June 16, 20153min515
State GOP Chair Steve House just issued the following statement: “The rumors started last night, when I was scheduled to meet with Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. When I arrived to our meeting, I was surprised to see that former Congressman Tom Tancredo and Pueblo County Chair Becky Mizel were also in attendance. The purpose of […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


March 27, 201510min461
The Colorado Statesman sat down this week to talk to Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, about everything from legislation to dancing. Duran is currently serving as House Majority Leader. CS: Where were you raised and can you tell me a little about your family and some memories growing up? CD: My parents lived in Pueblo before […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe

March 27, 20158min361
Follow up: Gun Bills: The Senate Wednesday gave final approval to Senate Bill 15-086, which would repeal 2013 legislation requiring background checks for transfer of firearms. The bill passed along party lines, 18-17, and now heads to the House where similar legislation has already been rejected this session. Ballot Postage: Even the chair’s bill sometimes […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe

Jovan Melton Official Photo 2015.jpg

March 27, 20156min380

“I can’t breathe.”

In 2014, Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American man, spoke these now well-known words with his final breaths as New York City police officers apprehended him with a chokehold for selling single cigarettes. This came after Garner was breaking up a fight on the street before officers were able to arrive.

The officers were not held responsible for his death.

In 2010, Marvin Booker, a 56-year-old African American man, was killed in a Denver jail when five deputies attempting to restrain him Tasered him and placed him a chokehold for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. In 2014, a jury awarded his family $4.6 million in a civil suit against the city.

The officers were not held responsible for his death.

Across the country, a renewed debate around the police use of the chokehold is occurring. I say renewed because this debate is not new. In 1982, James Mincy, Jr., a 20-year-old African American man from Los Angeles, was killed when officers used a chokehold on him after a traffic stop for a cracked windshield.

That incident prompted many cities and states to ban police use of the chokehold. Here in Colorado, State Rep. Wilma Webb attempted to end the practice but was unsuccessful in passage of the legislation.

So if we’ve had this debate before, why is this subject coming back up in a national dialogue?

One reason is the technology that people now carry with them everyday in their cellphones allows these incidents to be routinely recorded and shared with people across the country. This increased documentation shows that these acts are not uncommon or happening only in our state, but in many communities throughout the nation. Another reason, a new generation of youth too young to remember the ills of the past. Even the Rodney King story seems like a lifetime ago in some respects. As the old adage goes, those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.

But lastly and more importantly, you’ll notice that in these three examples mentioned, the victim was African American. The view of law enforcement by minority communities has historically been fraught with fear, pain, inequity and despair. It’s that emotional response felt when seeing or even imagining an officer with an arm around the neck of someone of color that adds even more gravity to the situation.

Most police officers don’t intend to strike fear into the heart of a member of a minority community. But techniques like the chokehold exacerbate these sentiments. The chokehold is both violent and excessive. Because it’s a very personal, physical struggle between two people for control of one over the other, it evokes deep-seated feelings about dominance and submission. And when race is added to the equation, suddenly it becomes bigger than just the two individuals involved. It symbolizes oppression and the community’s fight for civil rights.

To address this, the Colorado General Assembly will consider HB 15-1291, which will prohibit the use of the chokehold by law enforcement, with the exception of protecting the officer from death. If passed, an officer found violating this prohibition would be subject to the current penalty of excessive force, which is a class one misdemeanor. In other words, it will be illegal for law enforcement to apprehend or detain someone with this dangerous practice.

The goal of ending the practice of the chokehold is twofold.

The first goal of the bill is to decrease the number of unintentional deaths and serious injuries that occur from use of the chokehold. There are two types of chokeholds, one that obstructs airflow to the lungs (tracheal choke), and one that obstructs blood flow to the brain (carotid restraint or “sleeper hold”). The hold that cuts off airflow is considered the most dangerous because it can cause long-term damage to the trachea, and even result in strangulation. The hold that cuts off blood flow is not considered as dangerous, but to people who tend to suffer from heart conditions and high blood pressure, i.e. black people, it can be just as deadly. No one should lose his or her life from either of these restraints.

The second goal is to restore trust between law enforcement and all communities across Colorado. Use of the chokehold is just as emotionally harmful to the community as it is physically harmful to individuals. We’ve seen the effects of this recently through civil unrest, protests, student walk-outs and public die-ins. People are saying enough is enough. It’s now time for our legislature and those charged with protecting us to listen to us.

