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“Sometimes I’d wonder,” Frank Petrucci said last spring. “Sometimes I wonder why them and not me.”

Petrucci died this morning. He spent much of his 95 years wondering silently about the three brothers and one sister he never met. One sibling died after guards for John D. Rockefeller’s coal company wouldn’t let him and his mother on a train to Trinidad to treat his cough. The three others were killed months later, asphyxiated in a dirt pit while taking cover in a raid on their camp of striking mine workers in Southern Colorado.

It was Ludlow. The Ludlow Massacre. 101 years ago this month.

Frank’s mom, Mary Petrucci, was still in shock the weeks after the raid when, on a speaking tour with labor activist Mother Jones, she told a reporter in D.C., “I’m twenty-four years old and I suppose I’ll live a long time but I don’t see how I can ever be happy again.

“I can’t have my babies back. But perhaps when everybody knows about them, something will be done to make the world a better place for all babies.”

Mary and her husband Thomas returned to Ludlow where they had seven more children they raised near the “death pit” in which the first four had died. She never spoke of the massacre to Frank, who was born five years later. 

“It didn’t come up,” he told The Independentin an article about their family last year. 

Frank, in turn, didn’t speak of the massacre to his daughter, Mary Elaine Petrucci, a speech pathologist in Denver, who pieced together her family’s sad history as a young girl reading library books. When last year’s 100th anniversary approached, she urged her elderly father — then 94 — to end his silence.

Frank and Mary spoke on a Colorado Independent panel about the massacre last spring. He described his childhood on the plot of land where the haves waged war on Colorado’s have-not working class. 

“They died for us. All of us,” he said of the striking miners and his sister and brothers, ages 6 months to 6 years old, who were too young to know what the strike was all about. “We didn’t talk about the babies. We should have talked about them. 

The Petruccis lost their voice in 1914. Frank Petrucci found it in 2014.

“It’s not too late,” he said after last year’s panel wrapped up. “It’s not too late to remember.” 

 

 

Photo Credit: James Brennan

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Brace yourself. You’re about to be bashed with a clunky government-agency name: Colorado’s Office of Consumer Counsel. As soon as you’ve recovered, take note: The office does great work on behalf of you and me. But not enough people know what it does and how it does what it does, which is a problem right now if it is going to continue doing its work.

Who appreciates what the office is doing? A few community activists with wiffle-ball bats, that’s who. But we’ll get to them in a bit. Why do they appreciate the state’s Consumer Advocate, as the office is also known? Because it saves the state a lot of money – $1.7 billion, it says, or $30 on every $1 the office spends.

The Office of Consumer Counsel (cringe) helps Coloradans fight unfair rate-increases from gas and electric companies; it monitors 911 services and makes sure the folks responding to emergencies are actually responding to emergencies; it pushes landline-telephone companies to keep their rates reasonable and to stick to the rules.

And if you think navigating the poetics of the Office of Consumer Counsel’s name is a chore, be glad the office exists. Staffers have to sift through legalese in telecommunication and utility law, a task that would make you stick your finger in an electrical outlet and call it day. Without the Consumer Advocate, 911 might not even get an ambulance to your door.

In short, the Consumer Advocate sticks up for Colorado consumers and fights utility companies in court, and it has since lawmakers voted it into existence in 1984.

Not surprisingly, the office’s big defenders are equally badly named: CoPIRG – the Colorado Public Interest Research Group –whose members have been strutting around Denver in suits and brandishing wiffle-ball bats and baseball cards, reminding lawmakers that they are very, very behind renewing funding for the Consumer Advocate office.

“We’re not going to sit in the stands and watch Colorado’s consumer MVP get benched,” said Danny Katz of CoPIRG.

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CoPIRG is doing their best with this baseball stunt to bring last-minute attention to this pressing issue.

See, every couple years, Colorado lawmakers decide whether or not the office gets funded. This year’s the year, says Katz, and nobody seems to notice: not the Senate, not the House, not the Governor.

Tick-tock.

If the office runs out of funds, goodbye Consumer Advocate, Katz says. Hello utility hikes, lousy services and broken rules.

Lawmakers are not voicing their opposition to the office; they’re just letting the clock run down.

“We’re taking our home plate and our team Colorado Consumers jersey to the Capitol and we’re going to push for Legislators and the Governor to step up to the plate for Colorado’s Consumer Advocate,” said Katz, unashamed to take this baseball-themed press stunt a little too far

 

 

Top Photo Credit: Charles Kaiser, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of CoPIRG.

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For six months, Arturo Hernandez Garcia has been in sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church of Denver while immigrant rights organizers have tried to convince Immigration and Customs Enforcement to issue him a stay.

Yesterday morning, activists showed up at the Immigration offices in Centennial with a balloon banner demanding ICE directors let Garcia return to his home with his wife and children without being deported.

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Photo Credit: American Friends Service Committee.

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Mystery Solved

The case of the literary litterbug has been solved: “Glenn Pladsen says he isn’t sure how long he has been dumping books along U.S. 287 on his way to work in Longmont. He just knows he couldn’t figure out any other way to get rid of them.” State officials have cleaned up something like 600 pulp fiction and romance novels over the last year along a two-mile stretch of U.S. 287 south of Longmont. Via The Longmont Times Call.

Broken Windows

Something or someone is shattering the windows of moving vehicles on the roads of the Northern Front Range. Authorities are investigating. Ominously, a 20-year-old Milliken woman was shot in the neck Wednesday night while driving on Interstate 25, and some say the cases might be related. Via The Greeley Tribune.

No show

State Sen. Luis Guzman is refusing to participate in a panel connected to the Western Conservative Summit because event organizers told the gay GOP group, the Log Cabin Republicans, they could not set up a table at the event. Via The Denver Post.

Dirty Rags

Rags Over the Arkansas River is asking the Supreme Court to reverse its decision to allow world-famous artist Christo to install six-miles of fabric over the river. The fight between the community organization and the hellbent artist has been blazing for 17 years, reports The Gazette.

Still Here

Judge Carlos Samour, presiding over the Aurora movie theater shooting case, has turned down the defense attorney’s request to move the trial, reports The Aurora Sentinel.

Out Law

A former marshal from De Beque has been accused of stealing $5,000. According to Paul Shockley of The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: “Michael James Lorsung, 45, told a CBI agent he felt like an “idiot” when confronted with details that ultimately led to his arrest.” Seems about right.

Kind Soul

Michelle Wilkins, the victim of the grisly crime in Longmont in which her fetus was cut out of her womb, took homemade cookies to the city police and nurses in the intensive care unit at the hospital on Wednesday. “All beautiful people, I’m so blessed to know them,” she wrote on her Facebook Page. Via The Longmont Times Call.

