- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Daily Sentinel, April 23, on the Bureau of Land Management considering limiting camping in Rabbit Valley in western Colorado:

What’s happening in Rabbit Valley should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who loves to get away from it all on the cheap.

Clean up after yourself - leave no trace - or else watch those opportunities to camp outside of developed campgrounds disappear.

The Bureau of Land Management has tried to get Rabbit Valley visitors to adhere to sustainable camping practices with little success. So the agency is now contemplating limiting camping to developed areas and charging fees for camp sites.

We can hear the groans of protest, but the BLM tried giving the public the benefit of the doubt and campers have come up short.



In the parlance of public lands management, Rabbit Valley is being loved to death. More than 34,000 people visited Rabbit Valley during the 2018 federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, with 30 to 50 percent of them camping.

That’s according to a newly completed environmental review of the recreation area along Interstate 70 at the Utah border. But the numbers aren’t necessarily the problem. The roads and existing campground aren’t designed for large recreational vehicles and toy haulers, which make up roughly 50 percent of all camping use.

The result is visitor-created sites in undeveloped areas. Anyone who drives out to McDonald Creek to mountain bike the Western Rim Trail is familiar with the phenomenon. The access road is lined with RVs on weekends during the spring and fall peaks.

In 2007, there were 45 such sites. Today, there are 84, each contributing to vegetation loss, along with other impacts like accumulation of trash and construction of fire rings.

As the Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reported in Monday’s paper (Earth Day, no less), the BLM sought to address those impacts through rules it put in place in 2010. But they’re not working.

“The combination of more visitors camping, the changing type of camping (more RVs and trailers), and camping areas that are not designed to meet demand has resulted in visitor arguments over campsites and the general deterioration of the recreation setting,” the BLM’s environmental assessment says.

Maybe “loved to death” isn’t the right phrase. If the area was truly loved, campers would tread lightly on the land and pack out their trash, campfire ashes and human waste.

Nevertheless, the agency is considering expanding the number of sites at Rabbit Valley developed campgrounds to 72, from 19 now, while phasing out dispersed camping in the area to address impacts from the increased visitation to the area. Under this proposal, until the improvements take place, campers would have to obtain a permit in designated undeveloped areas, committing campers to do what they should’ve done all along: use portable toilets systems and fire pans, carry out their ashes and trash and not collect firewood or disturb the campsite surface.

This proposal is subject to a public comment period through May 17. If it’s adopted, the BLM would begin another public process to impose a fee schedule for camp sites. But the idea is that “the good old days” at Rabbit Valley are probably gone. Visitors who move onto the next BLM recreation area hoping to find a secluded dispersed camping spot should leave no trace if they want to preserve the experience.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2XKUsfb

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The Pueblo Chieftain, April 21, on the case for community schools in the Pueblo school district:

When Pueblo City Schools (D60) teachers ended their historic strike last year, school board president Barb Clementi had this to say: “Today marks the start of a new beginning through which we can work together to benefit all students and move forward with budgeting and bargaining cycles that will allow us to build the truly collaborative partnership we all need and want.”

It sure sounded like Clementi was offering the proverbial olive branch, raising hope for a new era of cooperation between the school district and the teachers’ union. A year later, that hope seems a bit dimmer.

The Pueblo Education Association, the union which represents the teachers, is calling on D60 officials to embrace the “community schools” concept. Community schools - which rely on strategic partnerships to address a full range of children’s academic, financial, emotional and physical needs - are gaining popularity in school districts across the country.

The state Legislature just put its seal of approval on community schools by passing a law that defines them and would allow Colorado districts to create them.

The PEA, along with a local group called the Pueblo Education Coalition, would like D60 to pick three schools in the city where the concept could be tested. However, D60 officials seem to have dismissed this particular attempt at educational reform out of hand.

At a school board meeting in February, D60 Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso and board member Dennis Maes expressed their belief that at least one of the district’s schools already meets the definition of a community school. Community school advocates say it does not.

The new law should clear up any ambiguity on that question. In any case, it’s still puzzling why D60 won’t at least entertain the idea of expanding this concept to other schools.

Research has indicated that community schools can have a positive impact on student attendance, grades, test scores, enrollment in college preparatory classes, graduation rates and work habits. Those are all good things.

