Won’t Someone Think of the Children?

Evan Young, valedictorian of Twin Peaks Charter Academy.

Evan Young, valedictorian of Twin Peaks Charter Academy.

Recent controversial incidents between right-leaning administrators at Colorado public schools and students that we’ve covered in this space have not resolved themselves in favor of the rights of the students. Briefly revisiting a story we noted a few weeks ago, the valedictorian of this year’s graduating class at Twin Peaks Charter Academy who was prevented from mentioning in his valedictory address that he is gay, where an inquiry commissioned by the school found no wrongdoing on the part of the school’s principal:

The Longmont charter school has come under fire from advocates and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, for preventing valedictorian Evan Young, 18, from giving a graduation speech in which he planned to out himself as gay.

Additionally, Young and his father have alleged that the man who made that decision, since-departed school principal BJ Buchmann, also outed Young to his parents.

Attorney William Bethke, who was hired by the Twin Peaks board, wrote in his 24-page report that schools can legally “exercise editorial control” over graduation speeches as long as the school’s action is “reasonably related to pedagogical concerns.” Those concerns may include “discipline, courtesy and respect for authority.”

The investigator concedes that the now-ex principal of Twin Peaks Charter Academy was “distinctly uncomfortable” with the student in question coming out as gay during the speech, but claims a larger “communication breakdown” led to the censoring of his speech. We’ve noted previously the role of far-right attorney Barry Arrington with this school, and other anecdotes we’ve heard that suggest Twin Peaks Charter Academy may be a thiny-veiled religious school masquerading as “public” to obtain public funding. The board of the school sent a letter to parent in response to this investigation that blasts outsiders’ attempts “to push their own political agendas.”

But isn’t being “distinctly uncomfortable” with a gay valedictorian a pretty clear expression of a political agenda?

Ken Witt.

Ken Witt.

The second case concerns the investigation of an incident at a Jefferson County school board meeting last May, in which a minor student’s name was displayed on an overhead projector while board chairman Ken Witt attacked the student as “racist” and declared that he would not meet with any group that included said student. Parents and teachers in attendance cried foul and demanded an investigation to determine if laws or district policies were broken. We were forwarded the result:

The discussion on the matter lasted approximately two minutes and during the discussion a public, social media posting of the student was displayed for 25 seconds. From the time Mr. Witt directed Ms. Neal to project the image through the time it was displayed during the meeting, the conversation focused on getting student voices to Board meetings with a suggestion from Ms. Dahlkemper to consider an approach similar to Denver Public Schools’ Board of Education. No discussion or reference was made to the image of the student while the social media posting was displayed. Of the five Board members present, none of them called into question the comments or the appropriateness of the display of the student post during the meeting. Because the posting displayed was from a public social media site and not a school maintained record, FERPA and District Policy JRA/JRC were not violated as FERPA only protects the privacy of student education records.

The complaining parties allege that Mr. Witt’s behavior constituted harassment and/or bullying and therefore Mr. McMinimee and Mr. Hess had an affirmative duty to intervene and stop the harassment and/or bullying. Policy JBB, Harassment of Students, explicitly prohibits “harassment based on an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, or disability.” The investigator concluded Mr. Witt did not violate this policy because there “is no indication that his attention to the issue was in any way related to a protected status of a student.”

In short, the investigation of this incident appears to validate the idea that board members in Jefferson County can say whatever they want to students as long as the students are not a member of a specifically protected class and official academic records aren’t being shared. By all accounts we’ve heard, the singling out of this minor student for baseless allegations of racism was a highly confrontational and inappropriate act by Witt. Critics of the board say the investigation’s scope was tightly controlled to avoid, among other things, the emotional distress Witt’s statements inflicted on the minor student.

In Longmont, the principal responsible for censoring the Twin Peaks Charter Academy valedictorian’s speech has since left the school. In Jefferson County, the alleged bullying of a minor student by Ken Witt has become part of a much longer list of grievances against the school board majority driving the recall election now underway. Without any other apparent remedy, the recall in Jefferson County may be the only check and balance left to protect students from a hostile, even abusive, school board.

In both cases, we think the highest priority of the adult officials involved–the kids–were tremendously disserved.

Jeffco School Board “Vindicated?” Far From It

Jefferson County school board protests.

Jefferson County school board protesters.

