Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Colorado Republicans mock sexual assault charges against Kavanaugh

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 1:22 PM

Three state House Republicans took to Facebook to joke about recent sexual assault charges brought against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

On Sept. 15,Rep. Patrick Neville, the House minority leader from Castle Rock, shared a satirical article from Christian satirical news site, The Babylon Bee, that mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh. Ford has accused Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed, groping her and trying to remove her clothing at a party in the 1980s when the two were teenagers. She also says he covered her mouth when she tried to scream, causing her to fear for her life.
Kavanaugh had been scheduled for a confirmation vote Sept. 20, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for a delay in light of the allegations.

Ford originally said she was willing to testify, but on Sept. 19 her attorney said she wanted the FBI to investigate first — making some Republicans less willing to delay the vote past Sept. 24.

Shane Sandridge, who represents Colorado Springs' House District 14, was quick to join in on Neville's mockery, saying that Kavanaugh was also a cheater at "Duck, Duck, Goose" as a child. Sen. Chris Holbert, the Senate majority leader from Douglas County, added, "An anonymous source who may or may not have ever been associated with the Little League has allegedly stated that, at the age of nine, Kavanaugh's right foot did not touch the base when rounding second. #LifeChoices"

(Disclosure: Sandridge was appointed to the vacant House District 14 seat in 2017, beating this reporter's mother, Anita Miller.)

As of Sept. 19, the post had 22 shares and dozens of comments, many disparaging the three prominent Republicans.

"The time for believing women is now," wrote Rep. Faith Winter (D-Westminster), who is running for reelection. "When our House Minority Leader and Senate Majority Leader jokes about sexual [harassment] and assault, it is no wonder why women do not feel safe working in the Colorado Capitol. A report from April of this year documented that 30% of folks at the Capital saw or experienced harassment, yet very few reported it."

Winter was referring to a report by outside consultant Investigations Law Group commissioned after a slew of sexual harassment allegations against state lawmakers, including former Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton), who was expelled from office in March. Winters accused Lebsock of harassing her.

Morgan Carroll, the Colorado Democratic Party chair, demanded that the representatives apologize for their comments.

"After everything that went on at the Colorado legislature this year, it is outrageous that three members of the GOP caucus — including two in leadership — thought it was appropriate to mock a credible accusation of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh," she is quoted in a Sept. 19 release. "The people of Colorado deserve an apology from these lawmakers who apparently think sexual assault is a laughing matter."

All three representatives are up for reelection in November. Neville faces Democrat Danielle Kombo, Sandridge faces Democrat Paul Haddick, and Holbert will run against Democrat Julia Varnell-Sarjeant and Steve Peterson, an independent.

Notably, on his campaign website, Sandridge touts his experience as a "clinical psychotherapist working with many teenagers and adults with major depression disorder and suicidal ideations."
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trump administration proposes historically low refugee ceiling for 2019

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2018 at 1:39 PM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Washington in May. - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
  • U.S. Department of State
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Washington in May.

The State Department will accept a maximum of 30,000 refugees next year, breaking the record for the lowest cap on admissions for the second year in a row.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the new number — 15,000 under this year's limit — during a Sept. 17 media briefing, adding that the administration also plans to process more than 280,000 asylum cases. Historically, there has been no official limit on the number of admitted asylum seekers, and Pompeo did not provide an estimate of how many would actually be granted protection.

While refugees and asylees must both prove a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their country of nationality based on race, religion, nationality or social group, refugees must have their paperwork approved before entering the United States. Asylum seekers, on the other hand, ask for protection when presenting themselves at a port of entry or submit an application from within the U.S.

Currently, about 800,000 people already in the U.S. are waiting for a judge to rule on their asylum cases, Pompeo said. That's due in large part to an influx in Central and South Americans, including teenagers and young children, crossing the border to escape violence and extreme poverty.
"In consideration of both U.S. national security interests and the urgent need to restore integrity to our overwhelmed asylum system, the United States will focus on addressing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country," Pompeo said. "This year's refugee ceiling also reflects our commitment to protect the most vulnerable around the world while prioritizing the safety and well-being of the American people, as President Trump has directed."

As of Sept. 14, with just weeks left in fiscal year 2018, the U.S. had admitted a mere 20,825 refugees, far short of the 45,000-person limit set by President Donald Trump's administration. The year before, President Barack Obama had set the cap at 110,000, but Trump cut that number in half with an executive order after Obama left office.

Normally, the total number falls no more than a few thousand short of the cap, but changes at the administrative level overseas, including a longer vetting process, have caused a shortfall unheard of since right after 9/11.

Pompeo says part of the reason the cap is lower this year is to maintain rigorous vetting: "The security checks take time, but they're critical."

Refugee program cuts have already taken a toll on Colorado's resettlement agencies, the Independent reported in June. At the time — about three-fourths of the way through the fiscal year — Lutheran Family Services in Colorado Springs had resettled only 40 refugees, compared to 110 total last year, according to volunteer coordinator Cathy Verdier.

Denver's African Community Center had resettled 134 refugees in June, though it had planned to accommodate 400 by the end of September, Managing Director Melissa Theesen said. Two years ago, ACC's total was 581.
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Thursday, September 13, 2018

FDA cracks down on teen e-cigarette use

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 9:46 AM

  • Shutterstock.com

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on e-cigarette retailers, including a handful in Colorado Springs.

After a "nationwide, undercover blitz" of retailers around the country this summer, the FDA issued 1,300 warning letters and fines to businesses that illegally sold Juul and other e-cigarette products to minors, according to a Sept. 12 announcement. The statement called teen e-cigarette use a problem of "epidemic proportions," citing data that showed more than two million teens used the products in 2017.

Six businesses in Colorado Springs got warning letters, and one, Extreme Vape Pens, was issued a fine. (About 50 retailers earned warning letters or fines statewide.)

Colorado has the highest rate of teen e-cigarette use in the country, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than one in every four Colorado teens, or 26.2 percent, use e-cigarettes or products such as e-cigars, e-pipes, vape pipes, vaping pens, e-hookahs, and hookah pens. That's nearly twice the national average of 14.3 percent.

