PUC Hearings Slated on Xcel’s Solar-Killing Proposals

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Thursday, June 9, in Denver, and on June 16 in Grand Junction, Colorado’s Public Utility Commission will hear public comment from 4-6 p.m.about Xcel Energy’s new rate proposal.

solar panels in colorado

Solar Panels in Colorado -photo courtesy of the Sierra Club of Colorado.

The Sierra Club of Colorado is inviting public comment about the proposals, and asking supporters to meet early (at 3:15  pm) for a press event on the west steps of the Capitol, then walk with signs to 1560 Broadway to picket and to speak at the hearing. Sierra Club’s invitation reads:

Xcel’s new proposal called “our energy future” is moving in the wrong direction. It adds fees that negatively impact our families and communities – whether they have solar or not – and places corporate profit over the public interest.

Xcel tried unsuccessfully to drive solar competition out of Colorado from 2013-2015 by proposing an end to Net Metering. After a long consideration process and multiple hearings Colorado sent the signal to continue with net metering.

The Sierra Club is referring to Xcel’s second proposal:

Establishing a “grid charge” to recover distribution system costs for residential and commercial customers. The company is proposing to assess graduated charges that increase with a customer’s average use over their past 12 billing periods.

This proposal would charge solar customers a “grid charge” to penalize them for having the gall to install solar panels, which feed energy back into the electrical grid. They would like solar customers to pay extra for the privilege of generating their own power.

Xcel’s “Solar Connect” program is the same program which was rejected by the PUC in 2014. In 2014, Solar Industry called the proposal “Sleight of billing,” in which customers would have been billed for more solar power than was actually produced. Xcel’s own spin on the program somehow neglects to mention this aspect.

What happens when a utility gets to charge solar customers extra for installing solar:

The Pueblo Paws4Life no-kill animal shelter found out when they tried to be a Leeds Green building, and installed 234 solar panels on their roof.  Black Hills Energy(BHE) had a dual rate structure for solar installations, with some sneaky fine print in the contract. The shelter was a commercial installation, and so had to pay a “demand fee” to BHE.

Carol Warner, President of Paws4life, recounted what happened when the “demand fee” kicked in. The shelter’s utility bills rocketed to $12,000 per month, even though they were generating most of it from their own solar panels. The “demand fee” charges commercial consumers a rate consistent with their highest peak use. Paws4Life began to struggle just to keep the doors open.

BHE  has been no friend to solar in the Pueblo area, and many companies are going out of business.  BHE also has some of the highest utility rates in Colorado, and a bad reputation for price – gouging customers.

Rural Electric Associations across the state often have a confusing dual rate structure for solar, leading rural customers to erroneously believe that “solar costs more”. They do this because the PUC allows them to get away with it.

Communities across Colorado are letting the PUC know that they support renewable energy –  with mixed results:

Solar advocates in Weld County successfully defeated a proposed ordinance which would have prohibited  solar installations on agricultural land. (Fracking was still allowed on ag land, though). This happened after massive community protest of the BCCC’s original solar-killing proposal.

The PUC is also considering the city of Boulder’s planned  intervention in Xcel’s wind farm proposal. Boulder is trying to municipalize its electrical utilities; so the planned wind facility would be one they would try to purchase, if successful.

Governor Hickenlooper appointed a GOP lawmaker with ties to ALEC to the PUC. There was massive public protest, and Vaad was never confirmed by the Colorado legislature. Hick reappointed Vaad anyway.

Show your support of renewable energy. Let the Public Utility Commission know that we will not allow Xcel Energy to kill the solar energy industry in Colorado.

For more information, contact the sponsors of the press event and public input at the PUC hearing:

Alliance for Solar Choice, which advocates for rooftop distributed solar across the country

And Sierra Club  of Colorado.

Hick Drops More Veep Hintage


With speculation continuing as to whether presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might look west for her choice of a vice-presidential running mate, Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado seems to be inching rhetorically toward something you might call readiness. The latest in an interview with Denver7’s Marc Stewart:

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has been the focus of recent political chatter about taking on the role of Hillary Clinton’s running mate on the Democratic ticket.

Denver7 reporter Marc Stewart spoke with the governor about his future ambitions.

“I know you’ve not been approached by the Clinton campaign, but you’re not ruling this out either?” asked Stewart. “No, obviously if someone feels you would add great value to service to your country, I think you’d be a fool not to consider it very strongly,” said Hickenlooper. [Pols emphasis]

Whether or not Hickenlooper is himself being “considered strongly,” or just another also-ran on a long and speculative list, is something that only a handful of people close to the process can claim to know right now. Hickenlooper’s upswing in public events to promote his new memoir could be interpreted as a politically forward looking pre-campaign tour–or he might just be promoting the book.