One of the major grievances against the right-wing Jefferson County school board majority driving the recall election now underway was an abortive proposal last fall by board member Julie Williams to set up a board-appointed “review” of recently revised AP U.S. History curriculum. Readers will recall the specific language of Williams’ proposal, which touched off huge student protests in Jefferson County:

Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. [Pols emphasis] Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

After the protests against Williams’ proposal became literally international news, the Jeffco board quietly shelved the idea, announcing through their contracted public relations staff a few months later that the proposal was dead. Politically, it was a huge disaster for the board and their Republican backers in Jefferson County, dramatically raising the profile of the conflict over the school district’s new direction since conservative board candidates rode opposition to a failed tax increase measure to victory in 2013. Today, the attempt to “censor” Jeffco’s AP History curriculum is perhaps the best-known reason among the public justifying the recall–frequently cited by petition signers as their reason for doing so without any prompting.

Today, however, right-wing defenders of the Jeffco school board majority are claiming “vindication” of Williams after the College Board released another round of revisions to AP U.S. History framework intended to mollify conservative critics. From Newsweek’s latest issue:

The new framework significantly pares down last year’s framework, simplifying and condensing the course’s Thematic Learning Objectives from 50 to 19, according to an official at the College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers AP exams. In the process, a new section on the concept of “American exceptionalism” has been added. Some names that were omitted from last year’s framework, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, have been added—a key sticking point for critics of the prior document, who objected to Founding Fathers being omitted and negative aspects in American history being more emphasized, they claimed, than positive periods. Ben Carson, a GOP presidential candidate, said the curriculum was so anti-American that students who complete it would be “ready to sign up for ISIS.”

…In October, the College Board began accepting comment from teachers and the general public on the standards. In April, Trevor Packer, College Board’s head of AP, announced that revisions would be published in July based on the feedback.

Teachers Newsweek spoke with, who sat on a committee to draft the framework, stressed that the document was never meant to be a description of the totality of what an AP U.S. history teacher must teach, but rather a simplified outline that guides the course toward certain themes. [Pols emphasis] The impetus for the original revision, published last year, was to redirect the course away from rote memorization of facts and more toward “historical thinking skills,” according to Ted Dickson, a teacher at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina…

“The amount of press it got was entirely ridiculous because I don’t think they understood what it was meant to be. It was a framework that meant to let teachers understand the limits of what would be tested. You add examples, you teach it how you want to teach it, just make sure you teach these important concepts,” Hastings said. But critics saw it as excluding, among other things, favorite Founding Fathers and historical events that contribute to America’s legacy, such as its role in winning World War I and World War II. In the new framework, America’s military achievements are given a greater emphasis than in the last document.

Bottom line: the changes made by the College Board to the AP U.S. History curriculum are not anything like the sweeping and highly politicized review of history Williams sought last year. Making a few changes to specifically invoke certain names and events–the “rote memorization of facts” noted above–do not come close to Williams’ test of a history curriculum that “promotes patriotism, the free enterprise system, and respect for authority,” while avoiding “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

Because Williams’ proposal did tremendous damage to the credibility of the Jefferson County school board’s conservative majority, it makes sense that they would loudly declare any concession on the matter as “vindication.” If anything, these small concessions only cast Williams’ over-the-top proposal for a sweeping and politically slanted review of U.S. History into harsher relief. If throwing empty bromides like “American exceptionalism” and the name Benjamin Franklin into the framework is really enough to placate Williams, her criticisms were baseless to begin with.

But the truth is, Williams wanted much more than that. And this small concession won’t save her from an outraged and tuned-in Jeffco electorate.

Recalling Coffman’s proposal for English-only ballots, as the Voting Rights Act turns 50

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

coffmantrump3Over the weekend, I enjoyed reading Jim Rutenberg’s piece in the New York Times magazine on how conservatives have methodically dismantled the Voting Rights Act, which turns 50 on Thursday, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision gutting major provisions of the law.

Here at home, one conservative who’s thrown his congressional spear at the Voting Rights Act, widely credited for finally giving African-Americans actual factual access to the voting booth, is Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora.

Coffman, you recall, introduced legislation in 2011 repealing the law’s requirement that bilingual ballots be provided in areas with large numbers of voters don’t speak English very well.

