Go Hug a Public Employee Today

My backyard could be declared a “wilderness area.” Would that protect me from doing yardwork?

Governor Bill Ritter talked about the results of his first legislative session yesterday. As Alan Gathright of the Rocky Mountain News reports:

Gov. Bill Ritter said his plan to freeze property tax rates to help public schools faced Republican opposition inside the Capitol, but he’s buoyed by “great support from the business community” outside the Dome.

“What’s, I think, heartening to me is that outside of this building . . . there was bipartisan support for it,” a relaxed Ritter said Monday as he ticked off his first legislative session achievements topped by a host of bills to make Colorado a renewable energy powerhouse.

“The business community really understood this mill levy stabilization,” he added, referring to the school property tax freeze. “They really appreciate, I think, the relationship between higher education and economic development and the impact of going forward without stabilizing the mill levy.”

Ritter has yet to sign Senate Bill 199, along with more than 50 other bills.

SB 199 would shore up a shrinking state education fund by freezing local property tax rates in most school districts, eliminating ongoing tax cuts that otherwise would have taken place under a 1994 school finance law.

Ritter has warned that without his fix, the state education fund would collapse by 2011, forcing Colorado to prop up mandated funding of grade-school programs by draining money from higher education, social services and other critical state programs…

… One thing both Ritter and [House Minority Leader Mike] May agree on: The success of the governor’s bipartisan campaign to throttle Colorado in the fast lane of the renewable-energy economy.

Ritter cited job-producing projects from a giant wind-turbine farm on the eastern plains to the nation’s largest solar-power plant in the San Luis Valley. “The new-energy economy is alive and well” in Colorado, he said.


Colorado’s congressional delegation has reached agreement on a proposal to benefit Rocky Mountain National Park. As Todd Hartman of the Rocky Mountain News explains:

A long-running effort to designate Rocky Mountain National Park as a wilderness area leaped forward Monday when Colorado’s congressional delegation reported it had reached a compromise on the matter.

A statement issued jointly by four members of the delegation – two Republicans and two Democrats – promised all the details at a news conference next Monday at a park campground.

Sen. Ken Salazar and Rep. Mark Udall, both Democrats, and Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, both Republicans, plan to participate.

The quest to make the park a wilderness area dates back three decades, to the Nixon administration. Rep. Mark Udall has carried a bill on the issue every year since 1999. But a variety of hang-ups have prevented the measure from taking effect.

As a national park, Rocky Mountain already has significant protections. Designating it as wilderness would have the primary effect of enshrining its protected status into law, not just Park Service policy, said park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson.

For example, it would keep future administrations from further developing the park, should someone “get the great idea to build a hotel inside the backcountry or another highway across the park,” said Suzanne Jones, regional director of the Wilderness Society.

“It basically locks in the current protections that are there,” said Lawrence Pacheco, spokesman for Udall.


Unlike most everything else in his administration, President George Bush has finally seen some stabilization in his approval ratings. As USA Today reports, Bush’s (dis)approval ratings have leveled out. But they still suck:

Americans by nearly 2-1 disapprove of the job President Bush is doing, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. He scores a net disapproval rating in every area of the survey, including the economy and terrorism.

His lowest ratings – 30% approval, 67% disapproval – were for his handling of the situation in Iraq.
The telephone survey of 1,010 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, shows Bush’s overall standing continuing in the doldrums, at 34% approval, 63% disapproval. The poll’s margin of error is +/-3 percentage points.

However, Bush hasn’t dropped to his lowest ratings ever, as he did in a Newsweek Poll released over the weekend. That survey, taken Wednesday and Thursday, put his approval rating at 28%. Bush hit his previous nadir in the Gallup Poll precisely a year ago, at 31% in a survey taken May 5-7, 2006.


Police in Colorado Springs are apologizing for a conflict in March with war protestors. As Perry Swanson of The Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Colorado Springs police are reviewing policies for handling crowds and civil disobedience after the arrest of seven war protesters, Chief Richard Myers said Monday.

Decisions by the protesters and organizers of a St. Patrick’s Day parade resulted in police being “thrust into the middle” of a dispute, the chief said.

Myers offered the analysis during a meeting of the Colorado Springs City Council, nearly two months after the March 17 event.

“I deeply regret that this incident happened,” Myers said. “It’s not the goal of the police department to be in conflict with any part of this community.”

The arrests sparked angry reaction from activists who oppose the U.S. military action in Iraq, including the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission.

