Taking Away Parental Leave: Where Is The Outrage?

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

GOP legislators line up to testify against parental leave.

We’re surprised at how little coverage there’s been of a bill that could become a major flashpoint, House Bill 16-1002–the bill reauthorizing the state’s parental leave law for academic responsibilities that was on the books for years before it sunset last year. We took note yesterday of the crowd of “family values” male Republican legislators who lined up to testify against the bill in the House, and this is the same bill Rep. Kevin Priola impaled himself on by voting no in committee after being excused to take his child to a doctor’s appointment.

But as exciting as the debate over this bill has been, there has been little discussion in the mainstream press. In addition to the Chalkbeat Colorado story we linked to yesterday, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby wrote this week:

Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.

Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.

“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?” [Pols emphasis]

We see this bill as a major opportunity for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans in advance of this year’s elections. The key point is that parental leave for school activities was the law of the land for five years, and it didn’t hurt anyone. Parents in Colorado who had access to parental leave between 2009 and September of 2015 have now had it taken away.

Last year, the refusal by Senate Republicans to fund the long-acting contraception program credited with a dramatic drop in teen pregnancy in Colorado made national headlines repeatedly. Clear evidence of cost savings from a relatively small investment that Republicans refused to fund out of politically unsightly ideological prejudice has done damage that may not be fully felt until this November.

If it gets on the media’s radar, parental leave could turn into a similarly harmful episode for statehouse Republicans. With no evidence of any harm to employers from Colorado’s parental leave law, and the obvious benefit to families with school-age children being taken away by the GOP’s refusal to reauthorize the law, every vote against House Bill 1002 is a big liability in an election year. The mailers and TV spots will not be kind.

And so far, that’s every Republican House member save one.

Williams lashes out at ‘Liars and Cheats’ in Jeffco

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Recalled Jeffco School Board member Julie Williams lashed out at Jeffco voters and others last month, writing on Facebook:

Williams: “Liars and Cheats and the majority of the people believed the rhetoric.”

Williams’ sour-grapes comment came after state data was released on the amount of money spent by state groups to recall Williams and other conservative school board members from office, prompting Williams to write, “Infuriating that being exposed does not mean anything.”

The data did not include figures for how much was spent by organizations that are exempt from disclosure and campaigned indirectly to try to keep Williams in office, despite her repeated gaffes and substantive flaws that even infuriated fellow conservatives.

Correction: This post initially stated that Americans for Prosperity did not disclose campaign spending. Some spending was disclosed.

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.”

County Commissioner again accuses Obama of promoting charter schools with ties to Turkish cleric

(What a swell primary this is going to be – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

A Colorado Springs county commissioner, who’s considering entering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, is again alleging that President Obama backed a national education program, in part, as a way to establish U.S. charter schools linked to a Turkish Islamic cleric.

“One of the reasons that President Obama was actually looking at and amenable and actually kind of agreeable to, if you will, Common Core was, that would be a way to influence and infiltrate and open up charter schools to able to have the Fethullah Gulen charter schools, which were bringing teachers over from Turkey,” said El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton Monday on KLZ 560-AM.

Littleton did not cite her evidence for this, but it reflects what she said at a conservative conference in March, as reported by Scott Keyes of ThinkProgress.  It’s not clear what Common Core, which is an education curriculum, has to do with establishing charter schools in the United States.

Followers of the reclusive Gulen, many with Turkish ties, have opened charter schools worldwide over the past decade, including over 100 in the U.S.  They focus on math and science, in keeping with Gulen’s notion that devout Muslims should not teach religion but science instead. “Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshipping God,” he sermonizes, according to a CBS investigation.

CBS discussed allegations that the Gulen schools are exploiting foreign-born teachers and the charter-school system for profit–and that the schools are secretly “promoting an Islamic agenda.”

CBS interviewed a teacher who claimed she was exploited, but CBS couldn’t confirm these accusations regarding Islam, reporting that “we looked into this and Islam is not taught at all.”

But Littleton implies that religious education is taking place at a Colorado charter school, which she allegedly visited, with ties to Gulen.