We’ll keep our ear to the ground, but chances are we’ll all find out together.

Hickenlooper Notes 800-Pound Gorilla in Room, GOP Loses Minds

CBS News reports: conservatives across the fruited plain are apoplectic this Memorial Day weekend after an interview on CBS News, in which Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado had the temerity, the effrontery, the gender-traitorous gall to suggest something we suspect about half our readership (give or take demographic samplewise) already know before he said it:

“Some people say, and you’d have to look at it, if she was a man all this stuff wouldn’t be at the same level,” [Pols emphasis] the Democratic governor said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “There’s an awful lot of criticism–literally millions of dollars of criticism against her every week, over things that really aren’t that, against a man, wouldn’t be brought up like that.”

“I think they’ve parsed this about as much as they can,” he said of the email issue. “I mean, she was trying to protect family and friends from unwanted scrutiny — she said it’s a mistake, right? Let’s move on.”

And then Hick lowers the boom on the right wing mediasphere’s obsession with Hillary Clinton’s admittedly undersecured private email server she utilized as Secretary of State–as criticized last week by a State Department report.

“It points out that previous secretaries of state had done roughly the same — had used their own servers, like Colin Powell, and no one had come out officially at the time and said, you know, this is a bad precedent,” he said. “Again, she’s admitted she made a mistake. I don’t understand, it’s not like the end of the world. I understand it’s been made a big deal because people have spent millions of dollars trying to blow it into this incredible flame.”

And folks, Hickenlooper is right–at least right enough that it’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask. In all of hand-wringing over Clinton’s private email server, the one obvious missing component is actual harm done–some demonstrable example of her use of a private email server as Secretary of State actually compromising American interests. Somewhere in the 24/7 obsession by conservatives with an issue that they didn’t care about when a (male) Republican predecessor made the same mistake, the obvious question presents itself.

Because there is no evidence of any harm, and Republicans have no good answer when confronted about former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s exact same mistake, you have to ask why this issue is the subject of so much attention. But that isn’t a new thing: the Clintons have been subject to the most extreme and relentless scandalizing by the conservative media, over the course of decades, that any American political family has arguably ever faced. Indeed, the right-wing media machine we know as an institution today cut its teeth on turning every Clinton molehill into whatever mountain they could conjure up.

Along with that relentless scandalizing, the personal assault on the Clintons since the 1990s set a precedent we see as normal today. Along with every new angle of attack comes a thick coating of personal animus about these two political figures that has effectively dehumanized them among consumers of conservative media.

For Hillary, it’s a bunch of sexist crap. This latest affected “scandal” over her email server is just the latest segue into 20 years of character assassination that freely makes use of every sexist trope in the book where it concerns Hillary personally. It’s likely that Bill would also be getting some of this had it been his email server, but with Hillary, the attacks are bitter in a way that evokes more than the usual political demonizing.

And as hard as it may be to admit, there’s an easy way to explain the difference.

The Get More Smarter Show: Hickenlooper’s Opposite of Woe


Watch Part 2 of the Get More Smarter Show’s extended interview with Gov. John Hickenlooper! In today’s segment we’ll be talking to the Governor about his new memoir–although Hick says he’s “too young to have a memoir”–The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics, on bookshelves now.

If you missed yesterday’s debut episode of the Get More Smarter Show, you can watch it here in all its technically challenged glory including Part 1 of our interview with Gov. Hickenlooper. Next week’s show will feature fewer production mistakes, mostly because we made so many of them with the first episode.

Many thanks again to Gov. Hickenlooper for sitting down with us.

Colorado Supreme Court Rules Against Cities on Fracking

UPDATE #2: Rep. Jared Polis sounds like he’s ready to fight:

I am extremely disappointed with the bad decision today to overturn the will of the voters in Longmont and Fort Collins. It’s a blow to democracy and local control,” said Polis.  

“While at least the courts found today that local government land use authority and regulations can coexist with state regulations, the communities being hurt by unregulated fracking are looking to enact stronger measures to protect homeowners, and this case doesn’t help.

Now that the law has been interpreted, it’s up to the state legislature or the people of Colorado to act to protect our neighborhoods and homes. I look forward to continuing to help advocates in these efforts to protect our communities.”

