A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Coloradoan, June 29, on purchase of a self-help "Grow Rich" book by the Poudre School District:
At the beginning of the school year, a self-help book called "Think and Grow Rich" was purchased by the district and then hastily removed from classrooms. As more information emerges surrounding the issue, the community is asking a lot of questions and receiving few answers.
The biggest concern isn't the $432 wasted on the books. It's not even the content, which is a little quirky, somewhat dated and at times chauvinistic. What's more unnerving is the lack of transparency from our district in how the books came to be in the classroom.
The books were tucked into a signed $6,500 purchase order. And, yet, the district has no idea — or won't say — who slipped them in.
Neither the district's curriculum committee nor community members reviewed the book. The district calls the process an oversight, and officials say that they're taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again. But we'd like to hear more details.
Is this an isolated incident, or is it part of a larger trend? Why is there so little accountability for materials going into our classrooms?
There is a seeming tie between the order and the district's executive director of human resources, Chuck DeWayne. In documents obtained by the Coloradoan, DeWayne recommended that the books be adopted as part of the curriculum for high school students in a document called "DeWayne's Definiteness of Purpose." The document urged that the books should be adopted by June 2012 — the same month the purchase order was approved.
Did DeWayne ask for the books to be purchased? The district can't tell, evidently. And DeWayne wouldn't return repeated phone calls over multiple days asking for elaboration.
If the head of human resources did indeed order the books, we need the district to explain why non-educators have heavy hands in dictating our kids' curriculum? Does that happen frequently? Should it be happening at all?
Whether you're a parent of children in this district, a teacher or staff member working for the organization, or simply a taxpayer who wants greater accountability about where your money is going, you should demand more answers.
The Durango herald, June 27, on a BLM offering of land for gas and oil development:
There is a fundamental flaw or two at the heart of the Bureau of Land Management's offering of 10,000 acres near Hesperus for gas and oil development, and the agency should reconsider its push to open the land to exploration. On that point, the La Plata County commissioners are correct in its consistent pushback against the BLM's decision to place the parcels on November's lease sale. In asking the agency to conduct a master leasing plan for the area, though, the county has gone too far.
The county sent a letter - signed by commissioners Gwen Lachelt and Julie Westendorff; Bobby Lieb did not sign - urging the BLM to pull the leases from the block "until the agency makes a public commitment to utilizing, or includes in its forthcoming Resource Management Plan, a (master leasing plan) for this field development." That specific request goes a bit beyond the county's relevant interest in the issue, and is one that the BLM should heed, namely that lands within La Plata County are more than just gas and oil holding tanks.
As the letter says, "While our county has a history of oil and gas development, an important piece of our economy, we are also economically (and culturally) dependent on abundant wildlife, agricultural lands, clean air and water, and recreational opportunities. ... We must strike the right balance between oil and gas development and our treasured lands in order to protect the social and economic vitality of southwestern Colorado."
It is the BLM's job, though, to determine the avenue by which that review is conducted, and while a master leasing plan might be appropriate, there may be other means by which to achieve the end the county seeks. Offering such a narrow suggestion as that outlined in the county's letter is a bit meddlesome and presumptuous. The BLM, for better or worse, has autonomy over the tools it employs in analyzing its management decisions, and while it would behoove the agency to conduct a thorough, comprehensive review of the effects its proposed leases will have - particularly in relation to the upcoming and long-awaited Resource Management Plan for the Tres Rios Field Office - county commissioners are not in the position of advising the agency about which of those tools it should use.
The BLM certainly has not gone about its offering of the parcels in question in the full light of day or with the extensive consideration of impacts the decision commands. The county is right to call foul. Insisting on such a narrow prescription for remedy, though, puts the issue into the procedural weeds and obscures the larger point: that the BLM acted too quickly and shadily in offering the leases before the Resource Management Plan was finalized.
The Pueblo Chieftain, June 28, on the failure of the farm bill:
The gooey glob that was to be the next iteration of the federal Farm Bill has died a suitable death in the House of Representatives.
The nation's farm policy dates back to the Great Depression when Congress tried to help keep small, independent farmers on their land with various price supports
But over the years it has become a handout to large corporate farming interests, skewing markets and keeping prices for some commodities such as sugar artificially high.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the political theater.
In order to keep urban members of Congress on board with the farm programs, the food stamp program was added to the Farm Bill — using as a premise that food stamps would keep demand for food, and thus commodity prices, high.
However, under the Obama administration, millions of new recipients have been added to the food stamp rolls, taking the tab for the program to nearly $80 billion. This president wants to make as many Americans dependent on the government as he can.
It's eminently clear that Congress needs to rethink the nation's farm policy. If some disaster were to occur, lawmakers could step in with temporary help for agriculture, but for the most part ag can survive without federal handouts.
And Congress needs to rethink the food stamp program. Feeding oneself and one's family is the most basic of responsibilities.
People in this country survived without food stamps and they can once again.
The Daily Sentinel, June 30, on immigration reform and the House:
Now that the U.S. Senate has passed a compromise bill on immigration reform, the issue moves to the House, where we hope immigration reform will also pass. But, if it does, it won't but be the bill passed by the Senate.
House Speaker John Boehner has said he won't take up the Senate bill in the House and will only move forward with a House bill on immigration reform if it starts out with the support of at least 50 percent of Republicans.
So much for the democratic process.
Republicans in the House need to be careful because the issue is not solely about immigration reform. It is about the future of the Republican Party. As a story in The Washington Post Friday highlighted, some of the top GOP funding groups in the country are worried if no action is taken on immigration.
One GOP donor said many top Republican contributors fear "that we will never again win a national election unless we embrace policies more appealing" to Hispanics.
The trouble is, many House Republicans are more worried about facing a primary challenge in their own districts if they support immigration reform than they are about the long-term viability of their party or the fate of millions of immigrants.
We'll be watching to see where 3rd District Rep. Scott Tipton is when the issue reaches the House, especially since he has portrayed himself as a friend of agriculture and Western Slope farmers and ranchers would benefit from the Senate bill.
Tipton has said he supports immigration reform, but verifiable border security must be the first step.
That is apparently the mantra of many House Republicans, but it's not at all clear what they mean.
The just-passed Senate bill includes a number of measures to significantly strengthen border security, including doubling the number of Border Patrol agents. It also includes stricter employment verification measures.
So, if House Republicans allow the Senate Bill to die and don't pass anything that has a reasonable chance of winning approval in the Senate, they will be leaving border security as it is, not strengthening it. Hmmm. Wonder how that will play with the folks back home?