Lakewood City Council Punts on Pot; Question Goes to Ballot

As the Denver Post reports, the Lakewood City Council voted 7-4 on Monday to ask voters to decide on whether to allow retail marijuana stores…even though voters have already made their voice clear on this issue:

In a room packed with opponents of any retail marijuana operations, Ward 1 Councilwoman Ramey Johnson warned that marijuana is a $1 billion a year industry and the "gates of hell will open" with outside money influencing Lakewood voters on the November ballot question.

Lakewood voters approved Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana possession and allowed for retail sales, 60-40 in 2012…[Pols emphasis]

Mayor Bob Murphy said he voted "no" on Amendment 64.

He supported the November ballot question and said it would answer once and for all the will of the voters: Were they voting strictly for recreational use with no desire for retail stores? Or were they saying "yes" to both?

"All we're doing is asking voters, and that's democracy," Murphy said. "And in my opinion, that's what we were elected to do. I think it's our duty to clarify the issue with voters."

Monday's discussion by the Lakewood City Council reminds us of using a credit/debit card to buy groceries or other items; how many times do you need to answer "Are You Sure?" before you can sign the receipt and be on your way?

Obviously there is a generational gap related to this discussion in Lakewood — witness Ramey Johnson's ridiculous hand-wringing about "industry" lobbyists — but it's disingenuous for the city council to punt on an issue that they are elected to make decisions about. Whether or not you agree with Amendment 64, the issue has already been decided by voters and should not be going to the ballot again. Lakewood's City Council should be working on implementing Amendment 64, not on asking voters if they were really, really, really sure that they want recreational marijuana sales in Lakewood. With respect to Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy, putting questions on the ballot is absolutely not the primary job of the city council, nor should it be. Putting this issue on the ballot in November is a waste of time and money; if the vote comes back largely in favor of recreational marijuana, which is likely, then this entire exercise will have been pointless.

This non-decision is particularly absurd when you consider that nearby cities such as Denver, Wheat Ridge, Mountain View, and Edgewater are already moving forward with retail marijuana operations. To whatever extent there may be a negative impact on the community from recreational marijuana sales, restricting it from Lakewood is not going to keep it out of Lakewood. The only thing that Lakewood would not receive is tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales; residents of Lakewood who want to buy marijuana will just drive a few more miles and then bring their purchase back home.

There are certainly plenty of people who disagree with the idea of legalizing marijuana, but that ship sailed a long time ago. The Lakewood City Council should be working on implementing the law instead of asking the same questions again and again.

Increase to 5 Commissioners in Jeffco Won’t Make Ballot

We've discussed before in this space the efforts in Jefferson County to increase the number of county commissioners to 5 (from its current 3-member board) — a much more reasonable and representative number for a county that is larger in population than the entire state of Wyoming. A citizen's group called "Jeffco 5" had spent months gathering petition signatures in order to try to get the question on the November ballot, but without using paid signature gatherers, they came up predictably short. As the Denver Post reports:

Jeffco 5, a group led by former Golden City Councilwoman Karen Oxman, submitted approximately 10,000 signed petitions to get its question on the ballot in November. But that total was short of the 17,444 valid signatures that were required, representing 8 percent of the county's population. Oxman previously stated the goal was for 25,000 signatures.

The ballot question would have had voters choose how to elect five commissioners: five district seats, or three districts and two at-large seats.

Currently, the three commissioners represent and reside in their district, but are elected at large. If passed, Jeffco would have joined Arapahoe, Weld, El Paso and Adams as counties with five-person boards.

"It's been very hard for all of us who have worked hard for about two years to make this happen," Oxman said.

The group had been collecting signatures for the past six months after the county commissioners voted against putting the question on the ballot. Oxman said the effort was completely grassroots and that the group didn't pay to hire petitioners.

Failing to gather enough signatures to make the ballot here is more about the inherent impossibility succeeding with an all-grassroots, all-volunteer signature collection process than a rejection of the 5 Commissioners idea. Collecting enough signatures for any sort of large-scale ballot measure is incredibly difficult without a large financial commitment toward paid signature-gatherers, but Jeffco 5 certainly did well with what they had.

