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    This is an excerpt from the new book, “The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom,” by Denver journalist and author Helen Thorpe.

Eddie Williams felt a sense of kinship with students who struggled to determine their place in American society. The English Language Acquisition teacher had been born in a tiny border town in southern California. His mother had grown up nearby, in a Spanish-speaking household. Her parents had immigrated from Mexico, and when she was a child, Mr. Williams’s mother had learned English in ELA classes. For her, the experience had been searing. As an adult, she had not taught her children Spanish, for fear they would encounter the sort of virulent prejudice she had experienced in school. When her children were small, she did not even share with them the complete story of her own background, because of the degree of prejudice toward those of Mexican descent. She had married an American, and when her children were small, they believed they were Anglo.

One day, while we were standing on the front steps of South, chatting about his background, Eddie Williams recalled that when his mother had finally revealed her Mexican identity, his sister had cried. In her mind, to be Mexican was to be dirty or unlovable. It was not something she wanted to be. Although he did not say so, I thought perhaps he, too, might have struggled to embrace fully the part of himself that had been treated as inferior by white society. I could see why teaching the beginner level ELA class to newcomer students at South High School might make him feel more whole.

With the advent of spring, as more and more interactions were taking place, I found myself able appreciate in an entirely new fashion how all of the different languages represented in the room converged in ways I had not previously recognized. I glimpsed this convergence one afternoon in the middle of April, when I was sitting with Shani, Jakleen, and Mariam, who had teamed up to work together. They were talking about a book that Mr. Williams had started reading out loud with the class. The book was called Cesar Chavez: Fighting for Farmworkers, and it was a nonfiction graphic novel, told in cartoon strips.

For Mr. Williams, the story of Cesar Chavez held tremendous power. He got a little emotional, trying to explain the significance of this guy his students had never heard of—trying to put into words why Cesar Chavez mattered. At one point, as I was listening to Shani, Jakleen, and Mariam discuss a poster they were making about the book, I found myself wondering how the three girls were managing to communicate. Shani spoke Tajik, Russian, and a little Farsi, while Jakleen and Mariam were Arabic speakers—in other words, they did not share a common language. Yet they seemed to understand one another, and they were not using Google Translate, nor were they speaking in English. How were they interacting? I could hear all three of them saying the word kitab. What was that? “Book!” Shani told me. “My language, their language, same.”

In their home languages, the word for “book” was virtually identical. In Arabic, it was kitab; in Tajik, kitob. In Turkish, it was kitap, Jakleen pointed out, and in Farsi, Shani hastened to add, the word was kitab, just like Arabic. Initially, I thought this kind of convergence existed only in the Middle East, but as I spent more time with students from Africa, I came to realize my mistake. Dilli told me that that in Kunama, the word for “book” was kitaba, and Methusella said in Swahili it was kitabu. That was the moment when I grasped my own arrogance as an English speaker. I mean, the arrogance harbored by someone who knew only European languages, which rendered the well-laced interconnectedness of the rest of the world invisible. I was starting to see it, though—the centuries-old ties that bound Africa and the Middle East, born of hundreds of years of trade and travel and conquest and marriage. Once the students grasped that I would exclaim with delight if they found a word that had moved through many of their countries, they started coming to me to share loanwords and cognates. More than one-third of Swahili comes from Arabic, meaning the links between those two languages are as powerful as those between English and Spanish, but it was also possible to chart the reach of Arabic across the African continent, into Kunama and Tigrinya as well.

Helen Thorpe

As the kids began to discover these commonalities, I began to feel as though I was watching something like the living embodiment of a linguistic tree. The classroom and the relationships forming in it were almost a perfect map of language proximity around the globe. Generally, students chose to communicate most with students whose home languages shared large numbers of cognates with their own, which meant their first friendships often developed along language groupings. As this took place around me, I could see my own position on the world’s tree of languages more clearly. English speakers can easily grasp the vast coterminology of all the Indo-European languages—our own limb of the global language tree—but we are generally deaf and dumb to the equally large influence of Arabic, or Chinese, or Hindi across parts of the globe where English does not dominate. And we cannot hear or see the equally significant coterminology that has resulted among various other language families, such as between the Arabic and the African languages. It was to our detriment, not understanding how tightly interwoven other parts of the world are. When we make enemies in the Middle East, for example, we alienate whole swaths of Africa, too—often without knowing.

Qalb was the word that the students wanted to teach me about most of all. One day over lunch, Shani got very puppylike about this concept, bouncing around in her chair as we were sitting with Rahim, Jakleen, and Mariam. “Qalb! My language, qalb! Arabic, qalb! Farsi, qalb!” Shani announced. Okay, I thought, I get it; they’ve found another cognate. But what was qalb? “Qalb means ‘heart,’” Rahim explained. “This word, it is the same in all our languages.” I tried to get a better sense of this concept, which the students and I discussed over a series of days, first with Rahim and later with Ghasem. Could you say that their English Language Acquisition teacher, Mr. Williams, had a qalb that pumped blood through his body? Yes, Ghasem confirmed. Could you ask, “How much qalb did it take for Mr. Williams to do this, year after year, with such infinite patience, for room after room of newcomers?” Yes, the students agreed. When two people fell in love—was that qalb again? Yes.

I left South High School that day thinking that qalb and heart were one and the same. I used one word to refer to a muscle in my body and the concept of falling in love and the idea of what it takes to raise a family or to teach an entire classroom full of teenagers from all around the world, and the students from the Middle East would use one single word for all of that, too. Qalb and heart seemed identical. Then I looked up qalb on Google Translate one weekend, while the kids were missing me and I was missing the kids. When I asked Google to translate “heart” into Arabic, it gave qalb, as expected. But when I asked Google to translate qalb into English, I got transformation, conscience, core, marrow, pith, pulp, gist, essence, quintessence, topple, alter, flip, tip, overturn, reversal, overthrow, capsize, whimsical, capricious, convert, counterfeit. In addition, the word meant: substance, being, pluck.

I am in love with this word, I thought. What is all this movement about? My own concept of heart did not include flip, capsize, or reverse. Our two cultures did not seem to have the same idea of what was happening at the core of our beings. There was something reified and stolid about my sense of heart, whereas the idea of heart that these kids possessed appeared to have a lighter, more nimble quality. Whatever it was, qalb seemed more fluid and less constrained than anything I had imagined happening inside of me.

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Helen Thorpe on November 14, 2017. Eddie Williams’s classroom at Denver’s South High School (photo provided by Helen Thorpe). Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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If you ever had any questions about why so many women keep silent in the face of sexual harassment or even sexual assault, why some don’t come forward for 40 years and why many never come forward at all, we give the floor to state Rep. Steve Lebsock.

He makes the case so much better than I can.

As you may know, Lebsock, who is also running for state treasurer, was accused by nine women working at the Capitol of sexually harassing them. Once Rep. Faith Winter made her accusation on the record, two other women also came forward publicly.

What may surprise you is that Lebsock, in the face of so many accusations, insists that he is the victim in all this, meaning, of course, that everyone else must be lying.

But if it does surprise you, you may not be a woman. And you’re certainly not Winter, who said this was pretty much what she expected to happen. She knew her motives and credibility would be put in question. She feared retaliation. She feared that her job would become more difficult. Because it was Steve Lebsock. And because she’s seen women facing the same situation so many times before.

And Lebsock has, to this point, successfully lived down to Winter’s expectations. His latest theory is that he has been “caught up” in the #metoo movement, but maybe not in the way you’d ever guess. He means that the movement has arrived in Colorado, and that his accusers must have gotten swept up by it. So, yep, he’s the victim. It’s an interesting, if not remotely credible, defense.

He has also issued the more standard denial. He says he has done nothing wrong, that he never sexually harassed anyone, that he’s being treated unfairly, that he’s being denied due process, that the governor and lieutenant governor have rushed to judgment, that there is some kind of conspiracy against him, that the truth will emerge once he tells his side of the story.

I called him to ask his side. He, uh, didn’t call back.

In Winter’s case, she said Lebsock had harassed her at an end-of-session legislative party in 2016, suggesting several sexual acts they might perform together. Winter said the more she tried to change the subject, the angrier he got,  eventually roughly grabbing her elbow.

“I tied to de-escalate the situation,” she said, “but he kept getting angrier and kept moving closer. I’ve never felt so unsafe, not with another person anyway. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t de-escalate the situation. It’s a skill most women have. You invent imaginary boyfriends. You laugh it off. You change the subject.”

If you’re at a party, you signal a friend to come help get you out of the situation, which is what Winter finally had to do.

But before the Capitol press Tuesday, in a moment weird even by Capitol standards, Lebsock tried to change the subject by tearfully recounting how someone has been harassing him on the phone for his alleged harassment, and by saying “I am fearful for my life.” The caller, who may have his own problems, later told The Denver Post that he was, in fact, harassing Lebsock so he’d understand how harassed women feel. How much more absurd can the situation get?

And so, Lebsock has been accused by at least nine women of harassment. And now he has made matters that much worse — and turned the apparent victims who went public into victims all over again — by challenging their stories. Are you still wondering why more women don’t come forward?

The story broke on Friday when KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reported on the harassment accusations. The reaction from Democrats came swiftly. House Speaker Crisanta Duran stripped Lebsock of his committee chairmanship and suggested he resign (and Duran is now being called out for having appointed him in the first place). John Hickenlooper and many of the candidates running to replace Hickenlooper also called for his resignation.

First, Lebsock denied any guilt. Then he said he didn’t remember saying anything untoward to Winter, but that both of them were drinking. Then he wrote a sort-of apology saying he understood that those who charged him felt injured, and he’s extremely sorry for that, but without saying any of it was his fault. He did say the women should make an official report. And when Winter did so, he told 9News’ Marshall Zelinger that he was glad she had filed because now the truth would come out.

