Colorado’s ‘dumpster fire’ politics

Mark Turnauckas


The will-they-won’t-they question about whether two Republicans running (maybe) for U.S. Senate would find their names on the June primary ballot sucked up plenty of the news cycle late last week.

The short version: Candidates Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier didn’t properly follow the petition process when trying to gather the requisite number of signatures it would take to get their names on the ballot, according to the Secretary of State. The candidates disagreed. So they went to court. Blaha called on the Secretary of State to resign because of incompetence. The Secretary of State indicated it was Blaha’s campaign that was incompetent. Another candidate had already sued his way onto the U.S. Senate ballot anyway. For a nationally significant race in a major swing state, the circus-like aspect and political theater of it all was embarrassing.

Then. Leading into a segment about the drama, Denver 9News anchor Kyle Clark put it into perspective with this sober take: “Calling Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senate primary a dumpster fire is an insult to burning dumpsters everywhere.”

Why you might soon hear more local Colorado voices on NPR

Do you listen to National Public Radio? Well, you might be hearing some familiar Colorado voices and stories soon as the station’s Collaborative Reporting Project ramps up, harnessing local member stations around the country to enrich the fabric of its national reporting. One of the folks behind that project is Colorado Public Radio’s vice president, Kelley Griffin. CPR is already taking part in the project. Colorado reporter Megan Verlee, for instance, produced a national report for All Things Considered about the delegate process, since she had on-the-ground experience covering Colorado’s wacky delegate race. Another local CPR reporter, Jenny Brundin, worked with NPR’s national education team for the three-part school financing series “School Money.”

From CPR on the collaboration and what it means:

This collaborative approach among NPR and member stations brings together the talent of the whole public radio system and creates space for stories to develop organically through ongoing conversation among reporters and editors. Regional stories gain national exposure, and national stories gain local perspective.

You can find more about the effort here.

Speaking of that race, a Denver7 reporter broke some big news about forged petition signatures

ABC affiliate Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger has been all over potential fraud in the petition gathering process in the U.S. Senate primary, hunting down voters who signed petitions and asking them if their signatures match those Jon Keyser’s campaign had submitted in order to get on the ballot. Turns out plenty said their signatures had been forged.

From the broadcast:

A few of the voters asked Denver7 what recourse they have for having their signatures forged. They can contact their District Attorney’s Office directly. The DA’s office has direct jurisdiction over these types of complaints.

Dumpster fire indeed.

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

Did Mother’s Day brunch blow a hole in your Sunday news consumption? Good. She deserves it! Well, here’s what newspapers featured on their front pages around Colorado that day in case you missed it.

Under a big headline, “Well that complicates things,” The Longmont Times-Call wrote how a recent Supreme Court ruling striking down local oil-and-gas bans could affect a controversial local oil-and-gas effort. “Another year of no reform” was the print headline in The Loveland Reporter-Herald about a lack of changes to construction defects laws in Colorado. Local municipalities will again have to deal with it themselves. Steamboat Today channeled Shakespeare with “To bee or not to bee” about a “swarm of new beekeepers in Route County.” The Greeley Tribune had a piece about pesticides and farming. “Pot continues to make banks nervous” reported The Pueblo Chieftain. The Boulder Daily Camera reported on some changes for pot shops. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported on questions about open burning in Mesa County. The Colorado Springs Gazette had a Mother’s Day feature about the metaphorical mom for Olympians who train in the city. Vail Daily ran a piece about an annual community cleanup day. With “Ravaged River,” The Fort Collins Coloradoan continued a series about the Poudre River. And in a big feature detailing who the big players in Denver’s legal marijuana businesses are, titled “Heads of Industry,” The Denver Post showed it can be still be clever with pot headlines.

Colorado County to Denver TV station: So sue me

A quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer money goes to three employees who gave permission for a county to disclose the payments. But Adams County had an answer for Denver’s KUSA 9News reporter Anastasiya Bolton when she asked. Here’s the TL;DR version: You want the info? Sue us.

Here’s the actual answer, from Jim Siedlecki, the director of public information for Adams County:

“Employees should know their documents are protected and if they would like to give them up to you, they can, but the county is going to stick with CORA, stick with the law and make sure that we never give up any sensitive documents. There is a legal process in place to resolve those sort of disputes, if you all believe that we’re in violation of the law, a judge can decide that.”

CORA is Colorado’s version of FOIA. And as the station reports, “Adams County says the county and 9NEWS see the law differently. 9NEWS is considering legal action.”

Using the court system to resolve open records requests is a problem in many states. Advocates for open government have been searching for a silver bullet for how to make appealing denials easier. The so-sue-me response from this county is bad, but it could be worse. When a newspaper in Billings, Montana filed an FOI request with the city, its response was a lawsuit. That paper, you should know, ended up winning in court.

The Colorado Statesman wants a managing editor

Last week I wrote about some interesting developments at Colorado’s longest-running political news source, The Colorado Statesman, installing a tea party activist as an executive editor. Now the subscription print and paywalled digital outlet, which describes itself as “like a Politico state-level publication,” is looking for a managing editor. Find the listing here.

The state’s high court says Colorado’s ethics agency can keep secret why it dismisses complaints

In the latest State Integrity Investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, Colorado earned an ‘F’ grade for its ethics enforcement agency, clocking in at 44th in the nation. I researched and wrote that report, so I tend to keep up on potential changes to the ethics panel, which is called the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission. At the beginning of this legislative session, it looked like there might be some appetite for reform. That didn’t happen. So, how about in the courts? Not there either. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the ethics commission can dismiss complaints it deems frivolous and not have to say why. And, as my colleague Marianne Goodland reports for The Colorado Independent, the decision cannot be appealed to any court.

Last thing. Dave Burdick has been on a hiring spree for his Denver news startup

In late March I told you how former Denver Post deputy features editor Dave Burdick is embarking on a new local journalism startup in Denver backed by the founder of Business Insider. A look at his Twitter feed shows he’s been on a hiring spree. The nascent news site has snapped up seven hires, including alums from The Denver Post, Colorado Public Radio, The Fort Collins ColoradoanThe Boulder Daily Camera, and elsewhere.

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[Photo credit:Mark Turnauckas via Creative Commons on Flickr]