Get More Smarter on Friday (Nov. 20)

MoreSmarter-RainTo the five people out there who haven’t already left for Thanksgiving Break, enjoy your news! 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).


► As Peter Marcus reports for the Durango Herald, the long-awaited, first-ever, Colorado statewide water plan was unveiled on Thursday. There was much rejoicing:

Surrounded by a large, jovial crowd of Colorado water stakeholders, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday unveiled a final plan that the administration hopes will map the future of water across the state.

Colorado’s Water Plan aims at achieving 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water conservation by 2050. To get there, the plan encourages a shift in philosophy.

“Now is the time when you rethink how you can be more efficient in the water you use,” Hickenlooper said during a ceremony at History Colorado, which was chosen as a location to highlight the historical significance of the water plan.

“I do think the cultural shift is underway, and I think those conversations, and everyone looking at how they can use water more efficiently, is critical,” the governor said.

We’ll stop there before we get too far into the policy weeds; it is Friday, after all.

► Governor John Hickenlooper likes the federal Clean Power Plan emissions standards. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman does not, so she added Colorado to a lawsuit presented by several states. John Frank of the Denver Post catches us up on the latest in this legal and political battle:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is facing sharp questions from Democratic lawmakers about the costs and legal conflicts related to her decision to  join a lawsuit to block the Obama administration’s tougher air quality standards.

Coffman, a Republican, brushed aside the concerns at a legislative hearing Thursday, defending her  authority to challenge the Clean Power Plan emission rules.

Gov. John Hickenlooper  disputes Coffman’s legal standing and recently asked the Colorado Supreme Court to intervene and declare that he “has ultimate authority” on whether to sue the federal government. The attorney general’s office will respond with a legal brief Friday.

The constitution, Coffman said, gives her “common law” authority to represent Colorado residents that goes beyond the limited powers outlined in state law. [Pols emphasis]

“Common law?” That sounds like a fancy way of saying, I only pay attention to laws that benefit my goals. That would be par for the course for Coffman.



Get even more smarter after the jump…


Friday Open Thread

“Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.”

–T.S. Eliot

Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff: Seal Off Colorado?

We’ve seen plenty of reactions from Colorado politicians to the Paris terrorist attacks and subsequent controversy over allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, but this (we hope) ill-thought-out Facebook stream of consciousness from GOP Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff of Pueblo stands apart from even the “usual” crazy talkers like Tom Tancredo and Sen. Laura Waters Woods:



So, uh, did Rep. Navarro-Ratzlaff misspeak here some way, or does she really think we need to “pause on letting anyone into Colorado?” When she says we need to “pause on letting anyone into Colorado,” does this mean refugees? Immigrants? Californians?


That’s the problem with sweeping statements in the era of “Tea Party” crazy talk. They might actually mean it.

Missing The Point, Garfield County Commission Edition

Garfield County commissioners Mike Samson, John Martin, and Tom Jankovsky.

Garfield County commissioners Mike Samson, John Martin, and Tom Jankovsky.

The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent’s John Stroud follows up on the amusing unintended consequences of the decision by the GOP-owned and operated Garfield County board of commissioners to cut off a small longstanding grant to the local Planned Parenthood health clinic:

Ashley Johnson never imagined the kind of response she’d get when she launched an online fundraising campaign for the local Planned Parenthood clinic following a politically motivated decision by Garfield County commissioners to cut grant funding.

Her effort that began two weeks ago with a goal of replacing the $1,500 cut quickly gained momentum.

As of Monday, the “Hear our voice. Fund women’s health” site had raised $23,450 among 281 donors. Another $325 was donated via a separate Wells Fargo Bank benefit account, according to Johnson.

That’s right–Garfield County’s decision to cut off a $1,500 grant to Planned Parenthood’s resulted in over fifteen times that amount being donated to the organization as a result of local resident Ashley Johnson’s GoFundMe drive. We’re going to go out on a limb here and suggest that is not the outcome that Garfield County commissioners had in mind when they decided Planned Parenthood Votes’ emails defending itself from a partisan Republican Party onslaught were “too political.”

