Jeffco Residents Demand School Board Majority’s Resignation

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Gabrielle Porter of the Canyon Courier reports:

A petition signed by 6,554 Jeffco residents calling for school board President Ken Witt and board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams to resign caused a stir at the board’s meeting on Thursday evening.

Jeffco parent and petition organizer Molly Snyder told board members she is not affiliated with the teachers union, the Jefferson County Education Association. 

When Snyder presented the box of petitions during the meeting’s public comment segment, she alleged that the board’s conservative majority had broken public trust, wasted district money, violated the state’s open-meetings law, and misrepresented district schools and students in public discussions.

After last year's explosive battle over the conservative Jefferson County school board majority's politically stilted "review" of the district's AP history curriculum, there's been a bit of a lull in the action as the students, parents, and teachers involved regrouped. We've heard that, among other things, the photo taken by the Jefferson County Education Association's spokesman of board president Ken Witt with a group of fellow right wing school board presidents we posted last week has helped fire up the opposition again–a reminder that what is happening in Jefferson County is part of a larger agenda playing out in school districts across the state.

With that said, it will take more than a petition to dislodge Witt and fellow conservative board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams:

Newkirk said he would not step down until student achievement goals were met, and challenged Snyder to ask the petition signers to help meet those goals by volunteering in local schools. 

“When every child and every parent in Jefferson County has their first choice, whether it be in a school, charter school, option school, online school or otherwise — no more waiting lists — when there’s no achievement gap between our minority students and non-minority students, and, finally, when Jeffco becomes the nation’s leader in academic achievement, then I’ll step down, because my work here will be done,” Newkirk said. 

During his speech, nearly half the restive audience — largely made up of people in blue JCEA shirts — stood and turned their backs on the board podium.

What happens next? We don't know exactly–but everything we hear suggests that the conflict between the Jeffco school board's right-wing majority and the politically moderate community they serve is rapidly coming to a head. Stay tuned.

BREAKING: Libby Szabo Selected as Jefferson County Commissioner, Creating Vacancy in HD-27

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Szabo will take the seat of Republican Faye Griffin, a serial job jumper who resigned from the board after being elected county clerk in November.

Another GOP vacancy committee, for House District 27, will meet and appoint someone to take over Szabo’s seat. And the House GOP caucus will meet to elected someone to Szabo’s leadership post; she is the assistant minority leader.

Szabo said she did not know when she would be sworn in as a commissioner.

The liberal blog ColoradoPols has called into question the vacancy committee process, including the fact that it refused to release the names of other contenders for the post. Szabo, who has pushed for transparency, said she was not involved in how that committee operated.

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Libby Szabo

Libby Szabo

Republican State Rep. Libby Szabo, the Assistant Minority Leader in the GOP caucus who was just re-elected in November, has been selected by a Jefferson County Republican Party vacancy committee to become the new County Commissioner in District 1. A formal announcement is expected to come as early as this afternoon.

If you were wondering, Szabo never bothered to say anything publicly about seeking a new job one month after being re-elected to the State Legislature; nor did Szabo say anything on Dec. 15th, when she was named the top Republican on the influential House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. Szabo was one of 9 applicants to submit their names for the vacancy created by the early departure of Commissioner Faye Griffin, a serial office jumper who was elected Jeffco Clerk and Recorder (again) last November.

The 75-year-old Griffin has become notorious for failing to finish her elected term in office in order to prolong her time on the taxpayer's dole. Even the editorial board of the Denver Post ("Enough is Enough, Faye Griffin") was incensed at Griffin's apparent contempt for actually finishing her job in the office she was elected to serve. As the Denver Post wrote in October:

We asked Griffin why she would leave the commission two years early, and she was candid in saying it was due to term limits. Griffin is in the middle of her second term, and if she stayed in the position, she couldn't run for the commission again — and there would be no other palatable options for her, in her mind.

"In two years, there's no county office that is open," Griffin said. So, she is seeking the office she held for eight years, starting in 1998. [Pols emphasis]

Political blog JeffcoPols pointed out Griffin's move and speculated that it could be part of a larger shuffle of Republican politicians in Jefferson County intended to avoid open-seat elections. Even if it is wrong about the specific moves, the blog makes a valid point about how Griffin's action would cede power to the GOP vacancy committee in Jefferson County.

Faye Griffin

Who needs elections when you have a Faye Griffin?