On the other hand, just 7 percent of Colorado teens use cigarettes, compared to 8.2 percent of teens nationwide.

FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb addressed the increased use of e-cigarette products among teens in strong terms, vowing to make business difficult for manufacturers that didn't work to solve the problem.

"In enabling a path for e-cigarettes to offer a potentially lower risk alternative for adult smokers, we won’t allow the current trends in youth access and use to continue, even if it means putting limits in place that reduce adult uptake of these products,” he is quoted in the FDA's statement.

The FDA issued letters to the top five manufacturers of e-cigarette products (JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen XL, blu e-cigs, and Logic), demanding within 60 days plans "describing how they will address the widespread youth access and use of their products."

If the plans aren't sufficient, the FDA says it might require manufacturers to take flavored products — which it claims are particularly appealing to teens — off the market. The agency is also reexamining its timeline for manufacturers to comply with strict new federal guidelines announced last year. 
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

ACLU thinks prison population can be cut in half by 2025 in Colorado

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 11:23 AM

  • Shutterstock.com
Colorado can and should cut its prison population in half by 2025, according to a Sept. 5 report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

The report is one of 50 Blueprints for Smart Justice from the ACLU that identify problems with mass incarceration on a state-by-state basis. The point is to open discussion about each state’s unique situation and find solutions that work.

Here are the main takeaways from Colorado’s Blueprint.

How we stack up:

Colorado’s prison population is 20,136 as of June, down from 23,274 at its peak in 2008. The state ranked 16th in the nation for the number of people incarcerated, or under community supervision like parole or probation, on a per-capita basis: 2,830 per 100,000 adult residents in 2015.

Colorado had the ninth highest incarceration rate for black people, and the fourth highest for Latino people, as of 2014.

Of those incarcerated, 18 percent were in private prisons, compared to 7 percent of the state prison population across the U.S. The number of people in Colorado’s private prisons increased 83 percent between 2000 and 2018.

Colorado ranked 11th in the number of people serving life sentences as of 2016.

The problems:

The ACLU’s report argues that harsh sentence enhancement laws, such as those for habitual offenders, and mandatory minimum sentences are driving mass incarceration in Colorado.

Although Senate Bill 13-250 helped reduce prison sentences for drug possession (14 percent of people convicted of possession were sent to prison after the bill’s 2013 passage, compared to 19 percent before), drug sentences still account for one in seven admissions.

Racial disparity is staggering. While black people made up 4 percent of Colorado’s adult population in 2017, they constituted 18 percent of the prison population. Latino people made up 19 percent of the adult population and 32 percent of the prison population. And American Indians made up less than 1 percent of the adult state population, but they represented 3 percent of the prison population.

The number of imprisoned women increased 58 percent between 2000 and 2018 — more than twice the rate for men.

Almost three-fourths of prisoners had issues with substance abuse as of June. While 37 percent of prisoners were considered to have mental health needs, only 5 percent were enrolled in mental health programs.

The solutions:

Colorado should start looking at addiction not as a crime, but as a public health problem, the ACLU’s report says. That means looking into alternatives to incarceration such as diversion programs and community-based treatment.

The ACLU recommends creating legislation that will reduce overcharging and disincentivize plea bargaining, and remove mandatory minimums or indeterminate sentences in some cases.

Colorado should decriminalize nonviolent conduct and reclassify nonviolent felony offenses to misdemeanors, the report says.

The report also stresses the necessity of implementing racial justice strategies, such as ending overpolicing in communities of color, eliminating bias in charging and plea-bargaining practices, eliminating wealth-based incarceration.

The ACLU proposes reducing the prison population by 9,086 people, which would save the state more than $675 million.

That’s no easy task, but here’s what it suggests:

1. Institute alternatives that end all admissions for drug possession.
2. Institute alternatives that reduce admissions by 60 percent for public order offenses.
3. Institute alternatives that reduce admissions by 50 percent for drug distribution, theft, other property offenses and fraud.
4. Institute alternatives that reduce admissions by 40 percent for assault, burglary and robbery.
5. Reduce the average time served by 60 percent for public order offenses, assault, burglary, robbery, drug distribution, theft, other property offenses, fraud, motor vehicle theft and weapons offenses.

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, has made criminal justice reform one of his top priorities while in office, sponsoring a long list of bills that include revamping the Division of Youth Services and expanding restorative justice programs. Lee called the ACLU's Blueprint for Smart Justice "very well-written" and said it "proposed some practical, though difficult to implement remedies."

Lee, along with Republican Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, recently sponsored a bill to expand the use of community corrections as an alternative to prison — one of the ACLU's suggestions for cutting down the prison population.
The community corrections system in Colorado provides services to convicted adults who are “halfway in” or “halfway out” of prison. Community corrections, which includes housing and supervision, is either a “last chance” before being sent to prison, or a way for those leaving the criminal justice system to transition back into the community.

Lee's bill, which Gov. Hickenlooper signed in May, requires the Colorado State Board of Parole to submit a list of offenders for community corrections transition placement referrals to the state Department of Corrections, who will choose whether or not to make a referral. Community corrections boards, which then decide whether to accept or reject an offender, must do so through a “structured, research-based decision-making process that combines professional judgment and actuarial risk and needs assessment tools,” according to the bill.
Rep. Pete Lee, flanked by Rep. Tony Exum. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Rep. Pete Lee, flanked by Rep. Tony Exum.
Before the bill's passage, Lee says the state's community corrections program was often bogged down by a lack of communication. There were problems with the system that had "common-sense" solutions, he says.

For example, if a local community corrections board didn't want to accept a certain offender, it could just reject someone, sending the person back to the Department of Corrections and contributing to overcrowding, Lee says. The bill, he adds, helps ensure decisions are more "rationally based" by requiring a response about why someone was rejected, and keeping the door open for that person to be accepted in the future after meeting further requirements. Perhaps a local board would want an offender to get a GED so they could work in the community, for example.

But community corrections is just one piece of the puzzle. Lee believes another imperative is changing the bail system to reduce wealth-based discrimination, which can disproportionately affect minority communities. He says bail should be based on whether someone is a danger to the community, and whether they're a flight risk.

