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Erin PraterErin PraterSeptember 15, 20171min7130

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid will appear before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday — the next step in her journey to potential confirmation to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

If confirmed, Eid will take the spot formerly held by now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed in April.

The hearing is slated to begin at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday. Video will be available here, on the committee’s website.

As Colorado Politics previously reported, President Trump had eyed Eid for the Supreme Court vacancy that eventually went to Gorsuch.

Highly regarded in right-leaning legal circles, Eid is a former law professor at the University of Colorado. She’s married to Troy Eid, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado who had been appointed by President George W. Bush.

Eid previously served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Colorado Politics reporter Dan Njegomir contributed to this report.

 

 


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Erin PraterErin PraterSeptember 13, 20172min17970

Colorado state Rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, recently a Democratic candidate for U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s Congressional seat, instead will run for state senate, she announced Wednesday.

“I am stepping up to run for the state Senate for the same reason I first ran five years ago – to ensure other Coloradans have the same opportunities I did to make a better life,” Pettersen said Wednesday in a fundraising email.

Pettersen, a Colorado native and chair of the state’s House Education Committee, announced in April her bid to replace Perlmutter in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District — just a half hour after Perlmutter announced his campaign for governor.

She suspended her campaign in August after Perlmutter’s announcement that he would indeed run for re-election to Congress. Pettersen had raised more than $170,000 in her first fundraising period and had received a coveted endorsement from EMILY’s List, a national group that backs Democratic women candidates.

She will run for the Senate District 22 seat held by Andy Kerr, who is term-limited. Kerr also was in the Congressional District 7 race until Perlmutter decided to seek re-election. State Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City also dropped out of congressional race to make way for Perlmutter.

 


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Erin PraterErin PraterSeptember 12, 20171min1310

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will kick off her “2017 Rethink School Tour” Tuesday morning in Casper, Wyoming — just a stone’s throw from the Colorado border.

DeVos will visit Woods Learning Center in Casper and St. Stephens Indian High School on the Wind River Indian Reservation Tuesday — two schools that “highlight the ways local educators are meeting the unique needs of their students,” according to a Department of Education press release.

The tour, which wraps up Friday, will feature stops in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana. It’s intended to “showcase creative ways in which education leaders are meeting the needs of students in K-12 and higher education,” according to a press release.

“There are so many new and exciting ways state-based education leaders and advocates are truly rethinking education,” DeVos said in a statement. “It is our goal with this tour to highlight what’s working. We want to encourage local education leaders to continue to be creative, to empower parents with options and to expand student-centered education opportunities.”


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Erin PraterErin PraterSeptember 10, 20177min4890

Even with two local ballot measures setting aside at least $16 million for widening Interstate 25 between Monument to Castle Rock, officials are nowhere near being able to foot the bill for the project.

No other counties or municipalities have offered to help pay to expand the roughly 17-mile stretch from two to three lanes in each direction, and state transportation officials are far from finalizing a funding plan for the project.

To make it a more competitive candidate for federal grants, the Colorado Department of Transportation is proposing adding one toll lane in each direction on the stretch of interstate known as the “Gap.”

But with CDOT’s annual budget shortfall of about $1 billion and infrastructure improvements needed statewide, the project still has plenty of rivals.

Construction could begin in 2019 if local and state leaders can come up with the $290 million to $570 million needed for the undertaking, according to CDOT.

“A lot has to happen, though, between now and then on the finance and the funding side,” CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said.

Proponents of the measures, which will be on the November ballots of El Paso County residents and those within the boundaries of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, say local commitments make the project a more appealing candidate for federal and state transportation dollars.

County Commissioner Mark Waller, vice chairman of the transportation authority’s board of directors, believes voter approval could be a turning point that encourages other governments in the region to chip in. But the failure of the measures could be a major blow to the project, which he believes won’t get done any time soon without local pledges.

“If these ballot initiatives don’t pass, I think it becomes incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to generate the local revenue to make it happen,” he said.

