- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Pueblo Chieftain, May 31, on staffing rural schools:

Colorado State University-Pueblo has joined the state’s Rural Education Collaborative in an effort that seems to be generating about the same amount of stir as when schoolmarms arrived in the outlying towns of the Old West.

An effort to attract qualified teachers to Southeastern Colorado’s rural school districts is underway thanks to a grant from the state’s Higher Education Department. The first step for the program, which received additional help from Generation Schools Network and Battelle for Kids, took place earlier this month in Walsenburg.

Eight aspiring teachers took part in the pilot. For three days, the would-be teachers met students, staff and community members in the Huerfano School District Re-1, receiving professional development to prepare for their classroom experience and taking tours of the school and community to immerse themselves in rural Colorado - its lifestyle, traditions and history.

“This recruitment experience gives us a chance to highlight our close-knit community and the benefits of teaching in a rural district, and we get to know the candidates better by working together over a few days,” said Huerfano Superintendent Michael Moore.

There is a critical need for teachers in what are termed the South Central BOCES school districts in Pueblo, Fremont, Crowley, Custer, Huerfano, Las Animas and Otero counties. Additional aspiring-teacher rural school immersion experiences are planned at those districts in the fall and next spring.

We support this effort to better educate children in the rural areas who do not have the access to libraries, museums and learning opportunities offered to those living in the larger cities, and wish CSU-Pueblo and the Rural Education Collaborative great success with this latest outreach program.

Editorial: https://tinyurl.com/hh3gsrn


The Durango Herald, May 30, on Camp Hale:

Colorado’s Sen. Michael Bennet has a plan to honor and protect Camp Hale, the legendary former Army base near Leadville. He would make it the nation’s first National Historic Landscape, a designation that would allow for enhanced educational elements while preserving it from development and maintaining its recreational uses.

The main thing, of course, is to honor Camp Hale and the men who served there, and to recognize the pivotal role they played in Colorado history. Together, they are as much responsible as anyone for creating the Colorado we know today.

Camp Hale was constructed in 1942 to train troops in winter and mountain warfare. It is at 9,200 feet near Tennessee Pass, north of Leadville. A number of units trained there, but the first and most famous was the 10th Mountain Division. The Army recruited skiers and outdoorsmen from around the country and trained them in the kind of warfare employed by the Finnish army in the Winter War of 1939-1940 against the Soviet Union. Photos from the time show men on skis clad all in white. More than 14,000 trained there.

The 10th Mountain was deployed late in the war, with its most famous engagement occurring in Italy. In February of 1945, in what was really an exercise in armed rock climbing - at night - the men of the 10th Mountain scaled a steep formation called Riva Ridge. The division then took the highest mountain in the region, Mount Belvedere, while suffering heavy casualties.

But the 10th Mountain Division’s greatest impact on Colorado came later. Returning to civilian life, many of its veterans employed the skills they had honed to develop skiing and the entire outdoor recreation industry. Army-surplus skis and gear combined with young, fit men and a love of the sport. Vail, Aspen, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Steamboat are just a few of the roughly 60 ski areas founded by veterans of the 10th Mountain.

Much of what the world now envisions at the mention of Colorado can be traced directly to those men - and to Camp Hale. Bennet is right to want to see it preserved.

Editorial: https://tinyurl.com/gomrfbg


The Denver Post, May 30, on the murder of Tom Clements

The stunning confirmation that the assassination of Colorado prisons director Tom Clements three years ago was in all likelihood ordered and arranged by a white supremacist gang raises fresh questions about the handling of the tragedy by local and state officials.

First, what level of candor do those officials owe the public in what is probably the most high-profile execution-style killing in the state’s history?

No one expects law enforcement and elected officials to betray secrets that might jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation. But it’s been three years and the likelihood of further arrests related to Clements’ murder is increasingly remote. Didn’t the public deserve to know before now that all signs point to a conspiracy involving the 211 Crew, on whose behalf Evan Ebel, the trigger man who shot Clements, apparently acted?

And yet until Sunday’s report by The Denver Post’s Kirk Mitchell on documents obtained from Texas law enforcement, the degree of contact between Ebel and 211 Crew members after Ebel’s release from prison in January 2013 was mostly a closely guarded secret. It was not until two months ago, in fact, that former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and former sheriff’s Inspector John San Agustin - both of whom, ironically, were just indicted by a grand jury - revealed to The Post’s Mitchell that they thought charges should have been filed against several 211 Crew members.

Texas Ranger investigator James Holland’s opinion is even more blunt: “The murder of the Colorado Department of Corrections director was ordered by hierarchy of the 211 prison crew,” his report says.

When were state and local officials - from the governor’s office on down - going to let the public in on the fact they believed a prison gang ordered the killing of the prisons chief? Or was that going to be quietly swept under the rug forever?

Speaking of the governor, shouldn’t John Hickenlooper have appointed a special prosecutor to take over the case when it became clear the El Paso sheriff’s office was in a state of meltdown in 2014 and yet was still in charge of the investigation? That would have been a major intervention, we realize, something rarely done in Colorado. But state law does give the governor broad authority to appoint the attorney general as special prosecutor (who can then designate someone to lead in the case) if he fears justice is at risk.

Gov. Roy Romer transferred a child-molestation case to the attorney general in 1987 - a move that resulted in charges and a conviction.

And in 1999, Gov. Bill Owens drafted several district attorneys to look into the state of the Boulder DA’s probe into the death of JonBenét Ramsey, who’d been killed three years earlier, before concluding a special prosecutor would probably make no difference and declining to appoint one.

The original lead El Paso County investigator in the Clements case, San Agustin, resigned in 2014 and the current sheriff, Bill Elder, has a single deputy on the case. It is not an encouraging scenario - especially since the clock on the Colorado statute of limitations for “accessory after the fact, murder” may already have run out.

And yet, if the Texas ranger’s conclusion is right, Tom Clements’ murder still cries out for full accountability and justice.

Editorial: https://tinyurl.com/jtv4u3f


The Vail Daily, May 31, on open government:

Nearly all of us agree that open government is a good thing. On Tuesday, Eagle County’s government provided some good news on that front.

The county has a relatively new website called Open Eagle County. That web portal provides information on commissioner and board agendas, all supporting materials, a video archive of public meetings and a lot more.

The site recently added every county government contract dating back to 1974. According to the site, people can browse contracts by year, or search by keywords. Contracts can also be downloaded and printed.

While this web portal is great for government watchdogs, it’s also good information for the many local and regional companies that do business with the county and its various departments.

Say three businesses are pitching to provide a service to the county. Competitors who didn’t win the bid can see the contract terms between the county and the winning bidder. That allows companies to adjust their proposals the next time that contract comes up for renewal. More-informed competition could help the county receive better goods and services for its money, and that’s a benefit to all of us.

These contracts have always been public documents, but as anyone who’s searched government records will attest, internet access to information is usually a superior way to find information.

The Open Eagle County site also provides real-time information on county spending, down to transactions on officials’ government-issued credit cards.

That’s a lot of detail for an organization with an annual budget in the neighborhood of $100 million. It’s also a level of detail that, until a few years ago, simply wouldn’t have been accessible to county residents.

This doesn’t mean all of the county’s information is now online. The law allows the county to keep records about personnel decisions and legal negotiations out of the public eye. There are legitimate reasons for those exceptions, although too many state and local governments push the boundaries of those rules.

Still, this trove of information is a good thing.

Too often, government transparency is a self-contradiction along the lines of marijuana initiative.

Our county seems willing to put most of its business into the public domain, and that’s worthy of praise.

Editorial: https://tinyurl.com/zuygeos

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