—–

UPDATE: Rep. Mike Foote (D) remains hopeful despite the setback of today’s ruling:

“I’m disappointed that the people of Longmont and Fort Collins will be unable to implement measures that they deemed appropriate to address oil and gas development within their borders,” said Rep. Foote, D-Lafayette, whose district includes part of Longmont. “But a careful reading of the rulings shows that these are actually very narrow opinions. Local governments’ land use authority was reaffirmed, including for oil and gas development.”

Rep. Foote also noted that the court, in the Longmont ruling, did not dispute what it described as “the propriety of local land use ordinances that relate to oil and gas development.”

“Cities and counties may need to modify their approach somewhat,” Rep. Foote said, “but it’s clear that the Court has reaffirmed that local governments do have a seat at the table when it comes to oil and gas development.”

—–

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

KDVR FOX 31 reporting, a big ruling today that sets the stage for the next battle over oil and gas development along Colorado’s rapidly urbanizing Front Range:

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that individual cities cannot slow or ban fracking near residents because it’s a matter of state law.

In 2012, Longmont voters voted to ban fracking and in 2013, Fort Collins voters approved a five-year moratorium. The oil and gas industry sued both cities in 2013, and won rulings against Fort Collins and Longmont in summer 2014…

In its Monday ruling, the court said local cities’ attempts to stop fracking is “invalid and unenforceable.”

Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith responds to today’s ruling in a statement:

We’re still evaluating the specifics of these decisions, and the Fort Collins decision appears to be particularly narrow. But, at first glance, they are disappointing.

We believe that good policy-making happens from the ground up and that local communities are best-suited to make decisions about what happens with oil and gas drilling within their borders. Local governments should have the ability to call a timeout on drilling in order to better understand its impacts and ensure safety and public health, just as they are allowed to do with other industries.

We will continue to stand with the communities that are being dramatically impacted by oil and gas drilling. Their concerns have not gone away with today’s rulings.

These decisions also show that the oil and gas industry’s threats of litigation are a hammer that the industry has no qualms about wielding against local governments if they decide to engage in land use planning. In order to combat this hammer, local governments must be empowered with better tools to protect their citizens from heavy industrial drilling.

There’s no question this is a setback for the local communities who sought better control over land use within their boundaries, but the fact is it was not an unexpected ruling. Colorado’s split-estate management of surface and subsurface development rights, a holdover from a era when Colorado was a mineral extraction hinterland and not a burgeoning urban population center, is simply not written to balance the needs and rights of today’s urban populations vs. mineral rights owners.

These local communities who fought back for a better deal knew they were up against long odds under current law. As much as anything, these moves were intended to provoke a statewide discussion on how to better protect neighborhoods, businesses, and schools from a heavy industry with a unique right to run roughshod over local land use authority. The response from the industry, Republican politicians, and yes, many Democrats including pro-energy Gov. John Hickenlooper, has ranged from denial to outright contempt for the concerns of opponents of “fracking” in residential areas. Rather than working toward a solution that acknowledges the problem, supporters of the industry in both parties have brushed off concerns–often offensively–and hid behind the legal status quo.

After today’s ruling, the battle shifts back to the ballot box. We’ll have to wait until August to see what energy ballot measures we’ll be voting on this November, but bigger setbacks between energy development and surface populations and a constitutional statement clarifying local control rights are major possibilities. Energy industry surrogates prefer to steer this debate into extremes like a total ban on “fracking” statewide, from which they can make more effective counterarguments, but more realistic measures may well prove much more popular. If funders like Tom Steyer and Jared Polis decide that 2016 is the year to throw down, today’s ruling against Front Range cities could become the battle cry that changes everything.

Because it’s evident now that something has to change.

Colorado Budget: Private Prisons Get Their Pound of Flesh

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Strescino reports, the Colorado state legislature gave final passage to the 2016 budget on Friday–but not before a last-minute request from the Governor’s office, supported by Senate Republicans, almost derailed the deal yet again:

A last-minute request by the governor to keep afloat a private prison — and help a rural economy — held up the final budget deal until the state Senate approved it Friday.

The budget, $25.8 billion, is headed for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

Hickenlooper requested at the last minute to spend $3 million to boost payments to a private, for-profit prison company that is threatening to close the Kit Carson Correctional Center on the Eastern Plains — a move that stalled the budget bill after Senate Democrats raised complaints…

Corrections Corporation of America.

Corrections Corporation of America.

