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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 24, 20175min299
A formal objection has been filed against a proposed initiative aimed at curtailing construction growth in Lakewood. Lakewood resident Steve Dorman says proponents would need to amend the city charter to accomplish limiting growth until a strategic plan can be developed. “I am calling on the proponents of this poorly crafted ballot measure to withdraw their petition […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 22, 20176min377

After a three-month review following a home explosion that killed two people in Firestone, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday placed some of the onus on oil and gas operators.

The April explosion was caused by natural gas leaking from an old pipeline, an incident that renewed a broader political conversation.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat and former geologist, ordered a review of existing oil and gas operations in the aftermath of the incident.

On Tuesday, the governor announced the state’s response, which includes asking the oil and gas industry to take greater responsibility. Steps include:

  • Creating a nonprofit to plug as many as 800 abandoned wells and provide refunds for in-home methane monitors, something which the oil and gas industry could be responsible for;
  • Strengthening regulations around existing gas lines;
  • Enhancing efforts around protecting underground infrastructure and promoting excavator and public safety education;
  • Prohibiting homeowners from tapping into industry gas lines;
  • Creating a workgroup to improve safety training;
  • Requesting a review of some state rules; and
  • Exploring a methane leak detection pilot program.

Hickenlooper in May pointed out that there is no database of older existing gas lines, but aside from enhancing efforts around protecting underground infrastructure and excavations, there is no plan for mapping existing lines. Concerns were raised that it would be difficult to prohibit homeowners from tapping into industry lines if a public map was available.

“At the time of the explosion, we committed to do all we could to ensure that what happened to the Martinez and Irwin families never happens again,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “The actions we announced today are a responsible and appropriate response that places public safety first.”

The bodies of brothers-in-law Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin, both 42, were discovered in the basement one day after the explosion. Martinez’s wife, Erin, was seriously injured.

A well sits 178 feet from the home in Firestone, in which the two wen were killed in a devastating explosion.

The underground line had been cut about 10 feet from the house, state regulators said. Gas seeped through the ground and into the basement, where it exploded on April 17.

The governor’s office hopes to implement the proposals within a year. Some steps could be taken through state regulators, but others could require the legislature’s approval.

A handful of lawmakers this year proposed regulating residential development near operations, something that the governor does not mention in his Tuesday announcement. That discussion could resume again in the legislature next year.

Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, who has led many anti-fracking discussions in the legislature, is already considering such legislation.

At the time of the explosion, he said, “As more information has come to light, it has become clearer that these oil wells, pipes, and tanks are simply too dangerous to be in close proximity to homes, businesses, and schools. We need to take steps to ensure a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again.”

From the industry’s standpoint, the Colorado Petroleum Council said it is committed to “safe and responsible operations, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity for communities throughout the state.”

“The tragic event in Firestone earlier this summer serves to reaffirm the oil and natural gas industry’s long-standing commitment with regulators and emergency officials to never let up on our core value of safety,” said CPC Executive Director Tracee Bentley. “We are committed to working with the governor and the state over the next several months as we work through these proposals, all the while continuing to deliver the energy that runs our state and our country with the highest possible standards and safety practices.”

Dan Haley, president and chief executive of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, issued a similar response: “Colorado’s oil and gas industry just completed a rigorous safety examination and reporting process in full cooperation with the COGCC following the tragedy in Firestone.

“While the results confirm the high safety standards practiced by the industry, we’ve also engaged in several conversations with a number of stakeholders over the past few months, including state legislators on both sides of the aisle and the governor. We look forward to closely reviewing the details of the governor’s proposal and will fully engage in conversations about next steps.”

Hickenlooper also announced that the Department of Public Health and Environment will form an alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The goal is to collaboratively address safety within the industry. The effort launches in September.

“Our state is fortunate to receive a federal grant to evaluate and address worker safety specific to oil and gas operations” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of CDPHE. “Public health and safety protections need to extend to these workers and we are fortunate to have the collaborative support and leadership of the the governor, industry and our federal agency partners.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 22, 20175min511
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., speaks to the crowd at a GOP election night gathering in Denver in this file photo. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO6., speaks to the crowd at a GOP election night gathering in Denver in this file photo. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican, is working on moving the Department of Veterans Affairs away from prescribing “strong” psychotherapeutic medications to veterans.

