Colorado Editorial Roundup
Posted October 4
The Durango Herald, Oct. 4, on local foundations bringing good changes to Asia:
A pair of September fundraisers just reminded us how fortunate we are here in La Plata County. Not just for the high standards of our health, economy and education, but also for our unique opportunities to help others struggling with the basics we so easily take for granted.
Each event was for a nonprofit organization making a big difference in a remote part of Asia. Both foundations are based here in Durango. What's more, both encourage not just financial support from local citizens, but provide opportunities for locals to join in their work.
The Shanta Foundation, founded by Durango residents Tricia and Mike Karpfen, does its work in small villages in Myanmar, improving quality of life by partnering with villagers to build new schools, provide nutritious meals for students, build reliable, clean water sources and offer affordable health care. Shanta is also dedicated to economic development projects, including helping residents found small community banks to spur local business ventures through micro-loans.
All of which, no doubt, sounds familiar to Karma and Jyamu Bhotia, who are working on many of the same projects farther north in their native Himalayan region of Nepal. Starting in their home village of Chyamtang, where they spurred the construction of a new school that now also boasts a lunch program, the couple is spreading the reach and benefits of the Bhotia Foundation to other villages in the region, providing health care and health education, especially to women, and starting small, but connected, village markets in an area where geography and poverty limit opportunities for so many.
The foundations share many aims and goals — and a reliance on donations. But they differ somewhat in other fundraising strategies. Shanta recently announced that it has received five years of funding from the Vibrant Village Foundation, a benefit that will allow them to expand their efforts.
The Bhotias, owners of the Himalayan Kitchen and the Dreams of Tibet store next door, direct a large share of their profits to their foundation. The couple just opened a second Dreams outlet on Main Avenue, across from the Strater Hotel. Half of the profits from this location will support the day care, school lunch and family planning in Chyamtung.
Remaining as a dedicated, effective source for change in turbulent Asia is not easy. The Shanta Foundation is working as always, despite the highly publicized conflict between Myanmar's government and its Muslim Rohingya population, a horrific crisis labeled an ethnic cleansing by the press worldwide — including Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times (Herald, Sept. 14), who is speaking in Durango this week.
The Bhotia Foundation's efforts were complicated in April, 2015, by Nepal's devastating earthquake. Efforts to bring supplies into the country's remote areas, never easy to begin with, were greatly complicated by landslides, broken bridges over river gorges, and the need for emergency housing in villages throughout Nepal.
Despite the challenges, both foundations are in it for the long run, and hope the strong local support continues.
It certainly should. Because, as evidenced in so many photos and videos shown to attendees at both events, there is no doubting the effectiveness of these efforts, or the gratitude of the people on the receiving end.
And as the Karpfens have discovered, and the Bhotias learned years ago, the villagers of La Plata stand to learn and benefit equally in the exchange.
The Colorado Springs Gazette, Oct. 2, on protecting unique artistic treasures in Colorado Springs:
Many cities have a public art program and value sculptures, statues, and other works that enhance a city's atmosphere. Some towns are known for their public art displays. Chicago's iconic Picasso — a 50-foot Cubist sculpture is now a beloved city landmark where children climb and play. Chicago's most popular public art installation is Cloud Gate (also known as "the Bean"), whose stainless steel curves are an unforgettable sight.
Philadelphia has murals beside major roadways in unexpected corners. New York's street art is legendary. A city's community art can define and enhance it. Here in Colorado Springs we have beautiful scenery, and downtown's art and landscaping complement our mountains to the west.
This is why when vandals destroy our city's artwork it is essential we take the destruction seriously and if possible, apprehend the offenders. Last week, security camera footage of a man who vandalized local artist Kim Polomka's downtown sculpture "Greenback Cutthroat Trout" led to an arrest. The $500 sculpture is part of Downtown Ventures' ArtSpot program. The sculpture has been repaired and reinstalled.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time someone decided to deprive us all of an artistic treasure. Since June 2016, about $14,000 worth of damage has been inflicted upon downtown's unique sculptures, the most recent of which was the theft of the miniature metal sculpture of two camels touching noses in Scottie Burgess' "Civic Treasures," part of last year's Art on the Streets exhibit. The kissing camels, symbolizing the renowned rock formation at Garden of the Gods, are still missing. The Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs plans to replace it.
This is unacceptable in a city that supposedly wants to be great. When someone trashes or steals any part of our city, that's an affront to us all. Great cities value their environments and how their city looks.