But to listen to commissioner Tom Jankovsky today, you might think he planned the whole thing:

Jankovsky said Monday that he’s glad private donors stepped up to support a service that he said he also believes provides a valuable service in Garfield County.

“I think it’s great that they’re doing that,” he said. “Our decision on funding didn’t mean we didn’t want Planned Parenthood to continue.”

Rather, he said human services grants are intended mostly for locally based, nonpolitical organizations. He said he and the other commissioners felt Planned Parenthood’s state and national affiliates had crossed that line…

The problem with this lame excuse is obvious: if Jankovsky and his fellow Republican commissioners hadn’t cut off the funding, there would have been no impetus for the fundraising drive. Commissioners’ vote to cut off the county’s nominal grant to the organization is what precipitated this presumably one-time fundraising windfall.

And it’s an overwhelming counterpoint to whatever point they were trying to make.

Politically, this was a foolish mistake for GarCo’s GOP commissioners, whose ham-fisted attempt to insert themselves at the tail end of the summer-long Republican Planned Parenthood grandstand completely backfired. With 2015’s witch hunt by anti-choice usual suspects having mostly fizzled out, this result should serve notice to other bush-league elected officials with fiscal authority that the political damage from petty trolling of an organization that communities really do value outweighs any gains.

Better for everyone, not least themselves, to leave well enough alone.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Nov. 19)

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► Governor John Hickenlooper continues to speak out about his decision to allow Syrian refugees into Colorado. As 9News reports:

During a press conference Wednesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) defended his announcement that he would not block Colorado from accepting Syrian refugees – a stance contrary to a number of other governors and mayors who spoke out earlier in the week.

Hickenlooper said he thought the federal government would do a sufficient job in screening the refugees ahead of their arrival in the United States, and that he trusted the judgment of the Obama administration, which is allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country over the next year.

Critics of the refugee policy cited fears following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 129 people dead and scores more wounded. At least one of the attackers was carrying a Syrian passport – but French officials said Saturday that the passport was a fake.

Meanwhile, fear-mongering Republicans such as Rep. Scott Tipton (and the never-classy Tom Tancredo) are still rattling cages about preventing Syrian refugees from entering the United States. Nevermind that refusing to accept refugees is exactly how ISIS was hoping the right-wing would react.


► The Washington Post’s “fact checker” easily disproves silly claims from Republican Presidential candidates that President Obama has agreed to allow as many as 250,000 Syrian refugees into the United States. You won’t be surprised to note that Ben Carson doesn’t understand the process for setting the maximum number of refugees allowed into the country each year.


► Introducing…for the first time in Colorado history…weighing in at a healthy 480 pages…Colorado’s first Statewide Water Plan!!! As Bruce Finley reports for the Denver Post:

Colorado officials are unveiling an unprecedented water plan, after a decade of statewide negotiations, that prioritizes water-saving in a $20 billion push to allow population growth in the face of huge projected shortfalls.

State water planners on Thursday will present a roughly 480-page document to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“Our footing is better now than it has ever been,” Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund said Wednesday.

Priority action for the coming year: figuring out funding. Most of the $20 billion needed by 2050 would be paid by Front Range water providers. State costs of $3 billion to $6 billion — or $100 million a year, Eklund said — could come from new fees, private funders or a water tax if voters approve.

This all sounds very exciting, but we’ll probably wait for the Cliff’s Notes version to be published.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Morgan Carroll Stands Up For Refugees In Diverse CD-6

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

An important sidebar to the raging controversy over allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, and in turn Colorado, is the potential significant impact the story may have on Colorado’s hottest 2016 congressional race–the showdown between incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman and by far his greatest challenge, yet former Senate President Morgan Carroll in the swing Sixth Congressional District.

As the Aurora Sentinel reports, Carroll and Coffman are polar opposites on this defining issue:

Shortly after multiple Republican governors across the country announced they would be doing what they could to prevent Syrian refugees from being resettled in their states, Rep. Coffman joined them in announcing that he opposed resettling Syrian refugees in Colorado.

“I’m opposed because we simply have no way of conducting background checks for screening Syrian refugees,” he told the Denver Post earlier this week…

Carroll, his likely challenger in the 2016 general election, put out a statement Wednesday afternoon in support of efforts by President Barack Obama and Gov. John Hickenlooper to take part in joining European allies and other nations in finding shelter for refugees within our borders.

