Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Associated Press
Jul. 12, 2017
The Gazette, July 11, on making Colorado gubernatorial race about roads:
It's the highways, stupid. Transportation should determine who wins the Colorado governor's race in 2018.
Early stages of the contest became more interesting this week when U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter dropped from the Democratic field.
Perlmutter's withdrawal creates new challenges for Republicans, who were counting on a primary bloodbath between Perlmutter and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis. Only three days prior, Republican strategist Roger Hudson expressed delight on Colorado Public Television at the prospect of an ugly primary among the two leading Democrats.
Hudson hoped Polis would drag Perlmutter far to the left. One would survive, badly injured by a primary slugfest.
"Jared Polis is the new Bernie Sanders," Hudson told host Jon Caldara, chairman of the center-right Independence Institute. "I think it's awesome for us."
Hudson predicted Polis or Perlmutter would find himself so far out left the voters of rural Colorado would rally for a Republican like how voters throughout the country got behind Donald Trump. He said the Democratic Party chair should have demanded the men decide "one of you, not both of you."
Maybe Democrats watch Republican advisers on Friday night TV.
Polis, a self-made businessman, can appear pro-business and can self-fund by tapping hundreds of millions in personal wealth. He has a base of multiple special interest coalitions, including environmentalists.
With Perlmutter likely gone, Democrats have five declared candidates and one obvious front-runner in Polis. Republicans have seven declared, others likely to join and no clear front-runner. Each party is loaded with self-funding multimillionaires, making fundraising an unusually low-ranking factor.
Going forward, expect Democrats to quickly narrow their field. They are too politically savvy to risk a contentious primary. Why Polis? He brings a sprouting "conservatives for Polis" millennial social media trend and a high ranking by the libertarian-friendly House Liberty Caucus. He is the amiable father of adopted kids and a folksy celebrity who wears bow ties on polo shirts.
Meanwhile, expect a Republican nominee who's bleeding, stumbling and crying for Adrian Balboa on the primary stage. That's the typical scene, and a major reason why Coloradans have elected Democrats as four of the past five governors.
Colorado elections are won in the middle, by attracting the million-plus unaffiliated voters who outnumber Democrats and Republicans. Typically, these contests weigh heavily on personality, image and charm.
Without star quality on the ticket, Republicans need an issue-centric race.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Legislature have failed Coloradans for years, overfunding special-interest Medicaid residents and dwelling on minutia. Hard-working taxpayers are left with dangerous highways and bridges. They are told nothing can be done. They'll have to wait.
Each party would benefit by quickly deciding on one candidate who can most passionately articulate a logical, affordable plan for leading a swift solution to the transportation crisis.
Somebody, from either party, come forward with a pledge to solve the problem that undermines us all. It is far past time to fix the damn roads.
The Greeley Tribune, July 11, on zero tolerance for sex trafficking and sexual assault allegations:
One of the most repulsive and horrific criminal arrest affidavits we have seen in a long time is the one that details allegations of rape, human trafficking for sexual servitude and stalking involving the owners of two used car dealerships in Greeley.
The Weld County Grand Jury on June 30 indicted Noman Boroumand, 45, and Fares Al Rashed, 38, on a total of 36 charges between them. Boroumand is accused of 29 charges and Al Rashed seven charges. There are four adult women and one child who have accused the two men of the charges.
A few of the victims testified before a Weld District Court judge recently.
"My entire life revolves around looking over my shoulder," one woman said. "I am terrified."
We fully understand both men are presumed innocent until they either plead guilty or are convicted in a trial before a jury.
The attorneys for both men made that point forcefully in the appearance before Weld District Court Judge Shannon Lyons.
"The chances of conviction is somewhere between slim and none, and none has left town," said Robert Ray, attorney for Boroumand. "Every victim in this case is an ex-girlfriend. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
The kind of behavior laid out in the arrest affidavits deserves a fair trial, to be sure.
We applaud the Greeley Police Department, Weld District Attorney's Office and the Weld County Grand Jury for their lengthy and detailed investigation that resulted in these charges. We are glad these allegations will be aggressively prosecuted, and we will await the outcome of a trial and their court appearances.
We believe it's important to send a message to the community that allegations of sex trafficking and sexual assault will be treated with the utmost importance in our community.
The aunt of one of the accusers said it even better in her court appearance before the judge: "Please use every tool at your disposal to ensure this defendant" doesn't continue this behavior, she said. "It is vitally important to make the statement that these crimes will not be tolerated in civilized society."
The Denver Post, July 10, on voter records as public records:
After the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked all 50 states to provide publicly accessible voter registration data, outrage spread like wildfire. Many governors and secretaries of state, hoping not to get burned, balked at the request. In the process, they conveniently ignored their public records laws.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams took a more measured course. He might be a little overly optimistic about the value of the commission's work, but he responded to the records request by saying he would follow Colorado law. Registered voters' name, home address, party affiliation, birth year, phone number (if provided) and whether they voted in past elections are all public records in Colorado. Anyone can have them, even members of a presidential commission.
