Monday Open Thread

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.”

–Robert Quillen

In Colorado Springs, They Love Their Slumlords

SUNDAY UPDATE: Shocking video of Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins and Doug Bruce walking out of court Friday, a brief exchange that appears to end with Bruce violently ripping the camera from the hands of the questioner:

He’s not a nice man, folks. Original post follows, updates undoubtedly forthcoming.

Because that’s assault, right?


UPDATE: The Colorado Springs Independent sheds significant light on the apparently extensive business relationship between Doug Bruce and Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins:

Evidence suggests the two are more than just political allies. According to a lawsuit filed in 4th Judicial District Court, Bruce and Collins have been working on land transactions together across the country, including in North Dakota, South Carolina, Illinois and Oklahoma, besides Collins’ 2013 acquisition of two apartment buildings in Kansas City for which tenants say Bruce has been in charge…

[T]enant Heather Dugger was scrambling to gather up her family’s belongings and get out on Monday. She said she, her husband and three young children, ages 11, 7 and 3, lived without water for about a month before the notice was posted.

“The water got shut off about a month ago,” Dugger says. “Somehow, the water was still on [at the other building] so we were going next door and filling buckets of water.”

She says she paid rent to a property manager who worked for Bruce. “He’s the one who hired the property manager,” she says, adding that Bruce was supposed to be paying for trash removal and water service and that she paid rent of $450 a month by money order made out to Douglas Bruce. She quit paying rent about three months ago, she says, because the property manager “quit coming by.”

Dugger then cut the interview short, because she was trying to load a U-Haul trailer. “There’s a lot of cuss words [for Bruce],” she says. “All the rent we paid and the water got shut off, and it’s just crazy, knowing they’re taking money away from people.” [Pols emphasis]



Today’s Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the continuing trouble City Councilwoman Helen Collins is running into with her real estate investments. This week, Collins survived a recall attempt related to a case currently before the city’s ethics commission, alleging she helped conservative activist and convicted tax cheat Douglas “Mister TABOR” Bruce avoid paying a court judgment in excess of $7,500 owed to the city of Colorado Springs. Bruce has owned a number of residential rental properties, and has frequently run afoul of the law for failure to properly maintain them.

Well, as Gazette reporter Billie Stanton Anleu writes today, Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins is a slumlord in her own right:

One of two Kansas City, Mo., apartment buildings owned by Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins was boarded up and closed Wednesday, a city inspector there confirmed.

Repeated violations, including no water in the building for more than four months, more than $7,000 in unpaid city water bills, multiple fines and the inability to provide a local property manager, led to the closure, said Kansas City inspector Marja Nolan…

In Kansas City, residents in one of two seven-unit buildings, which Collins bought in November 2012, had gone more than four months without water, Nolan said.

Violations dating to Oct 14, 2014, cite an unprotected exterior surface; litter, trash, refuse and rubbish; unapproved storage; failure to register; lack of water; peeling, cracked, blistered paint; rank weeds or unattended growth; and limbs and brush ordered to be removed, the city’s records show.

Doug Bruce.

Doug Bruce.

The report on Collins’ apartment building in Kansas city reads like an urban decay horror story: area residents described how the building was taken over by squatters and subject to drugs raids prior to being boarded up by city officials this week.

But considering who Collins had “managing” her properties in Kansas City, it’s possible that none of this is a surprise:

[Neighborhood leader Tom] Ribera said Collins never returned his calls, but “Douglas Bruce, her acting manager, [Pols emphasis] said he was trying to get a property manager over there. … It’s beyond maintenance; they need a contractor.”

Mystery solved! If you were wondering where Helen Collins got her awesome property management skills from, you can stop wondering. She learned how to be a slumlord from Doug Bruce! Who, in addition to being the Colorado Republican Party’s patron saint of tax policy as the author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), is one of our state’s more notorious slumlords.

Perhaps the worst part of this touching story of civic pride and urban renewal is the fact that the voters of Councilwoman Collins’ district didn’t care about any of this–or were at least kept in the dark about Collins’ landlady follies in the “Paris of the Plains” long enough to keep it from factoring in the now-failed recall attempt against her. It might seem unthinkable that a slumlord would be allowed to serve on a city council at all, even if the worst of the blighted properties in her possession are located in another city. But in conservative Colorado Springs, it’s apparently no hindrance to one’s political career.

