Colorado Editorial Roundup
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Dec. 19, on holding state Rep.-elect Matt Soper accountable:
While the majority of Republican state Rep.-elect Matt Soper’s constituents don’t seem bothered by the questionable manner in which he established residency in the state House district he will soon represent, we’re grateful that someone has stepped up to hold him accountable.
Soper has some explaining to do. He will do that thanks to Palisade resident Dave Edwards. With help from supporters, Edwards has refiled a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office that should initiate official proceedings to determine if Soper adequately fulfilled residency requirements to represent House District 54.
Without this intervention by private citizens, Soper would have been on his merry way to Denver without answering a single question about how he fulfilled those requirements without actually living at the address he gave the Secretary of State’s Office to officially file as a candidate. He has not responded to the Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby’s repeated requests for comment.
Soper should actually welcome an inquiry. It might provide a plausible alternative to the narrative that he’s a carpetbagger who faked his residency to run the GOP-friendly House District 54. Prior to claiming 10 Hartig Drive in Delta as his residence, Soper lived with his parents in nearby Austin, which is located in House District 61.
Edwards’ complaint lays out the inconsistencies between Soper’s filing and his own admission that he lived at another address in Delta with his girlfriend in 2018. If true, it means Soper couldn’t have lived at 10 Hartig Drive for 12 months prior to the election as legally required.
If this seems like an overblown technicality, consider the implications. Soper could have properly moved into the district — whether with his girlfriend or someplace else — listed that address as his primary residence and likely would have won anyway. Instead, the first thing he did when he decided to run was to lie to everyone.
Soper’s supporters may not care. But Edwards and other voters do and they have a legal avenue to hold Soper accountable.
It’s an expensive pursuit of the truth. Edwards’ group had to come up with a surety bond to cover court costs if the challenge fails.
Under Colorado statute 1-11-208, once all documents are collected by the Secretary of State’s Office, including Soper’s official response, they are forwarded to the House, which is to refer the matter to the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts, where an administrative law judge would adjudicate the case.
Soper may very well prevail, but at least we’ll find out how he justified his behavior and decision-making. He’ll have to answer to voters concerned about the integrity of the election process. Perhaps in the process, Soper will realize how he compromised his own integrity by taking liberty with the rules.
(Colorado Springs) The Gazette, Dec. 19, on addressing the teen vaping craze:
Teen consumption of nicotine vapor throughout the country rose 10 percent in the past 30 days over a similar period a year ago. Tuesday’s announcement by the National Institute for Drug Abuse marks the largest increase of any substance use in the agency’s 43 years of tracking.
The youth vaping craze undermines decades of progress toward tobacco-use reduction and cessation among teens. Mayor John Suthers, the Colorado Springs City Council, Gov.-elect Jared Polis, and all state legislators should quickly address this problem.
The announcement led U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams to issue an advisory Tuesday urging state and local restrictions on vaping products. Adams suggests taxes and indoor vaping bans.
Nicotine, Adams said, is “very and uniquely harmful” to the developing brains of young people. It can impair learning and memory and “prime the brain” for other addictions, he explained.
Amid these developments, Colorado legislators would be wise to take the advice in outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Nov. 2 proclamation about vaping.
“The Executive Orders enacted by Governor Hickenlooper. are, we believe, the best in the country,” said Colorado Springs native Dr. Martin J. Murphy, chief executive officer of the national CEO Roundtable on Cancer, in an email to The Gazette’s editorial board Tuesday.
Murphy said Hickenlooper’s leadership to combat vaping “matches vision with courage.”
A free society should allow adults to smoke and vape all they want. Some nicotine addicts consider vaping a safer alternative and a possible means of quitting an unpleasant and dangerous habit. Conversely, children do not and cannot have all the liberties of adults. Local and state governments should protect them a growing temptation of social pressure that says vaping is harmless and cool. We don’t need more generations developing lifelong addictions because of ill-informed decisions made during vulnerable years of childhood.
Hickenlooper’s order admonishes Colorado for having the highest incidence of teen vaping in the country.
Colorado’s problem is worse than it sounds. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds Colorado teens vape at twice the national average of their peers in other states.
This means Colorado can expect a future marked by higher-than-average drug and alcohol abuse, arrested brain development, cancer, and other diseases.