He said the department uses the medications as its “primary method of treating” veterans with mental health conditions, and that has Coffman concerned.

“An over reliance on prescription medication may in some instances leave veterans in a more vulnerable state,” Coffman wrote Monday to Gene Dodaro, the comptroller general of the United States within the Government Accountability Office.

Coffman highlighted post-traumatic stress disorder as an issue. He expressed concerns around cutting off patients suddenly from medications and addictions that cause “unpredictable or dangerous forms of behavior.”

“Given these concerns, I write to request that the Government Accountability Office review the VA’s psychoactive drug-centric standard of mental health care for our veterans,” Coffman wrote.

“Many veterans return from service with PTSD, often referred to as one of the invisible wounds of war,” the letter continued. “Buttressing my concerns are a combination of data from the VA’s 2016 suicide data report and numerous cases that have come to my attention, including two in particular from the state of Colorado.”

Coffman pointed to a veteran from Broomfield, Cory Hixson, who suffers from conditions related to his second tour in Iraq. Hixson fled his family and home. Authorities found him in Erie in a garage looking for food and clothing. His wife reported that the VA repeatedly changed Hixson’s medications.

In the second example Coffman gave from Colorado, combat veteran Noah Harter, from Colorado Springs, suffered from PTSD and other issues after two deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coffman cites reports stating that he was prescribed “powerful medications” that may have contributed to Harter dying by suicide.

The proportion of Veterans Health Administration users with mental health conditions or substance use disorders has increased from about 27 percent in 2001 to more than 40 percent in 2014, according to statistics cited in Coffman’s letter.

He called for careful monitoring and raised a series of questions regarding the VA’s use of non-pharmacological therapy, and psychotherapeutic drug and opioid procedures. Specifically, Coffman called to attention concerns around veterans being prescribed stimulants, benzodiazepines, and opioids – in some cases together. The congressman also raised questions on suicide rates.

“Although I recognize that in many cases the use of psychoactive medications is appropriate for veterans with mental health conditions, I believe that their use is not necessarily the best first resort and that in many instances the alternatives of non-medicated treatment or cognitive-behavioral therapy may prove a preferred option,” Coffman wrote.

 



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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 22, 20175min324

Supporters of U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter are standing by the candidate despite the clear disruption his decision to run for re-election has brought to the Democratic primary.

Perlmutter on Monday officially announced that he would run for re-election in the 7th Congressional District, after Colorado Politics reported on Aug. 11 that he was reconsidering the race.

Perlmutter had said he would not run for re-election so that he could pursue a run for governor. After dropping out of the governor’s race just three months in, Perlmutter said that he would still not run for re-election. But he received pressure from inside and outside of Colorado to reconsider.

The news came as a shock to four Democratic candidates already in the race, including state Sens. Andy Kerr of Lakewood and Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, state Rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood and former Obama administration ambassador Dan Baer of Arvada.

Pettersen, Kerr, and Moreno raised a combined $358,000 in their first financial reporting periods, and more money has been raised since those numbers were reported at the end of the last quarter. Baer recently told Colorado Politics that he raised more than $300,000 in just two weeks.

Campaigns announced a lull in fundraising after news broke that Perlmutter was reconsidering the seat. Donors wanted to wait to see what his final decision would be. With a formal re-election campaign planned, Perlmutter has the ability to clear the field.

Moreno quickly announced that he would drop out of the race and support Perlmutter. Pettersen later announced that she was dropping out of the race. Kerr and Baer are weighing their options.

State Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, who sits in the seat Perlmutter once occupied in the statehouse, said Perlmutter represents the best chance of holding onto the district for Democrats.

“I’ve always been a very strong Perlmutter supporter, and the reason being is he is so real,” Jahn said. “He says what he means and he means what he says.”