 Photo Credit: preservationgal, Creative Commons, Flickr

 

 

The unusual Candidacy of Kayvan Khalatbari

A young businessman has breathed life into an otherwise unspectacular City Council election. But does Kayvan Khalatbari’s outside approach to politics make him naive about what he could accomplish as a council member?

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It’s a typical setup for a city council forum – the plastic card tables, stackable chairs, lukewarm coffee and trays of supermarket cookies and fruit platters in the back. Only this forum happens to be about criminal justice issues, featuring Denver Council candidates vying for seats in districts 10 and 11 (Capitol Hill and Northeast Park Hill), and Denver’s citywide Council seats.

At 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday, the event isn’t exactly well-attended. Once you’ve counted the eleven candidates on stage, their aides, the A/V technicians, reporters, and the event organizers from the American Civil Liberties Union and Drug Policy Alliance, that leaves maybe a dozen actual residents who’ve shown up. The candidates themselves are answering a long-winded question about police brutality in Denver, and there’s grumbling from a couple audience members when the moderator decides to stop and repeat her question over again, after half the candidates had already answered it.

“Like we’ve forgotten,” quips an older gentleman in the audience.

That’s because everyone has been listening to nearly identical answers from every candidate so far, one after the other. The standard line is about how police are vital to Denver’s communities, but that the city needs to increase oversight, to make officers wear bodycameras, etc… It’s about as exciting as C-SPAN.

None of the candidates are challenging each other. Then the moderator says:

“Mr. Khalatbari, your response?”

A young candidate sporting a buzz cut and a blue-collared cardigan sweater leans into a shared microphone.

“Denver’s police are waging a war against people. We need to rethink the militarization of our police, many who don’t actually live in our communities. I propose a program of volunteer ‘peace officers,’ who are trained in conflict mediation and are from our neighborhoods.”

Kayvan Khalatbari, 31 years old, gets a few strange looks from his competitors. Not only because of his alternative-policing stance, but because this event, on April 9, marks the first time he has spoken at a City Council forum. The candidate says he has purposely avoided most forums to focus on his social-media presence — to attract younger voters.

In any case, Khalatbari has only been running for an at-large seat since February, and initially some observers didn’t take his candidacy all that seriously. Khalatbari is a political outsider, a serial businessman whose companies deal in cannabis, pizza and comedy – the stoner trifecta. He’s a kingpin of the Denver cultural scene, supporting emerging artists through his podcasts, Sexpot Comedy shows, and monthly art magazine Birdy. His most notable mark in the political sphere is his cannabis activism, including a well-publicized stunt following Gov. John Hickenlooper in a chicken suit with a sign reading: “What’s so scary about marijuana?” Running for City Council seemed an unlikely move. Or maybe, could the guy with the Twitter-handle @laughingsheikh be pulling an elaborate joke?

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The Incumbents Face Fire

Now with the May 5 election less than two weeks away, Khalatbari has all but erased question marks about his bid for office. At events like the April 9 forum, the candidate has shaken up an otherwise uneventful City Council election by accusing the Council of having a weak track record, kowtowing to developers, and voting to raise members’ salaries by 10.3 percent over the next two years.

He hasn’t shied away from provocation. Khalatbari has deliberately distanced himself from the pay raise by pledging his entire Council salary to the Harm Reduction Action Center and Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra if he gets elected. He refutes the line that he’s merely the ‘cannabis candidate’ by asserting he has “more business experience than all sitting City Council members and our mayor combined.” (In fact, some Council members have run businesses in the past, but it is true that Khalatbari owns seven companies that collectively employ over 100 people).

Even his campaign slogan seems to suggest how little he thinks of his opponents: “I’m a real person.”

Perhaps what’s most unusual in a city council race is that Khalatbari could actually unseat one of the at-large incumbents – Debbie Ortega and Robin Kniech. Incumbents in Denver City Council elections almost never lose reelection, and both Ortega and Kniech already had sizable campaign war chests by the time Khalatbari joined the race, topping $50,000 and $90,000 respectively in February.

Not only has Khalatbari out-fundraised his opponents during the past two months (partly through a self-inflicted comedy roast at the Oriental Theater), but with no realistic contender vying to unseat Mayor Michael Hancock this election cycle, the at-large City Council race has taken the spotlight, putting incumbents under extra scrutiny.

This isn’t to say that Ortega and Kniech are particularly polarizing. Both have long backgrounds in public policy and have snatched up most of the race’s major endorsements, including nods from union organizers like the Denver Area Labor Federation, as well as The Denver Post. Ortega previously served on City Council from 1987 to 2003 and was a significant force in establishing LoDo as a historic district. Kniech worked for years on public transportation issues for the nonprofit FRESC, before joining the City Council in 2011. She is the first LGBT member of the Council and had success introducing a revision to the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance that encourages developers to build more affordable units.

Where Khalatbari’s scrutiny comes into play is asking whether Ortega and Kniech have done enough on issues facing Denver like rising housing costs and expensive settlements on police-abuse cases. As experienced politicians, do Ortega and Kniech’s ties to unions and city officials made them slow to enact change?

In particular, Khalatbari is forcing discussion about affordable housing. Citing statistics from a story on Colorado Public Radio, Khalatbari has repeatedly put Kniech and Ortega on the defensive by saying they shouldn’t claim success in affordable housing when the Council only added 700 affordable units last year out of the estimated 27,000 units needed for low-income residents. At the Denver Decides forum on April 11th, a visibly flustered Kniech responded to Khalatbari’s attacks by saying “my record stands on its own” and “to suggest otherwise is dishonest.”

Khalatbari has dominated the race in his use of social media, using unorthodox web videos like his “What the fuck?” spot. His strategies could prove effective when compared to more traditional door-knocking and endorsement-seeking tactics. Khalatbari is betting that social media will influence more young voters to participate in the election, which typically have been decided by older voters. He points toward the fact that this is Denver’s first municipal election with mail-in ballots sent to all registered voters. So rather than rely on young people to show up and vote at the polls (which they don’t) he has been continually reminding them to mail in their ballots through posts online, flyers on pizza boxes and at comedy events throughout the city.

In a field of five, including Kniech, Ortega, and non-incumbent challengers Jose Silva and Jeffery Washington, Khalatbari needs only to receive the second most votes to snag a seat on the 13 member Council. Even without any pre-election polling data that would help predict the race’s outcome, momentum seems to be swaying in his favor. At least, no one denies that Khalatbari has been the most vocal candidate.

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Ambitions vs. Political Reality

The salient question is what kind of role Khatalbari would play on the Council if elected, and whether his political views can translate into policies.