“I can’t breathe.”

Mr. Booker, we hear you! Mr. Garner, we hear you!

State Rep. Jovan Melton, a Democrat, represents House District 41 in Aurora.

March 27, 20158min406

A water expert opposed a bill allowing rain barrels testifying that he accounted for every molecule of water in the South Platte Basin.

I was quite stunned. With these deity-like powers, we could have saved taxpayers money and time by forgoing the hassle of drafting and passing HB12-1278 and paying the Colorado Water Institute to study high groundwater areas blooming along the South Platte which are ravaging private property and destroying farmland with salinization.

Already, thousands of scofflaws could have been swatted and fined based on the retail sales of rain barrels in Colorado – not because most are “don’t ask, don’t tell” – but because most citizens don’t think to ask if their government considers them criminals for doing something that seems ecologcal, self-sufficient and thrifty.

Consider that the over-arching tenet of water law insists that the State Engineer must ensure water in Colorado is put to beneficial use and not wasted. However, there is a weight bending that arc to and fro like a giant pendulum: considering potential harm to senior water rights. Many a bill has received a pair of cement shoes based on testimony that changes in water administration could cause potential harm to senior water rights holders, albeit many times that testimony was not accompanied by data. No need, after all, when we can rely on the current crop of water mystics that measure molecules in rainbows touching down in a certain basins.

But let’s entertain for a moment that every hydrogen atom connected to two oxygen atoms is accurately measured. In order for opponents of the rain barrel bill to be consistent with their claims of injury based on homeowner’s actions, they would also have to insist that the State Engineer’s office immediately create a Tree SWAT Team to maintain current flows to the river by policing tree growth. An average sapling drinks a gallon of water a day during the summer and a mature tree can drink and transpire up to 100 gallons in one day. Therefore, new trees planted by homeowners are clearly violating prior appropriation doctrine with their consumptive use of waters that cannot flow back to the river. Planting an apple tree? Not so fast, little Johnny!

In addition, the State Engineer would also have to initiate a Lawn Patrol to ensure no further immigration of consumptive bluegrass; and a Driveway Task Force to ensure car washes drain to the river without shrinkage of vested water rights downstream. Since Agenda 21 is already taken, the legislature will have to come up with something catchier—like The Naked Agenda 21 and 1/2.

In contrast, homeowners would probably fill rain barrels during rare events of deluge that would cause some flood waters to occur and wash downstream to Kansas and Nebraska. And then those Colorado homeowners are required to put that water on the very soil where that rain had been pre-destined to splash. Those homeowners could possibly apply captured rain into the soil at such a time to reduce a call on the river by an equal amount from a municipality – which then won’t have to spend money on untreated water the citizen may have otherwise drawn from the tap to water their basil plants. Since the rain barrel bill does not authorize capturing water indefinitely for nefarious purposes, such as HOA waterparks or ill-fated attempts at cold fusion, the water will go back into the ground for which it was pre-destined for a potentially higher yield on herb plants than if already consumed by the aforementioned bluegrass or a typical suburban model ash tree.

Currently, the science we do have on rain collection comes from a pilot study in Douglas County which shows 97 percent of precipitation doesn’t make it back to the river upon the shocking rediscovery that Colorado is semi-arid, which means the rains don’t follow the plow as our first governor advertised, nor the prayer of labor, nor anything else that mankind has devised other than cloud-seeding for skiers that produce extra bounties without a thank you note from downstream users.

In addition, our prior appropriation system does not adequately account for Mother Nature as evidenced by the insistence that we inject as much water after 2013 floods into an aquifer that is now full and pouring into residential basements as we did before a thousand-year flood event. I have also asked many farmers why they don’t account for rainfall on their augmentation ponds even though these ponds also store water temporarily. Why don’t farmers consider themselves rain bandits? Because like their suburban fellows, they don’t think to ask if their state considers them criminals.

In short, rain barrels could be yet another way to re-time a river. The ability to re-time rivers is the main reason for the population growth possible today rather than prosperity allowed by natural rivers that only flowed May, June, and part of July in the 1800’s. Consider this quote from 1872:

“We came to the shallow, yellow, muddy South Platte, with its low banks and its scattering of flat sand-bars and pigmy islands — a melancholy stream straggling through the centre of the enormous flat plain, and only saved from being impossible to find with the naked eye by its sentinel rank of scattering trees standing on either bank,” wrote Mark Twain in Roughing It. “The Platte was ‘up,’ they said — which made me wish I could see it when it was down, if it could look any sicker and sorrier.”