What could Lebsock’s version of the truth be?

“I told the truth,” Winter said. “I have two male colleagues who were there at the bar willing to back me up on the record. I sent him an email describing his behavior at the time. I met with the speaker and the majority leader, who left it up to me as to what to do next. I decided not to take any action because Steve said he was remorseful and that he would get counseling. He made the same agreement with leadership. I don’t know what he could say.”

She didn’t make an official complaint last year because, well, see above. Instead, she spent a year avoiding Lebsock before coming forward when she heard more stories about him. That’s what she’d warned Lebsock she would do. And in the Weinstein era and the Roy Moore era, #metoo has given more women a voice. But it doesn’t come free.

In Winter’s view, those who are blaming Duran for not doing something earlier about Lebsock are missing an important, but complicating, point. Duran — who was told about the incident last year when she was majority leader — was faced with the choice between warning others and respecting Winter’s privacy and wishes. But the question of whether Duran should have appointed Lebsock as committee chair this year is a lot easier. Knowing what she knew, she clearly should not have.

Winter says leadership did what it was supposed to do when she came forward and says now of Duran’s critics, “They’re really blaming me, the survivor, for not filing a complaint earlier. And that’s not what we do.”

Here’s what we can do: When people who know Lebsock and know his reputation and also know his accusers and their reputations say they think Lebsock should resign, we can say #metoo.

Photo illustration by The Independent.

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Republicans are doubling down— again.

As we all know, they haven’t been able to get anything significant through Congress at this point, but now they’re trying to get everything at once — by deciding to whack Obamacare as part of the tax bill. The idea is to dismantle the individual tax mandate — which would boost federal revenues while, um, reduce those covered by health insurance by maybe 13 million people — because that’s what Donald Trump wants. Via The Atlantic.

One more little healthcare-related issue with the tax bill, it could potentially trigger an automatic $25 billion cut in Medicare. Via Vox.

Jeff Sessions told a House committee that he has never lied about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians. He just  can never seem to rememberthem until someone — say, a journalist or a federal investigator — reminds him. Via The New York Times.

The Democratic nomination system wasn’t rigged, writes Ezra Klein in Vox, but it was biased. The strange thing, he concludes, is that the pro-Clinton bias actually helped Bernie Sanders, and those who were hurt — and this will sound really strange — were potential candidates like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and … John Hickenlooper. That’s what he said.

This time, we’re told, it was a neighborhood dispute in a rural Northern California community that set off a shooter, who was known for firing guns, on a killing rampage in which he shot more than a dozen people — apparently at random — and killed at least four. Via The San Francisco Chronicle. 

Frank Bruni: Danica Roem is the country’s only openly transgender lawmaker and what she wants to talk about is traffic on Route 28. And if that’s really, really boring — and it really is — that’s a very good thing. Via The New York Times.

Dana Milbank: If the Trump administration defense on possible collusion with Russia comes down to positing that the entire outfit was way too dumb to organize a conspiracy, Donald Trump Jr. will obviously be the first witness. Via The Washington Post.

Now that Trump is coming home from his mostly uneventful trip to Asia, what’s he going to do about Roy Moore? Mitch McConnell has begged Trump to lean on Moore to quit the race. But Trump also knows that many of his most fervent supporters are also fervent Moore supporters. And then there’s the Trump-accusers problem. Via Politico.

From The National Review: Rich Lowry writes that if the Roy Moore story is a matter of he said, she said, then the she-said contingent is so much more believable.

Then were those years in which Moore was apparently banned from the mall for his habit of badgering teenage girls. At least that’s what the folks in his Alabama hometown say. Via The New Yorker.

Photo by Kumar Jhuremalani, for Flickr: Creative Commons

The Home Front: Longmont coughs up $200,000 for ‘warrantless police dog searches’ at a subsidized apartment

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

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“Longmont on Tuesday announced that it has agreed to pay $210,000 to four tenants of The Suites and their ACLU attorneys as part of a settlement following warrantless police dog searches at the subsidized apartment complex earlier this year,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “The Longmont Department of Public Safety admitted that the four tenants did not consent to the searches of their apartments and were not given the opportunity to refuse the searches. ‘I did not have any opportunity to stop a police officer and K-9 from coming into my home and searching it,’ Suites resident Alice Boatner said in an ACLU news release confirming the settlement. ‘I felt violated, powerless and demeaned. Thanks to this agreement and Chief (Mike) Butler’s actions, I can now begin to heal.'”

“An unruly and largely unregulated due-process hearing for Greeley Muncipal Judge Brandilynn Nieto dragged well into the night Tuesday, as attorneys for Nieto and the city of Greeley sparred over questions, exhibits and allegations of corruption within city government,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “Nieto in August was charged with official misconduct in a case The Tribune later learned centered on her requests that employees work to promote a local bail bonds business on social media. Charges against Nieto were dropped in September, and records related to the case were sealed. The due-process hearing Tuesday was to determine whether Nieto, who has been suspended without pay since Nov. 3, would regain her seat on the bench. The hearing still was in session late Tuesday, and no decision had been made.”

“Colorado’s top Democratic lawmaker is under fire for how she handled a colleague’s sexual harassment complaint against a member of their party and now faces calls for an independent investigation,” reports The Denver Post. “House Speaker Crisanta Duran appointed Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, as chairman of the Local Government Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session despite knowing that the fellow lawmaker made the allegation against him seven months earlier. The accusation became public Friday and was followed by harassment complaints from two other women. The Denver Democrat defended her decision Tuesday but acknowledged that she would not have put him in the position of power ‘knowing what I know today.'”

“State Rep. Steve Lebsock denied Tuesday that he has sexually harassed anyone and said he is the victim of harassment, coercion and bribery by fellow Democrats at the Colorado Capitol,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Lebsock, a candidate for state treasuer, was accused last week by Rep. Faith Winter of making crude remarks to her at an end-of-session gathering at a bar at the end of the 2016 legislative session. KUNC’s Bente Birkland also reported that former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner accuse Lebsock of speaking to them about sex. House Speaker Crisanta Duran began an investigation Monday, but on Friday she called for Lebsock’s resignation and removed him as chairman of the House Local Government Committee. Other Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, since have pressured him to step down as well, said Lebsock.”

“Nov. 3 was a special day for Mesa County resident Christine Haddow and her dog, Nick. Two days earlier, Nick — a mellow and affectionate miniature poodle rescued from a Texas kill shelter — had completed requirements to become a certified therapy dog,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “On Nov. 3., Nick was on his way to his first official assignment with a HopeWest Hospice patient. He never made it. When Haddow stopped to take her 19-pound pup for a walk in Sherwood Park that morning before the assignment, Nick was fatally injured by another dog at the park, an animal Haddow said was completely beyond the control of its owner. ‘The dog that attacked him is a purebred Great Dane,’ Haddow said. ‘He didn’t have a chance.'”

“Linda Maher wanted to meet the man whose mistake nearly took her life,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “She wanted to make sure Tony Gonzalez, whose car collided with hers at the intersection of South Shields Street and West Trilby Road on Nov. 2, 2015, was all right. Maher knew she was in rough shape after suffering severe internal injuries in the wreck and faced a long road to recovery. But as a longtime community volunteer and advocate for mental-health services, she wanted to help Gonzalez deal with the emotional and legal consequences of the crash. That meant meeting Gonzalez and talking about how they might heal their wounds and find ways for something positive to come out of their unfortunate experience.”

“More than 65,000 Coloradans are working in ‘clean energy’ jobs and that is roughly equal to the the state’s workforce in the oil, natural gas and coal industries, Gov. John Hickenlooper told a Pueblo crowd Tuesday night.,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. “The numbers of jobs like those created at Vestas, where the pay is good, those kinds of jobs far outweigh the cost of closing (coal-fired) power plants,” Hickenlooper insisted to a crowd of more than 200 people at the Union Depot. The governor said it was his third town hall meeting in the state and called the Pueblo crowd the largest to meet with him yet. He answered questions for 90 minutes and he was pressed on issues ranging from gun control to extracting natural gas by ‘fracking’ wells.'”

“Before dignitaries had even cut the ribbon on the Front Range Trail on Tuesday, Marty Perkins and Nancy Thomas pedaled by on their bicycles, having made their first trip to Loveland from Fort Collins on two wheels via the first paved trail connecting the two cities,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Thank you very much,” Perkins called out to the gathering. “It’s awesome.” The paved trail connects the existing 19.5-mile Loveland Recreation Trail with the Fort Collins trail system along County Roads 11C and 30 before cutting through fields and neighborhoods and ending at an underpass beneath Carpenter Road near Lemay Avenue. The $1.2 million project was a partnership between Loveland, Fort Collins and Larimer County, which each paid a portion of the cost over $800,000 in grants from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.”

“For the second consecutive year, Vail Resorts has delayed by a week the opening of Vail Mountain,” reports Vail Daily. “The new scheduled opening date is Thursday, Nov. 23 — Thanksgiving Day. Beaver Creek is still expected to open Wednesday, Nov. 22. The delayed opening didn’t particularly surprise Matt Carroll, general manager of the Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead. Carroll said a neighboring shop owner has snow records dating back to Vail’s first year, and those records show a dry fall every three to five years. ‘We’ve seen years like this plenty of times,’ Carroll said. ‘It’s Mother Nature — there’s not a lot you can do about it.'”

“Durango residents are likely to get a larger utility bill next year so that the city of Durango can pay for sewer projects and sustainability efforts,” reports The Durango Herald. “The average monthly utility bill is expected to increase from $108.17 in 2017 to $113.87 to 2018, according to city documents.”

“Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr is back at work,” reports The Cañon City Dail Record. “On Tuesday, the county clerk was present at the Board of Fremont County Commissioners meeting, where business was conducted as usual. Fremont County Commissioner Debbie Bell said Tuesday was Barr’s first official meeting since being absent. Bell said she’s been working as the County Clerk since Oct. 30. Barr was absent from her position for about a month after an announcement from the Fremont County Commissioners and the Cañon City Police Department that Barr and the Fremont County Clerk’s office were under investigation after financial discrepancies recently were discovered.”

“The Boulder Valley school board on Tuesday opened a discussion on class sizes, debating the impact of small classes on student achievement versus the high cost of adding teachers,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “Class size reductions haven’t emerged as a district priority in past years, with administrators saying the district can’t afford small enough class sizes to make a real difference. To reduce the student-to-teacher ratio by just one student districtwide would cost about $5 million. At the elementary level, the student-to-teacher ratio is about 25 to one, though most classes end up higher or lower depending on the number of students enrolled in each grade.”

“Former congressman and gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo didn’t take long to respond to establishment GOP consultant Karl Rove’s tirade on Fox News early Tuesday evening after Rove called Tancredo a ‘disgraced former congressman’ on national television,” reports ColoradoPolitics. “Tancredo fired back in a press release, saying, ‘I don’t take moral advice or criticism from someone who helped the president create a false narrative about Iraq that eventually led to the deaths of thousands of American servicemen and women and created a catastrophic mess in the Middle East.'”

“Denver officials highlighted at least one high-tech option that could help get people around should Amazon decide to plop 50,000 employees in the city as part its new North American headquarters rollout,” reports Denverite. “Two pages on a driverless shuttle were tucked inside documents the Denver Office of Economic Development sent to state highlighting why Amazon.com Inc. should pick the Mile High City, according to records obtained by Denverite. The maker of the EZ10 shuttles, EasyMile, recently opened its own North American headquarters in Denver and said it plans within the next year to start using its autonomous vehicle near Denver International Airport. Denver sent the documents on EZ10 to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. to include in the one proposal Colorado put forth for Amazon HQ2. Because the proposal has been kept from the public, it’s unclear if the regional business organization included the information.”

6 takeaways from 7 GOP candidates for governor in Colorado

All support Trump, would drug test welfare recipients, and will support the eventual nominee

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Over burgers and beer in a historic fort in Weld County’s gas patch Monday night, seven Republicans running for governor largely agreed on issues ranging from random drug testing of welfare recipients to their support for President Donald Trump.

The heavily secured forum marked the first time the GOP’s broad slate of candidates met since Attorney General Cynthia Coffman leapt into an already crowded race on Nov. 8 and high-profile District Attorney George Brauchler ditched the governor’s race to run for AG a few days later. Coffman was out of town and didn’t make the event, which was organized by the Republican Women of Weld and drew about 120 guests.

For two hours, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, retired investment banker Doug Robinson, entrepreneur and one-time lawmaker Victor Mitchell, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter, and Trump’s Denver co-chair Steve Barlock took questions from a moderator.

Tancredo, noting a police checkpoint at the gate, quipped, “Usually I don’t get any bomb threats until I get nominated— that’s when all hell breaks use.” He ripped right into immigration policies, noting the recent news of an MS-13 gang member and murder suspect who was arrested in Fort Morgan County for allegedly stabbing a woman with a screwdriver. “We have cities in this state that provide sanctuary,” Tancredo said. “They are providing sanctuary for people who kill people, who maim people, who rob people.”

Stapleton received the warmest welcome in the room, winning the evening’s straw poll with 42 votes out of 85 cast.

Below are six takeaways from the forum.

Doug Robinson’s ‘Romney nephew’ moment

As a first-time candidate for public office, Robinson of Denver has to introduce himself to the state’s Republican faithful. But he understands if they might already know one thing about him.

“Most of you simply know me — because this is the way the media has covered me — as Mitt Romney’s nephew,” he told the crowd to knowing chuckles. But Robinson used the opportunity to set himself apart from the former Republican presidential nominee in a personal way. “I love and respect my uncle a great deal. I lived a different life than him,” he said. “You see, when I was a teenager my father left our family. My mother, either out of embarrassment or shame, didn’t share the extent of our circumstances with others. So I went to work and I worked my way through college — often put groceries on the table — made a success of myself through my own hard work and my life, and that gave me a profound respect for the underdog, an ability to innovate, to take risks, to take chances.”

They all pledged to support the eventual GOP nominee

Following a scorched-earth GOP presidential primary and a #NeverTrump opposition movement among some Republicans that bubbled up around the 2016 nominee, Monday’s moderator wanted to know whether each candidate would pledge to support whoever wins the June Republican primary in Colorado.

All of them said they would.

Typically that could be a no-brainer, but with Tom Tancredo in the mix, the question could have scrambled things. He has run for governor twice before and even once left the Republican Party to do it. In 2010, he sought the governor’s seat as a member of the American Constitution Party, earning 37 percent of the vote — more than Dan Maes, the Republican candidate that year. In some Republican circles, Tancredo is viewed as a spoiler or a gadfly and establishment Republicans are likely to try to consolidate support around a candidate they think can take him out in the primary, fearing he could be too controversial and too far to the right to win a general election in Colorado.

Some of them think legal weed is causing mental health problems

Here was the exact phrasing of a question to the candidates: “Do you believe that mental health issues have increased while our resources for treatment have deteriorated since the legalization of marijuana?”

The seven Republicans were split.

“Mental health? Yes, it is a manifestation of legalized marijuana,” said Stapleton, who also used the opportunity to tear into Colorado’s system for regulating legal pot, calling it a “broken regulatory environment.” It’s easier for an 18-year-old to get a medical marijuana card in Colorado than it is to get a six-pack of beer, he said. He said Coloradans are taking advantage of “fraud and abuse” surrounding medical cards. “The idea that medical marijuana should be tax-free is completely bogus,” he added. “It’s called a sin tax.”

Tancredo, who supported the Amendment 64 ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, said, “I do not think there is empirical evidence to the extent necessary to make that kind of determination as to exactly how much marijuana is the cause of mental illness — certainly it may play a role.”  

“Logic would lead you to conclude that the answer is yes,” said Lopez. “With the use of marijuana there is some connection, and I can’t tell you specifically what that might be.”

“I suppose the answer to your question is yes,” said Gaiter.

Robinson, who formed SMART Colorado, which calls itself “the only non-profit organization focused on protecting the health, safety, and well-being of Colorado youth as marijuana becomes increasingly available and commercialized,” said as governor he would require a medical marijuana card recipient to obtain one only through his or her existing doctor rather than a “pot doctor.” He did not say whether he thought legalized marijuana is linked to increased mental health issues.

Mitchell used the opportunity to talk about how his oldest daughter, who just graduated college, “almost lost her life five years ago to mental health.” He said, “I think we’re conflating marijuana and mental illness — they’re very different.”

Barlock said because he’s not a doctor or psychiatrist, “I have no idea.”

Two candidates had something to say about cars

Since he announced his latest run for governor, Tancredo has made immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, which isn’t surprising given it’s been his signature issue for years and the reason he briefly ran for president in 2008.

But he has also been hammering on another issue: Cars. He loves them. And he wants you to be able to drive them.

“I’m all for bike paths and hiking lanes and all that stuff,” Tancredo said, his voice rising. “But, hey, roads are the problem. We need more. People want to drive their cars. That’s what we are supposed to do as public servants is respond to that, and you know why? It’s because the state and many cities don’t want you in your car. They want to figure out ways to move you out of your car and onto their bike paths or whatever the hell. No way, no how. I drive a car. I like the car, OK? Roads, roads, roads.”

For his part, Barlock likened Colorado’s future to a car.

“I look at it like a car race,” he says. “Right now we are on an empty tank and bald tires. If we don’t take the time to see what’s wrong and show others what’s going wrong with our state we will crash and burn. We could hurt others on the way. … Take the brake, put some new tires on, fill the tank, make adjustments, and all be able to have an enjoyable life.”

They would all randomly drug test welfare recipients

All seven candidates said Coloradans accepting public assistance should undergo random drug testing.

“If you are on the government dole, absolutely you should subscribe to random drug testing,” said Stapleton.

Barlock wondered about marijuana since it’s legal. “It’s a slippery slope,” he said.

Who voted for Donald Trump?

Out of the seven candidates, only one, Mitchell, said he did not vote for Donald Trump for president, instead casting his ballot for former CIA officer Evan McMullin who ran as a third-party candidate. “I just couldn’t get there with Donald Trump the way he talked about and treated women,” Mitchell said.

Gaiter avoided the question, saying he doesn’t answer it because it is divisive.

All seven said they currently support the president.

Tancredo said, “It was a thousand times easier to vote for Donald Trump than it was to vote for John McCain,” adding that he thinks Trump will turn out to be “one of the greatest presidents.”

Photo by Corey Hutchins
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Sometimes a woman, to defend herself,

or her cubs, will dress up as a bear,

pluck, one by one, the twenty ribs of a man,

and strap them on as claws.

 

This is not a woman to be trifled with,

even if you see the seams in her suit,

even if you fashion yourself a tamer of wild animals,

even if, especially if, you are a snake, a smooth-talker, a bit of a devil.

 

No, do not mess with her,

no matter how shiny your apple.

 

Photo credit: Lisa Parker, Creative Commons, Flickr 

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Tim Lomas was puzzled over the summer when a Denver city inspector quickly closed the complaint he had filed about his neighbor’s dog-grooming business.

“To me, it was like they didn’t even investigate,” said the Platte Park resident. “I wanted to get phone records to see if they at least contacted my neighbor to even discuss the issue. I wanted to know if the city was doing anything at all to investigate the complaint I filed.”