Szabo's appointment will trigger yet another Republican vacancy decision — yet again leaving the voters out of the process. By state statute, Jeffco Republicans have 10 days to pick a replacement for House District 27 once Szabo officially resigns her legislative seat, and if history is any indication, they'll keep the process a secret for as long as they can get away with it. Take a look at what Ramsey Scott wrote in the Canyon Courier on Tuesday:

Natalie Menten, who works for the Jeffco GOP, said the party wasn’t releasing the names of the nine applicants. The seven-member vacancy committee was working to narrow the list to a few finalists. [Pols emphasis]

Menten said the party had received more than 50 comments from the public on the process, mostly recommending someone for the vacancy. 

The Republican vacancy committee refused to release the names of applicants to one of the most powerful elected positions in Jefferson County. Why is that okay? You are required to put your name on the ballot if you want to run for office in every other scenario involving elected officials, but once a vacancy committee convenes, it all becomes a big secret?

This nonsense has been going on for years in Jefferson County, with elected officials leaving office early as a way around term limits and to allow a Republican Party vacancy committee to choose the successor. We have no quarrel with the process of filling a vacant seat in general, but something needs to change when it is being so blatantly abused as it is in Jefferson County. A committee of just 7 members selected Szabo to an office that normally requires winning the votes of the entire county; there are more than 256,000 people in Jeffco who voted in November but will now have no input into who will serve as one of three County Commissioners — or who will decide their representative in one of a handful of House Districts in Jeffco.

We've been following this story closely for a very long time; remember, dear readers, that you heard it here first.

Right-Wing School Board Presidents Caught Talking Shop

A photo taken yesterday by Scott Kwasny, the communications director of the Jefferson County Education Association, captures–apparently by random chance–a lunch meeting between Jefferson County Board of Education President Ken Witt and the conservative presidents of several other school boards across the state at Lakewood's Jose O'Shea's Mexican restaurant:

wittboes

Ken Witt.

Ken Witt.

Witt is the guy hiding his face. We take Kwasny at his word on this, but you can also see Witt's blocky haircut poking out around his binder.

Kwasny identifies the other men in this picture as Kevin Larsen of Douglas County, Bob Kerrigan of the Thompson school district, Mark Clark of Adams 12 Five Star Schools, and Roger Good of Steamboat Springs–all conservative presidents of their respective school boards. According to Kwasny's Facebook post, the subject of discussion was teacher contracts.

To be clear, there's nothing illegal going on here, even though such a meeting raises obvious questions. These men all serve on different school boards, so they would not be subject to Colorado's open meetings law. The biggest problem with this photo is the optics–Ken Witt and the Jefferson County school board's conservative majority regularly insist that they are not coordinating ideological "Dougco-style" reforms to roll out in Jefferson County. He says so even after hiring the district's new superintendent out of Douglas County–but it's a matter of, you know, pretense.

Well folks, so much for that pretense.

Top 10 Stories of 2014: Unfinished Business in Jefferson County (#9)

The Taj.

The Taj.

Jefferson County, Colorado has long been considered a bellwether–for the state of Colorado, and increasingly as a place where national political trends can be seen in action contemporaneous to or before they take hold elsewhere. The result in Jefferson County has predicted the winner in Colorado statewide races for long enough that the rule of "as Jefferson County goes, so goes Colorado" has become axiomatic for politicos in this state.

This year, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner narrowly defied this rule, losing Jefferson County by under 1,000 votes but winning the election statewide. The reasons for this have more to do with dynamics across Colorado that hurt Democrats, a hardening of partisan battle lines that robbed Mark Udall of swing independent and moderate Republican votes other Democrats in recent elections have won over. Looking at Udall's performance compared to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who carried Jefferson County and the state by a much greater margin than Gardner, there's a case to be made that Udall's collapse in September and October was more attributable to Colorado voters rejecting him personally–or at least his campaign's heavy focus on abortion–than Democrats generally.

In Jefferson County, the 2014 elections took place against the backdrop of major unplanned controversy created by a new conservative school board majority. The 2013 election's big story in Colorado was the absolute slaughter at the polls of Amendment 66, an education tax increase. Amendment 66, in turn, turned out conservative voters all over the state, including in Jefferson County where three hard-right conservatives were elected by a landslide to form the new majority on the Jeffco's five-seat school board.

The new Jeffco school immediately set to work on a sweeping, highly politicized agenda of conservative reform proposals. After butting heads with the teacher's union over pay issues, the new board pushed through the hiring of a new superintendent from Douglas County–the same far-right dominated union-busting school district presently mired in court battles over their insistence funding religious schools that the new school board promised would not be their "model" for "reforming" Jefferson County Public Schools.

thursdayprotests

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

In September, the conflict in Jefferson County went national–in fact international–when word surfaced of a proposal from board member Julie Williams to review the district's AP history curriculum to ensure that it "promotes citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respects for authority and respect for individual rights, [does] not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and presents "positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." Williams is the sister-in-law of Sen.-elect Tim Neville, one of the most conservative incoming (and former) members of the Colorado legislature. With the power of the new majority, some of the fringiest actors in Colorado politics stood ready to impose their wacky will on one of the state's highest-performing public school districts.