But now if every molecule is measured and therefore owned by someone else, the next time my child sheds a tear over a lost teddy bear or a scuffed knee, I’ll explain why big government wants a permit for the dispensation of her sorrow.

State Rep. Lori Saine, a Republican represents House District 63 in Weld County.

March 27, 20157min525

For decades, securing a nonstop flight to Asia — Tokyo, specifically — was one of Denver’s top priorities. It was under the leadership of Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock that the vision finally became a reality on June 10, 2013, with the inaugural nonstop flight from the Mile High City to Tokyo-Narita International Airport. This summer marks the second full year of United Airlines’ daily nonstop service between the airline’s hubs in Denver and Tokyo — and there’s much to be excited about.

When it launched, the flight immediately stimulated passenger demand and grew the air travel market between Denver and Tokyo by 40 percent. Utilizing United’s Star Alliance connections, Tokyo has become a preferred one-stop gateway for Denver to 30 major destinations across Asia. Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul and Manila are among the top cities passengers are connecting to, and each of these markets have recorded strong increases in Denver passengers.

In its first year of service, the Denver to Tokyo flight carried approximately 130,000 passengers, and we expect about the same number of travelers during the second year. The appeal of this flight includes that it’s operated on the marvelous Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and it slashes a minimum of two and a half hours off the previous travel time between Denver and Narita. Today, the flight consistently generates higher load factors versus similar U.S. markets with Tokyo/Narita service, or put more simply, Denver has opened a new gateway to all of Asia, and people are taking notice.

Tokyo now represents Denver’s largest market on the Asian continent, and it means that passengers who are in Denver today can be in Asia tomorrow. DIA provides access to more than 170 destinations worldwide, including 20 nonstop international destinations in nine countries, so passengers from across the continent can use Denver as their U.S. connecting point. Mayor Hancock has said that cities today succeed when they are connected and competitive in the global marketplace. We are already seeing exactly that kind of payoff with the Tokyo flight, which is expected to boost foreign trade and tourism between the Rocky Mountain region and Asia, create nearly 1,500 jobs and generate an estimated $130 million in annual economic benefit to Colorado.

And the global business community is taking notice. Last December, Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co. selected Denver from 22 U.S. cities to build its new headquarters at the Peña Boulevard Station now under construction at 61st Avenue and Peña Boulevard as part of the East Rail Line. Panasonic saw the potential that a globally connected city like Denver has to offer, in part because of the Tokyo flight and the development opportunities available on DIA land.

Recently, I traveled with a delegation to visit Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, near Tokyo, after which the Peña Station development will be modeled. This state-of-the-art Fujisawa Smart Town is a joint project between the private and public sectors, which integrates advanced technology-based infrastructure and lifestyle-based innovative systems. It’s our goal to build a development with similar goals that will be a global showcase for sustainable development and a model for public-private partnership. Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company is our key partner in this effort.

This link to Japan certainly benefits the business community but our local community also has embraced the flight. Membership in the Japan America Society of Colorado has more than doubled since the service began, and our economic development and tourism partners continue to promote Denver and Colorado in Japan, resulting in increased market awareness that has supported the growth of this service. The strong performance of this flight helps support our business case for new service to Asia, whether that comes in the form of a second flight to Tokyo or perhaps flights to destinations such as Seoul or Beijing.

But, as tends to be the case in the volatile global aviation marketplace, the Tokyo flight is very much a “use it or lose it” proposition. The key to maintaining any air service is airline profitability, and that requires generating new traffic — stimulating passengers to travel to and from Denver who might not have thought about a trip to Tokyo or beyond in the past. The ongoing success of this flight depends not only on continued support from our economic development and tourism partners but from each and every individual who is traveling between Denver and Asia.

All of Denver’s international flights are critical to the long-term success of the regional economy. United’s recently added nonstop flight from Denver to Panama is opening a new gateway to destinations across Central and South America. And for the Panama flight, just like the Tokyo one, the key to success remains in the hands of passengers. Please remain cognizant as you book your travel that you can influence our future air service based on the flights you choose. Denver is more than a world-class destination: it’s also a connection to the world, and we need to keep it that way

Kim Day is the CEO of Denver International Airport.

