- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Aurora Sentinel, Feb. 15, on the death penalty:

Ending Colorado’s death penalty is no longer just about doing the right thing; it’s about doing the only thing the state can.

We have long argued that the death penalty is a repugnant, barbaric holdover from an unenlightened society, putting Colorado and much of the United States in the dubious company of North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

It’s a tragedy that Senate Bill 95 died in a state Senate committee last week on a party-line vote, but it’s not too late to try the measure in the State House, and let the public persuade partisan Republicans how very wrong they are on this issue.

The arguments against the death penalty, which is simply revenge murder, are compelling and unequivocal:

- The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. This has been substantiated in numerous studies, numerous times. Murder is almost always the result of severe psychological illness, drugs, alcohol or passion. None of those causes is affected by executions or any other laws.

- The death penalty is not equally or fairly applied in Colorado, or anywhere in the country. Murder for murder, it is a far greater percentage of poor minorities who are handed the death penalty than richer, whiter murderers. And in Colorado, every person on death row got there from an Arapahoe County court, although heinous murder cases arise across the state. Had Chuck E. Cheese’s killer Nathan Dunlap committed his sadistic 1993 crime anywhere but in Aurora, he would have been given life without parole.

- The death penalty is obscenely expensive. A recent study of the death penalty in Maryland shows that it costs about $3 million to bring a death penalty convict to the death chamber. The same capital case without the threat of death penalty costs about $1 million, according to the study. Death penalty states have spent billions of dollars on capital punishment systems since they were re-authorized in 1978.

- Even for those who have no qualms about killing people back for their crimes, the death penalty is ineffective because it simply takes so long to invoke. Not long ago, the average death sentence was 28 years, now down to about 18 years. A full 25 percent of capital punishment cases still die of natural causes before they make it to the death chamber. Dunlap killed four employees of the Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in 1993. It took 20 years to pull a date for his execution two years ago, set aside by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

If that’s not convincing enough, and if the moral argument against savagely murdering another human for any reason isn’t compelling, consider that the capital punishment system simply doesn’t and can’t work. More than one Aurora Sentinel story has pointed out that even if Colorado were able to get a death penalty case to the execution chamber, the state cannot obtain the drugs it needs to carry out such an execution.

And Colorado can no longer even get capital convictions. Even a case as repulsive as the Aurora theater shootings has been unable to persuade a jury to murder the convict for his horrific crime. The only thing that adds up from these cases is the massive bill taxpayers must pony up to prosecute a death penalty case, just to lose it. And even if there’s a win, the exorbitant expense of decades of appeals and special prison accommodations only compounds the folly.

Once again, state Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, offered a bill that addresses only future cases, calling for life in prison without parole for the worst of the worst cases to come before future courts. Her arguments for ending the death penalty are especially persuasive because she knows firsthand every nuance of a death penalty case. Her 73-year-old father was murdered while working in a convenience store in 1975. She has since steadfastly worked to help us all understand that revenge isn’t justice.

“It wouldn’t bring justice to my daddy, all that he was, all that he did,” Guzman said previously. “Because it was an act of violence, but my daddy was never a violent man.”

It’s time to end the expensive, barbaric, ineffective and broken revenge-killing system in Colorado. The state House should revive the issue, and every state lawmaker should vote yes on what is the only way forward.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2kXyTUW


The Durango Herald, Feb. 21, on a new formula for state spending:

There are several components to the Taxpayer’s Bill Of Rights amendment to Colorado’s Constitution, but the two to which residents pay the greatest attention are the requirement that voters approve tax increases and that annual state spending is limited to population increase plus the change in the consumer price index.

There is little interest in eliminating the mandate to vote on tax increases - polling shows dropping that provision is a nonstarter - but some good minds are suggesting that using the population increase and CPI is not the most relevant method to determine state spending.

A new bill proposes a five-year average of personal income as the benchmark.

The CPI, advocates point out, is composed of everyday items that a household purchases: food, clothing and cellphone charges, for example, and that those items are not reflective of what the state buys, or needs. The state funds highway construction and health care, for example, and those costs have risen far faster than the CPI. Since 1993, the CPI has climbed 64 percent, while the cost of road construction has doubled and health care is up 122 percent, according to arguments for the legislation. Education has jumped a little more than 200 percent since 1993.

And, better to base funding for the state’s needs on personal income, which is a more accurate measure of how well Coloradans are doing financially and thus able to support the state’s needs. And to apply a five-year average, rather than a single year, or two, provides needed consistency and predictability.

Those wary of the impact on their wallets of the possible change in the TABOR spending formula are probably thinking yes, but just how much more tax money will this mean for the state?

For fiscal year 2015, using personal income would have meant an additional $140 million, which was almost equal to the $154 million which was returned to taxpayers because of the excess revenue over population growth and the CPI.

For the upcoming fiscal year 2018, the state would have an estimated additional $513 million to spend in a year in which $256 million is projected to be returned to taxpayers.

That estimated fiscal 2018 increase is the sort of amount that begins to cover the additional needs for highways, and perhaps a start for education, two critical components for any state.

Personal income has been climbing, and that would better position the state to cover today’s needs and to make infrastructure investments for the future. No need to count population with this change, as an aggregate personal income amount would consist of population as well as wages and unearned income.