As anyone who followed this story knows, thousands of students from across Jefferson County stormed out of class in massive and well-organized demonstrations against Williams' curriculum review proposal. At one point, the protests stretched for 22 miles along Wadsworth Boulevard, Jeffco's busiest surface street. Ultimately a weakened version of the curriculum review proposal was approved by the board without Williams incendiary language, but still one that gives Williams' political allies lots of board-sanctioned ability to make trouble. In the meantime, students and teachers are talking about the daunting logistics of recalling the new board majority, with a newfound understanding of the threat they represent.

So what does this mean for politics in Colorado's "political bellwether" county? It means something, for sure–but the full impact of the battle over public education in Jefferson County was not felt in 2014. This is not to say that Democrats didn't do their damndest to link the antics of the new school board with Republican candidates on the ballot–we documented numerous examples of hard-hitting TV spots and mailers linking Julie Williams to Neville, Laura Waters Woods, Tony Sanchez, Larry Queen, and others. It's likely that those ads made a difference, even if Neville and Waters Woods still won their races. It's clear that the prospect of having these protests turned against Republican candidates in Jeffco frightened GOP strategists at any rate, who responded with mailers intending to co-opt the protesters' message that were so desperate and shameless they left jaws agape.

In the end, 2014 was a year when the midterm political background noise may have helped conceal the long-term damage being done to conservatives in Jefferson County. In the worst electoral climate for Democrats in Colorado in many elections, Democrats actually did pretty well, enough to where Jefferson County if anything looks like less of a bellwether this election. If one bets that 2016 will not be the perfect storm for Democrats that 2014 was, and we believe that's a good bet, then key Jeffco races in 2016, like Sen.-elect Waters Woods in SD-19, would seem to be very ripe for flipping back to Democratic control. As for those thousands of student protesters? Many of them will be voters by 2016, at least some helped along by Colorado's new law allowing 16 year olds to pre-register to vote. Whether or not the conservative school board majority can be recalled is one question–but we expect their actions to ripple negatively for Jeffco Republicans for years to come regardless.

Bottom line: the role of Jefferson County may grow to something more than a bellwether in the coming years. As the state's fourth largest county by population, this is an electorate with enough heft to swing elections in Colorado–and this year, it's a county that (albeit narrowly) bucked the trend. That's not the same thing as a bellwether exactly, but in 2016, Democrats may have reason to celebrate Jeffco's bluer trajectory.

Jeffco Commissioner Vacancy Attracting Lots of Interest

Faye Griffin

Last week we told you about the upcoming Republican vacancy committee in Jefferson County to fill the seat of serial office-jumper Faye Griffin (left). We've since heard a number of rumored candidates who may apply before the Dec. 29th deadline, as well as some interesting — if not terribly surprising — news about the vacancy committee itself.

First off, the Jefferson County Republican Party website claims that they have a 7-member vacancy committee that will decide Griffin's replacement (once she is sworn-in, again, as Clerk and Recorder on Jan. 13). But the vacancy committee could be ripe for a challenge itself; according to results from a Central Committee Meeting in June, the Jeffco GOP only appointed five people to its vacancy committee after Bill Tucker resigned as Party Chair following a bitter and contentious battle with supporters of Dudley Brown's Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) group. E.V. Leyendecker is the current chair of the Jeffco GOP, which makes county government matters particularly sticky given that Leyendecker publicly called on Republican Assessor candidate Ron Sandstrom to resign as a candidate in September when it was revealed that Sandstom owes the federal and state government nearly $100k in back taxes.

This could create quite a conundrum for Jeffco Republicans as the list of potential County Commissioner candidates grows longer. Current County Treasurer Tim Kauffman is indeed eligible to be selected by the vacancy committee, having met the minimum residency requirement. Two other well-known Republican names surfaced over the weekend as likely applicants to fill the vacancy: HD-27 Rep. Libby Szabo and failed 2014 State Senate candidate (SD-20) Larry Queen.

As we have discussed before in this space, Jeffco Republicans could actually end up filling two of the top county government jobs depending on how things shake out. If Republicans elect to go with Kauffman as Griffin's replacement, they would then need to fill (via vacancy committee) the County Treasurer position that Kauffman would subsequently vacate. In that scenario, term-limited Jeffco Assessor Jim Everson will likely campaign to replace Kauffman as Treasurer. Of course, all of this assumes that there is not a mix-up with the formation of the vacancy committee, which would only bring more clowns to the circus.