Jeffco Commissioner Casey Tighe told the Post that he believes it is only a matter of time before the issue makes it onto the ballot in the near future — perhaps by convincing the current board to place the measure on the ballot in 2016. We can't disagree with that sentiment; moving to 5 commissioners just makes too much sense.

Colorado GOP Primary Results Cast Ominous Shadow for Republicans

Tony Sanchez in SD-22

Tony Sanchez, Republican nominee in SD-22

The National Journal has picked up on a storyline we have been following closely for months here at Colorado Pols — how the combination of Tea Party vs. establishment fights, amplified in bellwether Jefferson County, may make it impossible for Republicans on the top of the ticket to win statewide races:

Even as Republicans nominated capable candidates at the top of the ticket, the down-ballot primary results are a stark illustration of how the party leaders in the state tasked with winning elections are at odds with a majority of their own voters. Democrats currently hold a tenuous one-seat advantage in the state Senate. But without enough moderate candidates in swing districts on the November ballot, the GOP will find taking over the upper chamber much more difficult.

"If we don't win [any key races] in 2014, we’re going the way of California,” [Mario] Nicolais said. "We could well become a permanent minority."…

…Yet below the surface is a nagging pessimism that underscores the stakes for Colorado Republicans in 2014. If the GOP's past problems stem from party divisions, a few lousy candidates, and persistently bad luck, then it's easy to see how the party can turn things around with stronger nominees. But if the party is losing touch with the state's changing electorate, all bets are off. The fact that Republicans feared that Tom Tancredo, who came within 3 points of winning the nomination, could have ruined everything for the statewide ticket, is testament to just how tenuous an advantage Republicans hold.

Laura Woods in SD-19

Laura Waters Woods, Republican nominee in SD-19

Back in March, we noted that the Republican Party in Jefferson County was imploding under competing Tea Party/Moderate/RMGO factions. That examination was verified again last week when Tea Party Republicans won key GOP Primary races in SD-19 (Laura Waters Woods over Lang Sias) and SD-22 (Tony Sanchez over Mario Nicholais). Coupled with the angry undercurrent from education-minded voters around the shenanigans associated with the Jefferson County School Board, Jeffco Republicans have placed so many land mines around the county that top-ticket candidates such as Rep. Cory Gardner and Gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez may find it impossible to side step entirely.

All Colorado politicos know that you can't win a competitive statewide race if you lose in Jefferson County, and the combination of poor Republican candidates (which both repel voters and weaken potential help from Republican supporters) and a divisive Republican school board could have the cumulative effect of dropping overall support for a Republican ticket. That support doesn't need to fall far; a drop of just 1-2% could be politically fatal for Gardner and Beauprez, among others.

It's quite possible that the Primary victories of Laura Waters Woods and Tony Sanchez may cripple GOP hopes at taking control of the State Senate…but Republican efforts to defeat Mark Udall in the U.S. Senate have been dealt quite a blow as well.

 

Dudley Brown’s Temporary Triumph: RMGO’s Last Hurrah?

Dudley Brown of RMGO.

Dudley Brown of RMGO.

AP's Ivan Moreno reports this morning in the wake of huge legislative GOP primary victories for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in bellwether Jefferson County, over comparatively moderate Republican challengers–victories that have nonetheless worsened Republican odds of retaking the Colorado Senate this November:

In Senate District 22, which covers Lakewood, Tony Sanchez defeated Mario Nicolais, a party attorney who helped draw maps during state redistricting in 2011.

In Senate District 19, which includes Arvada, Laura Woods defeated Lang Sias, a veteran of both Gulf Wars. Woods was involved in two recall petition efforts against former District 19 Sen. Evie Hudak.

Both districts are considered toss-ups, and political analysts saw the defeated Nicolais and Sias as more established candidates who could have attracted independent voters in November. Nicolais advocated passage of civil unions for gay couples last year, and Sias narrowly lost to Hudak in 2012.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols lays it out more plainly:

Senate Democrats might also be excited about Tuesday’s result, in large part because they believe both Sanchez and Woods are too conservative for the districts they are seeking to represent. If Democrats are able to defeat both candidates, it will go a long way in helping them hold onto their one-seat majority this November.