Littleton: “When I went in, it was apparent to me that the some of the pictures and things had been taken off in the walls. And they practiced, you know, some of the Muslim practices that are taught in the Koran, is what I observed when I was there.”

In March, Littleton told ThinkProgress that these charter schools teach students to “hate Americans.” This may or may not connect with her belief, expressed at a Alliance Defending Freedom Conference in July in Colorado Springs, that churches should prepare to “respond biblically” to disasters like “martial law.”  Anyway, when I hear back from Littleton, I’ll ask her about this, too.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (Nov. 5)

Get More SmarterThe Colorado Secretary of State has released early (and unofficial) voter turnout numbers; enjoy the spreadsheet. 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…

► Governor John Hickenlooper has asked the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether or not Attorney General Cynthia Coffman can enter the state into a lawsuit over the objections of the Governor. From Mark Harden of the Denver Business Journal:

The Clean Power Plan, adopted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in August, is intended to cut carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 32 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, with coal-fired power plants the main target. States were given flexibility in how they will meet the goals.

The governor, a Democrat who supports the power plan, believes that Coffman, a Republican, overstepped her authority in joining the 24-state suit. He argues that he, not Coffman, “has the ultimate authority to decide on behalf of the state when to sue the federal government in federal court,” Hickenlooper’s office said in a statement.

The filing says that the governor is not raising an issue before the Supreme Court over the merits of the suit against the Clean Power Act, but rather with what he perceives as a challenge to his authority as governor.

“The attorney general has filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits without support of or collaboration with her clients,” said Jacki Cooper Melmed, chief legal counsel to the governor, referring to Hickenlooper and past governors as clients of the state’s attorney general.

► National media outlets were keeping an eye on Colorado to see how voters responded to high-profile school board campaigns. Local media outlets were a bit less cognizant, for some reason. As we wrote yesterday:

As our state’s foremost bellwether suburban population center, what happened in Jefferson County is hugely prophetic for the direction of Colorado politics. Democrats have finally broken the curse of off-year elections going famously badly for them, and established critical momentum going into next year’s general election in a county whose voters can swing the entire state. Without a doubt, Democratic campaigns at every level of American politics are looking at these results and thinking big.

As for our local media? They can either tell the story of this new reality, or be left behind by it.

Meanwhile, in Jefferson County, Superintendent Dan McMinimee sent out a “please don’t fire me” letter to Jeffco employees about 15 minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday. Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Independent writes that voters in three Colorado school districts gave “the middle finger” to the Koch Brothers.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Why do Colorado Senate Republicans think it’s a good idea to attack Jeffco voters?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Control of the Colorado Senate swings in the balance next year, with the Democrats hoping to pick up one itsy bitsy state Senate seat and the Republicans clinging to a majority of one itsy bitsy Senate seat. And that seat is most likely in Jefferson County.

With this in mind, after last night’s uprising against conservatives in said Jefferson County, you’d think the Republicans’ official Senate Facebook page would speak in a humble tone, with an eye on the not-so-far-away-longer-term.

Instead, the Colorado Senate GOP lashed out at the Jeffco electorate, which, did I mention, will be voting again in just 12 months (or, about 364 days).

Here’s what the Colorado Senate GOP Facebook page had to say, in a statement that deserved wide coverage:

Parents not willing to support school reform get what they vote for — reform-resistant status quo schools run according to union shop rules. If that’s good enough for their kids, so be it. It’s the students, not the parents, who will live with the consequences.

Do Colorado Senate Republicans hope to hold their Jeffco swing districts with this attack line? Do they think attacking the Jeffco parents is a winning strategy for 2016?  It’s a legitimate question for reporters to put to Senate Republicans, given what they said today on Facebook.

Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee: Please Don’t Fire Me

THURSDAY UPDATE: As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports today, Jeffco school board victors are showing considerable magnanimity to Superintendent Dan McMinimee, at least for now and perhaps in part due to a hefty “golden parachute” worked into his contract signed with the outgoing board:

With the dust clearing on a tumultuous recall election in Jefferson County and a significant turnover on the Douglas County school board, newly elected leaders in both school districts spent Wednesday mapping out the future.

