September 13, 20174min740

Colorado Springs has long been known as Colorado’s premier military town, which we wear as a badge of honor. Local installations train future Air Force pilots, combat troops, and host some of the highest cyberspace and intelligence technology in the world.

Meanwhile, another identity has become equally impressive.

Colorado Springs is the state’s premier college town and one of the great college communities in the nation.

Sure, Boulder hosts the University of Colorado’s highly reputable “flagship” campus. But Colorado Springs hosts the fastest growing campus in the system, which in decades might be the largest campus in the state’s university system. It could be Colorado’s version of UCLA to UC-Berkeley.

Meanwhile, anyone who disputes that Colorado Springs has emerged as Colorado’s top college town must contend with rankings released Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report – the gold standard in “best-of” lists.

The magazine ranked our community’s Colorado College as the best innovative liberal arts school in the country. Let that sink in. Not among the best. The best. That distinction alone would make the Springs a formidable college town like those East Coast burgs that host Ivy League schools.

But U.S. News did not stop there. The magazine ranked the Air Force Academy for having the best civil engineering program among all public colleges and universities. Got that? Not among the best. The best.

Then there was the matter of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which just keeps growing and adding programs such as a new branch of the CU system’s medical school. In the U.S. News rankings, UCCS tied for sixth place among the top public schools of the west.

With three of the highest-rated four-year institutions in the country, Colorado Springs can hold its head high in the company of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles – all much larger cities – in terms of higher education. Among cities roughly the size of the Springs, only Washington, D.C., comes to mind as home to more top-tier colleges and universities.

The improving distinction of our community’s four-year colleges should be a strong consideration for employers looking for a culture of education and enlightenment. Here, they will find a bounty of emerging, educated professionals ready to settle down and start families.

As indicated by the University of Colorado at Boulder, the future of higher education funding and placement will be built on partnerships with commerce and industry. By helping fund higher education, industries have more say in getting the quality of graduates they need.

For colleges, partnerships with employers mean rising placement rates that attract more good students.

Colorado Springs is a military town and should proudly promote itself as such. Going forward, it is no less a college town. The balance makes this a world-class city at the base of America’s most majestic mountain. Indeed, times are good in Colorado Springs.



September 12, 20174min390

Today is 9-12, one day after the 16th anniversary of the worst domestic terrorist attack in American history.

On this day 16 years ago, Americans realized their commonalities far outweighed their differences. For a short time, tragedy united a divided country of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, blacks, whites and others segmented by identity politics. We all felt vulnerable and valued each other’s lives.

Today, as portions of Texas and Florida endure the ruination of hurricanes, we can unite again. Regardless of petty differences based in rigid ideologies and negative assumptions, we all want to focus on and help the people facing the daunting tasks of rebuilding their homes, communities and lives after something bigger than humanity humbled us all.

USA Today reported that faith-based relief groups had provided nearly 80 percent of the aid delivered to communities and homes devastated by the hurricanes as of Monday. Voluntary charitable giving will far outpace anything government can do.

In Texas, people with boats volunteered for days without sleep to rescue strangers from homes overcome by floods. In Florida, physicians and first responders risked their lives to stay in danger zones to help those who could not or would not evacuate. Tragedy has brought out the best in humanity, and examples could fill books.

TV and radio talk show host Glenn Beck, sometimes considered a divisive voice, recognized the unifying force of tragedy in 2009. He created the “9-12 Project” to help fellow Americans remember how the country pulled together after the 9-11 attacks.

He built the nonpartisan project on nine principles, ranging from “family is sacred,” to “America is good,” to “the government works for me.”

The 12 values were: honesty; reverence; hope; thrift; humility; charity; sincerity; moderation; hard work; courage; personal responsibility; and gratitude. They are values most of us hold dear.

With or without an organized effort to unify, we have an opportunity to stop the petty, partisan bickering on social media. We can recalibrate. We have a common enemy in the form of two natural disasters that treated everyone the same, without regard for what they look like or what they stand for.

Most Americans have friends and/or relatives directly affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. All of us will benefit by helping with recovery, whether by donating money, effort or support of any kind.

This is a chance for religious groups, atheists, agnostics, civic organizations, individuals and families to rally around the common good.

This country needs to heal. Let good emerge from the wreckage in Florida and Texas. As we did on Sept. 12, 2001, we can pull together as a culture with common goals and values that outweigh the issues that have ripped us apart. Have a peaceful and optimistic Sept. 12.



September 10, 20174min250

Everyone who supports President Donald Trump is racist. So said a local Facebook troll, going all in with the fashionable new tool for casting political opponents as monsters.

We have all seen the propensity of friends, neighbors and colleagues to thoughtlessly charge “racism” when someone disagrees with anything from immigration policy, to a proposal for health care reform, to tax cuts.

Most rational people despise racists, so charging another person with racism feels like a win-win for the accuser. “I’m not a racist, but you most certainly are. Therefore, we must discount anything you say.”