Some Republican analysts feel the same way.

“These are very competitive districts in a very competitive county,” former Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams said. “And if the wrong candidates win these primaries, they cannot win these competitive districts. Lang Sias can win. Mario Nicolais can win. Their opponents (Woods and Sanchez) cannot.” [Pols emphasis]

With victories in these two key battleground primaries now in hand, Dudley Brown's Rocky Mountain Gun Owners now moves to the next stage–as Brown put it, "hunting Democrats" in the general elections. But that is quite likely to prove a bridge too far for RMGO, who has had great success getting their favored candidates elected largely by winning GOP primaries in safe Republican seats. In a general election in a competitive district, what operates in RMGO's favor in a safe-seat primary becomes a liability. Both RMGO endorsed candidates who won last night in Jefferson County, Laura Waters Woods and Tony Sanchez, and distantly out of the mainstream of a wide variety of issues that have nothing to do with guns.

While no one should write off these races by any stretch of the imagination in what remains a challenging year, Democrats were cut a tremendous break last night when the more electable Republicans lost these two primaries. RMGO, whose energies Republicans have been glad to channel when it suits their purposes, may be about to discover the hard limit of their power.

In a way that's going to leave a mark.

Mario Nicolais Gets Two Ads For The Price of One

An interesting twist on the usual primary wrangling–check out the mailer below, sent by a GOP message group in support of Democratic HD-24 primary candidate Kristian Teegardin to Democratic primary voters:

teegardinmario

This mailing raises eyebrows for a couple of reasons. There's the obvious question about a Republican aligned and operated group getting involved in a Democratic primary. In this case, we think that can be adequately explained by Teegardin's Democratic opponent, Jessie Danielson, who worked for the progressive America Votes organization and is a natural enemy of the Scott Gessler vote suppression "integrity" set. One such friend and political ally of Gessler is the registered agent of the group in question, GOP attorney Mario Nicolais.

As one of the principal election law attorneys for local Republicans, Nicolais' name appears as the registered agent for lots of Republican-aligned political groups–for example, the organization that attacked Republican county clerks over election reform legislation using photos of voters with African-American faces Photoshopped out. In this case, though, there's an added bonus: Nicolais is a Republican candidate for the Colorado Senate in SD-22. SD-22 and HD-24, the House district Teegardin is running in, overlap for much of the town of Edgewater west of Sheridan Boulevard! It's not a huge overlap, but it's the first instance we've ever seen of a mailer sent to voters in one district with the name of another candidate for the same voters as the registered agent.

Building name ID among Democrats wouldn't help Nicolais in his heated primary against Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-endorsed Tony Sanchez, of course, in fact we could easily see meddling in a Democratic primary being used against Nicolais with SD-22 primary voters. We'd say that any one of the pieces of this story by itself isn't terribly remarkable, but the combination of these storylines makes, at the very least, for some interesting trivia.

For HD-24 Democrats and SD-22 Republicans especially.

Nothing Escalates GOP Infighting Like a Mug Shot of Dudley Brown

Dudley Brown mug shot

Dudley Brown, circa 1988 or 1991

We've been following the strange alliances and political Party struggles associated with the Republican Primary in SD-19, where Republicans Lang Sias and Laura Waters Woods are running for the nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger. This is one of those Primaries worth watching whether or not you live in the northern Arvada Senate district, because it has become a symbol of the implosion of the Jefferson County Republican Party and a harbinger of greater internal battles to come.

Just a few days ago, we told you about a (very) long email promoting a website called LangSiasExposed.com, which appears to be the brainchild of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) and their leader, one Dudley Brown.

Today, someone named Jay Vogel (@JayLewisVogel) Tweeted out an old mug shot of Dudley Brown that appears to stem from a 1988 charge of "Unlawful Use, Controlled Substance" in Larimer County (Vogel says it was for cocaine possession). It's possible that Vogel is mixing up his mug shots, since Brown was also arrested in Denver in 1991 on charges of "Disturbing the Peace" and "Assault," but either way, this isn't something that Brown probably wants to see made public again.

