Devastating wildfires last year, including the Waldo Canyon Fire, have created a lot of headaches for property owners near federal forest lands, as well as for cities who rely on mountain reservoirs for water supplies.
That's why Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., promoted adding $125 million for emergency watershed protection to the disaster funding bill to support Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
That allocation was contained in the Senate bill, which expired on Tuesday when the House of Representatives adjourned for the year without acting on the bill.
The money now has to be included in the House version if the funding is to be made available, which won't happen until after the new Congress is sworn in later this month.
“In the West, we all know how precious water is — especially right now during the worst drought in years,” Bennet said in a news release. “That is why the Colorado delegation came together in a bipartisan and bicameral way to fight for these valuable resources at the end of the last Congress. The EWP program can help Colorado communities that are recovering from the devastating fires this summer, including damages that threaten water supplies and increase the risk of flooding. The Senate showed bipartisan support for Colorado and other states struck by disaster and I urge the House of Representatives to include these resources as well.”
Colorado Springs Utilities relies heavily on Rampart Range Reservoir, where fire crept to its shortline during the Waldo fire in June and July. Mitigation there will potentially cost millions of dollars in coming years.
In a statement on his website, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., joined Bennet in expressing concern about the House's inaction.
I am concerned that, despite weeks of bipartisan work on this critical disaster legislation, the House has declined to even consider this proposal to fund watershed remediation efforts in Colorado and across the West. Confronting the lasting effects of the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires is the fiscally responsible approach and could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the long term.
If the House does not finish its work, we will need to start over from scratch in the new session of Congress. Even if the House declines to provide this timely assistance, I remain committed to helping the communities whose critical water supplies continue to suffer because of last summer's devastating and record-breaking wildfires. I will work with my colleagues of both parties to ensure the Emergency Watershed Protection Program is not forgotten in the new year.
The EWP money would be used in part to repair watershed damage in El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties, Bennet's press release said.
Other lawmakers who supported the allocation include Reps. Lamborn, Jared Polis, and Cory Gardner.
The EWP program falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Natural Resources and Forestry, a subcommittee Bennet chairs.
Sen. Mark Udall wants more money to fight fires and mitigate afterward. The Democrat from Colorado has teamed up with Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, to introduce an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance that would add $653 million to the agency's budget.
Given the continuing drought, fires in the west, including Colorado, are only going to get worse as time goes by.
Udall already paired with Colorado's other Democratic senator, Michael Bennet, in October to push for a study of the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires in Colorado last summer. Both claimed hundreds of homes. We reported on that letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary, which is dated three days after we raised questions to both senators about whether they would seek some kind of investigation, here.
Now, Udall is seeking additional funding to be used for pre-positioning ground crews, hot shots, and air support in places where wildfire risk is high, Udall and Tester say in a press release, which also states:
The funds also would be available for the acquisition of additional large air tankers and the removal of hazardous fuels in the wildland-urban interface, the fire-prone areas between cities and the backcountry.
The United States faced the third worst wildfire season in the nation's history, with more than 9.2 million acres burned, including record-setting blazes in Colorado and other parts of the West. The federal government, however, will enter the 2013 fire season with only eight large air tankers compared to 44 in 2000.
The federal fire-management budget also has failed to keep pace with the cost of actually fighting wildfires, forcing the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to dip into accounts set aside for other purposes, such as watershed restoration and rangeland management.
Udall and Tester's proposed amendment to the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance restores $653 million to the Forest Service's Wildland Fire Management Account, which funds wildland fire preparedness, suppression, hazardous fuels reduction, fire research and development, and state fire assistance. The amendment would increase the budget request for the Wildland Fire Management fund to the projected median cost of the fire season, $1.584 billion.
Read the entire press release here.
Rep. Pete Lee, from Colorado Springs House District 18, will serve as vice-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in the 2013 session of the Colorado Legislature.
Lee won his re-election bid against Republican Jennifer George earlier this month.