Unlike amateur pundits, professional media cannot whimsically lodge hate accusations. Even under today’s lowered standards of media conduct, reporters and editors know they need a third-party, authoritative “source” to accuse individuals or groups of racism and other forms of hatred.

They typically rely on the Southern Poverty Law Center, quoting it liberally as an ostensibly objective, knowledgeable source on all things hateful, racist and anti-Semitic.

Wednesday, a group of 47 prominent conservatives asked journalists to knock it off. The signers represented groups as diverse as the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness, Refugee Resettlement Watch, the American College of Pediatricians, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Media Research Center.

“The SPLC is a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention and application,” they wrote, in five pages detailing the SPLC’s careless and politically motivated attacks on groups it disagrees with.

The letter explained how the Southern Poverty Law Center placed The Family Research Council, a Christian organization opposed to same-sex marriage, on a “hate map” with violent and dangerous groups like the Ku Klux Klan. They quoted a U.S. Attorney’s evidence of terrorist Floyd Lee Corkins II using the law center’s “hate map” to target the Research Council and other Christian groups on the list.

“Having evolved from laudable origins battling the Klan in the 1970’s, the SPLC has realized the profitability of defamation, churning out fundraising letters, and publishing ‘hit pieces’ on conservatives to promote its agenda and pad its substantial endowment (of $319 million). Anyone who opposes them, including many Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and traditional conservatives is slandered and slapped with the ‘extremist’ label or even worse, their ‘hate group’ designation. At one point, the SPLC even added Dr. Ben Carson to its ‘extremist’ list because of his biblical views.”

We have seen the SPLC carelessly hate-list Coloradans. The law center labeled as “anti-Semitic” a Denver-area radio talk show host who owned with a gun store. Unbeknownst to the SPLC, the man was Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.

SPLC’s lawyers have every right to operate their law firm as a high-dollar, left-wing think tank that acts like a bombastic social media bully. Donors who like these tactics should feel free to send their donations to pad that $319 million endowment and the hefty salaries of SPLC employees.

Meanwhile, we remain confounded and slightly scandalized by the mainstream media’s routine reliance on this outfit, and the propensity of reporters to present the “hate map” and assorted blacklists as sources of objective findings.

Don’t expect the legacy media to accept this polite warning from 47 conservatives, but the general public should know: The Southern Poverty Law Center is a private, wealthy, activist law firm with a far-left political agenda. By labeling opponents as monsters, the law firm foments hate.



September 7, 20175min70

Pueblo officials have finally had enough. They are plotting to end their franchise agreement with Black Hills Energy, hoping to weaken the utility’s monopolistic stronghold over the community.

“We certainly hope the city doesn’t go down that path,” said Black Hills lawyer Kevin Opp, as quoted by the Pueblo Chieftain.

Of course they don’t want the city to break the contract. Black Hills has used Pueblo like a limitless ATM for years, jacking up rates among the highest in Colorado while enjoying protection of the franchise agreement.

Businesses seldom fleece customers, because market forces won’t allow them to. If gas station A sets a ridiculous price, Gas station B will win customers by offering a lower price. Gas station C will offer an even lower price, and Gas station D will go one further. Competition will force a price that barely exceeds the seller’s wholesale costs and overhead. That’s why grocers sell products at profit margins of pennies on the dollar.

Consumers do not enjoy the full benefits of competitive pricing when buying electricity, which is sold by massive utilities that are shielded from competition by government-granted monopoly status.

Monopolistic practices are inevitable in the utility sector. We cannot have dozens of companies setting up giant plants in each town to generate electricity. We don’t want a tangle of competing power lines running through neighborhoods.

The “franchise agreement” with a municipal government is one element of a public utility’s monopoly standing. It protects a utility from the threat of a competitor coming in with a better offer for providing exclusive power service.

With a franchise agreement, City Hall agrees to grant a utility exclusive rights to serve the community. The utility pays for the contract with an annual franchise fee. The cost of the fee is passed along to ratepayers. In Pueblo, residents collectively pay about $3.4 million a year to cover Black Hills’ franchise fee.

Because monopolies are dangerous for customers, who could get bilked by a provider unchecked by competition, states have public utilities commissions. A utility must ask the commission before raising rates. Unfortunately, utility executives are adept at manipulating regulatory boards. They even work to determine who gets appointed to the commission, which critics call stacking the system with “cronies.”

“Pueblo has been a cash cow for Black Hills,” said Susan Perkins, a utility lawyer who works with the group Pueblo’s Energy Future, as quoted by the Chieftain. “Until very recently, the PUC has essentially rubber-stamped Black Hills’ rate requests.”

Black Hills may have gone too far when it tried to double-cross City Hall. As explained in this space last week, the utility proposed a bait-and-switch regarding LED streetlights it had encouraged Pueblo city officials to buy with a loan from Wells Fargo Bank. Black Hills said the lights would save the city about $1 million bucks a year in electricity. After the lights were installed, Black Hills proposed a new annual fee of nearly the same amount the city will save. With the increase, the city won’t have the cash it had counted on to pay off the loan.

City Councilman Chris Nicoll called the move a betrayal “that broke the camel’s back.”

