado who are ready, able and qualified to lead. We recognize that our list does not include every qualified woman in the state; but we are confident that these women represent the broad range of talent we have in Colorado from scientists and Olympians to politicians and businesswomen.

We did not ask permission to include any woman in our list because we know that women have to be invited to run for office. To every woman on this list, please consider this your formal invitation to run for lieutenant governor or any other office in Colorado.

Governor Hickenlooper, it is time for you to send a message to the entire country that women’s leadership matters. That in Colorado, political parity is not just an option- it’s an expectation. It is time for you to be a trailblazer and enthusiastically advocate for a woman to become the next lieutenant governor.


Jenny Willford

Executive Director


101 Qualified Female Candidates for Lt. Governor of Colorado

Cristina Aguilar

Hon. Irene Aguilar

Katherine Archuleta

Christine Arguello

Hon. Polly Baca

Katina Banks

Patricia Barela Rivera

Hon. KC Becker

Christine Benero

Erin Bennett

Sue Birch

Hon. Betty Boyd

Barbara Brohl

Lauren Casteel

Juanita Chacon

Merle Chambers

Hon. Kathy Chandler-Henry

Rebecca Chopp

Leanna Clark

Vicki Cowart

Hon. Lesley Dahlkemper

Hon. Jessie Danielson

Hon. Kerry Donovan

Hon. Crisanta Duran

Hon. Daneya Esgar

Donna Evans

Hon. Rhonda Fields

Hon. Joan Fitz-Gerald

Maggie Fox

Lynn Gangone

Ellen Golombek

Julie Gonzales

Nita Gonzales

Lisa Goodbee

Courtney Gray

Dusti Gurule

Sandy Gutierrez

Hon. Millie Hamner

Josie Heath

Carol Hedges

Hon. Eva Henry

Melanie Herrera Bortz

Paula Herzmark

Tresi Houpt

Hon. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst

Wanda James

Hon. Elise Jones

Kim Jordan

Hon. Cary Kennedy

Hon. Robin Kniech

Frances Koncilja

Hon. Gwen Lachelt

Dottie Lamm

Hon. Claire Levy

Michelle Lucero

Hon. Alice Madden

Denise Maes

Hon. Betsy Markey

Lilly Marks

Hon. Rosemary Marshall

Hon. Crestina Martinez

Dayna Bowen Matthew

Hon. Jenise May

Hon. Beth McCann

Hon. Buffie McFadyen

Karin McGowan

Elena Mendoza

Hon. Karen Middleton

Nita Mosby Henry

Karen Nakandakare

Suma Nallapati

Hon. Linda Newell

Kelly Nordini

Hon. Barbara O’Brien

Blanca O’Leary

Hon. Debbie Ortega

Theresa Pena

Hon. Brittany Pettersen

Monica Piergrossi

Susan Powers

Hon. Diane Primavera

Hon. Rachel Richards

Hon. Rosemary Rodriguez

Hon. Su Ryden

Marguerite Salazar

Kristen Schaal

Hon. Gail Schoettler

Tea Schook

Hon. Pat Schroeder

Tisha Schuller

Hon. Gail Schwartz

Hon. Linda Shoemaker

Martha Tierney

Lindsey Vonn

Hon. Wilma Webb

Hon. Elbra Wedgeworth

Roxane White

Kathy White

Hon. Angela Williams

Hon. Faith Winter

* Names are listed in alphabetical order.

** Inclusion on this list does not consititue an endorsement.**


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Photo credit: Mike Johnston, Creative Commons, Flickr.


DENVER – How much money you make and your ethnic background have a big impact on neighborhood infrastructure and your chances for a healthy life, according to a new report by the Urban Land Institute and Colorado Health Foundation.

The survey found more than half of the state’s residents say they can’t walk to a fully stocked grocery store, and more than one-in-three don’t have easy access to outdoor recreation. Karen McNeil-Miller, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, says some Coloradans face bigger barriers than others.