This seems like an obvious choice, considering Lee's biggest success, to date, in the Legislature was the passage of his bill establishing a system for restorative justice.
From the press release:
Speaker-designate Mark Ferrandino appointed Rep. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) today as vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Lee will be the deputy to Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Cherry Hills Village) on the committee, which reviews proposed legislation regarding Colorado’s courts and judges, the state constitution and statutes, the correctional system and prison facilities, juvenile justice and homeland security. The committee has legislative oversight responsibility for the departments of Corrections, Law and Public Safety, the Judicial Department and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security.
“I am passionate about the law and justice, and I look forward to addressing issues of criminal and civil justice and administration of the courts,” Rep. Lee said.
Rep. Lee is beginning his second term in the state House of Representatives. He has an extensive legal background, having worked in the legal department at the Holly Sugar Corporation, a NYSE-listed company headquartered in Colorado Springs, and for the law firm of Hill Corrigan Morgan and Krall before setting up his own law practice.
Rep. Lee graduated from the University of Akron Law School and has a B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University. He also studied business at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Not all evangelicals are alike. Some of them aren't even white.
From his recent article:
Just as the 2012 electoral results finally revealed the demographic transformation of America — which has been occurring for quite some time — it also dramatically demonstrated how the meaning of the word “evangelical” is being transformed.
Evangelical can no longer be accurately used to mean “white evangelical.”
Wallis, who is white and is sometimes seen as a progressive Christian (and sometimes not), goes on to use statistics to set up his point, which is that evangelicals and Christians broke along partisan lines based largely on race:
Of the 71 percent (Pew, CNN) of America’s Hispanics who voted for President Barack Obama, the vast majority are either Catholic or Evangelical/Pentecostal. Obama lost the white Catholic vote, but he won “the Catholic vote” because of Hispanic Catholics. Similarly, Obama lost the white evangelical vote, but he won the majority of Hispanics who call themselves Evangelical or Pentecostal. Likewise, Obama won 93 percent of the African American vote, the majority of whom are members of black churches whose theology is quite evangelical. And 75 percent of the Asian American vote went for Obama, whose churchgoing members are also mostly evangelical.
Mitt Romney got about the same percentage of white voters that George Herbert Walker did (about 59 percent v. 60 percent for Bush), which resulted in 426 electoral votes for Bush, but only 206 for Romney.
Wallis goes on to argue that the marriage of Republicans and white evangelical leaders has created an agenda that does not honestly reflect the desires of all evangelicals, and is perhaps doing disservice to the Christian agenda.
As Wallis puts it:
It’s time to change the meaning of the word “evangelical.” It’s time to tell the media to look at the changing demographics, change its terminology, and take account of all the “evangelicals.” And it’s time to describe the broader list of “moral” and “biblical” issues that evangelicals care about. This is a new, diverse coalition for a new America — and a changing evangelical demographic is a central part of that. The narrow conservatism of the religious right’s white evangelicals is simply not a faith to and for that new evangelical world.
When the crowd alternates hollering out "Amen" with "Whoohoo," you know this ain't grandpa's Catholic mass.
But then Sister Simone Campbell, the 67-year-old nun who's touring the U.S. right now in a white vehicle labeled "Nuns on the Bus," probably isn't your Catholic grandpa's habit, either.
In fact, Sister Simone is a bit of a rock-star, left-leaning radical. The executive director of Network, a 40-year-old progressive organization of nuns, is featured this month in Rolling Stone's story "The Sisters Crusade," a piece that opens with her struggle to sit down with former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan to talk about the national budget.
The bus tour stopped by Colorado Springs' Meadows Park Community Center at lunchtime today with Sister Simone at the helm, who pledged a continued fight for those less fortunate. Much of her discussion had to do with sharing the word about The Faithful Budget:
A collaboration of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith communities and organizations, The Faithful Budget promotes comprehensive and compassionate budget principles that will “protect the common good, values each individual and his or her livelihood, and helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.”