What makes this whole episode particularly fascinating is that Vogel appears to be a resident of Illinois who is both an NRA member and an ISRA member (Illinois State Rifle Association). Why does Vogel care about a Colorado State Senate Primary? Apparently he was interested enough in Colorado last fall to donate $25 to the "Recall Hudak Too" campaign that was making a second attempt to recall State Sen. Evie Hudak, but then why would he be an apparent supporter of Lang Sias? Sias, after all, repeatedly refused to sign the recall petitions because he disagreed with the recall approach in general. But wait…there's more!

This odd divide is a symbol of the strange manner in which pro-recall groups have aligned themselves in the SD-19 Primary. Laura Waters Woods is backed by RMGO and the second Hudak recall group (Recall Hudak Too). Sias, meanwhile, has the support of Laura Carno, one of the leaders of the recall effort in SD-11 (Sen. John Morse), and is also backed by the Colorado Second Amendment Association…which was heavily involved in the Morse recall. Oh, and Sias appears to be supported by the folks behind the initial failed recall effort against Hudak (did we mention that Sias has been a vocal opponent of recalls?)

Got all that? It's all very politically-incestuous and strange, but the outcome will have very real repercussions well beyond just this Senate District.

 

Why Is Conservative Jeffco School Board Spending So Much Money?

Dan McMinimee

There’s nothing small about the contact for new Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Parents and educators across Jefferson County have been in an uproar since a conservative takeover of the School Board last fall resulted in an immediate run of questionable decisions and overspending. Board President Ken Witt and conservative members John Newkirk and Julie Williams have been making backroom deals and approving unnecessary expenditures since before their first official meeting in December 2013.

The controversy created by the conservative Board escalated this Spring when Dan McMinimee, an assistant superintendent at Douglas County Schools, inexplicably emerged as the only finalist from a "nationwide" search that cost taxpayers $40,000. The alarming lack of transparency spooked Jeffco parents and teachers, and that questionable decision making by the Board only got worse from their. As the Denver Post reports, the Board approved an unexplainably-high salary for McMinimee last night (on a 3-2 vote) before giving a final stamp of approval for their hand-picked Superintendent:

Jefferson County School board members voted after a contentious debate late Thursday night to approve a contract that, with benefits, makes incoming Superintendent Dan McMinimee one of the highest-paid school leaders in Colorado.

The state's second-largest school district would pay McMinimee an annual base salary of $220,000, offer him up to $40,000 in performance pay and reimburse him up to $20,000 for his personal contributions toward retirement benefits.

A previous draft of the contract would have given McMinimee a $280,000 base salary but not provide performance pay or reimbursements for retirement benefits…

McMinimee, an assistant superintendent in the Douglas County School District, was hired in May by a split board vote. Board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman voted against his selection.

On Thursday, community members called for a contract with a salary that more closely resembles that of the district's past leader, Cindy Stevenson, who made $205,500 a year. Others asked the school board to revisit the superintendent search and bring in more finalists.

It is important to understand just how odd McMinimee's contract looks in comparison to that of former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson, who not only had substantially more experience but also held a PhD in Education (McMinimee has a Masters degree). It's not like the Board was negotiating from a position of weakness, either; if you are going to hire someone with fewer qualifications than the previous Superintendent, shouldn't you at least save a little money in the process?

RMGO Goes Hard After Lang Sias in SD-19 Primary

Langhorne Sias

LangSiasExposed.com includes these screenshots of a Sias donation to Democrat Mark Udall. Just in case you thought there might be more than one ‘Langhorne Sias’ writing checks to Udall.

We've discussed before the rising tensions in the Jefferson County Republican Party as hard-right groups such as Dudley Brown's Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) throw significant resources at hand-picked candidates such as Laura Waters Woods (SD-19)  and Tony Sanchez (SD-22). With ballots dropping in the mail in advance of the June 24th Primary, RMGO is going all-in against Republican Lang Sias.