There's a good reason why you should care about all of this — we're talking about a complete runaround on Democracy that Jeffco Republicans have been influencing for the last decade-plus. Jefferson County is home to more people than the entire state of Wyoming, yet a 3-person majority may soon decide how to fill 2 of the 7 countywide elected positions in Jeffco. We understand that this is how the process has been set up to deal with vacancies, but maybe it's time to take another look at those rules and regulations. For a Republican Party that spent countless hours crowing about ballot integrity in 2014, they've been awfully quiet about a pending vacancy committee that will effectively disenfranchise every voter in Jefferson County.

Jeffco Republicans Set Application Deadline for Commissioner Vacancy: Dec. 29th

The Jeffco Shuffle: Government by Vacancy Committee

The Jeffco Shuffle: Government by Vacancy Committee. Don’t be surprised if this is how things shake out in January.

Jefferson County Commissioner Faye Griffin was elected (again) in November to serve as Clerk and Recorder, marking another move for the serial office-jumper and yet another Republican Party vacancy committee. We wrote before about the absurdity of the 75-year-old Griffin failing to complete an elected term for the second time in 6 years, and even the editorial board of the Denver Post criticized Griffin's political incontinence.

According to the Jefferson County Republican Party, a GOP vacancy committee has 10 days to appoint a new county commissioner once Griffin resigns and is sworn-in as Clerk and Recorder on Jan. 13:

The candidate selection will be determined by the Jefferson County Republican Party County Commissioner Vacancy Committee. The seven members of this panel were elected by the Jefferson County Central Committee to represent them in this matter.

In order to ensure a transparent, open and fair process for applicants – all qualified, interested parties are encouraged to apply for this position. The deadline to apply for this vacancy appointment is midnight on December 29, 2014. Applications received after this deadline will not be accepted.

**Applicant requirements** Must be a eligible elector registered with the Republican Party. Must have resided within Jefferson County Commissioner District 1 for at least the past twelve months.

It's interesting to note a change in the "Applicant Requirements" that mandates candidates to live within Commissioner District 1 for "at least the past twelve months." You can call this the "Odom Rule."

This change no doubt occurred thanks to former Republican Commissioner John Odom, a man who was largely absent during his first term before losing his bid for re-election to Democrat Casey Tighe in 2012. Odom was appointed to fill a vacancy in March 2011 when then-Commissioner Kevin McCasky resigned mid-term to take another job, and there was plenty of dispute at the time as to when Odom became a resident of Commissioner District 2. A search of publicly-available property records shows that Odom didn't close on a new home in District 2 (he was previously a resident of District 1) until literally 24-48 hours before the vacancy committee selected him to replace McCasky.

Republicans apparently didn't want a repeat of Odom's musical homes game, which is why applicants for the District 1 vacancy must have resided within the district for at least 12 months. We haven't had a chance to check the specifics of Treasurer Tim Kauffman's residency requirements, but it's possible that Kauffman (a frontrunner to claim the vacant Commissioner spot) may be just outside the boundaries; that would be quite the political irony, since Kauffman was appointed to his job through (you guessed it) a Republican vacancy committee when Griffin was sworn-in as County Commissioner in 2009.

But if Kauffman is eligible and does receive the vacancy committee nomination, he'll have to resign from his position as County Treasurer…giving the GOP vacancy committee yet another countywide seat to fill. There are just 7 members of the Republican vacancy committee, and it's more likely than not that these 7 people will get to fill two countywide seats that should otherwise be decided by the 422,691 registered voters in Jefferson County. Yay Democracy!

 

The Folly of Denver’s Residential Requirements Effort

There is an effort underway in Denver to re-establish a degree of residency requirement that may appear on the May 2015 ballot. This is a stupid idea, for reasons that we'll explain in a moment. But first, we'll let Jon Murray of the Denver Post explain the trumped-up controversy:

Denver voters long ago repealed a requirement that city workers live within city limits, but a group of residents is working to revive the rule for mayoral appointees.

They're aiming to place a charter amendment on the ballot for next May's municipal election, when Mayor Michael Hancock is up for re-election...

…For about 20 years, landlocked Denver had the rule for all city employees, from top political appointees to janitors.

But in 1998, Denver voters decided, 58 percent to 41 percent, to expand the residency rule significantly, allowing city employees to live not only in Denver, but also in six nearby counties.

In 2001, Denver voters repealed the residency requirement altogether, 51 percent to 48 percent.

SWDenver-Map2

You’re not in Denver anymore. Or are you?

The editorial board of the Denver Post weighed in over the weekend, calling the residency requirement "a step too far" and "unnecessary," and we wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. We have no problem with requiring elected officials to live in the area in which they seek to represent, but there's a good reason that Denver scrapped this requirement for city workers in general.

