We chuckled when we learned that Colorado Springs Police Chief-turned-City Manager Lorne Kramer was to be the featured speaker at last Wednesday's local American Civil Liberties Union annual chapter meeting.
Then we laughed outright when we saw the topic of his speech: "Civil Liberties in the 21st Century."
Would he, dare he, stand before the group and admit there won't be any?
Kramer himself admitted that when he told his staff he was headed to the ACLU, they did a double-take and said, "You're going where?"
Jesting aside, Kramer didn't have a lot of insight about "Civil Liberties in the 21st Century," but he did say that, in many areas, he and the views held by civil libertarians are not so far apart. As a longtime cop, he noted, his job was not only to protect victims, but also the Constitution. And when it comes to issues near and dear to the ACLU, including outrage over police practices of targeting people because of the color of their skin, Kramer is on their side.
"Let's call it what it is, discrimination," he said. "The reality is, profiling has occurred in this country, and police officers don't do any justice by saying it doesn't happen -- it does happen."
The best news of the evening, though, was Kramer's announcement that one of the first things he did when he became boss in March was to abolish the city's outrageous policy that prohibited government employees from talking to the media.
Established by former city manager Jim Mullen in 1999 in an attempt to control the news flow from City Hall, the policy was entirely punitive, targeted at media outlets that did not report stories the way Mullen liked. The policy required news reporters to submit all requests for public information in writing; officially designated spokespeople were chosen to respond. The result: Reporters were stymied and city employees and managers were effectively gagged.
Good riddance to bad policy. Score one excellent PR move for Kramer.
Has Charlie Duke moved to Denver, gotten some plastic surgery and a wig, and changed his name to Rick Stanley?
Last weekend, the Libertarian Party of Colorado endorsed the firebrand, conspiracy-spewing Stanley as their candidate for the United States Senate in this November's election. And the sad news is, Stanley has lately generated more news than either of his opponents, Republican incumbent Wayne Allard and Democrat Tom Strickland. The Senate seat has been targeted, along with a half-dozen others across the country, as one that Democrats view as vulnerable and Republicans are fighting hard to keep. Maybe the "experts" in Washington haven't been out to Colorado in awhile.
Stanley, the past organizer of the "Million Gun March," started waving his red cape several months ago by orchestrating his arrest in Denver to protest the city's ordinance banning concealed weapons. Then he challenged Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura to a wrestling match (the media largely ignored both publicity stunts).
Then in recent weeks, Stanley the matador accused the government of planting pipe bombs in mailboxes throughout the Midwest and West, including the one that was found in Salida. When the so-called Smiley-face Bomber was caught, Stanley was remorseless.
The topper, at least for the sedate Rocky Mountain News, was when Stanley accused Sen. Allard, who's seeking a second six-year term, of being a traitor for knowingly voting for unconstitutional laws. As judge, jury and probably-happy-to-do-it executioner, Stanley flatly stated that, as Allard is clearly guilty of treason, he should be hung.
"Wayne Allard and his ilk, traitors all, should pray that Justice will be merciful, because the people against whom they have been waging war are already praying it will be swift," Stanley wrote in one press release.
Last Wednesday, the bull finally charged. In a top-fold editorial, the Rocky, which usually prefers to ignore him, bashed Stanley for his irresponsible statements. Then, the next day the paper devoted a good chunk of its letters-to-the-editor section to Stanley supporters and detractors.
The Libertarian Party comprises a tiny fraction of the state's registered voters, but we'll undoubtedly be hearing more from Stanley. And we can't help but note the similarities between his rantings and those of our own Republican former state Sen. Charlie Duke, who in the mid- to late-'90s accused the government of complicity in the Oklahoma City bombing and insisted that Newt Gingrich had broken into his townhome.
All across Colorado, Republican leaders must be saying a silent prayer: Thank God Stanley's not running under the GOP banner.
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