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Colorado Editorial Roundup

January 31, 2018

The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Jan. 30, on Colorado’s share of the Volkswagen settlement:

Much of a $68.7 million windfall will benefit only 0.2 percent of the state’s population.

The 0.2 percenters are Coloradans fortunate enough to own electric cars.

The money represents Colorado’s portion of a settlement Volkswagen made with the federal government for equipping cars with “defeat devices” intended to cheat federal emissions tests. The government allocated money to each state based on its number of registered “illegal” Volkswagens.

The money must be used to mitigate pollution, and the EPA suggested “replacing older city transit buses” or installing “charging infrastructure” for electric cars, or buying more efficient locomotives for freight yards. Colorado plans to install charging stations and fund a handful of electric buses in cities with mass transit.

A Sept. 3 Gazette editorial suggested using the money to help widen highways, instead. It suggested Colorado pitch the EPA on road projects because of the substantial reduction in harmful emissions that results from reducing traffic congestion. The article cited credible studies that prove the environmental benefits of unclogging traffic.

“Throughout the Denver Metro area, idling is responsible for an estimated 40,000 tons of harmful air pollution a year and 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions. This results in over 40 million gallons of fuel wasted while idling, costing area residences and businesses over $100 million dollars a year,” states a report by Engines Off! — a collaborative effort of federal, state and local governments working to improve air quality.

Instead of projects to spread the wealth, and clean the air, the money will benefit a special interest.

Of about 1.8 million registered vehicles in Colorado, only 11,238 are electric. Owners make up 0.2 percent of Colorado’s population, while their cars amount to 0.6 percent of traffic on the roads.

Of the state’s electric car owners, 19 percent live in Boulder County — a wealthy enclave that contains only 5.6 percent of Colorado’s population.

El Paso County contains 12 percent of Colorado’s population, and about 0.17 percent of the state’s electric cars.

Low-end electric cars, such as the Smart electric, are approaching $30,000. A Tesla ranges from $94,00 to $140,000. Each buyer receives a $7,500 federal tax subsidy and a $5,000 state subsidy, with or without perks the Volkswagen settlement will fund.

Though we respect mass transit riders, they make up about 2 percent of El Paso County’s population. The percentage only goes down outside the state’s major population centers. That 2 percent or less won’t get more buses — just a few electric replacements.

Electric vehicles might catch on among the masses, at which time the market will respond with charging stations, service facilities and whatever else the owners of these machines require. For now, they are a highly subsidized novelty for high-end consumers.

To spend $68.7 million to advance electric vehicles, the expenditure should buy a meaningful reduction in pollution before technology advances or turns in a different direction. Unfortunately, it cannot.

Fossil fuels generate nearly 80 percent of Colorado’s electricity. As such, charging a car burns gas or coal and sends emissions through smoke stacks. That won’t change appreciably for decades.

The Volkswagen settlement provides a welcome windfall for a fortunate few. For everyone else, it is Monopoly money.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2rYnL2Q

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The Denver Post, Jan. 29, on pit bull bans:

Pit bulls can make excellent pets, and having to choose between keeping what is often seen as a member of the family or moving to a location that doesn’t have a breed-specific ban can be an agonizing experience.

We are sympathetic to the responsible dog owners whose pit bulls have been banned from many of the municipalities in the Denver metro area, including Denver, Aurora, Lone Tree, Louisville and Commerce City.

But as Castle Rock plans to revisit its ban in the coming weeks, we must revisit why these breed-specific bans are still justifiable rules in urban areas.

We have long supported the right of local communities to enact breed-specific bans and in 2014 applauded voters in Aurora for upholding its pit bull ban in a citywide vote. Elected officials across the metro area will rightly be examining these bans to make sure they still make sense, and while we applaud that step, we doubt there will be reason to overturn the long-held rules.

As with all dogs, much depends on the individual animal, because a dog’s temperament is heavily influenced by the environment it was raised in.

The problem with pit bulls — the generic term that most often refers to the three dog breeds of American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier — is that when they are aggressive and do attack, the strength of the dog’s bite and its propensity to continue to attack after the fight has begun result in more traumatic outcomes, particularly for children.

Researchers last year examined data from 101 unique dog bites to the head and neck in 2012 and 2013, as documented by the University of California Davis Health System. They found that “dog bites from pit bull terriers, compared to bites from all other dogs, are more common, more severe, and not related to the dog being provoked.”

A larger study in 2016 of dog bite injuries found “pit bull bites were implicated in half of all surgeries performed and over 2.5 times as likely to bite in multiple anatomic locations as compared to other breeds.”

It’s not that pit bulls can’t be gentle and loving dogs. The issue is that if a pit bull turns out to be temperamental, the outcome is so often worse for the victim.

Even one of the most oft-cited studies in opposition to breed-specific bans — one conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in 1997 — notes that between 1979 and 1996, pit bulls accounted for 60 of the 164 deaths related to a dog attack where the breed was known. The next closest breeds were Rottweilers (29) and German shepherds (19).

Overall, dog bites are rare and only a handful of people every year die as a result of animal attacks, so we don’t mean to make too much of this public safety concern. But the fact remains that in urban settings it’s more difficult to keep dogs away from children who may wander into a backyard or stray too close to a dog on leash.