If voters say ‘yes’ to both questions, $10 million in sales tax revenues collected by the transportation authority will be reserved for the widening, and at least $6 million in excess county revenues will be retained to spend on the project. The $10 million from the transportation authority will be spent on the roughly 2-mile stretch of the Gap in El Paso County if other funding sources are identified. The county funds would be reallocated elsewhere if the Federal Highway Administration did not authorize construction by the end of 2027.

Waller said he hopes his fellow commissioners will allocate about $9 million more for the project in the next two budget years. Some have argued that El Paso County shouldn’t have to cover the cost of a project that lies mostly outside the county, but Waller said county residents will be the main beneficiaries.

El Paso County’s neighbor to the north has no plans to help pay construction costs, said Douglas County Commissioner Roger Partridge. Douglas County provided about $250,000 for a preliminary study needed for the widening and has spent about $8 million on improvements to ease traffic and increase safety on I-25 in the Castle Rock area, Partridge said. In June, he and his fellow commissioners voted 2-1 against putting a measure on a ballot that would ask voters’ permission to use sales tax revenue to pay for road and bridge improvements, including the widening, The Denver Post reported.

Local funding has been integral to the expansion of a roughly 14-mile stretch of I-25 from Johnstown to Fort Collins, which is slated for construction in 2018. Governments within the region provided about $25 million of the $237 million project. The rest was funded by a $15 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant, $30 million from the federal government and $167 million from the state.

CDOT Program Engineer Carrie DeJiacomo was encouraged to hear about the ballot measures.

“Any amount right now that we can get to get this project built is critical,” DeJiacomo said. “With today’s funding shortfall, a local match actually helps to leverage a project.”

This year, CDOT plans to apply for two federal grants for the widening with a proposal that includes the added toll lanes, which would be similar to the express lanes on U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder, DeJiacomo said.

But transportation officials are unsure how the project will stack up against other applicants vying for allocations and how much money could come from the grants, administered by the DOT’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery programs, she said.

Another option might be a new state law that policymakers expect will generate about $1.8 billion for transportation needs over the next 20 years. The law requires that 25 percent of the funding go to rural transportation projects and another 10 percent to transit, leaving about $1.2 billion for thoroughfares like I-25.

CDOT staff is working on criteria to help the agency’s transportation commission choose which projects are awarded how much.

Transportation Commissioner Rocky Scott, whose district includes El Paso County, is optimistic the expansion of the I-25 Gap will make the list.

“Every member of the commission understands how important it is to get that job done,” he said. “I wouldn’t expect the entire project would be funded, but I’m hopeful that part of it might be funded that way.”

Federal loans, such as those administered through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, might be another possibility, CDOT officials said. The program provided $106.8 million for the roughly $345 million revamp of C-470, according to CDOT.

Whether President Donald Trump will initiate policies or programs that will offer the I-25 widening a boost remains a question. Trump has promised a $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan, which could involve selling off public assets to private entities such as toll companies. CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt told Colorado Politics that the only way Colorado highways would qualify for that is to sell toll lanes or complete tolling on stretches of interstate.

 

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Joey Bunch contributed to the reporting of this article.


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Erin PraterErin PraterAugust 23, 20175min680

Sometimes what one doesn’t say — or tweet — is just as important as what one does.

The old adage has, perhaps, never been as true as it was earlier this month, when politicians responded en masse to the weekend violence between white nationalists and counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va. — and President Trump’s varied responses to it.

Some were quick to condemn hate, bigotry and neo-Nazism, but didn’t directly connect such evils to the tragedy — or to label it “domestic terrorism.”

Others like Trump said “both sides” were to blame for the brutality that resulted in three deaths.

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner — often viewed as protective of the president and his agenda — surprised many Coloradans by quickly becoming one of the most vocal Republican critics of Trump’s response.

“Praying for those hurt & killed today in Charlottesville. This is nothing short of domestic terrorism & should be named as such,” Gardner tweeted that Saturday.

“Mr. President — we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” he tweeted later that day.

In an interview the next day with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Gardner took his rhetoric a step further, stating, “This is not a time for vagaries, this isn’t a time for innuendo or to allow room to be read between the lines. This is a time to lay blame — to lay blame on bigotry, to lay blame on white nationalists and on hatred, and that needs to be said.”