“Particularly low-income and Latino people were more likely to report their communities lacked adequate green space, bike lanes, the area had too much traffic or the area had too much crime,” she says. “To make it safe for them to be out with their children walking or biking.”

McNeil-Miller notes 49 percent of Latinos reported lack of recreation areas compared with just 31 percent of whites, and nearly half of people earning less than $25,000 a year said their neighborhoods didn’t have enough outdoor spaces or bike lanes.

The survey shows current land-use and design patterns are at odds with the healthy lifestyle many Coloradans say they want.

More than half prefer neighborhoods where they don’t have to drive a car, 87 percent rank the quality of the environment as a top priority, and a majority wants access to healthy food, green space and walkable neighborhoods.

McNeil-Miller says health goes well beyond visits to a doctor’s office, and good community design can contribute to and even reverse troubling health trends.

“Health is everyone’s business,” she says. “So if you’re an urban planner, how healthy are we making these neighborhoods? Are we building neighborhoods with sidewalks? Are we building neighborhoods with bike lanes? Where we live has a lot to do with how healthy we can be.”

McNeil-Miller says she’s hopeful the report will be a tool that leaders across the state can use to help improve the health of all Coloradans, regardless of income, age or ethnicity.


Photo credit: Loco Steve, Creative Commons, Flickr

This story originally appeared on Colorado News Connection. 

Why are Western attorneys general going rogue?

Attorneys general sue the federal government, despite state governors’ objections.


This story first appeared in High Country News.

When Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced in September that the greater sage grouse would not be listed as endangered, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval, a Republican, was one of four Western governors on the stage, applauding.

States retained management of the bird in what Sandoval described as a “big win” resulting from intense negotiations. “It’s a lot easier to fight than it is to work together,” he said. Just a month later, though, Nevada’s attorney general, Republican Adam Laxalt, defied Sandoval, joining a lawsuit challenging federal plans to protect grouse habitat. A public row ensued, with the governor’s office declaring that Laxalt was acting on his own behalf, not the state’s. Laxalt fired back with a press release calling the governor “wrong.”

Currently, two Western attorneys general are suing the federal government over high-profile environmental issues against their governors’ wishes. Colorado’s Republican attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, is suing to block President Barack Obama’s signature climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, despite Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s explicit objections.

Both attorneys general were elected a year ago with the support of a lot of outside money, signaling big donors’ appreciation for the importance of these offices, as states push back against the federal government. “There is a perception that the (Obama) administration is  running roughshod over states’ interests,” says Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden, especially in Western states, where large portions of the land and resources are owned and managed by the federal government.

The Democrats view things differently: “There are several attorneys general who seem to see themselves as partisan warriors,” says Matt Lee-Ashley, director of public lands at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “They are so determined to boost their political profile and grab headlines that they’re willing to undercut their own state’s leadership.”

In Nevada and Colorado, the governors are challenging the legitimacy of the lawsuits and the authority of their attorneys general, who act as chief lawyers for governors and state agencies as well as top law enforcement officials. While such public disputes are infrequent, they’re not unheard of, because in most states, governors and attorneys general are elected separately. In purple states like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, it’s not uncommon for the two to be from different parties.

Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper says Coffman is exceeding her authority. “The law makes it clear that except in limited circumstances — which don’t exist here — the attorney general is not permitted to file such lawsuits unless directed to do so by the governor,” Hickenlooper declared. He has said he will petition the state Supreme Court to weigh in. Former Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, who served as Obama’s first Interior secretary, says that Colorado law requires the attorney general to support the governor unless the governor’s position is “clearly unlawful.”

Coffman, meanwhile, says she is doing her duty by joining 23 other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the first-ever federal greenhouse gas rules for existing power plants. She claims that the rules will cost jobs and usurp state authority, and that she has the power to decide what is in her state’s interest, regardless of the governor’s stance. “The Colorado attorney general has independent authority to initiate a legal action on behalf of the state and its citizens,” she declared.

