Colorado Editorial Roundup
The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Jan. 15, on balancing environmental protection with development:
A 21st century “Of Mice and Men” could tell of hopes for new hotels, retailers, and jobs — and the power of mice to obstruct them all.
Colorado’s economy is hot, but that doesn’t make our state a friendly place for young entrepreneurs, professionals and workers. Plans for new homes and businesses typically encounter a barrage of regulations that frequently kill them. Mouse protection poses one major barrier, as seen most recently in the early battle to build “True North Commons.”
As detailed in CompleteColorado.com, The U.S. Air Force Academy filed a petition with the City Clerk on Nov. 23 for Colorado Springs to annex more than 180 acres of Academy property on the east and west sides of I-25 near Northgate Boulevard.
The proposed development came about as part of the Academy’s new visitors’ center, included in a multi-faceted City for Champions plan to enhance regional tourism revenues.
The plan includes 58 acres and a maximum of 590,000-square-feet of mixed commercial, retail and hospitality businesses. Along with hotels, restaurants, and office space, the plan includes a possible indoor skydiving center for the general public and Academy personnel.
The proposed development would abut with open space that runs west across I-25 toward Bass Pro Shops and the Mining Museum. That land can never be developed.
The Air Force Academy is a major primary employer and a key element of the Colorado Springs economy. The Visitors’ Center and associated development will leverage the Academy by giving tourists more reason to stay in the area and spend. New businesses will create jobs. Hotels will generate public revenue collected under the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax.
Kellie Kuhn, an Academy associate professor of biology, hopes to stop True North Commons to protect field mice from potential disruption.
“The development envelopes overlap with the habitat of federally listed Preble’s Meadow jumping mouse,” Kuhn explained on a Facebook post shared by the El Paso County Democratic Party.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and others have tried to delist the Preble’s mouse. They question whether Prebles are substantially different than nearly identical rodents, and claim anti-growth activists exploit the mouse to control property without having to buy or condemn it.
Kuhn also complains the development would transfer federal land from public control, harm aquatic organisms in Monument Creek, and threaten drinking water that runs through the creek.
“I lament that this area may be lost forever,” Kuhn said.
It won’t be lost; it will be altered. The changes will be nothing compared to habitat disruption the federal government caused when it built the Academy in the 1950s. Had we placed mice above men back then, we would not have the Academy in our community and Kuhn would not have her enviable academic position in the country’s most coveted city. Few of us would have homes.
The city Planning Commission will host a hearing on the proposed development Jan. 17, where city officials should take concerns of Kuhn and other opponents to heart. Their concerns are not invalid, but we don’t need the nuclear option of quashing a constructive opportunity for cultural and economic growth.
Mitigation will be the key to a successful outcome in which everyone wins. Planners should consider reasonable options for making the adjoining open space a more attractive and nurturing environment for mice. They should ensure the plans include infrastructure to protect Monument Creek from runoff created by the development’s impervious surfaces.
Mice are important, but so are humans. As they always have, mice and men should work things out and live together side-by-side.
The Denver Post, Jan. 13, on Colorado Democrats saying the right things as they take power:
Mistakes will be made over the course of the 2019 General Assembly: there will be bad bills and gaffes; some good public policy will die a political death; and as always, the most crucial work will come at the very end in a flurry of hurried votes.
But for now, voters’ confidence appears well-placed. Democrats are saying many of the right things as they take complete control of our state government with majorities in the House, the Senate and a new Democratic governor at the helm of it all.
Gov. Jared Polis began his State of the State by metaphorically extending his hand to the Republican senators and representatives crowded into the Colorado House chambers.
“That doesn’t mean that any of us should ever abandon our values,” Polis said. “What it does mean is mere partisanship should never stop us from embracing good ideas and taking bold action for the people of Colorado who elected us to deliver and not to grandstand.”
Polis wasn’t shy about making big promises. He pledged to reduce health care costs, ensure workers can take paid leave to care for their families and to wean the state off of fossil fuels.