In other words, Coffman wanted to leave the decision about whether to provide bilingual ballots to local authorities, and if you take the time to read Rutenberg’s article, you’ll see that, as much as we’d all like to believe otherwise, local politicians are apparently still trying to keep black Americans from voting. That’s why we need federal requirements for stuff like bilingual ballots–to make sure everyone can participate in democracy, such as it is.

But Coffman, who once suggested that immigrants “pull out a dictionary” if they’re having trouble understanding an English ballot, doesn’t see it that way.

Coffman: “Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all,” Coffman told the Denver Post in 2011.

Last year, Coffman doubled down on his support for English-only ballots, saying during a Univision debate that he still opposes the Voting Rights Act’s requirements for mailing Spanish-language ballots, because it’s expensive.

But Coffman said it in a more friendly way, “I would hope that every voter will be able to get the information that he needs in a language he can understand.”

Again, most of us have to share Coffman’s hope, but there’s also reality lurking out there, embodied in politicians who care more about self-preservation than democracy. And you can read about it in the New York Times.

Trump sounds like Coffman on immigration, but (surprise) we don’t know the details

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Reflecting yesterday on Donald Trump’s recent pledge to deport, cattle-car style, each and every one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America–and then expedite the return of the “good ones”– the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent called on reporters to extract detailed plans from the herd of Republican presidential candidates regarding their positions on immigration.

Indeed, one hopes that the moderators of the upcoming GOP debate will see an opportunity in Trump’s cattle car musings: why not ask all the GOP candidates whether they agree with him? And if not, where dothey stand on the 11 million exactly? Remember, Mitt Romney’s big “self-deportation” moment came at a GOP primary debate…

The point is that eventually, we’ll need to hear from all the GOP candidates as to what they would do about the 11 million — beyond vaguely supporting legal status, but only after some future point at which we’ve attained a Platonic ideal of border security. Trump may have just made it more likely that this moment will come sooner, rather than later. One can hope, anyway.

It’s a good idea and has direct application here in Colorado, where Republicans, like Rep. Mike Coffman, continue to slide by journalists with vague and shifting statements about immigration.

Like Trump, Coffman has said he favors some sort of “legal status” for adult undocumented immigrants, but it’s not clear whether he’d boot out everyone first, and then allow the good apples to return–or if he’d skip the cattle-car phase and grant “legal status” to the immigrants here.

Either way, would he wait for seamless border security? And what’s good enough, when it comes to the border?

And then, assuming the border is sufficiently seamless, and whether he chooses the cattle-car or no cattle-car opition, does Coffman really want t0 create an underclass of millions of noncitizens in America, with no voice in government? Would we be looking at good old fashioned taxation without representation? What rights (voting?) and responsibilities (military service? taxes?) would be denied? Even Helen Krieble, a Colorado resident who first proposed the cattle-car option, advocates giving a political voice to undocumented immigrants through citizenship.

Details, details. I wouldn’t want to go there either, if I were Coffman–because he’d get bitten by both progressive and conservative sharks. But that’s not a problem for journalists who should be asking him the questions.

John Newkirk Takes Personal Role In Recall Shenanigans

Jeffco school board member John Newkirk.

Jeffco school board member John Newkirk.

One of the things that we frequently cover as the political water cooler blog for Colorado are the cutesey games that opposing political campaigns often play against one another online. Over the years and often the result of tips from readers, we’ve broken the stories of hilarious errors on candidate websites, candidate photo shoots gone horribly wrong, and the occasional outright spoofing of an opponent’s site.

The main “independent” group opposing the recall of conservative members of the Jefferson County school board is a group known as Jeffco Students First. Jeffco Students First recently pulled off a trick at the expense of the pro-recall group Support Jeffco Kids, who had registered their website’s domain name supportjeffcokids.org, but had neglected to also register supportjeffcokids.COM–the site people are most likely to type in from memory. Jeffco Students First snapped up the .com domain name and repointed it at their own website–which will both confuse voters looking for more information and hurt the real Support Jeffco Kids’ Google ranking.

But this apparently wasn’t the only example of Jeffco Students First playing domain name games. Several other seemingly pro-recall domain names were bought up, apparently some time ago: including recallwitt.org, recallnewkirk.org, and recallwilliams.org. These three domain names were all registered to the same domain registrar, Omnis Network. Recallwitt.org and recallwilliams.org were registered at 10:21PM on June 26 2014, recallnewkirk.org at 10:27PM on June 26 2014. As you can see, someone was thinking ahead.