Gardner stepped it up yet again the following Tuesday at a series of town halls throughout the state, going so far as to say, “I think it’s about time asses with Nazi flags go back to their hole,” The Denver Post reported.

Gardner’s statements earned him rare praise from critics — including from the Twitter account @CardboardCoryCO, a self-proclaimed “parody account” that chronicles the adventures of a traveling cardboard Gardner “willing to be seen in public with you.”

“Thank you, @SenCoryGardner,” @CardboardCoryCO tweeted in response to an initial tweet from Gardner condemning the “hate being spewed in Virginia.”

“Now confront your party and write bills that will protect and lift up vulnerable communities. #copolitics.”

Cardboard Cory wasn’t the only critic to compliment Gardner, who received an unusual amount of accolades on a Colorado Politics Facebook post about his CNN appearance.

“First time I’ve been proud to call you my senator in quite a while,” commented reader Jan Wellington.

“Oh wow, he’s finally doing something the state can get behind,” Dusty Rose added.

“What do you know! Gardener does have a backbone!” exclaimed Matt Wellmann.

There were neutral and negative comments, to be sure.

There was this more tempered response from Susan Peguero, who presumably isn’t a Gardner supporter: “About time you stood up — finally. You are still a sorry excuse for a representative of the people of Colorado. It will take a whole lot more of this before you can claim to represent us.”

And this slam from frequent commenter Andrei Andronescu: “Oh look, he’s trying to grow a spine. Too small, and too late.”

Ilene Whitehead seemed impressed but doubtful of Gardner’s viability as a candidate next go-around.

“Finally, Gardner speaks his own mind!” she wrote. “Certainly is a Trump puppet who does not represent his constituents, puts party before country and was one of the 13 white men who wrote the last health-care bill.

“2020 won’t be your year, Cory.”

The social media response to Gardner’s words and actions was more positive than Colorado Politics usually observes.

Does this bode well for his chances at re-election?

It’s a bit early to say, but Gardner might consider tweeting a bit more. Since July, his cardboard doppelganger has already tweeted nearly a third as many times as he has in six and a half years.


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Erin PraterErin PraterAugust 23, 201716min2430
Laura Ettinger poses for a portrait outside of Create Cafe, which she owns, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Ettinger, an independent, is appalled by President Trump. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

For yoga instructor Jess Saffer and the other happy hippies of Manitou Springs, last year’s presidential election was an emotional body blow — intense, raw and visceral.

“It felt like heartbreak,” said Saffer, 28, of the moment she learned that Trump had taken the lead.

Nine months in, a siege mentality has taken hold in this quaint, funky tourist town nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak.

That’s because Manitou, known for its ancient healing waters and carefree vibe, is a blue dot in a sea of red. Though surrounding Colorado Springs is one of the most conservative cities in the state, Manitou, affectionately known as “Hippie Mayberry,” is one of the most liberal.

Here you’ll find locals who greet visitors like longtime friends, passersby who almost always spare change for beggars, and the area’s only retail pot shops.

And you’ll find Never Trumpers — those who voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein — anyone, anything but Trump — in spades.

What’s a Never Trumper living in the heart of Trump Country to do? Now that the initial shock of Trump’s victory has subsided, just how are Manitoids coping?

Some are displeased but dismissive, determined not to let national politics influence their highly individualized ways of life.

Others are trying on a newfound activism. Still others are trying to live more deliberate lives in which small acts of kindness play a bigger, more meaningful role — determined to fight what they perceive as a hateful regime with an old hippie weapon: love.

 

Yoga instructor Jessi Saffer eats a salad at Create Cafe Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Although Saffer is disappointed in her fellow Coloradans who voted for Trump, she tries to spread kindness with everyone. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

Hurricane Trump
The morning after the election, Saffer began the process of coping with “severe disappointment in multiple people” — not just the broad swath of Trump voters across the nation, but “fellow Coloradans.”

