Let No Tragedy Go Unpoliticized

UPDATE: The Denver Post weighs in with a blistering editorial today, slamming Sens. Greg Brophy and Kevin Grantham for playing politics while the Black Forest burns:

With several uncontrolled wildfires burning up and down the Front Range, you'd think elected officials would find a better time to play politics — particularly when their arguments are easily snuffed.

But that's not the case for at least two GOP lawmakers who are using devastating blazes near Cañon City and Monument as an excuse to attack Gov. John Hickenlooper because the state doesn't have a firefighting air force…

Rather than engaging in political finger-pointing as fire season heats up, we suggest lawmakers instead direct their thoughts and prayers to those whose properties and safety are threatened and the well-being of the first responders called into duty. [Pols emphasis]

Needless to say, we agree. And we're relieved to see the Post standing up to it.

—–

This week's heat wave on the Front Range has resulted a new round of devastating wildfires in many areas of the state. This morning, attention is especially focused on a residential area northeast of Colorado Springs known as the Black Forest, where many homes burned yesterday and a large mandatory evacuation is now in place. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports from the scene:

The Black Forest fire incinerated at least 60 El Paso County homes in a matter of hours on Tuesday, and a top-level federal firefighting team and military aircraft are expected to arrive Wednesday to battle the uncontained blaze.

The fire, which had burned up to 8,000 acres and run about eight miles from Peregrine Way to east of Meridian Road by late Tuesday, showed no sign of relenting and the evacuation zone continued to expand. Wednesday's weather, with only slightly lower temperatures and winds predicted, isn't expected to help.

The Denver Post confirmed last night via the area's Rep. Doug Lamborn that military air tankers based at Petersen Air Force Base would attack the fire today. As our readers know, the scarcity of large federal air tankers in recent years has been a source of controversy in Western states. Earlier this month, Sen. Mark Udall hailed the end of a protest filed by an air tanker contractor that threatened to ground the fleet during fire season. New, large passenger jet tankers are expected to be used this year, a long-needed modernization of the federal air tanker fleet.

Obviously, our thoughts are with the victims of this tragedy, and those threatened by either the Black Forest Fire or any of the others burning in the state.

With that said, we must now bring to your attention something rather disgusting.

brophyfiretweet2 brophyfiretweet1 granthamtweet1 brophyfiretweet3

These are Tweets sent yesterday afternoon from two GOP Colorado Senators, Greg Brophy and Kevin Grantham, just after the Black Forest Fire exploded and the entire Front Range watched a massive smoke plume form over the area. Sens. Grantham and Brophy are attempting to blame Gov. John Hickenlooper for "not funding" Senate Bill 13-245, which was signed into law to create a Colorado Firefighting Air Corps. House Republicans celebrated the signing of the bill last week in a press release:

Today, the Governor signed state Rep. Bob Gardner’s Senate Bill 245 to create the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps and help the state respond faster to the threat of wildfire. State Sens. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, sponsored the measure in the Senate.
 
“The cost of being unprepared for wildfires is exorbitant. This measure will save us resources and lives,” said Gardner. “We simply cannot afford to see a repeat of last summer.”

Now, there is a wrinkle: the bill passed, but without the significant money needed to actually fund the purchase of air tankers for a Colorado Firefighting Air Corps. For now, it's a paper-based force, in the planning stages.

And here's the bottom line: even if Senate Bill 245 had been passed with the $17 million in funding attached, there would still be no Colorado Firefighting Air Corps to fight the Black Forest Fire. There's just no way that the infrastructure required to support this operation could have actually been up and running one week after being signed into law. There's no way the tankers would be bought yet, pilots trained, any of it. And yet here are these Senators essentially telling people whose homes are in ashes that it's all Gov. Hickenlooper's fault?

How is this not an outrage?

We assume our readers understand enough about how legislative appropriations work to already know this is a false attack, but as the Durango Herald's Joe Hanel reported back in April when the bill was debated:

“I’m sorry it’s become an indictment of the governor. We control the purse strings in this building,” [Pols emphasis] said Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The committee passed the bill 7-0 Friday morning, but it voted 4-3 against spending $17.5 million to obtain an air tanker fleet.

Obviously, possible gubernatorial candidate Sen. Brophy doesn't have much to gain by vilifying the Senate Appropriations Committee. So in addition to grossly misleading people about this bill in a moment of tragedy, Brophy is disingenuously laying the blame on his most convenient political target.

There was a time, not so long ago, when we would have declared this kind of falsehood-based politicization of tragedy impacting fellow Coloradans a plainly unacceptable breach of decency. And we would not have been alone in that–editorial boards used to call out this kind of despicable behavior from public officials.

After everything we've been through this year, so many low points that nobody in our local press has bothered to correct or even challenge, we can't say that this kind of thing is even unusual anymore.

25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ClubTwitty says:

    But in Weldwackistanstan General Brophy will have the keys to the Time Machine and will have been able to put in place the Republican majority that would have balanced the budget and wrung out extra cash to buy the airplanes that back then that would have been able to fight the Black Forest Fire now.  But for dastardly liberal urban Denver Democrats making it more difficult for him to go watermelon plunkin'  Its no wonder they're fed up up there.  We don't understand the rural ways. 

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      They are too clever by half, those Weldwackistanstan promoters.  With their eastern kingdom firmly in place, they'll no longer be on the hook as a citizen of Colorado to fund these wildfire responses.  There are no stinking forests full of dead trees in the 51st state. 

