Politics

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Colorado Women roared in the midterm elections

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 4:05 PM

Women's votes counted big time in the mid-term elections. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
  • Women's votes counted big time in the mid-term elections.
After a burst of applause and cheers on election night at the Gold Room, State Senator-elect Pete Lee, a Democrat, made a point to say, "Thank you women, thank you women."

And here's why. 

More women went to the polls on Nov. 6 in Colorado than men. According to the latest numbers from the Secretary of State's Office, 1,296,893 women cast ballots, compared to 1,190,623 men. About 750,000 of those women were ages 26 to 60. (Another 30,764 voters were labeled "unknown" gender.)

In El Paso County, 145,728 women voted, compared to 132,195 men. (And 3,618 voters were labeled "unknown" gender.)

Here's some stories from around the web about women voters, and women in politics.

The Secretary of State's tally also shows that 822,419 Democrats cast ballots, compared to 804,991 Republicans. Unaffiliated voters cast 852,443 votes, more than either party.

That's vastly different than in the 2014 midterm election in Colorado when, according to the Atlas Project's 2014 post-election analysis, "male voters outnumbered women by a six- to eight-point margin. This shift spelled trouble for Democrats, who have historically made up for subpar performances among men by winning female voters."
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Monday, November 5, 2018

Time to vote is now!

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2018 at 9:26 AM

2018electionbug.jpg
Less than half of Colorado's 3.8 million registered voters had cast ballots by the morning of Nov. 5, one day before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

According to Secretary of State Wayne Williams, 1.5 million voters had cast ballots, with women casting 55,000 more ballots than men and Democrats (519,833) casting about 4,700 more ballots than Republicans (515,131). Voters who are unaffiliated at cast 461,154 votes, Williams report showed.

In El Paso County, 170,519 people had voted by the morning of Nov. 5 with 39,320 Democrats voting, 79,862 Republicans voting and 48,681 unaffiliated voters casting ballots.

The point is, VOTE!

To find out all the details of how you can still vote in this crucial election, go to www.epcvotes.com.

Do not mail your ballot. It's too late for the U.S. Postal Service to guarantee election workers will receive your ballot.
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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Dems, GOP hope to push Colorado Springs to the polls ahead of Election Day

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 5:06 PM

Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, right, scoops ice cream at a campaign event for Stephany Rose Spaulding, left. - MARILYNNE ANDERSON STARR
  • Marilynne Anderson Starr
  • Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, right, scoops ice cream at a campaign event for Stephany Rose Spaulding, left.

As one Nov. 1 poll showed enthusiasm growing among registered Republicans and Democrats, Colorado's two major parties prepared to pump up local voters.

Democrats' statewide "Colorado For All Bus Tour," which will make more than 50 stops between its Oct. 23 launch and Election Day, stops in Colorado Springs Nov. 2 for the following events (information from Colorado Democratic Party and Stephany Rose Spaulding's campaign):

March to the Polls at Colorado Springs Voter Service and Polling Center:

• 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
• Hillside Community Center, 925 S. Institute St.
• Speakers include: Lieutenant governor nominee Dianne Primavera, 5th Congressional District nominee Stephany Rose Spaulding, 2nd Congressional District nominee Joe Neguse, Attorney General nominee Phil Weiser, CU Regent At-Large nominee Lesley Smith, Treasurer nominee Dave Young
• RSVP online here.

Colorado Springs Canvass Launch

• 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
• El Paso County Field Office, 506 W. Colorado Ave.
• Speakers include: Primavera, Spaulding, Neguse
• RSVP online here.

Church Rally & Service with Stephany Rose Spaulding

• 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
• Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center, 1040 S Institute St.
• Speakers include: Spaulding, Pastor Promise Lee, NAACP President Rosemary Lytle, Secretary of State nominee Jena Griswold, state Rep. Tony Exum, Primavera, Weiser
• RSVP online here.


Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton trails Democrat Jared Polis by 5 to 8 points in the latest polls. - JEFFERY BEALL WIA WIKIMEDIA.COM
  • Jeffery Beall wia Wikimedia.com
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton trails Democrat Jared Polis by 5 to 8 points in the latest polls.