She began to see the man in the truck next to her with the “drain the swamp” bumper sticker, the woman on the street with the red embroidered Make America Great Again trucker’s hat, as people who had betrayed her — and the nation — deeply.

“I’ll think, ‘Oh, you’re one of those,’” she said. “I’m pretty biased. But I’m not mean to them. It just blows my mind.”
Saffer has channeled her emotions into advocacy. She “resisted” by participating in a local protest and signing multiple petitions against laws Trump wants passed.

Many locals are adjusting to the new normal by leaning on each other.

“Manitou is a place full of community activists, people who want to move things forward in a positive way,” said Laura Ettinger, co-owner of Create Café, as the afternoon rush slowed to a trickle.

The cafe serves up unique options like zucchini noodles, lavender-honey beer and Manitou Lemonade made with water from a nearby spring. It features a “pay it forward pot” that funds the meals of hungry patrons with empty pockets.

She recalls the morning after Election Day in Manitou as brimming with despair.

“People were mourning,” said Ettinger, 54. “It was a sense of depression, of ‘we are in trouble now,’ of disbelief.”

But time marches on, and there’s work to do.

Trump can keep tweeting, if he must, Ettinger said, but she has mouths to feed — regardless of ability to pay.

“Nobody gets turned away,” she insisted.

“People in Manitou are going to take care of their people. We all have to deal with the national-level stuff, but really, when it comes down to change happening, it’s going to be at the local level.”

If there’s any place for a liberal to weather Hurricane Trump, “this would be it.”

 

Dave Cutshaw (right) sells whittled sticks Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. This liberal hippie town of 5,000 tucked in the foothills of the red-leaning El Paso County swung blue in the last presidential election. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

‘Hippie Mayberry’
Manitou Springs is a political phenomenon as much as it is a cultural one.

The predominately white municipality of roughly 5,000 is bereft of the diversity one might associate with a city so blue.

Much like Mayberry might, Manitou features fishing holes, effervescent springs and old-fashioned ice cream parlors.

There’s a penny arcade, a singular high school and nary a big box store in sight.

But Mayberry doesn’t host an annual coffin race down Main Street.

Mayberry’s gift shops don’t sell “The Nightmare Before Christmas” tree ornaments, cashew cheese, spring-water popsicles and “Bliss Booch” kombucha.

Mayberry isn’t home to a South American-inspired tea shop run by a religious sect that claims to serve “the Fruit of the Spirit,” or a pizzeria named Hell’s Kitchen.

“Manitou has long had a reputation for being hippie and liberal,” said Robert Loevy, professor emeritus of political science at Colorado College and co-author of “Colorado Politics and Policy: Governing a Purple State.”

Loevy, who served on the Colorado Reapportionment Commission in 2011, says Manitou is on the western edge of an area voting analysts call “Blue Colorado Springs,” which begins in Manitou and extends eastward through Old Colorado City, downtown Colorado Springs and into Eastern Colorado Springs.

While Boulder and Manitou Springs are both considered quintessential Colorado hippie towns, “they’re completely different places,” Loevy said.

“Boulder has people who are there making a great deal of money in Boulder or Denver,” he said.

Loevy sees Manitou as a different thing altogether — more similar to the strongly Democratic Western Slope ski towns like Keystone, Breckenridge and Vail than its liberal stepsister to the north.

In Colorado’s ski towns “you have a type of person who wants to live a more relaxed mountain lifestyle,” he said.

“They want to be right where the scenery is. They have plenty of money, usually earned somewhere else. They vote strongly Democratic, an important part of why Democrats do so well in elections.

“I see Manitou as fitting more into that pattern because although it’s not a ski town, it’s really close to the mountains.

“The effect of that is like the ski towns: Manitou is Democratic.”

It’s so Democratic, in fact, that Manitou — more precisely, the three precincts that encompass it and parts of El Paso County — swung blue in the last two presidential elections by nearly 2:1, according to data available on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

Though Manitou is about as Democratic as they come, it’s a drop in the bucket when compared to the estimated 688,000 residents of El Paso County, which swung red in November.