In Nevada, Laxalt says he is looking out for the state’s legal interests by backing a suit filed by two counties over a federal plan to set aside habitat for sage grouse and also prohibit new hardrock mining across nearly 3 million acres. “It’s my job as the elected attorney general to decide when it’s right for the state to be in litigation,” Laxalt told KNPR radio.

Sandoval says that his fellow Republican’s action does not represent Nevada, its governor, or state agencies. He also argues that only by working with the federal government were Western states able to avoid Endangered Species Act listings of the greater and the bi-state sage grouse. He shares his attorney general’s concern about development restrictions on BLM lands, but believes that collaboration, not litigation, is the best way to get more flexible terms for the bird’s conservation.

The back-and-forth between Laxalt and Sandoval has been especially sharp. Lawrence Wasden, Idaho’s attorney general and chair of the Conference of Western Attorneys General, says disputes between attorneys general and governors are often most intense when the two belong to the same party. “There’s an expectation that the attorneys general should get in line. When they don’t do that, that becomes a bitter battle.”

The current divisions in the Republican Party make such internecine battles increasingly likely. For instance, some Western Republicans want to file lawsuits claiming federal lands for their states, while others argue that the states agreed to the current arrangement when they joined the union. As the struggle over the vision for federal lands and the nation’s energy future intensifies, more disputes are sure to come.


High Country NewsHigh Country News is a nonprofit news organization that covers the important issues that define the American West. Subscribe, get the enewsletter, and follow HCN on Facebook and Twitter.



Three of the last four attempts to map the state’s congressional and legislative districts have wound up in court with both Republicans and Democrats wagging fingers, accusing each other of carving up the state to favor one party over another.

A bipartisan group, including two former governors and three former secretaries of state, wants voters in November 2016 to weigh in on reforming how this mapping works. The political bickering, they say, needs to stop.

Last week the group submitted a ballot measure, Initiative 55, that would create a 12-member commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated voters, that would take over the mapping from the legislature.

The nonpartisan legislative legal staff of the General Assembly would still develop the maps for the commission to consider. After three tries, if the staff were unable to come up with a map to the commission’s liking, the ballot measure says, the map would go to the state Supreme Court.

The commission would have to conduct all of its business in open public hearings — a big shift from the secrecy tainting the current way redistricting works. Commission members would be barred from talking to people outside of public meetings about the process, preventing political operatives from slyly hijacking redistricting — a perennial problem as things work now.

The biggest difference between the current practice and the proposed one would be in the final steps: Maps would be approved only by a supermajority of eight of the 12 commissioners, ensuring that no one political party could control the process. And final approval would come from the Colorado Supreme Court, not the legislature.

Right now, the redistricting works as follows: Every 10 years, the General Assembly redraws the map for the state’s seven U.S. congressional seats and another group appointed by lawmakers redraws the state’s 65 House seats and 35 Senate seats.

The nonpartisan staff that draws the maps gets input from lawmakers pushed by political operatives who propose maps that would favor their parties.  

Most years, the bias is clear, and the process, at least from the Statehouse, is a failure. In 1980, 2000 and 2010, the proposed maps wound up in court with a judge making the final decisions.

Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College, who sat on the commission that redrew the state legislative boundaries in 2011, told The Colorado Independent that a change in how redistricting works is necessary.  

The commission he sat on included five Republicans, five Democrats and one unaffiliated member, Mario Carrera, who served as chair. Carrera was believed to lean left and had made campaign donations to Democrats in the past.

The 2011 commission wanted to do away with “safe” party seats. Too many safe seats, in which one party usually wins the seat, means the candidates have to be either arch-liberal or arch-conservative, Loevy said.

As a result, what matters is what happens in the primary, not the general election. And those who win primaries in safe seats tend to be polarized in their political beliefs.

The result? Politicians are accountable only to those who vote in primaries and not to voters in the general election, Loevy said. And that means a polarized Congress and legislature, and members in both who have trouble working together.

It’s one of the reasons, Loevy said, that so many legislatures nationwide are dominated by one party.

“When you leave redistricting in the hands of political parties, they draw the maps to create safe seats.” As a result, the same party continues to win control of the legislature no matter what’s happening politically in the state, he said.