No matter that President Obama has won a second term — "we have a bit more work to do," she said to a group of about 75 people. "The election is over, and we might all think, 'Oh praise God we don't have to watch those ads anymore.' But the fact is, our work has just begun. Because tomorrow Congress reconvenes, God help us."
If the Good Father hasn't heard them yet, at least now they've got a little extra media behind them.
"Heaven only knows what happens after Rolling Stone," Sister Simone told the Indy after her presentation. "It's amazing."
OK, that's not strictly true. But the media continues to be intrigued by the combination of the two, as evidenced by all the national press coverage of the Nuns on the Bus tour, which rolls into Colorado Springs at noon today.
As the New Yorker's Robert Sullivan noted last month, the sisterly road warriors have expanded the scope of their message — and, in at least one instance, their mode of transport — since their summer tour protesting Congressman Paul Ryan's proposed budget:
Nuns on a Ferry marked the first time that the principals in the Nuns on the Bus campaign officially switched modes of transportation, though several nuns who eventually rode on the ferry did take the subway to the event. It also highlighted the latest phase of the nuns’ effort, in which other nuns, aside from the original bus-riders, take the campaign to other parts of the country—Nuns on the Bus 2.0. “We’re open sourced,” said Sister Simone Campbell, the Nun on the Bus who’d addressed the Democratic National Convention earlier in the month. “We created some car magnets, so you can have nuns on the bus, too. We have some guidelines on our Web site, and you just need to have at least one nun.”
We know that you've been dying for the official statement from the office of Congressman Doug Lamborn following last night's election.
Lamborn, as we know, won handily against the independent and third-party candidates who challenged him yesterday.
Anyway, wait no longer:
“I wish President Obama well with our troubled economy. I sincerely hope he will make an effort to work with Republicans in his second term. My Republican colleagues and I stand ready to work with him on reducing the deficit and getting spending under control. I believe those two things are absolutely essential to boosting our stagnant economy and creating jobs.
“Republicans are looking for solutions, but not at the expense of compromising our bedrock principles on which we have been elected.” — Doug Lamborn (CO-05)
Even before the conference room at the downtown Antlers Hilton hotel had filled, it was clear that the El Paso County Democratic Party was ready to celebrate — and election results on the national level certainly did nothing to dim that.
But it was in the state contests where the effect may be felt soonest, since victories in two local House districts are likely to help give Democrats control of that chamber in January. (They appear poised to hold onto the Senate, too.)
In House District 17, where political newcomer Tony Exum, a Democrat, is set to unseat Republican incumbent Mark Barker.
"My goal from the beginning has just been to hopefully help give people access to the things they need to improve their qualify of life; whether that’s an education, keeping their homes, healthcare — those things that impact people’s lives," said Exum in a quick interview with the Indy. "And just to vote smart on things that improve the quality of life; and things that don’t improve the quality of life, vote smart on those things, too. And do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking."
Meanwhile, having defeated GOP challenger Jennifer George in House District 18, incumbent Rep. Pete Lee said he plans to keep doing what he's been doing. "The big issue is the economy, Colorado’s economy, and job creation," Lee said. "So I wanna work across the aisle with our colleagues up there to see what we could do to invigorate Colorado’s economy and create more jobs."
And as far as the civil-unions bill that died so dramatically in the last session?
"It’ll pass," he said flatly.
(Seconds after this, screaming started in the main conference room as it was announced President Barack Obama had retained office.)
On a more nonpartisan note, Democrats — like folks the world over — were drawn to the triumph of Colorado's marijuana decriminalization bill, Amendment 64. With 63 percent of precincts reporting, it enjoyed a comfortable 53.6 percent to 47.4 percent lead.
"Make no mistake: Our victory tonight will change this country," wrote the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in an e-mail soon after the outcome was assured. "We have put a serious dent in the armor of our federal government's decades-old failed war on marijuana. Citizens in other states now know that if Coloradans can change their laws, they can too. Politicians are now realizing that making marijuana legal is in fact a mainstream, majority-support issue, and will begin to champion our position."