Affordable housing aside, some points of Khalatbari’s campaign platform such as curbing the  taxpayer money that CDOT is spending on I-70 expansion and easing non-violent-crime sentencing largely fall outside the jurisdiction of the City Council. The freeway expansion, for example, is a state decision, and criminal justice issues are ultimately decided by the District Attorney’s and Mayor’s offices (although the City Council does approve Police program funding).

“I’m not sure how realistic he is,” says Ortega. “To make major changes requires working among a broad coalition of colleagues and the administration.”

By administration, Ortega is referring to the Mayor.

The reality is that Denver City Council is quite weak. The city has what’s known as a “strong-mayor” system in which the mayor appoints nearly all administrative positions and city department heads and can veto any of the City Council’s decisions (unless the Council musters together a nine-vote veto override, which rarely happens). And with Hancock running unopposed this election, it seems unlikely we’ll see any dramatic policy shifts after the new Council is seated in July, no matter how much Khalatbari claims he’d rally against the establishment.

Kniech also suggests that a me-versus-everyone approach would not prove effective on the City Council. She cites her own experience building consensus as a counterpoint.

“Whoever’s going to make progress needs to bring a whole bunch of people together. You can’t fight City Council on your own,” Kniech says.

Yet Khalatbari argues that having unspoken rules about consensus is the reason why City Council hasn’t properly represented Denver. He cites the urban-camping ban as one of the ways the Council is taking the city in the wrong direction. “Someone’s got to stop these trends,” he says. And Khatlatbari maintains that the prospect of being a lone wolf on the Council doesn’t bother him. “If they want to alienate me because I’m not playing by their bullshit rules, so be it.”

Having an outspoken member on the City Council would not be without precedent. For instance, former Councilman Ed Thomas was a blunt pro-development voice during the 90’s, and now retiring Councilman Charlie Brown’s own bio admits that “he gave up on political correctness a long time ago.”

Khalatbari could perform a similar role. Even if he receives a dose of political reality on issues such as the I-70 expansion, he’s said his main goal in office would be forcing debate – and that’s why he got involved in the election to begin with.

How the Candidacy Began

The reason some might have thought his candidacy was a joke is because it kind of started out that way – not as run for City Council, but for mayor.

In October, Khalatbari, along with comedian Andy Juett and Denver-Relief co-founder Ean Seeb, announced via their private Facebook accounts that each was running against Hancock for Mayor. At first the posts were only half-serious, but became something substantial once a reporter from the Durango Herald, Peter Marcus, saw the announcements and wrote an article about them. Days later, Marcus told Khalatbari that there was a memo circulating around Hancock’s office warning about three challengers to the Mayor’s reelection bid.

“That sparked a light bulb in my head. Here was a way I could increase my advocacy,” Khalatbari recalls.

Khalatbari says that he’s always been deeply invested in the city. When asked to explain his underlying motivation to enter politics, Khalatbari said it boils down to a desire to maintain strong and collaborative communities in Denver, not cater the city toward tourists and developers. He’s from Lincoln, Nebraska himself, but says it was the tight-knit art and cannabis communities in Denver which helped him transition from a past dealing pot in Nebraska and starting out penniless in Denver, to building an empire of successful businesses.

With most of those businesses running themselves at this point, he says that competing in the mayoral race was a way he could raise discussion about the city losing its identity as wealthy outsiders move into Denver’s core neighborhoods. But he quickly gave up on actually pursuing Hancock when he realized the Mayor had half a million in campaign funds at his disposal. Instead, he turned his attention to the at-large City Council race, “when I saw what I consider to be weak incumbents.”

Khalatbari’s opponents have been largely silent about his past or his campaign, save for a few questions about his time-commitment and potential conflicts of interest with his businesses, such as Khalatbari’s desire to expand dispensaries’ business hours past 7 p.m., which would bring in more profit for his Denver Relief pot shops.

When asked whether she’s worried about Khalatbari’s campaign, Kniech was noncommittal saying, “I focus on my voters, not my opponents.”

Ortega likewise said that she has not been on Khalatbari’s Facebook page or seen any of his videos.

Khalatbari doubts that’s true, instead positing, “They don’t know what to think about me.”

He invites challenges to his candidacy. But more than anything, he says he wants to look beyond the election. He’s tired of watching Denver change for the worse, selling itself to developers without any significant debate between the city’s politicians.

“If I don’t accomplish one thing while on the Council, at least I will have raised hell,” he promises.

 

Photos courtesy of Kayvan Khalatbari.

Wiretap: Obama apologizes for two Western hostages killed in drone strikes

…and other news exploding around the globe.

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Droning On

President Obama has relied on the clean, subtle technique of killing with drones. But independent investigations have found that his administration is underestimating the number of civilians killed. Now, two Western hostages are dead, he is sorry, and critics are grumbling. Via The New York Times.

Toxic Avenger

How do big oil companies clean up toxic spills? With toxic chemicals, of course. Can the federal government finally force these corporations to stop? asks Lisa Katzman at Mother Jones.

Private Talk

“Benghazi” long ago became Republican shorthand for “must somehow derail The Hillary.” So it just plain makes sense that now that The Hillary has declared her presidential candidacy, House Rep. Trey Gowdy has requested she make two appearances before his Eternal Benghazi Committee and maybe come for a personal interview. To make things easier, he sent her lawyer 136 questions he would like her to answer. Gowdy, the Jesse Pinkman of the lower chamber, is getting it done for South Carolina! Via The New York Times.

Power Rangers

President Obama on Earth Day pitched the EPA’s new climate-change-motivated Clean Power Plan in the Florida Everglades while Republicans on the House energy committee voted to slow any effects the plan might have on power plants — enormous carbon emitters and the main target of the EPA emissions-reduction plan. The sponsors of the pro-power-plant proposal both take a ton of campaign cash from electrical-utilities industries, naturally. Via OpenSecrets.

Sinking Ships

For over a year, a merger between Time-Warner and Comcast seemed set in stone. It was a $45 billion deal. But Thursday, it tanked. Is net neutraility the culprit here? “At the end of the day, the government’s commitment to maintaining a free and open Internet did not square with the prospect of a single company controlling as much as 40 percent of the public’s access to it,” writes Jonathan Mahler in The New York Times.

Firm Position

Louisiana governor and once-rising now-fading GOP star Bobby Jindal is “holding firm against gay marriage.” He wrote an op-ed in The New York Times Thursday about how it’s just weak to fold to “radical liberals,” “left-wing activists” and bullying corporations who don’t think religious freedom equals the right to discriminate against gay people or that even perceived discrimination is bad for business.