The Denver Post’s John Frank has more on the $3 million to subsidize operations at the Kit Carson Correctional Center just east of Burlington, which is operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America:

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, noted that the state gave Corrections Corporation of America a cash infusion four years ago to keep the facility open and now it’s back asking for more money. At the same time, other parts of the state budget are facing cuts or no new funding increases. [Pols emphasis]

Johnston said the timing of the request — just as budget negotiations finished — amounted to “blackmail.”

“It’s not in the best interest of the state of Colorado,” he said.

In the end, the $3 million for Corrections Corporation of America was not enough to blow up the long negotiations that led to this year’s budget compromises–which include hotly-contested line items like funding for the state’s groundbreaking IUD contraception program, a big win over the objections of the Senate’s far-right “Hateful Eight” caucus. But that doesn’t mean this “bailout” of an underutilized private prison was a good thing, as a statement from the state’s public employee union Colorado WINS makes very clear indeed:

According to WINS Executive Director, Tim Markham, “The for-profit prison industry is built on exploitation. They exploit our criminal justice system, they exploit their workers, they exploit the communities in which their facilities are located and they exploit Colorado taxpayers.

Unlike our state correctional facilities and professional correctional officers, for-profit prisons are not accountable to taxpayers. And they do not provide stable, community-building jobs – these are low-wage, low-security, high-turnover positions.

Colorado WINS has long stood publicly against the for-profit prison industry. This latest bailout is just one more example of why Colorado should extricate ourselves from this predatory and morally corrupt industry.” [Pols emphasis]

“Extrication” of Colorado’s prison system from for-profit corporate interests that have little regard for the state’s actual needs, unlike state employees who could be redistributed throughout the system and–key point–are much more qualified professionals who contribute far more to their local economies than the CCA’s low-wage employees, is a debate that will have to wait for another year. But these threat-laden “requests” for infusions of cash to a for-profit corporation under threat of closing underused prisons and “killing jobs,” this being the second such request in four years, is not at all what the private prison industry promised in the early 1990s: a happy arrangement in which private capital took the risk of operating the prisons and the public benefitted from “lower costs.”

Since that logic has now been turned on its head, we’d say it’s appropriate to question the state’s whole relationship with the private prison industry.

Did our Governor and Hilary Clinton really decide to mask her speech from reporters with a sound machine?

Why are only the Colorado Republicans talking about this?  Stan Bush is supposedly a mainstream reporter.  It happened at our Governor’s home, but we have to find it on CPP?  I’ve got to wonder if it can’t be substantiated, but I can’t find any evidence any other reporters are even looking into it.

http://coloradopeakpolitics.com/2016/04/08/the-sound-of-silence-hillary-clinton-doesnt-want-you-to-hear-her-fundraising-plea/

 

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 23)

MoreSmarterLogo-SnowmanOur condolences to those Colorado students who would have had a snow day today…if they weren’t in the middle of Spring Break already. 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 Colorado legislature has called a “snow day” for Wednesday. Arguments — about everything — are expected to resume tomorrow.

► Arizona, Utah, and Idaho (Democrats only) cast votes in the race for President on Tuesday. Chris Cillizza of “The Fix” names his “Winners and Losers” from the evening; prepare for a lot of repetition from here on out.

Donald Trump: Arizona was the big prize of the night, the third biggest winner-take-all state on the map with 58 delegates. There was some chatter in the days leading up to the vote that Ted Cruz might be sneaking up on Trump — the Texas Senator spent time in the state — and could be poised to pull an upset. Nope.  Trump won by 22 points, taking 47 percent of the vote. Would Trump have had a better night if Cruz had come in under 50 percent in Utah? Sure. But only by a little since Trump was never going to take more than a small handful of delegates out of the heavily Mormon State. Nothing that happened on Tuesday night changed the dynamic of the GOP race. Trump, at 739 delegates, is clearly in first place and still the only candidate with a genuine chance of winning the 1,237 delegates to formally claim the party’s nomination. That’s a good night for him.

Hillary Clinton: The only way that Clinton isn’t the Democratic nominee is if she starts losing big states by large margins. That didn’t happen on Tuesday night. Clinton won the big delegate prize of Arizona while losing Idaho and Utah by big numbers to Bernie Sanders. The Sanders folks will focus on his two wins but the truth of Sanders’s delegate deficit is he needs to win states like Arizona with 80 percent of the vote, not states like Utah or Idaho.  There just aren’t enough delegates in those to narrow Clinton’s lead. And, she knows it. Notice that her speeches in the last week or so — since the March 15 votes — have turned their focus to Trump almost entirely. Clinton is in the midst of a general election pivot.  Tuesday night proved, again, why this nomination fight is close to over.