That said, local medical-marijuana advocates remained ambivalent. In one Facebook posting, Audrey Hatfield, president of Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights, wrote, "Congrats on winning A64! Time will tell ... Hopefully all the ended friendships and personal attacks where worth it all ..."
Ultimately, and regardless of any hoped-for outcomes, however, Exum seemed to say it best, when he responded to our question about how he was feeling: "You know, I was just happy the campaign was over."
El Paso County Republican Party Chairman Eli Bremer did his best to keep the crowd upbeat.
In the ballroom at the DoubleTree Hotel, the Republicans had hung a stage-wide flag. FOX News was on the TV as results rolled in.
Bremer called up to the stage the Republican candidates present who sailed to easy victories: County Commissioners Dennis Hisey and Amy Lathen, and state House Rep. Janak Joshi.
"God bless all of you for being here," Lathen told the crowd.
But there weren't very many high notes for the beleaguered Republicans. Before it was clear that they had lost the race for the White House, it was becoming clear that they were going to lose their one-seat majority in the state House.
In the two competitive House races the Republicans faced in the Pikes Peak region, they lost by sizable margins: Incumbent Rep. Mark Barker fell to newcomer Democrat Tony Exum Sr. in House District 17, while Jennifer George, the first-time candidate who raised an eye-popping $180,000 from 800 donors, failed in her bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Pete Lee in House District 18.
George's campaign wasn't here tonight; it opted to hold its Election Day party at the Ritz downtown.
County Commissioner Sallie Clark faced a challenge from former Democratic Party county Chairman John Morris but pulled off a victory, securing her place for a rare third term. Rare, because the voters also voted overwhelmingly in favor of ballot initiative 1B, which undid the 2010 term-limits ballot initiative that allowed for three terms.
Not many people were fazed by the result of 1B; County Commissioner Peggy Littleton pointed out that she always thought that the voters would vote to strike the term-limit extension. Lathen put it bluntly: "You can't spend two years telling the public how evil we are, and not expect that outcome."
"We put it back on the ballot for folks to get a second try at it," said Clark. "Obviously, my constituents felt that I have done a good job, and I will continue to do a good job for my constituents that I represent."
And Clark said she's excited to do that job.
"There are so many things going on," she said, such as the recovery from Waldo Canyon Fire, "that I want to see move in the right direction."
Clark pointed out that there were reasons to celebrate, including passage of the ballot initiative supporting the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority extension as well as the tax increase for the El Paso County Sheriff's office. "If people see a value in paying more taxes, and you put it on the ballot," she said, "they will vote in support."
And then, of course, there was the confirmation that House District 16 incumbent Joshi and newly elected HD 21 Rep. Lois Landgraf would be headed to the state Legislature — albeit in the minority party.
"We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us," said Joshi. "This just means that we have a lot of extra work."
When we ran our cover story on the Colorado-based Western Tradition Partnership back in January (see "Money Talks" and "WTF is WTP"), the secretive advocacy group was still flying well under the radar. In fact, that’s the big selling-point for WTP, and similar 501(c)4 organizations that promise their corporate and private donors the ability to influence elections with total anonymity.
But this week, the chameleonic conservative action group — which is now calling itself American Tradition Partnership — is falling under a lot more scrutiny. And what’s coming to light isn’t exactly flattering:
• Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline — which aired a documentary last month on how WTP helped shape the campaigns of candidates in Montana state races — followed up with an article last week entitled “Mysterious Docs Found in Meth House Reveal Inner Workings of Dark Money Group”: “The boxes were examined by Frontline and ProPublica as part of an investigation into the growing influence on elections of dark money groups, tax-exempt organizations that can accept unlimited contributions and do not have to identify their donors. The documents offer a rare glimpse into the world of dark money, showing how Western Tradition Partnership appealed to donors, interacted with candidates and helped shape their election efforts.” (Read the full article here.)