"Poor people don’t have bail, so they stay in jail, and the decision as to whether or not they should stay in jail is based on not having money," Lee says. "We have the local sheriff’s department asking for a tax increase to get more bed space in the jail because we’re reaching capacity. Well, we wouldn’t reach capacity if we had a better bail system, or non-monetary bail if we did a risk-based release system."

Is the ACLU's ambitious proposal doable? Lee says it will take bipartisan support, especially on issues such as reducing sentences. "A lot of the ideas that are recommended in that ACLU report have been proposed in the Colorado legislature," he says.

Democrats and Republicans have in the past found common ground on criminal justice reform. Gardner and Lee, for example, recently joined forces to lead a comprehensive review of Colorado's juvenile justice system, in partnership with the Council of State Governments Justice Center. They'll introduce proposed changes at next year's legislative session.

"The fundamental principle I operate from is that we ought to reserve the most expensive option, prison, for people who really constitute a risk to public safety," Lee says.

Lee is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in the House this fall, but is running for the state Senate District 11 seat, left vacant by departing Sen. Michael Merrifield. Gardner's term ends in 2021.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Michael Bennet will vote "no" on Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 3:55 PM

Sen. Michael Bennet won't support Trump nominee. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sen. Michael Bennet won't support Trump nominee.
Not that it really matters at this point, but today, Sept. 11, Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, announced he would oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice.

With each passing day, it seems there's nothing that can stop Kavanaugh from rising to the nation's highest court, as Vanity Fair reports here.

But as they say, ya never know. Bennet's statement, issued about 9:30 a.m.:
After reviewing his writings, opinions, and testimony, I have concluded that Judge Kavanaugh will create a new Supreme Court majority that will threaten women’s reproductive rights, roll back essential environmental regulations, and favor large corporations over workers. In addition, his view that sitting presidents may be immune from criminal investigations and subpoenas is particularly troublesome at this moment. For these reasons, I will oppose his nomination.

As I have said many times, I am deeply discouraged by the Senate’s descent into rank partisanship. Regrettably, the Majority’s accession to the administration’s refusal to disclose Judge Kavanaugh’s full record—including nearly 90% of the documents from his time in the Bush White House—represents a further abdication of the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to advise and consent. The hearing was a sham. The American people would be better served by a transparent, deliberate, and bipartisan confirmation process.

Sen. Corey Gardner, a Colorado Republican, released a statement in late July giving Kavanaugh his endorsement:
Today I was able to meet with Judge Kavanaugh – clearly he is a well-qualified judge who has incredible experience in the federal courts. We had a long conversation about the role of precedent and how a judge should perform on the bench. It’s not about personal opinion, it’s not about personal biases or policy preferences, it’s about looking at the law and ruling on the law and where the law takes you. We had a good conversation about how he would be on the Supreme Court. It was a very good meeting and I think he will make an incredible Supreme Court Justice.
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Friday, August 31, 2018

Lamborn targeting Civil Rights Commission over Masterpiece cake cases

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 1:18 PM

Lamborn: going to bat for a baker. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn: going to bat for a baker.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, wants business people to be able to refuse service to anyone who don't conform to their religious beliefs.

Lamborn says he's sticking up for Christianity, which he and others erroneously have labeled as the founding religion of this country. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Lamborn calls for the Justice Department to investigate the "anti-religious bias" of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The commission is under fire for its ruling against the Masterpiece Cakeshop for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker, drawing this comment from the commission. However, it was a narrow ruling. Basically, the court did not like how the commission handled the case, noting:
• two members spoke in inappropriately hostile tones about Phillips' religious exemption claim;
• the commission had allowed other cake shops to refuse to make cakes for people with messages that opposed same-sex marriage showing inconsistency;
• same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Colorado at the time of the refusal which could have led to some confusion.

However, the court did strongly suggest that a state has a right to compel business owners like Phillips to provide goods and services regardless of a customer's status as part of a protected class, such as being gay.

More recently, the Civil Rights Commission again ruled against the cake shop owner in a case in which baker Jack Phillips refused to make a cake for a transgender woman who wanted to celebrate her transition and birthday. Phillips then sued the commission.

Now, Lamborn is stepping into the fray, saying Phillips was justified in rejecting the customer's request because, as Lamborn puts it, "the cake's artistic message conflicted with his deeply held Christian beliefs."

Specifically, Lamborn wants the Justice Department to investigate "the actions of Ms. Aubrey Elenis, Director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, as well as the Civil Rights Commission for their continued anti-religious bias."

Lamborn said in a release, "The Department of Justice cannot continue to allow a biased arbiter, who holds a near monopoly on anti-discrimination cases within the state, to continue to wage a personal campaign against individuals they disagree with." Clarification: Lamborn was referring to the Civil Rights Commission with the term "biased arbiter," not himself or Phillips.
Phillips has ended up in hot water with the Commission because of public accommodation laws — you may recognize the term from the Civil Rights Movement. The laws protect classes of citizens that are often discriminated against, such as LGBTQ people or, say, African-Americans, by requiring that businesses not discriminate against them based on their protected status. In other words, no one is forcing Phillips to make wedding cakes or birthday cakes. But the law says that if he will make a wedding cake for, say a white heterosexual couple, he must also be willing to make one for a black, gay couple.

In case you're wondering, these are the same laws that African-Americans fought for at lunch counters decades ago.

We asked the Civil Rights Commission for a comment on Lamborn's move and a spokesperson declined.

In a statement, Lamborn said those with religious convictions like Phillips "are under assault," adding, "Mr. Phillips' shop serves any and every customer, but he reserves the right to use his artistic talents how he chooses... I am calling on the Department of Justice to protect the rights of religious Coloradans by ensuring that the Civil Rights Commission cannot continue its harassment of people of faith in my home state and its attempts to violate their first amendment freedoms."

Given Sessions' proclivity to side with evangelical Christians, and given who he works for, it might be a fair bet that Sessions will take Lamborn up on his request.

Lamborn is seeking his seventh term in office after a bruising primary election in which his petitions were challenged all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.