Gain Pain

The fits-and-starts, awkward-and-ugly tug-of-war between religious liberty and gay rights is a good thing. “This is a big illuminating moment in history,” writes David Strauss for The Washington Post. We’re at a shining moment, he says, where sincere religious objections will fall away because religious beliefs change. It’s a remarkable thing and we shouldn’t expect it to be easy.

Gender Dysphoria

As the recent defeat of the trangender birth-certificate bill in the Statehouse suggests, many lawmakers and others have a lot of misconceptions when it comes to gender identity. Have questions about what being transgender means but don’t know who to ask? Vox put together this hand resource.

Unhappy Madison

Around a dozen Native American actors and a cultural advisor ditched the set of Adam Sandler’s new Netflix movie The Ridiculous Six. Actor Loren Anthony told Indian Country Today why:

“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche, One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”

Photo Credit: Hèctor Izquierdo Bartolì, Creative Commons, Flickr.
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The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that, together with the Department of Justice and the State of Colorado, it had reached an air-pollution settlement agreement with Noble Energy that could ring up $70 million in fines and overdue upgrades to its operations in the state.

The news was celebrated as a victory for clean air, but the numbers attached to the deal soon had some industry watchdogs scratching their heads.

The settlement proposal is based on inspections performed in January and February of 2012, which resulted in a complaint that the company’s storage tanks were improperly equipped and that they were emitting ozone-producing gases. Specifically, the vapor control systems on the company’s storage tanks were inadequate and were leaking what are known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs into the air.

As the Denver Post reported, the settlement is sort of a big deal:

The company’s tank batteries were emitting thousands of tons of volatile organic chemicals a year, contributing to the region’s ozone pollution problem, according to an analysis by regulators.

Houston-based Noble agreed to evaluate its 3,400 tank batteries in the Denver-Julesburg Basin and make needed upgrades.

The basin stretches from Denver to the Wyoming border.

Noble produced the equivalent of 21 million barrels of oil and gas in 2014 from the basin. Only The Woodlands, Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum produces more, according to state data.

“It is a precedent-setting settlement because it takes a basinwide approach,” assistant U.S. Attorney General John Cruden said Tuesday. “It is a systemic solution.”

The Justice Department reports that the upgrades and monitoring Noble has agreed to do would cut emissions by more than 2,500 tons a year. But as the Post points out, the industry is letting loose 576 tons of those emissions a day — or 207,560 tons per year.

So, the celebrated settlement would mean emissions could dip by only as much as five days’ worth of the gas the industry releases into the air over the state each year.

Noble notched revenues of $5.1 billion and profits of nearly $1 billion last year. It is the largest oil and gas operator in Colorado.

The fine levied on the company would be $5 million. Colorado’s share would be $1.5 million.

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Comments can be submitted at the Department of Justice website.
Photo of infrared footage of a leaking gas tank via Hy-Bon.com

Q&A: Klingenschmitt’s 72 hours of prayer, fasting and being ‘called of God’ launches state Senate run

“Do they want a representative who’s afraid to talk about principles like pro-life, traditional marriage and religious freedom because he might offend somebody, or would they rather have a candidate who talks about these principles boldly, and yet sometimes gets the words mixed up?” – Gordon Klingenschmitt.

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Colorado Springs Republican Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt’s televangelist alter ego Dr. Chaps has made headlines for blending politics and scripture, most notably suggesting that President Obama is possessed by demons and using the phrase “curse of God” in relationship to the the tragic attack on Michelle Wilkins and her fetus in Longmont. 

Last night at a town hall in eastern Colorado Springs, Rep. Klingenschmitt announced that after three days of fasting and prayer he has decided to run for state Senate in the fall of 2016. The seat he will seek, SD 12, is in one of the most Republican districts in the already-conservative town. Democrats rarely attempt to win it. The seat is currently held by term-limited Senate President Bill Cadman.  

The Colorado Independent caught up with Klingenschmitt at the start of a busy day on the House floor to discuss how he came to his decision and the role religion will play in his political future. 

The Colorado Independent: So you announced last night that you’re going to run for Senate President Cadman’s seat when he term-limits out. I’d love to hear how you came to that decision. What was your process of reflection? What made you decide that this is the right next step? 

Thank you. Making the decision to run for any office is a sacrifice and a commitment, and I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons. I had to self examine. I went on a three-day, water-only fast, day and night for 72 hours, and I prayed. As a chaplain, I try to pray before making any important decision in my life because ultimately I want to do what God wants me to do with my life.

At the end of that time, I was reading in the Bible in Joshua, chapter one, where God blessed Joshua and told him, ‘Everywhere you set your foot you will claim as your territory.’ He was talking about ancient Israel. I was inspired by that.

It reminded me of many of the volunteers who knocked on doors for me in my previous campaign and maybe in my future campaign. Everywhere they set their foot, every time they knocked on a door, whether for me or another candidate, those citizens are taking back their territory. They are making a political claim, and almost a spiritual claim, on how they’re going to be represented in the Capitol here. When I read that part of the Bible, it helped me make up my mind that I want to run to be the state senator from Senate District 12.

So you announced at a town hall with a lot of constituents around you. What was their response? Did you discuss this move with constituents before, or was that announcement the first vetting? 

I’ve been praying about this for a couple of months. I always knew it would be an opportunity, but I wasn’t sure it would be right for me. Then after the recent blowup in the papers about my comments on the Longmont tragedy, I had to make a decision about whether I would run for reelection at all. Because I was concerned. Maybe I shouldn’t be in politics? Maybe I should go back to preaching?

So I sent out a poll question to 70 of my friends and volunteers, almost all in my district. I asked them. Should I: A) Not run for reelection and go back to preaching? B) Run for reelection to House District 15? Or C) Run for a new seat to Senate District 12? I got back 38 responses, so more than half responded. Two people said I shouldn’t run for any seat and go back to preaching. But 36 people said they want me to stay in the Statehouse in some form, and they want me to run for something.

A handful of people said “House;” a handful said “Senate.” But the majority of people – 20 people out of 38 – said, ‘Gordon, we’ll support you no matter what you run for.’ That wasn’t even an option on my survey. They chose option ‘D’ and I didn’t even put that on there, so I thought that was great. Those people inspired me to pray more about my decision, which I did, and I feel called of God to this. I don’t want to do this for ego or for selfish ambition. Those would be bad reasons for anybody to run. I want to do this because the people deserve good representation, and I think it’s a personal calling for me to step up and try to earn their vote.

If you’re elected, will you continue to step aside from your role as Dr. Chaps like we talked about earlier, or will you re-evaluate if you’re in the Senate? 