But here’s the newsworthy part: the latter two are NOT registered in the name of Jeffco Students First. They are registered in the personal name of Jeffco board member John Newkirk. Here are the relevant portions of the identifying WHOIS records for these three domains:

(more…)

Jeffco Recall Campaign Turns In Over 111,000 Signatures

UPDATE: The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland:

The Jefferson County Clerk has 15 business days to review the petitions and deem the signatures sufficient. After that, opponents have 15 days to protest or challenge signatures.

That’s where the cost could go from a low of about $10,000 to more than $500,000. The district will have to cover the costs, whether it’s for the November election or a special election.

According to Jeffco United for Action, which led the petition drive, if even one protest is filed, because of time constraints, there will not be enough time to get the recall onto the November ballot. The recall will instead take place through a special election, resulting in the $500,000 cost.

Gurdikian said she hopes the opponents recognize that there are more than enough signatures to get the issue to the ballot, and not waste taxpayer money by forcing a special election.

Westword’s Melanie Asmar:

Now, the clerks have fifteen days to validate the signatures. Then there’s a fifteen-day window for any protest of the validity of the signatures. McCord hopes that doesn’t happen. “If somebody does protest, they will drag us past the date by which we can get on the November ballot,” she says. “Then we end up in a special election that costs the district a whole lot of money that we don’t want to spend.”

The parents estimate that a special election would cost half a million dollars. “We got lots and lots of extra signatures,” McCord adds. “So there wouldn’t be any valid protest. It would be frivolous.”

—–

Volunteers deliver Jefferson County recall petitions today.

Volunteers deliver Jefferson County recall petitions today.

A press release a short while ago from Jeffco United For Action announces the delivery of over 37,000 petition signatures to recall each of the conservative majority members of the Jefferson County school board: Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams. This total dwarfs the required 15,000 signatures needed for each recall to proceed, virtually guaranteeing that Jefferson County voters will settle the question once and for all:

Today, Jeffco parents, educators and community members rolled over 111,000 signatures in little red wagons into the Jeffco Clerk’s office to recall Jeffco Schools Board of Education members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams. They turned in just over 37,000 signatures for each of the three board members to the Jefferson County Clerk & Recorder.

“We’ve seen such amazing support over the last few weeks. We have had people seeking us out at sporting events, coffee shops, grocery stores and parks all across the district to sign,” began Tina Gurdikian, a mom of two Jeffco Schools students.

“In an unprecedented move, we as a community collected more than double the number of signatures needed to recall school board members Witt, Newkirk and Williams. The message is clear, the people of Jefferson County want to hold this Board Majority accountable and demand a recall vote on November 3rd,” continued Gurdikian.

“We have done our job, and now it’s time to let the people vote on November 3rd whether the School Board Majority deserves to be recalled,” continued Wendy McCord, also a mom of Jeffco students.

Having crushed their original goal on a highly compressed schedule, recall organizers have done all they can to ensure that the recall questions appear on the regular November ballot in Jefferson County–which will both increase turnout and prevent the unnecessary expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars to hold a separate recall election.

The only question? Whether the recall opponents who have complained all along about this possible added expense try to make it happen.

“Because of overlapping timelines for November elections and recall elections, for the Jeffco voters’ will to be honored we need our opponents not to play political games in attempting to protest what are clearly 15,000 valid signatures. Should they choose to play games, opponents to the recall will cost the school district over half a million dollars, dollars that could otherwise be going to benefit our students. It is time for our community to have an honest conversation about the direction of our school district,” concluded Wendy McCord.

By all accounts recall organizers were surprised by the huge response to the recall petition drive, but turning in well over double the number of signatures required also serves an important strategic purpose. Accounting for delivery of mail ballots and the 15-day period for filing protests, the window in which to turn in signatures for the recall timed correctly to appear on the November ballot was quite small–only three days, July 28-30. If opponents choose to challenge the petition signatures line-by-line in an attempt to get enough thrown out to drop below the 15,000 minimum, it will most likely result in the recall being held after the first Tuesday in November. And that would indeed mean a large added expense to the school district.

In short, if opponents engage in an almost-certainly futile challenge of this overwhelming number of signatures, they will be the ones responsible for the additional hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the recall. The huge safety margin in turning in 37,000 signatures per board member when only 15,000 were required makes any such challenge either a fool’s errand or an act of intentional retaliation–with Jeffco students paying the price. And either way, it won’t stop the recall from going forward.

