- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Times-Call, June 13, on maintaining iconic mountain peaks:

They are among Colorado’s most-iconic features: the mountain peaks that reach higher than 14,000 feet.

Some are accessed through well-maintained trails, other sit either partially or fully on private property. None is an easy ascent on foot. Yet they beckon thousands of hikers each year and are loved as a way humans can measure themselves against the grand scale of nature.

A report issued last week by an outdoor advocacy group points out, however, that those 58 peaks are being loved too much.

The Colorado Fourteeners Statewide Report Card issued by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative outlines the health of each of the accesses to most of the 14,000-foot peaks in the state. Some, such as Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, were left off because of that agency’s role in maintaining the route; others, such as Culebra Peak and Little Bear Peak, were left off because they are on private property or have an access that is too hazardous to maintain.

The report isn’t pretty.

It identifies $18 million in trail repairs and access improvements that are needed to ensure the current users don’t carve steep gullies into the existing trails or create new, unplanned trails when obstacles appear on the original routes.

Several routes on Mount Elbert, the iconic peak just west of Denver, have an F grade because of the impact of human scrambles up the side. Another set of peaks, Grays and Torreys peak, get a D rating because of the overall effect of the steady hiking traffic to their summits.

Many of the peaks sit on federal lands, administered by the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. Budget pressures on those agencies will likely not allow the necessary maintenance to occur. While user fees are tempting, it’s akin to tolling what used to be a public highway.

Perhaps some of the state’s tourism and marketing money could be put to the effort because a positive experience on a Colorado peak helps tell the state’s story in a positive way as much as an advertising campaign or bumper sticker.

Love for the state’s 14,000-foot peaks shouldn’t leave them scarred.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1dIFyyu

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The Gazette, June 14, on Judge Prince nomination to the Colorado Supreme Court:

Gov. John Hickenlooper has the opportunity to correct an imbalance on the Colorado Supreme Court. He needs only to appoint District Judge David Prince to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Gregory Hobbs.

If Hickenlooper appoints anyone else, 100 percent of the Supreme Court’s justices will come from the Denver/Boulder metro area. As most Colorado residents don’t live in Denver/Boulder, at least one member of the court should hail from somewhere else.

Prince serves El Paso and Teller counties as deputy chief judge of Colorado’s 4th Judicial District. He was chosen by a Supreme Court nominating committee as one of three options for Hickenlooper to appoint by a June 25 deadline. Other finalists are state appellate Judge Richard Gabriel and University of Colorado law professor Melissa Hart.

Prince stands out among his judicial peers. Colorado’s Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation conducts routine and thorough due diligence on state judges by surveying attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants and others who have experience with them. In Prince’s last review, 81 percent of 136 attorneys recommended retention; 92 percent of 352 nonattorneys recommended retention.

“Judge Prince was rated well above average for all district court judges during this rating period by attorneys and nonattorneys alike,” a summary of the state’s evaluation says. “He was also rated well above average in the criteria of Case Management, Application and Knowledge of the Law, Communications, Demeanor and Diligence. Of equal importance he was also seen as a neutral judge with regard to bias and sentencing.”

In other words, Prince is a fair and competent judge without axes to grind.

Prince does not genuflect to a doctrinaire socio-political agenda. He won’t emerge another judicial activist in the state’s most prestigious court.

Because this judge doesn’t bring politics to the courtroom or the public square, we don’t know or care about his political affiliation.

This cannot be said of another finalist for the job. Professor Hart, who contributed to President Barack Obama’s campaigns, flaunts a left-of-center political bias that could ooze from opinions she hands down from the bench.

Hart expressed her legal/political doctrine in an opinion article for The New York Times, second-guessing the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling in Wal-Mart v. Dukes.

“The majority’s treatment of the statistical and anecdotal evidence offered by the plaintiffs shows antagonism toward claims of systemic discrimination that is part of a larger unwillingness to perceive discrimination as a continuing and serious problem,” Hart wrote.

Hart was the CU employee chosen to symbolize left-wing faculty bias when Denver’s 5280 magazine published a story titled “Is CU (still) Too Liberal?”

Hickenlooper pledged to govern for all of Colorado, not just Denver and left-wing elements of his party. He has worked hard to keep that promise. We hope he maintains the pledge by appointing a judge from the Pikes Peak region who is best known for objectivity, application and knowledge of law, demeanor and diligence.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1GLfyOn

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The Aurora Sentinel, June 15, on Congress action on marijuana after state Supreme Court ruling:

The United States can either do this the easy way or the hard way when it comes to finishing the job to end the prohibition of marijuana.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that Dish Network had every right to fire an employee who failed a random drug test because he used medical marijuana, even though he was never high at work. But exercising such rights only shows how wrong the policy and the law are.