The Colorado Republican Party is turning up the heat in El Paso County, too. Attorney general candidate George Brauchler and gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton will both speak in Colorado Springs as part of their get-out-the-vote tours, says state GOP spokesperson Daniel Cole. More info below:

George Brauchler

• Friday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m.
• El Paso County Victory Office, 5145 Centennial Blvd., Suite 101

Walker Stapleton and Rep. Lang Sias

• Monday, Nov. 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
• El Paso County Victory Office, 5145 Centennial Blvd., Suite 101
• RSVP online here.

A telephone survey of 500 likely voters, released Nov. 1 by conservative polling firm Magellan Strategies, showed Polis with a 5-point lead over Stapleton, 2 percentage points less than the same firm's survey results three weeks prior. The survey also showed enthusiasm growing among members of both parties — 66 percent of people rated their interest in the election as a 10 on a 10-point scale, compared with 47 percent of respondents Oct. 8.

But the survey, in the interest of consistency, did not account for a slightly lower Republican turnout than what had been expected three weeks ago. And even Magellan's conclusion looks good for Polis: "With less than a week remaining in the 2018 election cycle, the election for Colorado Governor appears to be tightening slightly. However this survey, along with the two prior public surveys we have released this election cycle have consistently measured Jared Polis with a lead of 5 to 7 points. Taking that survey data into account and a real chance that Democrat and unaffiliated turnout will exceed 2014 levels, it is safe to say that Jared Polis has the inside track of becoming the next Governor of Colorado. We shall see."

On the same day, a survey by a liberal consortium that included Keating Research, OnSight Public Affairs and Martin Campaigns showed Polis with an 8-point lead over Stapleton. The survey cites "weak Republican turnout and robust Unaffiliated voter support for Polis (53% vs. 32% for Stapleton)" as factors in Polis' likely victory.

Election watchers note that Republican turnout has taken a dive since the last midterm election.

Over 50,000 fewer Republicans had turned in ballots by Oct. 31 of this year compared with 2014, according to Magellan Strategies. By contrast, almost 40,000 more Democrats had voted by Oct. 31 of this year than Oct. 31 of 2014.

And while in 2014, Republican turnout was 28 percent higher than Democratic turnout as of Oct. 31, elections data from the Secretary of State's office shows Republicans leading by less than 1 percent on Nov. 1 of this year.

COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE
  • Colorado Secretary of State
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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Stephany Rose Spaulding gets Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 10:07 AM

stephany.jpg
When it comes to political campaign merchandise, candidates have pulled out all the stops in recent years to attract meme-happy millennials. Case in point: "I Stand with Rand" flip-flops, the "Chillary Clinton" can holder and the Ted Cruz coloring book.

This year, Ben and Jerry's Homemade founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are going a step further. They came up with unique ice cream flavors for seven progressive candidates running for Congress in partnership with MoveOn.org Political Action, which paid for television ads that feature each candidate and their flavor.

Stephany Rose Spaulding, the candidate for House District 5 running against incumbent Doug Lamborn, is one of the chosen ones.

Her flavor: "Rocky Mountain Rose."


A video caption from MoveOn.org describes the flavor as "Colorado’s own Palisade peaches and pecans, in a light 'care'-amel base."

Cohen and Greenfield are making 40 pints of each ice cream flavor by hand in their home, says Edward Erikson, a consultant who works with Cohen. You can enter to win a pint by texting "ICECREAM" to 668366 or by signing up online to host or attend a campaign event.

Each pint will be signed by Cohen and Greenfield, Erikson says.


It'll take a lot of ice cream to win over all of District 5's Republicans, and Spaulding is definitely the underdog in this race. FiveThirtyEight gave her a 1 in 40 chance of winning, and pollsters consider District 5, where Lamborn's already won six times, an uphill battle for any Democrat.

But Erikson says that's part of the reason she was so appealing to Cohen and Greenfield, who purposely looked for candidates running in places "where we thought we could be most helpful."

"[District 5] is not viewed as being competitive, but looking at that district and looking at the changing demographics in Colorado we think that the math could be turning there," Erikson says. "It might not turn this cycle, but we think it could turn soon. And [Spaulding] is an exceptionally dynamic candidate who we were drawn to and wanted to support."