With all of this in mind, it would be better if the board majority just faces the proverbial music.

Jeffco Recall Opponent Channels Baghdad Bob in Response

Baghdad Bob.

Baghdad Bob.

Comical Ali. Baghdad Bob. The former Iraqi Information Minister (real name: Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf) secured his name in Internet infamy when he appeared regularly during the 2003 Iraqi Invasion to confidently deny the American surge into Baghdad and U.S. military success in general — sometimes with American tanks as his backdrop. As The Atlantic wrote in 2013:

Sahaf’s nickname, “Baghdad Bob,” now denotes someone who confidently declares what everyone else can see is false–someone so wrong, it’s funny.

Back here in Colorado, opponents of the campaign to recall three right-wing Jefferson County School Board members are channeling Baghdad Bob in their response to the news that more than 90,000 signatures supporting the recall were gathered in less than three weeks. This would be a massive success for a grassroots group for any issue on any level, which makes it difficult for opponents to tamper enthusiasm.

Enter Sheila Atwell, head of a group called “Jeffco Students First” that supports the right-wing majority school board. Atwell told 9News last weekend that she is surprised that it took 17 days to get the required signatures, saying that they should have been able to do it in a week:

We did the math here. In order to gather more than 90,000 signatures in just one week, organizers would have had to average 9 signatures PER MINUTE, 24 hours a day. That’s completely silly, of course.

New Coffman® Trumped By Knee-Jerk Immigration Vote

Mike Coffman gets Trumped.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

As the Washington Post reports, don’t ever let it be said again that Republicans can’t get an immigration bill passed:

The House voted Thursday to punish local jurisdictions — known as “sanctuary cities” — that defy federal immigration authorities in order to protect immigrants living illegally in the United States.

The 241-to-179 vote, which was backed by Republican leaders and fell largely along party lines, is the most dramatic action taken by Congress after a spate of new attention on illegal immigration sparked by the July 1 killing of a 32-year-old California woman…

Some law enforcement organizations, civil rights groups and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have pushed back on efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities, arguing that new policies would be counterproductive by undermining the trust between local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

In the wake of the tragic killing of Kathryn Steinle by an undocumented immigrant who had been deported from the United States several times, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives rushed a bill to the floor bypassing the normal committee process to punish so-called “sanctuary cities”–jurisdictions that don’t investigate immigration status when working with residents or taking reports of crimes. Supporters of local governments who have made that policy decision say immigrants are more willing to cooperate with law enforcement in investigations of serious crimes if they don’t fear automatic arrest over their immigration status.

City governments, local law enforcement, not to mention millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States are waiting for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level to resolve the conflicts between federal and local policy, rationalize the broken status quo, and restore functionality to a system that hasn’t served the needs of the nation or immigrants wanting to come to American in many decades. Until then, knee-jerk retaliation against the headlines of the day are all we get on this issue from the Republican-controlled Congress.

coffmanaye

That includes Rep. Mike Coffman, whose “reinvention” on the issue of immigration since being redistricted out of his formerly safe GOP seat into a diverse battleground has once again been “Trumped” by his actual vote. Despite Coffman’s repeated attempts to cast himself as a “moderate” on immigration since redistricting, this vote has yet again failed to square with his newfound rhetoric. A good example of this delicate posturing came right after President Barack Obama’s executive order to halt deportations of DREAMer students–when Coffman voted to defund the program, claiming it gave prosecutors “too much discretion.”

Defending Thursday’s vote, Coffman said “it cannot be seen as anti-immigrant, as anti-Hispanic.” But with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump demagoguing the tragic yet anecdotal incident universally cited as the reason for rushing this bill through the GOP-controlled House, making this a focus of a campaign that has already outraged Hispanics over Trump’s unapologetic racist overtures…how can it possibly be seen as anything else?

Give the way Trump is dominating Spanish language news coverage of the 2016 presidential race, it’s an easy guess who Hispanic voters will identify this action with. Donald Trump is driving the agenda in today’s Republican Party–and in Colorado’s most competitive congressional race, Mike Coffman is happy to help him.

