Jeffco School Board Media Flacks Doth Protest Too Much

Michelle Balch Lyng, Lisa Pinto.

Michelle Balch Lyng, Lisa Pinto.

We talked last month about a GOP-aligned media relations shop, Novitas Communications, that was hired by the Jefferson County Board of Education’s new communications director Lisa Pinto–herself a longtime Republican political operative. Novitas’ contract to “shift” coverage of the controversial board majority to positive from the more or less unbroken string of disastrous press the district’s conservative majority has earned since taking office is a tall order, but we’ve been watching since this announcement for signs of Novitas and their conservative usual suspect friends swinging into action.

This week, we began to see the conservative media counterstrategy on behalf of the Jeffco school board take shape. Conservative blog Complete Colorado teamed up with the Independence Institute to hit back against the army of critics of the Jeffco school board majority on social media:

Parents, students, and teachers upset with the Jefferson County Public School District Board of Education majority members and select district staff continue to use social media to get their frustrations out.

However, some of those targeted by anonymous Twitter handles call their messages rude, intimidating, unflattering, and just plain mean at times.

And it appears the @notlisapinto, @notjohnnewkirk, @notdanmcminimee, @notkenwitt and @notjuliejeffco accounts are being operated with the blessing of the Colorado teachers union top official and the two top officials for the Jefferson County Parent Teacher Association – despite those organizations touting their goals as student-based and continually denouncing bullying through the #standup4kids Twitter hash tag.

Lisa Pinto, chief communications officer for Jeffco, said the Tweets about her are hurtful and judgmental. Because Pinto is not an elected official, those posting to her site could be held liable for the remarks…

#jeffcoschoolboardhistory

#jeffcoschoolboardhistory

First of all, there’s no question that Twitter has not been very good for the conservative Jefferson County school board majority. Last fall, the board’s proposal to “review” the district’s AP history curriculum to “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, and respect for authority” became a worldwide news story largely because of the Twitter hashtag #jeffcoschoolboardhistory–which went viral with literally thousands of satirical Tweets lampooning Julie Williams and the proposal generally. Another Twitter hashtag, #standup4kids, is a major communications hub for opponents attending Jeffco board meetings.

So yeah, the Jeffco school board majority probably aren’t big fans of Twitter.

Hoping to garner sympathy for the board majority and discredit intense criticism on Twitter, the Independence Institute put up a low-quality website aggregating Tweets from some of these pseudonymous accounts. In the Complete Colorado post, there are allegations of racially charged Tweets against Pinto, who is Hispanic, but we haven’t seen that proven–or even clearly alleged which of the many Twitter accounts involved in discussion of the Jeffco school board might be responsible. The examples of “mean Tweets” posted to the Independence Institute’s Mean Girlz site aren’t anything close to that level of offense, and we assume if bonafide examples of racial harassment existed they would be front and center. Certainly anonymous Tweets can be meanspirited, but attempting to discredit real people simply because they “Re-Tweeted” something is asinine. And as for the notion that these accounts are operating “with the blessing” of the PTA or anyone else? Based on the Complete Colorado blog post, that appears to be totally baseless conjecture at best, and possibly downright libelous.

Bottom line: whining about treatment on social media doesn’t make the conservative Jeffco school board majority or their army of paid media flacks look good. Twitter is just one venue in which damaging information about the board majority’s actions flows freely to the public, and overwhelmingly, the content speaks for itself. If the board’s media flacks want to respond, the way to do that is factually–not by complaining about meanie anonymous Twitter trolls and playing silly guilt-by-association games.

Sketchy Pro-Fracking Donations Attract Interest in Ft. Collins City Council Race

RayMartinez-HS

Ft. Collins City Council candidate Ray Martinez.

A heated race for a seat on the Fort Collins City Council is attracting lots of attention from outside groups — including some that may not even exist.

Reporter Nick Coltrain of the Coloradoan has been doing a good job in covering the intricacies of the Ft. Collins municipal elections, which are rapidly drawing to a close (mail ballots are due by Tuesday). One of the more interesting races is in District 2, where frequent candidate Ray Martinez continues to be dogged by charges first leveled his direction when he first tried running for City Council 20 years ago (and later during an attempted campaign for the state legislature).

But perhaps the most curious story of the District 2 race was reported by Coltrain in today’s Coloradoan:

A pro-fracking group has spent $20,000 to support Fort Collins city council candidate Ray Martinez, city campaign finance records show.

Larimer Energy Action Project, whose website declares “We can frack safely in Larimer County,” spent the money to canvass and distribute literature in District 2, the east-central district Martinez hopes to represent. Martinez, a former mayor, is facing Poudre School District Board of Education member Nancy Tellez in the contest.