That included the future of Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee, whose compensation package was fuel for Tuesday’s successful recall effort. But the leader of the state’s second-largest school district won’t be shown the door anytime soon.

“If he’s willing to take direction from the board and is capable of implementing its policy, I don’t think he has anything to worry about,” said Brad Rupert, an Arvada attorney who will take over the seat of ousted board member Julie Williams.

All we can say is, that’s pretty big of them.

—–

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

At 7:15PM last night, just after the election returns dumped in from Jefferson County showing victory for the recall campaign against the Jeffco school board majority, Superintendent Dan McMinimee, the highly controversial hire from conservative Douglas County that helped drive the recall campaign, sent out this contrite little message to school district employees:

With the polls now closed and the campaigns for our School Board concluded, I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts with you.

I want to begin by thanking you all for keeping student growth, both academically as well as socially and emotionally, the focus of your daily efforts. Having visited over 70 schools so far this school year, I can assure our various communities that our school leaders, teachers, and staff are all working diligently to improve our practices that support student learning. I want to especially thank our school leaders for ensuring that we maintained a neutral position on the election and campaigns during the past few months. I know that you were often challenged by well-meaning stakeholders wanting to use our schools and communication channels for their particular campaign issues. I appreciate your efforts to make our community members feel respected while educating them on our need, as a system, to remain neutral.

It is important for all of us, as Jeffco employees, to recognize that elections, by their nature, have winners and losers. Our school communities often have both sides of an election represented in their schools and classrooms. It is vital that we acknowledge this reality and continue to maintain a neutral position on the outcome of the election… [Pols emphasis]

While we are of course not aware of any decision that has yet been made about McMinimee’s future as Jeffco Schools superintendent, the circumstances of his controversial hire–as well as his conduct as superintendent, working in what was by all accounts close concert with the right-wing board majority that was recalled from office yesterday–make it a fairly safe bet that McMinimee will not be in his $280,000 job for very much longer. The simple fact is that this was not a close election, and McMinimee’s position as superintendent was one of the chief points of contention in the recall campaign.

Maybe if he hadn’t embarrassed the district by chumping the governor of Colorado? Maybe if he hadn’t hired that totally incompetent political hack communications director? Maybe if he hadn’t threatened teachers with retaliation if they didn’t stop their meddling protests? Maybe if he had tried, at least tried, to stand up against the bullying of students in school board meetings?

Time to polish up that resumé, Dan. We’d say it’s back to P.E. class for you.

Earth-Shaking Jeffco Recall Victory Confounds Local Media

Jeffco recall supporters celebrate last night.

Jeffco recall supporters celebrate last night.

To kick off our recap of 2015’s biggest election in Colorado, last night’s landslide recall of the right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board, we’re skipping our feckless local media and going straight to the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss:

Voters in the Denver suburb of Jefferson County on Tuesday tossed out three conservative members in a recall vote that was marked by some $1 million in spending, including support for the incumbents from a Koch-backed organization. The school board earned national attention when the members in 2014 said the Advanced Placement U.S. History course was not patriotic enough and needed to be changed…

In Jefferson County, Julie Williams, Ken Witt and John Newkirk have been in office for two years. They won seats in 2013 on the five-member board and moved quickly to institute controversial school reforms, including a merit pay system for teachers and an educator evaluation system that used student test scores.

Public school activists charged that the three were part of a reform movement trying to privatize public education and started a recall effort that attracted national attention, including money from outside the state from partisans on both sides. Americans for Prosperity, the national organization founded by Charles and David Koch, contributed to the reformers, while unions supported their opponents. Some $1 million was believed to have been spent in the race, one of a few local elections around the country in which outside money played a role.

Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

In the days leading up to the election in Jefferson County, conservative opponents of the recall led by activist firebrand Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute and national “astroturf” organizing group Americans for Prosperity pulled out all the proverbial stops in an attempt to re-energize the “Tea Party” electorate that had put this school board majority in power in 2013.