Jeffco School Board Recall Petition Drive Wraps Triumphant

UPDATE 5:00PM: Recall organizers announce they will turn in over 30,000 signatures to recall each conservative majority Jeffco school board member, more than double the 15,000 required, to the Jefferson County Clerk’s office Tuesday morning:

Turn-In Tuesday

Join us as we turn in more than 30,000 Signatures For Each Board Majority Member!

We will be turning in more than double the required signatures to the Jeffco Clerk this Tuesday at noon. We would love lots of you to join us as we turn in these signatures. Please arrive by 11:30 am at the Clerk’s Election office (not at the Taj Mahal, but in a separate building).

Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder
3500 Illinois Street, Suite 1100
Golden, Colorado 80401

Once we turn in the signatures, we will turn our focus to the November election!

—–

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

9NEWS’ Nelson Garcia reports, the campaign seeking to recall three far-right members of the Jefferson County Board of Education, Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams (collectively known as “WNW”) has reached its goal of 15,000 required signatures to recall each board member with a comfortable margin–a drive that took less than three weeks to complete despite a 60-day deadline.

“We’ve been collecting signatures for 17 days. Our goal was 20,000 to 25,000 signatures and have surpassed that goal already,” [Jeffco United for Action spox Lynea] Hansen said. “I think it also says very loudly and clearly that Jefferson County wants this recall.”

[Volunteer Lorelei] Bratton thought it would take longer to gather enough signatures.

“It’s been incredibly inspiring,” Bratton said.

Hansen says Witt, Newkirk, and Williams have shown a lack of transparency and have abused school board policy.

“Everybody’s really worried about the direction that JeffCo Schools is headed in and this is their answer to helping stop that change that isn’t good change.”

Jeffco recall petitions.

Jeffco recall petitions.

Having easily brought in the number of Jeffco voter signatures required in so little time, it’s basically assured now that the recall question will appear on the regular November ballot in Jefferson County, along with the two seats up for election this year currently held by outgoing progressive minority school board members. Again, this is a key development, since recall opponents’ messaging against the recall has up to now revolved around a huge expense for the district to hold a recall election. Organizers never planned anything but a recall election in November, however, and said so. Today, they can assure anybody who was concerned that the recall election will not cost the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The only thing we can add is that, by all accounts we have heard, the reason the petition drive was quick and easy is that the community in Jefferson County is keenly aware of what is going on in the battle over their school board. Voters who have no idea who, say, their state representative is are paying attention–and needed no convincing to sign the recall petition. The highly visible public protests carried out by Jeffco students last fall over the board majority’s disastrous proposed “review” of AP history curriculum, along with subsequent protests along Jeffco’s highest-traffic arterial street, have succeeded in making this school board a household discussion item–and the sentiment is overwhelmingly against what the right-wing board majority has done. High quality public schools are a major and longstanding point of civic pride for residents of Jefferson County, and they perceive that to be under threat.

As we’ve said before, what’s happening here can’t be manufactured. You couldn’t buy it for a billion dollars. It is an authentically grassroots uprising by a legitimately aggrieved community. In an era when seemingly every political “movement” is the product of some lavishly funded and focus-grouped professionalized action plan delivered from on high, it might even be called an inspiring thing to witness.

Either way, if the petition drive’s swift success is any indicator, God help “WNW.”

Bigots, Birchers, and Islamophobes in Colorado Mainstream Now

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Groups promoting hatred and fear of Muslims, gays, immigrants, unionized workers, and people of color are openly meeting in Colorado. These meetings are being promoted by mainstream Republican activists, and are aimed at influencing policy by informing local law enforcement and legislators of the  “threats” these groups pose. The John Birch Society had an Executive Dinner in Denver July 24.  RMGO is promoting an anti-Muslim training session for law enforcement, community and the public Aug. 13-15.

John Birch Society- the Founding Bigots

The John Birch Society met July 24, at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in North Denver.  Many mainstream GOP activists planned to attend, according to their Facebook pages. The John Birch Society (JBS) has a long history of racism and religious bigotry in the United States, and was where the Koch Brothers learned how to prey upon the fears of the ignorant.

In the JBS world view, communists are everywhere.

The JBS had its origins in the McCarthy era, as an anti-Communist group.  “Birchers” preached that all Civil Rights Movement leaders and actions were Communist-inspired. My father, an editorial writer for the Post, used to rail about the “Goddamn Birchers” who would oppose every piece of civil rights or anti-poverty legislation in Denver, and tried to suppress his editorials in the 1960s.

