Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Daily Sentinel, June 18, on recall and petition efforts in Colorado politics:
Some Coloradans don’t like recent legislative outcomes, so they’re interested in either changing them or punishing lawmakers for taking certain positions.
To wit: Gov. Jared Polis and a Democratic state House member are reportedly being eyed for recall attempts. A recall petition can’t begin to circulate until Polis has been in office for six months. That would be around July 8, so we’ll have to wait and see whether that recall attempt gets off the ground.
But a petition is already circulating to undo a law that Polis signed earlier this year. A group is gathering signatures to get a measure onto next year’s ballot that calls for reversing a bill approved by the Legislature for Colorado to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
We’re not here to discuss the merits of the Electoral College system of choosing a president or how the National Popular Vote compact circumvents it. Rather, we want to emphasize a point we’ve made often — elections have consequences.
We send delegates to the capital to do the people’s business. If you don’t like how they’re conducting business, the proper remedy is to vote them out of office.
But we’re seeing with more frequency efforts to “cure” legislative action through the citizen’s initiative process. When some voters don’t like what their representative government does, they demand to let the people accept or reject the action.
Which kind of defeats the purpose of representation.
Mounting a petition drive for the opportunity to overturn a decision by a duly elected body is very much like attempting to recall a lawmaker for not voting the way you think they should.
Recall is a tool voters should use only to remove people from office who are seriously negligent in performing their duties or are engaged in official misconduct.
Throughout its history, The Sentinel has taken the position that recalls are only appropriate in cases of malfeasance or incapacity. Competence is in the eye of beholder. One voter’s anger over a legislator’s record is another’s joy. There’s a huge difference between recalling someone because they are corrupt and trying to remove them from office because you disagree with their policies.
Last fall, Colorado voters elected representatives to the General Assembly, which decided to make Colorado part of a compact whose members pledge (after enough states join) to award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote in a presidential election. The duly elected governor signed the bill. That should be the end of the story as far as we’re concerned.
Instead, the initiative, if it passes, would kick back to voters the determination about whether Colorado should join the compact. That strikes us as a lot like a recall. The voters spoke when they elected this state Legislature. Whether you support the compact or not, the appropriate remedy is electing different legislators, not revisiting a duly-passed law.
Reporter-Herald, June 16, on preserving Rocky Mountain National Park:
The 1915 congressional act that founded Rocky Mountain National Park states, “That the said park shall be under the executive control of the Secretary of the Interior, and it shall be the duty of the said executive authority as soon as practicable, to make and publish such reasonable rules and regulations, not inconsistent with the laws of the United States, as the said authority may deem necessary or proper for the care, protection, management, and improvement of the same, the said regulations being primarily aimed at the freest use of the said park for recreation purposes by the public and for the preservation of the natural conditions and scenic beauties thereof.”
A year later, when founding the National Park Service, Congress ordered it to ”. conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Under the direction of both pieces of legislation, RMNP managers have dual mandates to preserve the qualities that made the land worthy of being a national park, and to let the public use it.
In the intervening century, the park has become a tourism magnet, a natural outcome of a century’s worth of managers adhering to those dual mandates.
But current Interior Secretary David Bernhardt sounded a little confused about the park’s dual purpose in a June 10 interview with Alex Burness, a former Reporter-Herald reporter now with The Colorado Independent.
Asked whether climate change poses an imminent threat to national parks or to the outdoor recreation industry, he answered: “My view is that Rocky Mountain National Park, my view is that Estes Park, should be confident that whatever change occurs in the future, and we don’t know what that will be — I would think that folks would be attracted to Rocky Mountain National Park in the foreseeable future, and I don’t think you’d find any debate about that.”
Bernhardt acknowledged the backlog of infrastructure repairs needed in the national parks and said he’s trying to address it by raising entry fees and costs for visitors inside the parks.
Rocky and other parks do have a significant amount of deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs. But they also have concerns about climate change and how it will affect everything from wildlife to vegetation.