Denver's City and County boundaries evolved in a weird way over the last century, which you can see from the map at right. There are official Denver tentacles that stretch wayyy outside reasonable boundaries, with little pockets of the City and County existing as municipal islands in the middle of Jefferson County.

The reason that Denver County juts well past Sheridan to the Southwest is because old residency requirements once required all city employees — including those working for the fire and police departments — to live within official Denver boundaries. As Metro Denver grew into the vast sprawl that exists today, many of these Denver employees wanted to move into newer, and more affordable, developments popping up in nearby unincorporated Jefferson County.

As a workaround solution so that Denver employees could keep their jobs and their new homes, odd sections of land were annexed into Denver — the metropolitan mountain moving to Muhammad, to borrow a phrase. This is a middle finger to the entire argument in favor of residential requirements, which is the idea that City and County employees will be more attuned to the needs and desires of Denver so long as you extend a boundary on a map.

Today, these neighborhoods are so far removed from the City and County of Denver that residents spend most of their lives (and money) in Jefferson County, even if their property taxes go somewhere else. Denver residents wisely voted to drop the requirements in 1991, but now some folks want to reestablish these requirements for mayoral appointees for petty reasons. This is a slippery slope that can quickly become problematic as more and more levels of local government get obsessed with the relevance of residency. Employees of Jefferson County are not required to live within the county boundaries, nor should they be. We can only imagine how it would stifle diversity if we required all government employees to live in specific areas.

The Denver Metropolitan Area is more than just the boundaries of its capitol city…and that's a good thing. If you don't like a particular mayoral appointee, then you can take it up with the Mayor's office; requiring an employee to move into the dotted-line sections of a map isn't going to change anything.

 

Jeffco School Board Members Attend Meeting Co-Hosted By White Nationalist Hate Group?

UPDATE #3: We've just received word that the flyer from the Evergreen Tea Party shown below may have mistakenly listed the American Freedom Party as a sponsor of last Monday's meeting. There appears to be some confusion on this point, but it's possible that whoever made this flyer mistook the American Freedom Party for another conservative organization that goes by the acronym AFP: Americans for Prosperity.

This would be a fairly comedic error if true, and certainly not the fault of the parents alarmed by this flyer who sent it to us–but would also be, we think, objectively good news. We'll update once we can confirm this latest information.

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UPDATE #2: From a statement forwarded to us by Evergreen High School principal Ryan Alsup:

My goal for the evening was to brag about our school, and let the people know about the great education we currently provide. My address consisted of our data, the data that has made us one of the top ranked schools in the state and country. I am very proud of our students, and staff, and the relationship that we have developed with our immediate community. As a principal, I cannot discuss my own political affiliations, however, please know that I do not condone or support any anti-Semitic or racist views and organizations. It is my job to ensure that we provide a balanced education for all students. We work hard at Evergreen High School to ensure that our students understand the importance of inclusion, and have various student clubs and activities designed to celebrate diversity.

(more…)

2014′s “Swing Issue?” Public Education

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

We've all heard it before: "As goes Jefferson County, so goes Colorado." 

In an election year where national developments such as Ebola and ISIS have created more generalized voter angst than focused anger, Colorado's 2014 state legislative races seemed destined to enter the final stretch with no clear definition or rallying cry.

Meanwhile, in Jeffco – which has four targeted races that will ultimately determine which party will control the state Senate – the new school board majority that was elected last year was conducting itself in a way that created some concern among parents and teachers, but didn't set off particularly potent alarms outside the education community.

But, just as ballots were dropped off in mailboxes, the defining moment came: Julie Williams' proposal to sanitize AP US history. Once she tipped the board majority's hand, the deep concerns among parents about what the Jeffco School board might be planning turned into a nationally broadcast, student-protest-fueled, laser-focused rejection of what the majority was proposing. 

That's how defining issues are born. Jeffco voters who currently have no way to take direct electoral action against the board majority are looking for ways to make their voices heard. They're asking about it when candidates come to the door and, judging from a spate of new video ads from the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund, Senator Andy Kerr, Senator Rachel Zenzinger, Citizens Alliance for Accountable Leadership, and Great Education Colorado Independent Expenditure Committee, supporting public education must be polling pretty well.

(more…)

The Orwellian Desperation of Jefferson County Republicans

SATURDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post's Eric Gorski, who took the photo of Jefferson County protesters that was crudely doctored for this Republican mailer to remove their original protest message, is most unhappy to see it being misused:

The photo on the fliers appears to blur out the faces of the students. The sign messages were changed to reflect … it’s not clear.

