Once again upon too many times, a girl
was stolen from her family and delivered

to men. They leered, breathed fire down her neck,
nodded to one another—right shape,

right size. They tucked her into the darkness,
settled onto her the way they would an armchair.

They made themselves comfortable, offered her
to guests. When her surface grew seedy and torn,

they turned her over. Her hooded eyes caught
slivers of bedroom and alley, tattered asphalt.

Fists like pocked moons. Others came
to break open the door, but she didn’t feel

saved. Even good men had teeth that glittered.
It would be a long time before she could sleep,

accustomed though she was to lying down.


Photo credit: Joe St.Pierre, Creative Commons, Flickr 


The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact

I write as a Catholic educated almost entirely in Catholic schools, and who has spent his career at Catholic universities. As someone who watched his parents struggle to pay tuition at Catholic schools, even as they paid taxes for public schools. As someone who did the same for my children.

I write both to celebrate the defeat of pro-voucher candidates in Jeffco in this month’s school board elections, and to dream of another kind of voucher system.   

The Jeffco dispute embodies national right-wing efforts to destroy teachers’ unions and essentially privatize (and monetize) public education. (Did I mention that I’ve always belong to a teacher’s union?)

I know that Colorado’s Catholic bishops supported pro-voucher candidates in Jeffco. I’m happy they, too, lost because of late they’ve been mostly in bed with the cultural-political right (thereby ignoring most Catholic teachings on justice except in their advocacy for immigrants).

Yet I still want to join them and other religious folks in working for a voucher system that would acknowledge the full citizenship of all parents and the excellent education for civic life provided by many (perhaps most) religiously affiliated schools.

Catholic schools in this country began as a mid-19th Century effort by immigrants to protect their children from the anti-Catholic animus and Protestant ideology then rampant in public schools – somewhat akin to now much-deplored efforts to “Americanize” native peoples in reservation schools. Catholic schools flourished through mid-20th Century and continue today despite the declining numbers of nuns and priests who once made them economically viable. And they still (according to numerous studies by secular scholars) achieve top marks for the quality curricula and test scores. Witness the presence these days of Catholics in political office and business leadership – the tip of a far larger and continually demonstrated contribution of Catholic schools to civic life.

Development of some kind of tax-funded support for at least some religiously affiliated schools (Christian or Jewish or Muslim…) would end the double taxation forced upon parents who choose such schools. It could also become one aspect of the movement to diversify public education — as in DPS’ laudable development of different charter schools and its more general empowerment of parental choice.

I say “at least some religiously affiliated schools” because some religious schools clearly do not provide an adequate education for civic life and do indeed indoctrinate rather than educate with religious instruction. The Muslim madrassas we hear about these days comes to mind as examples, as do some supposedly “orthodox” Catholic and Christian schools, as well as some Jewish schools.

My criteria for religious school participation in any public support system are two. That the school (1) provide a fully liberal education (in the full original sense of that designation) which (2) in its religious instruction educates and does not indoctrinate. That is the basis for our present system in higher education where tax monies support most religiously affiliated colleges and universities, but not seminaries and other ministry training programs. It is also the basis for the acknowledged success of public support for religiously affiliated primary and secondary schools in Canada and much of Western Europe.

So why not here?

To those who righteously proclaim, “I’m not paying for religious indoctrination,” I add a further note. The mid-19th Century public schools in this country were, as I’ve said, centers for that typically American blend of Protestant and secular-progressive indoctrination. My sense of public education over the years is that such indoctrination tilted in the post-war years towards the secular-progressive, with only a residue of the Protestant. These days it has tilted further in secular/multi-cultural directions.  Ideology and indoctrination, in other words, are inescapable in any form of education. That’s why the liberal dimension of such education is crucial. Interestingly, the present emphasis on multicultural tolerance actually makes public schools these days much better places for religiously-affiliated students and families.

It’s also why I so oppose the present right-wing voucher movement since it is essentially ideological (and “liberal” only in economic terms). It is anti-union, pro-profit, and designed so those with greater wealth can avoid rubbing shoulders with their poorer (and often different skin-colored) neighbors.

John F. Kane is emeritus professor of religious studies at Regis University (Denver).  He blogs at “With a Cane.”




There’s a debate among liberals as to what should happen to Al Franken next. This debate is a good thing. And if it’s at all complicated, you can blame Donald Trump. Or you can blame Bill Clinton. Or you can blame those Alabama pastors who are not only unaccountably defending Roy Moore, but, in some cases, also trashing his accusers.

In Franken’s second apology/explanation/corrective following Leeann Weeden’s accusation, Franken said he didn’t remember the tongue-thrusting incident in the same way Weeden does. But he added that we must, in any case, “believe the women” who come forward with their #MeToo stories.

That position is difficult to reconcile. Either we believe Weeden’s story or we don’t. And the groping photo, in which Franken is seen reaching for Weeden’s breasts as she sleeps — a posed photo which Franken seems to have been playing for laughs — is either disgustingly unfunny, as Franken now admits, or it isn’t.

And there’s now a second accuser, as many figured there would be, who says Franken grabbed her buttocks during a photo taken when Franken was already a senator.

If we believe the women, where does that leave the Franken debate? As of now, it’s in the hands of the Senate Ethics Committee, which is hardly reassuring. The committee is basically toothless, and now we’ve learned that Congress has paid out $17 million over the past 20 years to settle accusations of abuse (not always sexual) by lawmakers and staffers — payments made entirely in secret.

But it’s worse than that. If more congressional harassers come to light — and who thinks there won’t be?— the ethics committee becomes a clear path for stalling and temporizing and waiting for the heat to diminish. It’s not surprising that so many Washington politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, seem satisfied with the Franken-gets-investigated-by-other-senators solution.

And here’s where it gets complicated. Or as Amy Davidson Sorkin puts it in The New Yorker, how many Frankens should add up to one Roy Moore? Or should that be the calculus at all?

The easy thing — and my first instinct — is to say Franken should resign. It’s worse, in my view, for champions of women’s rights to be #MeTooed, even if the Franken photo predated his life in the Senate. If there’s truly a war on women — and that’s the argument Democrats have been making for years — then you can’t fight the battle from both sides, which seems to be the lesson of Bill Clinton and those who defended him back in the day.

And yet. Not all offenses are the same, and the punishment shouldn’t necessarily be the same either. The accusations against Franken don’t come close to those leveled against Moore. Or those against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. Or those against Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. And nothing like the accusations against Clinton or, for that matter, Clarence Thomas. And just today, there have been accusations against Charlie Rose and New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush, which both have more or less admitted were true.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who has Al Frankensteined his way into the picture with his predictably offensive tweets that come hard after Franken but never seem to mention Roy Moore. It was entirely predictable that Trump would turn Franken vs. Moore into a partisan affair. This strategy runs along the same lines as Trump saying we should believe Clinton’s accusers but not the 16 women who have come forward to accuse him. Franken has his photo and Trump has his Access Hollywood tale of assaulting women.

When it comes to Trump, this isn’t a case of what-about-ism. It’s one of a self-described pussy-grabber launching a partisan attack against an obnoxious-photo tongue-thruster. In an unintentionally hilarious attempt to defend Trump, spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders actually said, “Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn’t. I think there’s a very clear distinction.” It is a clear distinction and, yes, a complication. How much should Franken’s sort-of admission count in his favor when Trump and Moore call their accusers liars?

It also puts me in mind of the recent Bill Clinton revisionism. What saved Clinton was not so much his friends — you may recall Al Gore shunning him during the 2000 election — but his enemies. Before anyone had heard of Monica Lewinsky, Clinton had been publicly accused of murder, drug running and a dozen other crimes high and low. One of Clinton’s most famous accusers of sexual assault would later accuse the White House of having had her cat killed.

It was never easy to know how to judge Clinton’s accusers. All we knew for sure was that he was sufficiently reckless to have endangered his career and his marriage and everything he hoped to accomplish as president. But to call for Clinton’s resignation was to credit his political opponents who were busily working to impeach him in what amounted to an attempted coup. It came down to choosing which noxious behavior was worse — Clinton’s or the right-wing conspirators’. In other words, it was complicated, even if Clinton’s behavior was not. And it’s fair to say that Trump fought off the Access Hollywood tape by making the case that Clinton had done far worse.