His Democratic opponent is Stephany Rose Spaulding, a professor of women's studies.
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Environment Colorado, the Arc and others rally for multiple causes

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 6:32 PM

Advocates from the Arc Pikes Peak Region display facts about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Advocates from the Arc Pikes Peak Region display facts about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Wednesday, Aug. 29 seemed like the perfect day to exercise First Amendment rights, as groups gathered in front of City Hall and ACE Cash Express to drum up support for their respective causes.

A handful of representatives from the Arc Pikes Peak Region, an organization that advocates for people with disabilities, said they were rallying in front of City Hall to stress the importance of benefit programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid, as well as accessible buildings and infrastructure.

"We want people with disabilities to get out and have their voices heard, so that starts with registering to vote and then getting to the polls in November," says Christina Butero, guardianship coordinator for the Arc Pikes Peak Region. "Far too often people with disabilities feel like their voice won’t be heard if they vote, and that’s just not true."

Charlotte McClanahan, a community facilitator in the Arc's guardianship program, cares for a woman who uses a wheelchair. They stopped by the Arc's event to push for a city that's easier to navigate.

"Downtown, the immediate downtown, is very accessible, but you get very far and you’ve got broken sidewalks and issues along those lines," McClanahan says.

(The Independence Center, a local nonprofit serving people with disabilities, recently organized a survey of parking lots in the region. Surveyors found more than 100 parking lots that weren't fully compliant with ADA standards. That may be because neither the city nor the Regional Building Department enforces them.)

Supporters of the Campaign to Stop Predatory Payday Loans protest in front of ACE Cash Express. - ANA TEMU
  • Ana Temu
  • Supporters of the Campaign to Stop Predatory Payday Loans protest in front of ACE Cash Express.

A similarly sized group stood in front of ACE Cash Express at Academy Boulevard and Galley Road, representing the Campaign to Stop Predatory Payday Loans. That campaign's Proposition 111 will be on the ballot this November.

Proposition 111 would lower maximum charges for payday loans to an annual percentage rate of 36 percent. Currently, the maximum charges are $20 for the first $300 loaned, 7.5 percent of any amount over $300, and a 45 percent interest rate.

Proponents of the measure argue that payday lenders take advantage of vulnerable communities.

“We’ve seen many families fall prey to this never ending debt trap due to unscrupulous fees and ridiculously high interest rates and believe they deserve a better chance to rise out of financial pitfalls and live a dignified life,” Meghan Carrier, lead organizer for Together Colorado, is quoted in an Aug. 28 statement from the campaign.

Clean-air advocates rally in support of low-emissions vehicle standards. - ENVIRONMENT COLORADO
  • Environment Colorado
  • Clean-air advocates rally in support of low-emissions vehicle standards.

And last week, another group flexed its First Amendment muscle in support of low-emissions vehicles.

Environment Colorado's event Aug. 23 in Acacia Park encouraged the public to support Gov. Hickenlooper's plan for stricter emissions standards. The governor announced June 19 that Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment would develop an LEV program in line with California's. That executive order came in response to the federal government's rollback of  vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for model years 2022 and beyond.

Environment Colorado collected nearly 1,500 petitions and more than 200 sign-ons from businesses supporting clean-car standards in the 72 hours leading up to its event in Acacia Park, says director Garrett Garner-Wells. The group will continue to push people to voice their support for low-emissions vehicle standards for the duration of the public comment period, which ends in November.

"Coloradans are really excited about this with the summer that we’ve had when it comes to wildfires," Garner-Wells says. "It’s wild what we’re doing to our air here in this state, and this is something we can do that’s a concrete step to begin cleaning that up and addressing climate change as an underlying factor in things like wildfires as well."
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Monday, August 27, 2018

John McCain was a hero, but no angel

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 at 5:23 PM

Sen. John McCain was 81 when he died. - ALAN FREED / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Alan Freed / Shutterstock.com
  • Sen. John McCain was 81 when he died.
The country lost a true patriot over the weekend, whose death seems to be uniting partisans unlike any living person has been able to do in the age of Trump.

But lest we canonize the departed Sen. John McCain, Vietnam War hero, prisoner of war, statesman and presidential candidate, perhaps a true look at the life of McCain can help us understand the quagmire into which national politics has sunk.

Take this Guardian piece, which reports, in part:
But as the Arizona senator, like Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt, spent his twilight years raging against the coarsening of civic life, he must have been aware that his legacy would include a decision that helped unleash the very forces he came to despise.

Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of McCain unveiling Sarah Palin, a say-anything, gun-toting political neophyte, as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. It was an act of political desperation that left Washington aghast. It delivered a short-term boost in the polls. But it also opened the Pandora’s box of populism.
That populism led to the presidency of a man who avoided serving his country by claiming to have bone spurs on his feet. (The New York Times reports "[That] deferment was one of five Mr. Trump received during Vietnam. The others were for education."] Trump also still seems to have only a surface understanding of the U.S. Constitution, if he understands it at all.

But back in the day, in 2008, when McCain was launching his second presidential bid, the Independent gave an unvarnished look at McCain, whose coarseness has now been forgotten.

And then, HuffingtonPost issued this "remembrance," which serves as a reminder that not everything about McCain was saintly:
McCain’s victims ― the millions who have suffered and died in accordance with his war hawk policies and positions ― who are already invisible in popular discourse in the U.S., are now deemed wholly unmentionable. Because McCain was a “great American.”
We're not disrespecting the senator, but rather trying to illuminate the man so that rather than being made into a god, he's celebrated for his contribution without losing sight of the fact that  nobody's perfect. McCain will be forever applauded for his sheer bravery, surviving the POW camp. He'll also be lauded for defying his party with his thumbs down vote on Trump's plan to dismantle Obamacare.

But he should also be remembered for less stellar moments, which might serve to give everyone the inspiration to push ahead with their ideals, moving past those boneheaded moves or unjustifiable positions that the passage of time can lead us to be ashamed of.

For now, however, we're still in the adoration stage — except for the nation's leader, who has failed to honor McCain after his Aug. 25 death and refused to keep the Capitol's flag at half-staff more than a day, until the afternoon of Aug. 27 when it was lowered again.