The other candidates include Jess King of Pennsylvania, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Aftab Pureval of Ohio, J.D. Scholten of Iowa, Ammar Campa Najjar of California and James Thompson of Kansas.
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Election Day jitters? It's OK if you don't have your ballot yet

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 4:49 PM

2018electionbug.jpg
We made a cool Instagram post recently to remind people to vote in the midterm election, and got a couple of comments from some proactive voters. They were wondering why only half of their household's ballots had arrived in the mail.

It sounded worrisome, because the only thing worse than not being able to vote, is not being able to vote while watching a family member vote for the people you don't like. Right?

Turns out, it's too early to worry. Kristi Ridlen, spokesperson for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office, calls this "a very common issue."

"That happens to a lot of households and to a lot of people, where you’ll get some ballots one day, you’ll get some the next day and then you could get the remaining two days later," Ridlen says. "It’s a mass mailing, pretty much, is what it is, so depending on if it gets shuffled around when they’re processing that mail at the U.S. Postal Service, that tends to happen."

If you don't have your ballot by the end of the day Friday, Oct. 19, and have ensured that your current address is on file by visiting govotecolorado.com, Ridlen says to give her office a call at 719/575-VOTE (8683).
Ballots aren't forward-able, Ridlen notes, so it's important to make sure that your address is updated. The deadline for doing so is Oct. 29.

All ballots must be returned to the Clerk’s Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6, to be counted. (Postmarked ballots received after that won't be counted.)

You can vote in one of three ways:

1) Mail your ballot back with extra postage. Don't just slap a stamp on it — that won't be enough to mail your ballot. Total postage of $0.71 is needed because the ballot is two sheets.

2) Drop it off. A complete list of ballot drop boxes, open 24/7 and under video surveillance, is located here.

3) Vote in person. Voter Service and Polling Centers in El Paso County are listed here. (You can also visit these centers to register to vote, update your address, drop off a ballot or replace a soiled ballot.)

Visit epcvotes.com for more information on the upcoming election.

And if you need a ride, Lyft and Uber are both offering free and discount transportation to polling places on Election Day.

Lyft is distributing promo codes for 50 percent off rides to voting locations, through nonprofits including Vote.org, Nonprofit Vote and TurboVote. The company will offer free rides to underserved communities in partnership with Voto Latino, local Urban League affiliates, the National Federation of the Blind and more. The app will also include a tool to help passengers find a polling location.

Uber will add a "Get to the Polls" button to its app Nov. 6 to help voters find their nearest polling places and quickly book a ride. The company is also working with nonprofits #VoteTogether and Democracy Works to provide free rides to the polls. Those nonprofits will select certain areas, probably those that have a high need from a transportation perspective, and distribute codes that way, Elite Daily reports.
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Monday, October 15, 2018

Tony Wolusky wants to be on University of Colorado's Board of Regents

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 8:17 AM

Dr. Tony Wolusky - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Dr. Tony Wolusky
After the Indy endorsements were released this week, we received a lot of email and phone calls.
There were a few thank yous in there, along with some complaints, and a few candidates disappointed that we hadn't made an endorsement in their race.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: It was a very long ballot this year, and we just couldn't  examine every race.

Still, one call stood out. Dr. Tony Wolusky, the Democrat running for University of Colorado Board of Regents in District 5 (that's us) said he had been frustrated by the lack of attention on the race — especially since it was such a key role when it comes to controlling student debt.

OK, you got us Wolusky. We're pretty sympathetic to that issue. It's hard not to be considering how the heavy burden of debt steers a young person's life and opportunities. Plus the nine-member regent board, long dominated by Republicans, does a lot of important things like pick the next president of the CU system, for instance, and approve the budget, set policies, determine degree programs and (important to Wolusky's point) decide whether to raise, lower or freeze tuition.

While we still aren't endorsing in the race, we agreed to meet and talk with Wolusky about his race against Republican Chance Hill, and we encourage you to learn more about your regent candidates.