So if you see an act of destruction of property, public or private, on our city's streets report it. Don't put yourself at risk, but report it. Let's all work to preserve our city's art, buildings and special treasures.
The Denver Post, Oct. 2, on Republican actions to shut down the special session:
Colorado's Republican lawmakers blew off responsibility on the first day of a special legislative session Monday, when three GOP lawmakers cast a spiteful, obstructionist vote to score political points and punish innocent government entities with small but significant erroneous budget cuts.
Clearly, the three Republican senators who cast that very vote Monday, signaling the end to the October special session just as it began, don't have an answer for their scorn-worthy actions.
Without a word of explanation in the first public committee hearing on the issue, Sens. Randy Baumgardner, John Cooke and Ray Scott voted against a bill that would have solved a legislative oversight from last session and allowed several special districts across the state to resume collecting sales taxes on recreational marijuana sales.
Certainly, Republicans were entitled to complain about how Gov. John Hickenlooper failed to consult with many GOP leaders before calling a rare special session. Hickenlooper even provided them with additional fodder, floating an ill-conceived proposal that the special districts hurt by the error pay for the $25,000 a day it would cost to bring lawmakers back early.
But once gathered in the Capitol for the work of the people, none of that background noise justifies blocking the simple-fix legislation.
Given the silence of those who cast votes, we look to Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, for guidance. He told reporters he was concerned about the constitutionality of the fix and of the influence of special interests.
Those "special interests" include groups like the Regional Transportation District, which has understandably been lobbying for a bill that could save the entity an additional $2 million if it were passed this month. Nothing untoward there.
So Grantham must be resting on the principle that this change violates the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, because it's "a tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to any district."
If that's the case, then we look forward to a Republican bill coming in January that takes this issue to voters. While they consider trying that fix, they ought to imagine governing a state during a recession without being able to make upward adjustments — as they have done in the past — to tax policy for any reason, ever, without a statewide election.
Make no mistake — Grantham is choosing to hamstring state government with this strict and silly application of TABOR. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled years ago that lawmakers could adjust tax policy without voter approval if it didn't trigger a TABOR refund, and that has been the practice until Monday's shenanigans.
The Greeley Tribune, Sept. 30, on the ramifications of a local high school's mascot:
It's obvious by now Manual High School dragged Weld Central High School into a fracas it didn't deserve.
But before we chastise Denver Public Schools officials for turning what could have been an anthill into Longs Peak, we have to caution Weld Central parents, students and officials from believing they were victimized: Given their mascot, they should have known this was coming.
Officials at Manual probably picked the worst way to handle a situation where some believed Weld Central displayed a Confederate flag. Manual principal Nick Dawkins wrote a community letter accusing Weld Central of flying the Confederate flag. He also said Manual players were taunted with racial slurs.
Those are serious accusations, especially in a time when racial tensions are higher than they've been in decades. And now, according to both schools, Weld Central didn't display the flag after all.
Perhaps Dawkins could ask for some proof next time before he fires off a letter basically accusing another school of being racist. Proof in this age of smartphones wouldn't be hard to find, as surely someone would snap a picture and probably post it with outrage on Facebook. Dawkins could have waited.
The real harm, of course, is false claims of racism do just as much harm as actions such as displaying the Confederate flag. Who will believe Dawkins next time? Who will believe anyone at Manual? Who will believe any school is capable of displaying a Confederate flag?
Well, on that last point, Weld Central is at fault here, and this little spat distracts us from the bigger issue. Weld Central's mascot is a Rebel. It is made to look like a soldier from the Civil War. It's hard to believe the mascot is anything but a Confederate soldier, given it's supposed to be a Rebel. Union soldiers, after all, weren't rebels.
Therefore, the school's mascot glorifies a solider fighting for slavery. We can't imagine what Denver public school students might think of that. Had Dawkins not been so eager to accuse Weld Central of racism, we'd hardly blame him for thinking Weld Central leaned that way. Why would his claims have any validity at all if Weld Central's mascot was a bobcat?
You're also sending a message to your students when your school is a Rebel. It's possible students did bring a flag to the game or wear a Confederate flag shirt just to support the school.
We'd love for schools such as Manual to call Weld Central for a private chat the next time they think the high school is racist. But we have to ask Weld Central officials why they're taking the chance others might think they were in the first place.