Currently, 11 state legislatures are controlled by Democrats; 31 more are controlled by Republicans. One-party control of state legislatures is a trend that has been growing for at least the past decade.

Loevy believes the 2011 process, which created more “swing” seats, was part of the reason Republicans took the state Senate in 2014.

Redistricting has been “a disaster in the past,” said Democrat James Mejia, former Denver Public Schools board member and head of the the group that wrote the ballot measure. “There has to be a better way.”

Mejia’s pro-reform camp includes former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, who led the 2011 congressional redistricting fight in the House. His efforts, which he described to The Independent as “rough and tumble,” failed the last day of the session amid angry accusations from both sides about which parties his proposal would benefit the most.

The maps, which were later completed by a Denver District Court judge, didn’t change the political party balance of Colorado’s congressional delegation: It has remained four Republicans and three Democrats in the U.S. House since 2011.

McNulty said reforming the process and making it less partisan would help all Coloradans. “More competitive congressional and legislative districts drawn through a process that is fair and transparent will make a world of difference.”

Former Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who signed the 2003 redistricting bill into law, only to see it tossed by the Colorado Supreme Court, backs the ballot measure, as does former Democrat Gov. Dick Lamm. The group also includes three of the five most recent secretaries of state.

Former Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, also supports reform. She spent 19 years in the General Assembly, serving as majority leader during the infamous redistricting fight in 2003.

That fight, referred to by Democrats as the “midnight gerrymander,” reached its zenith in the state Senate, which was then controlled 18-17 by Republicans. A congressional redistricting bill was introduced three days before the end of the 2003 session, the minimum amount of time to push the measure through the Legislature. Furious over being excluded from the process, Senate Democrats demanded the Senate clerk read the entire redistricting bill and pages of amendments and other bills at length, a process that took hours and required the efforts of every available Senate staffer. Democrats then refused to vote on the bill.

Then-Sen. Mark Udall, a Boulder Democrat, referred to the backroom deals alleged during the 2003 fight, noting in a 2006 tribute to Anderson that she had turned down a phone call from then-President George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, “who was either the mastermind of the ham-handed strategy or simply an interested observer, depending on whose spin you believe. That may have been her proudest moment in the whole mess,” Udall said.

Anderson told The Independent she backs the constitutional amendment because it includes aspects of a successful plan in Iowa, one that was suggested for Colorado years ago by the late former state Senate Minority Leader Ken Gordon, D-Denver.

Whether the ballot measure’s ideas will work will depend on who gets onto the independent commission, according to GOP operative Cameron Lynch.

He was one of the Republicanswho helped draw the GOP maps for the 2011 redistricting process. He isn’t involved in the ballot measure group.

“The devil will be in the details,” Lynch told The Independent. He said he applauds those who are trying to fix what he calls a broken system that doesn’t serve Colorado well.

Lynch questioned the selection process for the independent commission, particularly for its unaffiliated members. We wonders how long would someone have to be unaffiliated in order to be chosen.

The ballot measure also uses the term “competitive district.” How would a competitive district be determined, Lynch asked. Would it be by past performance (as in, which party has been winning the most), or by voter registration?

Lynch also said that the current process is not entirely a failure.

“If your definition of success is a divided government, Colorado’s had it for years,” Lynch said, pointing to split control of the legislature, which has happened twice in the past decade, or when Republicans controlled the legislature but served under Democratic governors.

The backers of the ballot measure aren’t the only people in the U.S. frustrated by partisan attempts to control Congress and state legislatures through partisan mapping.

Ohio voters this month overwhelmingly decided to ban gerrymandering in their legislative map-making, a ballot measure strongly supported by the Ohio Legislature.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states give the task of legislative-map drawing to groups other than their legislatures. Six states put their congressional map-drawing into the hands of an independent commission.

Ken Gordon, who passed away two years ago, was commonly viewed as one of the state’s most bipartisan leaders. He advocated for improving the election system.