LEAP’s phone number on its website has been disconnected. Representatives from LEAP did not return an e-mail asking for comment Thursday. [Pols emphasis]

Martinez served as a paid consultant for a Colorado Oil and Gas Association-backed group that fought a 2013 ballot measure seeking a five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Fort Collins.

Now, Martinez supporters are quick to point out anti-fracking groups have also spent large sums of money opposing his candidacy or supporting opponent Nancy Tellez, but that’s not the point here. Obviously both candidates are going to have different levels of support on different issues, but thus far, only one of those organizations (LEAP) has all but vanished since spending $20k supporting Martinez.

Perhaps LEAP just spent so much money backing Martinez that it couldn’t afford to pay the phone bill?

Get More Smarter on Friday (April 3)

We’re almost Klingenschmitt-free today. Almost. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The State Senate has approved a $26 billion budget for Colorado, despite complaints from Democrats that they were largely shut out of the process. The “Long Bill” now heads to the State House, where Republicans will inevitably complain about the process when they don’t have the majority.

A top official at the Veterans Administration has apologized (again) for the long list of problems in building a new hospital in Aurora. But Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson thinks Rep. Mike Coffman’s suggestion to cancel all bonuses until the hospital is complete is a bad idea.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Fetal Homicide: Let No Tragedy Go Unexploited

UPDATE: Speaking of exploiting tragedy, Personhood USA is now sending out requests invoking the crime to raise funds for another attempt at banning abortion in Colorado. From their recent email to supporters:

The suspect in a gruesome unborn baby-killing case, Dynel Lane, will only be charged with unlawful termination of pregnancy and other crimes against the mother, according to Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett.

These inadequate charges do not recognize Michelle Wilkins’ daughter Aurora as a victim of the attack, and do not recognize that a crime was committed against her that resulted in her death…

The preborn must be recognized as persons and victims, or else the perpetrators of these crimes will not be adequately punished. How many more pregnant women and unborn children will have to suffer until Colorado changes its laws?

[Y]ou can help us recognize the personhood of preborn babies and put an END the senseless dehumanization of these precious children. Make a donation today toward our continued personhood efforts.

Original post follows.

—–

Image vis CBS4 Denver

Image vis CBS4 Denver

The New York Times’ Jack Healy reports on the debate headed for the Colorado legislature over an horrific crime committed in Longmont last month, and an opportunistic response from anti-abortion interests to this story that could get ugly:

Voters in Colorado have overwhelmingly rejected three “personhood” measures that sought to include the unborn as a person or child for legal purposes. Opponents said the redefinition would have criminalized abortion and birth control, and the measure last year failed to gain support of prominent Republicans like Senator Cory Gardner, who was then a Senate candidate, or the party’s nominee for governor, Bob Beauprez.

But the unfathomable crime against Ms. Wilkins, 26, in Longmont stunned people across Colorado and the country, and has revived an emotional debate in heated commentaries online and in the halls of the Capitol here, giving abortion opponents what they hope will be an opportunity to change local criminal laws…

But the effort to pass such a bill could face stiff opposition from Democrats, who control one chamber of the legislature, as well as from reproductive-rights supporters who fear such measures lay a path toward outlawing abortion or birth control. [Pols emphasis]

Democratic lawmakers here and a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said they could not comment on the Republican efforts because a bill had not yet been introduced. But Democrats said the push for one was a rushed reaction to a rare and horrible crime that could not be applied retroactively to Ms. Wilkins’s case.

As Healy reports, Colorado passed a compromise measure in 2013 making “unlawful termination of a pregnancy” a felony crime. Our state’s long history with proposals intended to confer rights on fetuses at any stage of development has made defenders of abortion rights here wary of fetal homicide legislation. In addition to the “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures that Colorado voters have rejected over and over, Republicans have regularly introduced fetal homicide legislation in the Colorado General Assembly in recent years. Such bills usually contain no language disclaiming an impact on abortion law–and even when they do, the basic intent of making the fetus a secondary corporeal victim of a crime sets a dangerous precedent. It’s not that pro-choice advocates are unmoved by horrific crimes like the one committed in Longmont, it’s that this legislative answer from known abortion opponents has an obvious ulterior motive.

The disastrous abortion-themed response to this crime from one Colorado Republican lawmaker, Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, has already pushed would-be fetal homicide opportunists off their message. The fact that there is already a felony statute in Colorado law directly pertinent to this crime calls motives for passing yet another law making a fetus a separate victim into question.