Under current state and federal law, the court ruling is right on the money. Colorado justices found that federal law outlaws the use of marijuana, and Colorado voter-initiated state constitutional amendments legalizing medical and recreational marijuana also state that businesses do not have to change drug policies to allow for employee use outside of work.

The unanimous ruling was similar to those in five other states permitting the medical use of marijuana.

There’s no question where this is going. It’s time for Congress to act now and resolve this and other pernicious issues affecting legalized marijuana in Colorado - and almost half of every other state in the country.

Currently, there are 23 states allowing for the use of medical marijuana, and more moving in that direction each year. While Colorado was the first state to permit the recreational use of marijuana, four more are there and many more are coming.

Marijuana prohibition failed to end or even really limit the consumption of pot, and now that federal ban itself is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and this case problematic.

What Colorado and other similar states have shown is that marijuana may have real health and social concerns - as do alcohol, gambling and even obesity - but prohibition is not the way to address those problems.

As the novelty of recreational, retail marijuana wanes here in Colorado, now more than a year after it began, it’s obvious the state hasn’t been sucked into a black hole of depravity. Sure, there are real challenges in integrating a once illegal and prohibited commodity back into society: banking, regulation, use by minors, even waste. The reality is that the marijuana changes in the state have boosted Colorado’s image as being a progressive, pragmatic state, drawing scores of new residents and businesses at an almost giddy rate. Four other states have or will join Colorado to end marijuana prohibition, and numerous more will follow.

So Congress can either stop federal prohibition, allowing states to decide the issue for themselves, or after just a few more states allow for medical or recreational marijuana, legislatures can force changes on Congress.

One of the two will and must happen.

In the mean time, companies such as Dish Network, which legally fired quadriplegic Brandon Coats from his telephone center job for failing the random pot screening, would benefit from changing their own policies to reflect Colorado’s vastly changed marijuana law and attitude. Every company should be able to insist against employees being intoxicated at work, but every company should treat marijuana the same way they treat alcoholic beverages.

Changes in federal marijuana laws won’t come fast, but that shouldn’t stop companies like Dish Network from proactively changing its policies to reflect the new reality: Quality employees may choose to use marijuana medically or recreationally, and businesses may never know that - unless they unwisely test for marijuana.

But standing idly by is nothing but this century’s refer madness.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1FkFqeG

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The Denver Post, June 16, on life sentences for juveniles:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled three years ago that a mandatory life sentence without parole for a juvenile violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. At the time, it appeared Colorado would have to go back and reassess the punishment of about 50 prisoners who received such sentences between 1990 and 2006.

But the Colorado Supreme Court this month stunningly concluded otherwise, saying the federal high court’s opinion in Miller vs. Alabama was not retroactive except in cases on direct appeal at the time of the ruling.

In other words, some state prisoners sentenced under a previous law that the U.S. Supreme Court would strike down if it existed today will still be denied the possibility of parole - ever, apparently - unless something is done.

This perplexing outcome is best rectified by the state legislature. Lawmakers need to address the status of prisoners sentenced before 2006 to life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles.

Since 2006, juveniles convicted for the most serious of crimes - Class 1 felonies that include first-degree murder - receive life sentences with the possibility for parole after 40 years. That’s appropriate. Juveniles process information differently from adults; they’re more impulsive and less capable of weighing consequences. The law and courts should consider such differences.

To be sure, some juveniles commit crimes so heinous and depraved, and appear so immune to rehabilitation, that they do indeed need to be kept in prison indefinitely. But many juveniles have a chance for rehabilitation; they should at least be considered for parole at a later point.

The most logical way to rectify the status of those the Pendulum Foundation calls the Forgotten Fifty is to square their sentences with the 2006 law and provide for the possibility of parole after 40 years. Their sentences should be the same as the current law provides - neither more harsh nor more lenient.

A bill in this year’s legislature did attempt to address the status of the Forgotten Fifty, but would have provided them with a chance of parole after just 20 years in prison. The bill was killed. But now that the state high court has acted, further delay by lawmakers would be unconscionable.

This isn’t a difficult call. If providing for the possibility of parole is the right sentence for juveniles convicted after 2006, it should be the right sentence for those who were convicted before that date, too.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/1J4jE6H

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