But Rep. Doug Lamborn, who's so closely aligned with Trump that he used video of him during his Republican primary election race, has decided to have the decency to honor McCain for his service:
I'm saddened to hear of the passing of Senator John McCain. He was a true American patriot and hero. His work paints a picture of an entire life lived in service to our country. He fought for freedom and defended the constitution. He was also a loving family man. This country will never forget him. My heart and prayers are with his wife, children, and grandchildren.
Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, chose to emphasize McCain's personal touch:
Susan and I extend our deepest condolences to the McCain family. We also express our gratitude to Senator McCain for his never-ending kindness to our daughters when they visited Washington,” Bennet said. “His example tells us that we need not accept dysfunctional politics and empty partisanship as inevitable. His absence will require much more of the rest of us.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

To end gerrymandering, bipartisan group asks voters to approve reforms

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2018 at 4:38 PM

Heidi Ganahl, Joe Zimlich, Kent Thiry and Sen. Bob Gardner at an event for Fair Maps Colorado. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Heidi Ganahl, Joe Zimlich, Kent Thiry and Sen. Bob Gardner at an event for Fair Maps Colorado.

An unlikely group of allies has banded together to support a pair of ballot initiatives that could have a lasting impact on Colorado's political scene.

Amendments Y and Z, supported by Fair Maps Colorado, would transform the redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts in order to prevent gerrymandering. That's the practice by which the majority party is allowed to redraw districts. No surprises here: That party usually draws districts that favor its candidates.

The term gerrymander dates to 1812 — so this has been going on for quite a while, though courts do sometimes decide a party has gone too far and order the districts redrawn in a more fair manner. What these Colorado initiatives aim to do, however, is radical: Take the power of redrawing districts away from the ruling party and ensure those districts are drawn fairly (which means in a way that leads to more competitive races).
The change in process for drawing congressional districts would be especially relevant by 2020, when Colorado is projected to gain a House seat, according to Election Data Services.

Kent Thiry, the CEO of DaVita Inc. and co-chair of Fair Maps Colorado, was joined by Toni Larson, president of the League of Women Voters of Colorado; Heidi Ganahl, University of Colorado Regent; Joe Zimlich, CEO of the Bohemian Group; and state Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, for a brief, but enthusiastic campaign stop outside the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum supporting the two ballot initiatives.

"This is about fairness, it’s about our future, it’s about holding our elected officials accountable, and it’s about proportional representation, the sacred principle of democracy," Thiry said. (Thiry, a centrist political donor, is known for his eclectic management style at DaVita — which has included such antics as somersaulting across a stage in medieval garb at company meetings. He also considered a gubernatorial run this year, but decided against it.)

Amendments Y and Z, which were approved for the ballot unanimously in both chambers of the state legislature, would create two independent commissions in charge of redistricting. They would be composed of 12 members each: four Republicans, four Democrats, and four unaffiliated.

"Over the last decade, we have seen congressional deadlock and have watched as other states struggle with gamesmanship and courtroom battles, all due to gerrymandering," Larson said. "With Y and Z, we can clear out the smoke-filled back rooms with a little bit of Colorado sunshine."
"The Gerry-Mander" is a classic political cartoon drawn in 1812 depicting the bizarre districts drawn to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry. - ELKANAH TISDALE
  • Elkanah Tisdale
  • "The Gerry-Mander" is a classic political cartoon drawn in 1812 depicting the bizarre districts drawn to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry.

Republicans Ganahl and Gardner took turns at the podium with Democrat Zimlich and independents Thiry and Larson. They used similar language to describe the ballot measures, implying support across the political spectrum is for shared reasons: The need to "hold politicians accountable" and end gerrymandering.

Because they are constitutional amendments, the twin initiatives need 55 percent of the vote to pass. They have no formal opposition, and Thiry thinks the prospects are bright.

"Gerrymandering has always existed, but it’s grown in intensity," he said, when an attendee mentioned the ongoing fight in Pennsylvania over whether Republicans drew districts to unfairly benefit their party. "[The amendments have] really been prompted by the fact that the cancer has grown."
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Seven initiative petitions could make it on the ballot this fall

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 5:26 PM

  • Public Domain Pictures

Seven initiative petitions were turned in on time for a chance at the November ballot in Colorado, the Secretary of State's Office announced Aug. 6.

Initiative backers had to gather at least 98,492 signatures, or 5 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for secretary of state in the 2014 general election.

Over the next 30 days, the Secretary of State's Office will review the petitions to ensure they meet state standards. Those that do will go to voters Nov. 6.

The seven petitions include:

Initiative 97 (statute change): Setback requirement for oil and gas development

"All new oil and gas development not on federal land must be located at least [2,500] feet from an occupied structure or vulnerable area."

The initiative's backer, Colorado Rising, says signature gatherers faced intimidation and harassment. But its problems didn't stop there. One of the initiative's signature-gathering firms took 15,000 signatures out of state three weeks before the deadline, and a second firm was paid off to stop collecting signatures, Colorado Rising says. Despite those setbacks (pun unintended), 171,000 signatures were submitted by deadline.

Initiative 126 (statute change): Payday loans

"Lower the maximum authorized finance charge for payday loans to an annual percentage rate of [36] percent." Currently, the maximum charges are $20 for the first $300 loaned, 7.5 percent of any amount over $300, and a 45 percent interest rate.

The Denver Post reports that initiative backers gathered nearly 190,000 signatures.

Initiative 153 (statute change): Transportation funding

Increase state sales tax from 2.91 percent to 3.52 percent, in order to fund up to $6 billion in bonds for construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and highways. The initiative requires "45% of the new revenue to fund state transportation safety, maintenance, and congestion-related projects; 40% to fund municipal and county transportation projects; and 15% to fund multimodal transportation projects, including bike, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure."

Organizers collected about 198,000 signatures, the Post reports.