Here are a few things Wolusky wanted to point out:
• Big student debt loads (the average in Colorado in 2017 was estimated to be $26,095 by the Congress & Student Debt report) take young people years to pay off and create a lot of emotional pressure in their lives. Wolusky, who teaches at several colleges, has had students at Pikes Peak Community College who couldn't afford textbooks and says about half his students at Metropolitan State University of Denver are single moms. Food insecurity is incredibly common among his students. The CU system, he says, doesn't need to cost students so much. Perhaps it could cut back on salaries, some of which are near $1 million (and that isn't including the multimillion dollar contract given to CU's head coach).
He adds that the system spends too much on "prestige projects," such as huge figures expended on marketing, when it could use that money to help students. CU ranks 48th nationally in state funding for higher education. "They do a lot of things," he says, "that I think are a way to pat yourself on the back."
If the system could cut back on such expenses, he says, perhaps it could at least freeze tuition for a year instead of raising it. The system might also be able to offer students with heavy course loads some free classes each semester.

• Wolusky is a big proponent of diversity in the system. He notes that many young minority students are priced out of the system. That's a particular shame, he says, because one of the most enriching part of college should be learning about, and befriending people, who are different than you.

• Stopping sex assault on campus has to be a major priority, Wolusky says. He thinks we should educate students within the first month, focusing particularly on men. Wolusky says that in his time as an attorney he saw how deeply scarred victims of sexual assault are and wants to do whatever he can to prevent it.

• Wolusky says the current regents spend too much time on political issues, saying he's witnessed them discussing the need to classify conservative students as "minorities" and offer them the same support as, say, students of color. Another time, he says, the regents spent a long time talking about how to take the word " liberal" out of liberal arts.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Here are a few things you should know about Wolusky's background:
• He went to the Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force for 28 years, even teaching at the AFA as an Associate Professor of Law and serving as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Superintendent before retiring from active duty in Colorado Springs in 2004.

• He has five degrees: A bachelor's in public administration and international relations, a master's in education, a master's in international relations, a juris doctorate and a Ph.D. in education. (In contrast, Sue Sharkey, the current chair of the Board of Regents, which oversees the entire CU system, doesn't have any degree.)

• He teaches and has taught at many colleges including current stints at Pikes Peak Community College and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

• He's an attorney with 30 years experience who has served both as a deputy district attorney and a public defender.

• He has four daughters and a grandson.
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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Crowdfunding for small businesses just got a little easier

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2018 at 11:12 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
Think GoFundMe, but for amateur investors: Colorado's small businesses could get a leg up thanks to new rules governing crowdfunding.

In 2015, Colorado lawmakers approved a bill to help startups use crowdfunding for investment, essentially by selling stocks through an online marketplace. At the time, says Rep. Pete Lee, a Democrat from Colorado Springs who sponsored the bill, "the biggest complaint we were hearing from businesses was the difficulty of raising capital."

The intent behind the Colorado Crowdfunding Act was to help small businesses get investors without having to go through the complex state securities registration process. However, the state Division of Securities' first rules on crowdfunding, issued a few months after the legislation was passed, were cumbersome, says securities lawyer Herrick Lidstone.

"Everything that the securities division did in its rulemaking was afforded by the legislation, but the difficulties that were created bore no relationship to economic reality for small businesses seeking to raise capital," Lidstone says.

Those difficulties included a requirement that businesses use a broker or online intermediary, that the minimum offering be no less than half of the maximum offering, and that the minimum offering be held in an escrow account.

"Anything where you’re raising capital is subject to possible abuse, and that’s something that the legislature and the securities division are properly concerned about," Lidstone says. "But my experience with many regulators is that they assume abuse. I would like them to assume that people are really intending to be honest, which is my experience as a lawyer."
Pete Lee: "I think this could be a real shot in the arm for small businesses." - FILE PHOTO
  • file photo
  • Pete Lee: "I think this could be a real shot in the arm for small businesses."

Lidstone and other experts on securities law recommended changes to the Division of Securities, and on July 31 — more than three years after the original legislation was passed — new rules were put in place that Lidstone, as well as Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome, feel will make crowdfunding a more appetizing solution for small businesses looking to raise capital.

"It’s important that we enable small companies to access capital through the capital markets, and it’s difficult for them to do that simply because usually they don’t have a track record," Rome says. "It’s just a difficult stage in the growth of their company to go out and get institutional investors to invest in their company. So [crowdfunding] is a means of allowing a large number of people to invest in a local, small business here."