  2. Anyone with handy access as to the vote on the money for the tankers? While the Guvs are right and none of this new fleet would have been ready to fight these fires, I am willing to air out the names of the four people on the committee that voted down the specific funding, regardless of party – and I'm interested in knowing the arguments behind the decision.

  3. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    I wonder, does Brophy sit around and tweet his random thoughts, or do these people use tweeting as a political strategy and sit around thinking of cool things to tweet?

    either way, it is pathetic. Is there nothing in their heads but politics? I am sure these patriots have sympathizers here in the Red West, but I haven't been home long enough to find out where Mesa county and its ruling conservative plutarchy fall on the subject of becoming "West"  Weldbekibekistan…stan.

    • Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

      Your first thought is correct: Brophy just tweets whatever mean-spirited, false, outrageous comments enter his mind. No undecided voters are reading his stupid Tweets.

      Remember, Brophy is the classy guy who used Twitter last session to mock a fellow senator stricken by illness, questioning the legitimacy of her ailment. After she was hospitalized. And who even refused to apologize afterwards.

      He's a class-A jerk and a nincompoop.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      What you don't seem to realize is that tweets are apparently a fantastic fire suppression tool when used in the right hands . . . 

      . . . that and the Wackiwackistanistani air force . . . 

      I just don't know what the residents of the Black Forest would do without Sen. Brophy??

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      Unfortunately the investments our government has made to make it possible for all of us to have instant communications has a dark side:  he can tweet to the workd from his tractor cab in his watermelon field. And unfortunately this kind of response from the Denver Post only emboldens his victim status (being the victim of obvious urban, liberal oppression) and the locals love it. I can almost promise you there will be mention of this in next weeks local Wray paper painting Hickenlooper and Dems once again as evil. 

  4. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    He also tweeted that SB-252 was going to cost the Wray School District $30,000 annually in increased energy costs.  Blatantly false statement; he apparently can't see the giant wind turbine on the bluff above town that is supplying the school's energy and about 25% of the City of Wray's energy supply under a long-term, fixed-priced contract.  Wray no longer gets their non-wind power from the local cooperative – but from the Nebraska Municipal Power Pool/Muncipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.  This information really isn't that hard to find….

    He also claimed the same bill would increase the costs to farmers for electricity by $2,000/pivot/year.  He as off by by a magnitude of 10.

    Math doesn't seem to be his strong suit – but he does grow some mighty tasty watermelons.

    • BlueCat says:

      Now that the Denver Post has gotten rid of all but conservative local voices on the editorial page, with the only progressive voices being syndicated national columnists, it sure would be nice to see you with a once or twice a week column there.  Even more so than the late great Ed Quillen, you can't be accused of being a city slicker who knows nothing about life outside of the big city/suburban sphere.  For one thing, it would be nice for more people to know about the success of that wind turbine project, which you fail to mention in your post was your family's doing.

      • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

        Thanks, BC.  It's hard to catch all of the irony in the Senators' tweets and floor statements and align them with what is actually going on in our city/county.  Wray is a great little town. The headwaters of the Republican River, the smallest town at the time to receive the "All-America City" award [1993], beautiful P-12 school complex, a second-to-none community center, great medical facilities, a new community-owned day care facility.  Great people running the local food bank, etc., etc.

        And when I say "we" – it is meant  "all of us".  It was FDR's New Deal that built our rural electric infrastructure making irrigation possible; federal code that allowed for the formation of local coops so the farmers could compete in the marketplace.  Cooperative telephone companies.  The state of Colorado granted water permits to the farmers which brought almost instant wealth and decades of prosperity to the region. The state built a highway system so we can deliver our crops and animals to market. Federal tax code empowers MLP's so we can finance pipelines so we can export our natural gas bounty.  Federal farm policy puts a safety net under almost every farm in the county.

        State funds provided 90% of the funds to rebuild our local airport – one of the best in the state [2V5].  A federal RFS [Renewable Fuels Standard] created a biofuels market for our county's farmers.  That has been a boon for both the farmers and the cattle-feeding industry locally.

        Our local day-care and assisted living/rest home is also community-owned;  the funding for those endeavors came from USDA – Rural Development funds.  Our community center was built in large part [$2.6million in 1990 dollars] through local donations through a designation as an Enterprise Zone project and significant funding through the state Energy Impact Grant [EIG] funding process.  Ditto for our hospital.  State and Federal tax code has empowered our community to do great things over the past two decades.

        So it is a myth that we are "independent".  Yes, we work hard.  Yes, at times we've been able to rally the community around new projects that are generally cutting-edge.  There are some of the smartest farmers on the planet in our county.  But we didn't do this "alone".  And the quicker our leaders stop acting like we have the better off we'll be.

        • DavieDavie says:

          Yeah, sure…. Maybe everyone in Wray has a federally funded hammock, but Sen. Brophy built his farm with just one hand, and used his other free hand to hold back the tide of government largess!  Just ask him!

  5. Gilpin Guy says:

    The Sequester isn't going to hurt anyone.  Let's cut government some more so we can buy an extra bottle of Jack Daniels weekly.

    What's sad is that conservatives hate government but when there is a crisis in their backyard, they scream for government immediate action and then scream some more when the resources aren't instantantly available.

  6. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

     And the quicker our leaders stop acting like we have

    you a betting man, Michael….?   wink

  7. ModeratusModeratus says:

    What will the Dems say next year? This excuse will only work for so long…

  8. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Re: update, I heard that today is Curtis Hubbard's last day at the Post. I hope this isn't the last sane editorial they produce.

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