But one thing that is clear is students took to the streets because they are unhappy with a school board controlled by three Republicans who won office in 2013… [Pols emphasis]

Neville, Sanchez and Woods won GOP primaries and had the backing of the strongly conservative Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organization. Neville’s son, Joe, is a lobbyist for the gun group. Neville’s sister-in-law, Julie Williams, sits on the Jeffco school board.

In addition to Jefferson County Public Schools' demand that these candidates stop using the district's trademarked logo, the Post's lawyers are demanding they stop using the doctored image of these students:

“Not only does the use of the photograph infringe copyright interests, it violates other intellectual property laws by unlawfully associating The Denver Post with your campaign. It also violates basic transparency principles by altering a photograph without informing the readers. Finally, it offends the Fair Use policies in place by Twitter and creates an actionable claim by the person pictured in the photograph holding the sign.” [Pols emphasis]

If we were one of the kids in this doctored photo, we'd be talking to Mom and Dad about a lawyer.

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nevillemailer

7NEWS reports:

Attorneys representing Jeffco Public Schools have sent a cease and desist letter to candidates for state senate who used the district's logo in a campaign mailing.

Tim Neville, a self-described "Independent Republican," is running for office in Senate District 16. The campaign flier in question criticizes incumbent State Senator Jeanne Nicholson.

Beside the district's logo, the flyer states: "Jeffco schools are in crisis because Denver politicians like Jeanne Nicholson are keeping funding from the classroom while giving more power to corrupt union bosses."

Neville's statement of "crisis" in the district references recent widespread protesting over the conservative board majority's decisions regarding teacher compensation and a plan to review the AP US History Curriculum…

As you can see above, the mailer plainly makes use of the Jefferson County Public Schools' copyrighted logo, and that's obviously not okay. But there are other aspects to this mailer that make it vastly more deceptive. For starters, a sign held by a student in the photo has been crudely doctored to replace their protest message with the words "I want my future back." The original photo, taken by the Denver Post's Eric Gorski, clearly displays the student's original message: "my education, my voice, save AP U.S. history." We assume nobody has spoken with that student about this mailer yet, but we rather doubt she would approve of her sign being altered in this manner.

We think she'll be especially outraged to learn, as 7NEWS continues, that

Neville is the brother-in-law of Jeffco School Board Member Julie Williams. [Pols emphasis]

That's right, folks–the brother-in-law of Julie Williams, the school board member at the heart of the recent internationally-publicized controversy over "reviewing" the district's AP history curriculum, is himself altering the history of the recent protests against Williams to make it look like he sympathizes. The mailer includes a photo of Tim Neville with his wife Barb, Julie Williams' sister, who also runs Williams' political action committee (PAC). The deception here is so over the top brazen that it just leaves you shaking your head in disbelief. It's not much better for two other Jefferson County Republican Senate candidates who sent out similar mailers, Laura Waters Woods in SD-19 and Tony Sanchez in SD-22, both of whom have been supported by Williams and vice versa–but in Neville's case it's so outlandishly hypocritical and insulting to have doctored this student's protest sign that we have to think it will end in disaster.

That, or history is in greater danger than anyone ever imagined.

Dear Jeffco Students, Sorry if It Feels Insulting, but You’re “Pawns”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After the last big meeting of the Jeffco School Board, I was driving my teenager home from school, and we heard conservative radio host Kris Cook's analysis of the meeting:

Cook: "They had students saying, 'Don't censor my history,' and taking umbrage at the fact that we, correctly, labeled them as pawns, because they have been made into pawns. I'm sorry students. I know that feels insulting. But your critical thinking skills are not where you think they are. And that is not your fault. Honestly, you've been offered a one-sided view for so long that you don't know how to assess both sides of a situation and come down on what the truth may be." [BigMedia emphasis]

I looked over at my teenager, who definitely has enough critical-thinking skills to understand a school-board proposal, and thought, why the crass condescension?

And Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has said essentially the same thing, that teachers are manipulating the Jeffco students.

My kid doesn't go to the Jeffco schools, but if you've ever spent time with teenagers from Denver, Jeffco, or anywhere, or if you've ever been a teenager yourself, you know that when they decide to focus on something other than Facebook or Snap Chat, they're amazing.

So I emailed Cook, who hosts KLZ's Grassroots Radio Colorado, and I asked why she had such a low view of the intellect of Jeffco teens.

Cook wrote that "no censorship had been proposed by Julie Williams or anyone else on the school board," and, yet, the "students, by their own admission, were protesting censorship of the AP US History curriculum."

