U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman missed an opportunity to provide some healing with regards to his guest column on state Sen. Josh Penry and House Bill 1317. I respect the work the freshman congressman is doing in Washington. However, his effort to tie Penry and the governor together as the evildoers falls back into the politics that continue to divide the Republican Party over this issue. Our current governor must be getting a laugh out of watching the Republican circular firing squad.
Lost in Coffman’s discussion is that HB 1317 had broad bipartisan support — and these days anything that passes as bipartisan requires leadership. If you believe in representative government, as I do, then you have to assume that the majority of people in Colorado also supported the legislation. And, while — as a resident of El Paso County (and as a two-war veteran) — I’d like to see Fort Carson thrive and grow, I applaud any state that has the legislative fortitude to push back at the federal government and call “time out” when the federal government appears to be growing out of control.
Condemnation has never been completely off the table. In fact, as recently as July 30, the secretary of the Army would not rule out condemnation. At the heart of this discussion are the estimated 217 ranchers, families, ranch hands, etc., that would be displaced by the condemnation. I sense a bit of NIMBY thinking here, as there would be a tremendous outcry if the Army wanted to displace 217 family members in the middle of a neighborhood to conduct urban warfare training.
And keep in mind this differs from a simple right-of-way acquisition, in that this is not only condemnation of private property, it’s also a condemnation of a way of life which, in some cases, has been passed on for generations. I think this fact alone calls for extraordinary scrutiny. I also think our founding fathers, in particular James Madison, must be wrenching in their graves at the thought.
If anything, there has been a lot of misinformation, missteps by the Army (as cited in the GAO’s report) and lack of coalition-building in resolving this issue. I appreciate the Army taking a step back and letting things cool down a bit. I only wish that members of the Republican Party could also take a deep breath, back away from the public squabbles and come together nationally and locally to develop and promote an effective, unemotional strategy which satisfies the Army’s training requirements without ignoring the good people of southeastern Colorado.