Protesters said police used excessive force to remove them after parade organizers made an on-the-spot call to revoke their permission to participate. St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers argued the protesters’ anti-war message promoted a “social issue” in violation of event rules.

Myers cited decisions from both sides for precipitating a confrontation with police. The protesters misled parade organizers when they submitted a parade entry form that indicated nothing about an antiwar message. Parade organizers, too, could have sought options other than the protesters’ immediate removal, he said.

Still, Myers said his department could have handled the situation better than it did.


Evangelical Christian leaders are pushing for reform on illegal immigration, as The Boston Globe reports:

A new coalition of more than 100 largely evangelical Christian leaders and organizations asked Congress yesterday to pass bills to strengthen border controls but also give illegal immigrants ways to gain legal residency.

The announcement spotlights evangelical leaders’ increasingly visible efforts to push for what they say is a more humane policy in keeping with biblical injunctions to show compassion for others.

The new group, Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, includes members such as the Mennonite Church USA and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which said it represents millions of Latino evangelicals.

It includes individuals such as Dr. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of Northland, a megachurch in Longwood, Fla., and Sammy Mah, president of World Relief, an aid group affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals.

When reached for comment, Focus on the Family czar James “SpongeDob” Dobson remarked, “We need to do everything we can to keep those gay cartoon penguins from breaching our borders.”


And now, for your daily Amendment 41 fix…April Washington of the Rocky Mountain News:

An ethics expert testified Monday that Colorado’s new government gift-ban law goes farther than any in the nation and could have a “chilling effect” on citizens’ rights to meet freely with lawmakers.

Peggy Kerns, director of the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislators, said Amendment 41 is causing elected officials to distance themselves from legitimate sources of information for fear of being perceived as violating the law.

“There is no other state’s gift ban that covers hundreds of thousands of people with such a broad brush,” Kerns said.

The former Colorado lawmaker is the first of nearly a dozen witnesses scheduled to testify during the next two days before Denver District Judge Christine Habas. A group of Coloradans called the First Amendment Council filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to halt the enforcement of Amendment 41.

They say the measure is unconstitutional because it hinders free speech and association. It was filed after voters in November approved Amendment 41, which bans lawmakers from accepting anything from lobbyists.

How, exactly, do you become an “ethics expert?” Are there like a series of tests that you have to pass?


What would anti-government zealot Doug Bruce do with himself if he couldn’t sue somebody? We may never know, but Pam Zubeck of The Colorado Springs Gazette has the latest on Bruce’s latest:

Douglas Bruce is back in court, and his opponent is once again the city of Colorado Springs.

Bruce filed suit Monday against the city and several officials in El Paso County District Court for not allowing his measure onto the November ballot.

Bruce wants to overturn the city’s new stormwater fee, require voter approval to create future enterprise funds and lower the city’s property tax.

City Attorney Patricia Kelly, City Clerk Kathryn Young and Municipal Judge Robert Briggle, sitting as the Title Board, ruled Friday the measure has multiple subjects. State law restricts ballot questions to single topics.

In his lawsuit, the anti-tax activist and El Paso County commissioner accused the city of “trashing” his constitutional right to petition government.

He also called Friday’s hearing at which the Title Board ruled “a pre-arranged sham,” because the panel’s decision was announced prior to Bruce making his argument.

Bruce has sued the city several times over taxes and fees after his Taxpayer Bill of Rights was adopted by voters of the city and state in 1991 and 1992, respectively.

Doug Bruce is no fan of the government, which is why I always found it odd that he ran for county commissioner to begin with.


Governor Ritter has proclaimed this week as “public employee recognition week.” According to a press release:

Gov. Bill Ritter today proclaimed the week of May 7-13 as “Public Employee Recognition Week,” honoring four individuals who exemplify public service paying tribute to employees from city, county and state agencies. Throughout the week, Coloradans are encouraged to express thanks to public employees for the work they do.

“Employees who make our city, county, and state agencies run smoothly deserve our praise and gratitude,” Gov. Ritter said. “I am honored by the dedication of the women and men who protect us, improve our quality of life, are stewards of our natural resources, teach our children in the classroom and care for those who live on the margin.”

The Governor recognized four employees who exemplify the spirit of public employment and symbolize the tens of thousands of dedicated employees who serve Colorado citizens.  The Governor recognized them for excellence in their duties as public employees and also for their outstanding civic participation in their communities.

To read the full press release, click here.

Or click here.

Or you can even click here.

Go out and hug a public employee today, will ya?