But it wasn’t just conservative groups: the local media showed distressing bias against the recall effort, both in editorial and “hard news” coverage. This bias was most evident in the continuous dismissal of the recall campaign as a “union effort” in supposedly objective news reports. High-visibility events like the “Boots on the Boulevard” protests along Wadsworth were ignored with no explanation. Then, just before Tuesday’s election, Denver’s highest-rated television news station 9NEWS apologized for a “Truth Test” of an anti-recall ad that conservative recall opponents didn’t like. The abject, debasing apology offered by Kyle Clark for that “Truth Test” simply doesn’t make sense given the difference of interpretation over Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s salary their supposed “error” boiled down to.

Because 9NEWS has a reputation for not being anyone’s squish, we’re quite curious to know who was able to ring their proverbial bell this way. It was out of character to say the least.

Today, there’s plenty of blame to go around for this lopsided defeat that the local press didn’t see coming: Caldara’s shameless exploitation of the children of school board members in campaign ads, including Julie Williams’ special-needs son, should be remembered as a ugly low point in our state’s political history that rightfully backfired. Overall, Caldara’s brash style of emotional manipulation and unapologetically devious tactics was powerfully repudiated in yesterday’s elections. AFP’s vaunted field operations came up totally empty. “Independent” local pundits the press relies on like Floyd Ciruli and Eric Sondermann revealed themselves as fundamentally clueless about the electorate on which they were pontificating.

As our state’s foremost bellwether suburban population center, what happened last night in Jefferson County is hugely prophetic for the direction of Colorado politics. Democrats have finally broken the curse of off-year elections going famously badly for them, and established critical momentum going into next year’s general election in a county whose voters can swing the entire state. Without a doubt, Democratic campaigns at every level of American politics are looking at these results and thinking big.

As for our local media? They can either tell the story of this new reality, or be left behind by it.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Nov. 4)

Get More SmarterNo more political yard signs…for at least a month or two. 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…

► If you still have your ballot for the 2015 election, here’s a website that will teach you how to make some cool paper airplanes. There’s lots of election-related news to discuss, so let’s get to it…

There was only one statewide ballot measure in 2015 — Proposition BB — and voters overwhelmingly approved a plan to allow the state to spend tax money raised from the sale of marijuana. To those Colorado officials who continue to push back against legalized marijuana in municipal and county governments, let this be (another) lesson for you. Colorado voters are cool with weed; stop asking about it.

 

► The biggest election story in Colorado was the Jefferson County School Board recall, and the outcome left no doubt as to how voters want to proceed in Jeffco. As the Denver Post reports, voters throughout the state were fed up with a 2013 right-wing takeover of school districts:

Voters overwhelmingly chose to recall three members of the Jefferson County school board Tuesday night and elected two others to form an entirely new board in Colorado’s second-largest school district.

In neighboring Douglas County, three incumbents — Kevin Larsen, Richard Robbins and Craig Richardson — who claimed seats on the school board as part of a reform push several years ago lost in their re-election bids.

Susan Harmon, a Lakewood attorney who was chosen by Jefferson County voters to replace ousted member John Newkirk, said Tuesday’s results show that “maybe the tide is turning” in terms of school district politics.

“It sends a large message that you need to be responsive to your constituents, your teachers and your community,” Harmon said…

…As of 10 p.m., the Jefferson County recall effort held a resounding 64 percent to 36 percent lead. The Douglas County winners held a 58 percent to 42 percent margin in each of their races, as of 9 p.m.

Ousted Jefferson County School Board member Julie Williams did not appear to have received the message from voters, however:

Julie Williams, one of the Jefferson County school board members who was recalled Tuesday, said the election was taken over by “the liberal agenda and union bosses.”

“It’s hard to fight the lies,” she said after conceding defeat. “I will continue to fight for our kids, for stopping Common Core and the over-testing of our kids.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t that difficult for voters to differentiate the lies from the truth. Voters saw right through the nonsense from anti-recall efforts funded by the Koch Brothers and the Independent Institute and supported the recall by a nearly 30-point margin. The Washington Post has more on the national perspective:

It was a bad night for conservative school reformers in two Colorado elections being watched nationally in the education world — and public education advocates did well in key Philadelphia races as well.

