Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 22, 20181min50

A week after Colorado’s 5th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and several dozen of his colleagues in Congress implored the U.S. Navy in a letter to turn down a secular humanist’s request to serve in the chaplain corps — the Navy has done just that. That news comes to us via a press release from Lamborn’s office on Wednesday.

Lamborn lauded the decision and reiterated his reasoning in the press statement:

‘Appointing a secular-humanist or atheist chaplain would have gone against everything the chaplaincy was created to do. I applaud the Navy for upholding a traditional definition of the chaplaincy, which has been repeatedly confirmed by Congress and the DOD. The installment of an atheist chaplain would inevitably open the door to a host of chaplains representing many other philosophical worldviews, thus eroding the distinct religious function of the chaplain corps to the detriment of service members.’

Which presumably closes the book on the subject. For now, at least.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 21, 20183min1440

It probably should come as no surprise that politically conservative, business-friendly, sparsely populated Idaho ranks No. 1 on a new list of “states most dependent on the gun industry.” Or that Maryland — liberal, heavily taxed and regulated, and with a large and diverse economy and a population nearly four times Idaho’s wedged into one-seventh as much area — would rank last.

… Or, that Colorado — that next-gen rendering of Middle Americana — would rank in the middle, at 24th.

Surprise or otherwise, it’s interesting to pore over the data in the state-by-state analysis on the subject by WalletHub, the personal-finance website. The list made the rounds this week in time for the renewed debate over gun control in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school massacre.

The depth of the numbers crunched by WalletHub to rank the states is impressive and yields assorted, telling data points. Such as:

  • Alaska has the highest gun ownership rate, 61.7 percent.
  • Idaho has the most firearms-industry jobs per 10,000 residents, 40.05.
  • Connecticut has the highest average firearms-industry wages and benefits, $75,708.
  • New Hampshire has the highest total firearms-industry output per capita, $732.54, 26.7 times higher than in Hawaii, which has the lowest at $27.40.
  • Wyoming has the highest total taxes paid by the firearms industry per capita, $9.34, 14.8 times higher than in New York, which has lowest at $0.63.

WalletHub’s wonks looked at those and other statistics for all the states to arrive at its overall rankings of where gun and ammo makers and vendors have the heaviest impact on a state, its government and its economy as well as where that impact is the slightest. WalletHub noted in a press release that its findings could be of all the more relevance given slumping gun sales of late across the country. If sustained, the trend could have repercussions for tax revenue and employment, among other considerations.

The data also brings to mind the much-debated departure from Colorado of Magpul, one of the country’s largest producers of ammunition magazines and other accessories, in 2015.

Yet, Colorado, which turns up somewhere in the middle on so many surveys, didn’t even rank in the top or bottom five of any of the sub-categories on the WalletHub gun-dependency scale. Presumably, the ripple effect of Magpul’s exodus was also middling.

For more on the survey’s methodology and findings as well as a color-coded map of the states, here’s the link again.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 21, 20184min1180

Seems like just yesterday that Hot Sheet noted a sixth candidate had joined in the running for mayor in Pueblo, whose voters restored the position last fall after having gone without an elected chief exec since the 1950s. Good thing the Pueblo Chieftain’s Ryan Severance is keeping on top of things. Two more contenders are in the race, Severance reports; they’re Pueblo City Councilman Larry Atencio and most recently Nicholas Ayers.

In his latest wrap-up on the race, Severance quotes Ayers, a 25-year-old bank employee, political newcomer and Pueblo native:

‘What I really want to do is make sure employers we already have stay here, that we can attract new employers and that we facilitate the growth of more local businesses…My hope is to show the burgeoning potential of Pueblo and to channel that energy into an actionable plan … The goal is to continue to build a city where old traditions meet new innovations and converge onto the modern world.’

Puebloans passed a ballot measure last fall reinstating the mayor’s post and vesting it with powers that top anything wielded by the City Council. Notably, the mayor gets to run the city as the its full-time chief executive, replacing the city manager. It’s a “strong mayor” form of local government — the kind implemented long ago in Denver and adopted by voters in Colorado Springs in 2010.

The other declared mayoral candidates in addition to Ayers and Atencio are:

  • Former Pueblo City Council President Steven Nawrocki.
  • Nick Gradisar, the prominent Pueblo attorney who led the campaign to re-establish the mayor’s post.
  • Jackie Massey, a retired college debate coach who moved to Pueblo last year.
  • Janet Wilson, an East Side Pueblo activist, banker and financial planner.
  • Russell Martinez, a boiler maker by trade who has worked on some prominent local projects.
  • Lori Winner, a former member of the City Council.