Jahn said the only reason Perlmutter first said he would not run for re-election was because of his initial desire to run for governor, but that it is totally fair for him to reconsider.

“That’s what races are all about, that’s politics, that’s what happens,” Jahn said. “I’m thrilled that he’s back in.”

Former state Sen. Greg Brophy, a Republican from Wray, also supported Perlmutter in his decision to run for re-election. Brophy, now a lobbyist, believes Perlmutter has the seniority to push critical Colorado issues over the finish line in Congress.

“It’s good for Colorado because of his seniority on Financial Services. If we’re ever going to get equitable tax and banking treatment for our legal Colorado marijuana businesses, we need as much seniority as possible on Financial Services,” Brophy said, referring to Perlmutter’s seat on the House Financial Services Committee.

“I know that they desperately wan to run for Congress,” Brophy said of the other four candidates. “But I still want the best for Colorado, and Ed Perlmutter is the best for Colorado. It’s a gut punch, but … all is fair in love and war and politics.”

Alan Salazar, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s chief of staff, said he was one of many voices encouraging Perlmutter to run for re-election.

“I didn’t encourage him to do anything but look at where he could make a contribution and to think twice about leaving public service altogether,” Salazar said. “I would give that same advice to anybody who I believe in and thought was a good human being.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 22, 20176min282
Republican Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman on Monday announced that she would not prosecute a Colorado elector who defected in last year’s presidential vote. Coffman’s decision came as a blow to Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who expressed disappointment following the decision. Elector Micheal Baca of Denver, a Bernie Sanders supporter, became one of […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 20, 20174min183
Immigrant rights leaders are applauding Denver for nearing a final agreement on an ordinance that would protect immigrants from a federal crackdown. City leaders this week announced plans to prohibit city employees from releasing immigration information, an exchange of data that can lead to deportation or other federal enforcement activities. Estimates place the city’s undocumented […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 17, 20174min806

Jason Crow, who is seeking to replace Colorado’s Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the 6th Congressional District, received impressive endorsements from top Democrats Thursday.

Former U.S. senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar – one of the state’s highest profile and most respected Colorado Democrats – threw his support behind Crow. State Sen. Irene Aguilar of Denver, who represents a more progressive side of the party, also announced her endorsement for Crow Thursday.

“I am extremely honored to have the endorsements of Secretary Ken Salazar and State Senator Irene Aguilar,” Crow said in a statement. “Secretary Salazar has been a trailblazer, fighting for Colorado his entire career. He has worked hard for years on immigration reform, expansion of public lands and renewable energy, and civil rights and his commitment to Colorado and bipartisanship is inspiring. I am humbled to have his support.”

Aguilar was the main backer of ColoradoCare, the failed ballot initiative last year that would have established a state single-payer healthcare system. Crow noted Aguilar’s work on health care.

Amendment 69, the ballot initiative that would have made Colorado the first state to provide universal healthcare, failed by nearly a 4 to 1 margin in November.

“Senator Aguilar has been a long-time friend and progressive leader for Colorado,” he said. “Her dedication to bringing health care to every Coloradan and her commitment to progressive values shows true leadership. From day one, this campaign has been about focusing on what unites us, not what divides us, and I am incredibly humbled to have these two leaders in my corner.”

Crow is competing in a primary against attorney David Aarestad and former Obama administration energy policy adviser Levi Tillemann.

“Jason has served our nation with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Salazar said. “He is a stellar community leader and father, and loves Colorado. He has proven his ability to unify the community through positive leadership and build coalitions to get things done – from his work with other veteran leaders in the fight for the VA Hospital in Aurora, to helping build organizations to address the growing substance abuse crisis in our community. In Congress, Jason will find solutions that help the people of the 6th Congressional District and end the gridlock in Washington. I enthusiastically endorse him.”

Aguilar said in a statement. “I first came to know Jason as a community leader and was extremely excited to learn of his candidacy. I have always admired Jason’s military career but what I have come to appreciate most is his good heart and the kindness he was able to maintain through his three combat tours. Jason is a strong progressive with courage of conviction and a dedication to public service. He cares deeply for his family and community and I know that the 6th District and Colorado will benefit greatly with him as a representative.”