Bottom line: Republicans inject failed “Personhood” politics into this tragedy at their peril.

Friday Open Thread

“Extreme positions are not succeeded by moderate ones, but by contrary extreme positions.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche

One More Anti-Vaxxer Showdown In The Colorado Senate

Measles.

Measles.

Yesterday’s action in the Colorado Senate featured an hours-long debate over a host of amendments to the state’s Long Appropriations budget bill, commonly known as the “Long Bill.” As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports today, one of those amendments represented a last-ditch attempt by anti-vaccination Republican legislators led by Sen. Tim Neville to defund the state’s public health immunization tracking system:

A Republican proposed stripping more than $1.2 million from a program tracking immunizations, another hot-button issue that has not seen progress by the split Legislature. The amendment failed.

“This amendment rolls back … hiring four more bureaucrats to expand a program that basically tracks vaccinations, even though your doctor already does that … your school system already does that,” said Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, sponsor of the amendment.

But Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, a physician, said she was offended to hear about a lack of faith in the medical community after breakthroughs in vaccinations that eradicated many diseases.

“I’m disappointed that the integrity of physicians has been questioned here as a whole,” Aguilar said. “To imply that an entire profession … is playing a hoodwink game on people and lying to them … is purely offensive.”

We’ve edited down the lengthy debate yesterday over Amendment 39 to the Long Bill to this four minutes of video–video we believe every voter in Colorado should watch. The heart of this clip is a lengthy rant from GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg against tracking immunization data, followed by Democratic Sens. Irene Aguilar (a doctor) and Rollie Heath. The contrast between Lundberg’s angry, arm-waving paranoia and the defense of modern medicine offered by Aguilar and Heath is…well, for us, it’s pretty fundamental. Watch for yourself:

The biggest battle over immunizations in Colorado this year has already concluded, after the so-called “Parent’s Bill of Rights” died in a House committee following a high-profile battle that did disproportionate political harm to Senate Republicans who backed it.  The immunization debate resurfaced in Colorado just as a measles outbreak in California was making headlines, and called attention to our state last-place ranking nationally for immunizations against key preventable diseases. “Moderate” Senate Republicans like Ellen Roberts were angrily called out by their local editorial boards for supporting the bill, and fellow Republicans like Lundberg and Sen. Laura Waters Woods undermined Roberts’ protestations that this was not an “anti-vaxxer bill”–by continually bringing the subject back to the very immunization paranoia Roberts denied was the motive.

In an off-year legislative session full of empty rhetoric, with split chambers of the General Assembly noisily battling to draw after draw, the fight over Colorado’s already-lax immunization policies is something we do believe voters will remember–or will at least make for powerful talking points in the next election. Irrational fear of vaccinations doesn’t always break cleanly along partisan lines in popular culture; but at least in Colorado, Republicans have taken clear political ownership of this fringe movement.

And that’s going to cost them.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 2)

MoreSmarterLogo-Hat1Only 364 more days until you can use that April Fool’s Day prank you just thought up last night. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► They don’t call it “the Long Bill” because they are being ironic. The State Senate gave initial approval to a $25 billion state budget after more than 6 hours of bickering. Republicans insist on continuing to debate the issue of immunizations for children.

► California is drier than a sandpaper sandwich, and Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for mandatory water restrictions for the first time in state history. Ten bucks says water conservation is going to be the issue of the summer.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Hell No, “Dr. Chaps” Will Not Resign

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

KRDO’s Greg Miller reports from along the Ronald Reagan Highway:

Critics want him to resign, but a Colorado Springs state representative has a new message for them about comments he made about the attack on a pregnant Longmont woman…

Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt said “This is the curse of God, upon American for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb. And part of that curse, for our rebellion against God as a nation, is that our pregnant women are ripped open.”

…Klingenschmitt admits his words were not appropriate, and he apologized for using them saying he wants nothing but a successful recovery for Wilkins. But he stands by his right to free speech even as he takes that TV show that caused him trouble, off air.

“I’m not gonna resign,” Klingenschmitt said Wednesday, though many said he should.

Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s current predicament, and that of fellow Republicans forced to reckon with his embarrassing antics as a lawmaker, were fully anticipated last year after his Youtube video “ministry” repeatedly made national news. As a webcam crackpot, what Klingenschmitt had going for him was his willingness to shock viewers with claims that President Barack Obama is possessed by demons and that Rep. Jared Polis wants to behead people a la ISIS. Pretty much anything in the news is/was fair game for Dr. Chaps to twist into headline-grabbing rants about demons and beheadings and disembowelment. That’s how he got his Youtube views–not many, of course, and far more from left-leaning sites than fellow Christians.