And yet, it’s good to see Bill Clinton now being called to account. And it’s good that women, and at least one man, have been emboldened to come forward at the state Capitol to take on sexual harassment. And it’s good that so many Alabama Republicans seem to have abandoned Moore over his mall-stalking, and accusations of worse, of teenagers.

If it feels like a watershed moment, maybe it is. But if you believe Weeden and believe in #MeTooism, shouldn’t you also believe that Franken should resign from his Senate seat? That’s the debate. And with a second accuser, the terms of the debate become even more clear.

Photo by John Taylor, via Flickr: Creative Commons


Last Friday night, Colorado’s Federation of Young Republicans drew a crowd of nearly 200 to a swanky ballroom in the the high-end Broadmoor hotel and resort in Colorado Springs, the conservative heart of Colorado, for a first-of-its-kind masquerade ball.

The mood was festive, the masks varied — some steampunk, some feathered, some glittery; several stars and stripes; one papier-mâché elephant. The goal was simple: “It was really meant to show off that we do have young people in our party,” said Lyndsay Pierzina, chair of the Colorado Federation of Young Republicans.

Pierzina coordinated with state party Vice Chair Sherrie Gibson to plan the all-ages evening, which cost $40 for non-students and which they themed, “Unmasking the Future.” It was a sort of rebranding effort for a party that has seen both renewed interest and increased criticism in the wake of the Donald Trump presidency.

William Witt, a field director for the conservative youth nonprofit Turning Point USA, said the country is in the midst of a major cultural shift in which conservatism is “the new counterculture,” making its proponents “the new cool kids.” Their mission — “saving this country,” mostly — steers clear of identity politics and focuses instead on economic issues, which Libertarian-minded Witt said resonate strongly with Generation Z.

“Nobody hates gay people. Nobody hates African Americans,” he said. Rather, it is the embrace of the free market and other Libertarian ideals that draws millennials to conservatism. Said Pierzina of the Young Republicans’ own avoidance of social issues, “We very much have stayed away from anything divisive so we can continue to grow and build.”

Witt will soon be heading to work for PragerU, a conservative media company that produces slick YouTube videos with titles such as “Build the Wall,” “Just Say ‘Merry Christmas’” and “The World’s Most Persecuted Minority: Christians.” In one video about fake news, the narrator said that because major news outlets are so biased to the left, “mainstream American news is all fake.”

Once guests had filled up on turkey, brisket and loaded mashed potatoes, the ballroom quieted and the speeches began. The crowd stood for a prayer, during which the Lord was thanked for delivering the White House. “Are we going to have a Grand Old Party tonight?” asked Stephen Bates, secretary of the state’s College Republicans group. “I think we are.”

Four of the eight candidates vying to be Colorado’s Republican gubernatorial nominee — Steve Barlock (in a devilish mask), Greg Lopez (looking rather pirate-like in a mask and feathered hat), Victor Mitchell and Doug Robinson, both maskless — took to the podium to appeal to the young voters with their plans to tackle Colorado’s most pressing needs: more affordable education, better transportation infrastructure and higher quality jobs.

Mitchell announced his plan to freeze tuition costs throughout his term.

Robinson called for more funding for STEM fields and vocational training.

Barlock emphasized that he was the only candidate who “used their sphere of influence to elect Donald Trump.”

And Lopez said, “We are in a fight for the soul of Colorado. For the soul of our country.”

Former candidate George Brauchler stopped by and explained why he dropped out of the race and is now running for Attorney General. (In short, Cynthia Coffman’s bid for governor made that race less appealing — and left a glaring vacancy for AG).

But the night clearly belonged to the youth, who stuck around the dance floor for everything from Taylor Swift to the Cupid Shuffle to the Macarena. Eighteen-year-old Andrew Townsend, a senior at Elizabeth High School in Elbert County and president and founder of his school’s Young Republicans group, took a short break for an interview near the end of the night.

Setting his sweaty “Make America Great Again” hat on the table, he explained that he started his school’s club after watching a “staunch liberal” paint an inaccurate picture of the Republican Party during an interview with Sean Hannity.

“I figured it was time to do something, because otherwise we’re never going to win another election again, and our country’s gone,” he said. Raised Southern Baptist, Townsend said he looks to the Bible for guidance on things like gay marriage, but calls himself “not a big social issues guy.”

Townsend said he first connected with the local Republican organization in majority-conservative Elbert County through family friends before starting his own group at school. Now, the two groups often work together. Andrea Richardson, a member of the Elbert County Republicans, says they were having trouble recruiting younger members. “We started trying to figure out what gets kids going,” she said, “and it started with Donald Trump, of all things.” Townsend was too young to cast his vote for Trump last November.

Scott Neff, an undergrad at CU Denver and treasurer of the Colorado Federation of Young Republicans, said he has more support for the Republican Party at the local, county and state levels than nationally.

Republicans govern better at the local level, he said — “Crime rates are usually lower, businesses are usually better, bigger” — but the national party’s follow-through on promises to “fix” immigration and Obamacare has been “pretty disappointing.” He added, “There’s that disconnect, and I feel like millennials aren’t being listened to.” Neff called the House Republican plan to increase taxes for graduate students “absolutely ridiculous.”

Jillian Likness, a young Republican herself and a candidate for Colorado House District 18, says she, too, is far more focused on state issues than national politics. To her, the masquerade ball was part of an effort at “re-messaging, changing the narrative, and setting [the Party] in a new direction.” The focus is on “being the party of freedom and liberty, and helping people chase that dream, whatever that is,” she said. “I think the president, I think he’s doing what he needs to do, but I can’t speak to what he’s doing because I’m not in D.C.”

According to Jake Viano of the Denver County Republican Party, young people are getting out of school and “realizing that the communist principles that they’re indoctrinated with in the universities just don’t work.” They’re tired, he said, of living in their parents’ basements, and see conservative ideology as the answer. “They’re putting two and two together and finding out that the American dream is still alive and well.”

As the older guests buzzed around the bar and ballroom, refilling their glasses, the Elizabeth high schoolers remained committed to the dance floor, decked out in cowboy hats, masks and even one star-spangled blazer.

One moment saw them gathered in a tight circle, jumping up and down in unison, hands in the air, shouting along to DJ Khaled: “All I do is win win win, no matter what.”


Photos by Kelsey Ray


If Mike Epke, principal of the New America School in Thornton, had a larger budget, he would like to spend it on technical training and intervention programs for his students.

He would buy more grade-level and age appropriate books for the empty shelves in his school’s library, and provide his teachers with a modest raise. If he could really make the dollars stretch, he’d hire additional teacher aides to help students learning with disabilities.

“These are students who have not had all the opportunities other students have had,” the charter school principal said, describing his 400 high school students who are mostly Hispanic and come from low-income homes.

A $5.5 million budget request from Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, could help Epke make some of those dreams a reality.

The seven-figure ask is part of Hickenlooper’s proposed budget that he sent to lawmakers earlier this month. The money would go to state-approved charter schools in an effort to close a gap lawmakers tried to eliminate in a landmark funding bill passed in the waning days of the 2017 state legislative session.

Funding charter schools, which receive tax dollars but operate independently of the traditional school district system, is a contentious issue in many states. Charter schools in Colorado have enjoyed bipartisan support, but the 2017 debate over how to fund them hit on thorny issues, especially the state’s constitutional guarantee of local control of schools.

The legislation that ultimately passed, which had broad bipartisan support but faced fierce opposition from some Democrats, requires school districts by 2020 to equitably share voter-approved local tax increases — known as mill levy overrides — with the charter schools they approved.

The bill also created a system for lawmakers to send more money to charter schools, like New America in Thornton, that are governed by the state, rather than a local school district.

Unlike district-approved charter schools, which were always eligible to receive a portion of local tax increases, state-approved charter schools haven’t had access to that revenue.