Although JBS leadership now wears three-piece suits, and meets at $50 a plate fundraising dinners in nice hotel ballrooms, their messaging has changed very little: “Those people” (leftists, feminists, unionists, environmentalists, gays, Muslims, the UN, Democrats, people of color promoting Obama’s “race war”) are conspiring to take away your American way of life,  and they must be stopped, preferably with a hefty donation to the JBS. 

The JBS contributes heavily to “Right to Work” and other ALEC- generated legislation.  Colorado legislators are rated  on the JBS “Freedom Index”. Rated at 70% or higher: Mike Coffman, Doug Lamborn, Scott Tipton,  Cory Gardner, and Ken Buck . It will be interesting to see which of these Republican politicians attended the JBS dinner.

 John Guandalo: RMGO sponsored workshops August 13-15 on “Understanding the Threat” of the Global Islamic Movement

(more…)

No matter who Julie Williams is comparing to Nazis, it’s gross

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Jeffco School Board member Julie Williams hopped on her Facebook page July 14 and shared a link titled, “How did the Nazis control education?”

“Controlling education was a way of taking over the minds of children from kindergarten to university,” reads the article, published by Yad Vesham The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. “Education was a major tool by which the Nazis’ racial policies were promoted and implemented. “In Nazi Germany, no one was allowed to think for themselves,” states the piece.

The post is shocking and confusing, which is in keeping with Williams behavior generally.

So I tried calling Williams so she could explain why she posted it, and to confirm, but I haven’t heard back yet.

(more…)

Conservative Jeffco education group has notorious anti-gay lawyer

(Birds of a feather and so forth – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

Failed state senate candidate Tony Sanchez, who lost the SD-22 Jeffco race last year to Democrat Andy Kerr, is now directing an organization whose registered agent, Barry Arrington, has a history of making anti-LGBT comments and working for extremist groups.

Sanchez’s organization, Freedom for Education, was formed in May to “strive for greater transparency in the policy process and empower local parents/communities.”

Since then, according to its Facebook page, Sanchez has been representing the organization at Tea Party and Republican events, offering conservative perspectives on Jeffco education issues.

Arrington, the registered agent for Sanchez’s organization, surfaced earlier this year after Twin Peaks Charter Academy blocked its valedictorian from giving his graduation speech, in which the valedictorian planned to announce he was gay.

During the ensuing controversy, the school hired Arrington, who heads the Arrington Law Firm, to represent them in the matter, and Rep. Jared Polis asked that Arrington be fired because, “…some political agenda that I don’t understand might be clouding the quality of your advice to the Twin Peaks board.”

The “political agenda” was presumably Arrington’s history of anti-LGBT comments, such as his blog post last year in which he wrote:

“A man’s body is designed to be complementary with a woman’s body and vice versa. All of the confusion about whether same-sex relations are licit would be swept away in an instant if everyone acknowledged this obvious truth.”

Sanchez did not return a call seeking comment on whether his organization would be promoting Arrington’s views, given that the group’s name, Freedom for Education, is a bit of a head scratcher.

(more…)

Jeffco Recall Petition Drive Nears Completion Weeks Early

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

As the Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela reports today, organizers of the petition drive to recall three right-wing members of the Jefferson County Board of Education are running way ahead of schedule, bringing in the 15,000 required Jeffco voter signatures to recall each school board member in a matter of a couple weeks instead of their nominal September 8th deadline:

Lynea Hansen, a spokeswoman for Jeffco United for Action, the group behind the recall effort, said Tuesday that the group is “over half way” to their signatures goal.

And, Hansen said, there are more than 1,000 petitions still being circulated. Petition circulators are being asked to turn in their signatures soon so organizers can start verifying names.

As part of a push for signatures this week, petition gatherers will line Wadsworth Boulevard at nine intersections from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Hansen said organized petition circulation is expected to wrap up by Saturday.

Successful completion of the petition drive so early guarantees that the recall of board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams will appear on the regular November ballot, along with the two candidates running to replace progressive minority members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman. One of the principal talking points in use by opponents of the recall is that the election could cost Jeffco Public Schools hundreds of thousands of dollars–but that’s only if the petition drive wasn’t wrapped up in time to hold the recall election in November.

Judging from what appears to be an overwhelming response from Jeffco voters in only two weeks’ time, that’s not going to be a problem. This recall is moving forward at a best-case-scenario pace, exceeding even internal expectations by all accounts, and that means it’s time for the opposition to come up with new talking points.