Recently, the RMGO sent out an absurdly-long email (full text after the jump) about Sias that included links to a new website called LangSiasExposed.com. The intent is to show that Sias is not a "real Republican," which is an attack that is admittedly easier to make thanks to Sias' own Photoshop blunders in the past. Here's how the email begins:

Liberal "Republican" Lang Sias has a long list of sins that indicate he couldn't be trusted if he is elected to represent Senate District 19.

That's why it's imperative that you vote for Laura Woods in the June 24th Republican Primary, as ballots are already in the mail!

It's bad enough that Lang didn't lift a finger to help the effort to recall anti-gun State Senator Evie Hudak.

It's bad enough that he refused, multiple times, to sign the petition to recall Evie Hudak.

And, it's bad enough that he has refused, TWICE, to fill out the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Candidate Survey and go on record as to where he stands on your Second Amendment rights.

But, you don't have to dig too deep into Lang's record to find out that it only gets worse, and, in many ways, explains a lot about him. You see, Lang Sias was a registered Democrat as recently as 2006, and did his part to help elevate anti-gun politicians like Mark Udall into office.

Will RMGO's efforts be enough to make Sias go 0-for-3 in his efforts to get elected to something? (Sias lost a GOP Primary for CD-7 in 2010 before losing two years later in SD-19 against Democrat Evie Hudak) We're inclined to give RMGO the benefit of the doubt in this race, since they appear to have done enough to move Sanchez ahead of establishment favorite Mario Nicolais in the SD-22 Primary.

The full text of the RMGO email is available after the jump.

 

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Battle Over New Jeffco Schools Superintendent Escalates

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post reports today, Douglas County's Dan McMinimee hired by the new conservative Jefferson County school board majority on a split 3-2 vote:

A badly divided Jefferson County Schools board on Tuesday night hired Daniel McMinimee as the next superintendent of the state's second-largest school district, as audience members howled in protest and hurled catcalls toward the dais.

The 3-2 vote to hire McMinimee, who serves as an assistant superintendent with the Douglas County School District, was preceded by loud interruptions from a crowd of several hundred. At one point, a large portion of the room stood up and began chanting "stand up for kids" and a woman was led out of the room by security workers after she spoke out of turn…

Things got off to a bumpy start Tuesday evening, with board members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper pleading with the majority — the three conservative members elected as a slate in November — to allow more than 45 minutes for public comment.

"We need to hear from our community before we vote," Fellman said to loud applause.

But a motion to lengthen the public comment period failed on a 3-2 vote.

—–

UPDATE: A letter from the Jefferson County PTA calls out newly elected board member Julie Williams:

The school board, as you know, is supposed to be non-partisan.  Board Policy GP-07 states:  Board members should represent the interests of the citizens of the school district. This accountability to the whole district supersedes any conflicting loyalty to other advocacy interest groups, or citizens of a director district and membership on other boards or staffs.

It also says:  Any member of the Board of Education may speak to the press, write articles or in other ways communicate with citizens.  Board members must identify any personal opinions as such and may not state personal opinions as if they are positions of the Board of Education…

In addition to being blatantly partisan, Williams' post is offensive on many levels. It shows an unconcealed disrespect of and disregard for the general public that she was elected to serve…   
 
As publicly elected officials of the Jeffco Board of Education, you are expected to make decisions with input from all stakeholders.  To ignore state laws, school board policies, and public outcry in order to impose an agenda or simply do what you please is abuse of power.

—–

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

​This evening, the raging controversy over the agenda of the new Jefferson County Board of Education's conservative majority again takes center stage with a meeting to consider the sole finalist for the district superintendent position, Douglas County Schools assistant superintendent Dan McMinimee. McMinimee is up for the job after the resignation of the previous Jeffco Schools superintendent Cindy Stevenson, who quit citing an inability to work with the new majority.

As the Denver Post's John Aguilar reports, McMinimee is just the latest sign that the new right-wing majority is pushing Colorado's second-largest school district in an unwelcome direction:

Many teachers and parents eye [McMinimee] with suspicion, afraid that he might bring to Jeffco some of the controversial reforms that have taken root in the last few years under a decidedly right-leaning Douglas County school board.