• Yesterday, the PBS public affairs show posted another WTP follow-up report titled “Dark Money Group’s Donors Revealed.” As the article notes: “The details available on WTP, which has worked to elect conservatives in Montana and Colorado and has won national attention for a lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to apply its Citizens United ruling to states, are striking. The bank records highlight WTP’s ties to groups backing libertarian Ron Paul. The Conservative Action League, a Virginia social welfare nonprofit run at the time in part by John Tate, most recently Paul’s campaign manager, transferred $40,000 to WTP in August 2008, bank records show. Tate was also a consultant for WTP. In addition, WTP gave $5,000 to a group called the SD Campaign for Liberty, affiliated with Paul and the national Campaign for Liberty."
• And, to add insult to injury, Denver’s district attorney confirmed yesterday that his office is conducting a criminal probe into Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's alleged use of state funds for partisan purposes. As noted in our aforementioned cover story, Gessler had previously served as lead attorney for Western Tradition Partnership’s lawsuit against Longmont's Fair Campaign Practices Act, and there’s already speculation that the investigation could further tarnish WTP’s reputation.
This one should come as no surprise.
As you can see from the map below, the organization identified four instances of FOX News pundits and the like campaigning here in Colorado Springs.
In October, Monica Crowley was present for an Americans for Prosperity rally in the parking lot of KVOR.
Last June, Karl Rove was the keynote speaker at the local GOP Lincoln Day Dinner. There were protests for that one.
And finally, in June of this year, Michelle Malkin spoke at the Cheyenne Mountain Republican Forum's infamous fund-raiser.
If you haven't died from shock, it is worth pointing out that the Democrats have tried to lure "news" personalties themselves. Remember the debacle surrounding Peak Dems' attempt to bring the shouting mouth of MSNBC's Ed Schultz to town?
Schultz was all ready to go — until someone at his network informed him, as he said at the time, that "this is a fund raiser and it violates NBC News Standards and Practices policy manual. I'm allowed to speak at conventions pre-approved by MSNBC but not political fund raisers. I [am] deeply sorry as this is my mistake."
News standards and practices — who would've guessed?
For El Paso County residents, early voting — which ends today — is available at the following four locations:
Chapel Hills Mall Office at 1710 Briargate Blvd, Suite 350 - open until 7pm
The Citadel Mall at 750 East Citadel Drive, Suite 2308 - open until 7pm
Southeast Branch at 5650 Industrial Place - open until 5pm
Main Office, Citizens Service Center at 1675 W. Garden Of The Gods Road - open until 5pm
And as long as we're at it, what better time to co-opt the message of the following Patti Smith video?
The Authority was established by the city in 1970 to help fund and finance projects in blighted areas. While its nine-member board is appointed by the mayor and approved by City Councilors, it is governed by Colorado state statutes and does not have to answer to the city on its budget matters. Nevertheless, it cooperated with the city investigation, which came about after several run-ins between Bach and board members.
The city report found defaulted bonds — more than were previously known of — for the University Village shopping center project. But neither the city nor the URA faces any risks due to the defaults at this time. The report also found disorganization in regard to fees for the Ivywild School project.
But perhaps most telling, the report made a series of recommendations that would bring the URA into the fold of the city.
“There are a number of areas where the City and URA can work together to improve the efforts of URA, to use resources more efficiently, and to promote coordinated, effective, and successful urban development in our community,” Bach stated in a press release.
Included in those recommendations: the URA should use free space in the City Administration Building; the city staff should perform work free of charge for the URA; the URA and the city should have combined long-term development plans; and the URA should work with the city and various interest groups to set its priorities.
Some of the recommendations could save the URA money. For instance, the URA pays $1,113 per month in rent for office space, and pays a consultant, Jim Rees, $10,000 per month.