Did we mention that this is something the teachers want to try? Also, districts that have community schools are eligible for federal funding to support them.

If there’s a reason why D60 officials think community schools won’t work, they haven’t explained it.

It’s not like the teachers’ union is asking that every school in the district be converted into a community school. They’re asking for a pilot project involving three schools. If D60 officials still think that’s too many, why not give it a try at one school?

Suzanne Ethredge, PEA’s president, said she wants community schools to be part of the discussion during the next round of contract talks. It would seem like accommodating PEA’s request to experiment with community schools would be a way to earn some good will with the district’s teachers.

Are community schools as wonderful as advocates make them out to be? We don’t know. But the point is, we’ll never know unless D60 officials are willing to give this concept a chance.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2XHQFPM

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The Gazette, April 20, on Colorado Springs officials reintroducing red-light cameras to enhance safety:

We’ve all seen it. Drivers blast through intersections with careless disregard for themselves and others. Sometimes they kill. Welcome to the streets of Colorado Springs.

Last year, the city endured a record of 48 traffic fatalities.

The most common deadly crashes occur when drivers run red lights and slam into one or more cars.

The risk-reward calculation for running a red light, or trying to speed through a yellow, favors breaking the law. Our rapidly growing city cannot hire police officers fast enough to address felonies, let alone position traffic cops at intersections. That means most who run red lights face a low risk of consequence.

Fortunately, technology can perform the simple task of holding accountable those who refuse to obey traffic laws.

Red-light cameras are no longer a crude experiment. They are near perfect at catching 100 percent of scofflaws and distracted drivers who race through intersections against red lights.

Mayor John Suthers and Police Chief Vince Niski are wise to reintroduce red-light cameras, which promise to enhance safety at several of the city’s most dangerous intersections.

The city installed modern camera systems at two intersections this month and plans to add them at six more intersections soon. If things work out, expect more. The cameras will issue warnings during a phase-in period. Suspects will receive photos of their suspected infractions. The cameras are set to ticket only those who enter an intersection after the light has turned red. The objective technology never lies.

The system will generate $75 fines beginning May 9. Suspects will have the opportunity to view video of suspected infractions, choosing to pay their fines or contest the charges. Automated citations do not cause negative points on driving records.

By ensuring accountability, the cameras will deter those who otherwise run red lights in absence of patrol cars.

Opponents claim the cameras do not save lives or substantially reduce violations. They cite flimsy evidence to suggest the cameras cause drivers to slam on brakes, to avoid tickets, leading to rear-end collisions. Law enforcement concede a slight increase in rear-end collisions when cameras are new, but say those crashes pose far less danger than the side-impact collisions the cameras help prevent.

Others complain the cameras invade their privacy. That is not possible. The cameras observe only public intersections, where everything happens in full public view and is subject to photographic surveillance by anyone. No one should use a public street with an expectation of privacy.

Credible studies by those who shell out cash for car crashes tell us, beyond question, red-light cameras save lives. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit funded by insurance companies to reduce traffic collisions and save the industry money, conducted yearslong studies of 99 cities to determine whether red-light cameras save lives.

The institute’s study reviewed data from cities with red-light cameras and those without. It determined a drop in fatal red-light violations of 35 percent in cities that installed red-light cameras.

If all 99 cities had used cameras during the study period, the research concludes, “a total of 815 lives would have been saved.”

That would be hundreds of parents loving and holding their children, rather than grieving them. That would be hundreds of widows and widowers not mourning spouses while bringing up children alone. It would be a priceless amount of suffering spared.

City officials should keep going with mechanized enforcement of intersection safety. They should consider similar devices that monitor speed. They should keep the system fair and just.

In the interest of justice, keep these mechanical devices revenue neutral. Law enforcement motivated by profit can lose sight of the mission, placing money above public service.

Our city streets are not privacy zones. We do not build and maintain them to protect scofflaws and distracted drivers taking advantage of the city’s dearth of traffic cops.

Our traffic system should favor safety, civility, order and justice above all else. Modern machines can and should advance these goals. If city officials can use them to save innocent lives from preventable crashes, they have an obligation to do so.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2XGaiHQ

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