"It sure looks like it's becoming Douglas County," said Erin Murphy, a teacher at Alameda International High School in Lakewood, who wonders if McMinimee is simply coming to Jefferson County to do the bidding of the school board's new conservative majority…

Courtney Smith, president of the Douglas County Federation, said McMinimee lost his way as the makeup of the board changed. She sat across the table from him during the ill-fated teacher contract negotiations of 2012, during which she said McMinimee didn't advocate sufficiently for teachers in front of the board.

"At one point, he was a principal in the district. He saw firsthand how incredible the work was that was being done with teachers and the district," Smith said. "And then to take part in the top-down initiatives that have harmed Douglas County. He was a part of that."

The new Jefferson County Board of Education majority was elected last year in the same election that saw the overwhelming defeat of Amendment 66–the ill-fated education tax hike proposal whose poor marketing helped far-right school board candidates on the same ballot. The new board members lack experience in education either as teachers or administrators, and since election last November have routinely stoked controversy with an avowedly radical "reform" agenda along the lines of Douglas County to the southeast.

The most partisan political and vocal member of the new board majority is Julie Williams. Williams is the sister-in-law of former Colorado Sen. Tim Neville, which in turn connects Williams with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the broader hard-right wing of Colorado GOP politics. Last week, Williams posted to her Facebook wall about tonight's meeting with McMinimee, with a over-the-top call to action:

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Jeffco board to hear limited public comment before vote on superintendent finalist

Jeffco board to hear limited public comment before vote on superintendent finalist (via Chalkbeat Colorado)

 

The Jefferson County community will have 45 minutes to share their feelings on Dan McMinimee, the sole finalist for the open superintendent position, before the district’s Board of Education takes a final vote on the matter next Tuesday, Chalkbeat…

 

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Jeffco Parents Push for Answers in Superintendent “Search”

As John Aguilar of the Denver Post reports:

Dozens of community members are demanding to know contract details for the next Jefferson County Schools superintendent before the board convenes for a special meeting Tuesday to decide whether to hire Daniel McMinimee to helm the 85,000-student school district.

In a cascade of e-mails sent to school board members and others this week, parents and teachers are requesting that they not only get to see a draft of the contract but get the chance to speak publicly at next week's meeting.

Concern has been growing in Jefferson County since a Republican takeover of the School Board last fall that began with a series of open meetings violations and unexplained expenditures. Parents and community members have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of transparency, particularly with the recent announcement that McMinimee, an assistant superintendent in Douglas County, was the only finalist for the vacant superintendent position despite paying out $40,000 for a firm to conduct a "national search." Board President Ken Witt has made little effort to pretend to listen to the community, and some of the decisions he championed in December are fueling anxiety with McMinimee's pending hire:

Board member Lesley Dahlkemper started the e-mail chain late Monday by saying she did not want to vote on a contract "without seeing it first." That's what happened in December, she said, when the board's conservative majority — made up of Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams — approved hiring Colorado Springs-based Miller Sparks LLC as the board's legal counsel...

Dahlkemper also said it is critical that the community get a chance to address the board formally about McMinimee and the details of his contract. The position is advertised as paying $280,000 a year.

That's right, folks. The Jeffco School Board came up with ONE finalist for a position that pays $280,000 a year. Sure thing.

Photos: Jeffco Teachers, Students “Occupy Wadsworth”

jeffcokid1Photo via Twitter

FOX 31 reported Friday evening, as controversy over the radical agenda of the new conservative Jefferson County Board of Education continues to grow:

Teachers, parents and students lined several intersections along Wadsworth Boulevard, to show support for Jefferson County teachers and students, while also voicing frustration with the conservative, 3-2 school board majority.

“There is miscommunication happening and there is not transparency,” said Sarah Freza, a Jeffco parent and middle school teacher.

Many said there was not transparency when negotiations with teachers stalled, the long-time superintendent resigned, and a nationwide search for a replacement led to one finalist.

9NEWS:

This is part of a effort called "Boots on the Boulevard" where protesters stand at major intersections along Wadsworth from 104th Avenue on the north end to Chatfield Avenue on the south end. They are upset with recently elected board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams who make up the majority.

