Colorado Editorial Roundup
Greeley Tribune, Oct. 24, on bickering over funding for the Weld County clerk’s office:
Commissioners, during a work session, heard a request from Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams for 26 new deputies for jail staff and four new patrol deputies. Commissioners could not vote on the issue during the work session, but they expressed clear support for the idea and said it would be included in the county’s 2018 budget.
Also during a work session, commissioners didn’t express the same support for a request from Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes for two new positions at her office.
To be clear, we have absolutely no issue with Reams’ request, or with the support commissioners gave it. As Weld County’s population continues to expand, we realize there will be a corresponding expanding need for more law enforcement.
If Reams says he needs those positions to maintain order in the county, and Weld County Finance Director Don Warden is on board, we support the idea and applaud commissioners for supporting it.
What we can’t understand, though, is how commissioners were able to work so seamlessly with one county department to make sure its needs are met for the coming year while public bickering and personal grudges seem to have derailed that same process with another department.
There is, of course, some history regarding requests from Koppes regarding staffing in her office.
After an independent audit curiously recommended seven new employees for the clerk and recorder’s office, Koppes asked for 11, drawing ire from commissioners — specifically commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer — as well as from Warden.
At the time, we said both sides needed to sit down, forget the squabbling and make the right decision for the county.
To Koppes’ and Warden’s credit, they seemed to have done just that. And when Koppes made the request for two additional positions, Warden supported the request.
So why was Kirkmeyer more interested in rehashing the beef she had about Koppes’ public complaint regarding staffing at her office?
It seems to us if Koppes’ initial request was deemed too excessive by the commissioners, and she returned with a more reasonable request, there shouldn’t be an issue.
Instead, Kirkmeyer continues to dwell on petty squabbling.
Fortunately, yet another work session — No. 3 — is on tap for commissioners to discuss the staffing issue in the clerk and recorder’s office. We hope Kirkmeyer leaves the bickering at the door and comes prepared to make the best decision for Weld County.
The Denver Post, Oct. 23, on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s appearance in a beef industry video:
When Scott Pruitt visited Colorado in August, he took some time to shoot a video for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In it, he attacked an Obama-era clean water rule. Now congressional Democrats say Pruitt might have broken the law. If he didn’t, he sure skated closer to the line than the head of the Environmental Protection Agency should.
Pruitt spoke out against the Waters of the United States rule in the video and urged ranchers to comment on it. The Beef Association posted it on their website and further urged people to tell their representatives not to allow the EPA “to trample on your constitutional rights.”
The Waters of the United States rule, sometimes called WOTUS, was passed to clarify which wetlands and other bodies of the water in the nation are protected by the Clean Water Act after the Supreme Court confused the issue.
But to Pruitt and his friends in the cattle industry, the rule is nothing but federal overreach. In the video, Pruitt said the rule was a way to expand the Clean Water Act to cover “a puddle, a dry creek bed and ephemeral drainage ditches across this country.”
Democrats, who by and large want to protect Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, cried foul. In a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office, four top congressional Democrats asked for an investigation into whether Pruitt’s appearance broke rules prohibiting federal officials from using taxpayer money “for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television, or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress.”
That looks pretty straightforward to us.
As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt was well known for being exceptionally cozy with the special interests that funded his campaigns and for using his office to further their agenda. He sued the EPA more than a dozen times over regulations affecting the oil and gas industry.
But now that he’s head of the EPA, he should know better than to actually appear in an industry propaganda video while traveling in his official capacity. He should, but, apparently, he does not.
This is not the only controversy surrounding Pruitt — or his travels to Colorado. He is one of several Trump Cabinet members under scrutiny for spending taxpayer money for travel on private jets.
Pruitt has spent at least $58,000 on noncommercial and military flights — including $5,700 for a flight from Denver to Durango. In that case, despite an offer from Gov. John Hickenlooper to ride on the state plane, Pruitt said he needed a charter flight to Durango because a delay of his previously scheduled commercial flight would have caused him to miss an important meeting at Gold King Mine. All of the other flights with his staff and security detail that, coincidentally, brought Pruitt close to home for the weekend aren’t so easily dismissed.
President Donald Trump ran promising to “drain the swamp.” In his inaugural address, he promised that his administration would be “transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
When numerous officials get caught up in scandals for flying around in private jets at taxpayer expense and for being way too cozy with special interests, Trump’s promises ring very hollow.
The Cortez Journal, Oct 23, on commissioners losing credibility with ‘fake news’ ploy:
Montezuma County’s commissioners now say they didn’t intend their Oct. 2 vote to discontinue funding for the local extension office to be viewed as, well, a decision to discontinue funding.
According to community radio station KSJD, Commissioner Larry Don Suckla says the move was “fake news” to bring the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension program’s regional director to the bargaining table. The commissioners want the local extension director replaced, the news report says; their goal isn’t to sever the relationship with the state program or defund the local office.
Fake news is generally an accusation leveled at the news media by politicians who don’t want to admit to or deal with inconvenient facts. For the commissioners to involve the media in a campaign of disinformation is a different twist on a disturbing phenomenon of dishonesty.