Now, businesses looking to raise less than $500,000 in a year don't have to go through an online intermediary, which Lidstone says can be expensive. They also don't have to comply with the minimum-offering requirement.

Also, the new rules allow a person helping a small company to have an ownership — something that was previously prohibited. "As you may know in the equity world, one of the things that might reduce the cost to the small business issuer is to say, you help me with these things, and I’ll give you a piece of my pie," Lidstone says.

There are still disclosure requirements in place for businesses looking to start crowdfunding, and the rules require the investor and issuer to reside in Colorado. While there are federal rules that accommodate crowdfunding, Lidstone says they aren't particularly friendly to small businesses.

Rome says he doesn't believe anyone has taken advantage of the changes yet, and advises interested businesses to contact the Division of Securities. (You can reach them at  DORA_SecuritiesWebsite@state.co.us.)

The businesses best suited to crowdfunding are those that already have community backing in place, Rome says: "If you’re running, say, a small brewery and you want to expand, or maybe a small restaurant you want to expand, then the people that are going to invest in your company through crowdfunding are the people that go and show up at your brewery or show up at your restaurant."

"I think this could be a real shot in the arm for small businesses," Lee says. "And as we know, small businesses drive the economy."
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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Land and Water Conservation Fund faces uncertain future

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 9:53 AM

The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. - NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO/ WALKER HALL
  • National Park Service Photo/ Walker Hall
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition.

Without action by Congress, a fund that's helped to pay for the conservation of public lands since 1965 is on hold.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expired Sept. 30, bought and preserved land, water and recreation areas with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

Since 1965, Colorado has received more than $268 million from the fund, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a group advocating for its reauthorization. The money has paid for projects in Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Arapaho National Forest, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch and more.

As of Oct. 2, U.S. parks had lost more than $3.6 million in funding as a result of Congress' failure to reauthorize it, according to the LWCF Coalition. (The organization has an automatically updating online counter that tracks funds "lost," based on the $900 million deposited annually.)

A total of $40 billion was deposited in the fund over its 54-year lifespan, though less than half of that was appropriated by Congress. Of the $18.4 billion spent, 61 percent went to federal land acquisition, 25 percent went to the state grant program and 14 percent was spent on other purposes, according to the Congressional Research Service. The other funds were diverted elsewhere.

A measure to permanently restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund passed in the House Natural Resources Committee in September, but the measure has not yet reached the chamber floor. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was expected to consider similar legislation Oct. 2.

Both bills would dedicate a minimum of $10 million from the fund each year to "projects that secure recreational public access to existing Federal public land for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes."

A coalition of more than 70 Colorado business owners and leaders in August signed a letter addressed to the state's representatives in Congress, urging them to reauthorize the fund.

"LWCF funding has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars of state, local, and private
matching funds to contribute to the betterment of Colorado and well-being of its citizens,
and its reauthorization is critical to our future," they wrote. "Now more than ever, with the rapid
expansion of Colorado’s population and ever more common water shortages throughout
the Colorado River basin, Coloradans need the tool of LWCF to protect public land access,
critical drinking water supplies, and community resources."

Colorado legislators from both parties have jumped aboard the LWCF train. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet are cosponsors of the Senate reauthorization measure, while Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) have signed on in support of the House measure. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), serves on the Natural Resources Committee and voted in favor of advancing the legislation, the Colorado Sun reports.

Gardner and Bennet, original cosponsors of the Senate measure, co-authored a July 24 guest editorial in the Boulder Daily Camera championing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

"LWCF is a critical tool for fulfilling our basic responsibility to give the next generation the same opportunities our parents and grandparents gave to us. It is time for Congress to stop the serial, short-term extensions of this program and make LWCF permanent with the full dedicated funding it deserves," they wrote.

Jonathan Asher, senior representative for the Wilderness Society, called actions in the House and Senate "really great signs," but predicted that legislation reauthorizing the fund is more likely to pass as part of next year's budget than as a stand-alone bill.
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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sheriff Bill Elder files only "vote yes" statement for the sheriff's sales tax

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 5:24 PM

Sheriff Bill Elder was the only one to file a statement in support of extending for eight years the sheriff's sales tax, ballot measure 1A on the Nov. 6 ballot. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Bill Elder was the only one to file a statement in support of extending for eight years the sheriff's sales tax, ballot measure 1A on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The Nov. 6 election is less than six weeks away and it appears no committee has been formed to campaign for El Paso County's 1A, a continuation of the .0023 percent sheriff's sales tax.