"Right now, we feel very kicked to the side," [teacher Sarah] Jenkins said.

She is worried about teacher pay and respect for teachers. Protesters have also have concerns that Witt, Newkirk, and Williams have made cuts to full day kindergarten while adding funds to charter schools…

Protesters are also upset with the selection of a solo finalist for superintendent, Dan McMinimee, who is the current assistant superintendent of Douglas County. In Douglas County, a conservative controlled school board [has] launched a series of school reforms including a market-based pay for performance program for teachers and an effort to launch school vouchers.

For those not familiar with the local geography, Wadsworth Boulevard is the principal north-south artery of suburban Jefferson County, running directly through the county's heavily populated cities of Westminster, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, and Littleton. From our observation, the "Boots on the Boulevard" demonstration involved literally hundreds of teachers, parents, and students, at major intersections running the whole length of Wadsworth in the middle of rush hour. The level of visibility Jeffco teachers achieved Friday afternoon is greater than just about any earned media coverage could ever net them. It's reasonable to assume that much of the voting public in Jefferson County is unaware something controversial is happening with their new school board, or even that there is a new school board.

A whole lot of voters got the message Friday afternoon. More photos after the jump.

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Jeffco School Board About As Transparent as Mud

The Jefferson County School Board has been in a bit of upheaval since three hard-right Republicans were elected last fall. The new board, led by President Ken Witt, began breaking laws and writing out big checks from their first day on the job. Witt and friends have even made it a point to avoid answering media questions.

Dan McMinimee

Dan McMinimee. His last name will be on spelling tests.

So it was no surprise to hear that, by a 3-2 vote last weekend, the Republicans on the school board rammed through a single candidate to become the next Jefferson County Schools Superintendent. Not a narrow list of candidates. Not even two candidates. Just Dan McMinimee. The board paid a recruiting firm $40,000 to conduct a nationwide search, and — SURPRISE!!! — the Republicans on the board chose an assistant superintendent from Douglas County (which has been the centerpiece of a battle to promote vouchers even while the district was performing well). As John Aguilar wrote earlier this week for the Denver Post:

"I was very disappointed to hear this decision," said Jonna Levine, a parent of a former student still active in school organizations and activities. "I was hoping we would find somebody from someplace other than Douglas County. But I think it's the direction where this board has been headed all along."

The long-time hallmark of Jeffco education, Levine said, was strong collaboration among administration, teachers, parents and the community. She said this new board has been less collaborative and transparent.

McMinimee said Saturday night that over the next two weeks he'll be meeting with several Jefferson County groups.

"I hope they ask the tough questions," McMinimee said. [Pols emphasis] "I'm excited to work with the parents, teachers, staff and community to continue the great work they've been doing and to build on that."

Well, that leads us nicely into another Aguilar story updated this morning. As the Denver Post reports:

Jefferson County Schools superintendent finalist Dan McMinimee faced a decidedly tough crowd Thursday, as dozens of people came to an open house at Wheat Ridge High School to set eyes for the first time on the man who more than likely will take the reins of the state's second-largest school district.

Parents and teachers in this deeply divided district challenged McMinimee, who on Saturday was named by the board as the sole contender for the superintendent post, on a number of topics ranging from charter schools to teacher pay to community unity…

…Things got off to a rough start at the meet and greet when McMinimee announced that he would take questions on a one-on-one basis only, prompting some in the crowd to ask how that bolstered transparency. He later sat down at a table and answered questions in front of everyone. [Pols emphasis]

Yes, we would imagine things would get off to a rough start if you begin a meeting with people already skeptical of your position by declaring your desire to be less accessible from the first question. This is a terrible way for Dan McMinimee to make his introduction to Jefferson County teachers and parents. We've no doubt that McMinimee was likely encouraged by certain board members to be as elusive as possible, but even if he wasn't — this stunt makes it look like he's just a puppet of the right-wing school board. If that indeed proves to be the case, McMinimee will likely have a job only as long as the makeup of the school board remains the same.

 

Jefferson County Republicans Go Further Down the Rabbit Hole

Nate Marshall, former Republican candidate for HD-23.