Voters in the Denver suburb of Jefferson County on Tuesday tossed out three conservative members in a recall vote that was marked by some $1 million in spending, including support for the incumbents from a Koch-backed organization [Pols emphasis]. The school board earned national attention when the members in 2014 said the Advanced Placement U.S. History course was not patriotic enough and needed to be changed.

(Kudos to Colorado Pols readers, who foresaw the outcome in Jefferson County).

 

► There are several close races around the state that have yet to be decided, and counting is not yet complete in every county. Check the Secretary of State’s election results site for updates.

 

 

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Election Night Open Thread

You may begin…

Jefferson County Election Results

♦ Colorado Election Results (via Secretary of State’s Office)

♦ Denver Post results page

—–
UPDATE #3: After getting off to a scary start, Proposition BB (Marijuana taxes) has rebounded:

Proposition BB
YES: 510,953 (66.51%)
NO: 257,264 (33.49%)

—–
UPDATE #2: The closest race of the night might be in Lakewood, where the race for the next Mayor is neck-and-neck:

Adam Paul: 17,217 (50.09%)
Ramey Johnson: 17,153 (49.91%)

—–
UPDATE #1: First batch of numbers are out in Jefferson County, and the recall is well on its way to becoming a runaway winner…

Jefferson County School District Open Seats:

District 3
Ali Lasell: 74,749 (57.95%)
Kim Johnson: 54,245 (42.05%)

District 4
Amanda Stevens: 85,037 (67%)
Tori Merritts: 42,324 (33%)

 

Recall Election
District 1 (Julie Williams)
YES: 96,160 (64.4%)
NO: 53,178 (35.6%)

District 2 (John Newkirk)
YES: 94,871 (63.8%)
NO: 53,841 (36.2%)

District 5 (Ken Witt)
YES: 95,509 (64.38%)
NO: 52,848 (35.6%)

Get More Smarter on Election Day (Nov. 3)

Get More SmarterToday is Election Day. If you haven’t voted yet, turn off your computer and get to a polling place. Now. Go. 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…

► DON’T MAIL THAT BALLOT!!! If you still have your ballot for the 2015 election, do NOT put it in the mail. Instead, click one of the following links for more information on ballot drop-off locations. If you never received a ballot, follow the links below for information on Provisional Ballots.

Visit GoVoteColorado.com to check your voter registration status or to print out a sample ballot. You can also check out JustVoteColorado.org for more information. For more details on local school board elections, check out ProgressNow Colorado’s voter guide.

The Ft. Collins Coloradoan has published a handy “procrastinator’s guide to voting.” We also asked Colorado Pols readers to weigh in on how they suspect things will turn out when the ballots are counted in the Jefferson County School Board recall.

 

► The Colorado Secretary of State has published voter turnout numbers by county. As of this morning, 911,365 ballots had been returned statewide. Turnout for the last off-year election, 2013, was about 1.4 million. In the most closely-watched race of 2015 — the Jefferson County School Board recall election — 136,554 ballots had been returned as of this morning (total turnout in 2013 was about 176,508 in Jeffco).

 

► Governor John Hickenlooper outlined his new budget proposal on Monday, as John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday outlined a $27 billion budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year that features $373 million in spending cuts and $189 million in taxpayer refunds.

The  fiscal paradox — a result of more moderating economic growth and restraints in the state constitution — sets the stage for a major budget battle in the 2016 legislative session, as evidenced by the sharp reaction to the Democrat’s plan.

“If this is not the fabled death by a thousand cuts, it comes pretty close,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, the top Democratic budget writer…

Hickenlooper’s plan represents a 0.4 percent decrease in spending compared with the current 2016 fiscal year budget, with the cuts hitting hardest on higher education, hospitals and state building maintenance. The reductions are needed to offset increased costs in K-12 education and Medicaid, the health care program for the poor — as well as to cover a projected deficit in the current year budget that could reach  as high as $220 million.

You suck, TABOR.

 

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Poll: Will The Jeffco School Board Majority Be Recalled?

Embattled Jeffco school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Embattled Jeffco school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

This year’s biggest election in Colorado is only open to voters residing in the Jefferson County R-1 School District, which includes Jefferson County and a small portion of the City and County of Broomfield. Voters in this district are deciding on a recall of three right-wing majority members of the Jefferson County Board of Education: Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams, in addition to two open seats previously held by progressive retiring board members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper.