President Donald Trump formed the commission to root out massive voter fraud. He believes, but has offered no evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, giving Hillary Clinton a popular vote victory if not an Electoral College one.
At best, the commission is on a wild goose chase. At worst, it is based on a lie. Study after study has found that voter fraud is exceedingly rare. At worst, it is laying the groundwork for voter suppression.
Yet Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the commission, and his team of voter fraud conspiracy theorists want to dig into the voter records. Hence the letter to states.
Many of the states that have refused to comply cite the same sorts of concerns as California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. "California's participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud," he said.
Perhaps California's open government laws give their elected officials the right to pick and choose whose request is acceptable and whose is not.
In Colorado, like most states, why someone wants a record is almost always irrelevant. All that matters is that the record is public. Anyone from a blogger in Boulder to the president's commission can receive Colorado voter registration records.
Secretary of State Williams will follow the law, as he should. We encourage him to charge a reasonable fee for producing the records, just like Colorado officials do when regular people ask for records. He also should make sure to transmit the records securely, not just in an insecure email as the commission asked.
Not everything that Trump's election commission sought is public. For example, partial Social Security numbers are exempt from disclosure in Colorado. Withholding those exempt records is right in any state, but a blanket refusal goes too far.
Coloradans who don't want their voter registration records shared with the Trump administration or anyone else can request confidentiality. In order to qualify, one must believe that a member of one's household will be subject to criminal harassment or bodily harm because the record is publicly available. Just visit your county clerk's office in person and complete the form. If you do so quickly, you might qualify before records are pulled for the presidential commission.
Withholding public records simply because you don't like the president or because he is investigating election fraud sets a terrible precedent and is perhaps illegal.
The Coloradoan, July 7, on Fort Collins should stay the course on homeless services:
Fort Collins police, officials and residents are in the midst of making sense of a terrible tragedy.
A Fort Collins resident and young mother, Heather "Helena" Hoffman, was found dead in Sheldon Lake in City Park. Police believe she was killed and sexually assaulted by a self-described transient man who in May registered as a sex offender with the state.
If social media commentary is any indication, some residents' fears and frustrations toward Fort Collins' transient population have boiled over. Joining that chorus, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith on Facebook called out service providers who "enable and encourage" criminality among transient people by providing them the same services offered to our community's homeless population.
Smith has repeatedly said transient crime is taxing the county jail, and the Coloradoan Editorial Board acknowledges that overcrowding, regardless of each inmate's living situation, is a problem that needs solving.
But transience alone is not a reason to suspect wrongdoing. This way of life has been a part of human culture from the beginning. Early man was a transient creature, following food sources. With the agricultural revolution, man started to settle down, but still many followed a wandering path throughout history.
They were called gypsies, minstrels, hippies.
Established communities have historically looked upon these travelers with suspicion and prejudice.
But here in the United States, our freedoms include the freedom to live wherever we like, as long as are not breaking any laws in doing so.
For that reason, the Coloradoan Editorial Board doesn't agree with the sheriff's approach to this challenging situation.
Should our community be tough on crime? Yes. But eliminating services that help hundreds of our neighbors each year is not a viable answer. Cutting off services that may be attractive to the criminally transient disproportionately harms local residents working to get out of homelessness.
Showing compassion for those less fortunate is not soft; it is not enabling criminal behavior. And publicly shaming those trying to offer compassion for those who have genuinely fallen on hard times is counterproductive.
People experiencing homelessness of any kind are more likely to be victims of violence than to perpetrate it.
Programs like Homeless Gear and Outreach Fort Collins are making important, if slow-going, connections with homeless and transient individuals to reduce disruptive behaviors and the impact of homelessness on our community.
Outreach Fort Collins' work began only last year. Both Outreach and Homeless Gear say they are adjusting how they serve the homeless populations. The City Council also approved new rules in March targeting behavior in Old Town.
Let's stay the course on the work already being done.
Judging by the lack of open comment on the issue at Wednesday's City Council meeting, changing course doesn't seem to be a priority for residents.
Fort Collins city leaders, police and service providers must ask themselves: What kind of city do they want Fort Collins want to be known as?
Fort Collins should be known as a place that doesn't tolerate criminal activity from residents, from tourists, from the temporarily displaced, from the chronically homeless or from transients. That comes from enforcing the laws we have.
It should also be known as a place where a resident who finds himself or herself without a home can access a lifeline to become self-sustaining again.
The pursuit of justice for Helena Hoffmann should not involve punishing the innocent, no matter how aggressive we seek to be in pursuing the guilty.