Nate Marshall

Anyone familiar with Colorado politics knows that there is no more important county than Jefferson when it comes to winning statewide elections. It may be mathematically possible to win a statewide race in Colorado without carrying Jefferson County, but nobody in their right mind would actually consider that approach. That's why the spectacular implosion of the Jefferson County Republican Party is so important…and why we're baffled to see the problem continuing. Follow along as we reconstruct the tale of one of the strangest few months in recent political memory.

Back in March, Jeffco Republicans nominated Nate Marshall as their candidate to run against incumbent Democratic Rep. Max Tyler in HD-23. It didn't take more than a cursory Google search to reveal that Marshall was probably not the GOP's best option in the Lakewood district; not only did Marshall have a criminal record (which included a 9News investigation from an old crime), but he also had very clear and obvious ties to White Supremacist groups. In other words, you would have had a difficult time finding a worse candidate to represent your Party. On March 27, Jefferson County Republican Party Chair Bill Tucker demanded that Marshall resign as a candidate. An angry and defensive Marshall initially balked — after all, he was officially nominated through the caucus process as the only GOP candidate in HD-23 — but he finally relented and formally terminated his candidacy on April 9.

JeffcoGOP-Screen1

Jeffco GOP Website, May 15

And that's when things get even weirder.

Jefferson County Republican Party officials inexplicably waited several weeks to form a vacancy committee to replace Marshall on the ballot — you would think that the GOP would be in more of a hurry to close this ridiculous chapter — and it wasn't until Monday, April 28, that they (very quietly) officially met to replace Marshall on the ballot. If you are wondering who the Republicans found to replace Marshall on the ballot, you wouldn't be alone — nobody in or out of the Republican Party said anything about the candidate who prevailed at the vacancy committee. There was no press release. No call to reporters. Even today, the Jeffco Republican Party website doesn't even list a candidate in HD-23.

But there is a Republican candidate in HD-23, which is what makes this whole story even more baffling.

Jane Barnes

Jane Barnes, GOP candidate in HD-23

The Jeffco GOP actually came up with a decent candidate to replace Marshall in Jane Barnes, a former member of the Jefferson County School Board who should have some level of name recognition in the district. Barnes filed candidate paperwork with the Secretary of State's office on May 6, and on May 8, somebody started to create a website for her campaign. But as of this writing, there has been no mention of Barnes as a candidate in HD-23 by, well, by anybody.

What the hell is going on here? It took weeks for Jeffco Republicans to form a vacancy committee to replace Nate Marshall in HD-23, and when the dust had settled, they emerged with a pretty decent candidate (all things considered) in Jane Barnes. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to keep this a secret? Wouldn't you want to make it crystal clear, as quickly as possible, that you had a candidate in a competitive House district who was not a criminal or a white supremacist?

Over the last two months, the level of incompetence displayed by Jefferson County Republicans has been absolutely stunning. This should scare the crap out of Republicans everywhere in Colorado, because there are a lot of statewide candidates who must carry Jefferson County in order to win in November.

Lakewood GOP House Candidate Lifts Perlmutter Slogan

Attorney Stacia Kuhn is the Republican nominee for HD-28 (Lakewood), where the GOP has an uphill battle in trying to defeat incumbent Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen. Kuhn's website sports a really ugly logo that would have been trendy in, say, 1985, but she does have a catchy slogan–and it's already been proven to be effective!

kuhnslogan

Just ask Congressman Ed Perlmutter, the popular Jefferson County incumbent Democrat who has been using basically the same tagline since being elected in 2006:

perlmutterslogan

Kuhn's slogan is "Your Neighbor, Your Voice," which we suppose is just slightly different enough from Perlmutter's "Our Neighbor, Our Voice" to avoid getting sued. But it's not different enough to avoid ridicule, especially considering that HD-28 lies mostly within Perlmutter's district. Safe to say Kuhn's appropriation of Perlmutter's longstanding brand wasn't a good idea, and the chances it was an accident are pretty remote.

Short of a really good explanation, we're filing this in the "too clever by half" department.