We don’t even know whether this is the truth. Maybe they had a plan, received a lot of negative responses from the public, and decided it wasn’t such a good plan after all. There’s no shame in that.
Regardless, they now may have gained some leverage at the expense of their credibility, locally and with the network of extension agents statewide.
If constituents had been trusted with honest information, they could have spent the two weeks between the commissioners’ votes understanding and providing input on the real issues — the apparent need for improved communications between the extension office and the commissioners, if Extension Director Tom Hooten is still the right person for the job or something else. The commissioners’ actions suggest that they do not value public input.
We understand the need to get extension representatives to take the issue seriously. But stunts like this - essentially deceiving constituents — is certainly not what citizens elect leaders to do.
This is not the way adults solve problems. They make progress not by trickery, not by yanking anyone around, but by capitalizing on the expertise and the best ideas of everyone who is involved. They sit down and talk honestly about an issue, propose solutions, discuss the impediments to those solutions and eventually arrive at a plan of action, together.
Montezuma County is not Washington, D.C., and the commissioners definitely should not emulate the nonsense that seems to have become the norm there.
Like it or not, brinksmanship is part of politics. Misleading constituents, however, should not be. Deception is the shameful opposite of the transparency that makes possible government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The Coloradoan, Oct. 20, on a Fort Collins broadband initiative:
We encourage Fort Collins voters to approve Ballot Question 2B and allow the city to establish its own fiber optic gigabit internet service.
Not because municipal broadband would fill a major gap in broadband access. Opponents estimate 98 percent of city residents have some sort of broadband access, cellphones included.
Not because the city has put forward a bulletproof plan. We’ve yet to see satisfactory answers to many details of the business model that includes borrowing $150 million to establish the service.
Among them: Will the city operate this new kind of utility on its own, or will it work with a partner experienced in delivering broadband internet access? What low-cost solution will the city offer in addition to its suggested $70 monthly gigabit service and $50 monthly 50 megabit service? What level of certainty does the city have that it can woo at least 28 percent of residential customers away from Comcast and Century Link to make its plan pencil out?
Honestly, we don’t know. We won’t unless the city moves forward with its plan.
What we do know is this: The majority of this board supports taking that next step. Here’s why:
If Fort Collins is serious about being a place of equity and inclusivity where all schoolchildren can access the same learning tools at home, where workers can effortlessly telecommute instead of adding to Interstate 25 gridlock, and where shut-in and disabled residents can afford a vital link to the outside world, the city has ample incentive to offer its own gigabit internet service to a growing population with increasingly diverse needs.
A yes vote on 2B will give the city the opportunity, at City Council’s direction, to establish broadband policies that private-sector providers have little incentive to implement due to their reliance on coaxial cable and reasonable focus on profitability.
Private-sector broadband has served Fort Collins well, aside from shared gripes about customer service. But bringing the city’s triple-bottom-line approach to broadband changes the conversation about what is possible.
Instead of being a profit-driven service, Fort Collins broadband has the potential to be the type of barrier-busting community connector that the city’s MAX bus rapid-transit system has become.
Construction of the system isn’t expected to start until 2019. In the year that Fort Collins will spend finalizing its plan, it should:
Pursue a true “retail plan” that gives the city the most direct control over the service offered. Fort Collins Utilities has a proven track record of providing quality service and value — themes that will be critical for a broadband utility.
Build a robust network of early residential and business adopters by taking a page from the city of Longmont’s playbook and providing incentives for those who sign up early — and for those who remain loyal in ensuing years.
Establish a low-cost level of service for families who qualify for housing assistance through Housing Catalyst and for families of schoolchildren who qualify for free and reduced-price meals at public schools within the city’s growth management area.
Most importantly, with up to $150 million of voter-approved debt on the line, the city must ensure that broadband service eventually pencils out. Based on revenue and sign-up projections, supporters say municipal broadband will start paying for itself after 14 years, giving Fort Collins Utilities an estimated $27 million in new revenue in year 15.
That’s money that could be used upgrade the city’s broadband infrastructure — no system is “future-proof,” regardless of what anybody tells you — or support other utilities operations.
City utilities customers stand to lose, however, If those estimates don’t come to fruition. An additional $17 on utilities customers’ monthly bills for the life of bond repayments is a pill no resident should have to swallow for a misguided decision to jump into a new realm of operations.
Even with a yes vote this November, City Council will have the option to pull the plug on municipal broadband in the coming year. It should use that option as necessary.
But in order to avoid that, City Council and city staff must spend the next year vetting all assumptions around this plan and ensuring that the city’s “take rate” — the rate of which residents sign up — will mirror Longmont’s 51 percent rate for NextLight broadband service sooner than later.
There’s reason to believe that Fort Collins can replicate, or even exceed, Longmont’s success in the realm of municipal broadband. Fort Collins has a young, well-educated population that prides itself on technological savvy and entrepreneurship — areas that stand to benefit from stable, high-speed internet service.
Fort Collins prides itself on the pursuit of being world-class.
If the city can successful combine the audacity to believe that it can succeed where others have failed with another year of sound planning before giving municipal broadband the go-ahead, its establishment of a broadband utility that allows its businesses and residents to more freely and efficiently share information would certainly be a world-class endeavor.