But Denver Community Planning and Development rejected Loma’s request for records showing details (date, time and duration) of calls made by the inspector on her city-issued cellphone on two specific dates in July.

“Though we do have city issued cellphones, CPD does not keep any phone records and I am unable to provide them,” responded Shea Scott, operational supervisor for Community Planning and Development.

The city’s IT governance manager, Tricia Scherer, responded further to Lomas’ attorney, Marc Flink of Baker & Hostetler. Denver’s Technology Services department doesn’t maintain or keep records of “date/time/duration of calls made or received” by inspectors, she wrote in an email. “Technology Services pays certain aggregate mobile telephone services invoices, but they do not contain information or records related to a specific employee.”

The Colorado Open Records Act defines public records to include “all writings made, maintained, or kept” by a government or agency. But are records related to a government-issued cellphone disclosable under CORA if the city has access to them but doesn’t maintain them?

The city can get the records from its cellphone provider. That’s apparent from Denver’s mobile device policy, which requires department heads and managers to annually review every employee’s compliance and his or her “continued necessity” to use a mobile device for city business.

Denver’s contractual right to access the phone records is clear, Flink wrote in an email to Assistant City Attorney Mitch Behr. “Not only does the city have that contractual right, it is a contractual right that the city periodically exercises to obtain such records, such as in the case where the city wants to verify substantial business use of the mobile device.”

Flink also noted that the Colorado Court of Appeals in 1994 held that the disclosure of records under CORA is not determined by the location where the records are maintained. That caseinvolved documents kept by the general contractor responsible for the construction of Coors Field. The documents were public records, the appellate court ruled, because they were used by the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District “in the exercise of its official functions.”

Courts elsewhere also have concluded that possession of documents by a third party doesn’t determine whether they are subject to disclosure as public records. What matters is whether the records can be tied to the “transaction of public business,” not whether the records are in a public database or one “privately contracted” by a public body, a Virginia court ruled in 2008 in a case involving email messages.

“To rule otherwise would permit public records of significance to a consideration of the affairs of governance to be shielded from public scrutiny,” the court said.

Other governments in Colorado have turned over cellphone records in response to CORA requests.

In August, The Greeley Tribune obtained call logs for the county-issued cellphone of Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, who then announced that he wanted residents to contact him via his private phone and email address.

In response to a CORA, Weld County provided Tribune reporter Tyler Silvy with call data similar to what Lomas requested from the city of Denver. Weld County “considered it to be in their possession because they had access to it and it’s their bill,” Silvy said. “It was not an issue for them at all.”

In 2008, Gov. Bill Ritter turned over records from his state-paid Blackberry device in response to a Denver Post request. The Post also requested records tied to Ritter’s personal cellphone, which he used for both personal and government business, but the Colorado Supreme Court decidedthat his personal phone records were not subject to disclosure under CORA.

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition asked Denver Community Planning and Development about Loma’s CORA request and was referred to Behr in the city attorney’s office.

The CFOIC hasn’t been able to reach Behr to discuss the city’s position, but Flink said Behr left a message with him saying the city isn’t inclined to make an exception to its policy about mobile phone records under the circumstances of Loma’s request.

 

This story was originally published by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Nov. 10, 2017. Cover image via CFOIC. 

The Home Front: Why a clean-air advocate is suing Colorado Springs for defaming her character

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

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“A Monument clean-air advocate filed a defamation suit against the city of Colorado Springs on Monday, alleging that city officials and elected leaders smeared her reputation for exposing concerns about pollution from the controversial coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “The action in U.S. District Court in Denver comes six months after Leslie Weise first lodged her allegations in a notice of claim. Her complaint alleges a “nearly yearlong campaign” that “sought to discredit her and ruin her reputation in her community for exposing the fact that the Martin Drake Power Plant was spewing noxious pollution in violation of Environmental Protection Agency regulations in the backyard of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs residents.” Twelve defendants are named, including the city of Colorado Springs. Also being sued are council members Andy Pico, Bill Murray, Tom Strand, Jill Gaebler, Don Knight and Merv Bennett and former council members Helen Collins, Keith King and Larry Bagley. City Attorney Wynetta Massey and Colorado Springs Utilities spokeswoman Amy Trinidad also are named.”

“A Denver attorney for Greeley Municipal Court Judge Brandilynn Nieto called charges against her part of a witch hunt and promised to expose corruption in Greeley’s government — from the mayor to the police chief — during a public hearing at the Greeley City Council meeting tonight,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “Nieto in August was charged with official misconduct in a case The Tribune later learned centered on her requests that employees work to promote a local bail bonds business on social media. Charges against Nieto were dropped in September, and records related to the case were sealed. Nieto was suspended pending a decision from the Greeley City Council about whether she will return to the bench. That decision would have to be public, but discussion beforehand would typically be allowed in an executive session, a type of meeting that’s done outside of the public eye.”

“Mesa County and several other western Colorado local governments owe more than $1 million to Oxy USA Inc. in tax overpayments, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “State law “gives taxpayers the right to seek abatement and refund for erroneously or illegally levied taxes resulting from an overvaluation caused solely by taxpayer mistake,” the high court ruled in the case, which stretches back to the 2011 tax year. The more than $1 million owed by local governments in Mesa County doesn’t include interest payments totaling $14,000 a month. For Mesa County itself, about $400,000 was at issue and interest payments would be about $4,000 a month. Under Colorado law, Oxy could be paid 1 percent in simple interest per month of the total tax at issue.”

“Longmont officially has two new City Council members and a new mayor. On Monday night, Ward 2 Councilwoman Marcia Martin and Councilman at-large Aren Rodriguez took their oaths of office and began the freshman year of the four-year terms they won in last Tuesday’s election,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “Newly elected Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley, center, receives the gavel from former Mayor Dennis Coombs, right, while standing with new Councilman at-large Newly elected Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley, center, receives the gavel from former Mayor Dennis Coombs, right, while standing with new Councilman at-large Aren Rodriguez during Monday’s Longmont City Council meeting inside council chambers. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer) Brian Bagley, who won the election contest for a two-year term in Longmont’s mayoral contest, moved from his Ward 1 seat at the council table to the mayor’s chair after being sworn in. Also taking her oath of office was re-elected Councilwoman at-large Polly Christensen.”

“A clear vote of confidence on Election Day will fund The Ranch events complex until 2040 via sales tax collections that will probably top out around $200 million,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “But with supporters of the sales tax extension still basking in the afterglow of a 17-point victory, the path forward for The Ranch is not so concrete. Larimer County officials adopted a 350-page master plan outlining the potential future for The Ranch weeks before the election. It describes a multitude of possibilities for the facility, from an indoor swim and ice arena and shooting range to the more mundane — though, supporters say still vital — possibilities: better meeting space and expo venues for events.”

“A corner of downtown Loveland will be a little less colorful come spring, after the closure of Gateway Garden Center in December,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Jim DuBois, the fourth-generation owner of one of the oldest businesses in Loveland, said it’s just time to scale back. He made the announcement Saturday on the store’s Facebook page. “I’m 65. I can’t be doing what I’ve been doing. My body’s giving up,” said DuBois, who grew up in the business and took over 45 years ago. The store at the southeast corner of Sixth Street and Garfield Avenue put almost everything on sale Monday — 50 percent off — and will sell whatever is left in an auction Dec. 16, Dubois said.”

“It’s been a while since measurable snow fell on Vail Mountain — Nov. 7, to be precise. But there may be a well-timed storm on the way,” reports Vail Daily. “Most of Colorado’s Western Slope has seen warmer-than-normal temperatures this fall. The region is also a bit more dry than normal. In fact, the U.S. Drought Monitor website lists much of Western Colorado as “abnormally dry,” the first stage on its five-step scale of drought conditions. Still, this fall’s weather isn’t all that far outside the norm.”

“Less than one week after winning their bids for re-election, the Cañon City School Board’s secretary and treasurer were sworn in Monday for their next terms,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “Secretary Mary Kay Evans and Treasurer Shad Johnson, who both ran for their seats unopposed, are set to retain their titles for their four-year terms. At Monday’s meeting, the board also decided to maintain the board’s current leadership, with Larry Oddo serving as president, Lloyd Harwood as vice president and Kristyn Econome as the assistant secretary and treasurer. On Election Day, Evans garnered 5,229 votes and Johnson received 4,901 votes.”

“The founders of Boulder’s Alfalfa’s Market have sold the natural grocer to two Denver-based investors who plan to revamp the Boulder location and expand across the Front Range,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “Mark Retzloff and Barney Feinblum sold their majority shares in the company to Mark Homlish, vice president of property management firm Lincoln Property Company, and William “Tripp” Wall, vice president of wealth management company Alliance Bernstein. Financial terms of the private deal, including price and amount of shares sold, were not disclosed. Founded in 1979 as Pearl Street Market, Alfalfa’s was an early natural and organic grocery. Growth forced it to move to 1651 Broadway in 1983, bringing along a name change. By 1996, it had grown to 11 locations and was acquired by Boulder’s Wild Oats, only to be divested when Whole Foods purchased Wild Oats in 2007.”

“Colorado will be the site of a first-of-its-kind test track for a futuristic transportation system that could one day whisk passengers from downtown Denver to Boulder in eight minutes,” reports The Denver Post. “Arrivo, a Los Angeles startup, will partner with the Colorado Department of Transportation to build the half-mile track alongside the E-470 tollway near Denver International Airport, and open a research and development center in Commerce City. Arrivo is one of a new breed of high-tech companies, including the speedier and better-funded Virgin Hyperloop One, attempting to bypass road congestion with dedicated tracks for faster travel.”

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In August, when the Republican side of the governor’s race was still shaping up and District Attorney George Brauchler was atop of the field, he discounted any notion that he might abandon his run for a different office. 

