Colorado Editorial Roundup
Posted May 17
The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, May 17, on the state's oil and gas industry:
Gov. John Hickenlooper has until Thursday to appeal a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling that requires state oil and gas regulators to reconsider a petition for rule-making from a group of Boulder teenagers.
The 2013 case was brought by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and other teens who demanded state regulators deny oil and gas drilling permits "unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent third party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado's atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change."
The court ruled the justification the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission used to dismiss the petition was not legal. It ordered the case remanded back to the district court and to the commission, which will need to reconsider the petition for proposed rule-making. The court did not rule on the merits of the petition, simply stating the commission couldn't dismiss it without consideration.
What the students asked for in their petition is beyond unreasonable. If turned into a rule, it would cripple Colorado's oil and gas industry, which seems to be their intent. If we required as much of all other human activities, the state would need to forbid marijuana cultivation and consumption, farming, bicycling and most other forms of transportation. All human activity has a cumulative effect on the environment. One cannot power a city without affecting the environment.
If made into a rule, the teens' petition would jeopardize an industry essential to the welfare of Colorado's economy. It would eliminate high-wage jobs that support Colorado's households and schools. If the demands are met, the commission would appease idealistic teens at the expense of working adults who pay taxes, provide for children and fund our schools.
Fracking has provided oil and gas for more than 40 years and caused no major environmental catastrophes. The EPA's Gold King Mine spill did more environmental harm in one afternoon.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment recently assessed more than 10,000 air quality samples taken near fracking operations. It examined 62 substances of concern for people living or working within 500 feet of fossil fuel production rigs. The scientific assessment found concentrations of toxins surrounding oil and gas wells are lower than standard limits set by the EPA for short- and long-term exposure.
Dangers of modern oil and gas extraction are highly exaggerated.
Hickenlooper understands the importance of energy and the jobs provided by oil and gas production. We trust that he will consult with his best legal advisers and determine a course of action that protects this vital industry.
The Durango Herald, May 16, on suicide awareness:
The presenter at last week's suicide awareness session at Miller Middle School made clear how important it is to speak up when sensing that someone may be contemplating taking his or her own life, and that can be done without any experience or training.
The more direct the questions the better, said Susan Becker of Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. The more direct you are in your questioning the more likely the distressed individual will believe you are sincere in your concern and in your offer to help.
"Encourage the person to keep talking," she said, "and if you have to step away to contact a professional, make the person promise not to harm himself or herself in the meantime." Do appear hopeful, and let the person know you are an ally.
According to Becker, the three points to remember are 1) approach and be observant; 2) ask directly; and 3) agree to stay safe.
She also dispelled the concerns which many might have about being assertive at such a sensitive time: "Communication lowers the risk of suicide, not increases it," she said. "Intervene, but do not feel you then become responsible for any outcome; you are not."
And while the intervener should not be reluctant to bring the subject up for fearing of being responsible, they should have the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number available (800-273-8255).
Becker spoke to about 600 people at the forum arranged by San Juan Basin Public Health Department following numerous suicides in La Plata County in recent months. While the greatest concern has been the number of teenagers who have taken their lives, and Becker's instructions could at least partially apply to them, her list of warning signs and intervention techniques seemed more likely to be appropriate to adults. Becker included the loss of a job, changing personal relationships and economic challenges as some of the causes.
There are differences between suicidal motivations for a teenager and for a 40-year-old and for a 65-year-old.
The community can expect and should take part in more conversations about suicide in the coming months.
Dan Snowberger, Superintendent of Durango School District 9-R, for example, used his column in the Herald (May 13) to state the district's and his concerns about youth suicide, and to offer suggestions as to how to recognize its possible causes. He stressed the value of plenty of communication, as well.
Those who attended last week's meeting are now wiser about suicide, but there is much more to learn.
The Aurora Sentinel, May 16, on Aurora voting not to be a sanctuary city:
It's telling that on the same day that Aurora boasted having landed the state's new El Salvador Consulate — a testament to the city's diverse and global reach — six council members later in the day would sully the victory and the city with a misguided demand that succumbs to fear and panders to xenophobia.
The Aurora City Council embarrassed itself and all of Aurora Monday night by approving 6-4 a useless resolution insisting that Aurora is not a so-called sanctuary city.
At best, it was a forewarned act of ignorance and naiveté. At worst it was a flagrant act of cowardice and pandering to a devolving and hateful group of Americans emboldened by a sympathetic president flailing in Washington.
The resolution states that Aurora complies with federal immigration police and laws, especially U.S.C 1373 in Title 8, which prohibits states and cities from enacting laws that prohibit local officials from communicating with the federal government. It's that law that the Trump Administration is unsuccessfully trying to use against cities such as San Francisco and New York City, which have flagrantly worked to thwart federal immigration agents from forcing local police to act as immigration officers.
Aurora has never done anything like that. But Aurora has made it clear that its police force are not immigration officers. They've done that to protect all of the public. By assuring everyone that Aurora's cops don't ask about citizenship, they ensure that illegal immigrants don't leave the scene of accidents and crimes. They ensure that criminals don't seek out and prey on illegal immigrants, knowing they won't call police. They know that children and women will report abuse to police, knowing that their immigration status isn't an issue, but stopping and punishing their victimizer is a big issue. Legal immigrants know that they don't have to be harassed by police or others in the community who profile them because they are minorities or speak little English or with a foreign accent.
There are myriad good reasons why Aurora and similar communities ensure that its police do not enforce federal immigration laws.