But there’s no question that Chaps was a known commodity.

Press coverage of Klingenschmitt’s latest offense in response to the attack on pregnant Longmont resident Michelle Wilkins has focused heavily on condemnation from fellow Republicans, including Klingenschmitt’s loss of committee postings in a rare flash of caucus discipline from House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso. But the shift from last summer, when Klingenschmitt’s predecessor Mark Waller acknowledged Chaps’ troubles but reminded HD-15 constituents how “legislative majorities matter,” makes Republican outrage today harder to swallow.

It’s entirely possible that Rep. Klingenschmitt will face a GOP primary in 2016. Residents of HD-15 have been burned before, after all, when Doug Bruce was appointed to the seat, only to make such an embarrassment of himself in one legislative session that Waller was compelled to step forward and Old Yeller Colorado’s foremost conservative fiscal policy icon. What makes Klingenschmitt different is that his craziness was well known before he stood for election, and the voters of HD-15 overwhelmingly elected him anyway. We’re not sure Klingenschmitt ever had the credibility to challenge Bob Gardner (or Waller) for Bill Cadman’s Senate seat next year, but keeping a seat he won by almost 70% last year is not implausible even now.

And that speaks louder than anything his embarrassed colleagues can say.

Dr. Chaps Gets National Slot on FOX News

UPDATE: Say what you will about Dr. Chaps (and we’ve said plenty), but we’ll give the man a little  credit for being able to laugh at himself. Via Facebook:

Chaps-Pols

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original April Fool’s Day post follows…

(more…)

California Gov. Orders First-Ever Mandatory Water Restrictions

This is a significant story for the entire country, and it definitely involves our state since a great deal of California’s water comes from the Colorado River. As the Associated Press reports:

California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered officials Wednesday to impose statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history as surveyors found the lowest snow level in the Sierra Nevada snowpack in 65 years of record-keeping.

Standing in dry, brown grass at a site that he said normally would be snow-covered this time of year, Brown announced he had signed an executive order requiring the State Water Resources Control Board to implement measures in cities and towns to cut the state’s overall water usage by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels.

The move will affect residents, businesses, farmers and other users.

“We’re in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action,” Brown said at a news conference at Echo Summit in the Sierra Nevada, where state water officials found no snow on the ground for the first time in their manual survey of the snowpack. [Pols emphasis]

This is a serious problem that will have repercussions in Colorado, particularly in the energy industry — where fracking contaminates enough water each year to otherwise meet the needs of a city such as Lakewood or Ft. Collins. The oil and gas industry likes to say that they only use a small percentage of water compared to, say, the ocean, but if we’re facing an increasingly serious water shortage, these percentages add up quickly.

Western Conservative Summit 2015 Books ‘Em All*

The right-wing Centennial Institute, a “nonpartisan thinktank” run by former GOP Colorado Senate President John Andrews out of Colorado Christian University, is already promoting their A-list of conservative luminaries coming invited to this year’s Western Conservative Summit in late June:

wcs15-2

As you can see, a number of the heaviest hitters are listed as “invited” as opposed to actually confirmed, giving the lineup space to evolve with the 2016 GOP presidential field. For example, Jeb Bush might go either way on showing up to the WCS, depending on whether the conservative base is most likely to cheer or heckle–as of now there’s a decent chance of both. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee are guaranteed to show, since their calendars are pretty much clear for the rest of their working lives. We haven’t seen if controversial anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders is coming back to WCS this year, but he might be too busy defending himself in court from discrimination charges in the Netherlands after promising to organize “fewer Moroccans.”

On the upside, the Western Conservative Summit has expanded from a small regional conference to one of the more prominent such gatherings nationally, and Andrews deserves credit for growing both this conference and his Centennial Institute into an important stop for upwardly mobile Republican politicians. Though not without controversy: last year, WCS made dubious national news after Andrews introduced a “code” for participants in this “nonpartisan” conference to use, referring to Republicans as “steak” and Democrats as “tofu” so as not to attract the attention of resident Barack Obama’s IRS–validating the concern over obviously partisan “nonpartisan” nonprofits like the Centennial Institute, but pulling down lots of laughs from the audience.

No surprise to anyone, nothing but red meat on the menu again this June.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 1)

As far as we know, all of the information that follows is accurate and not part of an elaborate April Fool’s joke. Or is it? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

Debate begins today in the State Senate on Colorado’s annual budget, which is a proposed $26 billion.

► Politico looks at the “terrible, terrible jokes” that politicians are using this April Fool’s Day.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)