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Colorado Editorial Roundup

March 13, 2019

Greeley Tribune, March 12, on it not being fair to link layoffs at University of Northern Colorado with Campus Commons project:

We’ve said numerous times that efforts on the part of leaders at the University of Northern Colorado to cut the university’s $10 million structural deficit wouldn’t come without some pain.

So we weren’t surprised to see the announcement earlier this month that the university had laid off 11 staff members and planned to eliminate nearly 80 vacant positions.

This move, by far the most painful for the university, will save about $6.1 million. While our hearts go out to those who have lost their jobs, we also know the move is necessary for the university, which must right its financial ship.

We’ll also say, we’ve heard some complaints about the decision to spend $75 million on the university’s campus commons only to lay off staff members after the building opened.

We’ll grant the optics are bad. But we’ll also point out this is an instance when looks are deceiving.

The vast majority of the money that went to fund the Campus Commons project came from the state and was earmarked toward campus construction. In short, if UNC hadn’t used the money to build its facility, the money would simply have gone to some other college or university to construct some other building.

Much of the rest of the money came from donations, which were made specifically for the Campus Commons project. More importantly, the donations represent one-time money. Paying for a staff member requires money year after year.

The remainder of the funding for the project comes from debt, which couldn’t be used to fund operations.

We understand the frustration about the layoffs, but it’s not fair to link — as some have done — those cuts with the decision to build the Campus Commons.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2Ty3G0L

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Aurora Sentinel, March 10, on proponents of Colorado’s death penalty making convincing arguments to repeal it now:

Colorado legislators and voters should pay close attention to what tough-on-crime advocates say about the state’s death penalty — because they make the most persuasive arguments for abolishing it.

Amidst dramatic opposition, the Colorado General Assembly for the fourth time in recent years is moving forward with a bill to end capital punishment. It’s all drama. There are no valid arguments against death penalty repeal.

At the front of the line of those inadvertently making the case for repeal is Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who has long been a staunch capital-punishment proponent.

Last week, Brauchler led a charged and conspicuous testimony at the state Capitol against Senate Bill 182.

Brauchler, like other proponents, says the death penalty is a deterrent to murder, saves taxpayers money and creates a powerful bargaining tool to drive plea deals. Any jury would dismiss any and all of those arguments based on the facts in the case, which Brauchler and others cannot deny nor overturn.

Study after study — after study — has shown repeatedly and recently that those states with death penalties have relatively the same murder rate as states without the death penalty.

Simply repeating the myth of death penalties as a deterrent does not make it true.

Even a remarkable analysis by the National Research Council of the National Academies focusing on decades of death penalty deterrence studies concludes that death penalties aren’t a factor in murder rates.

If that is confusing to Brauchler and others, current statistics aren’t. States with death penalties suffer the same murder rates and the same monstrous homicides as do those without them.

Residents don’t have to look any further than Texas and Florida for endless vile and shocking crimes and rates of murder. Those states market their so-called fast-track to lethal injection, as if it were some kind of morbid economic-development or quality-of-life boon to lure tourists and new businesses. And still, it does nothing to quell the rate, nor the caliber of murder.

Brauchler and others are just as mistaken about Colorado’s death penalty saving taxpayers money. In fact, this misnomer alone is one of the most compelling arguments for ending capital punishment.

Again, endless studies have shown repeatedly that death penalty cases are obscenely expensive. They’re inordinately costly first to prosecute and then to pursue for decades during unavoidable appeals and shockingly expensive special prison arrangements.

Brauchler himself forced this community to bear the financial and emotional burden of a death-penalty trial against Aurora theater shooting convict James Holmes, squandering more than $3 million of taxpayer money on the trial alone — and then predictably losing it.

As for using the threat of execution as a bargaining chip for justice, extorting any human life for any reason should never be part of the American justice system.

The real problem is that district attorneys like Brauchler are too easily lured into what they see as the political gain of backing the death-penalty and the occasional trial.