► For those of you who have felt a little panicked because Colorado doesn’t have an official Lieutenant Governor, well, you can finally relax. Bill Vidal Donna Lynne is here! From Joey Bunch of the Denver Post:

Donna Lynne, a Kaiser Permanente executive and a longtime ally of Gov. John Hickenlooper, is the nominee to become Colorado’s next lieutenant governor, an administration official confirmed Wednesday morning… …Lynne, 62, is executive vice president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, as well as the group president responsible for Kaiser’s Colorado, Pacific Northwest and Hawaii regions. If confirmed, she would replace Joe Garcia, who  announced his resignation in November to become president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a Boulder-based organization that’s to assist colleges and universities in 16 Western states.

Lynne is not expected to run for Governor when Hickenlooper is term-limited in 2018, which was a significant point in her favor. Hickenlooper was careful not to select a Light Gov. who would gain a head start on the Democratic nomination for Governor.   Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Hickenlooper Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot on Legal Weed

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

7NEWS Marshall Zelinger reports, Colorado’s most well-intentioned gaffe machine, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, is at it again:

At a conference in Dallas on Tuesday, on public-private partnerships — like the U.S 36 expansion and toll lanes — Gov. John Hickenlooper warned the decision makers about legalizing marijuana.

While showing a slide that said millennials will outnumber baby boomers by 22 million in the year 2030, he said the following:

“You get all those young people who do certain things that some of us oppose and aren’t crazy about, like legalizing marijuana. Let me tell you, if you’re trying to encourage businesses to move to your state, some of the larger businesses, think twice about legalizing marijuana.”

The weed biz.

The weed biz.

Back in Colorado, folks puzzled to figure out what Hickenlooper meant, since:

At his State of the State address in January, the Governor made reference to booming business.

“Since July 2014, we’ve secured 9,000 new jobs created by companies relocating to Colorado, and existing businesses expanding here. Companies like DaVita, Intel, Reed Group, FiveStars, Gusto and Proximity Malt,” said Hickenlooper.

So, you know, what gives?

“The governor knows marijuana is part of the conversation in recruiting companies to Colorado, but it has not had any measurable impact to the economy,” his office said in a statement to Denver7.

Bottom line: we really don’t know what Hickenlooper was thinking here, but it’s not the first time he has come out of left field to disparage marijuana legalization without any evidence–indeed contradicting other statements about marijuana, or at least about its economic effects. It’s possible Hickenlooper feels obliged to talk down marijuana in front of certain audiences so as not to offend their sensibilities.

The problem is that there’s no factual basis, and it doesn’t in any way help Colorado to say this stuff. Hickenlooper’s comments needlessly imperil the objective of attracting investment to our state, and runs counter to all the news reporting on the issue voters in other states considering marijuana legalization are reading. They run counter to the experience of Coloradans since marijuana was legalized in 2012.

So please, Governor, knock this crap off.

Questions about the hospital provider fee? Read this

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Reporters have struggled to find a short-hand description for the “hospital provider fee,” because  it’s impossible to describe briefly. And lengthy descriptions of it often require multiple readings. And that’s without trying to understand the intracacies of why it’s such a big deal.

So the Colorado Independent did us all a favor by dedicating a full article to: “What you need to know about Colorado’s biggest political battle. It’s called the hospital provider fee, and it’s complicated. Let’s break it down.”

You should take a few minutes to read the entire piece, by the Independent’s Corey Hutchins, but here are a few paragraphs:

The hospital provider fee is a state program requiring hospitals to pay money each year depending on how many patients stayed in hospital beds overnight and how much outpatient services they provided. That money is then used, among other things, to help Coloradans who can’t afford insurance plans get care, and to help the state pay for people who are on Medicaid, which is a government healthcare program for low-income Coloradans and their families.

Each hospital pays a different amount — some pay a lot, some pay nothing — and the fee hauled in nearly $700 million last year. This money is then matched almost dollar for dollar by the federal government to expand Medicaid, provide health coverage for Coloradans who are using emergency rooms for non-emergency treatment, and reimburse hospitals for care. The more money the fee brings in the more money the feds give Colorado to make sure people who can’t afford healthcare get it. Since 2009, the program has helped more than 300,000 people get insurance coverage….

Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, who sits on the state’s budget committee, explains it like this: Picture a bucket with water pouring in. The incoming water is state revenues, and when the bucket fills to the top (or hits its TABOR limits) water starts pouring over the edge— and that overflowing water (money) goes back to taxpayers in the form of rebates. Now, picture rocks in the bottom of the bucket. One of those big rocks is money from the hospital provider fee. It’s money that takes up space in the bucket, and those who want to take a big rock out can do so by reclassifying the hospital provider fee into an enterprise…

The context of AFP’s [Americans for Prosperity, which opposes the measure] involvement is that it’s a big-time, strategic pressure group with loads of resources and activists that will keep certain lawmakers holding the line on this issue, especially at a time when they need backing to run for re-election.

Meanwhile, the business lobby in Colorado is speaking in a near-monolithic voice for reclassifying the hospital provider fee into an enterprise, as have editorial boards at some of the state’s regional newspapers.

Senate President Bill Cadman Might Not Understand the Word “Compromise”

State Sen. Bill Cadman (R-Koch Brothers) loves the word "NO."

State Sen. Bill Cadman points to his favorite word in the legislature: “NO.”

On Wednesday, Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) evoked the notions of compromise and collaboration in his opening day speech at the State Capitol:

“Performing our duties to the best of our abilities means finding the best solutions. Leadership means finding solutions. It’s not about partisan solutions. President Kennedy once said, ‘Let us not seek the Republican answer or the democratic answer but the right answer.'”

Just kidding!

On Thursday, Senate President Bill Cadman began the process of assigning some 36% of primarily-Democratic legislation to the Senate State Affairs committee — otherwise known as the “kill committee,” because bills that enter the committee room don’t usually come back out. As of Thursday evening, we counted 39 bills introduced in the State Senate, of which 14 were immediately whisked away to “State Affairs.”

Both chambers of the legislature have a “State Affairs” committee, so Democrats and Republicans can send freshly-drafted bills to their inevitable death without much of a debate beforehand. To be clear, both Parties do this regularly — just not with the same level of frequency.

Again, as of Thursday evening, we counted 78 bills introduced in the State House, 13 of which did not pass ‘GO’ and were sent immediately to the State Affairs committee — a total kill percentage of about 17%. All but two of the House bills sent to State Affairs could be characterized as being largely Republican in nature.

For all of his blustery talk about collaboration, Sen. Cadman has been decapitating Democratic legislation at a rate that is nearly double that of the State House (36% to 17%). Nearly one out of every three Senate bills that could be classified as “Democratic” will be killed off before anyone even gets to talk about them in a serious manner.

When he talks about “compromise,” perhaps Sen. Cadman means that he has agreed to only kill off about one-third of all Democratic Senate bills. Such a nice man.

Facts vs. Fear As Terrorism Debate Intensifies

san-bernardino011_3516486bThe Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus has an insightful story up today discussing the similarities and disparities between recent fears over terrorism in the United States and last week’s domestic terror attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs–a story already taking on additional relevance as news events elsewhere add urgency:

Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation continue to look overseas to stop terrorists attacks, as groups in Colorado say the spotlight should be placed here in America after last week’s shooting spree at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

Perhaps the most vocal member of the delegation has been U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who called for halting a Syrian refugee program after the Paris terrorist attacks last month, in which at least 130 people died…

But groups in Colorado and across the nation say Congress should also be looking at domestic terrorism.

The calls have grown after last Friday’s Planned Parenthood shootings, in which a police officer and two civilians were killed at a clinic in Colorado Springs. A clear motive has yet to be released by authorities, but reports suggest that the suspect referred to “baby parts” upon surrendering. Reproductive-rights advocates believe the incident should be treated as domestic terrorism against women…

“History has demonstrated that refugees fleeing violence and oppression in other nations are not a threat to the United States,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado. “Reasonable measures to ensure security while meeting humanitarian obligations are acceptable.

“But as we tragically learned last week in Colorado Springs, terrorism can be entirely homegrown,” she said. “In both cases, what is needed now is clear-headed responsibility and compassion – not fear and falsehoods.”

Yesterday, yet another horrific mass shooting left 14 people dead and more injured at a holiday party of San Bernardino, California county employees. The case in San Bernardino, as of this writing, may involve “mixed motives” of both workplace violence and a potential connection being reported today to international terrorism.

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

The biggest problem with using yesterday’s shooting in San Bernardino to underscore Rep. Scott Tipton’s argument against admitting Syrian refugees to the United States, as Republicans are quickly seeking to do today, is that the attackers were not refugees. Despite their Middle Eastern surnames, the principal attacker and county employee was a U.S. citizen, and his apparent spouse and co-conspirator came into the country on a fiancee visa. The circumstances as we understand them today, admittedly based on limited available information, do not bolster the case for denying entry of Syrian refugees into the United States in any way. Refugees are subject to vastly higher degrees of scrutiny then people who come to this country on tourist, student, business, and yes, marital visas.