I will never stop preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Sundays as a chaplain in my television ministry. I’m going to try to do both. But I’ve also got to be more wise in my choice of words. I have to be more humble in the compassion I show people. This whole process is helping me become a better man.

I’m not a perfect candidate. But, I’ve asked the people, and there was almost unanimous support last night at the town hall behind this question: “Do they want a representative who’s afraid to talk about principles like pro-life, traditional marriage and religious freedom because he might offend somebody, or would they rather have a candidate who talks about these principles boldly, and yet sometimes gets the words mixed up?” Most of the people I talked to would rather have someone who tries to stand on principles, and that’s what I pledge to do.

And someone willing to apologize, to go back and forth and have a public conversation? 

Absolutely. When I get it wrong, I’ll try to admit that quickly. But when I get it right and somebody else is offended because I spoke the truth, well, that’s really something inside of them, not inside of me. I will try to defend the Republican platform. Our Second Amendment rights are not up for debate. Our constitutional rights and First Amendment rights are not negotiable.

We all swore an oath to defend the Constitution for everybody. Whether you’re Republican, Independent, or Democratic, I pledge to defend the Constitution for you, and I request that I am afforded those same rights when I’m preaching in my Sunday chapel.

Was part of your decision to look towards the Senate the possibility that you could be in the majority with a better political landscape for some of the bills you carried this year?

I’m glad Republicans hold the Senate. They have had more success in getting Republican bills passed in the Senate this year. But that was not a big factor in my decision, because I’ve already been effective here in the House.

Even though we’re in the minority, I’ve been able to work with Democrats across the aisle. I’ve been able to pass friendly amends to some of their bills. I’ve been able to stop some of their bad ideas from becoming law here in the House. I’ve worked with senators, also, to get my language into their bills.

It’s a privilege to be here whether you’re in the House or Senate, and it’s a privilege to be able to make a difference. I love my job. Every day gets better. I have some bad days, but I really enjoy the process, and I love being in the middle of the debate. I feel like I’m called to do this.

Anything else I should know? 

A copy of the speech that I gave at the town hall event is posted on my website.

 

Rep. Klingenschmitt on the House floor the morning after announcing his Senate bid. Photo by Tessa Cheek. 

Abortion politics flare as fetal homicide bill advances

Previews of coming attractions in first-round Senate debate.

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DENVER — Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee advanced a fetal homicide bill Wednesday night that, for limited use, would write “personhood” language associated with the hardline anti-abortion movement into state law.

The three-to-two party-line vote came at the end of a five-hour hearing charged with abortion politics and cast in the eerie glow of a recent macabre attack in Longmont on a pregnant woman. The attack made national news and spurred Senate President Bill Cadman to introduce his explosive SB 268 with little more than two weeks remaining in this year’s legislative session. (A copy of the bill is downloaded below.)

Debate swung between supporters of the bill outraged that fetuses are not specifically viewed in state law as potential crime victims and opponents of the bill wary that the tragic events in Longmont would be used to unravel a hard-won two-year-old truce in the political war over abortion in Colorado.

Cadman’s bill would define the word “person” to include “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth” in cases of homicide and assault. But the bill also includes exceptions that say that the personhood definition can not be used to criminally prosecute mothers for acts committed against their “unborn children,” medical professionals performing requested procedures or pharmacists dispensing abortion drugs.

Supporters of the bill hold up those exceptions as clearly written, easy to understand evidence that the bill will not undermine reproductive choice.

But, as opponents of the bill point out, there is perhaps no better place in the world for devils to hide than in the folds of language – concerning human reproduction – written to land people in jail.

Murders and Justice

“Coloradans believe a murder was committed in Longmont,” said Berthoud Republican Kevin Lundberg.

He was referring to the death of Aurora, the seven-month-old fetus that reportedly died without ever managing to take a breath after being cut from Michelle Wilkins’s womb on March 18 by Dynel Lane in what reports suggest was a kidnapping plot.

Lundberg, like other supporters of the bill, argued repeatedly that only a murder charge could bring justice.

“But this law defines personhood,” said Amanda Henderson, director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. “It will bring harm and judgment more than support.

“The criminal here was sick,” she said. “She’ll get a hundred years [from a jury]. This kind of crime is not an everyday event, but pregnancies and the complexities around pregnancies, they’re everyday realities.”

“So you don’t think this crime deserves a murder charge?” asked Lundberg.

“I think the charge is a technicality,” said Henderson.

Lane’s alleged attack on Wilkins brought a suite of eight felony charges from Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, including first-degree unlawful termination of a pregnancy, first-degree attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault. Prosecutors also filed two counts of a crime of violence, which act as so-called sentence enhancers. Lane is being held in prison on $2 million bail. Garnett believes prosecutors armed with these charges will have no problem persuading a jury that Lane is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. The maximum sentences the charges amount to tally to more than 100 years. Garnett said he believes the 34-year-old now-infamous assailant will “very likely die in prison.”

Personhood and Trojan Horses

Supporters and opponents at the hearing often seemed to be talking past one another.

As Ellen Roberts, a Republican from Durango and the committee chair, was quick to acknowledge, the pro-choice lobby is on high alert in opposition to the bill. She said she has been bombarded by hundreds of emails and that she understands people are concerned.

Yet she also seemed to let her frustration with some of the emails get the better of her. Her interactions with many of the opposition witnesses bordered on dismissive.

“I have to believe many of the opponents haven’t read the bill,” she said.

Opponents have linked Cadman’s bill to repeat failed attempts in Colorado to pass personhood ballot initiatives that would define life as beginning from conception and that would outlaw abortion, some popular contraceptions, as well as fertilization technologies and research. In recent years, those proposals have been voted down in landslides.

“I have read this bill,” Roberts said. “It’s not the same as the personhood ballot initiatives. Those proposals contained no exceptions. I know, because I was looking for exceptions, and they weren’t there, and so I voted against them.”

Cadman was also on high guard against implications that his bill was a “Trojan horse” meant to sneak the personhood concept into law.

Corrine Rivera-Fowler, director at the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, testified that her organization “really does feel that this bill is another attempt to push personhood. We don’t want to see this bill eventually used to push a political agenda. Personhood laws have extreme unintended consequences.”

Rivera-Fowler was sitting a seat away at the witness table from Cadman. They made odd bookends. She is about five feet-three inches tall. Cadman is well over six-feet tall. He took offense that his motives were being called into question, and the room grew tense.

“You questioned my motives three times,” he said staring at the witness. He held up a copy of a hospital form bearing the footprints of his son as a newborn infant.