Terry Croy Lewis, executive director of the Charter School Institute, or CSI, the state organization that approves charter schools, said it is critical lawmakers complete the work they started in 2017 by boosting funding to her schools.

“It’s a significant amount of money,” she said. “To not have that equity for our schools, it’s extremely concerning.”

CSI authorizes 41 different charters schools that enrolled nearly 17,000 students last school year. That’s comparable to both the Brighton and Thompson school districts, according to state data.

Hickenlooper’s request would be a small step toward closing the $18 million gap between state-approved charter schools and what district-run charter schools are projected to receive starting in 2020, CSI officials said.

“Gov. Hickenlooper believes that working to make school funding as fair as possible is important,” Jacque Montgomery, Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “This is the next step in making sure that is true for more children.”

If lawmakers approve Hickenlooper’s request, the New Legacy charter school in Aurora would receive about $580 more per student in the 2018-19 school year.

Jennifer Douglas, the school’s principal, said she would put that money toward teacher salaries and training — especially in the school’s early education center.

“As a small school, serving students with complex needs, it is challenging and we need to tap into every dollar we can,” she said.

The three-year old school in Aurora serves both teen mothers and their toddlers. Before the school opened, Douglas sent in her charter application to both the Aurora school board and CSI. Both approved her charter application, but because at the time her school would receive greater access to federal dollars through CSI, Douglas asked to be governed by the state.

Douglas said that her preferred solution to close the funding gap would be to see local tax increases follow students, regardless of school type or governance model. Until that day, she said, lawmakers must “ensure that schools have the resources they need to take care of the students in our state and give them the education they deserve.”

For Hickenlooper’s request to become a reality, it must first be approved by the legislature’s budget committee and then by both chambers. In a hyper-partisan election year, nothing is a guarantee, but it appears Hickenlooper’s proposal won’t face the same fight that the 2017 charter school funding bill encountered.

State Rep. Jovan Melton, an Aurora Democrat who helped lead the charge against the charter school funding bill, said he was likely going to support Hickenlooper’s proposal.

“You almost have to do it to be in alignment with the law,” Melton said. “I don’t think with a good conscious I could vote against it. I’m probably going to hold my nose and vote yes.”

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Nic Garcia on November 16, 2017. Photo by Nic Garcia. Students at The New America School in Thornton during an English class. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

The Republican tax-bill strategy, writes John Cassidy in The New Yorker, has three prongs — speed, subterfuge and diversion. One bill has passed the House. A different version has passed the Senate Finance Committee. In other words, the strategy may be working.

Dave Leonhardt: If you watched any of the all-too-brief Senate hearings on the Republican tax cut bill, you saw some angry exchanges, particularly involving Sen. Orrin Hatch, who seems upset that Democrats keep saying the bill is bad for middle- and working-class voters. The problem for Hatch is that, in this case, the Democrats are right. Via The New York Times.

Democrats are making the case that if suburban middle-class voters don’t see the tax cuts they’ve promised, there could be a huge backlash at the polls next year. Via The Washington Post.

Charles Manson dies at 83. The New York Times has written a lengthy obituary, but at this point it’s hard to know what else there is to say.

That photo, Al Franken and trusting the women. Via The Atlantic. From The National Review: If Franken manages to keep his Senate seat, Democrats will come to regret it. Whatever Franken has done may not be nearly as bad as whatever Roy Moore has done, but that won’t stop Republicans from playing the what-about-ism card.

ABC News is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller has made a wide-ranging request for documents from the Justice Department, which oversees his investigation. He is apparently particularly interested in documents relating to the firing of FBI director Jim Comey. Meanwhile, in the White House, reports The Washington Post, Trump aides are split on where the investigation is headed. Some see a quick resolution. Others see a long winter.

One more day in Trumpworld: The president was so angry that he didn’t get more thanks from a players’ father for his help in freeing three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting that he’s changed his mind on the topic. Trump is now saying he wished he’d left them in jail in China. Via The Los Angeles Times.

Cass Sunstein: Trump’s Clinton fixation is truly Orwellian. It’s an easy call. Just pull out your dog-eared copy of 1984 and brush up on Big Brother’s Two Minute Hate. Via Bloomberg.

Elizabeth Warren: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was a long-shot idea that, somehow, became law. And more surprising still is that the bureau has actually been allowed to do its work. But all that may be coming into an end as agency director Rich Cordray is retiring and Trump gets set to name a successor. Via American Prospect.

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr: Creative Commons. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.
    This is an excerpt from the new book, “The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom,” by Denver journalist and author Helen Thorpe.

Eddie Williams felt a sense of kinship with students who struggled to determine their place in American society. The English Language Acquisition teacher had been born in a tiny border town in southern California. His mother had grown up nearby, in a Spanish-speaking household. Her parents had immigrated from Mexico, and when she was a child, Mr. Williams’s mother had learned English in ELA classes. For her, the experience had been searing. As an adult, she had not taught her children Spanish, for fear they would encounter the sort of virulent prejudice she had experienced in school. When her children were small, she did not even share with them the complete story of her own background, because of the degree of prejudice toward those of Mexican descent. She had married an American, and when her children were small, they believed they were Anglo.

One day, while we were standing on the front steps of South, chatting about his background, Eddie Williams recalled that when his mother had finally revealed her Mexican identity, his sister had cried. In her mind, to be Mexican was to be dirty or unlovable. It was not something she wanted to be. Although he did not say so, I thought perhaps he, too, might have struggled to embrace fully the part of himself that had been treated as inferior by white society. I could see why teaching the beginner level ELA class to newcomer students at South High School might make him feel more whole.

With the advent of spring, as more and more interactions were taking place, I found myself able appreciate in an entirely new fashion how all of the different languages represented in the room converged in ways I had not previously recognized. I glimpsed this convergence one afternoon in the middle of April, when I was sitting with Shani, Jakleen, and Mariam, who had teamed up to work together. They were talking about a book that Mr. Williams had started reading out loud with the class. The book was called Cesar Chavez: Fighting for Farmworkers, and it was a nonfiction graphic novel, told in cartoon strips.

For Mr. Williams, the story of Cesar Chavez held tremendous power. He got a little emotional, trying to explain the significance of this guy his students had never heard of—trying to put into words why Cesar Chavez mattered. At one point, as I was listening to Shani, Jakleen, and Mariam discuss a poster they were making about the book, I found myself wondering how the three girls were managing to communicate. Shani spoke Tajik, Russian, and a little Farsi, while Jakleen and Mariam were Arabic speakers—in other words, they did not share a common language. Yet they seemed to understand one another, and they were not using Google Translate, nor were they speaking in English. How were they interacting? I could hear all three of them saying the word kitab. What was that? “Book!” Shani told me. “My language, their language, same.”

In their home languages, the word for “book” was virtually identical. In Arabic, it was kitab; in Tajik, kitob. In Turkish, it was kitap, Jakleen pointed out, and in Farsi, Shani hastened to add, the word was kitab, just like Arabic. Initially, I thought this kind of convergence existed only in the Middle East, but as I spent more time with students from Africa, I came to realize my mistake. Dilli told me that that in Kunama, the word for “book” was kitaba, and Methusella said in Swahili it was kitabu. That was the moment when I grasped my own arrogance as an English speaker. I mean, the arrogance harbored by someone who knew only European languages, which rendered the well-laced interconnectedness of the rest of the world invisible. I was starting to see it, though—the centuries-old ties that bound Africa and the Middle East, born of hundreds of years of trade and travel and conquest and marriage. Once the students grasped that I would exclaim with delight if they found a word that had moved through many of their countries, they started coming to me to share loanwords and cognates. More than one-third of Swahili comes from Arabic, meaning the links between those two languages are as powerful as those between English and Spanish, but it was also possible to chart the reach of Arabic across the African continent, into Kunama and Tigrinya as well.