Crow previously received endorsements from former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and former Gov. Bill Ritter.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 16, 20176min901

Former Obama administration U.S. Ambassador Dan Baer raised more than $300,000 in two weeks since entering the race to replace U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Colorado Politics has learned.

The Baer campaign confirmed the impressive fundraising haul, though it said that it has not yet analyzed where the money is coming from. Baer said only a handful of donations came from phone calls, and the rest have come from email and social media efforts.

“It’s been a mix of people,” Baer told Colorado Politics on Wednesday.

The fundraising effort eclipses three other Democrats who have been running in the primary for months, including state Sens. Andy Kerr of Lakewood and Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, and state Rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.

Kerr, Moreno and Pettersen combined for $358,000 in their first financial reporting periods, though more money has been raised since those numbers were reported at the end of the last quarter.

Pettersen topped the first fundraising period for the race, with more than $170,000. Her campaign said fundraising was restricted by her work in the legislature this year, with more than 80 percent of donations coming after the conclusion of the legislative session in May.

Kerr raised more than $104,000 in his first fundraising period. Kerr said 88 percent of the total he raised was accomplished after the legislative session ended in May.

Moreno, who had just five weeks left in the fundraising quarter since jumping into the race at the end of May, raised nearly $85,000.

The three campaigns highlighted that much of their money came from individual donors within Colorado. Supporters of Kerr, Moreno and Pettersen have privately commented that Baer benefits from a wealthy national network.

“I am not independently wealthy,” Baer responded.

A Colorado native who previously served as a U.S. ambassador under President Obama, Baer moved to Arvada after President Trump took office.

Much of the fundraising efforts in the 7th Congressional District for Democrats has been hampered by recent news that Perlmutter is reconsidering whether to run for re-election. Some financial supporters are withholding donations as they wait to see what Perlmutter will do.

A $300,000 start in just two weeks offers Baer a bit of comfort. He must still battle name recognition in Jefferson and Adams counties.

The Republican field for the seat is still developing, though no competitive candidates have yet entered the race, despite the somewhat politically mixed nature of the district.

Baer said his campaign launch video – a “bootstrap” effort, as he described it – helped kickoff fundraising efforts. The video features his work as an ambassador, taking a tough stance on Russia, while also fighting for people to “pursue happiness.”

Born in Denver, Baer grew up in the western suburbs of the city. Before serving as a U.S. ambassador – which began in 2013 – Baer advised corporations and nonprofits as a project leader at the Boston Consulting Group.

He also taught business ethics during the financial crisis, and served in the State Department during the Obama Administration.

Obama tapped Baer to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where he was responsible for implementation of arms control agreements, addressing international conflicts, and working on human rights issues.

Baer, a 40-year-old candidate, is married to Brian Walsh, an environmental economist who advises the World Bank.

Baer said he was “stunned by the response” to his campaign launch video and social media efforts. A former professor at Georgetown University, the Democrat said he has seen contributions from former students, from colleagues he worked with at the State Department, and from other colleagues “who saw me in action in the Obama administration.”

“It’s been both within Colorado and across the country, I’ve been really touched,” Baer said of the contributions.

Shad Murib, campaign manager for Kerr, responded, “We look forward to seeing how many of his donors are from the district or the state of Colorado.”

The Moreno and Pettersen campaigns declined to comment.

When asked about the impressive fundraising haul, Baer said, “Money is necessary but not sufficient to run a good campaign.”

He added, “We have to make democracy deliver. I believe that the first step in solving problems, or the first step in addressing problems, is understanding them… I think it is right and proper that I spend several months listening before I start opining on situations. I am focused on spending as many hours of every day as I can either listening to voters or making sure that I’ll have the resources in place.