And that means what happened in San Bernardino yesterday, on a practical level, has more in common with the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood terror attack than last month’s ISIS terrorist attack in Paris. It means the remedies needed are domestic remedies, not punitive action against helpless refugees.

Unfortunately, those facts may well be subsumed by public panic if connections to international terrorism in the San Bernardino attack are confirmed. Surnames, skin color, and religion are likely to be as far as many Americans choose to read before rendering a xenophobic judgment. But the truth as we understand it now from San Bernardino does not reinforce Tipton’s demagoguery against refugees. Sen. Michael Bennet, who has sponsored legislation to enhance screening of refugees but does not support a wholesale freeze, is much closer to the levelheaded measures needed–without giving the terrorists the victory of frightening us into rejecting refugees who are in many cases fleeing those same terrorists.

In short, these are the moments when it’s hard to do the right thing. But also the moments when doing the right thing matters most.

Talk-radio host falsely claims Hickenlooper wants to shut him up

(Sorry, Dan Caplis, but nobody is actually thinking about you specifically. Ever.  — promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dan Caplis.

Dan Caplis.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is taking heat on talk radio for suggesting that America “tone back the inflammatory rhetoric,” which may drive “emotionally unstable or psychologically unbalanced” people to “commit these acts of unthinkable violence.”

Hickenlooper made the comments during a CNN interview Sunday about Friday’s murders at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs.

This morning, KNUS host Dan Caplis said Hickenlooper “just doesn’t want us speaking the truth” about Planned Parenthood.

But Hickenlooper repeatedly said he doesn’t want to limit free speech. Read Hick’s comments for yourself.

Hickenlooper (at 5 minutes here and below): Certainly, it is a form of terrorism. Maybe in some way it’s a function of the inflammatory rhetoric that we see on so many issues now. There are bloggers and talk shows where they really focus on trying to get people to the point of boiling over to intense anger. And I think, maybe it’s time to also look at, how do we tone down some of that rhetoric. Honestly, no one is going to try to reduce free speech in this country. But if people are in some way emotionally unstable or psychologically unbalanced, that intensity of rhetoric sometimes seems to pull a trigger in their brain that they lose contact with what reality is.

Host: …Are you calling for changes in blogging or video games.

Hickenlooper: No. I am in no way trying to limit free speech. I think our community, the United States of America, ought to begin a discussion looking at, how do you begin to tone back the inflammatory rhetoric that in some ways might be good for, I don’t know, selling products in advertisements or whatever, but in some way it is inflaming people to the point where they can’t stand it. And they go out and they lose connection to reality in some way and commit these acts of unthinkable violence. I’m not saying we should restrict people’s free speech, nowhere near that. But I think we should have a discussion of at least urging caution when we discuss some of these issues so that we don’t get people to a point of committing senseless violence.

Climate Change: Its What’s for Dinner

Norman Rockwell painted a scene of a fictionalized Thanksgiving that still haunts hostesses and hosts to this day.

By now most people are aware that the history that brings us Thanksgiving is not all as sanguine as we may have been led to believe. The subtext of conquest is bitter to swallow for many.

And abundance itself can devolve to gluttony and greed – stampeding consumerism no longer contained to the immediate Black Friday aftermath even, but invading the holiday itself.

So don’t blame me for ruining the day to raise another issue we can fret over even as we count our blessings otherwise – and that is climate change. Specifically what that clear and present climate crisis means for the food system and food security.

As you slather butter on squash and pile high your pie, you might consider that food systems are among the most vulnerable to climate change.  At risk from drought and wildlife, floods and landslides, threatened by declining pollinators and expanding pests, burdened by crashing fisheries. Of the systems that sustain humanity, how we produce and find the food we eat may be the most in jeopardy.

The point with all this isn’t to ruin the feast but to provide a morsel to chew on as the tryptophan kicks in. And may there be many more days of too much deliciousness in your life. But if we care about feeding ourselves and each other we ought to care about climate change and what we can do about it.

Recently I helped convene a group of growers, food advocates, climate crusaders, and local heroes in a series of gatherings and events around local food security and climate change, as reported in High Country News and KVNF community radio.

Pete Kolbenschlag, the organizer of the Paonia panel discussion, knows that food security affects everyone. “If you care about what’s on your plate, and you care about feeding other people and the planet, then we need to care about climate change, because climate change is going to affect our food supply,” he says.