Helen Thorpe

As the kids began to discover these commonalities, I began to feel as though I was watching something like the living embodiment of a linguistic tree. The classroom and the relationships forming in it were almost a perfect map of language proximity around the globe. Generally, students chose to communicate most with students whose home languages shared large numbers of cognates with their own, which meant their first friendships often developed along language groupings. As this took place around me, I could see my own position on the world’s tree of languages more clearly. English speakers can easily grasp the vast coterminology of all the Indo-European languages—our own limb of the global language tree—but we are generally deaf and dumb to the equally large influence of Arabic, or Chinese, or Hindi across parts of the globe where English does not dominate. And we cannot hear or see the equally significant coterminology that has resulted among various other language families, such as between the Arabic and the African languages. It was to our detriment, not understanding how tightly interwoven other parts of the world are. When we make enemies in the Middle East, for example, we alienate whole swaths of Africa, too—often without knowing.

Qalb was the word that the students wanted to teach me about most of all. One day over lunch, Shani got very puppylike about this concept, bouncing around in her chair as we were sitting with Rahim, Jakleen, and Mariam. “Qalb! My language, qalb! Arabic, qalb! Farsi, qalb!” Shani announced. Okay, I thought, I get it; they’ve found another cognate. But what was qalb? “Qalb means ‘heart,’” Rahim explained. “This word, it is the same in all our languages.” I tried to get a better sense of this concept, which the students and I discussed over a series of days, first with Rahim and later with Ghasem. Could you say that their English Language Acquisition teacher, Mr. Williams, had a qalb that pumped blood through his body? Yes, Ghasem confirmed. Could you ask, “How much qalb did it take for Mr. Williams to do this, year after year, with such infinite patience, for room after room of newcomers?” Yes, the students agreed. When two people fell in love—was that qalb again? Yes.

I left South High School that day thinking that qalb and heart were one and the same. I used one word to refer to a muscle in my body and the concept of falling in love and the idea of what it takes to raise a family or to teach an entire classroom full of teenagers from all around the world, and the students from the Middle East would use one single word for all of that, too. Qalb and heart seemed identical. Then I looked up qalb on Google Translate one weekend, while the kids were missing me and I was missing the kids. When I asked Google to translate “heart” into Arabic, it gave qalb, as expected. But when I asked Google to translate qalb into English, I got transformation, conscience, core, marrow, pith, pulp, gist, essence, quintessence, topple, alter, flip, tip, overturn, reversal, overthrow, capsize, whimsical, capricious, convert, counterfeit. In addition, the word meant: substance, being, pluck.

I am in love with this word, I thought. What is all this movement about? My own concept of heart did not include flip, capsize, or reverse. Our two cultures did not seem to have the same idea of what was happening at the core of our beings. There was something reified and stolid about my sense of heart, whereas the idea of heart that these kids possessed appeared to have a lighter, more nimble quality. Whatever it was, qalb seemed more fluid and less constrained than anything I had imagined happening inside of me.

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Helen Thorpe on November 14, 2017. Eddie Williams’s classroom at Denver’s South High School (photo provided by Helen Thorpe). Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.


If you ever had any questions about why so many women keep silent in the face of sexual harassment or even sexual assault, why some don’t come forward for 40 years and why many never come forward at all, we give the floor to state Rep. Steve Lebsock.

He makes the case so much better than I can.

As you may know, Lebsock, who is also running for state treasurer, was accused by nine women working at the Capitol of sexually harassing them. Once Rep. Faith Winter made her accusation on the record, two other women also came forward publicly.

What may surprise you is that Lebsock, in the face of so many accusations, insists that he is the victim in all this, meaning, of course, that everyone else must be lying.

But if it does surprise you, you may not be a woman. And you’re certainly not Winter, who said this was pretty much what she expected to happen. She knew her motives and credibility would be put in question. She feared retaliation. She feared that her job would become more difficult. Because it was Steve Lebsock. And because she’s seen women facing the same situation so many times before.

And Lebsock has, to this point, successfully lived down to Winter’s expectations. His latest theory is that he has been “caught up” in the #metoo movement, but maybe not in the way you’d ever guess. He means that the movement has arrived in Colorado, and that his accusers must have gotten swept up by it. So, yep, he’s the victim. It’s an interesting, if not remotely credible, defense.

He has also issued the more standard denial. He says he has done nothing wrong, that he never sexually harassed anyone, that he’s being treated unfairly, that he’s being denied due process, that the governor and lieutenant governor have rushed to judgment, that there is some kind of conspiracy against him, that the truth will emerge once he tells his side of the story.

I called him to ask his side. He, uh, didn’t call back.

In Winter’s case, she said Lebsock had harassed her at an end-of-session legislative party in 2016, suggesting several sexual acts they might perform together. Winter said the more she tried to change the subject, the angrier he got,  eventually roughly grabbing her elbow.

“I tied to de-escalate the situation,” she said, “but he kept getting angrier and kept moving closer. I’ve never felt so unsafe, not with another person anyway. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t de-escalate the situation. It’s a skill most women have. You invent imaginary boyfriends. You laugh it off. You change the subject.”

If you’re at a party, you signal a friend to come help get you out of the situation, which is what Winter finally had to do.

But before the Capitol press Tuesday, in a moment weird even by Capitol standards, Lebsock tried to change the subject by tearfully recounting how someone has been harassing him on the phone for his alleged harassment, and by saying “I am fearful for my life.” The caller, who may have his own problems, later told The Denver Post that he was, in fact, harassing Lebsock so he’d understand how harassed women feel. How much more absurd can the situation get?

And so, Lebsock has been accused by at least nine women of harassment. And now he has made matters that much worse — and turned the apparent victims who went public into victims all over again — by challenging their stories. Are you still wondering why more women don’t come forward?

The story broke on Friday when KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reported on the harassment accusations. The reaction from Democrats came swiftly. House Speaker Crisanta Duran stripped Lebsock of his committee chairmanship and suggested he resign (and Duran is now being called out for having appointed him in the first place). John Hickenlooper and many of the candidates running to replace Hickenlooper also called for his resignation.

First, Lebsock denied any guilt. Then he said he didn’t remember saying anything untoward to Winter, but that both of them were drinking. Then he wrote a sort-of apology saying he understood that those who charged him felt injured, and he’s extremely sorry for that, but without saying any of it was his fault. He did say the women should make an official report. And when Winter did so, he told 9News’ Marshall Zelinger that he was glad she had filed because now the truth would come out.

What could Lebsock’s version of the truth be?

“I told the truth,” Winter said. “I have two male colleagues who were there at the bar willing to back me up on the record. I sent him an email describing his behavior at the time. I met with the speaker and the majority leader, who left it up to me as to what to do next. I decided not to take any action because Steve said he was remorseful and that he would get counseling. He made the same agreement with leadership. I don’t know what he could say.”

She didn’t make an official complaint last year because, well, see above. Instead, she spent a year avoiding Lebsock before coming forward when she heard more stories about him. That’s what she’d warned Lebsock she would do. And in the Weinstein era and the Roy Moore era, #metoo has given more women a voice. But it doesn’t come free.

In Winter’s view, those who are blaming Duran for not doing something earlier about Lebsock are missing an important, but complicating, point. Duran — who was told about the incident last year when she was majority leader — was faced with the choice between warning others and respecting Winter’s privacy and wishes. But the question of whether Duran should have appointed Lebsock as committee chair this year is a lot easier. Knowing what she knew, she clearly should not have.

Winter says leadership did what it was supposed to do when she came forward and says now of Duran’s critics, “They’re really blaming me, the survivor, for not filing a complaint earlier. And that’s not what we do.”

Here’s what we can do: When people who know Lebsock and know his reputation and also know his accusers and their reputations say they think Lebsock should resign, we can say #metoo.

Photo illustration by The Independent.


Republicans are doubling down— again.

As we all know, they haven’t been able to get anything significant through Congress at this point, but now they’re trying to get everything at once — by deciding to whack Obamacare as part of the tax bill. The idea is to dismantle the individual tax mandate — which would boost federal revenues while, um, reduce those covered by health insurance by maybe 13 million people — because that’s what Donald Trump wants. Via The Atlantic.

One more little healthcare-related issue with the tax bill, it could potentially trigger an automatic $25 billion cut in Medicare. Via Vox.