Please vote in our unscientific poll below. Remember as always that we’re not looking for your preference, we want you to tell us what you actually think will happen tomorrow when the polls close and votes are finally counted.

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List of Ballot Drop-Off Locations in Jefferson County

If you still have not returned your mail ballot for the 2015 election, you should head to a ballot drop-off site. Remember: Ballots must be received by the County Clerk no later than 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Ballots that are postmarked before Nov. 3 but received after 7:00 will not be counted.

Go to GoVoteColorado.com to check your voter registration status or to print out a sample ballot. You can also check out JustVoteColorado.org for more information. For more details on local school board elections, check out ProgressNow Colorado’s voter guide.

If you are a Jefferson County voter, you can view a list of ballot drop-off locations after the jump…

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Floyd Ciruli: The Tweedle-Dum of Colorado Politics

Floyd Ciruli.

Floyd Ciruli.

We took note a couple of weeks ago when an often-quoted “independent” Colorado political pundit, former SE2 principal Eric Sondermann, had what can be best described as a sexist meltdown via Twitter during the Democratic presidential debate–deploring Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s “cackle” of a laugh, and suggesting that she and opponent Bernie Sanders “adjourn to a room upstairs” after Sanders came to Clinton’s defense.

Despite a wealth of eloquent opinionmakers available to ring for comment at any time in Colorado politics, some who might actually be plausibly considered “independent” for the purposes of fair-minded journalism, there’s a disturbing lazy tendency among local political reporters to rely heavily on two middle-aged white dudes whose opinions tend to be anything but “independent” (or, for that matter, “informed” or “useful”). We’re referring of course to the aforementioned Eric Sondermann and 9NEWS “analyst” Floyd Ciruli, who we affectionately call the “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum of Colorado politics.”

The latest example of Ciruli’s special brand of “independent” skullduggery occurred on this weekend’s edition of Balance of Power. A show that often features some of the more insightful political reporting to be had on Denver TV, Sunday’s broadcast turned into an upsettingly slanted look at the Jefferson County school board recall. It didn’t help that host Brandon Rittiman and education reporter Nelson Garcia invoked the word “union” in just about every sentence, to the point of using the word as a substitute for actually explaining what they’re talking about. But Ciruli’s over-the-top union bashing dragged the conversation into downright silliness. In Ciruli’s view, neighborhood schools are “union-run schools,” and “fundamentally” the recall election is all about the evil teacher’s union’s desire to stop every good thing happening in education today.

Apparently it doesn’t matter a bit that the union and the school board signed a contract.

Considering the parents and other stakeholders that have no “union” affiliations whatsoever and are the faces of the recall campaign, and the fact that while some by no means all, or even a majority of funding for the recall campaign is from unions, yesterday’s Balance of Power was a bizarre capitulation to one side’s talking points. For all the respect we have for the reporters involved, it was not 9NEWS’ best work.

But for Floyd Ciruli, who may have run the Colorado Democratic Party back when they lost every election but today is a wholesale shill for very much un-democratic interests, it was par for the course.

“Boots On The Boulevard 3.0” Dominates Wadsworth–Again

recallmom1

If you live just about anywhere in suburban Jefferson County, it was hard to miss the latest miles-long visibility effort yesterday afternoon from supporters of the recall election underway against the right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board. For the third time since the new board majority was elected, a massive “Boots on the Boulevard” protest lined the county’s busiest surface street, Wadsworth Boulevard, with thousands of students, parents, and teachers–this time armed with a specific message (recall) and a “Clean Slate” of replacement candidates whose names were on every corner.

Surprisingly, there has been no press coverage of yesterday’s demonstration that we can find in any local outlet. That’s not easy to explain, but given the enormous numbers of Jeffco voters who saw these demonstrators along Wadsworth yesterday…maybe it doesn’t matter if the media decides to ignore them. In lieu of responsible press coverage, we’ve assembled some photos and video of yesterday’s event for posterity from social media:

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