From Carroll’s statement yesterday:

“ISIS is inflicting terror on innocent people from Syria to Paris and now they have their targets set on the U.S. We must take down these terrorists and protect innocent people who desperately want freedom, whether they are refugees or good people still living in Syria.

The U.S. has the most rigorous screening of refugees in the world, far more stringent than Europe. We need to join our allies in the world and do our part to stand with those who have been ravaged by ISIS terrorists. As such, I support the Commander in Chief and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in rigorously screening refugees and helping those who pass the screening to find a better life, rooted in freedom and democracy, in America.”

The thing to understand here is that since redistricting in 2011, CD-6 is centered on the large and culturally diverse suburban city of Aurora. Aurora was described in a 2013 Denver Post story as the “port of entry” for refugees being resettled into Colorado from all over the world. Today, the city boasts sizable populations of Ethiopian, Eritrean, Nepalese, and many other refugee and immigrant communities. More than one in five Aurora residents was born abroad, the highest percentage in Colorado.

With that in mind, Coffman’s party-line opposition to Syrian refugees comes across as grossly at odds with the interests and values of the district he represents in Congress. Aurora has no reason to fear refugees, because they are already there in large numbers. Regardless of where they may hail from, no one knows better than fellow refugees and immigrants the prejudice faced by Syrians fleeing the civil war raging in their homeland.

And yes, folks, a lot of them are American citizens now. Natural-born Americans in CD-6 who live and work with refugees every day know this xenophobic outburst from the right following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris is misguided and wrong.

Who speaks for them today? Morgan Carroll speaks for them.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this. More than anywhere else in Colorado, it’s going factor in 2016.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Nov. 18)

Get More SmarterLean into the wind! 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).


► Debate over the admission of refugees from Syria to the United States, especially Colorado, continues to dominate political discussion in our state today. The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports:

“We will work with the federal government and Homeland Security to ensure the national verification processes for refugees are as stringent as possible,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “We can protect our security and provide a place where the world’s most vulnerable can rebuild their lives.”

Those verification processes, however, are hindered by a lack of background information on individuals, said Tipton, who called Hickenlooper’s comments “naive and irresponsible.”

There is “no way to stringently vet the refugees coming from Syria because there are no databases in Syria to confirm the most basic of information, like their identities,” Tipton said, citing a comment by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. “While most of these people are innocent and victims themselves, all it takes is one ISIS terrorist posing as an asylum seeker to come to the United States and inflict harm.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s willingness to accept Syrian refugees after last week’s terror attacks in Paris continues to draw parallels to Gov. Ralph Carr, Colorado’s Republican governor in the early days of World War II who stood up to bigotry against Japanese-American internees. Meanwhile, today’s Republicans are exploiting fears over the refugees to the maximum conceivable extent and beyond:


Unfortunately for the fearmongers, French President Francois Hollande has announced his government will still take in the 30,000 Syrian refugees agreed upon before the attacks–making Hickenlooper look even more like a hero, and detractors from Denver to D.C. look like rank cowards hiding across the Atlantic.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Stay Classy, Tom Tancredo: Blame “Diversity” For Paris Edition

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports today:

Tancredo, a Republican who has long fought for tougher immigration standards, said he was glad to “start a conversation” about the risks of allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.

“I’m referring to the fact that this tragedy (in Paris), this horror, is something you cannot contain to one country is you don’t do something meaningful about immigration — a subject I’ve been involved in for some time — these are the kinds of things that result when you don’t protect your citizens,” he told The Denver Post.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was not amused.

“That’s beyond comment,” he said, dropping his shoulders after seeing the meme during a stop at The Post. “Come on.” [Pols emphasis]


As posted to former Congressman, gubernatorial candidate, and most recently “Coffmangate” co-conspirator Tom Tancredo’s Facebook page a short while ago:


For the record, this isn’t the original image. We’ve digitally obscured what appear to be a number of dead bodies and streaks of blood in the highly gruesome unedited photo Tancredo posted. The photo appears to be the interior of the Bataclan Theater in Paris, France after the terrorist attacks last Friday. The caption on the photo, “Celebrating Diversity One Massacre At A Time,” may or may not have been added by Tancredo personally, but clearly that’s the message he endorses.