Jeff Sessions told a House committee that he has never lied about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians. He just  can never seem to rememberthem until someone — say, a journalist or a federal investigator — reminds him. Via The New York Times.

The Democratic nomination system wasn’t rigged, writes Ezra Klein in Vox, but it was biased. The strange thing, he concludes, is that the pro-Clinton bias actually helped Bernie Sanders, and those who were hurt — and this will sound really strange — were potential candidates like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and … John Hickenlooper. That’s what he said.

This time, we’re told, it was a neighborhood dispute in a rural Northern California community that set off a shooter, who was known for firing guns, on a killing rampage in which he shot more than a dozen people — apparently at random — and killed at least four. Via The San Francisco Chronicle. 

Frank Bruni: Danica Roem is the country’s only openly transgender lawmaker and what she wants to talk about is traffic on Route 28. And if that’s really, really boring — and it really is — that’s a very good thing. Via The New York Times.

Dana Milbank: If the Trump administration defense on possible collusion with Russia comes down to positing that the entire outfit was way too dumb to organize a conspiracy, Donald Trump Jr. will obviously be the first witness. Via The Washington Post.

Now that Trump is coming home from his mostly uneventful trip to Asia, what’s he going to do about Roy Moore? Mitch McConnell has begged Trump to lean on Moore to quit the race. But Trump also knows that many of his most fervent supporters are also fervent Moore supporters. And then there’s the Trump-accusers problem. Via Politico.

From The National Review: Rich Lowry writes that if the Roy Moore story is a matter of he said, she said, then the she-said contingent is so much more believable.

Then were those years in which Moore was apparently banned from the mall for his habit of badgering teenage girls. At least that’s what the folks in his Alabama hometown say. Via The New Yorker.

Photo by Kumar Jhuremalani, for Flickr: Creative Commons

The Home Front: Longmont coughs up $200,000 for ‘warrantless police dog searches’ at a subsidized apartment

Your morning roundup of stories from the front pages of newspapers across Colorado


“Longmont on Tuesday announced that it has agreed to pay $210,000 to four tenants of The Suites and their ACLU attorneys as part of a settlement following warrantless police dog searches at the subsidized apartment complex earlier this year,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “The Longmont Department of Public Safety admitted that the four tenants did not consent to the searches of their apartments and were not given the opportunity to refuse the searches. ‘I did not have any opportunity to stop a police officer and K-9 from coming into my home and searching it,’ Suites resident Alice Boatner said in an ACLU news release confirming the settlement. ‘I felt violated, powerless and demeaned. Thanks to this agreement and Chief (Mike) Butler’s actions, I can now begin to heal.'”

“An unruly and largely unregulated due-process hearing for Greeley Muncipal Judge Brandilynn Nieto dragged well into the night Tuesday, as attorneys for Nieto and the city of Greeley sparred over questions, exhibits and allegations of corruption within city government,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “Nieto in August was charged with official misconduct in a case The Tribune later learned centered on her requests that employees work to promote a local bail bonds business on social media. Charges against Nieto were dropped in September, and records related to the case were sealed. The due-process hearing Tuesday was to determine whether Nieto, who has been suspended without pay since Nov. 3, would regain her seat on the bench. The hearing still was in session late Tuesday, and no decision had been made.”

“Colorado’s top Democratic lawmaker is under fire for how she handled a colleague’s sexual harassment complaint against a member of their party and now faces calls for an independent investigation,” reports The Denver Post. “House Speaker Crisanta Duran appointed Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, as chairman of the Local Government Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session despite knowing that the fellow lawmaker made the allegation against him seven months earlier. The accusation became public Friday and was followed by harassment complaints from two other women. The Denver Democrat defended her decision Tuesday but acknowledged that she would not have put him in the position of power ‘knowing what I know today.'”

“State Rep. Steve Lebsock denied Tuesday that he has sexually harassed anyone and said he is the victim of harassment, coercion and bribery by fellow Democrats at the Colorado Capitol,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Lebsock, a candidate for state treasuer, was accused last week by Rep. Faith Winter of making crude remarks to her at an end-of-session gathering at a bar at the end of the 2016 legislative session. KUNC’s Bente Birkland also reported that former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner accuse Lebsock of speaking to them about sex. House Speaker Crisanta Duran began an investigation Monday, but on Friday she called for Lebsock’s resignation and removed him as chairman of the House Local Government Committee. Other Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, since have pressured him to step down as well, said Lebsock.”

“Nov. 3 was a special day for Mesa County resident Christine Haddow and her dog, Nick. Two days earlier, Nick — a mellow and affectionate miniature poodle rescued from a Texas kill shelter — had completed requirements to become a certified therapy dog,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “On Nov. 3., Nick was on his way to his first official assignment with a HopeWest Hospice patient. He never made it. When Haddow stopped to take her 19-pound pup for a walk in Sherwood Park that morning before the assignment, Nick was fatally injured by another dog at the park, an animal Haddow said was completely beyond the control of its owner. ‘The dog that attacked him is a purebred Great Dane,’ Haddow said. ‘He didn’t have a chance.'”

“Linda Maher wanted to meet the man whose mistake nearly took her life,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “She wanted to make sure Tony Gonzalez, whose car collided with hers at the intersection of South Shields Street and West Trilby Road on Nov. 2, 2015, was all right. Maher knew she was in rough shape after suffering severe internal injuries in the wreck and faced a long road to recovery. But as a longtime community volunteer and advocate for mental-health services, she wanted to help Gonzalez deal with the emotional and legal consequences of the crash. That meant meeting Gonzalez and talking about how they might heal their wounds and find ways for something positive to come out of their unfortunate experience.”

“More than 65,000 Coloradans are working in ‘clean energy’ jobs and that is roughly equal to the the state’s workforce in the oil, natural gas and coal industries, Gov. John Hickenlooper told a Pueblo crowd Tuesday night.,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. “The numbers of jobs like those created at Vestas, where the pay is good, those kinds of jobs far outweigh the cost of closing (coal-fired) power plants,” Hickenlooper insisted to a crowd of more than 200 people at the Union Depot. The governor said it was his third town hall meeting in the state and called the Pueblo crowd the largest to meet with him yet. He answered questions for 90 minutes and he was pressed on issues ranging from gun control to extracting natural gas by ‘fracking’ wells.'”

“Before dignitaries had even cut the ribbon on the Front Range Trail on Tuesday, Marty Perkins and Nancy Thomas pedaled by on their bicycles, having made their first trip to Loveland from Fort Collins on two wheels via the first paved trail connecting the two cities,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Thank you very much,” Perkins called out to the gathering. “It’s awesome.” The paved trail connects the existing 19.5-mile Loveland Recreation Trail with the Fort Collins trail system along County Roads 11C and 30 before cutting through fields and neighborhoods and ending at an underpass beneath Carpenter Road near Lemay Avenue. The $1.2 million project was a partnership between Loveland, Fort Collins and Larimer County, which each paid a portion of the cost over $800,000 in grants from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.”

“For the second consecutive year, Vail Resorts has delayed by a week the opening of Vail Mountain,” reports Vail Daily. “The new scheduled opening date is Thursday, Nov. 23 — Thanksgiving Day. Beaver Creek is still expected to open Wednesday, Nov. 22. The delayed opening didn’t particularly surprise Matt Carroll, general manager of the Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead. Carroll said a neighboring shop owner has snow records dating back to Vail’s first year, and those records show a dry fall every three to five years. ‘We’ve seen years like this plenty of times,’ Carroll said. ‘It’s Mother Nature — there’s not a lot you can do about it.'”

“Durango residents are likely to get a larger utility bill next year so that the city of Durango can pay for sewer projects and sustainability efforts,” reports The Durango Herald. “The average monthly utility bill is expected to increase from $108.17 in 2017 to $113.87 to 2018, according to city documents.”

“Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr is back at work,” reports The Cañon City Dail Record. “On Tuesday, the county clerk was present at the Board of Fremont County Commissioners meeting, where business was conducted as usual. Fremont County Commissioner Debbie Bell said Tuesday was Barr’s first official meeting since being absent. Bell said she’s been working as the County Clerk since Oct. 30. Barr was absent from her position for about a month after an announcement from the Fremont County Commissioners and the Cañon City Police Department that Barr and the Fremont County Clerk’s office were under investigation after financial discrepancies recently were discovered.”

“The Boulder Valley school board on Tuesday opened a discussion on class sizes, debating the impact of small classes on student achievement versus the high cost of adding teachers,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “Class size reductions haven’t emerged as a district priority in past years, with administrators saying the district can’t afford small enough class sizes to make a real difference. To reduce the student-to-teacher ratio by just one student districtwide would cost about $5 million. At the elementary level, the student-to-teacher ratio is about 25 to one, though most classes end up higher or lower depending on the number of students enrolled in each grade.”

“Former congressman and gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo didn’t take long to respond to establishment GOP consultant Karl Rove’s tirade on Fox News early Tuesday evening after Rove called Tancredo a ‘disgraced former congressman’ on national television,” reports ColoradoPolitics. “Tancredo fired back in a press release, saying, ‘I don’t take moral advice or criticism from someone who helped the president create a false narrative about Iraq that eventually led to the deaths of thousands of American servicemen and women and created a catastrophic mess in the Middle East.'”

“Denver officials highlighted at least one high-tech option that could help get people around should Amazon decide to plop 50,000 employees in the city as part its new North American headquarters rollout,” reports Denverite. “Two pages on a driverless shuttle were tucked inside documents the Denver Office of Economic Development sent to state highlighting why Inc. should pick the Mile High City, according to records obtained by Denverite. The maker of the EZ10 shuttles, EasyMile, recently opened its own North American headquarters in Denver and said it plans within the next year to start using its autonomous vehicle near Denver International Airport. Denver sent the documents on EZ10 to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. to include in the one proposal Colorado put forth for Amazon HQ2. Because the proposal has been kept from the public, it’s unclear if the regional business organization included the information.”

6 takeaways from 7 GOP candidates for governor in Colorado

All support Trump, would drug test welfare recipients, and will support the eventual nominee


Over burgers and beer in a historic fort in Weld County’s gas patch Monday night, seven Republicans running for governor largely agreed on issues ranging from random drug testing of welfare recipients to their support for President Donald Trump.

The heavily secured forum marked the first time the GOP’s broad slate of candidates met since Attorney General Cynthia Coffman leapt into an already crowded race on Nov. 8 and high-profile District Attorney George Brauchler ditched the governor’s race to run for AG a few days later. Coffman was out of town and didn’t make the event, which was organized by the Republican Women of Weld and drew about 120 guests.

For two hours, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, retired investment banker Doug Robinson, entrepreneur and one-time lawmaker Victor Mitchell, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter, and Trump’s Denver co-chair Steve Barlock took questions from a moderator.

Tancredo, noting a police checkpoint at the gate, quipped, “Usually I don’t get any bomb threats until I get nominated— that’s when all hell breaks use.” He ripped right into immigration policies, noting the recent news of an MS-13 gang member and murder suspect who was arrested in Fort Morgan County for allegedly stabbing a woman with a screwdriver. “We have cities in this state that provide sanctuary,” Tancredo said. “They are providing sanctuary for people who kill people, who maim people, who rob people.”

Stapleton received the warmest welcome in the room, winning the evening’s straw poll with 42 votes out of 85 cast.

Below are six takeaways from the forum.

Doug Robinson’s ‘Romney nephew’ moment

As a first-time candidate for public office, Robinson of Denver has to introduce himself to the state’s Republican faithful. But he understands if they might already know one thing about him.

“Most of you simply know me — because this is the way the media has covered me — as Mitt Romney’s nephew,” he told the crowd to knowing chuckles. But Robinson used the opportunity to set himself apart from the former Republican presidential nominee in a personal way. “I love and respect my uncle a great deal. I lived a different life than him,” he said. “You see, when I was a teenager my father left our family. My mother, either out of embarrassment or shame, didn’t share the extent of our circumstances with others. So I went to work and I worked my way through college — often put groceries on the table — made a success of myself through my own hard work and my life, and that gave me a profound respect for the underdog, an ability to innovate, to take risks, to take chances.”

They all pledged to support the eventual GOP nominee

Following a scorched-earth GOP presidential primary and a #NeverTrump opposition movement among some Republicans that bubbled up around the 2016 nominee, Monday’s moderator wanted to know whether each candidate would pledge to support whoever wins the June Republican primary in Colorado.

All of them said they would.

Typically that could be a no-brainer, but with Tom Tancredo in the mix, the question could have scrambled things. He has run for governor twice before and even once left the Republican Party to do it. In 2010, he sought the governor’s seat as a member of the American Constitution Party, earning 37 percent of the vote — more than Dan Maes, the Republican candidate that year. In some Republican circles, Tancredo is viewed as a spoiler or a gadfly and establishment Republicans are likely to try to consolidate support around a candidate they think can take him out in the primary, fearing he could be too controversial and too far to the right to win a general election in Colorado.

Some of them think legal weed is causing mental health problems

Here was the exact phrasing of a question to the candidates: “Do you believe that mental health issues have increased while our resources for treatment have deteriorated since the legalization of marijuana?”

The seven Republicans were split.

“Mental health? Yes, it is a manifestation of legalized marijuana,” said Stapleton, who also used the opportunity to tear into Colorado’s system for regulating legal pot, calling it a “broken regulatory environment.” It’s easier for an 18-year-old to get a medical marijuana card in Colorado than it is to get a six-pack of beer, he said. He said Coloradans are taking advantage of “fraud and abuse” surrounding medical cards. “The idea that medical marijuana should be tax-free is completely bogus,” he added. “It’s called a sin tax.”

Tancredo, who supported the Amendment 64 ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, said, “I do not think there is empirical evidence to the extent necessary to make that kind of determination as to exactly how much marijuana is the cause of mental illness — certainly it may play a role.”  

“Logic would lead you to conclude that the answer is yes,” said Lopez. “With the use of marijuana there is some connection, and I can’t tell you specifically what that might be.”

“I suppose the answer to your question is yes,” said Gaiter.

Robinson, who formed SMART Colorado, which calls itself “the only non-profit organization focused on protecting the health, safety, and well-being of Colorado youth as marijuana becomes increasingly available and commercialized,” said as governor he would require a medical marijuana card recipient to obtain one only through his or her existing doctor rather than a “pot doctor.” He did not say whether he thought legalized marijuana is linked to increased mental health issues.

Mitchell used the opportunity to talk about how his oldest daughter, who just graduated college, “almost lost her life five years ago to mental health.” He said, “I think we’re conflating marijuana and mental illness — they’re very different.”

Barlock said because he’s not a doctor or psychiatrist, “I have no idea.”

Two candidates had something to say about cars

Since he announced his latest run for governor, Tancredo has made immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, which isn’t surprising given it’s been his signature issue for years and the reason he briefly ran for president in 2008.

But he has also been hammering on another issue: Cars. He loves them. And he wants you to be able to drive them.

“I’m all for bike paths and hiking lanes and all that stuff,” Tancredo said, his voice rising. “But, hey, roads are the problem. We need more. People want to drive their cars. That’s what we are supposed to do as public servants is respond to that, and you know why? It’s because the state and many cities don’t want you in your car. They want to figure out ways to move you out of your car and onto their bike paths or whatever the hell. No way, no how. I drive a car. I like the car, OK? Roads, roads, roads.”

For his part, Barlock likened Colorado’s future to a car.

“I look at it like a car race,” he says. “Right now we are on an empty tank and bald tires. If we don’t take the time to see what’s wrong and show others what’s going wrong with our state we will crash and burn. We could hurt others on the way. … Take the brake, put some new tires on, fill the tank, make adjustments, and all be able to have an enjoyable life.”

They would all randomly drug test welfare recipients

All seven candidates said Coloradans accepting public assistance should undergo random drug testing.

“If you are on the government dole, absolutely you should subscribe to random drug testing,” said Stapleton.