The purpose was to consider what climate change means for agriculture and rural communities on the Western Slope and how we could begin to work collaboratively to address it.

Generally western Colorado is vulnerable to increased periods of drought and extreme precipitation, a snowpack that melts earlier and warmer winters, with freezes into May likely to remain a fact on the elevated slopes on the western flanks of the Rocky Mountains.

Warm winters result in early blooms on fruit trees that are then at risk to late snow and spring frosts.

Accepting some problems such as increased incidences of early bloom coupled with late April freeze, which is a real problem for the fruit producers where I live for instance, will be part of living with a changing climate.

And climate change means several things more broadly for farming and food security in Colorado as well, including:

*Adapting our farming and food systems to a changing climate will be necessary: to create more climate resilience into the design, crop selection, and techniques; and to make wise water use and management, a top priority in all aspects of growing and producing food.

*Adopting better practices in agriculture and in food system, to reduce greenhouse gas contributions – from eating less meat to utilizing techniques that enhances local carbon capture.

*Accelerating the transition to cleaner energy sources and more local power production in agricultural and food production.

Food security and the threats looming to it from climate change is an issue of global significance.  It also matters for us here at home.  And meeting the challenges that climate change poses for Colorado’s food system will take national and state commitment, as well as local action.

Homegrown approaches for rural communities and others that can help us adapt our food system to address climate change,  from sharing local clean energy capacity and installations (‘solar barn-raisings’) to expanding local food networks.

There is tangible value in gratitude. And for most of us there are things for which we are rightfully thankful. Considering these things helps cultivate a positive attitude.

We can be thankful we are removed from troubling global events we see, perhaps. We may be thankful we are not fleeing a war torn cluster of other powers’ making.

But even these situations have roots not only in political upheaval, like in Syria and Iraq, but also in basic needs that are going unmet. The fact is we are all connected. Global security is connected to food supply. And that supply is being directly impacted from climate change.

A stock Thanksgiving meal set unlike any that I have personally experienced, yet with several classic elements.

So if you are fortunate enough to be able to look with thanks upon your table this season, do take time to think about the world beyond your circle. Remember your family and friends that aren’t there. Include the farmers and winemakers, the workers and craft that brings bounty to you.

But also thank Governor Hickenlooper for defending the Clean Power Plan and Senator Bennet for supporting it against Republican rollbacks in the Senate. One little bite at a time, and some perseverance, and we can make a real difference.

Maybe say a little prayer for peace. But also send it to the world’s leaders heading to Paris this week. Ask that they keep the wisdom that reminds: the smart ruler fills bellies while the harvest of an army is a waste of thorns.

If we want peace, we need security. And if we want security then people need to be secure in their food supplies. And to ensure people have full bellies, and secure food supplies, political leaders need to Act on Climate. It really is as simple as the food on our plate.

A Colorado governor who fought bigotry–and won in the end

(Past is prologue – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Gov. Ralph Carr (R-CO).

Gov. Ralph Carr (R-CO).

During WWII, the U.S. government forced Japanese Americans  from their homes on the West Coast and moved them to interior states. Kansas Gov. Payne Ratner, reflected the opinions of many governors when she responded at the time with, “Japs are not wanted and not welcome in Kansas.”

With at least 22 Republican governors saying they’ll try to keep Syrian refugees out of their states, Denver University’s Seth Masket wrote a blog post yeserday reminding us of this and pointing out that Colorado Governor Ralph Carr “stood out” among his fellow governors at the time and declared that the forced relocation of the Japanese Americans under Executive Order 9066 was unconstitutional. He also welcomed them to Colorado.

Masket didn’t mention Hickenlooper, who has welcomed Syrian refugees, but the loose parallel between the two Colorado governors isn’t lost on anyone reading Masket’s post, titled “The governor who didn’t give in to fear … and paid a price for it.

Masket: “Obviously, the relocation of American citizens of Japanese ancestry is not the same as accepting refugees from another country,” writes Masket, who’s an Associate Professor of Political Science at DU. “But there are clear parallels, particularly in the political incentives governors are confronting. It’s not just that it’s easy to demagogue against foreign invaders; it’s that it’s sometimes politically risky not to. The governors refusing to take in Syrian refugees today may or may not know Ralph Carr’s name, but they have surely imagined his fate, and they don’t want the same for themselves.” [BigMedia emphasis]

Masket cites the Principled Politician, former 9News reporter Adam Schrager’s much-acclaimed biography of Carr. The book shows the respect Carr has now, in hindsight, even though his stance during WWII ended his political career.

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