Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Aurora Daily Sentinel, Sept. 4, on gun control and mass shootings:
If you can’t exactly remember which mass shooting came before last weekend’s West Texas rampage, you’re not alone.
America’s mass shootings are so frequent now that details often blur. Towns and victims become a fill-in-the-black response by elected officials, tweeting out their “thoughts and prayers” for the most recent mass shooting particulars.
The nations’ fast-fading response is nearly as horrific as the shootings themselves.
The Columbine Shooting, which was the beginning of “never again,” was decades and hundreds of mass-shooting victims ago. In Colorado, the 2012 Aurora theater shooting was impetus for two modest gun control measures. Those laws seemed so provocative to some at the time that they nearly destroyed the General Assembly.
They’re two of the same measures being considered by Congress again: universal background checks and a limit on firearm magazine size.
After each and every mass shooting, and these recent shootings are no different, a public call for government action is met by an even more powerful call by the National Rifle Association to do nothing.
In almost each and every case, the NRA and its supporters and congressional lackeys win. America loses.
It will come as no surprise to almost everyone, that despite a foursome of horrific mass shootings in recent weeks, the NRA and Republican lawmakers who are either complicit or outright abetting are poised to squash or diminish even the most demure of national gun control bills.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly given mixed messages on whether what, if any, gun control measures he would sign into law. While he originally signaled support at least for universal background checks, he’s recently stepped back from that, saying that mental illness is the problem in America, not guns.
The Democrat controlled House has already passed a small list of gun control measures to the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has already coyly said he won’t move on anything until Trump signals what he will sign.
It doesn’t matter how many Americans die at the hands of mass shooters. It doesn’t matter that more and more Americans increasingly live in fear of being a victim of a shooter at school, at work, at the store, or even just walking to the car.
What matters is the NRA, and the politicians it supports and controls. As long as a majority of NRA supported or complicit lawmakers remain in office, the shootings will continue, along with thoughts, prayers and empty promises.
This organization and its henchmen continually lie to Americans. Erroneously telling them: It’s not the guns.
Of course it’s the guns. Even Walmart, a long and fearsome advocate of completely unfettered gun rights and proliferation, just this week announced it would no longer sell assault weapons, handguns and associated ammunition. They’re asking patrons not to wear their guns into the store in places that allow such puerile nonsense.
“It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a memo to employees.
That’s clear to everyone. It’s also clear that the political makeup and climate of Congress must also change before anything else will. The vast majority of Americans have already made clear their attitudes have changed toward mass shootings. They want gun control.
Given the choice between their political careers or fighting against the NRA and for solid gun control, Americans can bank on the vast majority of Republicans in Congress and state legislatures having sudden epiphanies and saving their careers.
Now, Americans must act at the ballot box. Until lawmakers are installed who won’t bend to the will of the NRA, there will not be any meaningful gun control, and the mass shootings will continue.
The nation must collect and eradicate assault and military weapons and ammunition. The nation must do more to recognize and treat mental illness. The nation must empower courts and police to seize firearms from those deemed mentally unstable. And, as a nation, we must all take responsibility to become vigilant about our friends, family and neighbors who have access to firearms and raise questions about their psychological stability.
Each American mass shooting catastrophe has only one thing in common: easy access to highly lethal firearms and ammunition for the shooters. The path forward is clear.
The Denver Post, Sept. 4, on public record fees and access:
After Denver Post reporter David Migoya exposed a scandal at the Colorado Justice Department in a series of articles last month, a $2.5 million contract was canceled, high-level employees resigned and Migoya filed two routine requests for public documents to continue his investigation. To the Justice Department’s credit, officials didn’t deny those requests, but they might as well have because The Post was told fulfilling one request would cost $1,839.60 plus copying fees and the other $225 plus copying fees.
Public records in Colorado are no longer free — the default position of most state, local and judicial departments has become charge the maximum amount allowed, estimate it’ll take your employees days of work and then wait to see what happens.
The high costs being charged for records have created a system where only the rich have unfettered access to public records. It’s interfering with every Coloradan’s right to know.