But council members Bob Roth, Francoise Bergan, Brad Pierce, Sally Mounier, Angela Lawson and Renie Peterson talked Monday about being afraid that the Trump administration, which has showed no interest in Aurora's policy on immigration, would turn against our community and try to withhold federal funds, like it has tried to do unsuccessfully with cities like San Francisco.
There were no good reasons to pass this resolution at all, and especially right now.
For those city lawmakers who rationalized their votes based on fear, they fail to realize how chilling their cowardice was in light of what's at stake. This is an administration under attack from the courts for trying to ban Muslims from entering the country. The administration is led by a president who seriously and repeatedly talked about identifying Muslim citizens with a registry. While President Donald Trump is currently is under fire from both parties for trying to thwart an investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian enemies, his administration is also consumed with trying to defend a dangerous release of classified secrets to Russian diplomats.
Trying to pander to his xenophobic and bigoted base by paying attention to illegal immigration is the least of Trump's concerns these days.
This is an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable president who has made clear he has no respect for government institutions and rights that protect and honor American diversity, which is a noted strength and hallmark of Aurora.
While so much of the country suffers deeply from racism and xenophobia, Aurora has long been a shining example of what the American cultural and racial melting pot can be. This city not only attracts like-minded residents, it has capitalized on its welcoming culture by landing commercial interests, which now may be put at risk by this misguided move.
Despite proponents' arguments, this resolution not only undermines what Aurora actually is, it endangers it.
All of Aurora suffers when officials like these six lawmakers cower in fear from Trump and his administration. All of the region suffers when leaders believe they must publicly defend the city's lawful policies against allegations from bigoted social media trolls and disgraced cable TV personalities.
This resolution does nothing to protect the city, federal funds or anyone. What it does is send a clear message that a thin majority of the Aurora City Council is afraid of the Trump Administration, and immigrants should be, too. It sends the chilling effect into the heart of the city's large legal and illegal immigrant community that they can't trust city leaders and police, which is the exact opposite of what Aurora police have worked so hard and so successfully to prevent.
For those council members who naively thought they were doing something right, they can call up this imprudent measure at the next council meeting and overturn it. For those council members who approved this resolution and see it as effective immigration policy, you do not represent the vast Aurora population, nor its police force.
It is unforgivable that Congress has been unable to enact immigration laws and policies to rectify this country's long-standing and complex immigration problems. But it's even more unforgivable that at a time when all of Aurora is seeking assurance from local, state and congressional leaders that they will stand firm against inhumane round-ups, Muslim bans and registries or any other executive orders that legitimize policies of hate or xenophobia, these city council members either caved into fear or pandered to Trump and his cause.
The Denver Post, May 13, on Wins in 2017 Colorado legislature:
The Colorado General Assembly concluded on Wednesday with a few very clear winners who struck important compromises on issues critical to the state: Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City; House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver; and Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Even though some of the top bills to pass in 2017 don't have those three names on them, it speaks volumes for the political leaders that they were willing to switch gears and back bills brought forward by others in their caucuses. That's statesmanship. Grantham, Duran and Hickenlooper should ask their critics what exactly they accomplished in the last 120 days.
First, after years of unsuccessful attempts to reign in lawsuits over faulty construction of multifamily housing, House Bill 1279 will require more than half of the owners in a project to approve litigation before it moves forward.
Second, charter schools will finally get a fair share of voter-approved property tax increases that benefit school district operations over and above state funding, in House Bill 1375.
Third, Senate Bill 267 doesn't raise tax rates but forgoes anticipated taxpayer refunds required under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. The bill provides:
$1.88 billion over 20 years for transportation
$528 million for hospitals raised through the 2009 fee levied on hospital stays used to offset costs of treating low-income and indigent patients
$200 million reduction in the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights spending cap (limiting government spending even more than where voters set it with Referendum C in 2005)
$20 million in tax credits in 2019-20 for Colorado businesses to offset the loathsome business personal property tax
$40 million in increased marijuana taxes by raising the special sales tax to 15 percent in 2017-18
$30 million for rural schools in 2017-18
$20 million for all K-12 schools in 2018-19 and 2019-20
Additionally, it requires every state agency to present a budget next year that proposes an optional 2 percent reduction in funding.
We agree with Rep. Tim Leonard's concerns that so much occurred in a single omnibus bill. It feels like the pork-laden, earmark-riddled legislation Congress (supposedly) used to peddle. For example, a little-reported part of the bill will change how refunds are paid out when the state exceeds its new, lower revenue limit. That change, which counts payments already being made to counties to offset the senior homestead property tax exemption, is almost enough to offset the entire $200 million TABOR cap reduction.
However, Colorado was on the verge of having one of the best economies in the nation and simultaneously having to cut funding for higher education and other critical services. The people to blame for the complexity of this funding measure are those who have over the years pushed voters to approve constitutional amendments mandating spending and austerity through formulas.
Oh, and also sharing in the blame for such a complex bill to solve Colorado's budget problems are the three Republicans in the Senate who defeated a much simpler bill, a bill we preferred that would have simply asked voters whether they wanted to raise the statewide sales tax to fund roads and exempt that new revenue from TABOR.
In the end only Republicans opposed SB 267 — 10 in the Senate and 16 in the House.
The alternative many of those 26 lawmakers supported was asking voters to encumber the state with billions in bonds to pay for roads without a dedicated funding source. That's like taking a mortgage on a house without finding money in the budget to make the monthly payments.
Fortunately, Colorado is known for producing statesmen who put the state above party politics.