And next time they vote to turn off the streetlights, it’ll make more sense.

Get More Smarter on Friday (April 10)

So it’s not technically a “Good Friday.” We’ll take it anyway. 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).



► Democrat Hillary Clinton will officially launch her campaign on Sunday, April 12, with an online video! Polling numbers are all over the place, which makes sense given that it is April 2015.

► Colorado business groups are backing a proposed ballot reform measure that would make it harder to reform the ballot — which is not a bad idea. As the Denver Business Journal explains:

Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 — introduced late Wednesday by Sens. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Pat Steadman, D-Denver — would require a majority of voters in a statewide general election to approve any proposed constitutional amendment before it is then resubmitted on a statewide ballot the next year.

It also would require that state officials conduct public hearings about any proposed amendments in each of the state’s seven congressional districts before the second round of voting on the question.

► The State House gave final approval to “The Long Bill,” despite a litany of silly objections from House Republicans. The discussion now heads back to the Senate to work out differences over the $26 billion budget proposal.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Coffman Spokesman’s “Principle” of Not Responding to Those Who Might Disagree

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

The Colorado Independent called Rep. Mike Coffman’s office numerous times over numerous days to find out if Coffman had kept $20,000 in donations from Rep. Aaron Schock, who resigned in disgrace after it became apparent that he was brazenly misspending tax money.

Coffman’s office never called reporter John Tomasic back, but Coffman spokesman Tyler Sandberg did talk to The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels, telling her, “We donated the money after Aaron Schock resigned and donated it to a veterans organization.”

Sandberg also told Bartels:

“As a matter of principle we don’t respond to fake news websites, nor did we feel a need to trumpet the donation. Sorry to upset the left-wing attack machine so desperate to find a flaw with Mike Coffman.”

The Colorado Independent is not a fake news site. It’s a progressive news site. So, I guess Sandberg is saying he won’t talk to people who might disagree with him?

I wondered which veterans organization received the cash and when it was donated, so I called Sandberg. And, lo, he didn’t return my calls either. So it appears his bogus “principle” applies to me too.

That is, unless I do something he likes.


James “SpongeDob” Dobson: Gay Marriage Could Start Civil War

James Dobson.

James Dobson.

We haven’t heard much in the last few years from the founder of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, since his retirement from that leading evangelical Christian group in 2009. Since then, Dobson has continued on with a new “ministry” with a similar focus, Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, which if you didn’t know is headquartered just across I-25 from Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.

Formerly an icon on the “culture wars,” famous for his tirade against the children’s television program SpongeBob Squarepants, Dobson has a somewhat lower profile in American politics today–reportedly by design–but when he does speak, he can still make controversial headlines without breaking a sweat. As Right Wing Watch reports:

James Dobson, the founder of the Religious Right behemoth Focus on the Family, warned in a recent conference call with fellow anti-gay activists that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality could lead to a full-blown civil war.

After Janet Porter, the creator of a new “documentary” about how the gay rights movement will outlaw Christianity, discussed her “restraining order” campaign to convince Congress to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to rule on marriage cases, Dobson said that his fellow activists “need to be realistic about what we’re up against here.”

He said that the gay rights issue has reached an unprecedented “level of intensity” and put the country on the brink of conflict: “Talk about a Civil War, we could have another one over this.” [Pols emphasis]

Dobson also claimed that marriage equality will lead to the collapse of the nation: “The country can be no stronger than its families. I really believe if what the Supreme Court is about to do is carried through with, and it looks like it will be, then we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two. I just am convinced of that. So we need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.”

Here’s the audio, with the Bob Beauprez-style civil war forecast starting at about 1:35:

And here’s where Dobson asserts that if the Supreme Court upholds marriage equality, the United States will “collapse in the next decade or two.”

Shocking stuff to hear in 2015, but keep it in perspective: a decade ago, this kind of far-out rhetoric was actually pretty common on the religious right. The last few years have witnessed a rapid shift in public opinion across America toward overwhelming public support for marriage equality, and the once-powerful religious right, led by men like Dobson, has been basically powerless to stop the falling dominoes.

