Colorado Editorial Roundup
Posted September 13
The Pueblo Chieftain, Sept. 11, on dog attacks on postal carriers:
It was a distinction that, quite frankly, our community could have done without.
A few days ago, we learned that the United States Postal Service's Sunset Station on Pueblo's South Side has reported more dog attacks so far this year than any other station in Colorado or Wyoming. In fact, the ratio of postal carriers to dog attacks there is twice as high as any other office in the two-state region.
It would be easy to make some lame jokes about how dogs biting postal carriers is part of the natural order of things, but this isn't a laughing matter. A Sunset carrier needed nearly a month of extensive medical treatment following one of this year's dog attacks. Some breeds of dogs are powerful enough and dangerous enough to kill people so there's always the risk of an even greater tragedy.
So should postal workers be risking their health and possibly even their lives to deliver your bills and junk mail? Obviously, no.
Mail carriers have the discretion not to make deliveries to properties where they don't feel safe. They should also, if they aren't already, be arming themselves with pepper spray to fend off unwanted canine attention.
Postal workers aren't the only ones in Pueblo living with this problem. Many neighborhoods are plagued by loose dogs that menace people who are out walking, jogging or bicycling.
This is, first and foremost, a matter of personal responsibility. Pet owners are legally required to keep their animals restrained on their property. According to city ordinances, those who fail to do that can face fines of up to $1,000.
In theory, at least. It's probably a safe bet that police aren't giving loose dogs a much higher priority than they do illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Still, people who see dogs running loose can and should report them to Pueblo Animal Services. Dog owners might be more inclined to keep their animals restrained if they knew they might one day have to go through the inconvenience of trying to retrieve their pets from PAS.
There are some pet owners who want to keep their dogs confined within fenced yards to protect their property. There are a couple of solutions for that. One would be to put mailboxes outside of fenced yards. The other would be to invest money in post office boxes.
Neither postal carriers nor anyone else whose work involves walking through neighborhoods should have to worry about dog attacks. Nor should the general public. This is a problem that could be solved relatively easily, if dog owners are willing to do their part.
The (Cortez) Journal, Sept. 11, on deferred repairs at nation's parks and monuments:
Mesa Verde National Park has deferred $65.7 million worth of maintenance, according to figures by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Mesa Verde is just one of 400 park units that account for a total of $11.3 billion in needed repairs.
Hovenweep National Monument needs $255,000, and Yucca House, an isolated archaeological site that has few improvements, needs $125,000.
Inviting the public to visit public lands involves costs that must be met. Unfortunately, they haven't been, and the result is a laundry list of urgent needs. The National Park Service budget has not been adequate for all its needs for many years, and there is no reason to believe that will change, especially with federal disaster-response needs growing daily.
The problem more likely will continue to grow worse year by year, which is poor stewardship of public resources. And just catching up on deferred maintenance doesn't move parks forward; it simply prevents them from falling farther behind.
Inadequate maintenance has a domino effect, though. Eventually conditions become bad enough to discourage visitation, revenue goes down, and recovery becomes nearly impossible without a large infusion of cash.
Public lands advocates have various ideas about where in the federal budget that cash could be found, from the president's golf vacations to various projects that, depending on one's point of view, do not seem necessary. It's relatively easy to identify enough savings for one park; finding enough for all is far more challenging.
Private funding and public-private partnerships offer welcome assistance but are not a universal solution because of the potential for attached strings.
National parks and monuments must, first and foremost, serve their preservation mission and public, and their funding sources must not undermine those goals.
Nor must the Department of the Interior. It's one thing for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to announce that he's not altering the majority of the monuments under his review; it would be another entirely to announce that the Trump administration has committed to eliminating the maintenance backlog and adequately funding the park units going forward.
The experiences to be had in each park have intrinsic value. They are visited and loved by many millions of people every year - 331 million recreational visits in 2016, including 583,000 at Mesa Verde - and regional economies are intertwined with the visitation to national parks. Those are important points to make, because closing a park or monument to save money (or to appease other interests) isn't nearly as uncomplicated as it might sound to a politician or a president who has little familiarity with the National Park Service.
It also would be politically dishonest.
Let's tackle the problem openly and consider the full range of available solutions for taking care of the public's property.
The Denver Post, Sept. 11, on Trump, Congress needing to give hemp farmers a break:
During his surprisingly successful bid for the presidency, Donald Trump famously sought out rural America and American farmers, and for good reasons beyond politics.
For years, farmers in Colorado and other states have struggled against falling prices, global competition and a drain of talent as millennials leave the family business to boomer parents, or sell out and move on. The situation is dire enough that in Colorado special steps are being taken to extend suicide hotline help to farming districts, as Erin Douglas reported in The Denver Post this weekend.
So we couldn't help but notice another Post story on Sunday, from Libby Rainey, that recounts problems some farmers in Colorado and other states are facing; problems perfect for a businessman president with a thirst for curbing government regulation to solve.
Congress legalized hemp cultivation in 2014 for those states, like Colorado, that regulate the crop. But because marijuana remains locked into the most dangerous category of illegal drugs in the eyes of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and because Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, can't abide the weed, hemp farmers join the ranks of state-permitted cannabis entrepreneurs who struggle with wrong-headed federal regulations.
