A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Aurora Sentinel, Aug. 23, on asking northeast Colorado voters to consider secession:
Northeast Colorado county commissioners have had their fun. Now it’s time get back to work.
A handful of rural county commissions in the northeast part of the state have agreed to ask voters this fall to move ahead with a plan to secede from Colorado and form a 51st state.
It’s an impractical waste of time that only serves to make these county officials look foolish on several levels.
The biggest mistake is the impetus for such melodramatic displeasure. Commissioners from these northeastern counties are foaming at the mouth because they believe that urban lawmakers, Democrats in particular, are ruining their quality of life by steamrolling dangerous legislation at the Capitol. They believe that the powerful urban centers of Colorado are oblivious and insensitive to the needs of rural Colorado residents.
A quick look at the bill titles of hundreds of measures approved by all state lawmakers and signed by Colorado governors for decades makes it clear that the state is extremely protective of its rural and agricultural residents, communities and industries. To say that rural, northeast Colorado counties are being shaken down or abused by a gang of urban, liberal shysters is an outright lie. The very basis of the state’s school finance law requires the state to pump extra money into rural schools to ensure they have everything urban schools do — often at very great expense. The state spends massive sums of money on government programs targeted at aiding farmers, ranchers and miners. We don’t mean that every Aurora lawmaker thrives on ensuring the wellbeing of all outstate residents. State lawmakers get it that we are all in this together. A healthy Weld County means a healthy Colorado.
More than anything else, these angry county commissioners are incensed by recent gun-safety reforms, illegal immigration reforms, gay rights reforms, and some environmental reforms enacted by the state. What state lawmakers actually did is reel in a few ridiculously lethal and dangerous weapons, close gaping background check loopholes while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. The measures were so tame that it was remarkable how little change was actually enacted. And gay Weld County residents are just as pleased with a bipartisan civil union law as are gay residents in Aurora. These commissioners’ melodramatic complaints are just plain baseless.
The very foundation of the secessionist arguments are fabricated legends, and so, too, are the arguments for secession. You don’t have to be an urban Ph.D. to see the folly of what Sedgewick, Washington, Kit Carson, Weld, Logan, Yuma and Cheyenne counties are trying to do. There are about 300,000 people living in those counties, most of them in or near Greeley. Make no doubt about it that the bulk of the state’s economic engine is driven by services, just like most of the country. And in Colorado, tourism is huge — except for inside the counties that are talking about secession. Even if the insurmountable process to create a breakaway state were overcome — approval of seceding counties, the Colorado Legislature and Congress — these commissioners would be creating a state with huge need, little revenue and fleeting resources.
Commissioners point to underground gas and oil as a way to fund their new, fledgling state. Anyone who’s lived in Colorado longer than the life of a car can attest to what the oil boom and bust cycle does to the local and state economy. If there would be winners from a breakaway state involving those Colorado counties, it would be the rest of Colorado not having to pave, pay for social services, educate and protect vast tracts of open land.
Commissioners made their point. They don’t like losing when it comes to Colorado politics. The only realistic answer is to persuade voters to elect officials who see it all their way. These antics aren’t likely to do that. Voters in those counties, especially Weld County, should end this distraction now and insist commissioners focus on real issues at hand.
Longmont Times-Call, Aug. 24, on the Weld County separate state vote:
Weld County voters will have the opportunity in November to weigh in on their opinion about trying to break away from Colorado to form a separate state.
In the end, what will it get them? Increased expenses from their county clerk’s office, which will have to ask for more money from burgeoning county coffers to pay for the effort.
The political reality is that a 51st state composed of several eastern Colorado counties — and perhaps northwest, too, based on rumblings out of Moffat County in Craig — will not happen in the lifetime of its supporters.
Consider three outcomes from the vote in November. First, and most catastrophic for organizers, would be for the measure to fail. If you’re a county leader using the “us versus them” card and find out most of your constituency agrees with “them,” you’ve got a problem. An outcome where only a slight majority favors secession also could create internal division within Weld County. What if a large portion of southwest Weld is opposed? Or the city of Greeley? Creating a ballot issue to expose the fractiousness of state politics might inadvertently reveal local fractures that could take years to heal.
Assuming a large majority in Weld favors secession, then what? You’ve clearly indicated that at the state level, you’re not willing to compromise. Because many, if not all, of the topics of division revolve around partisan issues among Democrats and Republicans, there will be no effort from the Democratic-controlled House or Senate, or a Democratic governor’s office, to carry through the next required step in the process.