Moving from tallying consumer spending to personal income, with a five-year average, could establish a more meaningful cap on state spending. Think of this as modernizing TABOR, as proponents argue, while maintaining TABOR’s fiscal discipline.

We look forward to the legislative debate.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2ltcsbY


The Denver Post, Feb. 17, on moving Utah’s outdoor show to Colorado:

Outdoor Retailer, the multimillion-dollar outdoor industry trade show, is officially ditching Utah in protest over anti-public lands sentiment from the state’s politicians, and industry leaders will be looking for a new home.

Nothing against the Beehive State, but Colorado is a natural fit for the Outdoor Retailer show, and our comparatively placid elected officials are waiting with open arms and a playground of 13.8 million acres of national forest.

Let’s start the pitch with the crux of the problem: Our politicians are simply less extreme.

Perhaps it’s the legal pot and microbreweries, but our elected officials seem slightly less unhinged.

Sure, we’ve got our fair share of public lands debate: conservatives who advocate for more drilling and mining and liberals who’d like activity limited to bird watching.

Colorado’s most conservative member of Congress, Rep. Doug Lamborn, may have a track record of not being friendly to public lands, but even he was willing to fight to legalize the once off-limits grueling endurance climb in Colorado Springs known as the Manitou Incline.

By comparison, Utah’s elected elite “gave birth” to the anti-public lands movement that has riled up Patagonia and Black Diamond. Those outdoor behemoths feel Utah’s political leaders are at odds with the very ethos of their businesses. Who could blame them after Utah’s Rep. Jason Chaffetz made public his dream of selling off 3.3 million acres of federal land in a bill he later retracted?

That kind of folly makes Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Yuma, look like a mountain climber from Boulder.

Gardner co-sponsored the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act that President Barack Obama signed in December ensuring the outdoor industry is counted as its own driving force in the Gross Domestic Product. We’d delve into Sen. Michael Bennet’s and Gov. John Hickenlooper’s support of public lands, but we don’t have space to do the Democrats’ work justice.

While Utah’s state legislators and congressional delegation have opposed and then tried to repeal or scale down the designation of national monuments, most of our elected officials have fought and cheered for the protection of spaces like Browns Canyon and Chimney Rock.

In addition to our robust federal lands, Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks and over 2.5 million acres of land open to outdoor recreation.

Many of our ski resorts need no introduction to the world. And our numerous hidden gems are worth discovering.

We’re home to the largest elk herd in North America, and our government raises 90 million sport fish annually to stock our abundant lakes and streams.

From our deserts in the west, up and over the forested and snow-capped Continental Divide, to the plains in the east, our state is a diverse paradise waiting for exploration. There’s no limit to the adventures that call to those who come to Denver for business and stay to play.

The urban core has a bustling nightlife with hipster dives, cowboy joints and refined dining. Denver voters just approved marijuana consumption venues. We have not one, but six professional sports teams.

And a new light rail takes travelers from the international airport to the iconic Union Station downtown, blocks from our convention center and plentiful hotel rooms.

Leaders with Outdoor Retailer need not feel homesick after two decades in Utah, Colorado is just across the border and life is sweet on the other side.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/2kJYjde


The Greeley Tribune, Feb. 15, on using taxpayer money to pay lobbyists:

We get it. It’s part of the game, so to speak.

Local government entities need the help of lobbyists in order to make sure their interests and - more importantly, the interests of their constituents - aren’t left on the sidelines in Denver.

The idea of using taxpayer money to pay for these lobbyists isn’t something we’re totally comfortable with in theory. In all, government entities in Weld will spend $233,000 on lobbyists this year alone. But we realize it’s the only way those entities can ensure the issues important to them will be a part of the legislative conversation.

Using taxpayer money to employ lobbyists may not be the most ideal way to make that happen, but with the fast-paced, ever-changing way government works today, it’s the best solution available to local governments.

As Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer told The Tribune, “We can’t be in the Capitol day-in and day-out. We have somebody down there keeping an eye on things.”

But while we do understand the need for these lobbyists, we strongly urge our local government entities to exercise caution when using them, especially in a couple key areas.

First, we hope they’re keeping a close eye on how much taxpayer money they are spending on lobbyists.

Although we understand the need for them, that need doesn’t justify the foolish spending of taxpayer money. We hope our local government officials make an effort to spend as frugally as possible on lobbyists while still ensuring Weld County has a strong voice in the Legislature.

Second, we encourage those local government officials to closely consider their constituents when they decide how to use lobbyists. Because taxpayer money is spent on lobbyists, they should be used to represent Weld’s taxpayers and their families.

Recently, we were disappointed Aims and Weld County lobbyists opposed a Colorado Open Records Act bill requiring public information to be released in a digital format.

We feel that bill would benefit the people who pay taxes to Aims and Weld County, and therefore, taxpayer money should not be spent trying to defeat it.

In general, though, we have found that kind of situation to be the exception rather than the rule. Given the need for lobbyists, our first impression is our local government entities are doing a good job of effectively using taxpayer money to employ them.

We hope that trend continues.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2kJUvsJ

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