We hope Castle Rock’s Town Council will keep these concerns in mind as it considers whether to replace its pit bull ban with a code that focus on dog behavior instead of breed. Because identifying aggressive dogs before their first bite or attack isn’t easy, and for pit bulls that first incident is often too late.

Editorial: http://dpo.st/2DR7spQ

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The Pueblo Chieftain, Jan. 29, on the state ethics commission’s moves against transparency:

When the state’s voters passed a constitutional amendment creating the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission in 2006, the last thing they expected was for the ethics panel to declare itself above the Colorado Open Records Act. But that is what the commission proposes -- making its operations less transparent and thus more secretive.

We join the Colorado Press Association and Colorado Broadcasters Association -- staunch defenders of free and open access to public information -- in urging the Independent Ethics Commission to withdraw the proposal and follow the Colorado Open Records Act.

It is ironic that an entity created by the voters as a state government watchdog would not honor the Open Records Act -- of all things.

The Independent Ethics Commission is hanging by a thin thread, claiming to be guided by the Judicial Department’s Public Access to Information and Records, which was written by and for the state courts exclusively. It defies legal and common sense to deem that the commission operate under the same rules as the Colorado court system.

“The fact that (the commission) is housed in a judicial branch building does not exempt it from CORA and the judicial branch’s own rule governing access to that branch’s administrative records makes that abundantly clear,” the press and broadcasters associations wrote to Dino Ioannides, the commission’s executive director and sole staff member. “It seems particularly offensive, and ironic, that an entity established to address ethical issues in state government, and thereby foster greater public trust in governmental institutions, should be subject to less public access than other governmental entities in Colorado.”

Colorado Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert made the same point in an interview for the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. She pointed out, for one thing, that the Secretary of State’s Office is a constitutional entity that comes under the open records act. It’s wrong for the ethics commission somehow to claim special status over other constitutionally created entities.

Staiert was right to say the commission is on “shaky legal ground and shaky ground from a policy perspective.”

We urge the Independent Ethics Commission’s appointed members -- Matt Smith, April Jones, William J. Leone, Gary Reiff and Jo Ann Sorensen -- to reject the staff proposal and join other state agencies in honoring the open records act.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2npbwaO

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Aurora Sentinel, Jan. 25, on the GOP’s promises on DACA:

The moment of truth has arrived for those in Congress long professing to see the problem of so-called Dreamers solved because it’s undeniably the right thing to do.

The heroic but ill-fated efforts of Senate Democrats to force a solution for immigrants put at risk by President Donald Trump’s attack on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals system was not a net loss for DACA warriors.

Former President Barack Obama compelled the country onto a path of common sense and decency in 2012 when he imposed the DACA measure by executive order. The program gives children raised in the United States, brought here illegally by their parents, a reprieve from the threat of deportation.

Obama imposed the awkward rules because a GOP-controlled Congress — held hostage by far-right party extremists — has, for years, refused to enact realistic immigration reform. While illegal-immigrant adults are still suffering in political purgatory, at least those children who qualify for the DACA program have been shown mercy.

These children have known nothing but life in the United States, and they bear no responsibility for finding themselves with a status they are unfairly punished for.

Because of Obama’s DACA order, hundreds of thousands of children now have the opportunity for education and jobs, helping themselves and their families, and helping all of America.

The outcome of the DACA battle about to begin in Washington affects tens of thousands of children and young adults in Aurora and across the state. Nationally, officials estimate more than 700,000 so-called DACA Dreamers are at risk of being deported if Congress does nothing. Already, as many as 16,000 DACA immigrants have fallen risk to deportation after Trump’s cruel DACA blunder last summer.

Congress has had that long to solve this looming humanitarian crisis, but congressional Republican leaders, complicit with the Trump White House, have stalled a solution.

The logic behind the program is so compelling that even stalwart tea-party type Republicans — who once wailed and railed against DACA as an executive order — have been falling behind the measure as the right action for Congress.

The holdup is in the White House. It’s unclear if Trump actually supports a DACA solution or has genuine concern for American Dreamers. He set up this crisis to use the DACA program as a bargaining chip in his own warped war on American immigrants.

Democrats overplayed their hand last week in forcing a government shut-down in hopes of forcing a long-overdue DACA measure into law.

Trump has already signaled that he wants now to extort billions for his ludicrous Mexican border wall and nuke America’s foundational immigration policy for political gain with his small political base.

The battle lines have been drawn. A vast super-majority of Americans and elected Republicans, even notorious anti-immigrant conservatives, have made it clear they want a DACA solution because it’s separate from all other immigration controversy. Like the rest of America, they want a solution because it’s the humane, ethical thing to do. Very soon, Republicans in Congress will be able to demonstrate their honesty and courage on this issue and pass a DACA bill outside of other immigration issues. A super-majority vote can bypass Trump’s sadistic political effort to use DACA children as human collateral for his own gain.

Aurora and all of Colorado are watching Republicans now. This is it for Colorado Republicans like Congressman Mike Coffman and Sen. Cory Gardner. Coffman has had plenty of tough talk about supporting the DACA program as Obama laid it out. Gardner, too, has given the notion plenty of lip service, but he has shown himself to be a loyal party member in other instances where Colorado interests veer from his party’s direction, such as the Affordable Care Act.

Talk all they want, this time their votes will be the definitive word on solving this problem.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2naiXBE

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