Initiative 167 (statute change): Authorize bonds for transportation projects

Use existing state revenues to purchase $3.5 billion in bonds for road and bridge construction and improvements. Mayor John Suthers, who opposes Initiative 153, has been a vocal supporter of this initiative, titled "Fix Our Damn Roads," which does not include a tax increase.

Backers turned in more than 150,000 signatures, according to the Post.

Initiative 173 (constitutional amendment): Campaign contributions

This "anti-Jared Polis" measure limits candidates' ability to fund their own campaigns: If a candidate "directs more than [$1 million] to support his or her election, then all candidates in the same election shall be entitled to accept aggregate contributions for a primary and general election at five times the [normally allowed] rate."

The Post reports that backers gathered 212,000 signatures.

Initiative 108 (constitutional amendment): Just compensation for reduction in fair market value by government law or regulation

Requires the government to pay compensation to private property owners when new laws or regulations reduce a property's fair market value. This is a response to Initiative 97, which could reduce the value of property that, per the initiative's requirements, could no longer be used for oil and gas development.

Organizers collected 209,000 signatures, the Post reports.

Initiative 93 (constitutional amendment): Funding for public schools

Increase state taxes by $1.6 billion to "improve, support and enhance" preschool through high school "programs, resources and opportunities." The money will come from an incremental income tax increase for people making more than $150,000 (using four tax brackets, starting at 0.37 percent and increasing to 3.62 percent for income over $500,000); and a corporate tax rate increase of 1.37 percent.

Backers turned in about 179,000 signatures, the Post reports.
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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Colorado's new vehicle-emissions standards in question

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 3:19 PM

Traffic along Interstate 25 near Interquest Parkway. - U.S. AIR FORCE/DON BRANUM
  • U.S. Air Force/Don Branum
  • Traffic along Interstate 25 near Interquest Parkway.

Barely a month after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that Colorado would join California and 11 other states to adopt stricter vehicle-emissions standards, the Trump administration has tried to hit the brakes.

A 978-page document from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, unveiled Aug. 2, proposes repealing Obama-era guidance for automakers that requires all new vehicles produced after 2025 to have an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. The new policy would continue increasing requirements until 2021, freezing mandatory fuel efficiency at 36.9 miles per gallon.

The Trump administration's announcement also creates a potential roadblock for the states that have joined California in creating a Low-Emissions Vehicle Program under the Clean Air Act to imposes stricter standards for automakers. The EPA says it wants to withdraw the states' waiver to depart from federal standards, in part because "[a]ttempting to solve climate change" is "fundamentally different from [the Clean Air Act's] original purpose of addressing smog-related
air quality problems" (see p. 31).

Those states include Colorado, as per Hickenlooper's June 19 executive order that came in response to news that the administration was rolling back requirements.

According to the statement, Colorado will:
• "develop a rule to establish a Colorado LEV program, which incorporates the requirements of the California LEV program; and
• propose that rule to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission during its August 2018 meeting for possible adoption into the Colorado Code of Regulations by December 30, 2018."

Hickenlooper doesn't plan on backing down in light of the proposal's release:

The Trump administration is making the odd claim that allowing automakers to make their cars less environmentally friendly could save 12,700 lives by 2029. The numbers are based on an April report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The reasoning? Looser regulations will make it easier to produce new cars, which are safer than old cars.

"Already, the standards have helped drive up the cost of new automobiles to an average of $35,000—out of reach for many American families," reads a statement from Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA administrator. "Compared with the preferred alternative outlined in the proposal, keeping in place the standards finalized in 2012 would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car and impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.

"Due to these increased costs, Americans are holding on to their older, less-safe vehicles longer and buying older-model vehicles."

Conversely, the Obama administration found that improving standards would lead to about 100 fewer auto-related casualties, the New York Times reports.

The proposal won't be finalized until the end of this year, after a period of public comment, and is likely to meet opposition from states, activists and industry groups.

Colorado Moms Know Best, an activist group that has been vocal about vehicle emissions, released a statement Aug. 2 condemning the administration's actions.

"Trump is reversing protections for our kids, and parents demand to know why," Jen Clanahan, the advocacy group's "Head Mom," is quoted in the statement. "Trump ought to be ashamed of himself.

“A bright spot in the country right now is Colorado with Governor Hickenlooper’s leadership and his recent Executive Order that encourages Colorado to adopt low emission vehicle standards. We hope to see strong standards that help ensure Colorado has the cleanest air in the nation. Our children deserve it.”
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

UPDATE: Putin picture to be replaced by Trump portrait at Colorado State Capitol

Posted By on Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 10:36 AM

Then-citizen Donald Trump at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. - GAGE SKIDMORE
  • Gage Skidmore
  • Then-citizen Donald Trump at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference.

UPDATE: From Senate President Kevin Grantham in a release issued Aug. 2:
Less than 32 hours after the launch, 191 donors had come forth, contributing over $10,000 to ensure that the President’s portrait would be completed. As of 10:00 A.M. on Thursday morning, there had been a total of 205 donors contributing $10,519. Notable public donors to the GoFundMe include State Senator Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), Representative Dan Pabon (D-Denver), and former Representative Dorothy Butcher (D-Pueblo).

“With contributions from $5 to $500, and donors across the political spectrum, this effort was a victory for Colorado,” said President Grantham on Thursday morning. “Every President – regardless of their political party – deserves a portrait in the Colorado State Capitol. It was great to see this get done quickly, and we can’t wait to let Sarah Boardman get started on another beautiful piece of art.”
——————ORIGINAL POST 10:36 A.M. WEDNESDAY, AUG. 1, 2018————————

More than 18 months into the Donald Trump presidency, and the Colorado State Capitol still doesn't have his portrait displayed along with those of past presidents.

What to do?

State Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, tweeted this photo last week of the blank space and the Putin photo.
  • State Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, tweeted this photo last week of the blank space and the Putin photo.
One person took it upon themselves to hang a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin near the spot where Trump's portrait should hang. The prank got national news coverage from CNN, The Hill and the Guardian.

Now, according to a release from the Colorado Senate Republicans, Senate President Kevin Grantham has taken on the mission to raise the $10,000 needed to pay an artist to create a portrait of the 45th president. Information on Grantham's pitch and how to donate can be found here.