The facts speak for themselves against Brauchler’s arguments, and many other flawed justifications.

It is undeniable that the death penalty is imposed capriciously in Colorado, and across the nation. There is no avoiding the shocking fact that of all the thousands of repugnant murders committed in Colorado, there are but a smattering of death row inmates. They are all from one of Aurora’s district courts. They are all black. They are all guilty of atrocious crimes that in no way set them apart from many other horrifying murders in the state.

Just recently, in two famously politically conservative communities, Weld and El Paso counties, two of the most lurid and unnerving murders in state history bypassed death row. Christopher Watt never faced the death penalty for murdering his wife and two daughters, one of whom begged for her life. Patrick Frazee is accused of trying to get his girlfriend to murder his fiancé before police say he bashed in her head by himself and apparently then burned her corpse.

That’s not justice, which the death penalty never delivers.

It does not bring back the dead, and it in no way makes the dead victims nor their suffering families whole.

The death penalty is nothing more than senseless and barbaric revenge that puts innocent state employees in the position of being paid killers. It survives on flawed emotional arguments that have no basis in reality nor the clear facts.

This is now Colorado’s best opportunity to end a practice that inarguably has no benefit, is exceedingly expensive, and doesn’t even deliver what it promises: executed convicts.

State lawmakers should support and pass Senate Bill 182, and voters should encourage them.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2XUU1Qb

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The Denver Post, March 8, on the right oil and gas reform being beneficial for all Colorado residents.

The Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations bill significantly changes the playing field for the extraction industry in Colorado, and for the most part, it does so for the better.

Mayors, city councilors, county commissioners, should have a say about the location of industrial operations. However, like all land use decisions, these elected officials should also have to respect property rights.

It’s a balancing act.

Current law tips the scales heavily in favor of the oil and gas industry, leaving residents who are moving into the resource-rich Denver-Julesburg Basin with little say over where wells are drilled.

Senate Bill 181, as it was introduced, tips the scales too far in the other direction, and it could allow local governments to implement strict rules that become de facto bans on the industry.

But Speaker of the House KC Becker and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg tell us they are committed to amending their bill to strike the right balance.

The Boulder Democrats said their intent is to allow site-by-site analysis of proposed wells so local communities can decide how to reduce adverse impacts to residents while not arbitrarily banning the development of a privately owned resource.

Fenberg has already offered amendments improving the bill and he has said additional amendments will come on the floor of the Senate.

It’s reasonable for local communities to control permits for drilling on a site-by-site basis, protecting the health and safety of residents.

It is unreasonable to allow communities to block large swaths of land from development based on objections to the continued use of fossil fuels to power our homes and run our cars. One only needs to watch a video of the vocal anti-fracking residents who attended a recent town hall meeting for Fenberg and Becker in Boulder to know where this is headed in some places.

Those who aren’t rattled by claims that the oil and gas industry would pull out of Colorado if Senate Bill 181 passes as it was introduced should consider what it’s like to live through a bust — jobs drying up in a town that families can’t leave because their houses are no longer worth anything.

It should scare Coloradans when Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and former editor of The Denver Post editorial pages, tells lawmakers that this bill could slowly strangle a multi-billion dollar industry.

And, aside from predicting doomsday, Haley has raised some valid concerns about the legislation.

The bill does not call for an “indefinite permitting moratorium” as some have claimed but it would grant sweeping power to the head of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to deny permits that he deems problematic during what is going to be a very long rulemaking process. Guardrails should be put on that power.

Fenberg and Becker aren’t the only ones who must compromise. It’s in the oil and gas industry’s best interest for SB 181 to become law.

This evolving legislation is far superior to the nearly unworkable Proposition 112 that voters rejected at the ballot last fall. Only a significant change to the landscape will prevent voters from taking the nuclear option in the next statewide election.

There is much to like about Senate Bill 181. Now let’s perfect it and get it into law.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/2T4fPVM

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