Pueblo voters will pick their new mayor in next November’s general election — unless a second, runoff election is necessary. That phase of the process its still being fine-tuned by the City Council. You can read a recap of that issue here.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 16, 20183min2290

OK, so the State Department’s in turmoil. No problem; the U.S.’s closest allies know whose door to knock on when they come calling in our nation’s capital — Cory Gardner’s, of course! At least, when it comes to South Korea. The Republican U.S. senator from Yuma has, after all, become an ad hoc point man for U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula amid North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship.

This week, Gardner’s office announced, he hosted a visit to his office from South Korea’s foreign minister, H.E. Kyung-Wha Kang:

In his capacity as Subcommittee Chairman, Gardner welcomed the Foreign Minister to the United States and hosted a discussion with several other members of the Foreign Relations Committee. …

… Senator Gardner has been the leader in the Senate on efforts to bring a peaceful denuclearization to the Korean Peninsula. Gardner is the author of the Leverage to Enhance Effective Diplomacy Act (LEED). This bipartisan legislation requires the President to impose an economic embargo on North Korea and its enablers. Additionally, it requires the President to block any entity or financial institution implicated in any significant trade with North Korea from the U.S. financial system.

Gardner’s office notes he is also the author of the North Korea Sanctions Policy and Enhancement Act, which “marked the first time Congress imposed stand-alone mandatory sanctions on North Korea.”

Gardner really earned his bona fides on Korean affairs last year, when a North Korean news service, channeling erratic North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, assailed Colorado’s junior senator as a man “who has lost basic judgment and body hair.”

Sure, it’s impressive enough when friendly foreign dignitaries drop by your office, but when unfriendly ones call you a “psychopath,” you know you’ve arrived.

Especially given a now-Tillerson-less State Department, it’s reassuring to know there’s a steady hand on the, ahem, tiller. One whom Donald Trump can’t fire. (The president does know he can’t fire a U.S. senator, right?)


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 16, 20182min3350

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams ought to wear a sash; he and his staff seem to rack up awards like an Eagle Scout earns merit badges. The latest accolade, according to an announcement by the Secretary of State’s Office:

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office today received a prestigious award for its work in conducting a post-election audit that ensured election machines tabulated ballots the way voters marked them.

The award was presented to Colorado SOS staffer Dwight Shellman on behalf of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his staff at the 2018 Election Verification Network conference in Miami. …

… Colorado received a Public Service Award for being the first state to complete a risk-limiting audit — a procedure designed to find an incorrect election outcome if one exists. The audit after the November 2017 off-year election attracted attention nationwide.

Read more details here.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 15, 20184min3550


Colorado Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston introduces himself to a caucus precinct at Denver’s McAuliffe International School during Colorado’s 2018 caucuses on March 8. (Photo by Andy Colwell for the Gazette)

As reported by Chalkbeat Colorado and other media this week, the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday upheld a much-debated 2010 state law that lets school districts place veteran teachers on unpaid leave if they are underperforming. Meaning, tenure won’t shield teachers from dismissal.

The ruling drew accolades from education reformers, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michael Johnston, who as a state senator had sponsored the law when it was still a bill in the legislature.

As expected, the state’s largest teachers union, the Colorado Education Association, denounced the ruling — tenure being a cornerstone of collective bargaining agreements. (The union’s attorneys had represented the plaintiffs in the suit that led to the court decision.)

The face-off between those two takes on the subject has riven the Democratic Party for years. Following Monday’s ruling, it spilled over onto the pages of Colorado’s unofficial Democratic barometer, Colorado Pols.

The blog took note of the development — and zeroed in on Johnston’s praise of the court action as well as the fact his position was in sync with that of the conservative Republican education-reform group Ready Colorado. (For the record, the longtime liberal advocacy shop Colorado Children’s Campaign also welcomed the ruling.)

That prompted a flurry of comments posted by readers who heaped scorn on Johnston — and in some cases questioned whether he belonged in the Democratic Party:

“He and Lebsock…”? Ouch.