Barlock wondered about marijuana since it’s legal. “It’s a slippery slope,” he said.

Who voted for Donald Trump?

Out of the seven candidates, only one, Mitchell, said he did not vote for Donald Trump for president, instead casting his ballot for former CIA officer Evan McMullin who ran as a third-party candidate. “I just couldn’t get there with Donald Trump the way he talked about and treated women,” Mitchell said.

Gaiter avoided the question, saying he doesn’t answer it because it is divisive.

All seven said they currently support the president.

Tancredo said, “It was a thousand times easier to vote for Donald Trump than it was to vote for John McCain,” adding that he thinks Trump will turn out to be “one of the greatest presidents.”

Photo by Corey Hutchins

Sometimes a woman, to defend herself,

or her cubs, will dress up as a bear,

pluck, one by one, the twenty ribs of a man,

and strap them on as claws.


This is not a woman to be trifled with,

even if you see the seams in her suit,

even if you fashion yourself a tamer of wild animals,

even if, especially if, you are a snake, a smooth-talker, a bit of a devil.


No, do not mess with her,

no matter how shiny your apple.


Photo credit: Lisa Parker, Creative Commons, Flickr 


Tim Lomas was puzzled over the summer when a Denver city inspector quickly closed the complaint he had filed about his neighbor’s dog-grooming business.

“To me, it was like they didn’t even investigate,” said the Platte Park resident. “I wanted to get phone records to see if they at least contacted my neighbor to even discuss the issue. I wanted to know if the city was doing anything at all to investigate the complaint I filed.”

But Denver Community Planning and Development rejected Loma’s request for records showing details (date, time and duration) of calls made by the inspector on her city-issued cellphone on two specific dates in July.

“Though we do have city issued cellphones, CPD does not keep any phone records and I am unable to provide them,” responded Shea Scott, operational supervisor for Community Planning and Development.

The city’s IT governance manager, Tricia Scherer, responded further to Lomas’ attorney, Marc Flink of Baker & Hostetler. Denver’s Technology Services department doesn’t maintain or keep records of “date/time/duration of calls made or received” by inspectors, she wrote in an email. “Technology Services pays certain aggregate mobile telephone services invoices, but they do not contain information or records related to a specific employee.”

The Colorado Open Records Act defines public records to include “all writings made, maintained, or kept” by a government or agency. But are records related to a government-issued cellphone disclosable under CORA if the city has access to them but doesn’t maintain them?

The city can get the records from its cellphone provider. That’s apparent from Denver’s mobile device policy, which requires department heads and managers to annually review every employee’s compliance and his or her “continued necessity” to use a mobile device for city business.

Denver’s contractual right to access the phone records is clear, Flink wrote in an email to Assistant City Attorney Mitch Behr. “Not only does the city have that contractual right, it is a contractual right that the city periodically exercises to obtain such records, such as in the case where the city wants to verify substantial business use of the mobile device.”

Flink also noted that the Colorado Court of Appeals in 1994 held that the disclosure of records under CORA is not determined by the location where the records are maintained. That caseinvolved documents kept by the general contractor responsible for the construction of Coors Field. The documents were public records, the appellate court ruled, because they were used by the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District “in the exercise of its official functions.”

Courts elsewhere also have concluded that possession of documents by a third party doesn’t determine whether they are subject to disclosure as public records. What matters is whether the records can be tied to the “transaction of public business,” not whether the records are in a public database or one “privately contracted” by a public body, a Virginia court ruled in 2008 in a case involving email messages.

“To rule otherwise would permit public records of significance to a consideration of the affairs of governance to be shielded from public scrutiny,” the court said.

Other governments in Colorado have turned over cellphone records in response to CORA requests.

In August, The Greeley Tribune obtained call logs for the county-issued cellphone of Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, who then announced that he wanted residents to contact him via his private phone and email address.

In response to a CORA, Weld County provided Tribune reporter Tyler Silvy with call data similar to what Lomas requested from the city of Denver. Weld County “considered it to be in their possession because they had access to it and it’s their bill,” Silvy said. “It was not an issue for them at all.”

In 2008, Gov. Bill Ritter turned over records from his state-paid Blackberry device in response to a Denver Post request. The Post also requested records tied to Ritter’s personal cellphone, which he used for both personal and government business, but the Colorado Supreme Court decidedthat his personal phone records were not subject to disclosure under CORA.

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition asked Denver Community Planning and Development about Loma’s CORA request and was referred to Behr in the city attorney’s office.

The CFOIC hasn’t been able to reach Behr to discuss the city’s position, but Flink said Behr left a message with him saying the city isn’t inclined to make an exception to its policy about mobile phone records under the circumstances of Loma’s request.


This story was originally published by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Nov. 10, 2017. Cover image via CFOIC. 

The Home Front: Why a clean-air advocate is suing Colorado Springs for defaming her character

Your morning roundup of stories from the front pages of newspapers across Colorado


“A Monument clean-air advocate filed a defamation suit against the city of Colorado Springs on Monday, alleging that city officials and elected leaders smeared her reputation for exposing concerns about pollution from the controversial coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “The action in U.S. District Court in Denver comes six months after Leslie Weise first lodged her allegations in a notice of claim. Her complaint alleges a “nearly yearlong campaign” that “sought to discredit her and ruin her reputation in her community for exposing the fact that the Martin Drake Power Plant was spewing noxious pollution in violation of Environmental Protection Agency regulations in the backyard of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs residents.” Twelve defendants are named, including the city of Colorado Springs. Also being sued are council members Andy Pico, Bill Murray, Tom Strand, Jill Gaebler, Don Knight and Merv Bennett and former council members Helen Collins, Keith King and Larry Bagley. City Attorney Wynetta Massey and Colorado Springs Utilities spokeswoman Amy Trinidad also are named.”

“A Denver attorney for Greeley Municipal Court Judge Brandilynn Nieto called charges against her part of a witch hunt and promised to expose corruption in Greeley’s government — from the mayor to the police chief — during a public hearing at the Greeley City Council meeting tonight,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “Nieto in August was charged with official misconduct in a case The Tribune later learned centered on her requests that employees work to promote a local bail bonds business on social media. Charges against Nieto were dropped in September, and records related to the case were sealed. Nieto was suspended pending a decision from the Greeley City Council about whether she will return to the bench. That decision would have to be public, but discussion beforehand would typically be allowed in an executive session, a type of meeting that’s done outside of the public eye.”

“Mesa County and several other western Colorado local governments owe more than $1 million to Oxy USA Inc. in tax overpayments, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “State law “gives taxpayers the right to seek abatement and refund for erroneously or illegally levied taxes resulting from an overvaluation caused solely by taxpayer mistake,” the high court ruled in the case, which stretches back to the 2011 tax year. The more than $1 million owed by local governments in Mesa County doesn’t include interest payments totaling $14,000 a month. For Mesa County itself, about $400,000 was at issue and interest payments would be about $4,000 a month. Under Colorado law, Oxy could be paid 1 percent in simple interest per month of the total tax at issue.”

“Longmont officially has two new City Council members and a new mayor. On Monday night, Ward 2 Councilwoman Marcia Martin and Councilman at-large Aren Rodriguez took their oaths of office and began the freshman year of the four-year terms they won in last Tuesday’s election,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “Newly elected Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley, center, receives the gavel from former Mayor Dennis Coombs, right, while standing with new Councilman at-large Newly elected Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley, center, receives the gavel from former Mayor Dennis Coombs, right, while standing with new Councilman at-large Aren Rodriguez during Monday’s Longmont City Council meeting inside council chambers. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer) Brian Bagley, who won the election contest for a two-year term in Longmont’s mayoral contest, moved from his Ward 1 seat at the council table to the mayor’s chair after being sworn in. Also taking her oath of office was re-elected Councilwoman at-large Polly Christensen.”

“A clear vote of confidence on Election Day will fund The Ranch events complex until 2040 via sales tax collections that will probably top out around $200 million,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “But with supporters of the sales tax extension still basking in the afterglow of a 17-point victory, the path forward for The Ranch is not so concrete. Larimer County officials adopted a 350-page master plan outlining the potential future for The Ranch weeks before the election. It describes a multitude of possibilities for the facility, from an indoor swim and ice arena and shooting range to the more mundane — though, supporters say still vital — possibilities: better meeting space and expo venues for events.”