The particular speculation at the time was that he might run for Congress. If I do that, he told this reporter, you can call me back and tell me I’m “full of shit.”

But in the three months since, three more candidates have joined the GOP side of the governor’s race— including Tom Tancredo, the Godfather of the right-wing grassroots, and also the sitting attorney general, Cynthia Coffman. Suddenly Brauchler was no longer the golden boy of the GOP field.

On Monday, he formally suspended his gubernatorial campaign and announced his decision to run instead for attorney general. 

The news comes days after Coffman took the plunge and launched a bid for governor, leaving the attorney general’s race to five announced Democrats and no Republican in the field.

It might not be Congress, but the decision to change gears still was not easy, Brauchler said. 

Colorado Republican AG Cynthia Coffman jumps in the governor’s race. Here’s what that means.

“I didn’t see this coming,” Brauchler told The Colorado Independent. He thought if Coffman hadn’t jumped in the governor’s race by October she would run for re-election. But following her Nov. 8 announcement, Brauchler’s phone started blowing up with calls from people who thought he should jump into the AG’s race and those who wanted him to stay on course.

On Monday he sent an email to supporters of his gubernatorial campaign.

“If you’re reading this, you have a 1-in-7 chance of running for Governor of Colorado,” he wrote, saying he was waiting for even Santa Claus to get in the already crowded field and one he thinks still might not be settled.

Brauchler, who was seen by Republicans as a formidable contender for governor when he announced his bid in April, had been running a conservative campaign and racked up a string of of Tea Party group straw poll wins along the campaign trail. But his fundraising never caught fire to the extent some Republicans expected. Then Tancredo, running to Brauchler’s right, rolled into the race, and Brauchler acknowledged it complicated his path to victory.

“He also competes for some of the same votes that I’d compete for,” Brauchler said.

The field was large even before Tancredo and Coffman got in. It included Denver investment banker Doug Robinson, entrepreneur and one-time lawmaker Victor Mitchell, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter, Donald Trump’s Denver co-chair Steve Barlock, former Parker mayor Greg Lopez, and San Luis Valley resident Jim Rundberg.

Coffman congratulated Brauchler on his decision.

Not everyone was on board, he says, especially some diehards.

“There were people that were adamant that I should stay in the race,” he said, but for some, it was more passion that pragmatism.

“The attorney general has to be the second-most influential position in state government,” Brauchler said, adding that he’s looking forward to tackling an opioid crisis and deterring human trafficking. He said a Republican attorney general can act as a check against a Democratic governor. He also said he would defend Colorado’s laws against an overreaching federal government. “I say without hesitation I don’t care who’s at the helm of that federal government,” he said. “It could President Obama or President Trump.”

Asked if he would reverse any high-profile Coffman decisions, he said there might be a case-by-case instance, but that he is generally reluctant to dig through old files to try and change the outcome of a previous elected official.

One recent high-profile decision was Coffman’s choice not to prosecute Micheal Baca, a member of the 2016 Electoral College class who made history last December when he tried to cast an official vote for someone other than the winner of Colorado’s popular vote as state law requires during a voting ceremony in Denver. Coffman said she used her discretion not to bring charges “so the individual cannot use our court system as a taxpayer-funded platform to capture more headlines and further flout the law.”

While he wouldn’t second-guess Coffman’s decision because he didn’t have access to all the details of the case, Brauchler said he was disappointed with her explanation.

“I’m not going to let anybody’s attempted use of a courtroom dissuade me from seeking justice if it’s appropriate to do so,” he said. “That is not a factor I consider in whether or not to prosecute someone. It’s ‘Do I have a good-faith basis to believe they committed the crime I’ve charged them with, do I have a reasonable likelihood of success, and is it the right thing to do.’”

With Brauchler out of the Republican primary for governor, Tancredo is the likely benefactor of his vote share. Brauchler and Coffman weren’t “drinking out of the same voter pool,” Brauchler said. While he was in the race he needled Stapleton more than any other candidate.

The day Brauchler announced he was leaving the governor’s race was also the day he and Stapleton were to appear for the first time together in a public forum.

As for the Democrats running for attorney general, they are Denver prosecutor Amy Padden, former University of Colorado Law School dean Phil Weiser, Thornton Rep. Joe Salazar, Boulder prosecutor Michael Dougherty, and Denver attorney Brad Levin.

Out of all of them, Salazar, a supporter of Bernie Sanders and a consistent progressive voice at the state capitol, was the only name Brauchler mentioned when it came to a potential general election matchup.

“If it turns out to be a Joe Salazar nomination on the other side, this could be a really fun general election— I realize it’s just attorney general, I’m just saying— that could be fun,” Brauchler said.

Salazar agreed, chuckling, “This will be the only time you’ll hear me agreeing with George Brauchler.”

Photo courtesy of George Brauchler for Governor 

 

Analysis: What a new report on climate science portends for the West

From wildfires to drought, a look at the warming world.

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The complexity of climate change means it’s hard to trace simple lines from cause to effect in daily life, much less plan for the future. That’s one reason the federal government updates its National Climate Assessment every four years — to provide lawmakers, policymakers and citizens with the information they need to plan everything from urban infrastructure, to insurance programs, to disaster readiness. After the third NCA came out in 2014, the world experienced three of the warmest years on record. In the same time the United States, along with 167 other signatories, agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global temperatures below a dangerous tipping point.

But after last December’s presidential election, the odds of the U.S. willingly contributing to international climate change solutions dwindled. At this year’s United Nations climate conference, the Trump administration — which previously announced plans to withdraw from the international climate agreement — says it will promote fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

All of which makes the fourth NCA seem even more urgent. After all, the U.S. emits more greenhouse gases per person each year than almost every other country in the world. Last week, the government released the first part of its 2018 assessment. Focusing on the science of climate change, the report describes how greenhouse gas emissions are affecting the U.S. already and will continue to do so in future if we continue on the current trajectory.

Here are the takeaways for the West:

The West has warmed by an average of some 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. While the entire nation has warmed in the past century, the West has warmed faster than almost anywhere else. Only the northern Great Plains region has warmed as fast. What’s more, the West is seeing big weather shifts: Both extreme hot and cold temperatures have gotten warmer, and the region has lost about two weeks of cool nights over the past century. Today’s extreme hot temperatures are expected to become average temperatures over the next few decades, so get ready for more broken records in the future. In the Northwest, the warmest day of the year will be about 6 degrees warmer by mid century than it was about a decade ago, for example. Cities in particular are warming more because of the urban heat island effect.

Western wildfires have gotten worse, and will continue to do so, because of increasing temperatures and drought. New ecosystems will grow where wildfires burn. The complicating role of diseases and insect outbreaks in wildfires is not fully understood. But both diseases and insect outbreaks have increased because of climate change, and will continue to do so.

A wildfire burns in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest in 2000.
John McColgan/U.S. Department of Agriculture

Alaska is in trouble. Because of its high latitude, Alaska has its own issues. Its glaciers, snow packs, and sea ice are melting. Its thawing permafrost releases even more of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, and its coastlines are eroding. Its boreal forests and even its tundra are burning. By the end of the century, the state will warm by more than 12 degrees on average.

The West is getting drier, even as rains come harder. Much of the West relies on declining winter precipitation for water. In the Northwest, decreased snow packs have meant lower streams for decades. By the end of the century, snow packs in the southernmost mountains of the West will have virtually disappeared. Less water combined with higher temperatures may lead to more frequent droughts, especially in the Southwest — including chronic, long-term droughts. In places where the amount of precipitation hasn’t changed, the way that precipitation falls is changing. The West is seeing more intense storms and less gentle rainy days, which can still lead to drought conditions. In cities, intense storms overwhelm sewage systems, causing flooding and damage.

Mountains in the West are losing their snow packs due to climate change.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The West Coast is changing in profound ways. The sea is rising, getting warmer and becoming more acidic. Storm waves reach higher, which means more erosion. How much the oceans will rise depends in part on what happens to the Antarctic Ice Sheet: Will it hold, or melt away, raising sea levels still more? A phenomenon called an atmospheric river will cause more flooding along the West Coast, although it’s unknown how much different sections of the coastline will flood.

So what do we do? The report points out what we’ve known for as long as we’ve known about greenhouse gas emissions: We have choices. To that end, each report section shows what would happen if greenhouse gas emissions continued along the current trajectory and what would happen if we reduced our emissions to meet the standards set by the 2015 U.N. Paris Climate Agreement. After all, everything listed here — from wildfires to ocean acidification to drought — is merely a symptom. Many Westerners are leading the way in managing these symptoms to preserve lives and landscapes. But the root causes of these symptoms remain societal and personal choices that lead the average American to burn more than twice as much fossil fuel as the global average. As California Gov. Jerry Brown and others have demonstrated, the West also could lead the way in addressing these root causes.

Brown, along with representatives from states, tribes, higher education institutions, faith organizations and businesses throughout the West and across of the nation will be representing the U.S. at the U.N.’s 23rd International Climate Summit in Germany, through a coalition named We Are Still In. The coalition has a simple message for the world: Americans are already rolling up their sleeves and building climate change solutions, with or without federal leadership.

Maya L. Kapoor is an associate editor for High Country News. Lead photo by Allen Best.

The Home Front: A ‘startling statistic’ about youth suicide in Mesa County, Colorado

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

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“Nearly 60 percent of people who attempted suicide in Mesa County during a roughly six-month period earlier this year were under the age of 30,  that local health officials say affirms the need to educate and intervene with K-12 students,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “The fact that 123 of the 214 suicide attempts recorded in Mesa County were made by people between the ages of 10 and 29 was one of the most stark to come from a Mesa County Public Health study conducted earlier this year. The study tracked local hospitalizations for suicide attempts between April 2 and Sept. 16. The highest number of attempts, 46, occurred in teenagers 15 to 19 years old. The next highest occurrences were in people 20 to 24 years old and 25 to 29 years old. There were 28 attempts in each of those age groups. After that, more children ages 10 to 14 (21) tried to take their own lives than any other age category.”