“My wife was spring cleaning and we found this,” he said. “This is my political motivation. My political motivation is my son,” he said, his voice rising. He turned and held the paper up to the people in the gallery of the Capitol’s large old Supreme Court chamber. “This is my motivation,” he said pointing at the three-inch-long foot prints. “This is my motivation.”

Crimes and Legislation

The context in which the bill has been introduced includes more than the grisly Longmont crime.

The bill comes after lawmakers in Denver took years of preparation and months of debate to hammer out House Bill 1154, the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act, in 2013, which ratcheted up laws protecting pregnant women and made it possible for Boulder DA Garnett to levy the suite of felony charges against Lane. That bill was carefully crafted not to include a personhood definition or to otherwise set up separate rights for women and fertilized eggs, attached fertilized eggs, and fetuses growing inside of them during pregnancy. (The 2013 act is also available below.)

The bill also comes amid a re-energized years-long national effort to chip away at abortion rights on a practical level through Trojan-horse measures. These include laws that have put in place mandatory extended wait times for women seeking abortion appointments and non-scientific speeches written by lawmakers that must be read out by doctors to patients about pregnancy and abortion before an abortion can be preformed. New laws have required doctors to administer unnecessary ultrasounds internally with a probe before an abortion. Regulations passed in states like Texas have been designed to make it too costly for abortion clinics to remain open.

The result is that abortion is now effectively unavailable to women in wide swaths of the country, especially poor women. And those measures have been written and advanced mainly by the very organizations whose representatives were testifying on behalf of Cadman’s bill. Indeed, as became clear in testimony, Cadman’s bill was written by the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

Witnesses in support of the bill offered assurances that it was in no way an anti-abortion measure.

But the assurances came from, among others, Mike Norton of the Christian-right Alliance Defending Freedom; from former Attorney General John Suthers, a high-profile conservative politician running for mayor of Colorado Springs, home to Focus on Family; and from Ovide Lamontagne, general counsel for Americans United for Life who flew in from Washington for the hearing.

Such assurances, delivered from deep inside the power elite of the anti-abortion movement, will not quell the concerns fueling opposition to the bill.

Homicide and Manslaughter

What’s more, for all the passion among supporters of the bill to see justice done in the Wilkins case, Cadman’s bill would very likely not even apply to the crime committed in Longmont, according to American Civil Liberties Union Public Policy Director Denise Maes.

“This bill does not even address that situation,” she told the committee members, who seemed not to be listening. They nodded and looked at notes but asked her no questions.

But as Maes explained later to The Colorado Independent, Lane had lured Wilkins to her home allegedly to steal the fetus and pass it off as her own. There was no intent to kill. Despite the insistence of Lundberg that a murder had been perpetrated in Longmont and that the crime demanded a homicide charge, in fact the crime committed seems much more clearly to have been manslaughter, said Maes. It was horrible, tragic, criminal, but also unintentional.

In other words, Cadman’s bill may do nothing to bring the kind of justice for women that supporters are demanding. But opponents of the bill say that, if history is any measure, it will surely inspire attorneys paid by organizations like Americans United for Life and the Alliance Defending Freedom to find ways to attack abortion rights.

“Note that the bill’s exceptions only apply in criminal prosecutions,” said Maes. “Why does it make that distinction? The exceptions don’t apply in civil cases. So under this bill there are no protections against a woman being brought up on liability charges — if she fails to leave an abusive husband and the fetus is harmed, say, is she liable?”

On a press call held before the hearing, Lynn Paltrow, director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, cited research she has conducted into the way feticide and anti-abortion laws over the last 40 years have been used less often against violent criminals or drunken drivers and more often against pregnant women.

“If you look at the numbers, she said, it’s women who are being prosecuted. That’s why we see this bill as a bait and switch.”

Supporters of the bill on the committee asked for specific examples and details of cases brought around the country against women and wanted to know how closely the laws in those cases mirrored Cadman’s bill. They received unsatisfying answers from witnesses who said they weren’t lawyers.

Debate and More Debate

The bill is now headed to the the Republican-controlled Senate floor, where Cadman is sure to win the backing of his entire caucus. All but three Republican senators already have signed onto the bill as co-sponsors.

But in the Democratic-controlled House committee hearings next week, debate is sure to be even more fierce. There will be battles over amendments seeking to more explicitly safeguard women and abortion providers from prosecution and to protect wider Colorado law from any possible encroachments of personhood. Witnesses on both sides will surely speak with detail then as to how bills like Cadman’s have been applied around the country and what may or may not be different about this one.

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Photo of former Colorado Attorney General John Suthers testifying on the 2015 fetal homicide bill by John Tomasic.

Homebrew: Dr. Chaps announces bid for Colorado Senate

…and more news fermenting around the state.

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Not Chapped

Just when you thought Dr. Chaps was out of the press, he’s back. This time, the televangelist host of Pray in Jesus’ Name and embroiled Colorado Springs Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt has announced a run for state Senate. Via The Gazette.

And…Action

In the age in which citizens capture murderous police abuse on video almost every few weeks, the Colorado House of Representatives has voted to advance a bill protecting the right to record police actions. The bill, sponsored by Thornton Democrat Joe Salazar, would subject law enforcement to civil penalties if officers destroy or seize recordings. Via The Aurora Sentinel.

The Mountains Tremble

Colorado earthquakes are on the rise in the Gas Patch, writes Bruce Finley of The Denver Post. The remaining question: Who takes the blame?

Gas Blast

Meanwhile, oil-and-gas company Noble Energy settled an air-pollution lawsuit with the state and the federal government and will pay some $70 million in fines and overdue gas-capturing upgrades. Via The Denver Post.

Sunny News

Fort Collins-based Advanced Energy Industries, a solar power company, landed a major deal with San Francisco-based Swinerton Renewable Energy. The Colorado company will supply the California company with inverters — “by far the largest order Advanced Energy has received since starting in 1981,” reports the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Local Warming

Earth Day activists slammed the Colorado Springs Utilities board for everything from global warming to global wars. Via The Gazette.

Three Musketeers

John Hickenlooper, Bill Ritter and Bill Owens, a cabal of Colorado governors, united in defense of standardized testing in public schools and lambasted efforts to allow more kids to opt-out. Via The Grand Junction Sentinel.

Wrong Number

Another tragic news story from Boulder County that reads like a Hollywood movie script: A son allegedly kidnapped his brother and his father in a for-now still-muddled dispute over a car title. He made them drive to a scenic Flat Irons trailhead and held them at gunpoint from the backseat of the car. Police found them and then shot the kidnapper in the backseat. “This would be a first,” said a hiker who came upon the scene during a lunch break from his startup company. “I’ve never seen anything like this.” Via The Daily Camera.