The city did not immediately respond to requests for the cost of the investigation, but it did hire outside help from Hogan Lovells, an oft-hired firm of City Attorney Chris Melcher, to do the work.
Denver Post is too liberal, eh?
Would a liberal paper write this endorsement?
Congressman Doug Lamborn regularly ranks as among the most conservative members of Congress and is an ardent supporter of limited government, with the notable exception of national defense.
While we regularly disagree with his stances, residents of Colorado's reliably Republican 5th Congressional District have repeatedly rewarded Lamborn for his views. They should do so again this year, electing the Colorado Springs Republican to a fourth term.
It's a surprising endorsement, certainly, and all more surprising to Dave Anderson. When asked by the Indy, Anderson says he wasn't contacted by the Post for a pre-endorsement interview; in fact, he says, no one from that paper has ever spoken to him about his campaign.
"I am surprised that the Post would do something without even making the effort to contact me," Anderson says.
Anderson is running against Lamborn in the 5th CD as an independent, and not only did the Post not explain why it felt Lamborn would do better than Anderson, the paper's endorsement didn't even mention him. Instead, it included this throw-away line: "[Lamborn] has no Democratic opponent on Nov. 6 and instead will appear on the ballot alongside several minor-party candidates."
True, Lamborn is not facing a Democrat, instead squaring off against the likes of Anderson, libertarian Doug Pyrtle and the Green Party's Misha Luzov. But Anderson has actually pulled together significant funding for the race; at last count, Anderson had raised $164,488 (though $100,000 of that was his own dough).
Further, Anderson has attracted the support of a number of prominent Democrats, including former Springs mayoral candidate Richard Skorman and former candidate for U.S. Senate Andrew Romanoff.
The endorsements page of his website includes other well-known people, many from the business community, including construction stalwart and philanthropist Chuck Murphy and former EDC CEO Mike Kazmierski.
Beyond the fact that the Post's editorial staff seems to have exerted as little effort possible in investigating this race, the reasoning behind their endorsement seems to boil down to this baffling statement: "There are certain districts that are at the extremes of the political spectrum, and Colorado's conservative 5th, which is centered in Colorado Springs, is a counterbalance to the Denver-based 1st CD."
With Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan due in to Colorado Springs later today, the newly formed Center for Western Priorities has released some questions constituents might want to ask him.
The group is run by Trevor Kincaid, former communications director for the campaign of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
But the questions should transcend politics. Here they are:
Question 1: The Romney - Ryan Energy Plan calls for giving states control over energy development on public lands. What lands in Colorado do you think should be conserved for the enjoyment hikers, hunters, anglers, and bikers, not to mention the local businesses and communities that depend on those lands for jobs and revenue? And what lands in Colorado would you specifically open up?
Question 2: Republican President Theodore Roosevelt protected more than 200 million acres of public lands during his time in office, once claiming, "there can be no greater issue than that of conservation." As an avid bow hunter, do you support Roosevelt's vision of America, where millions of acres of forest, parks and wilderness are held in trust for current and future generations?
Question 3: It was just reported that the current oil and gas boom is the direct result of more than $100 million in federal research and development investments, as well as billions more in tax breaks. Why does the Romney — Ryan energy plan block federal funding to develop solar and wind technologies that would create thousands of jobs while providing power to the country, helping to avoid the need to sacrifice more of our public lands?
Question 4: Would a Romney - Ryan administration support locally driven, bipartisan efforts to protect public lands through the designation of new national monuments and wilderness areas?
Question 5: Should decision-making and management of public lands be driven purely by the bottom line of coal, oil and gas, and uranium companies? Or are there other uses that government should actively support and provide for?
Question 6: Mitt Romney has received millions of dollars in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry. In Colorado, he has a 50-person energy advisory committee, more than 40 of which are associated with the oil, gas, or coal industry. Does this create a conflict of interest between a Romney — Ryan administration and responsibly managing our public lands? Do you feel your Colorado energy advisory committee is reflective of all Coloradans?