“Already on pace to be the second- or third-hottest year on record, 2017 also will be remembered for another milestone: the most natural disasters in the United States costing more than $1 billion in the shortest time span,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Fifteen catastrophes resulting in more than $1 billion in federal and private insurance claims hit the U.S. in the first nine months of 2017 – an unprecedented pace, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. If the California wildfires surpass $1 billion, as expected, 2017 would tie 2015’s record of 16 $1 billion disasters. According to some experts, it’s no accident and not entirely natural. “It irritates me to hear all these described as ‘natural’ disasters,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. ‘Yes, hurricanes and wildfires are natural phenomena, but they are made worse by climate change and human actions.'”

“On Thursday, The Cannabist reported that Colorado marijuana sales notched $136 million for the third month in a row in September, bringing total revenues to $1.16 billion over the first nine months of the year,” reports Summit Daily. “Along with the industry’s healthy growth, however, come concerns about stoned driving, which public safety officials worry is prevalent and deemed acceptable by more than half of marijuana users.”

“For the educators and administrators of Greeley-Evans School District 6, the years of work that went into passing a mill levy override to fund the district with more property tax money have given way to more work now that the day they never thought would come is here — the district has its MLO,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “That’s $14 million per year for the next seven years. Now district officials must follow through on their promises with the sorely needed cash. At the district’s jubilant watch party Tuesday night, superintendent Deirdre Pilch said the district’s top priorities are raising support staff salaries so it can pay people such as custodians, bus drivers and kitchen workers competitive wages; funding elementary summer schools; updating high school curriculum and technology; and improving security infrastructure.”

“Doug Phelps wore a suit and tie for pictures,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “His light hair was always neatly cut and combed. Camera flashes bounced off the thick lenses of his black, plastic-rimmed glasses. At Colorado State University, he was the student who asked professors to mail him his final grades — on a postcard — at the end of each semester. He couldn’t wait for report cards. He didn’t drink, either. Not even beer. But in the fall of 1968, in front of 3,000 fellow classmates piled into CSU’s student center grand ballroom, Phelps stood behind a podium, cracked open a Coors and held it to his lips. The moment would go down in CSU history as the famed “drink-in” or ‘beer-in,’ which set changes into motion on a conservative campus that now embraces its town’s exploding beer culture.”

“It’s been some time before anyone in Boulder County has been able to say, ‘There’s a new sheriff in town,'” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “Judging by recent elections, that is just fine with voters. Yet another extension of the term limits for the Boulder County sheriff — this week, voters approved Question 1B, which will allow sheriffs to see a fifth, four-year term — has shown that, when it comes to law enforcement, residents value experience and leadership over turnover. “There are some offices in the county that are not as political and require certification and training and expertise,” said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, who has been the Boulder County sheriff since 2002. ‘If the title were modernized, the sheriff would probably be titled manager of public safety or something like that. We have a responsibility for the jail, alternative sentencing, fires, search and rescue. None of those things should be affected by partisan politics.'”

“As a roboticist, Ryan Smith has monitored algae blooms off the coast of Southern California and mapped the Great Barrier Reef in Australia,” reports The Durango Herald. “Smith uses robots to gather data in dangerous and toxic environments where it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – for humans to explore. That data is then passed along to biologists, marine biologists, ecologists and oceanographers. “Robots are used for the three Ds: dull, dirty and dangerous,” he said. “I focus on dirty or dangerous, such as going underwater or to other places humans can’t go.” Smith is professor of physics and engineering at Fort Lewis College, specializing in control theory and path planning for autonomous underwater vehicles. Autonomous robots are machines capable of performing tasks without explicit human control. Using sensors and side-scan sonar, robots are able to measure water temperature, pH balances and efficiently create three-dimensional images of underwater environments. Smith is the winner of the 2017-18 Fort Lewis College Featured Scholar award for his work to monitor water quality across the region.”

“The first spacecraft in the nation’s next generation of polar-orbiting satellites is set for launch in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, and the mission has strong Boulder ties,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPPS-1, was designed and built by Boulder’s Ball Aerospace, and once it enters polar orbit, it will be known as NOAA-20, feeding National Weather Service models for Boulder’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The first in a series of four planned satellites in the nation’s newest generation of polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system, JPSS-1 had originally been slated for launch on Friday, but was rescheduled to take off on Tuesday to address a battery issue on the lift rocket’s flight termination system. Its launch, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II from Space Launch Complex-2W at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., is set for 2:47 a.m. MST Tuesday. The mission is a joint effort between NOAA and NASA.”

“Denver’s massive, $937 million bond package proved exceptionally popular with Denver voters last week,” reports The Denver Post. “All seven components cleared two-thirds support among the nearly 143,000 voters who turned out, with the transportation package exceeding 75 percent. But when will the roughly 460 projects, from small repaving plans to big new buildings, get started? A celebratory Mayor Michael Hancock said last week that his administration was putting in motion a decade of construction that will touch many parts of the city. First up is a forthcoming request for bids from consultants for a project management contract.”

“U.S. Rep. Jared Polis spoke to a standing-room-only crowd Saturday during a meet-and-greet event at Mugs, sharing why he feels he’s the best candidate for Colorado’s next governor,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “The Boulder Democrat said as governor, he has plans to improve Colorado’s education, environment and economy. “We need bold action at the state level on all of the issues that we as progressives care about to move our state forward, and that’s why I am running for governor,” he said. “I’ve always believed in a bold vision and a real plan to make it happen; that’s what I have always done in my life and what I want to do as governor.” If elected governor, Polis wants to make available free, full-day kindergarten and preschool to every child in the state. “It’s not even a red or blue issue — there are red states that have universal free preschool,” he said. “We need every kid to get the right start here, prevent some of those learning gaps — geographic, economic — from arising by making sure that every kid can get that good start, not just the parents that can afford it.”

“The producers of “Strong Sisters,” a documentary that tells the story of elected women in Colorado, are sponsoring a panel discussion about the same topic at History Colorado,” reports ColoradoPolitics. “Written and produced by Laura Hoeppner and Meg Froelich, “Strong Sisters” is built around interviews with 76 current and former female elected officials, historians, journalists and campaign strategists. The film takes its title from something former state Sen. Ruth Stockton, R-Denver, once said: “The other 90 legislators don’t see my way all the time, but I’m ready to sit down and work it out. When the going gets rough, they know I’m not the weak sister.” The panel discussion is scheduled 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at 1200 Broadway in Denver. Dani Newsom will moderate, following a screening of clips from the documentary. It’s free, but space is limited and advance registration is required here.”

“City planners put in almost $1 million worth of overtime last year while swimming through the tidal wave of Denver development projects coming their way,” reports Denverite. “As of Nov. 3, the Denver Community Planning and Development department already had surpassed the number of permits approved in all of 2016, but the recent addition of 28 staffers could reverse the trend of rising overtime costs, said department spokeswoman Laura Swartz. “Our overtime is projected to be $820,000 by the end of the year this year,” Swartz said. If that pans out, CPD will have cut its overtime spending by 11.7 percent — $108,886 — year over year.”

Two strikes, one hit for The Centrist Project’s test run in Colorado’s local elections

Municipal candidates in Manitou Springs and Lakewood lost, one in Thornton won

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The Centrist Project, a national group that hopes to get unaffiliated candidates elected to the Colorado legislature next year, won a race and lost two during its first test-run attempt to influence three local nonpartisan city elections.

The group backed the incumbent mayor of Manitou Springs, Nicole Nicoletta, who lost by 30 percentage points on Tuesday, and also an unsuccessful candidate for Lakewood City Council, Charles Davis, who lost by nine. But the group dodged a full strikeout when Thornton City Councilman Sam Nizam won his re-election with 39 percent of the vote among two other candidates. All three races were nonpartisan and The Centrist Project backed candidates who are registered as unaffiliated voters.

The Centrist Project chooses independent candidates to support as long as they pledge to seek common ground, follow facts where they lead when voting on legislation, are pro-growth while fiscally and environmentally responsible, and socially tolerant. But the group has said the most important factor is candidates must be viable.

“Unlike sort of fringe third parties, we’re not here to make a lot of noise and just make sure someone gets on the ballot— we’re here to win elections,” Centrist Project director Nick Troiano told The Colorado Independent in June after the group moved its national headquarters to Denver.

Asked about the project’s record in its first test run at the local level, Troiano brushed off the losses. “We’re going to win some and lose some,” he said. “We’re in it for the long term.”

In Manitou Springs, a typically sleepy local election took on the fraught air of a big-ticket battle when The Centrist Project plowed at least $8,000 behind Nicoletta with a series of slick, glossy mail advertisements and phone calls to voters. It was a kind of professionalized outside effort that residents of the tight-knit mountain town of 5,000 weren’t used to on behalf of local candidates. For comparison on the money front, Nicoletta herself says she spent less than $2,000 on her race. Her opponent, attorney Ken Jaray, reported spending about $6,000 through Oct. 12 when he filed his latest report. The Centrist Project’s spending on behalf of Nicoletta leveled the financial playing field significantly— at the time it made up roughly 50 percent of spending in the entire race— though Nicoletta says she did not coordinate with the group. Also, because of state disclosure requirements for so-called small-donor committees, voters won’t know where the money came from to fund the ads beyond that it was spent by The Centrist Project until after the election when the group reports it in January.

While The Centrist Project played a low-key role in Thornton, The Centrist Project’s election engine worked directly with the candidate, which it did not do in Lakewood and Manitou.