While they can.

Woods Lets No Bogus FOX News Report Go To Waste

Yesterday, in the immediate aftermath of the tragic attacks on a military recruiting station and a separate reserve post near Chattanooga, Tennessee, Colorado Sen. Laura Waters Woods of Arvada swung into action on Facebook:

woodschattanooga

The biggest problem with this claim, says Media Matters for America, is that it isn’t true:

Four Marines were killed when a shooter fired on two military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Fox News reported that the attacks may be connected to ISIS because an ISIS supporter purportedly discussed the shooting on Twitter before it happened. Fox host Sean Hannity repeated the false claim on his radio show.

In fact, the tweet Fox News referenced was posted well after the shooting had already occurred. Mashable editor Brian Ries first pointed out the discrepancy.

On Your World, Fox’s chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported, “the last investigative thread I would mention at this point is that we’re taking a hard look at a Twitter account — an ISIS-linked Twitter account — that seemed to have foreknowledge of the shooting in Chattanooga. The tweet went out at 10:34 with the hashtag Chattanooga referring to American dogs and a likely shooting. This of course was about 15 minutes before the shooting took place.”

A few hours later:

At the end of the Factor, Special Report anchor Bret Baier clarified the timing of the tweet, saying that “all indications now are that it came out after the attack.” When O’Reilly asked if that meant the ISIS tweet story was “a bogus situation,” Baier replied, “yeah.” [Pols emphasis]

So much for that! Of course, the investigation into the Chattanooga shootings is in no way complete, and we would also be wrong to speculate about the shooter’s motives and affiliations. It’s true Sen. Waters Woods will probably need look no further than the shooters Arabic name, but that’s just not the proof positive a Tweet from before the shootings would be. Better to wait for investigators to do their jobs.

As for allowing military members to be armed “ALWAYS EVERYWHERE” (emphasis hers)? Excepting authorized forces on prescribed law enforcement duties, there are a lot of good reasons to not do that. Has Waters Woods run that suggestion by her excitable “liberty movement” friends tracking the Jade Helm 2015 military training exercise? Something tells us they might not like the way that sounds.

Bottom line: defund Planned Parenthood! Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Cory Gardner Helps Vote Down Anti-Bullying Bill


Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton reports on the defeat yesterday of an amendment from Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to protect K-12 LGBT students from bullying and discrimination:

In its first vote affecting gay people since the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, the Senate Tuesday rejected a federal prohibition against discrimination and bullying in K-12 public schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Fifty-two Senators voted for such a provision, while 45 opposed it. But Senate rules required 60 votes, and the measure fell short.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), the sponsor of the amendment, had made an impassioned argument that gay and transgender students needed the same federal protections as other historically persecuted groups.

“If a black child was referred to by a racial slur at school, would we say kids will be kids?” Franken said on the Senate floor as debate began Monday. “If a Jewish student got beat up because he wore a yarmulke to school, would we wave it off and say boys will be boys? If a shop teacher told a female student she didn’t belong in his class, would we be fine if the school just looked the other way? No, we would not. In fact, there are federal civil rights laws that are specifically designed to stop this kind of conduct.”

As Buzzfeed’s Dominick Holden reports, there was bipartisan support for Sen. Franken’s amendment:

Introduced by Sen. Franken of Minnesota, the amendment before lawmakers on Tuesday had 42 sponsors, including one Republican — Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois. At least five more senators from the GOP — Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, and Rob Portman — joined Kirk in voting for the amendment.

Missing from the list above of moderate Republican Senators who joined with Democrats to vote to stop LGBT student bullying is Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. We haven’t seen a statement from Gardner yet explaining his vote, but the general excuse offered by Republican “no” votes seems to be that “the matter” of LGBT students being bullied is best “left to local school districts.”

Assuming that was Gardner’s reasoning as well, we can’t help but recall the recent controversy in Jefferson County, in which majority school board member Julie Williams posted materials on Facebook directing followers to join a protest against LGBT students on campus, and against teaching “children to support and embrace the unnatural and unhealthy homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda.”

Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a better argument to refute Gardner’s vote for “local control” of LGBT student bullying policies than Julie Williams. We’ll be very interested to see if local reporters ask Gardner to reconcile his vote with her behavior.