“Vaping can lead to nicotine addiction, and can be associated with other risky behaviors that can affect a teen’s health,” said Dr. Tista Ghosh, Interim Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Our state data shows that teens who vape are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and engage in risky sexual behaviors.”
Ghosh’s department reports nicotine smoked or vaped has “a negative effect on adolescent brain development, causing lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments, including effects on working memory and attention.”
Additionally, the department cites studies that prove “vape products can contain dangerous toxins, including heavy metals and chemicals known to cause cancer and other diseases.”
Hickenlooper’s order directs the Department of Revenue to conduct double compliance checks to ensure retailers don’t sell tobacco products to minors.
The order extends all smoking prohibitions on state property to include vaping. It also directs the state to issue a health advisory and to investigate links between vaping and use of alcohol and drugs.
Hickenlooper’s memo suggests the 2019 legislature take up a six-step “Colorado Tobacco Prevention Blueprint,” which includes:
. Extend the excise tax on tobacco products to all vaping products.
. Require licensure of retailers who sell vaping products (similar to marijuana and alcohol).
. Require internet retailers of vape products to implement age verification procedures, billing and shipping address matching, and use of mail carriers that offer point-of-delivery age verification.
. Update the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act to restrict use of vape in public places that prohibit cigarette and pot use.
Those are solid recommendations. Two others would affect adult consumers, raising concerns that cannot be readily dismissed: Raise the minimum age to buy tobacco and vape products to 21; and prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products in Colorado.
The surgeon general, the governor, the past and present directors of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the National Institute for Drug Abuse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CEO Roundtable on Cancer, and others, all warn of a large and growing problem with teens and even pre-teens vaping tobacco.
Local and state politicians should listen to these experts and take swift action. They should combat this latest menace that threatens the health of our youths and the quality of our future.
The Denver Post, Dec. 14, on mistakes made in Aurora police killing of homeowner:
The Aurora police shooting of 73-year-old Richard Gary Black after he saved his grandson from a violent home intruder ranks as one of the most poignant local tragedies of the year. But it’s not a tragedy with a villain. Adams County District Attorney Dave Young was right to reject criminal charges this month against the officer who pulled the trigger.
Even so, the fact that police aren’t criminally liable for killing an innocent man doesn’t always mean they did everything possible to avoid that outcome. And we would hope Aurora police’s internal investigation acknowledges that fact in this case.
A glaring lapse in the police response — or so it seems to us — was their failure to identify themselves in the chaos of those early morning hours of July 30.
Part of that chaos is on display in police body camera footage released to the public; it is also recounted in multiple interviews in the district attorney’s 26-page report. A seemingly crazed, naked man — later identified as Dajon Harper — broke through the door of the home where Black, his wife and his stepson lived and attacked Black’s 11-year-old grandson, who was staying with them that weekend. Other people from a raucous party across the street followed Harper into the house.
Black shot and killed Harper after a melee in the bathroom during which the grandson was being strangled and Black was apparently struck on the head with a vase.
By this time, several officers were at the front door. They heard the shots and observed Black emerging into view seconds later carrying a gun (for which he had a permit) and a flashlight. Police ordered Black several times to drop his gun before Officer Drew Limbaugh shot him several times. Neither the video nor the DA’s report indicate they ever shouted “police.”
As the district attorney explains, police had no way of knowing that Black was not the intruder himself bent on further violence. And it was reasonable to believe that Black “presented a threat to the officers because he did not drop the weapon and could shoot at any moment.”
But the DA also concedes that “perhaps Mr. Black did not know that it was police standing at his front door.” It was dark outside and he undoubtedly was in a high pitch of adrenaline and confusion. Significantly, he never raised his gun at police. He raised his flashlight.
Black, a decorated Vietnam veteran, had substantial hearing loss, according to family attorneys, so it’s possible he didn’t hear the officers’ commands and wouldn’t have heard them shout “police” in any case. But nobody can say for sure, and the alternative is also possible: Shouting “police” might have helped him understand what was going on.
In response to the shooting of Black, State Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said she wants to create statewide rules for evaluating when officers can return to work after a fatal shooting, since Limbaugh had killed another man on June 27 who pointed a gun at police. She may be right that such rules are needed, but Aurora already seems to have solid procedures in place. Police Chief Nick Metz said Limbaugh met with psychologists and participated in a peer support program before returning to duty two weeks after the first shooting.
With or without him on duty, police should have identified themselves that night. In fact, they should always do so when their identity might not be obvious.