In a 2011 interview with The Independent, Gordon talked about why a change in the process of drawing maps was long overdue.  

“When you have competitive districts, then everyone is heard because elected representatives know they need to represent everyone in order to be re-elected.”


This story originally appeared on the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition website as “After multiple requests are denied, DOC decides to disclose James Holmes’ inmate number.”


To get a letter to convicted mass killer James Holmes at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City, you’ll need the inmate number assigned to him by the Colorado Department of Corrections.

But until Friday, the DOC had withheld that information from the news media and the public for security reasons and to prevent him from trying to profit from his notoriety. The department’s online offender search page also didn’t mention Holmes, who murdered 12 and injured 70 during a July 2012 shooting rampage at an Aurora movie theater.

That policy suddenly changed following repeated requests for Holmes’ inmate number made by the Associated Press and other news organizations and an inquiry made by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

What is that public interest? AP Bureau Chief Jim Clarke put it this way: “The Associated Press thinks reasonable access to any inmate, high profile or not, is in line with state open records laws and provides an important check on governmental authority. We’re pleased the Department of Corrections reconsidered its decision.”

In an emailed statement, Jacobson said location and identifying information is routinely kept confidential for certain DOC inmates, usually those moved out of state for reasons including their safety, prison security and the safety of victims and their families.

In the case of Holmes, who has not been moved out of state, Jacobson said the department assumed that his notoriety would create “a higher potential for attempts to secret materials into the facility through the mail.” At no time, she added, was Holmes prohibited from sending mail or receiving any mail that did get sent to him by family members or others who had his inmate number.

There remain “significant security concerns” surrounding the release of Holmes’ inmate number, Jacobson said. But given that Holmes has sent mail bearing his DOC number out of the prison, “we feel that we have done as much as we can to protect his personal information and have made the decision to remove the temporary block on his information so that it can be displayed through the inmate locator.”

She added, “We are hopeful that the temporary removal of his information has permitted enough of a ‘cool down’ period that the potential for a high volume of threats and/or dangerous materials being secreted (in) the mail has diminished.”

Holmes received many threats during his three years in Arapahoe County Jail, Jacobson noted. Some people also sent him letters of support, photos and money, according to 200 pages of mail released by prosecutors in early September.

While protecting the department’s mail room staff has been paramount, the money also was an issue because Holmes is not supposed to profit from his crimes under Colorado’s “Son of Sam” law. In her statement, Jacobson said “There is an increased likelihood that should offender Holmes respond to a letter sent to him through knowledge of his DOC#, the letter could be sold for profit. Such continued media and commercial attention to this offender re-victimizes many and, if any proceeds from such sale are sent back in to the offender, it could constitute violation” of the “Son of Sam” law.

There are questions about whether the DOC was legally permitted to withhold Holmes’ inmate number.

Under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act (CCJRA), law enforcement agencies have discretion to withhold most criminal justice records if they determine that disclosure would be “contrary to the public interest.” In denying a request made by the AP, Jacobson said “the Department’s interest in preserving the safety and security of our facility and staff outweighs the public interest in having Offender Holmes’ DOC#.”

But the CCJRA also requires the disclosure of certain records of “official action,” which include records showing “any decision … to relocate any person under criminal sentence.”

In late October, the AP made a second request for all records of official action involving Holmes’ incarceration. On Thursday, it received three such records from the DOC – but with Holmes’ inmate number blacked out.

CFOIC President Steve Zansberg, a media law attorney, said the Colorado Supreme Court has expressly held that a criminal justice agency must disclose all records of official action unless a specific statutory exemption bars such disclosure.

Jacobson maintained that the inmate number is not a record of official action related to Holmes’ classification, executive assignment order and disciplinary history. Although each document cannot be printed out without the inmate number, she said, “the number was not generated by the official action. The number is something that we assign. It’s a record that we create in the department.”

Note: The Associated Press is a member of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

Follow the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Twitter @CoFOIC.

Photo credit: Allie_Caulfield, Creative Commons, Flickr