 

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Last summer Alejandro Menocal was about to be released from the Adams County Jail, where he had served time for dodging court fines. But before he could go, there was a hold up — at first for an hour, then for much longer.

Though he is a lawful permanent resident in the United States, Menocal, 52, was born in Mexico. A policy known as “Secure Communities” notifies Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) anytime an immigrant is arrested, regardless of legal status.

ICE officials asked the Adams County Sheriff’s department to notify them when Menocal would be released from jail and to detain him until agents could pick him up. This process is called a “detainer,” and it’s generating heat from Colorado lawmakers, sheriffs and immigration activists alike.

“The sheriff’s offices in so many parts of the state, at the time, coordinated with ICE,” said daughter Alexis Menocal Harrigan. “On the day he was supposed to be released, I must have called three or four times within an hour… if they’d let him go 20 minutes earlier he would have been a free man.”

Instead, Menocal spent three months in the ICE Geo Detention Center in Aurora. On the outside, Menocal’s new partner and younger children who had relied on him financially were having a hard time surviving the summer.

Fortunately, for Menocal, his daughter was well equipped to advocate on his behalf. Menocal Harrigan is the executive director of Intercambio Denver, an organization serving immigrants. She is a mayoral appointee on the Denver Latino Commission. She was an aide to Sen. Michael Bennet.

Menocal Harrigan is not the typical profile of an ICE detainee’s daughter. In fact, she was already working with sheriffs to get local law enforcement to stop honoring ICE detainers

So, when it came to fighting ICE for her dad, she was a contender. Despite being in her third trimester of pregnancy, she began working toward her father’s release.

“I was able to get advocacy and legal representation on my father’s behalf right way,” said Menocal Harrigan. “If someone without those resources goes through this process, I can’t fathom how difficult it would be. Quite frankly, I don’t know how they’d be successful.”

Just a few weeks after Menocal’s detention, under pressure from immigrant rights activists and the American Civil Liberties Union, all of Colorado’s 64 county sheriffs agreed to stop honoring ICE detention requests.

But it was too late for Menocal, who would spend several more months in the Geo facility before immigration attorney Hans Meyer finally secured his client’s release.

“It was devastating,” said Menocal Harrigan. “My dad couldn’t be there for the birth of his first grandchild.”

A change in the law

A lot has changed since last summer.

This legislative session, sheriffs and immigration-activists have co-drafted a bill that would block local law enforcement from honoring ICE detainers because they are not criminal charges.

“ICE issues holds on people for all kinds of reasons and most don’t have to do with probable cause,” said Brendan Greene of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “Mistakes happen all the time. The person who gets on the hook for that, a lot of time, is the local sheriff, who’s held liable for acting on good faith and trying to respect the hold.”

Menocal Harrigan said the statewide bill is an important validation of the work she, the ACLU and other immigration activists have done.

“The reason the bill is so important is that at the county-to-county level there’s a lot of discretion for sheriffs and not a lot of oversight,” she said. “The ACLU doesn’t have the capacity to check every ICE detention.”

For the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, HB 1356 is also a statement on the failures of national immigration reform.

“This is a pushback on federal government,” said Salazar. “We’re telling the federal government to fix their own issues and stop putting everything on the backs of county sheriffs and state government.”

For their part, sheriffs say they’re happy with the bill and for the legal protection it offers them.

“We are supporting it, but in actuality the bill doesn’t require anything different than what all the sheriffs in Colorado have been doing for some time,” said Chris Johnson, the executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado.

Greene agreed that sheriffs have been on the right track, but he added that there’s another perk to passing the bill which goes beyond immigrant rights.

“We’re trying to protect sheriffs from liability and make sure there’s a clearer line between immigration and law enforcement, which will help rebuild community trust,” said Greene.

Immigration activists protest at the Geo Aurora Detention Center in 2009. Photo via AFSC. 

Wiretap: Smart guns could save lives but not without triggering gun-lobby wrath

…and more news racing around the globe.

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Sharp Shooters

Smart guns are ready. Why aren’t we? Maybe because all they’d do is save lives, but that might not be enough for the gun lobby. Via Fortune.

Minimal Efforts

Congressional Democrats may not be ready for a $15 minimum wage, but The New York Times says they’re rallying around a $12 floor. While it will never get through the Republican Congress, it’s an issue the Democrats can’t wait to take to the voters in 2016.

Big Spender

E.J. Dionne says it’s time to sing the praises of Newt Gingrich. And also John Quincy Adams. It’s all about government spending, which Gingrich, not exactly your big-government type, says we must do. He proposes doubling the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

Down the Drain

Heather Digby Parton: Did Scott Walker lose the Koch brothers and, while he was at it, lose the nomination? Don’t be surprised if that’s what happened. All it took was one appearance with Glenn Beck. Via Salon.

Warren Parties

Meet the Elizabeth Warren fans who won’t give up. Hillary Clinton is trying to please the left wing of her party, but will she ever win over these guys? Via The Atlantic.

Real Dirt?

If you’re going to believe “Clinton Cash,” you have to be ready to believe that Hillary Clinton used her time at the State Department to head up a giant shakedown operation. It’s the stuff that works on talk radio, but is that really going to swing an election? Via The Daily Beast.

No Surprises

If you like your GOP presidential rankings done early, you might as well go with the smart guys at Hotline. No surprises, though, which is what happens when you go with the smart guys. So, Jeb No. 1. Walker and Rubio tied for 2.

 

Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis, Creative Commons, Flickr

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“I lay there at 20 years old thinking, ‘OK, this is how I’m going to die,'” said Kimberly Weeks, testifying last week before the Senate Education Committee.

Weeks was a junior at the University of Northern Colorado in 2006 when a man broke into her apartment near campus and sexually assaulted her.

She went to the emergency room after the assault where she was paired with a nurse trained as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).

“The great thing she did for me that day, what really helped in my recovery and healing, was to tell me exactly what she was going to do,” said Weeks of the nurse’s careful 13-step evidence examination.

“Most importantly, she would ask my permission,” said Weeks. “For somebody who just had their entire life violated in a huge way, for someone to ask permission was a huge, huge deal… It made me feel in control.”

The forensic evidence gathered by her nurse was “the nail in the coffin” for her perpetrator, who was convicted of assault, Weeks said.

Her story helped push lawmakers’ to support a bipartisan bill requiring all Colorado colleges and universities to connect student sexual-assault survivors with proper aftercare, ideally provided by nurses certified as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.

The so-called “SANE” legislation passed the Senate with only Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, and Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, voting against it.

Neville also voted against it in committee, saying he was concerned that the bill was an overreach because it applied not just to public but also private institutions. 