He began a GoFundMe account on Tuesday, July 31, and, as reported in the release:
Less than 24 hours after a "soft launch," as of 9:00 am Wednesday, the effort had received nearly $6,000 in donations, most of them relatively modest in size, which Grantham points to as a clear demonstration of Trump's continued popularity with grassroots Coloradans.
More from the release:
“We’ve all seen the news, there’s no portrait of President Trump on display at the Colorado State Capitol,” Grantham says in a video pitch requesting donations, “which is why I’m excited to announce that we’re taking the reins and raising $10,000 to get a painting of Donald J. Trump in the Hall of Portraits at the Colorado State Capitol.”

Grantham points out in the video that President Obama’s portrait was largely funded by a single donor. But he wants to take a more grassroots and “populist” approach with Trump’s portrait. “We figured it would be much more fitting to have everyday Coloradans, and Americans, pitch-in $5, $10 or $25 to get this portrait up. The artist, a Colorado Springs native, has already informed us that she is more than willing to get started, and we’re excited to see this blank space filled.”
To clarify, if indeed the same artist who painted Obama's portrait has agreed to paint Trump's, as indicated on the GoFundMe page: her name is Sarah Boardman, and she's actually a native of England, though a current resident of Colorado Springs.  
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Monday, July 23, 2018

RBG packs the house

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 9:05 AM

  • Rachel Bernstein

Men and women, young and old piled into the Millibo Art Theatre (MAT!) in Colorado Springs on July 11, 12, and 16 to view the twice sold-out documentary RBG about the life and career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, otherwise known as “The Notorious RBG.”

The three-day film screening was hosted by the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute (RMWFI), a local Colorado Springs nonprofit committed to supporting women filmmakers and home to the longest running women's film festival in North America.

“Bringing this film to Colorado Springs and downtown was something our audience and the community wanted to see,” says Sarah Arnold, Marketing Director for the RMWFI.

The film was originally only supposed to screen on July 11 and 12, but tickets sold out in less than 48 hours.

“We always wanted to do two nights because we thought it would be enticing to our audience, and it sold-out within two days. So that’s when we added a third screening — and that sold out in four hours,” Arnold explains.
  • Rachel Bernstein
Written and directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, RBG provides an intimate look into the personal and professional life of Ginsburg, focusing heavily on her decades-long work on achieving gender equality.

In a class of about 500 men at Harvard Law School, Ginsburg’s experience as one of nine women did not get easier as time passed — even after becoming the first woman to make two major Law Reviews; Harvard and Columbia. Graduating Columbia Law School, Ginsburg found it difficult to find work because of her gender, despite graduating at the top of her class. Her struggle resulted in dedicating her career to breaking legal ground for women and educating those above her about how gender inequality hurts both men and women.

“I’m grateful to Ruth because what she’s done for women also allows me to be a good man — a better man,” Tim Davis, age 70, explains when asked his opinion on the film. “It brings awareness to how far we’ve come, and part of it’s just in consciousness, to have a better world for our daughters—we’re still not there though, and we’re going backwards right now.”

The film speaks to multiple generations—from those who lived through Ginsburg’s most influential cases, including United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc.—to millennials who, in the last few years, helped shape Ginsburg into a pop culture icon. Fans were so excited to see the film, some showed up sporting their “Notorious RBG” T-shirts — some of which had Justice Ginsburg wearing a crown. But overall, residents were thrilled that the film was brought to screen in the area at all. Following the national release in May, RBG showed for about two weeks at only one theatre in the Colorado Springs area.

Along with residents wanting to see the film, the screening couldn’t have come at a more relevant time in national politics, only a few weeks following the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement, effective July 31.

Known for helping to keep the court balanced, Justice Kennedy, 81, has been a pivotal swing vote for both liberals and conservatives for nearly three decades. Kennedy has helped cast the deciding vote in multiple pivotal rulings, including Obergefell v. Hodges, the 5-4 decision that paved the way for same-sex couples to marry.

When asked about the conservative shift that’s about to take place on the court, Davis says, “I’m always hopeful that people will be able to, as Ruth did, put these things aside and judge a case on its merit. But it’s scary to me because we’ve come so far in terms of civil rights and rights for women which affect everybody, to go in the other direction would be very sad.”

As Kennedy steps down, the future of the Supreme Court is now in the hands of President Trump who has the power to put a conservative seal on the American legal system and impact American life for generations.

Another cause for concern is Ginsburg’s age. At 85, she is the oldest sitting justice on the high court. But Ginsburg’s age has only made her more relevant and influential as time has passed.

In addition to RBG, Justice Ginsburg will be back on the big screen in December, this time as the subject of the upcoming feature film, On the Basis of Sex, centered on Ginsburg navigating life as a young lawyer to bring the groundbreaking case, Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Ginsburg makes it clear in RBG and in recent interviews that she has no intention of retiring and will stay on the Supreme Court bench as long as she can do the job to the best of her ability. As for now, she’s moving full steam ahead.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

UPDATE: Lamborn silent on Trump embrace of Putin

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 12:03 PM

Lamborn: Mum on President Trump's performance in Helsinki. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn: Mum on President Trump's performance in Helsinki.
Rep. Doug Lamborn will face Democrat Stephany Spaulding in the Nov. 6 election. She issued this statement in response to Lamborn's silence.

Doug Lamborn’s decision to refuse to join his congressional colleagues in their bipartisan disapproval of President Trump’s comments about Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election is disturbing.

His district is home to one of the highest concentrations of military in the U.S. and their Commander-in-Chief’s words of support for a dangerous adversary must cause especially deep concern for those who defend our freedom every day.

By putting his finger up to the political winds before making a statement, Lamborn is showing neither leadership nor a grasp of the seriousness of the situation. 

———————ORIGINAL POST 12:03 P.M. TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2018 ————————-

It's been a full news cycle since President Donald Trump sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence service on July 16 by saying he believed Putin's denial the Russian state had any involvement in the U.S. 2016 elections.

We've heard from Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, Sen. Corey Gardner, R-Colorado, and even Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents Congressional District 3.

