A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
Montrose Daily Press, April 11, on misdeeds in high places:
Misdeeds by politicians probably don't come as a surprise, but some attract more notice than others.
California State Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat who advocated strongly for gun-control, was last week indicted for alleged conspiracy to traffic firearms.
He allegedly took payment from an undercover agent who was trying to buy illegal weapons and also allegedly accepted bribes from undercover agents, according to published reports.
He and his campaign assistant are accused of offering to help another agent obtain illegal guns, Reuters reports.
Across the country, U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, a Louisiana Republican, was reportedly caught on video kissing one of his staffers. McAllister is married and it probably goes without saying that it's not to the staffer with whom he was caught lip-locked.
McAllister is campaigning on "Faith, Family and Hard Work."
McAllister did not deny what he had done; he even apologized, which is saying something in this Age of Spin. At last report, however, he was staying in the race, though pressure for his resignation is mounting. (Reports are that his staffer, who is also married, did resign.)
We'll see how long and how meaningful the condemnation proves. Bill Clinton fended off impeachment despite having sexual relations with an intern (technically sexual harassment) and lying about it.
And we continue to shake our heads at the ongoing hypocrisy in high places? In the long run, we seem too willing to overlook it in the name of having "our" team or "our" guy/gal in power.
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with advocating for gun-control, though people might disagree with you. In and of itself, infidelity is a private matter between the adulterers and their lawful spouses.
It's just that if you make yourself the poster child for gun-control, or if you hold yourself up as the paragon of "family values," you can't be surprised that people expect you to live by your words and not cheat on your spouse — or, you know, commit crimes related to firearms.
This time around, let the Democrats and the voters follow through with meaningful consequences if Yee is in fact guilty.
This time around, let the Republican Party and voters follow through with meaningful consequences for McAllister. After all, more politicians might walk the straight and narrow if they knew there would be meaningful public and political consequences for willful missteps.
The Daily Sentinel, April 15, on a Nevada ranch standoff:
Cliven Bundy's latter-day Sagebrush Rebellion is a treatise on why ranchers and others guided by traditional Western values so frequently question the legitimacy of federal authority on public lands.
Throw in a federally protected endangered desert tortoise and you've got a recipe for standoff.
Bundy, 67, is a Nevada rancher who has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land for 20 years. He stopped paying grazing fees in 1993 and ignored a Nevada district court ruling that permanently barred him from running his cattle on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Bundy doesn't recognize the authority of the federal government over public lands — at least in Nevada. He claims that his family has been raising cattle on the land since 1877, before the BLM existed, giving him a pre-emptive right to use it.
The BLM let Bundy's activities go until he moved his cattle into a protected habitat for endangered tortoises.
When the BLM began rounding up Bundy's cattle last week for trespassing, the long-simmering feud came to a head. Armed supporters faced off with federal agents, evoking images of deadly confrontations in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, in the early 1990s.
Fearing bloodshed, the BLM backed off the cattle seizure Saturday, but vowed to press the issue "administratively and judicially."
"We remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public lands ranchers do every year," BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement.
Bundy later told FoxNews.com: "This is a lot bigger deal than just my cows. It's a statement for freedom and liberty and the Constitution."
If the authority of the federal government over public lands is established in the U.S. Constitution, Bundy isn't buying it.
Meanwhile, the Nevada standoff was an alarming suspension of the rule of law — from actions by both sides.
Demonstrators were confined to a free-speech area in the interest of public safety — a move that perpetuated perceptions of federal thuggery.
Bundy and his supporters put the BLM in an impossible situation. The Constitution provides a remedy for Bundy's grievances. Rather than using the independent judiciary to validate his legal claims or turning to his congressional delegation for help, Bundy and his supporters used the threat of force to win a temporary reprieve.
That's not going have a long-term effect. As we noted earlier, effective challenges to the federal government come through the courts or legislation — never guns. It will be interesting to see how — or if — the federal government reacts. At least it's learned from past experience. Federal officials didn't let this escalate to a Ruby Ridge situation. But a real solution to the issue of federal authority is much more problematic.
The Greeley Tribune, April 11, on legislation to ban speeding and red-light cameras:
We're glad to see a bill that would ban the use of cameras that catch drivers who speed or run lights making its way through the Colorado Legislature again this year.
The measure, Senate Bill 181, has the support of the unlikely pairing of Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, and Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver. Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, also has signed on as a sponsor of the bill, among other legislators.
This is the third year in a row Renfroe has introduced similar legislation. In the past, the bills have failed to make it out of the Senate. But this year, the bill likely has enough support to go all the way to the governor's desk.
Proponents of the cameras — such as the Colorado Municipal League and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police — argue their ability to catch speeders or drivers who run red lights is good for public safety. However, the data doesn't bear this out.
"The data doesn't show that it reduces accidents," Renfroe told CBS4.
When a police car is stationed near an intersection, for example, not only does the officer catch unsafe motorists, but other drivers become more cautious because they see the officer. Cameras don't have that effect.
"These cameras just create revenue for cities and don't actually increase public safety at our intersections," Ferrandino, the bill's prime House sponsor and Speaker of the House, told The Denver Post. "I think we should be focused on making people safe, not raising money."
We agree. Additionally, the increasing ubiquity of cameras raises plenty of concerns about privacy.
Renfroe isn't always the legislator who is most likely to work with his colleagues across the aisle, so we're particularly glad to see the bipartisan effort on this bill. It's good, common sense public policy, and Renfroe deserves credit for building a coalition to back the measure.
Loveland Reporter-Herald, April 11, on rebuilding parks after the floods:
Some may wonder why anyone would spend millions of dollars to help restore flood-damaged parks and trails when there remains a tremendous human need because of September's floods.
In the town of Lyons, it's because restoring the town's parks and its section of the St. Vrain River helps to restore the livelihoods of the town's residents. Meadow Park, a Lyons park that serves as a regional destination, has been closed since the flood. That means fewer people coming to Lyons to enjoy the park and its access to the river, less business for Lyons shops, and missed opportunity for Lyons residents to enjoy their natural surroundings.
The same could be said of any of the Boulder and Larimer county communities that are receiving Great Outdoors Colorado emergency flood recovery grants this year, from Longmont to Loveland to Estes Park. Beloved and well-used trails and parks were wiped out. They are scars that remind residents of the destructive force of the flood, and they will need to heal as communities heal.
Still, the amount delivered to restore recreational areas is small compared to the damage they received — the $4.5 million in GOCO grants plus hundreds of thousands from private efforts will cover only a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars of damage done to parks, greenways, trails and to riverbeds themselves. Even that damage total is minuscule when set against overall flood damage, which is measured in billions of dollars.
One thing to remember: The money used for these GOGO grants has been set aside specifically for the great outdoors, by Coloradans.
Coloradans take pride in the beauty of their state and in the their ability to enjoy the outdoors. When we work together to restore parks, trails and open space we are rebuilding lives, too.