Remarkably, Polis said his top priority is to fully fund kindergarten across the state. Full-day kindergarten has eluded lawmakers for years because of the high price tag associated with paying schools to have students in kindergarten for the full day instead of half day — some previous bills have put the cost at close to a quarter of a billion dollars.
“Our state’s strong economic growth means we have the power to do all of this right now without taking resources away from other critical areas of the budget, and as Uncle Ben once said to Spider-Man, ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ ” Polis said to much laughter and applause. “I know that together we can fulfill this responsibility that many of you have been working on for years.”
Polis and Stan Lee make it sound so simple. Let’s hope the former can deliver on this overdue policy.
The flip-side of an ambitious agenda, however, are legitimate questions about how exactly these big-ticket solutions to burdensome problems will work in a state that has some serious financial quirks.
Aurora Sentinel, Jan. 10, on Colorado being able to change the health care conundrum:
Regardless of your political stripes in Colorado, everyone can agree that the Affordable Care Act has not made health care affordable.
Obamacare was a righteous cause that didn’t work, for a variety of logical reasons.
Colorado has a rare and critical opportunity to come up with something better. Several Democrats in the state House and Senate, and Gov. Jared Polis, are poised to dive deep into finding a real solution to unaffordable health care in Colorado.
We staunchly support the effort. State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle can easily agree that the American health care reform effort is complete is in chaos. We agree with Colorado reform proponents that given the situation in Washington, made hopeless by Republican leaders and President Donald Trump, the best chances for success are here at home.
How American health care works — or more accurately, doesn’t work — is vastly complicated and exasperating. It’s a hodgepodge of philosophies, regulations, laws and endless contradictions. Obamacare was an attempt to reduce the individual costs of health care and force insurance companies to deliver value and fairness.
It was doomed from the beginning because it tried to create a better system for consumers without structurally changing it. Without regulating costs and controlling premium hikes, suppliers endlessly hiked prices and insurance companies demanded higher premiums. While Obamacare infinitely improved how consumers were treated by insurance companies, fewer people in the vast middle class can even afford it any more. Without price controls and regulations, the biggest gaffe was not offering a “public option” which would have pushed the market toward affordability, instead of creating the wheels-falling-off system Obamacare has inadvertently created.
Make no mistake, repealing Obamacare would be a disaster. Even as it stands, it’s far better than what we would be suffering under in Colorado and across the nation had Republicans been able to return us to a past system irrevocably broken and corrupted.
Here’s what Congress and the Colorado General Assembly must address to come even close to solving the problem:
There are millions of Americans who pay nothing or relatively little for health care each year. The country spends about $600 billion a year just on Medicaid. On top of that, hospitals provide about $40 billion a year in “uncompensated” care to sick people who don’t have insurance or Medicaid. And on top of that, hospitals report that they “lose” another $60 billion a year or so from Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates that are well under actual costs.
It means that we continue to play a shell game on how to pay for about $700 billion in health care for people who can’t or don’t pay for some or all of their care.
While many Colorado Republicans say they don’t want to offer free care through Medicaid to so many poor people any more, it’s not that simple. Trump officials and many Colorado GOP lawmakers sum up how ludicrous the issue has become by insisting that many Medicaid recipients can just get jobs with health benefits and get off the public dole.
Besides being cruel, the notion is naive. Colorado’s uninsured and poor have long gotten some health care and will in the future. A federal law demands that hospitals treat emergency patients even if they can’t pay.
We either pay the way we are, or we pay the way other modern nations do through shared and controlled costs.
Over the next few months, state lawmakers are exploring a variety of options that make sense in the inevitable move to universal health care. One option is to allow the public to buy health insurance available to state employees at the same rate. Another idea would be to create other “public options” for Colorado residents and possibly those from other states.
These proposed “public options” are the first and critical step toward pushing back against a health care market that is out of control.
These ideas are not universal health care, but they’re an important step toward affordable care, even if they don’t lead there right away.
Our final advice to state lawmakers: Hurry.