(more…)

New Ads Slam Jeffco Republicans Over School Board Antics

Hard shots continue against Jefferson County Republican candidates tied to the controversy surrounding the new conservative school board majority. Check out new ads ad targeting SD-19 GOP candidate Laura Waters Woods (above) and SD-16's Tim Neville (below). Neville, as we've discussed, is the brother-in-law of lightning-rod Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

The Huffington Post's Samantha Lachman published a great story yesterday evening on the potential effects of the school board's recent history review drama on the upcoming elections. The school board majority is not on the ballot this year, but many Republicans demonstrably tied to Williams and the school board are. The protests against the majority's history review proposal are arguably the highest-visibility grassroots actions in Jeffco in years, uniting citizens with a variety of political views against the common enemy of ideological censorship. And as we've been opining for some weeks, the Jeffco school board's ideological flight of fancy could be the game-changer of 2014 in Colorado's foremost bellwether county.

"For the first time in my life, I will probably vote a straight Democratic ticket." [Pols emphasis]

That realization came as something of a surprise to non-practicing attorney Wendy McCord, who has always thought of herself as a Republican. The mother of two children in Jefferson County's public school system, McCord told The Huffington Post that she has been politically transformed by the actions of the new conservative majority on the county school board, which presides over the state's second-largest school district.

Here in Jefferson County, a bellwether battleground that is almost evenly split between Republicans, Democrats and independents, a local educational controversy is resonating with county voters who otherwise might not have been engaged in this year's elections. Frustrated Republicans like McCord could be the deciding votes in Colorado's gubernatorial race, in which Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) faces a strong challenge from former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), as well as its Senate race, in which Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is in danger of being unseated by Republican challenger Rep. Cory Gardner…

The school board controversy is especially relevant given the pivotal role Jefferson County plays in statewide elections. An informal saying here is "As Jeffco goes, so goes Colorado," referencing the fact that the county, which encompasses the suburbs west of Denver, has voted with the winners in U.S. Senate races since 1992 and gubernatorial contests since 1978. [Pols emphasis]

The story quotes Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr, himself fighting off Julie Williams-endorsed Tony Sanchez in SD-22 (new ad in that race follows after the jump) saying that the actions of the new Jefferson County school board majority are at the top of Jeffco voters' minds as he walks neighborhoods. That's consistent with what we're hearing in terms of polling results–which is driving the ads you see here hammering away at Jefferson County Republicans tied to Williams. It does appear Jefferson County voters understand that the controversy at the school board has partisan Republican origins.

Michael Clark, a registered independent who was educated in Jefferson County, suggested that the school board issue could impact November's statewide races if voters take their frustrations out on candidates who are politically aligned with the conservative board members. (No recall election has been initiated for the board itself.) For instance, Beauprez said in an interview earlier this month that the student protesters were being manipulated by their teachers.

"A lot of people were put off by his comments," Clark told HuffPost.

Bottom line: if the anecdotes in this story manifest on Election Night as votes, Julie Williams could play a bigger role in the 2014 elections than anyone who supported her election to this school board ever imagined. The decision to plunge headlong into a radical agenda of "reform" by this board, in a politically moderate and divided place like Jefferson County, could go down in history as a cardinal error; the step too far that provokes a blowback much bigger than anything a school board can achieve would ever be worth.

For Republicans in and outside Jefferson County, we're talking major disaster.

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Denver Post: Enough is Enough, Faye Griffin

Faye Griffin

The Denver Post published a strongly-worded editorial critical of Jefferson County Commissioner (and Clerk & Recorder candidate) Faye Griffin. The editorial board's rebuke of Griffin for what the Post calls "job hopping" contains some stunningly-candid quotes from Griffin herself:

We asked Griffin why she would leave the commission two years early, and she was candid in saying it was due to term limits.

Griffin is in the middle of her second term, and if she stayed in the position, she couldn't run for the commission again — and there would be no other palatable options for her, in her mind.

"In two years, there's no county office that is open," Griffin said. So, she is seeking the office she held for eight years, starting in 1998. [Pols emphasis]

Political blog JeffcoPols pointed out Griffin's move and speculated that it could be part of a larger shuffle of Republican politicians in Jefferson County intended to avoid open-seat elections.

Even if it is wrong about the specific moves, the blog makes a valid point about how Griffin's action would cede power to the GOP vacancy committee in Jefferson County.

Last week we outlined how Griffin's "job hopping" could sweep two other Republicans into elected office without having to be, you know, elected, which is a stunt Griffin has helped initiate on more than one occasion. This is an issue that Jeffco Pols first picked up last November, when we wrote, "Finish Your Damn Job, Faye Griffin."

The 75-year-old Griffin has been repeatedly elected to various offices in Jefferson County, primarily because of her longstanding name ID, but it's pretty amazing that she is so blunt about her own personal interests taking precedence over doing right by Jefferson County. Her supporters all say that Griffin is "a very nice old lady," and we have no reason to suspect otherwise, but that doesn't make this right. When Griffin tells the Post that "in two years, there's no county office that is open," she almost makes it sound as though she has no other choice but to run for something else before the end of her elected term. Griffin is asking a lot of Jeffco voters, yet as the Post notes in its editorial, it's not too much for voters to ask that she finish the job she sought in the first place.