Moreover, only one "pro" statement has been filed with the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office for the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights Notice, and it was filed by Sheriff Bill Elder, although his name initially was withheld from the public. More on that later.

The measure would extend the eight-year sales tax first approved by voters in 2012 for a second eight years, or through 2028. County officials estimated the tax would raise $17 million the first year, but receipts exceeded that, resulting in a lawsuit. An appeal of a judgment in favor of the county was filed in March with the Colorado Court of Appeals.
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A search of active committees for campaigns in El Paso County filed with the Secretary of State showed no committee formed to support 1A. Advocates who spend $200 or more on campaigning for an issue must file reports. (A committee formed to support the measure in 2012, when then-Sheriff Terry Maketa was riding a wave of support, spent only about $7,000.)

The deadline to file TABOR "pro" and "con" statements, summaries of which will be mailed soon to all voters, was Sept. 21. Three people filed "con" statements but only Elder filed a "pro" statement.

In it, Elder argues, "This proposal creates no new or increased taxes while assuring the continuation of dedicated and restricted funding solely to support public safety needs throughout El Paso County. These include crime prevention, criminal investigation and the mandated detention operation in the jail."

He also notes that calls for service have gone up by 57 percent since 2012, while the daily average inmate population has increased by 24 percent. Elder also says the tax:
...currently pays for more than 190 Sheriff's Office employees working in all bureau. It provides resources needed for increased illegal marijuana enforcement and multi-jurisdictional task forces targeting organized violent criminal activity that includes manufacturing and distribution of various types of dangerous drugs, motor vehicle and vehicle parts theft operations and human trafficking. It also provides resources for a Jail Veterans Ward addressing specific needs of veterans, a Rural Enforcement Unit and additional patrol deputies in the rapidly growing Falcon area.
But the Clerk and Recorder's Office initially released the statement with no name, signature or address. (The other filings contained names and addresses. State law stipulates that pro-con statements must be filed by registered voters and bear their names and addresses.)

Asked about that, county director of elections Angie Leath explained that Elder is a "confidential voter," so, therefore, his name and address were removed from the TABOR "pro" statement. A confidential voter is one who signs an affirmation to have their voter registration information kept secret. That information includes their address, among other data points.

After we asked about Elder's name and address being withheld, we were sent a new Elder statement bearing his name.

Leath says confidential voting status is granted to law enforcement officers, judges, elected officials and others who believe they might be in danger if someone could their address, including stalking victims.

"We have a lot of law enforcement who sign up as a confidential voter," she says.

There are more than 800 confidential voters in El Paso County, according to County Attorney Amy Folsom.

As for the three statements urging a "no" vote on 1A, portions of those submissions follow, and all four statements in full are posted below.

Douglas Bruce, author of TABOR, former county commissioner and state legislator who was convicted of tax evasion:
This is not about backing cops; it's about overpaying incompetent commissioners who can't balance a budget the way your family must. Read their vague "to do" list; the money is for general overhead.... Our combined sales tax rate is 8.25%. Higher than Denver! THE HIGHEST BIG CITY SALES TAX RATE IN COLORADO. This "temporary" tax is not needed. Your "NO" vote will force it down to 8.02% in 2021 — a step in the right direction. 
Unsuccessful primary candidate for sheriff Mike Angley wrote comments opposing the sheriff's tax extension. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Unsuccessful primary candidate for sheriff Mike Angley wrote comments opposing the sheriff's tax extension.
Mike Angley, Republican candidate for sheriff in the June primary who lost to Elder:
The County has had six years to find a permanent solution to the temporary Public Safety Tax but has failed to do so. Poor management should not become a burden on the taxpayer today. County Question I A merely ducks responsibility.... The main purpose of the original Public Safety Tax was to provide for more manpower in both patrol and detention at the Sheriffs Office. For the last four years, the Sheriff's Office has seen double-digit attrition losses to the point that patrol and jail manning are now at dangerously low levels. If the County has failed to accomplish what the original tax was approved for why should residents trust the County to get it right with a second chance?
Roger Bishop Jr.:
The Sheriffs Department commissioned two reports on how to improve the Department they will not release to you, the taxpayer who paid over $70,000... Halfway through the current term the leadership commissioned a 2nd report at a cost of $14,900 that had 52 new recommendations — but the Sheriffs Department leadership never had the firm finish the report! Why did we waste money on reports?... The Sheriffs Department spent more on frivolous reports than on a deputy's salary. Wouldn't you want to implement some of the recommendations made in a report you paid for? If the Sheriffs Department wants additional money, why not be transparent in how the money is currently being spent?
Here are all four statements submitted to the county for the TABOR notice.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Stephany Rose Spaulding talks gun safety with Moms Demand Action founder