Migoya wanted to see any and all emails sent to or sent from Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Coats and the former court administrator, Christopher Ryan, that were related to a sole-source contract awarded to a former employee who had faced an investigation into her receipts and requests for reimbursement.
We understand that pulling emails from an archive does take time, but we cannot imagine why it’d take an employee 61.32 hours to run a query for those emails and print them out or create a digital copy. Even assuming that Coats required the attorney general himself to review the emails before their release, we are stumped at why it’d take someone an entire workweek plus 20 hours of overtime to complete such a task. Consider — those of you with office jobs — how many emails you read in a workweek and how many you respond to.
And that’s the problem with our current laws and policies regarding open records in Colorado — government entities are playing fast and loose with their estimates of how much time and effort it will take to fulfill a request and then charging the maximum — about $30 an hour — allowed by either the Colorado Open Records Act or the Judicial Department’s internal policies set by the Supreme Court.
This issue isn’t isolated to The Denver Post; 9News reporter Jeremy Jojola took to Twitter last week to lament being asked to pay more than $600 for records about affordable housing. After his tweet and questions about why it would cost so much, Jojola said the Denver Housing Authority “magically” lowered the cost to $230. Jeffrey Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, also wrote last week about a woman who was told it would cost $5,850 for her to review pay-related documents from the Colorado Department of Human Services.
There is a need for balance in the law. We know that individuals, news organizations and companies can file time-consuming requests and that the money paying for those man-hours comes from taxpayers. However, we suspect taxpayers are willing to see some of their tax dollars go to ensure proper oversight of their tax dollars.
The law and judicial department rules are tilted too far in the direction of putting public records out of reach with high costs. Lawmakers and Justice Nathan Coats must find ways to bring things back into balance, in the public interest.
The Pueblo Chieftain, Sept. 2, on supporting local farmers:
Under the best of circumstances, farming isn’t easy. It requires a lot of hard work, smart planning and more than a little bit of good luck.
Unfortunately, luck has been in short supply this year for farmers all across the United States. As outlined in a GateHouse Media special report last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that this is the worst planting season on record.
Heavy rainfall, flooding and other calamities prevented almost 20 million acres of crops from being planted around the country. That’s the highest amount of land left fallow since the USDA began releasing reports on the subject in 2007.
Some states in the Midwest and South have been hit the hardest, but Colorado hasn’t been spared. More than 68,000 acres in our state haven’t been planted, including more than 38,000 acres of corn and 7,500 acres of sorghum.
While farmers need rain to grow their crops, too much precipitation can be as much of a problem as not enough. Muddy fields can be difficult, if not impossible, to tend.
Thankfully, the federal government recognizes the problem and is taking steps to lessen its impact.
“Agricultural producers across the country are facing significant challenges and tough decisions on their farms and ranches,” Bill Northey, the USDA’s undersecretary for farm production, said in a news release. “We know these are challenging times for farmers and we have worked to improve flexibility of our programs to assist producers prevented from planting.”
Some farmers are eligible to collect on prevented-planting insurance policies, which are designed to cover the fixed costs associated with unworkable fields. But there’s a big difference between covering farmers’ expenses and adequately compensating them for the money they could have gained through bountiful harvests.
In Alamosa County, the worst hit area in Colorado, insured farmers were prevented from planting on five percent of the county’s agricultural land.
Even if you aren’t a farmer and don’t know any farmers personally, this is an issue that affects you directly every time you stop by your neighborhood grocery store to buy produce. Crop shortages can lead to higher prices, particularly for food products that have to be shipped here from long distances.
At a local level, there may not be a whole lot to influence the big picture in the farming industry. We can’t control the weather, which is one of the biggest variables determining how crops are going to fare from year to year.
We know that weather tends to be cyclical, so the wet weather pattern much of the country has experienced should become more moderate eventually. Or so we hope, at least.
In the meantime, one way to help our local growers would be to buy their products whenever it is practical. When you’re doing your shopping, take a look at the vegetables that are available at the local farmers’ markets and food stands.
Our local farmers will be grateful if you do. And we owe them that much.