In Lakewood, it ran digital ads. In Manitou Springs it ran a different campaign. When three separate professionally produced Nicoletta advertisements hit mailboxes two weeks before the election around the time ballots dropped, with a “paid-for” designation by The Centrist Project Election Fund and a Denver address, the outside group quickly took center stage in the race.

Both the incoming mayor and the outgoing mayor acknowledged The Centrist Project played an outsized role in the election.

“I think it was very divisive,” says Jaray.

“I was surprised that people were upset as they were,” Nicoletta says about those who reacted negatively to the group’s efforts in Manitou. “I was surprised that they didn’t see any value in the messaging that was put out there by The Centrist Project.”

A week before Election Day, a front-page headline in the local Pikes Peak Bulletin read “Outside funding in mayoral race stirs up controversy.” Inside, a guest columnist’s headline read “Keep outside money out of Manitou!” Another entire page was dedicated to The Centrist Project’s influence, penned by a different guest columnist under the headline “Outside interference in our mayoral election.”

The group’s involvement also bubbled up in a public forum, which led Nicoletta to publish a lengthy letter in The Colorado Springs Independent alt-weekly, which endorsed her, responding to questions about her proximity to The Centrist Project. (The weekly paper also re-published a piece about The Centrist Project’s spending in the race by The Colorado Independent.)

Former Manitou Springs City Councilman John Shada, who voted for Jaray, talked about having a contest for the town’s big Halloween bash on the main drag to see who could best dress up as “the man behind the curtain” getting involved in his town’s local nonpartisan election.

“Small communities don’t like outside meddling,” Shada says. He added, “The Centrist Project needs to watch out when they dip their toe into a small but solid community like Manitou Springs.”

Responding to the reaction of his group’s presence in the race, Troiano, who personally knocked on doors for Nicoletta, says The Centrist Project Election Fund ran a positive campaign on the mayor’s behalf. He says early polling the project conducted found her support lower than what she ended up getting on Election Day, so he thinks the group had a positive impact.

He says there is “nothing to hide” and there is no man behind a curtain.

“We did this in a transparent way, this isn’t a dark money group with a different name operating out of a P.O. box,” Troiano says. “We disclosed who we were. I got calls and emails that I answered from people who had questions.”

That may be, but voters in Manitou Springs still don’t know who paid for the ads and have to take Troiano’s word for it when he promises all the money was raised within Colorado.

In a late October interview with The Colorado Independent Troiano also wouldn’t say what other municipal races his group was getting involved in at the time.

He now says that was because the group was still firming up its support and wasn’t ready to discuss it. The Centrist Project Election Fund, a committee set up in October, only disclosed spending money in the Manitou Springs race. But following the election, Troiano confirmed The Centrist Project also helped candidate Nizam in Thornton with strategy, messaging and connecting him to campaign vendors. The Centrist Project also did some targeted digital advertising in the race, Troiano says, but either because of the timing or the amount of money the group spent, “I don’t think it’s publicly disclosed yet.”

For his part, Nizam credits The Centrist Project for helping him as an indy candidate with the basics of running a campaign against others with institutional party support. “You might think a local election is nonpartisan but it’s far away from being that,” he says, noting labor unions and oil-and-gas interests got involved in the race.

As for the local election in Lakewood, in a pair of interviews shortly before and after the election, Troiano didn’t mention that his group was involved. The Centrist Project efforts in that race were mentioned in one line in a post-election story about Nizam’s win in Thornton in ColoradoPolitics.com.  “It was a very, very minor targeted digital spend,” Troiano said of his group’s efforts in Lakewood in a third post-election interview. “We spent a few hundred dollars on digital ads.”

Following The Centrist Project’s 2-1 loss-win record this week, the group is now focused on recruiting unaffiliated candidates and training ones it already has on board to run for seats in the statehouse next year. Their hope is that with a split legislature and slim margin of party control if just a handful of unaffiliated candidates can get elected they could control the balance of power at the statehouse and not be beholden to political parties. And, says Troiano, if The Centrist Project wins just one out of three races at the state level next year, “politics fundamentally changes in Colorado.” 

Their future efforts, though, worries Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Eric Walker who knows elections for the state House and Senate can be sometimes won or lost by just a handful of votes. And while The Centrist Project says it has no plans of running someone for governor, Walker hopes they keep it that way. If immigration firebrand Tom Tancredo winds up as the GOP nominee, he worries a Democratic candidate and an unaffiliated one making reasonable proposals could split the vote.

Says Walker: “That’s how we got LePage in Maine, Trump in the White House, and how we could get Tom Tancredo in Colorado.”

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UPDATE: Since the news broke Friday, Westminster Democratic Rep. Faith Winter said she will file a formal complaint against Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock, which would trigger an official investigation. Meanwhile, The Aurora Sentinel called for Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran, writing, “Accounts by Winter and fellow Democrats made it clear that when Duran, a Denver Democrat and House Majority leader, was elected to the House Speaker position later that year, she was well aware of the Lebsock scandal, and that other women had made similar complaints. Yet, after becoming speaker, Duran appointed Lebsock chairman of the House Local Government Committee. When news of this scandal broke Friday, she revoked his leadership position based on public accounts she’d known about for months.” In a statement, Duarn said, “As Speaker of the House, I will continue to support the right of a victim to decide how they want these personal and sensitive situations to be handled. When I named Rep. Lebsock to the chairmanship, I believed that the situation had been resolved to the satisfaction of Rep. Winter. When these new allegations came to light last week, I took action to address them. I would not have appointed him chair knowing what I know today.”

Responding to the newspaper editorial, Rep. Faith Winter tweeted this:

A national cascade of sexual assault allegations against public figures and fallout from them has reached the Colorado statehouse— and with very different results when it comes to partisan wagon circling.

Today, Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran stripped Thornton Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock from his chairmanship of a local government committee and indicated he should “do the right thing” and resign following a bombshell report by KUNC that cited nine legislators, staffers and lobbyists alleging Lebsock harassed women. Lebsock is also running a statewide race for state treasurer.

From KUNC’s report:

Rep. Faith Winter said Lebsock tried to get her to leave a bar with him in 2016. Both were attending a party to celebrate the end of the legislative session. Lawmakers, lobbyists, staff, the governor and members of the media attended the event a few blocks from the Capitol Building. Winter alleges that Lebsock suggested sexual acts the two could do to make each other happy because it was the end of the legislative session and they deserved to be happy.

Winter is also a Democrat.

“While my formal role in investigating complaints established under Joint Rule 38 prohibits me from making initial judgments about the facts, these numerous allegations would represent a major breach of decorum, and I would expect that Rep. Lebsock would consider the impact of his actions on his colleagues and the public confidence in our institution, and do the right thing and resign,” said Speaker Duran in a statement. “There is no place for those types of actions at the legislature.” A spokesman for Duran said she wouldn’t comment to The Denver Post about why she elevated Lebsock to a committee chairmanship when she knew of allegations against him since 2016.

In a statement to The Denver Post, Lebsock said: “I’m extremely sorry that Rep. Winter has been hurt, but I can also say honestly that I do not remember ever saying anything inappropriate to Rep. Winter (the night of the alleged incident).” He also said: “We should take these accusations seriously … I have done nothing that can be described as criminal.” He said the accusations should go through investigatory channels, and he would “moce forward” with his campaing for state treasurer.

Commenters on social media were quick to point out a difference in which party leadership in Colorado is handling allegations of sexual misconduct appearing in the press versus how Republicans at the national level have responded to allegations that Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, kissed an fondled a 14-year-old, which he denies. Republican leaders, including U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which seeks to get Republicans elected across the country and has cut ties with Moore, have said Moore should drop out of the Senate race “if these allegations are found to be true.”

In Colorado, some Democrats are going straight to “resign.”

Here’s former State Sen. Mike Johnston, who is running for governor:

In a statement, Democratic Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who is also running for governor, said, “These are serious allegations, and this type of behavior— corroborated by multiple people— cannot be tolerated in any workplace, much less from a public official. As such, Rep. Lebsock should resign.”

“Sexual harassment has no place at our State Capitol or any other workplace,” said Boulder Democratic Congressman Jared Polis, another gubernatorial contender.” I fully support Speaker Duran’s call for Rep. Lebsock to resign.”

Here’s Steamboat Springs-area Democratic Rep.e-elect Dylan Roberts:

And here’s former Colorado Senate Democratic staffer David Pourshoushtari:

The state’s largest progressive organization is also angling for his immediate ouster:

Republicans didn’t exactly get a clear pass in the KUNC story, though they went unnamed.

More from the KUNC piece produced by Bente Birkland:

Several female lobbyists said they try to avoid being alone with certain senators and go to offices in pairs or ask a male colleague to talk to them instead. None were willing to be named for this story, saying they feared going public would hurt their work at the legislature. Another said, “It’s a well known fact across the building that people like Rep. Lebsock and a number of Senate Republicans have all behaved in a way that that would never be accepted in any other conventional workplace. It crosses party lines and has been happening for generations.” Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the Senate and the president, Kevin Grantham, said no-one has come forward to him with concerns about alleged sexual or other misconduct by any member of the Senate. “This is obviously something we would take very seriously — any kind of allegations of harassment,” Grantham said.

In earlier comments to KUNC, Lebsock expressed support for the #metoo social media movement, telling a reporter, “The ‘me too’ movement has afforded victims of sexual harassment an opportunity to talk about some of the things that have happened in their lives and I think that’s a good way for people to start the healing process.”

He added, “I think that’s about all I’m willing to say at this point because I’m not sure what you’re referencing at all.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated which public radio outlet broke the story. It was KUNC not CPR.  Duran is House Speaker not majority leader.