“A corner of downtown Loveland will be a little less colorful come spring, after the closure of Gateway Garden Center in December,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Jim DuBois, the fourth-generation owner of one of the oldest businesses in Loveland, said it’s just time to scale back. He made the announcement Saturday on the store’s Facebook page. “I’m 65. I can’t be doing what I’ve been doing. My body’s giving up,” said DuBois, who grew up in the business and took over 45 years ago. The store at the southeast corner of Sixth Street and Garfield Avenue put almost everything on sale Monday — 50 percent off — and will sell whatever is left in an auction Dec. 16, Dubois said.”

“It’s been a while since measurable snow fell on Vail Mountain — Nov. 7, to be precise. But there may be a well-timed storm on the way,” reports Vail Daily. “Most of Colorado’s Western Slope has seen warmer-than-normal temperatures this fall. The region is also a bit more dry than normal. In fact, the U.S. Drought Monitor website lists much of Western Colorado as “abnormally dry,” the first stage on its five-step scale of drought conditions. Still, this fall’s weather isn’t all that far outside the norm.”

“Less than one week after winning their bids for re-election, the Cañon City School Board’s secretary and treasurer were sworn in Monday for their next terms,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “Secretary Mary Kay Evans and Treasurer Shad Johnson, who both ran for their seats unopposed, are set to retain their titles for their four-year terms. At Monday’s meeting, the board also decided to maintain the board’s current leadership, with Larry Oddo serving as president, Lloyd Harwood as vice president and Kristyn Econome as the assistant secretary and treasurer. On Election Day, Evans garnered 5,229 votes and Johnson received 4,901 votes.”

“The founders of Boulder’s Alfalfa’s Market have sold the natural grocer to two Denver-based investors who plan to revamp the Boulder location and expand across the Front Range,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “Mark Retzloff and Barney Feinblum sold their majority shares in the company to Mark Homlish, vice president of property management firm Lincoln Property Company, and William “Tripp” Wall, vice president of wealth management company Alliance Bernstein. Financial terms of the private deal, including price and amount of shares sold, were not disclosed. Founded in 1979 as Pearl Street Market, Alfalfa’s was an early natural and organic grocery. Growth forced it to move to 1651 Broadway in 1983, bringing along a name change. By 1996, it had grown to 11 locations and was acquired by Boulder’s Wild Oats, only to be divested when Whole Foods purchased Wild Oats in 2007.”

“Colorado will be the site of a first-of-its-kind test track for a futuristic transportation system that could one day whisk passengers from downtown Denver to Boulder in eight minutes,” reports The Denver Post. “Arrivo, a Los Angeles startup, will partner with the Colorado Department of Transportation to build the half-mile track alongside the E-470 tollway near Denver International Airport, and open a research and development center in Commerce City. Arrivo is one of a new breed of high-tech companies, including the speedier and better-funded Virgin Hyperloop One, attempting to bypass road congestion with dedicated tracks for faster travel.”


In August, when the Republican side of the governor’s race was still shaping up and District Attorney George Brauchler was atop of the field, he discounted any notion that he might abandon his run for a different office. 

The particular speculation at the time was that he might run for Congress. If I do that, he told this reporter, you can call me back and tell me I’m “full of shit.”

But in the three months since, three more candidates have joined the GOP side of the governor’s race— including Tom Tancredo, the Godfather of the right-wing grassroots, and also the sitting attorney general, Cynthia Coffman. Suddenly Brauchler was no longer the golden boy of the GOP field.

On Monday, he formally suspended his gubernatorial campaign and announced his decision to run instead for attorney general. 

The news comes days after Coffman took the plunge and launched a bid for governor, leaving the attorney general’s race to five announced Democrats and no Republican in the field.

It might not be Congress, but the decision to change gears still was not easy, Brauchler said. 

Colorado Republican AG Cynthia Coffman jumps in the governor’s race. Here’s what that means.

“I didn’t see this coming,” Brauchler told The Colorado Independent. He thought if Coffman hadn’t jumped in the governor’s race by October she would run for re-election. But following her Nov. 8 announcement, Brauchler’s phone started blowing up with calls from people who thought he should jump into the AG’s race and those who wanted him to stay on course.

On Monday he sent an email to supporters of his gubernatorial campaign.

“If you’re reading this, you have a 1-in-7 chance of running for Governor of Colorado,” he wrote, saying he was waiting for even Santa Claus to get in the already crowded field and one he thinks still might not be settled.

Brauchler, who was seen by Republicans as a formidable contender for governor when he announced his bid in April, had been running a conservative campaign and racked up a string of of Tea Party group straw poll wins along the campaign trail. But his fundraising never caught fire to the extent some Republicans expected. Then Tancredo, running to Brauchler’s right, rolled into the race, and Brauchler acknowledged it complicated his path to victory.

“He also competes for some of the same votes that I’d compete for,” Brauchler said.

The field was large even before Tancredo and Coffman got in. It included Denver investment banker Doug Robinson, entrepreneur and one-time lawmaker Victor Mitchell, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter, Donald Trump’s Denver co-chair Steve Barlock, former Parker mayor Greg Lopez, and San Luis Valley resident Jim Rundberg.

Coffman congratulated Brauchler on his decision.

Not everyone was on board, he says, especially some diehards.

“There were people that were adamant that I should stay in the race,” he said, but for some, it was more passion that pragmatism.

“The attorney general has to be the second-most influential position in state government,” Brauchler said, adding that he’s looking forward to tackling an opioid crisis and deterring human trafficking. He said a Republican attorney general can act as a check against a Democratic governor. He also said he would defend Colorado’s laws against an overreaching federal government. “I say without hesitation I don’t care who’s at the helm of that federal government,” he said. “It could President Obama or President Trump.”

Asked if he would reverse any high-profile Coffman decisions, he said there might be a case-by-case instance, but that he is generally reluctant to dig through old files to try and change the outcome of a previous elected official.

One recent high-profile decision was Coffman’s choice not to prosecute Micheal Baca, a member of the 2016 Electoral College class who made history last December when he tried to cast an official vote for someone other than the winner of Colorado’s popular vote as state law requires during a voting ceremony in Denver. Coffman said she used her discretion not to bring charges “so the individual cannot use our court system as a taxpayer-funded platform to capture more headlines and further flout the law.”

While he wouldn’t second-guess Coffman’s decision because he didn’t have access to all the details of the case, Brauchler said he was disappointed with her explanation.

“I’m not going to let anybody’s attempted use of a courtroom dissuade me from seeking justice if it’s appropriate to do so,” he said. “That is not a factor I consider in whether or not to prosecute someone. It’s ‘Do I have a good-faith basis to believe they committed the crime I’ve charged them with, do I have a reasonable likelihood of success, and is it the right thing to do.’”

With Brauchler out of the Republican primary for governor, Tancredo is the likely benefactor of his vote share. Brauchler and Coffman weren’t “drinking out of the same voter pool,” Brauchler said. While he was in the race he needled Stapleton more than any other candidate.

The day Brauchler announced he was leaving the governor’s race was also the day he and Stapleton were to appear for the first time together in a public forum.

As for the Democrats running for attorney general, they are Denver prosecutor Amy Padden, former University of Colorado Law School dean Phil Weiser, Thornton Rep. Joe Salazar, Boulder prosecutor Michael Dougherty, and Denver attorney Brad Levin.

Out of all of them, Salazar, a supporter of Bernie Sanders and a consistent progressive voice at the state capitol, was the only name Brauchler mentioned when it came to a potential general election matchup.

“If it turns out to be a Joe Salazar nomination on the other side, this could be a really fun general election— I realize it’s just attorney general, I’m just saying— that could be fun,” Brauchler said.

Salazar agreed, chuckling, “This will be the only time you’ll hear me agreeing with George Brauchler.”

Photo courtesy of George Brauchler for Governor