Infrastructure improvements are happening. Road resurfacing is taking place this summer in Rocky, and will affect the ability of visitors to access the popular Bear Lake area. Moraine Park Campground was closed for roadwork during the past week, and the Longs Peak Campground will be closed June 24-27.
Other areas also will see roadwork this summer, including along Trail Ridge Road and at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center parking lot.
But while there is progress in addressing infrastructure, attention also will be needed to study and possibly mitigate any effects climate change is having on the park.
The park website states that: “In the 20th century, the average annual temperature rose 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit ( F) in the area that includes the park.” Some effects reported include earlier spring snowmelt, more mountain pine beetles, and new invasive vegetation such as cheatgrass competing with the park’s native vegetation.
The park staff has reduced total energy used annually by 30% since 2003, and in 2010 succeeded in diverting more than 40% of solid waste from landfills through recycling, the park’s website states.
It challenges visitors to take similar steps in their own lives. Tips are available at nps.gov/subjects/climatechange/getinvolved.htm.
It’s good to know that the interior secretary believes that whatever happens climate-wise, tourists will still visit the area.
But it would be even better to be able to make sure that tourists will get the quality experience Congress envisioned for them when creating Rocky Mountain National Park more than a century ago.
The Gazette, June 15, on state troopers killed on Colorado roads:
Colorado mourns another state trooper needlessly struck and killed while doing his job. The tragedy marks another sad day history should never forget.
Trooper William Moden, 37, was assisting victims of a crash on I-70 east of Denver on June 14. A driver failed to move over, hitting Moden as he worked. A fellow trooper rendered aid. Rescuers flew Moden to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus, where he died.
Moden was the fourth on-duty trooper struck and killed in less than four years:
—A drunken driver failed to move over, striking and killing trooper Jaimie Jursevics as she investigated a minor crash on I-25 near Tomah Road south of Castle Rock on Nov. 15, 2015. Age 33, she left behind a husband and their 8-month-old daughter.
—A commercial truck driver who failed to move over hit 34-year-old trooper Cody James Donahue on November 25, 2016, as he investigated a minor crash on northbound I-25 at Tomah Road near Castle Rock. Survivors include his wife and two young children.
—A driver traveling too fast for conditions failed to move over, striking and killing Cpl. Daniel Groves, 47, as he assisted the driver of a stranded vehicle that slid off I-76 near Denver March 13.
Two days before Moden’s death, The Gazette editorial board met with Colorado State Patrol Chief Matthew Packard and raised our concern about troopers getting hit on increasingly congested highways.
“We need your help,” Packard said, asking us to encourage drivers to be alert, focused and courteous to anyone on the side of the road.
“Saving lives is what we do. . That’s what this organization is about,” Packard said.
To save a life. That is why Moden was in harm’s way, after finding a woman and a child ejected from a car. Moden deserved extraordinary courtesy and caution from people passing the scene, easily identified by emergency lights.
“Whenever you’re driving a car, lives are at stake,” Packard said last week. “A light car is 3,000 pounds. It’s not hard to imagine the damage 3,000 pounds can do at 60 miles an hour.”
Packard could not have known Moden would die a short time later, as he emphasized how many troopers we lose to drivers who do not move over.
He recited troopers by name from memory, going back to 1977, who lost their lives much the same way Moden was killed.
“Give them a little bit of room because it’s safe, and now it’s the law, but do it because it’s the right thing to do — it’s courtesy,” Packard said.
We never met Trooper Moden. He used his Facebook page mostly to honor officers killed in service, including fellow troopers hit on the side of the road. Moden’s post from Nov. 8 exudes love and respect for others. Moden posted a tribute to his father-in-law, 10 years after the man died.
“You were a source of strength, love, and discipline,” Moden wrote to his wife’s deceased dad.
“You welcomed me into your family, and allowed me to take one of your beautiful daughters as my wife. You believed in me, you trusted me, and most of all, you loved me as if I were your own flesh and blood. I miss you dad! I know you’re watching over us from Heaven, and I hope I’ve made you proud! I know I’ll see you again.”
Colorado drivers can and should eliminate these needless tragedies. Pay attention and move over. Stop killing the men and women who devote their lives to saving ours.