“The other thing that people have told me, ‘The only way you can win as an outsider in Colorado is if you’re able to self-fund.’ What I have asked people to do so far is invest in this campaign and invest in a different approach to the moment that we’re in.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 16, 20174min407
State Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, left, listens to a constituent at a town hall meeting sponsored by Lakewood legislators on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, at the Lakewood Cultural Center. On Thursday, June 22, 2017, national fundraising group Emily's List endorsed Petterson in Colorado's 7th Congressional District primary. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)
State Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, left, listens to a constituent at a town hall meeting sponsored by Lakewood legislators on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, at the Lakewood Cultural Center.  (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

State Rep. Brittany Pettersen – one of four Democratic candidates seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter – announced a long list of endorsements on Tuesday.

The announcement comes as Colorado Politics reported that Perlmutter is reconsidering running for the 7th Congressional District seat.

Perlmutter – who was first running for governor but then dropped his bid – had said that he wouldn’t run for re-election. But Colorado Politics learned that he is reconsidering that decision.

Endorsements for Pettersen include former Lt. Gov. and at-large Denver School Board member Barbara O’Brien, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, former U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, former House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, to name a few.

The news release announcing the endorsements includes 26 supporters.

“In a time when many Coloradans are feeling uncertain and left behind, we are coming together to support Brittany Pettersen for Congress because she knows first-hand the challenges facing Colorado families and what it takes to overcome those obstacles,” the news release states for the Lakewood Democrat.

“Brittany is running for Congress because Colorado families who already have it tough are under assault by President Trump and a dysfunctional Congress who are threatening the lifelines families need to create better lives for themselves.”

Also running in the race are state Sens. Andy Kerr of Lakewood and Dominick Moreno of Commerce City. Former Obama-era U.S. ambassador Dan Baer is also running in the primary.

If Perlmutter chooses to run for re-election, his announcement could clear the field after the candidates raised a collective $358,000 in their first financial reporting periods, and considerable more money has been raised since those numbers were reported at the end of the last quarter.

Baer – who entered the race earlier this month – is rumored to have already collected a large haul from supporters.

The candidates have committed to staying in the race, at least until they hear directly from Perlmutter on his intentions.

“Brittany Pettersen is a leader who has earned our support because we need someone who won’t back down and won’t stop fighting to make the lives of Coloradans better,” the news release continues. “Whether it’s quality education for all students, good paying jobs in our communities, or access to quality, affordable healthcare, Brittany will ensure that regular people have a voice in Congress.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 16, 20173min650

Gov. John Hickenlooper will tour a women’s correctional facility in Denver on Wednesday as part of a national criminal justice reform effort.

The Democratic governor has joined with seven other governors on a so-called “Face to Face” initiative, described as a “national call to action encouraging policymakers to personally engage with the people who are closest to the correctional system.”

A bipartisan group of governors has committed to participating in the initiative. In addition to Hickenlooper, the group includes governors from Connecticut, North Carolina, Missouri, Utah, Montana, Nevada and Georgia.

Attorney General Mike DeWine of Ohio is also participating in the campaign, as is Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch of Wisconsin.

Hickenlooper will first hold a private meeting with correctional facility staff in the afternoon at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. He will then meet with inmates before addressing the media.

The initiative is sponsored by the National Reentry Resource Center and The Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), JustLeadershipUSA and the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC).

“The job of a corrections professional is immensely challenging, and often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression and other health and wellness issues,” said ASCA Executive Director Kevin Kempf. “Getting policymakers more personally connected to these challenges will not only help the officers, but improve the outcomes of the people they supervise.”

“This initiative has already spread to a variety of bipartisan elected leaders in an effort to create proximity between policymakers and those most affected by their decisions,” added Glenn E. Martin, founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA, who served six years in a New York State prison. “Incarcerated people and those returning from prison or jail face statutory and practical obstacles that are often misunderstood. There’s no better way to inform our leaders of these issues than connecting face to face.”

The Face to Face initiative offers advice to policymakers, with potential action items for them to consider following their interactions in order to maintain a connection with the issues and the people behind them.

“All too often, the wheels of the criminal justice system move forward and leave behind the concerns and repercussions facing victims of crime,” said Mai Fernandez, executive director of NCVC. “We’re hopeful that this initiative will help prioritize victims’ issues, including restitution and recovery, among many elected leaders.”