Photo by Intiaz Rahim, for Creative Commons on Flickr.
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NOTE: The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact tips@coloradoindependent.com

After 12 years of being a loyal registered member of the Democratic Party in Colorado, and a decade of working as a party functionary in various roles, I am registering as an unaffiliated voter and joining the ranks of the state’s largest voting population.

It is not because of a policy or personality dispute or otherwise, or because under new laws even unaffiliated voters can now participate in party primaries in Colorado.

Instead, it is because a year ago this week, I and two of my fellow electors in Colorado were denied our constitutionally protected right to vote our consciences when casting our official ballots at the state Capitol in Denver. 

Citing state law, Secretary of State Wayne Williams went to extraordinary lengths to bind our votes with virtual handcuffs, regardless of conscience or circumstances. If we were to cast our official ballots during that Dec. 19, 2016 Electoral College vote for anyone other than the winner of Colorado’s popular vote, as state law dictates, we learned we could face charges of felony perjury. The winner of the popular vote in Colorado was Hillary Clinton, a Democrat like me. But as a member of a group who called ourselves the Hamilton Electors, we were trying to deny Donald Trump the presidency by finding an alternative on whom enough Republican national electors could agree.

Related: The plan to stop Trump through the Electoral College explained

Williams’s efforts came despite the federal 10th Circuit Appellate Court’s written warning on the matter. In the court’s order, the Appellate Court stated any attempt by Colorado’s Secretary of State to remove electors “after voting has begun” would be “unlikely in light of the text of the Twelfth Amendment.”

Today, two Colorado electors and I are still involved in a federal lawsuit with hopes that the nation’s highest court will ultimately answer the question about whether presidential electors have the ability to vote their consciences before the next presidential election.

Related: Colorado Sec. of State makes a deal with electoral college members suing him: ‘We just want an answer to the constitutional question’

Back in December, both partisan sides accused us, the dissenting Hamilton Electors and the Secretary of State, of acting for reasons that were partisan. We electors were accused of trying to find a way to get Hillary Clinton elected through some mechanism in the Electoral College when Republicans held an overwhelming advantage—while Williams was accused of hypocritically protecting the popular vote in Colorado with the goal of ensuring Donald Trump was elected without dissent.

Unfortunately, these days it seems all actions by political players— government officials or citizens alike— can be and are viewed solely under the prism of party partisanship. Mostly it means to sling mud at any or all opponents, including democracy movements. It even is used to attack respected and accomplished neutral professionals, like judges, scientists, prosecutors who are practiced in non-partisan activities—including a special counsel who has been a registered Republican and whose special office possesses a staff of esteemed prosecutors and investigators from all sides of the aisle. 

Therefore, I have come to the conscientious decision that as a litigant in our federal lawsuit, as a believer in democracy over partisanship, as a patriot over any political party or ideology, I will be now be registering as an unaffiliated voter, and therefore resigning my official positions within the Democratic Party in Colorado.

This is not a decision I take lightly.

Reactions from some of my fellow party friends and compatriots have not been welcoming. I had volunteered for important party chores, and elected officials and candidates respect my campaign knowledge and abilities. But in my mind the act of voting is far more important than a political initiative or participating in party activities.

To fight for voting equality must be a nonpartisan effort and I see now the only path to resurrecting our nation’s democracy is through the protection of all aspects of voting. 

I am now a nonpartisan voter— unaffiliated and independent.

The Home Front: FLC biz school dean: ‘It makes me happy to know I work at an institute that takes climate change seriously’

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

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“A day after President Donald Trump’s choice for the White House’s top environmental official expressed doubts over the link between human activity and climate change, an event at Fort Lewis College targeted exactly that argument,” reports The Durango Herald. “’I’m not a scientist, but in my personal capacity, I have many questions that remain unanswered by current climate policy,’ Trump’s nominee to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, said Wednesday. The Washington Post reported that Hartnett White told the Senate at her confirmation hearing that, ‘I think we indeed need to have more precise explanations of the human role and the natural role.’ Had Hartnett White attended FLC’s ‘Symposium on Climate Change on Thursday, she may have had some of those questions on climate change answered repeatedly. There, more than 200 people crowded into the Student Union Ballroom to hear from distinguished local and national scientists, whose studies focus on climate change and its impact on the planet. ‘It makes me happy to know I work at an institute that takes climate change seriously,’ said Steven Elias, dean of the FLC School of Business Administration.

“A proposal to convert a longtime restaurant alongside Colo. 66 between Longmont and Lyons to a retail marijuana sales business has stirred opposition from dozens of area residents,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “Boulder County commissioners decided Thursday to schedule a public hearing on the change-of-use application from the owners of the property at 7521 Ute Highway, currently the home of the Praha Restaurant & Bar. However, the commissioners warned that marijuana establishments are one of the uses by right in the business zoning district where the property is located and that they’d be unlikely to violate the county’s Land Use Code by rejecting the proposed change.”

“As daylight saving time draws to a close, this is the most dangerous time of year for both drivers and wildlife,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “November is historically the worst month for collisions with deer, elk and even bears, said Rebecca Ferrell, a spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The time change brings dusk to most drivers’ evening commute, and that’s when those larger animals are most active. Drivers are simply more likely to be on the road at the same time as the wildlife. “They’re used to moving around the dark, and they’re not used to us being around there with them,” Ferrell said. Elk and deer are still in mating season, while bears are on the prowl for food before they hibernate, exacerbating the problem.”

“If the Loveland election campaign finance reports released Friday, Nov. 3, tell one story, it’s that money may talk, but the people don’t necessarily listen,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Downtown business owner Jacki Marsh beat out her high-spending competitor, current council member John Fogle, in the Nov. 7 election mayoral race. Marsh did it for less than half the price of Fogle’s campaign, and without the support Fogle received from an independent funding committee. Marsh took in $11,734 in total campaign funds as of Nov. 3, and spent $11,711 on signage, labor hours for campaign helpers and advertising by telephone and on the internet. Marsh had $23 remaining of her campaign funds.”

“Hayden School Superintendent Christy Sinner confirmed Nov. 9 that the school district has obtained the list of 11 voters who could make a difference in the outcome of Hayden’s deadlocked school bond election,” reports The Steamboat Pilot. “However, it isn’t district officials, but instead, community members, who are contacting those voters to encourage them to make the 46-mile roundtrip to the Routt County Courthouse to clear-up discrepancies with the signatures on their ballots, allowing their votes to count. ‘We are optimistic that (the outcome) will be in the positive,’ Sinner wrote in an email.”

“Some environmentalists say toxic and ozone-contributing pollutants emitted along with methane from a North Fork Valley coal mine should be regulated and are pushing state and federal agencies to do so,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “An inspector for the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division also concluded the West Elk Mine has to comply with requirements applying to emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, but agency managers disagree, at least for now, citing lingering uncertainties surrounding the issue. The conservation group WildEarth Guardians has been pushing the matter, and is now asking for the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety and the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to consider its contention that the mine is violating air pollution rules.”

“A panel of experts are working to spread awareness about the health risks associated with air pollution, focusing on national, state and local scenarios,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. “The group included professionals in the fields of environmental science, economic development and sustainable energy headlined a community forum at Patrick A. Lucero Library on Wednesday night. “We’re here to talk about how air quality impacts our health, particularly around coal plants because of the emissions they produce,” said Vicente Martinez Ortega, community organizer for the Center for Health Progress. ‘And, also, we’re discussing how pollution disproportionately impacts people of color and folks in our community.'”

“Different ideas of property rights dominated a recent discussion about what form Vail’s short-term rental regulations might take,” reports Vail Daily. “The town currently requires only that owners who rent their units obtain town business licenses. But the growth of internet rental services including Airbnb has Vail and other communities looking at ways to regulate the business. During a discussion about the proposed regulations at the Tuesday, Nov. 7, Vail Town Council meeting, town finance director Kathleen Halloran briefed council members about requirements that are likely to be included in an ordinance. Given the time taken to draft the regulations, passing an ordinance to make those regulations the law of the town may take more time than the three council meetings left in this year.”

“Adam Fulford is staring down decades in prison. Nearly eight months after Fulford led law enforcement officers on a massive manhunt across Fort Collins, around Horsetooth Reservoir and into Loveland, Eighth Judicial District Judge Gregory Lammons sentenced the 34-year-old man to 35 years in prison and 24 years of mandatory parole,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “During the evening of March 30, police say Fulford fled from a central Fort Collins apartment complex when they tried to serve an arrest warrant related to a missed court appearance in a felony drug case. He fled on foot before hailing a taxi and directing the taxi driver to evade police, they said. During that time, the taxi driver was shot in the leg — though Fulford’s defense said Thursday both the driver and Fulford said the gun discharged accidentally.”

“Xcel Energy last week announced plans for a 6-megawatt solar array at the IBM campus in Gunbarrel, which, when complete, will be the largest solar project in the city,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “As part of its Solar*Rewards program for large-scale projects, Xcel issued a request for proposals this summer, and 15 different bids were returned. IBM was chosen as the single beneficiary. On 54 acres of the IBM Boulder campus, which were formerly used for farming, a massive solar array will be constructed. It should be finished by late next year, Xcel said. The area around the array will become grazing land for sheep.”

“Dozens of seniors face imminent eviction by the new owners and managers of an Ivywild apartment complex where some tenants have lived for decades – leaving them scrambling to keep from being homeless right after the holidays,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Most – and possibly all – of the Emerald Towers Apartments tenants were told to leave within 60 days while the 1960s-era building underwent “exciting and upscale upgrades,” according to residents, who provided copies of the eviction letters taped to their doors Wednesday. The letter said each resident could apply to return once the renovations at the roughly 70-unit building at 107 W. Cheyenne Road were complete. But it gave no guarantee that the seniors would be accepted back – nor that the complex would still cater to people 55 and older.”