- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Denver Post, Sept. 20, on racial profiling legislation:

A group of lawmakers is gearing up to back legislation to require police in Colorado to collect racial profiling data. It’s a good idea, but it should be limited in both scope and the time the mandate applies.

Collecting data to determine whether racial profiling is a problem would amount to yet another time-consuming mandate for police. As Denver Deputy Police Chief Matt Murray told The Denver Post’s Noelle Phillips, “Even if data collection takes 45 seconds. add that to all of the calls we get. Response times would go up.”

That’s why the mandate should be limited, say, to a couple of years, as it was when a similar bill passed the legislature in 2001. That bill was overly narrow, however, as it applied only to Denver and the State Patrol, when obviously there are other cities where similar concerns about profiling exist.

Why collect the data at all? Nick Mitchell, Denver’s independent monitor tasked with civilian oversight of police, provides the best answer. He says one of the complaints he heard most often when attending scores of community meetings last year - especially in west and east Denver - is that law enforcement decisions are being made on the basis of race or geography.

Mitchell’s point is not that ethnic profiling is in fact a big problem in Denver. He’s not a cop basher. His point is that the perception is widely shared in minority communities, and there is no way to answer, let alone rebut, it without actual data.

Are black and Hispanic motorists more likely to be searched than whites after a stop? If so, is contraband turning up to justify those searches?

Mitchell supports having police fill out contact cards that would provide information such as the race and gender of the person stopped, duration of the stop, whether there was a search and what was found. And as Phillips reports, a bipartisan committee of lawmakers is studying the possibility of other categories, too.

The two-year collection of police contact data a decade ago in Denver did not reveal any stunning disparities, but some differences surfaced. According to two University of Colorado analysts, for example, blacks, whites and Hispanics “were searched generally at the same rates” in pedestrian stops, but blacks and Hispanics were somewhat more likely to be searched after traffic stops - even though “contraband seized for Hispanics was consistently lower” than for other groups.

Do such differences persist? If so, are there defensible reasons for them? It’s time to update the data and find out.

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


The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Sept. 20, on marketing marijuana to consumers:

Coloradans who buy liquor, wine or full-strength beer go to liquor stores. Patients buy prescription drugs at pharmacies. State regulations segment controlled and intoxicating substances like zoning isolates houses from factories.

But no regulatory boundaries prevent mixing pot sales with common consumer products, and a Denver-based company plans to take full advantage of the void. Native Roots, a company with a self-professed pride in “breaking new boundaries,” will open two Gas & Grass pot-peddling convenience stores in Colorado Springs next month. The company is likely to expand from there.

Gas & Grass will sell varieties of marijuana along with hats, T-shirts and other pot souvenirs in each station’s medical marijuana shop. Company officials refer to future Springs customers as “patients.” Interesting term. We have yet to find “patients” buying Penicillin and Vicodin at 7-Eleven or Kum & Go.

Coloradans voted for “medical” marijuana in 2000 and to regulate recreational pot like alcohol in 2012. Few expected psychoactive “medicine” sales at gas stations. The public’s 2012 decision anticipated a regulatory structure - like the control of alcohol sales - that would segregate drug retail from candy, soda, gasoline and such. This is common sense. Everyone operating a vehicle should be stone-cold clean and sober and not enticed to buy drugs each time they need fuel.

A federal report last week by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area links the state’s THC free-for-all to a substantial increase in Colorado highway fatalities involving marijuana during the first year of recreational sales.

The potency level of Colorado retail pot is 90 percent higher than the national average, as determined in June by the University of Mississippi’s federally funded National Products Research. Colorado pot is to Woodstock weed what Everclear is to 3.2 beer.

“Marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, and decrease motor coordination,” explains the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is the same reason alcohol causes deadly crashes.

Alcohol, wine and regular beer are sold at licensed restaurants, bars and single-purpose liquor stores. Consumers who buy liquor, wine or full-strength beer set out to do precisely that. It is not actively marketed to them each time they need gas. Marketing pot to consumers while they carry out everyday tasks is right out of the old Big Tobacco playbook. If this business model works for Gas & Grass, expect pot sales at most gas stations within the next few years. It will be a huge triumph for Big Tobacco 2.0.

State regulations should seclude retail sales of intoxicating drugs from common consumer goods. The Legislature and Gov. John Hickenlooper need to address this first thing when the 2016 session begins. If we are to regulate marijuana like alcohol - as promised by the Amendment 64 legalization campaign - we won’t sell grass with gas.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1MpI21j


The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel, Sept. 20, on Gov. Hickenlooper’s biking initiative:

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s “Colorado Pedals Project” is a welcome effort to put state money into what has so far been largely a collection of fragmented, local efforts aimed at accommodating growing numbers of bicycle riders.

“Colorado Pedals” is more than a mere accommodation. It’s an ambitious move to make the most of the state’s obvious attractions to a market with a variety of tastes, from mountain biking to road biking to leisurely trips about town.

“Colorado Pedals” will make Colorado “the best biking state,” Hickenlooper said in his announcement at the Interbike convention in Las Vegas, Nev., the largest trade event for the bicycle industry in North America.