Johnston — a onetime teacher who has proven to be a champion fund-raiser so far in the governor’s race — did draw some support:

One alert contributor to the comment thread pointed out Johnston isn’t alone on the campaign trail in his support of the state law that was reaffirmed Monday: Rival Democratic gubernatorial contender and 2nd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Jared Polis also embraced the policy. Polis, an education reformer and charter school champion in his own right, reiterated his support for the law in an op-ed he penned for Politico in 2013.

It’s also worth noting that as of 2012, the Colorado School Finance Partnership — which was co-chaired by another of the current Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, Cary Kennedy — was on record lauding that same law.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 14, 20183min2430

Denver Public Schools may have decided to trade weapons for plowshares — it announced last week it would turn down National Rifle Association grants for assorted school programs in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school massacre — but the Second Amendment-friendly, Denver-based Independence Institute is sticking to its guns.

As the Associated Press reported over the weekend:

The libertarian-leaning Independence Institute is one of the top recipients of charitable NRA grants, according to an Associated Press analysis of the NRA Foundation’s public tax records. The think tank received $241,000 from the foundation in 2016, the last year for which data is available. The institute reported receiving a total of $2 million in grants and donations that year.

The size of the Independence Institute’s grant is large enough to make Colorado the state with the fourth largest amount of NRA charitable donations, with $293,000 in grants. That places it only behind two much larger states — California and Texas — and North Carolina, home to Speedway Children’s Charities, which has received the largest NRA donation at $425,000.

The NRA wouldn’t comment for the AP, but the wire service’s findings hardly come as a shocker. As the AP’s Nicholas Riccardi notes in the report:

The Independence Institute has a long history in Colorado politics and is a prominent advocate of gun rights positions. Its research director, Dave Kopel, has written numerous law review articles defending gun rights and filed friend of court briefs supporting firearms owners and groups.

The think tank’s public affairs chief, Mike Krause, seemed downright proud, telling the AP: “It would make sense that America’s oldest civil rights organization, the NRA, would support our work … Indeed, we would like to think we are the most vocal and principled defender of the Second Amendment, and of the human right of self-defense, in Colorado. ”


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 14, 20182min3160

They’re calling the event “Another look at TABOR” — as in 1992’s voter-enacted Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights — because of course it won’t be the first time skeptics of the epic tax-limiting provision in the Colorado Constitution have eyed it in hopes of changing it.

And while the March 19 forum, announced in a news release this week by the League of Women Voters of Denver, is billed as a mere briefing and discussion on the subject —  it’s a pretty safe bet change will be on the agenda.

The featured speaker is TABOR critic Carol Hedges, executive director of the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute and author of “Ten Years of TABOR.” Hedges, the league promises, will offer “an insightful presentation on TABOR and what impact it may have on Colorado’s future.” Her presentation probably won’t include praise for TABOR’s taxing and spending limits or for TABOR author Douglas Bruce.

Of course, if Hot Sheet were to solicit a comment from Bruce — the legendarily  less-than-personable Colorado Springs real estate investor and perennial political activist who served time for tax evasion — he likely would dismiss the forum as another attempt to gut the will of Colorado voters and engorge government. Then, he would hang up. We’d always welcome his input, though.

Here’s more on the forum:

Where: Montview Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia Street in Denver, McCollum Room

When: Monday, March 19, 5:30 pm – Coffee & networking; 6:00 pm – Presentation


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 13, 20182min2770

The appointment of a self-described secular humanist to the Navy chaplain’s corps is drawing protests from Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and 45 of his congressional colleagues. They’ve spelled out their objections in a letter to the Navy.

Lamborn’s office alerted the public and press to the development in a news release Monday, noting the letter by the House members urges the service branch to reconsider the appointment. The Navy Chaplain Appointment and Retention Eligibility Advisory board has reportedly recommended Dr. Jason Heap to serve as a non-religious chaplain.

The appointment would flout the fundamental purpose of military chaplaincy, Lamborn and the other co-signers contend:

The chaplain corps is historically a religious institution that should meet the religious needs of service members. The secular-humanist worldview that Dr. Heap ascribes to does not meet the requirements of the original designation of the role to facilitate religious belief. Not only is this a redefinition of the role, underscored by NDAA report language in 2014 and 2016, it also goes against the Supreme Court’s previous ruling that non-religious beliefs are not protected by the Religion Clauses.

The letter itself states in part:

“The chaplain corps serves religious needs, not philosophical preferences, and the Department of Defense would be shirking its constitutional duty if it were to inappropriately expand — and thus dilute — the chaplain corps.

Lamborn’s office posted the full letter here.