The only way 51st statehood would advance in the state Capitol is if Republicans win office. But in doing so, Weld residents would likely see what they were looking for in terms of repealed laws and changed policies, thus easing the pressure to secede.
The issues that divide the Weld County leaders backing secession and the majorities in the General Assembly are political ones that normally could be worked out through negotiation and compromise. Ballot issues that engage the base at the expense of the moderate middle scuttle such efforts.
Talk of a 51st state crystallized issues of concern in rural Colorado, and as such, was an effective ploy. Taking the quixotic effort further will now end up costing taxpayers money and highlighting divisions that previously were under the surface. That might be the costliest result of all.
The Denver Post, Aug. 26, on the need to more tightly regulate medical marijuana:
With the legal sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado set to begin in January, it will be easy to forget that our medical marijuana system ever existed.
But Denver Post reporter Eric Gorski’s story on Sunday reminded us why it is important for state regulators to get their act together and oversee the doctors who recommend medical marijuana for patients.
Since 2011, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which maintains the registry, has not referred for investigation any of the physicians who sign off on pot usage for patients, according to the story.
The department in 2011 referred five doctors to the Colorado Medical Board for investigation. Two of those doctors have since had their licenses restricted by the medical board, and one has had his license suspended.
It’s hard to believe there have been no infractions for two years.
A state audit released last month criticized the health department for lax oversight of marijuana doctors, noting one pot doc had 8,400 patients. Another doctor had prescribed 501 plants for one patient.
Though the numbers of patients on the medical marijuana registry are already dropping — as people anticipate just buying their pot legally from a retailer — there are still more than 100,000 medical marijuana registry cardholders.
And remember, unlike the 21-year-olds who will be able to buy recreational pot, patients using medical marijuana only have to be 18, so it could still be the preferred choice for Coloradans who are 18 to 21.
Also, it’ll be cheaper. Medical marijuana will not be subject to the special sales and excise taxes the state and city want to impose on recreational pot.
Finally, medical marijuana is the only form of pot use the federal government has indicated it would not pursue when done by individual patients in compliance with state law. So, there is some cover of law for people with registry cards traveling in other states or stopped by federal authorities.
Medical marijuana will still be widely used for years, and it’s critical the state regulate it properly.
The Fort Morgan Times, Aug. 22, on generational gaps as the
Over the last week, hundreds of Morgan County families have sent their kids off for their first day of a new school year.
For kids of all ages it’s a time of backpacks, pencils, books and school lunches. For parents, it’s often a time of wondering where the years are disappearing to and who these kids are that share their roofs.
Each year at this time Beloit College, in Beloit, Wis., puts out its Mindset List, which provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students who will graduate in four years’ time.
Started in 1998 and prepared by Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, the list was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.
The List is meant to be applied to college freshmen, but we find many of the items just as applicable to local high school freshmen, perhaps more so.
For example, no. 2 on the list: They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.
Today’s high school students are more Internet and social media-savvy than any generation before them. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, whatever the next big means of communicating their lives to the outside world is, they’re on it.
For those of us who grew up in less “share everything” generations, this need to tell the Internet everything about their lives is mind-boggling. For parents, it’s terrifying. For educators, it may open up some new and interesting means of teaching.
How about these?
Remember when Disney films were all hand drawn and having a successful book meant you were on the New York Times best seller list? We do, but these kids don’t.
Mindlist no. 44: Their favorite feature films have always been largely, if not totally, computer generated.
Mindlist no. 55: Being selected by Oprah’s Book club has always read “success.”
And how about world events?
This year’s high school students have only known two presidents; they’ve always had the World Trade Organization; and the United States has always been trying to pick a side in the Middle East.
Parents have always been able to find them and keep them safe thanks to Megan’s Law and Amber Alerts. And they’ve never needed to be given directions thanks to GPS.
And, a more local item that made this year’s list, these kids have never seen planes land at Stapleton Airport.
All that being said, we encourage Morgan County’s teachers to remember the generation gap between themselves and their students and to find a way to teach closer to where these kids are culturally. You never know, they may learn more.
And parents, if it seems like your kids are from another world, it’s probably because they are. Check out beloit.edu/mindset/2017 to understand it a bit better.
And just think, when your member of the high school class of 2017 graduates and goes to college, you have the 2021 Mindset List to look forward to.