At a commission meeting he attended, “we spent a long time discussing Manitou Springs, and one of our staff pointed out that we were talking about a very small number of voters — less than 5,000 at the time,” Loevy pointed out.

However minuscule Manitou’s effect on elections outside city limits, its residents are passionate about politics.

Why does it lean so far left?

“That’s a really good question,” Loevy said. “I can’t answer it. I’ve never heard any theories on why Manitou attracts liberals and people likely to vote Democrat.”

 

‘I’m scared, I really am’
“Messy” is coping with the Trump presidency by living how he pleases before the nation goes to “hell in a hand basket” at the hands of Trump.

On a recent Thursday morning, that meant smoking a cigarette and sipping coffee with fellow transients outside The Maté Factor Café, a local bistro run by the offbeat religious group Twelve Tribes.

Two nights prior, 52-year-old Messy — less commonly known by his birth name, Scott Smith — had arrived from Boulder, hoping to catch a hippie gathering before moving on to a festival in Virginia.

“I’m scared, I really am,” said Messy, clad in tie-dye T-shirt and faded overalls, his matted dirty blonde dreads mingling with the voodoo doll necklace resting on his chest.

Just what is there to fear under Trump?

Messy’s not exactly sure. But says he doesn’t trust hateful men.

“People are great, but he wants to build a wall to keep people out,” Messy mused. “Those are the good people, the Mexican people — they’re running from something in their country — poverty, crime. They come over here just to get away from it and to work to make a living. I thought that’s what this country was built on, that people can come over here.

Messy planned to linger in Manitou for a couple days, then hit the road. He adores Manitou — a true hippie down, unlike Boulder, he says — but gets restless.

“I love it here, but I can’t stay in any one place too long.”

 

Dave Cutshaw (right) poses for a portrait while selling whittled sticks Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Cutshaw sees President Trump as a spoiled child. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

Trump, the petulant child
Dave Cutshaw has more important matters to tend to than worrying too much about Trump — like whittling walking sticks outside of Heavenly Squeeze Juice Bar.

“Donald Trump is just a little kid,” he spat while clearing pulp out of beetle tracks on a tree branch he was readying to stain.

His dog, Sagebrush, rested nearby.

“He had everything he ever wanted, and this is just the ultimate prize.”

Cutshaw recalls Election Night — sitting outside of nearby Camino Real Imports. Hearing the hollers that Trump had won. A man throwing things in his apartment, angrily bemoaning the end of the world.

“I just laughed,” said Cutshaw, 59, who lives off the land outside city limits.

“It don’t matter. It was a lesser-of-two-evil type thing. They haven’t had a good president in there for years.”
Cutshaw thinks Trump’s blunt nature could come in handy.

Right now the country needs an “asshole president” to turn the ship around, and insolent Trump just might be the man for the job, he posited.

If he isn’t?

It’s no skin off Cutshaw’s back.

“I come down here, make some money, go back in the mountains when I get tired of it all,” he said.

 

That old hippie weapon
Saffer is coping in a very Manitou way: spreading as much love as possible.

She’s doing so because she believes Trump — “pure hate, pure ego, pure negativity” — is its antithesis.

“Just being kind to passing strangers is huge,” said Saffer, who works at a local spa and retreat center.

“In this job specifically, I’m able to create events that bring community members together to focus on what’s important: coming back to unconditional love for everybody ….”

She paused.

“Including Trump,” she added with emphasis.

Really?

“Yeah, really,” she said with a laugh. “It’s hard.”

Just how does a Trump opponent tackle such a task?

“It’s a constant balance of your own thought process, focusing on what’s real and what’s true, which is that we’re all the same — nobody’s better or worse,” she said.

Trump “clearly has his own struggles.”

“If somebody like that can be shown love, possibly they can change.”

Porcelain dishes clinked as Ettinger sat a generous kale salad and a hefty, steaming bowl of parsley-garnished soup in front of Saffer, who smiled gratefully.

One small act of kindness, however trivial, can inspire countless glorious counterfeits, Safer believes.

One hearty, nourishing bowl of soup.

One shy smile to a stranger on the street.

One ice cold glass of Manitou Lemonade.