Let’s Just Let Faye Griffin Choose All of Our Elected Officials

The Jeffco Shuffle: Government by Vacancy Committee

The Jeffco Shuffle: Government by Vacancy Committee

Jefferson County voters may be familiar with the name Faye Griffin, in large part because her name has been on a Jeffco ballot since the dawn of time. The 75-year-old Griffin is both allergic to the concept of "term limits" and more than willing to let the rest of the GOP county government trade on her name ID in order to retain any elected position for as long as possible.

As we first noted last November ("Finish Your Damn Job, Faye Griffin"), Griffin is a serial office jumper. Currently in the middle of her second term as Jefferson County Commissioner, Griffin is running (again) for County Clerk & Recorder; if she is successful in November, she will have held 4 separate elected positions in one 8-year span, and failed to finish her elected term for the second time in five years. More importantly for Republicans, Griffin's constant movement should allow two other term-limited Republicans a chance at holding a new office without having to go through an actual election – a pretty sneaky way to get around those pesky "voters" in Jeffco.

If Griffin is elected Clerk & Recorder (which is likely because of her high name ID that plays a major role in a countywide vote), that will create an immediate opening for a spot on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners. The term-limited Treasurer Tim Kauffman would then likely be appointed by a Republican vacancy committee…which would leave Kauffman's Treasurer seat open for another GOP vacancy committee selection (likely to be the term-limited County Assessor Jim Everson).

And thus, with the election of Faye Griffin, Jeffco Republicans can avoid open-seat election battles for two other county jobs. Furthermore, Griffin has indicated that she may retire soon, which would open a vacancy for Clerk & Recorder that would be filled via…a Republican vacancy committee!

You can see Griffin's many moves over the years in the list below (after the jump). This is frequent occurrence in Jefferson County — Kauffman himself was appointed Treasurer when Griffin left that office to run for County Commissioner in 2008. But as Republican control over countywide elections continues to fade in Jeffco, the powers behind the curtain are doing everything they can to hold on to any office at the "Taj Mahal."

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Jefferson County: The Key to the State, Now More Than Ever

Jefferson County key to Colorado elections

This kid can’t vote. But his parents, relatives, and neighbors have a new reason to get involved.

We've seen plenty of stories both locally and nationally about the continuing controversy with the Jefferson County School Board — a controversy that will almost certainly impact the outcome of several key races in November, as we pointed out early and often.

Today the Denver Post takes a deeper look — on the front page of the paper, no less — into the political consequences of a right-wing school board angering a community that is always paying attention to education issues. As John Frank writes for the Post, the crossover into the 2014 election is impossible to ignore:

It's dark and a moth circles the halo of a porch light as state lawmaker Brittany Pettersen knocks on the door of a potential swing voter in this all-important Denver suburb. Hours of canvassing ended at the home of Brian Leffler, a 36-year-old independent voter. Pettersen, a first-term Democratic House member, asks him what issue is foremost in his mind this election year. A chorus of insects fills the silence as Leffler thinks. It doesn't take him more than a moment to name a top issue. "The whole schools thing going on in Jefferson County — that's the main thing right now," Leffler said. "I know that has very little to do with you, but they are talking about taking things out of the curriculum."

Door after door, the same refrain. The turmoil at the Jefferson County school board regarding the conservative majority's plans to revamp teacher pay and curriculum is emerging as a key issue in the November elections.

"The fact it comes up naturally in conversations is really reflective of what's happening," Pettersen said. [Pols emphasis]

In an election season with no single national issue dominating the conversation, Jefferson County's vote is a volatile political cocktail that proves all politics is local.

Education. The Democratic Party enthusiasm gap. Abortion. Marijuana. The Republican Party rift. Guns. The economy.

And the stakes couldn't get much higher: The county is likely to decide which party controls the state Senate, the governor's mansion and the U.S. Senate, a combination with far-reaching implications in Colorado and Washington.

Both Democrats and Republicans have figured out that the 2014 elections may hinge on the actions of Jeffco's screwy school board, though Democrats were much quicker to respond. Republicans have tried to push back with a ridiculous message accusing the teacher's union of, well, everything, but that attempted pivot isn't going to work in a county where students, parents, and teachers have taken to the streets in protest for more than a month now. As Frank astutely points out in his story above, this is an issue that is moving along under its own power — which is going to make it awfully difficult for Republicans to redirect as ballots start landing in mailboxes this week.