But today, in what may be the last few months before the Supreme Court settles this question forever, it makes sense that the rhetoric from the far right–and naturally, we hope that it remains just rhetoric–is going bury the proverbial needle. Given his long history, it’s embarrassing but not a surprise that Colorado’s own James Dobson is staking out the fringe of this discussion.

Libby Szabo Makes Jeffco Taxpayers Buy Her a New Car So She Can Reach the Pedals

Libby Szabo Gets a New Car

Jeffco Commissioner Libby Szabo (not actual size).

When Republican Libby Szabo announced in January that she would resign from the State House in order to fill a vacancy on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, she was roundly criticized; the editorial board of the Denver Post said Szabo was “thumbing her nose at voters” by resigning her seat just two months after winning re-election to a third term in the House.

If Szabo’s job-hopping was “thumbing her nose” at voters, then she has since moved along to the middle finger. Szabo is now driving around in a brand-new, $40,000 car that was purchased specifically for her transportation needs as a county commissioner. Jefferson County Commissioners are technically allowed to request the use of a county-owned vehicle, but the other two Commissioners (Don Rosier and Casey Tighe) choose to drive their own personal cars rather than accept the kind of ridiculous perk that used to be common in scandal-ridden Jefferson County (former County Treasurer Mark Paschall, who was indicted over corruption allegations, once demanded that the county buy him a Cadillac Escalade).

It may be an oxymoron to call any Ford Taurus “top-of-the-line,” but county officials nevertheless sprung for the most expensive model because of an odd request from Szabo: She needed a car with “special pedals” because she is too short to drive a regular model.

No, seriously. We couldn’t possibly invent a story this absurd.

Jefferson County bought a new Ford Taurus SHO for Commissioner Libby Szabo.

Jefferson County bought a new Ford Taurus SHO for Commissioner Libby Szabo and billed taxpayers the $40,000.

Szabo is indeed a fairly short individual, but for years she drove her own vehicle back and forth from Arvada to the State Capitol in Denver. Maybe Szabo’s personal vehicle needed replacing, but you’d think she could find enough money in her $86,000 salary to buy her own car. Szabo no doubt understands the poor optics behind this request, because Jeffco purchased the Szabo-mobile two weeks before the County Commissioners voted to approve the expenditure (the invoice from Larry H. Miller Ford Lakewood is dated March 16; the expenditure was not formally approved by the Commissioners until March 26).

If you’re still inclined to shrug this off, we’ll leave you with the opening lines of this Denver Post story from reporter Joe Vaccarelli, which was first published just a few days before the county purchased Szabo’s new vehicle.

Libby Szabo always tries to lead by example.

Whether wanting to get a message across to her four kids, coaching youth soccer for 10 years or working across the aisle on a bill in the state legislature, she feels that actions speak louder than words.

“I think the best way to instill something in your children is to actually do it and let them see you do it,” Szabo said.


Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 9)

According to a scientist from NASA, we will have proof of alien life in less than 20 years; make your own joke. 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).



► The State House will likely take a final vote on Colorado’s $25-26 billion proposed budget. 

► Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced his campaign for President on Tuesday. As the Washington Post reports, things went downhill from there:

In a series of interviews after the freshman senator from Kentucky declared his candidacy on Tuesday, Paul turned prickly — briskly sidestepping tough foreign policy questions from one journalist, lecturing another on how to conduct an interview, and testily declining to clarify his position on abortion…

…the rocky media rollout of his presidential effort highlighted a key question facing him now: whether the same tough approach that has made him a favorite among tea party activists and libertarians might be limiting in a national campaign, as he looks to build a broader coalition rich with voters from beyond his base.

At least Paul still has hope that he can change Kentucky laws to allow him to simultaneously run for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

► Senate Republicans voted to kill a bill that would have stopped “Pray the Gay Away” pseudo-therapy sessions for kids in Colorado. Yesterday, President Obama denounced the idea of “gay conversion.”

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Senate GOP Upholds “Pray The Gay Away” Pseudo-Therapy

State Sen. Owen Hill.