We’re pretty sure the original photo violates Facebook’s terms of service, so we wouldn’t be surprised if it disappears at some point soon. But as much as he frequently embarrasses his erstwhile fellow Republicans, Tancredo has a considerable following on the anti-immigrant right–and his views are representative of enough of the conservative movement that he can’t simply be ignored.

And folks, sometimes that is a damned shameful fact.

Obligatory Q-Poll Blog Post Here

UPDATE: Local guru Craig Hughes at Hilltop Public Solutions isn’t buying what Quinnipiac is selling:


How to read sheep entrails.

How to read sheep entrails.

The notoriously inaccurate pollsters at Quinnipiac University are out with another survey of alleged Colorado voters on the 2016 presidential race today, and as members of the political chattering class we are obliged to stop what we’re doing and talk about it:

With 25 percent of the vote, Dr. Ben Carson is the clear leader among Colorado Republicans and tops Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton 52 – 38 percent in a general election matchup, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

In fact, Clinton trails all leading Republican contenders by margins of 11 percentage points or more, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

Trailing Carson in the Republican race are Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 19 percent, Donald Trump with 17 percent, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 14 percent, Carly Fiorina with 5 percent, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 3 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with 2 percent and 11 percent undecided.

Quinnipiac has a history of wild, unexplained swings in its poll numbers here in Colorado, making headlines for dramatic “results” that always seem to level out as the polls get closer to…well, the only poll history cares about. So before Democrats get overly concerned about today’s Q-poll showing Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz all trouncing Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, remember the junk Quinnipiac tried to pass off as polling in Colorado just last year:

So no, we can’t put a lot of stock in Quinnipiac’s numbers–not this far out, and especially not their head-to-head matchups between Clinton and Republican candidates. In terms of trajectories within the GOP primary pack, Carson’s ascendancy in Colorado makes some sense to us, perhaps given the attention he has paid to our state’s religious conservative primary voters. But that’s strictly our own empirical judgment, not anything informed by this poll.

Because there’s not any information here we would place a bet on. Talk to us in a few months–or in Quinnipiac’s case, maybe not at all.

Should Democrats Rename the Annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner?


Richard Jefferson (left) and Stephen Jackson

John Frank of the Denver Post reports on a “conversation” that Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio wants to have with Colorado Democrats about perhaps renaming the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner:

The Colorado Democratic Party is considering renaming its annual Jefferson Jackson fundraising dinner, part of a nationwide shift away from the founders of the party.

Chairman Rick Palacio on Monday emailed Democratic activists to ask whether they supported renaming the dinner– and if they did, to solicit suggestions.

“It’s not a move to change the name, it’s simply a conversation I want to have with people around the state,” Palacio said in an interview. “What I want to do is solicit ideas and feedback about whether people even want it to be changed.”

The survey is taking suggestions until Nov. 25 and Palacio said he hopes to make a decision by the end of the year about whether to rename the dinner, which is scheduled for Feb. 13 at the Sheraton Downtown Denver. If Palacio decides to make a change, the party’s members can vote again on the new name.

The potential shift away from this “Jefferson Jackson” guy is happening across the country, as the New York Times reported in August. For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that the name is going to be changed. What say you, Polsters? Drop some ideas on us in the comments below.

Here’s the link to offer your own naming suggestions to the Colorado Democratic Party. In the event that Jeb! Bush wins the race for President in 2016, we suggest that Republicans rename their annual fundraising dinner to simply, “Bushes.”

Scrubbing Jeffco Schools Clean of Partisan Turd-Shiners

millerAs the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reported yesterday, two of the more controversial expenditures approved by the outgoing right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board are swiftly going the way of the dodo following this month’s blowout recall election:

Brad Miller, the attorney hired by the conservative majority that was ousted in this month’s recall election, resigned this morning.

Miller was hired by the Jeffco board just a month after the November, 2013 election, a hiring that some have claimed violated the state’s open meetings law.