Hemp could be an innovative and attractive crop for young and old farmers to add to the rotation, as some pioneers already are showing. The crop grows well and is attractive to all kinds of buyers. Commercial and industrial applications abound and more are coming online now that so many states — 33 presently — allow its cultivation. Hemp can be used in medications that rely on cannabidiol oil, but it is not psychoactive. With less than 0.3 percent of the THC that gets one high, Sessions has little reason to fear shaggy fields of hemp growing upon on the fruited plains.
Yet hemp farmers, like their peers in the legal medical and recreational industry, are denied bank accounts due to federal rules. They can't get crop insurance either. Even securing some water rights is a headache or impossible, despite a Republican-led effort at the state legislature that awaits federal buy-in.
"Basically, I was encouraging the federal government to get involved," state Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said of the water rights legislation in making the point that the current regulatory framework creates unworkable uncertainty.
We've long supported nationwide legislative changes that would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to take advantage of legitimate financial tools and tax treatment. Hemp farmers represent the easiest category for regulatory relief.
In June, Trump addressed farmers in Iowa, saying, "American farmers and ranchers are the best — absolute best at what they do. And they can compete anywhere if they are given a level playing field."
He was talking about fair trade, of course, and not hemp, but given that dozens of countries allow hemp cultivation, the wisdom's the same.
Trump could fix the problem by directing his administration to knock pot from its ridiculous position as among the most dangerous of controlled substances. Congress could act as well, and we're pleased that so many of our congressional delegation, on both sides of the political spectrum, support needed regulatory reforms.
Lawmakers might move faster if the president stood with the next generation of farmers and led the charge for better opportunities on the ground.
The Coloradoan, Sept. 8, on Trump's decision to end DACA:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Those final lines of "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus are stamped into a bronze plaque displayed at the Statue of Liberty museum in New York Harbor. For more than a century they have stood as our nation's invitation to those fleeing persecution, war, famine, genocide and other ills we as Americans have largely watched play out on distant shores.
Last Tuesday, though, President Donald Trump sent an entirely different message to the most vulnerable population brought to the United States in search of a better life:
Sit down, kid.
The Trump administration last Tuesday announced that it would rescind the Obama-era order that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which currently shields nearly 800,000 young immigrants — including an estimated 17,000 in Colorado — from deportation.
And in typical Trump "ready, fire, aim" approach, the president gave Congress a six-month window to replace or preserve a program that allows children brought into the country as undocumented immigrants to pursue the only life many have ever known.
Not that Congress is blameless here, either. President Barack Obama passed DACA in 2012 as a stopgap to address the U.S. immigration crisis until Congress acted on meaningful immigration reform.
It's 2017. We're still waiting.
But since the nation's registered childhood arrivals find themselves in the crosshairs of our lingering debate on immigration policy, here are a few things to know about the so-called DREAMers, courtesy of information they voluntarily provide to the Department of Homeland Security:
— the average age of a DREAMer is 25.
— 97 percent are employed or in school.
— 91 percent have a job.
— 45 percent attend high school or college.
— 0.05 percent of enrollees violate the act and are deported.
These aren't the "bad hombres" Trump pledged to rid the U.S. of during his presidential campaign.
These are young people raised on American values and American culture, who came here before June 2007. None of them had turned 16 when they entered the country.
They are people like Brithany Gutierrez, a Colorado State University junior who in November told the Coloradoan she feared for her future should Trump make good on his campaign promise to end DACA.
Gutierrez has lived in Northern Colorado for most of her life after her family came with a visa to care for her ailing grandfather. When that visa expired, her family stayed. She was 8 at the time.
For Gutierrez, deportation would be devastating.
"I don't know Mexico," she told the Coloradoan. "I mean, I remember it, but it's changed a lot. I don't know people from Mexico."
This is the problem some members of the Coloradoan Editorial Board have with ending DACA: It does little more than punish a select group of children for the actions of their parents.
The board is split on this issue, for certain. Our nation's patchwork immigration policy is the result of decades of congressional inaction from both sides of the aisle. While we find Trump's approach flawed, we do recognize the need for action.
Members of this board just aren't sold that ending DACA is the right starting point.
For this reason, we urge Colorado's congressional delegation to support legislation to replace DACA only if it provides a clear path to citizenship for the 800,000 DREAMers working to be responsible, productive members of our society.
The Dream Act of 2017, co-sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, would achieve that goal. The bipartisan solution would grant DREAMers a pathway to permanent residence, given they meet certain requirements related to educational attainment, workforce activity and English and U.S. history proficiency.
The deportation of one DREAMer who had no control over being illegally brought to the U.S. would be one deportation too many.
Ending DACA might open job opportunities for documented Americans, should 800,000 potential workers be taken out of the national market. But it will not stop the flow of illegal entry into our country. Nor will it target those who fail to "play by the rules."
It will, however, add grave uncertainty to the lives of 201,000 enrollees who will see their protections expire this year. Another 275,000 enrollments will expire in 2018.
If there is any silver lining to his decision, it's that Trump has pledged that DACA recipients "are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang."
The vast majority of DACA enrollees are none of these things. What they are now is a generation of immigrants selected by the White House to serve as a bludgeon to get Congress to act on immigration. Act now, because it'll be on your conscience if they suffer.
DREAMers have been raised on American values and are pursuing American dreams, but they are not Americans.
Unfortunately, that won't stop our lawmakers from treating them like pawns to be sacrificed in our ongoing immigration stalemate.