State Sen. Owen Hill.

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports on the death of legislation to prohibit widely discredited gay-to-straight “conversion therapy” for children under age 18, with Republicans on the Senate State Affairs “kill committee” voting as expected:

The controversial therapy, sometimes also called reparative therapy, is something that most major mental health professional groups have denounced as harmful to children, said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who introduced HB1175 with Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, two of seven openly gay members of the Colorado Legislature.

“We are not telling people what they can preach on Sunday or what they can say on the street corner on a soapbox on Monday,” Steadman told the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee, which killed the measure on a 3-2 party-line vote, with Republicans on the panel voting against it, including its chairman, Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction.

“People are free to say whatever demeaning, demoralizing, judgmental things they want to say about people who are LGBT (lesbian gay, bisexual, or transgender) or questioning their sexual orientation. That’s their free-speech right. They can go be as big a jerk as they want to,” Steadman said. “But when it comes to practicing psychotherapy … the state has an interest in making sure that people are not harmed.”

House Bill 15-1175 passed the Democratic-controlled Colorado House with the support of one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction. The case against this kind of “therapy” is probably best made by experts at the American Psychological Association, which condemns gay-to-straight conversion therapy as a harmful solution in search of a problem:

The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing the effects of societal stigmatization discussed…

Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.

Religious right organizations like Focus on the Family have heavily promoted conversion therapy as “treatment” for the orientation/preference/condition/disease of being gay, even as mainstream psychology has moved away from the underlying supposition that gayness is a condition that needs to be treated. But far from being responsive to these changes, Republican politicians will probably be the last in our society to accept that being gay is not a malady:

“I am hesitant to use the heavy hand of government to take away the dignity of choice in cases where individuals want this therapy,” Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, said in a statement after the vote.

What we’re talking about here, of course, is prohibiting the use of this “therapy” on children who may not have a choice at all. For whom a parent’s desire to “cure” their child may actually become abusive. We understand that this argument might not break perfectly along partisan lines with the voting public, but politically, it’s an issue that forces lawmakers to disclose how they really feel about gays and lesbians on a pretty basic level.

And folks, there’s still a lot of intolerance out there.

Mike Coffman Loves Him Some Aaron Schock Coinage

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels follows up:

“We donated the money after Aaron Schock resigned and donated it to a veterans organization. As a matter of principle we don’t respond to fake news websites, nor did we feel a need to trumpet the donation. Sorry to upset the left-wing attack machine so desperate to find a flaw with Mike Coffman,” spokesman Tyler Sandburg said…

The Colorado Democratic Party and the liberal group ProgressNow jumped on the story, with ProgressNow urging Coffman to get rid of the “tainted money.”

The big question left unanswered is, when exactly did Coffman get rid of Aaron Schock’s money? We likely won’t know the answer to that until the next quarterly fundraising reports are filed. Hopefully it wasn’t, you know, yesterday afternoon–which would still technically be “after Schock resigned,” though not exactly what you’d call honest about the timing. Original post follows.


Money? What money?

Tainted money? What tainted money?

As the Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic reports today:

Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman has taken $20,000 since 2008 from disgraced Illinois U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, a flashy figure who rose fast on the national politics stage only to resign in disgrace last month as a scandal unfolded around the free spending approach he adopted toward taxpayer money.

Schock was known less as a serious legislator than as a prodigious fundraiser. He was elected to office when he was only 27 years old, but he charged hard toward the money from the moment he landed in D.C., wooing big donors and doling out cash to his colleagues through his Generation-Y campaign committee.

Since Schock’s resignation on March 31st, recipients of his political donations have sought to put distance between themselves and Schock by donating or returning the Generation Y contributions.

Rep. David Jolly, a Florida Republican, announced the day after Schock resigned that he was donating $5,000 he received from the Generation-Y fund…

But as of this writing, there’s been no word from Rep. Mike Coffman about what (if anything) he plans to do with the much larger amount he received from disgraced ex-Rep. Aaron Schock’s Generation-Y PAC. It’s worth noting that a similar situation on the Democratic side, donations from Sen. Bob Menendez to Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet back in 2010, was swiftly resolved with the money in question given to charity after Menendez’ indictment.