In his resignation email to board liaison Helen Neal, Miller cited the incoming school board’s desire to use the district’s legal counsel and statements by new board members that they would not need a private attorney…

As our readers will recall, the hiring of attorney Brad Miller by Jeffco Schools was hotly controversial, both due to his shady, very possibly illegal approval process, and his known-quantity status as an insider advocate for charter schools. According to the Denver Post’s report today, Miller’s contract stipulated $7,500 monthly for “services not to exceed 30 hours per month.” Nice work if you can get it!

Novitas' Michelle Balch Lyng (left), with former Jeffco comms director Lisa Pinto.

Novitas’ Michelle Balch Lyng (left), with former Jeffco comms director Lisa Pinto.

As Goodland continues at the Independent, Miller isn’t the only line-item from the old board’s tenure being shown the door:

Saturday, the school district posted a job opening for a chief communications officer. Those duties have been handled lately by Novitas Communications and Michelle Balch Lyng.

Novitas, a public-relations firm, was brought in last February, under a $50,000 five-month contract, to handle “supplemental communications duties.”

Novitas was hired by Lisa Pinto, who served as communications chief for less than six months. Pinto, an attorney with no background in public education communications, was deemed unqualified by the district search committee. Hired by Superintendent Dan McMinimee, she was frequently criticized for unprofessional behavior. After Pinto resigned, Lyng became the district’s chief spokesperson…

In retrospect, Novitas Communications’ service to Jefferson County Public Schools was an unqualified disaster. A solidly GOP-aligned public relations outfit staffed by local Republican usual suspects, Novitas was brought in to “supplement” the work of another longtime Republican Party communications flack, Lisa Pinto. Pinto’s lack of qualifications and by-all-accounts horrible interpersonal skills necessitated Novitas’ “help”–which ironically even more pointedly demonstrated Pinto’s uselessness, and hastened her departure a short while later under a considerable cloud.

But in the end, as is now a matter of history, Novitas couldn’t save the board majority that hired them.

Observers expect that the new Jeffco school board majority will work toward re-establishing the status quo ante in the district’s public relations office, using qualified district employees instead of high-priced contractors. Likewise with the board’s need for legal counsel. We haven’t heard if that future will include ex-Novitas GOP media operative Devan Crean, but we could certainly see how it might not.

The moral of the story: when your agenda for your organization is constructive instead of malicious, there’s less need for all that, you know, “outside help.”

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Nov. 17)

GetMoreSmarter-SnowIf you squint your eyes really hard, you can have a snow day, too. 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).


► Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is refusing to play the politics of reactionary rhetoric in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Hickenlooper says that Colorado will not automatically reject Syrian refugees just because one of the Paris attackers came from that area of the globe. As we wrote yesterday:

For our part, we’re reminded of the example of another governor of Colorado, Gov. Ralph Carr, who in the early days of World War II urged the people of Colorado to welcome and respect Japanese-Americans being transported here by the federal government away from the West Coast. Carr paid for his foresight and equanimity with his political career, but is today remembered as one of our state’s best governors.

Today, Gov. Hickenlooper has spoken out in the finest traditions of a state that has witnessed both great compassion and great intolerance in our history. He deserves not just the gratitude of future Colorado citizens with the benefit of hindsight, but to be heeded now as a voice of reason in difficult times.

Good on you, Governor.

The Denver Business Journal has more on Hickenlooper’s announcement, which is at odds with the decisions of several Republican governors around the country. Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) is also joining the fear-mongering chorus. French investigators, meanwhile, believe a Syrian passport found near the attacks was a fake — planted intentionally because rejecting Syrian refugees may actually do more to benefit ISIS. 


► A decision on moving prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to U.S. prisons has been put on hold. As the Denver Post reports:

A report on the future homes of dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainees is stalled, leaving leaders in Colorado to continue to debate the issue.

Prisons in Colorado, Kansas and South Carolina are being considered as new destinations for those housed at the U.S. military prison in Cuba.

White House and Pentagon officials have declined to say why the report, expected last week,  has been delayed indefinitely

…The Super Max federal prison in Fremont County already is home to several convicted terrorists, including 9/11-coconspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and 2001 failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid.



Get even more smarter after the jump…