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 at 4:19 PM

House District 5 candidate Stephany Rose Spaulding, left, and Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts. - COURTESY OF STEPHANY ROSE FOR CONGRESS
  • Courtesy of Stephany Rose for Congress
  • House District 5 candidate Stephany Rose Spaulding, left, and Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts.
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Stephany Rose Spaulding, the Democrat hoping to unseat Rep. Doug Lamborn, say they often cry when they're together.

A Sept. 25 town hall featuring the pair at Colorado College was no exception. The tears flowed more than once during a conversation about gun safety, local politics and the importance of intersectionality in activism.

Spaulding and Watts both addressed the idea that they're fighting respective uphill battles: Spaulding in a Republican district that's easily elected Lamborn six times, and Watts in a legislative landscape that has long been shaped by the powerful gun lobby.

Spaulding, a licensed minister and associate professor of women's and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, said she decided to run for Congress after attending the Women's March in Washington.

"This is not the easiest district to be an African-American woman who is progressive and a pastor," Spaulding said. "...So what if it's hard? Life is hard!...In life we don't get to back down just because it is hard and there are roadblocks."

Spaulding recalled that some had asked her why she didn't want to enter a local race instead, perhaps for a seat on City Council or the Board of County Commissioners.

"We do not tell white boys who wake up in the morning and scratch themselves not to run for whatever office," she pointed out to laughter.

Watts' involvement in politics was also born of a single defining event: After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, she founded Moms Demand Action to demand "common-sense" gun reforms. The organization now has chapters in all 50 states.

Watts acknowledged that despite polling that shows a shift in American attitudes about the Second Amendment, it's hard to overcome groups such as the National Rifle Association that have for decades donated to politicians' campaigns and given them favorable ratings in exchange for legislation that benefits gun manufacturers.

"Until we get the right president and Congress in place, we'll be playing defense with federal legislation," Watts said, adding that a ban on assault rifles, while an eventual goal, was not currently a priority for her organization. In the meantime, though, Moms Demand Action has defeated "dangerous" bills in many states that would have allowed guns in schools, eliminated background checks, and more, she said. 

Besides pushing for legislation such as "red-flag" laws and bump-stock bans, and opposing efforts by the NRA to make guns easier to get, Moms Demand Action also endorses candidates at the local and national level — including Spaulding.

Spaulding's choice to hold a campaign event on gun violence could be characterized as daring, in a county that in 2013 passed a resolution defying Obama-era gun control orders, in 2014 allowed guns in parks, and whose representative has received NRA ratings that consistently top 90 percent.

But Spaulding, who grew up on the south side of Chicago and saw gun violence affect her own family — both her brother and niece were held at gunpoint — says she doesn't oppose Americans' right to own firearms.

"I'm not against the Second Amendment," Spaulding said. "We have eroded the responsibility around what it means to be owners of firearms." She added that she feels there's been a shift in popular sentiment in Colorado Springs around gun ownership, with more residents here desiring reforms like those championed by Moms Demand Action.

"It's not about being anti-gun, it's really about, 'How do we make things safer?'"
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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.
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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.

The Department of Homeland Security unleashed another bombshell with the Sept. 22 proposal to more broadly enforce "public charge" as a criterion for temporary and permanent admission. Under it, people enrolled in programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) would have a harder time getting their immigration status changed or extended.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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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

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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

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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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