Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Denver Post, Nov. 7, on Colorado’s election of Jared Polis as governor being a remarkable turnaround for state:
Congressman Jared Polis quietly made history Tuesday night. Early results indicate Colorado voters have made him the first openly gay governor to win election in America.
Polis’ sexual orientation was such a non-issue during the campaign that it would be easy to forget that in 2012 the question of whether same-sex couples could be joined by civil unions brought the Colorado General Assembly to a political meltdown. That six years later Polis, his partner Marlon Reis, and their two children are poised to become the first family of Colorado is remarkable.
We went from a state where our elected officials struggled to provide even basic rights to same-sex couples to a state where a gay man ran for governor and his sexual orientation wasn’t discussed as a political liability. Faith in humanity should be temporarily restored.
Denver Post reporter Nic Garcia documented the decades of ground work it took to get to this point in his late-September analysis: “From ‘Hate State’ to Jared Polis: How Colorado led the way for gay, transgender candidates to run for office — and win.”
The story was a remarkable retrospective on how advocates responded to the 1992 passage of Amendment 2, which was a disgusting attempt to make it illegal to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. Garcia told the story of Equality Colorado, the Gay and Lesbian Fund, and One Colorado, rising up and fighting for civil rights in Colorado. And while ultimately it was the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage across the nation, the grassroots work in Colorado was instrumental in fighting against the hardest thing of all to change: the hearts and minds of the 53 percent of voters who supported Amendment 2.
But as far as this state and this nation has come, it’s important that we take a moment to note the historic significance of a Polis victory because there’s much left to be done on the equality front in this nation.
Just before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump’s administration proposed rolling back policies put in place under President Barack Obama that provided protections for transgender individuals across many aspects of government. The rules in place ensured that transgender individuals would not face discrimination in gender-related programs like those in health care, schools or other benefits. There’s not a single documented case of those new rules causing anyone harm, and yet the rules have been targeted for removal.
Such political maneuvers reinforce what we already know and simultaneously fear: it is popular and easy for politicians to turn their backs on minority populations who need the protection of the law the most.
It’s a reminder too of the unresolved issues in Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court punted on the question of whether a small business owner can be compelled by anti-discrimination laws to serve all customers equally even if it violates his or her religious beliefs. That is a true point of conflict that remains unresolved for the owner and customers of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood.
The case also turned the Colorado Civil Rights Division into a political football this year. Republicans alleged the commission is biased against business owners because commissioners are holding them accountable for discrimination. We find that sentiment concerning. Despite a rocky start that was headed for political disaster, members of both parties came together to give business owners more representation on the Civil Rights Commission, without jeopardizing the mission of preventing discrimination.
Polis will certainly make issues like those a priority amid his ambitious agenda to improve the state’s education system, move to clean energy and ensure all Coloradans have access to affordable health care.
But Polis’ victory, on its own, is a mark of how far this state and nation have come and where we are headed.
The Pueblo Chieftain, Nov. 6, on 911 notifications to cellphones:
The days are gone when we relied mostly on tornado sirens and Emergency Broadcast System alerts to let us know of a pending disaster or other matters of police urgency. But today’s advances that allow for Reverse 911 notifications to telephones work best when people also register their cellphone numbers.
The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office recently launched a public education campaign to get more cellphone users to register in the countywide Swift 911 system. The system already accounts for landline telephone phone numbers.
For cellphones, it can broadcast a blanket message that will reach all of the cellphones in a particular geographic area, but enrollment allows for more targeted messaging. Enrollment also allows for the messages to go to cellphone users who are out of town.
Nationally, 911 cellphone registration is about 20 percent. In Pueblo County, it is a “disappointingly low” 11 percent, according to Lisa Shorter, communications manager for the sheriff’s department. The benefit of the system is “it allows us to communicate things like when to stay in their homes because of severe weather or a fire or maybe crime activity in the area, things like that. So it’s pretty critical to what we do on a daily basis,” she said.
Our community can do better than 11 percent. We can do better than 20 percent. The next time you’re online, take a few moments to register your cellphone number at puebloblocountyoptin.com. The ability to communicate during emergencies is critical for both the public and emergency responders.
Greeley Tribune, Nov. 3, on the University of Northern Colorado budget crisis:
The University of Northern Colorado faces a crisis.
The university must find a way to reduce its $10 million budget deficit. The deficit is considered structural, meaning it will stick around next year unless officials can find permanent cost savings.
One measure of just how serious this situation is comes in the response to it.
Mandatory furloughs, early retirement programs and targeted layoffs are among a list of 13 options the newly formed President’s Leadership Council has put on the table for cutting.
No decisions have been made yet, and the list of possible solutions also includes the possibility of reducing employer contributions to health and retirement plans, finding cost reductions in UNC’s athletic programs and permanently reducing or restricting faculty travel for conferences, among other ideas.
First, we’ll give a tip of the cap to new UNC President Andy Feinstein and his leadership council for diving into the difficult work that’s required to solve the budget problem.
Making these kinds of decisions is never easy. Challenges lie ahead and the path won’t always be certain. Still, the deficit must be addressed, and we wish everyone in the UNC community all the best as they tackle this tough task.
We also have a bit of advice: Don’t let this crisis go to waste.
It’s long been said with every crisis comes an opportunity. Such is the case for UNC.
The university’s leaders have the opportunity — provided by this budget crisis — to rethink how they’re spending money from top to bottom and make smart decisions that will position the university to thrive in the future.
Often when leaders are faced with making these kind of cuts, they face pressure to simply make equal cuts across the board. That’s often the easy answer. Everyone suffers equally and the hardest decisions are deferred.
We think that would be a mistake.
UNC’s leaders must look holistically at the university’s operations, the emerging changes in the landscape of higher education and the realities of public funding in a state with a host of budget priorities. From there, they must make smart cuts aimed at positioning UNC to thrive in the future.
This, of course, means there may be some areas where UNC needs to spend more money than it is today, and there may be other areas that should be cut altogether. The focus must be on making qualitative improvements.
UNC’s leaders must make these hard decisions. And members of the broader UNC community must work with the leaders in making those choices. Doing this will ensure UNC’s crisis doesn’t go to waste. It will ensure UNC emerges stronger than it was before.