March 25, 201512min328
MON., MARCH 30 (R) Larimer County Republican Breakfast – 7-8:30 a.m., Johnson’s Corner, 2842 SE Frontage Rd., Johnstown. Cost: $10. Info: Donna W. Gustafson, 970-213-7314 or happytrails2u.dwg@gmail.com. (R) Jefferson County Republican Men’s Breakfast Club – 7-9 a.m., Howard Johnson Denver West, 12100 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge. Cost: $12. Info: Fred Holden, 303-421-7619 or www.jeffcorepublicanmensclub.org. […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe

March 20, 201510min448
Attempts at bipartisanship at the Capitol on Tuesday over a law enforcement package instead exposed a divide between the two chambers on major legislation that has dominated the 2015 session. The issue: a package of bills that House Democrats claimed would help “rebuild trust” in law enforcement. Despite claims of bipartisan support for most of […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe

March 20, 20154min449
FOLLOWUP: Magazine Ban Repeal — The Senate on Tuesday gave its final approval to Senate Bill 15-175, which would repeal 2013 legislation limiting the size of ammunition magazines. SB 175 passed on a 21-13 vote, with one senator (Michael Johnston, D-Denver) absent. Three Democrats, who had already been announced as co-sponsors, voted with the Republican […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


March 20, 20155min471

Colorado is growing older. One in four Coloradans will be over the age of 60 by the year 2035. That is only 20 years from now. The aging of the Baby Boomers and the Millennials, combined with advances in science and health care, will allow us to live longer, more fulfilled lives. This unprecedented demographic shift causes several challenges for Colorado. As leaders, we must make preparations to ensure our older residents thrive. We must plan and invest wisely. Our seniors deserve nothing less.

In Colorado, the Older Coloradans Act provides funding for a variety of community based services. The moneys are allocated by the Department of Human Services to each of the state’s 16

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA’s). The AAA’s contract with local organizations, including non-profits, to administer services. These services include, but are not limited to, home delivered meals (Meals on Wheels), transportation, homemaker assistance and personal care assistance.

This is boots-on-the-ground for our moms, dads and grandparents. It keeps our seniors living independently and productively. It helps them stay in their homes. It keeps institutional care at bay. And, the immense cost to taxpayers is kept at bay as well. Not only is it the right thing to do from a compassionate point of view, it is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Funding for the AAA’s, however, is like a Forrest Gump box of chocolates. They never know what they’re going to get. They have to advocate every year to maintain and occasionally increase their funding. All the while the fast growing population is creating increased demand for services and often longer waiting lists. And, the uncertainty of funding makes it difficult for AAA’s and the local service providers they fund, to plan and budget for the services that seniors need to stay in their homes. In good budget years, they may see an increase in funding. In the recession years, funding has remained flat and even decreased while demand continues to grow.

That is why House Bill 15-1100 is such an important piece of the puzzle. This bill is a common sense approach to help our AAA’s help our seniors. HB 1100 is a bipartisan bill which reduces the general fund by $4 million dollars and transfers that amount to the Older Coloradans Cash Fund. Our seniors can count on it, and our AAA’s will be able to make a responsible three year budget. HB 1100 is going to help us keep Medicaid costs down, saving our state millions of dollars.

HB 1100 will also save money in other areas of the budget. We have all heard the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Numerous state and federal studies have demonstrated the cost effectiveness of services provided to people living in their homes. Services provided in facilities, such as hospitals, assisted living and nursing homes are much more expensive. Let us be clear, the care provided by those facilities are important components of the continuum of care available for older adults. But, these Medicaid funded long-term care options are some of the most expensive programs funded by the state. The state’s Medicaid budget is projected to double over the next decade. Long-term care is a key reason why Medicaid spending is projected to significantly increase our state budget and occupy a bigger slice of the General Fund.

HB 1100 is going to help us keep Medicaid costs down, saving our state millions of dollars. Older adults consistently report a preference to grow older in their homes, staying in their communities. This bill recognizes our responsibility to place senior services as a priority. Our seniors need our support and deserve nothing less.

Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, proudly represents the people of House District 34. Steve Grund is a marketing, media and public relations strategist who has worked for the Seniors’ Resource Center in Denver.