But Rep. Doug Lamborn?


Lamborn has yet to make any statement regarding Trump's performance, The Denver Post reports, and there's no statement on his website or Facebook, Twitter or YouTube accounts. Trump's move has been described by numerous pundits and lawmakers as shameful, even treasonous. The Washington Post reported Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who's considering a Republican primary challenge against Trump in 2020, called the news conference “depressing” and “really unlike anything we’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Perhaps that's no surprise, considering Lamborn used photos of himself with Trump in campaign materials to capture the GOP nomination in the June 26 primary as he pursues his seventh term in office. (He'll face women's studies professor Stephany Rose Spaulding, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election.)

We've asked for a comment from Lamborn and will update if and when we hear something.

Here's a recap of comments from others.

Vladimir Putin is not our friend, and there is ample evidence that Russia meddled in our elections. Russia has repeatedly violated international law, shown disregard for national sovereignty, engaged in human rights abuses, propped up state sponsors of terror, and fueled global instability. Russia’s attacks on our electoral system damage the very democratic principles upon which our country was built. I strongly urge President Trump and this Administration to hold Russia and Putin accountable. I will continue to support strong economic sanctions against Russia and measures to protect the integrity of our elections.
Today, President Trump failed to hold Vladimir Putin to account even on the most straightforward national security threats.

By taking Vladimir Putin at his word—when it directly contradicts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment and the investigations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — President Trump not only has failed to protect our democracy, but also has emboldened Russia and other adversaries at the expense of our allies.

President Trump should have used this meeting to hold Putin accountable for undermining democracies around the world, a chemical attack on United Kingdom soil, and the continued illegal annexation of Crimea. Instead, he held a summit with no plan that only served to elevate Putin on the world stage. In the face of attacks on our allies and partners in the European Union and NATO, Republicans and Democrats in Congress must work to protect the international institutions that advance our values and freedoms.

Whether it be chemical attacks on allied soil, the invasion of Ukraine, propping up the murderer Assad in Syria, or meddling in our elections through cyber-attacks, Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains an adversary to the United States. I believe Russia is a state sponsor of terror and I’ve introduced legislation that would mandate the State Department to determine whether Russia merits this designation, along with their allies Iran and Syria that are already designated. Additionally, I will continue to support maximum economic sanctions on Russia, including the full implementation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that passed the Senate by a vote of 98-2.

I encourage the Administration to avoid the mistakes of past Administrations in normalizing relations with Russia at zero cost to Putin and his regime. The only ‘reset’ we can have with Russia is when it completely reverses course and begins to act in accordance with civilized norms and international law. Nothing should change as of today – Putin’s Russia is not a friend to the United States.
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Friday, July 13, 2018

Sheriff Elder fires Duda, after he tells Indy about political "retaliation"

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 5:27 PM

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has one less seargent as of Friday, July 13.

Two days after the Independent reported Sheriff's Sgt. Keith Duda was placed on administrative leave, purportedly for politicking on duty, he was canned.

"I've dedicated 12 years to this office," Duda tells the Indy. "I'm a highly decorated deputy. I've done nothing wrong."

Keith Duda is  unemployed as of Friday, July 13. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Keith Duda is unemployed as of Friday, July 13.
Duda supported Mike Angley in his bid for the Republican nomination for sheriff against incumbent Bill Elder. Elder placed Duda on administrative leave on June 22 alleging he used his position for political reasons. Angley was defeated at the June 26 primary, four days later.

Duda was asked to participate in the county's investigation of his alleged misconduct as well as an investigation of allegations he had made of misconduct by other personnel. Among those was a report that Lt. Bill Huffor sexually harassed a female deputy, for which he was punished in early 2017. Huffor then filed an infraction complaint against Duda's daughter, Caitlyn, who also works for the Sheriff's Office. Caitlyn, too, had previously filed the sexual harassment complaint against Huffor after hearing the female deputy complain about his actions toward her.

Then, a few months later, in spring 2017, Huffor filed a complaint against Caitlyn Duda for cussing in the jail, for which she received punishment she viewed as overly harsh. A few weeks later, Duda advised his daughter to file a complaint about the retaliation, and the very day she filed the report, June 9, 2017, Keith Duda was removed from consideration for a promotion.

Huffor was accused of voter intimidation by several delegates to the Republican county assembly in March, but the Sheriff's Office closed the case due to lack of evidence. He also has enjoyed several promotions since Elder took office on Dec. 31, 2014, and is married to Elder's campaign manager, Janet Huffor, who also serves as Elder's chief of staff.

Both Caitlyn and Keith Duda have filed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints and are contemplating a lawsuit.

Sheriff Bill Elder - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Bill Elder
In one July 12 letter that asked Duda to cooperate in the investigations, County Attorney Amy Folsom says, "Legitimate employee complaints of inappropriate conduct, including suspected policy violations, are encouraged by the organization."

"Please appreciate that El Paso County and EPSO expect you to participate in the investigation process, provide truthful and complete information, and treat the investigation as confidential," Folsom wrote.

(Keith Duda's attorney, Ian Kalmanowitz, provided the Indy with those documents, as well as the termination notice posted on this blog.)

In another July 12 letter to Duda, Undersheriff Joe Breister notes, "You are advised the County is investigating allegations that you may have violated the confidentially [sic] requirement regarding workplace investigations."

Then, the letter tells Duda to report to the County Attorney's Office at 10 a.m. July 13 for the interview with employment investigators.

Duda did report. He spent two hours talking to an investigator with Employment Matters LLC/Flynn Investigations Group. When he was finished, the investigator told him that Lt. Michael St. Charles, the professional standards officer, was waiting for him outside.

St. Charles entered the room, Duda says, and handed him the termination notice, saying he needed an answer immediately to whether he would agree to meet with Elder. Duda declined.

Duda tells the Indy that the interview with the investigators was "ridiculous" because Elder had already decided to fire him, evidenced by the termination notice being dated July 12.

"It was already predetermined he was going to terminate me before I was interviewed," he says, referring to the July 13 meeting with investigators.

Here's the termination notice, which Duda said contains allegations with "no merit":
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