“I wasn’t expecting any opposition to this bill at all,” said Weeks. “This is an issue of public safety. That’s exactly why our government exists.”

Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, one of HB 1220’s two Republican sponsors in the Senate, agreed that it’s time for the state government to engage the issue of campus sexual assault. She said the bill will create certainty and consistency for student victims across the state and serve as a crucial bridge between higher-education sexual-assault response and the medical and judicial systems.

Karen Moldovan, Director of Advocacy & Policy at the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, likewise stressed the importance of a collaborative, health-focused response to student sexual assault.

“We know that sex assault is the most under-reported crime in our country,” said Moldovan. “Victims often don’t come forward, and they often don’t get medical care. There can be long-term health impacts of not getting care.”

According to a 1999 study of 102 female survivors of sexual assault, survivors who experience a supportive and compassionate response, regardless of the criminal-justice outcome, have lower rates of post-traumatic stress.

Proper medical care following an assault is also crucial to criminal prosecution, if the survivor chooses to go that route.

“If you want to prosecute a sex crime and you’re a campus victim, you really need forensic evidence,” said attorney Brett Sokolow, who councils some 75 universities nationwide on sexual-assault-response policies.

Soklow added that Colorado appears to be the first state in the nation considering this kind of policy. As state legislatures move to tackle the issue of sexual assault, this SANE bill is only the beginning of what they can do.

States could fund full-time victim-advocate positions at public universities and require schools to develop the same kinds of established relationships with law enforcement that the “SANE” bill would require with medical professionals, Sokolow said.

photo by Wolfram Burner

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Update 2:00 p.m. Wednesday — Colorado Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, a military veteran who represents the state’s 6th District west of Denver, appears to have taken down reelection-campaign Google ads that raised a storm this week among Democrats. They accused him of exploiting concerns about the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs administration to raise campaign money.

The Coffman ads for a “Let’s Hold the VA Accountable” website popped up this week at the top of Google searches of the congressman’s name, as Buzzfeed first reported Tuesday. Under a campaign banner that reads “Mike Coffman for Congress,” the site laments the often-shoddy care the VA has delivered to veterans and the cost-overruns that have plagued construction of a new hospital facility in Coffman’s 6th District.

“Will you stand with me to hold the VA accountable to [sic] its vast mismanagement and disservice to our veterans?” reads the site. It asks readers concerned with the failures of the VA to fill in their contact information and to share the page with friends, both typical fundraising strategies. In the original version of the ad, according to Democratic sources and based on BuzzFeed reporting, clicking on a button that said “Hold the VA Accountable” at the Coffman website previously sent readers to a Coffman campaign donate page with amounts up to $2,600 to select. That link to the donate page had been deactivated on Wednesday.

Coffman served as a Marine in both Iraq wars, and he has been a congressional leader in calling attention to the failings of the Veterans Affairs administration. He was lauded for that work in an October Denver Post op-ed by Amanda Moore that he posted at his website just weeks before winning reelection in his swing district.

“[Coffman’s] peers and coworkers in Washington could take a page from his book. Since the VA scandal became the story of the summer, many politicians have done little more than issue press releases, make a few television appearances, and then use that material in their next fundraising email,” wrote Moore.

“Mike Coffman… has been praised in near-universal, bipartisan fashion for his record of leadership on veteran’s issues,” said Coffman spokesman Tyler Sandberg.

“Of course the left wing flacks over on Maryland Avenue who are pitching this story don’t want Mike to talk about his leadership on the campaign trail,” Sandberg told BuzzFeed.

He also said the Coffman VA page is a list-building petition that simply asks people to get involved on the issue, not a fundraising page. He told The Denver Post that all petition pages set up through Coffman’s campaign account automatically link to fundraising pages.

What traction the Google-ads story has gained may partly be tied to the fact Coffman has tread a line in the past between disapproving of attempts to marry politics and military service and doing just that himself.

In his reelection campaign last year, Coffman sent out material touting his military service. A four-page mailer sent out by his campaign was covered in photos of Coffman in uniform and never mentioned that he had retired from the Marines. It was a clear violation of the Defense Department Directives that govern how soldiers and veterans participate in electoral politics. Indeed, Coffman had two years earlier railed against Army Cpl. Jesse Thorsen, who wore his uniform while speaking at a Ron Paul campaign rally.

Coffman at the time wrote a blistering letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, saying Thorsen’s behavior represented a “grave failure in leadership.”

Sandberg last year dismissed reports on the mailer as “nitpicking and ankle biting.”

“Sleazy attacks don’t work on Mike Coffman, people,” he told BuzzFeed this week. “They just don’t.”

Sandberg didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

A web search from Tuesday:

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And from Wednesday:

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The site and the originally linked campaign donate page, via BuzzFeed:

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Exploding Colorado

The Colorado economy is growing. Some people enjoy the windfall; others are furious about shoddy development. Via The Denver Post.

#uglydenver

One person irritated by the explosion of new buildings in Denver: Bree Davies of Westword. She has taken to social media with a new hashtag, #uglydenver. Attacking wretched architecture popping up all over town, she writes:

“When I drive through Jefferson Park — and the Northside, Capitol Hill, Wash Park, Five Points, DU, etc. — my stomach hurts as I spy these Beetlejuice-esque, triple-stacked modular bourgeois trailers bulging at their property lines like obese titans of neo-Denver. Who wants to live in a neighborhood when your home is one of the behemoths on the block screaming, “I’m the the winner because I am big and expensive!” I know a lot of people in Denver and I have yet to meet anyone who lives in one of these architectural Frankensteins.”

Bitter Agreement

Patterson-UTI Drilling Co. just got slammed with a settlement in the case of Pablo Urenda, a worker who experienced racial slurs and physical threats while manning a rig. The cost to the company: $14.5 million. Via The Grand Junction Sentinel.

Pot of Gold

Lawmakers are debating whether or not to keep TABOR pot money, reports The Gazette. But instead of deciding themselves, they want to take the question to the voters.

Big Business

Jack DeBell started the popular recycling center in Boulder on campus in 1970, on the first Earth Day. The university was the first college campus to create a recycling program. It now runs on a $6 million budget.

Beyond Lemonade

The Boulder City Council approved an ordinance to allow the city’s burgeoning cottage food industry — home gardeners, beekeepers, jam-makers —  to sell their products straight out of their homes. Via The Daily Camera.

Meal Planning

Dan Sharp is a school lunch visionary, reports The Grand Junction Sentinel. He has taken the Mesa Valley School District out of $900,000 of debt and axed the chicken nuggets and fries for healthier options. But his work is not finished yet.

 

 Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beale, Creative Commons, Flickr.