“Being the best biking state is going to fuel our robust economic growth and tourism industry, move us toward a cleaner environment and advance our goal of being the healthiest state in the nation,” Hickenlooper said.

The plan envisions spending $60 million over four years to develop projects for bicycles and pedestrians using money from two federal programs, one aimed at promoting transportation alternatives and eliminating congestion and the other intended to improve air quality.

It also calls for $30 million from Great Outdoors Colorado grants over four years to improve bicycle and pedestrian access and paths, as well as $10 million over four years to preserve and expand the Safe Routes to School program.

We should note that the fate of Colorado Pedals hinges on the willingness of the Legislature to make hospital fees exempt from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights - an important measure for a bevy of reasons.

With all due respect to the Eastern Plains, Front Range and southern Colorado, however, we’d submit that the first and most significant spending from Colorado Pedals belongs in western Colorado.

For starters, any discussion of biking in Colorado starts and ends in Fruita, which built itself into a mountain-biking powerhouse long before the rest of the state caught up with the potential of a biking industry.

Fruita also is the base from which many bikers ride Colorado National Monument.

Simply put, the rest of the state is eating Fruita’s dust and Colorado Pedals ought to acknowledge that.

Palisade is trying to get in on the action with the Palisade Plunge, an idea that could set the model for connecting resort areas to towns and cities, in this case via a drop of 6,000 vertical feet, which would make it the biggest downhill course in the world.

Gov. Hickenlooper has observed on many occasions that he’s a booster of economic development on the Western Slope, but that more companies and employers are interested in the Front Range exclusively.

We get that here. It’s true, after all, that there’s no accounting for taste, much less trendiness.

But if the idea is to make for a seamless connection of bike paths and trails across the Centennial State, Colorado Pedals ought to roll from west to east, not the other way around.

That might give a bit of a lift to the still-struggling Western Slope economy.

It also might underscore the attractiveness of the Grand Valley for bicycle-related events and projects, maybe even reinvigorate discussion of a bike race across Colorado National Monument.

We noted reports that the USA Pro Challenge has yet to turn a profit, despite legs in population centers such as Denver and Fort Collins.

Had the Grand Valley hosted the event, we’d humbly submit it might be a moneymaker, given the natural attributes of the area and already deeply ingrained bicycle culture of the area.

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


The Durango Herald, Sept. 22, on school funding:

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday against a group of parents that had argued in a lawsuit that the Legislature’s use of the “negative factor” to cut school funding violated the voters’ wishes as expressed in Amendment 23.

The lawsuit was risky and for Colorado schools, probably a mistake. Now its consequences could spill over beyond education. By a 4-3 vote, the court, in essence, said that lawmakers can ignore the voters if they do so cleverly enough.

Amendment 23 was approved by Colorado voters in 2000. It mandated that state spending on education increase by the rate of inflation plus 1 percentage point for 10 years and by the rate of inflation every year after that. The vote was 53 percent to 47 percent.

But then the recession hit and the state was faced with radically decreased revenue. Something had to give and K-12 education is the second largest component of the state’s overall budget and the largest item in the General Fund.

To balance the budget without completely gutting other critical programs, our legislators apparently felt they had to get around Amendment 23. Their answer was the “negative factor,” a gimmick that played off the difference between base per-pupil funding and total per-pupil funding.

Under a complex formula, a number of variables such as school district size, cost-of-living and the number of children eligible for free lunches are applied to base funding to arrive at total funding. Called “factors,” these variables greatly increase total per pupil funding received by school districts.

In 2009, the Legislature decided Amendment 23 did not apply to the factors. Instead, it added a new “budget stabilization” or “negative factor” to the formula. With that, in the words of the Great Education Colorado website, “In effect, the Legislature now decides how much it wants to spend on school finance, and then adjusts the negative factor to meet that funding target.”

This year alone, as The Associated Press reported, a legislative analysis says the “negative factor” let the Legislature cut $894 million from overall state education spending.

Nonetheless, the state maintains it has been in compliance with Amendment 23 because it has continually increased base per-pupil funding - even though it has repeatedly cut total per-pupil funding.

And the court’s majority agreed, writing, “If voters had wished to increase ‘total’ per-pupil spending rather than ‘base’ per-pupil funding, they would have said so.”

Perhaps. But, as Justice Monica Marquez wrote in dissent, using the majority’s thinking lawmakers could do away with the state’s entire school funding formula as long as the “base” funding increased.

“Voters surely did not intend the annual increases to statewide base per pupil funding to be pointless,” Marquez wrote.

Exactly. And neither should votes of the people.

To say the voters understood the distinction between base per-pupil funding and total per-pupil funding is farfetched. What is well understood is the difference between more and less. And Colorado voters clearly said to spend more money on schools, not less.

That the recession put our lawmakers in a tough spot is true and Amendment 23 played a role in that. But if they can get around it with a wink and a made-up term - as the court apparently said they could - why not with other voter-approved measures? The state had to get its budget under control. But neither the “negative factor” nor Monday’s ruling represent good government.

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

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