Liberals in Colorado are demanding no less from Coffman today:

“Mike Coffman took thousands of dollars from Aaron Schock, whose financial improprieties with campaign donations resulted in his resignation from Congress and a grand jury investigation,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Today, fellow Republican lawmakers are returning Schock’s donations, but Coffman has chosen to hold on to his dirty money. We demand Coffman immediately unload the thousands he received from Aaron Schock, or explain to the voters in his district why he is refusing to do so.”

This is a situation where the right choice for Coffman seems obvious: maybe not to return the money to Schock, who has proven he’s not a very good steward of anybody’s money, but a speedy donation to charity is definitely in order. One gets a brief window to do that before the negative press hits, after which you take political damage for failing to distance yourself from the scandal.

Judging from this report, that window is closing fast.

Laura Woods Pushes “Gregory Golyansky Assistance Act”

Sen. Laura Woods, former gun dealer Gregory Golyansky.

Sen. Laura Woods, former gun dealer Gregory Golyansky.

A bill up for debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Senate Bill 15-181, focuses on the rules for court-appointed receivers who take charge of assets during a bankruptcy proceeding or other lawsuit. Sponsored by hard-right Sen. Laura Waters Woods (R-RMGO), this legislation isn’t as interesting for what it does as who is supporting it.

The chief public proponent of SB15-181 is a figure our longtime readers will know well–although some may express surprise that he is still involved in Colorado politics at all. Gregory Golyansky, president of the conservative Colorado Union of Taxpayers, wrote an opinion piece for the Complete Colorado blog making the case for Sen. Woods’ bill:

My business of 16 years has been destroyed. I am unable to get the key to enter my own building. The court-appointed receiver is confiscating all the income from my real estate and using it, I know not how. In three years, he has not given an accounting of moneys collected, dispersed, or spent. The judge refuses to set any date for the dismissal of the receiver, and I am not even allowed to appeal any of these miscarriages of justice.

All of this has happened under Colorado’s existing receivership law, which as currently written allows both judges and receivers almost unlimited power over a person’s property.

The hopeful news is that Colorado State Sen. Laura Woods, along with nine other legislators, has introduced Senate Bill 181, which would reform the state’s existing receivership law and give the people more rights when under a receivership…

What Golyansky fails to mention here, among many other details, is the nature of at least one business he ran. An investigative report in the Denver Post revealed that Golyansky’s pawn shop business ABC Loan was a major source of illegal guns acquired by “straw purchasers” to be resold on the street and often used in crimes. David Olinger of the Post reported that an incredible 40% of multiple gun purchases traceable to criminal arrests in the state of Colorado were made at Golyansky’s pawn shop during the period it was in business. Guns sold by Golyansky were found at crime scenes from Colorado to Los Angeles. In 2005, one recipient of those guns was convicted in a triple murder in Aurora.

Despite his well-publicized connections to illegal guns and violent crime, Golyansky has somehow remained a credible player in Colorado conservative politics as the head of the CUT. And he’s been no less of a liability: in 2011, Golyansky was widely condemned, even by embarrassed Republican allies, after referring to government employees as “scum” and the “stormtroopers of communism.”

We have no idea how Golyansky manages to keep himself ingratiated with far-right conservative politicos like Ken Buck, Shawn Mitchell, and now Sen. Woods. But suffice to say, Golyansky is not someone any politician with a sense of self-preservation should be sharing a spotlight with. 

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 8)

Only five games left in this disaster of an NBA season for the Denver Nuggets, but at least they have a decent chance at the #1 overall pick in the draft. 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).



► The “long bill” is on its way to the House floor as the legislature tries to agree on a $26 billion state budget.

► Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spent some time in Colorado yesterday not running for President in 2016. Though Bush hasn’t formally announced that he is a candidate for the Republican nomination, he sure picked up a lot of press for his visit to the 38th state. Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, are not sold on Bush as a candidate for President.

► Who wants to buy a $1.7 billion, incomplete hospital? Anyone? Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, suggested that the federal government might try to sell the still-being-constructed VA Hospital in Aurora.

Get even more smarter after the jump…