Nicoll led a majority on council to agree last week the city should end its 20-year franchise contract, leaving Black Hills susceptible to competition from another provider or the formation of a city-owned utility. Nicoll received a loud ovation from the audience when he proposed ending the contract.

Breaking the agreement will be expensive and complicated, and Black Hills won’t go down without a fight. By exploiting monopoly status, and betraying the local government, Black Hills has become a cautionary tale. It is a textbook example of what a business can do when liberated, without good regulatory oversight, from the benevolent forces of competition.



September 6, 20175min80

Pueblo officials have finally had enough. They are plotting to end their franchise agreement with Black Hills Energy, hoping to weaken the utility’s monopolistic stronghold over the community.

“We certainly hope the city doesn’t go down that path,” said Black Hills lawyer Kevin Opp, as quoted by the Pueblo Chieftain.

Of course they don’t want the city to break the contract. Black Hills has used Pueblo like a limitless ATM for years, jacking up rates among the highest in Colorado while enjoying protection of the franchise agreement.

Businesses seldom fleece customers, because market forces won’t allow them to. If gas station A sets a ridiculous price, Gas station B will win customers by offering a lower price. Gas station C will offer an even lower price, and Gas station D will go one further. Competition will force a price that barely exceeds the seller’s wholesale costs and overhead. That’s why grocers sell products at profit margins of pennies on the dollar.

Consumers do not enjoy the full benefits of competitive pricing when buying electricity, which is sold by massive utilities that are shielded from competition by government-granted monopoly status.

Monopolistic practices are inevitable in the utility sector. We cannot have dozens of companies setting up giant plants in each town to generate electricity. We don’t want a tangle of competing power lines running through neighborhoods.

The “franchise agreement” with a municipal government is one element of a public utility’s monopoly standing. It protects a utility from the threat of a competitor coming in with a better offer for providing exclusive power service.

With a franchise agreement, City Hall agrees to grant a utility exclusive rights to serve the community. The utility pays for the contract with an annual franchise fee. The cost of the fee is passed along to ratepayers. In Pueblo, residents collectively pay about $3.4 million a year to cover Black Hills’ franchise fee.

Because monopolies are dangerous for customers, who could get bilked by a provider unchecked by competition, states have public utilities commissions. A utility must ask the commission before raising rates. Unfortunately, utility executives are adept at manipulating regulatory boards. They even work to determine who gets appointed to the commission, which critics call stacking the system with “cronies.”

“Pueblo has been a cash cow for Black Hills,” said Susan Perkins, a utility lawyer who works with the group Pueblo’s Energy Future, as quoted by the Chieftain. “Until very recently, the PUC has essentially rubber-stamped Black Hills’ rate requests.”

Black Hills may have gone too far when it tried to double-cross City Hall. As explained in this space last week, the utility proposed a bait-and-switch regarding LED streetlights it had encouraged Pueblo city officials to buy with a loan from Wells Fargo Bank. Black Hills said the lights would save the city about $1 million bucks a year in electricity. After the lights were installed, Black Hills proposed a new annual fee of nearly the same amount the city will save. With the increase, the city won’t have the cash it had counted on to pay off the loan.

City Councilman Chris Nicoll called the move a betrayal “that broke the camel’s back.”

Nicoll led a majority on council to agree last week the city should end its 20-year franchise contract, leaving Black Hills susceptible to competition from another provider or the formation of a city-owned utility. Nicoll received a loud ovation from the audience when he proposed ending the contract.

Breaking the agreement will be expensive and complicated, and Black Hills won’t go down without a fight. By exploiting monopoly status, and betraying the local government, Black Hills has become a cautionary tale. It is a textbook example of what a business can do when liberated, without good regulatory oversight, from the benevolent forces of competition.


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September 2, 20175min130

The ballyhooed “health care” plan by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and six of their colleagues arrived Thursday with a thud.

We applaud them for trying, but in seven pages written to House and Senate leadership, the governors pitched another minor tweaking of insurance. It is like they took the Affordable Care Act and the recent House and Senate proposals and blended them with a handful of related ideas.

The governors barely touched on health care and the potential for government to help ignite a more robust market of doctors, nurses, psychologists, clinics and hospitals to provide more care for more people at a lower cost.

After more than 40 references to “insurance” and “coverage” in the first five pages, the governors conceded that “coverage” isn’t the issue.

“Coverage is important, and coverage reforms can help contain costs, but eventually our nation needs to confront the underlying market dynamics that are driving unsustainable increases in the cost of care,” the letter states.

“Eventually.” Why not now?

We hoped the governors would pitch ideas for state and federal governments to help solve the root problem they identified. We expected talk of deregulation, to boost the supply of health care providers within each market. We hoped for talk of block grants to establish wellness clinics in neighborhood fire stations and federal grants to produce more medical students, health care entrepreneurs and clinics in strip malls.

Instead, the topic of “market dynamics” returned immediately to insurance tweaks. It is a rut the political class cannot escape.

“With the support of the federal government, states are resetting the basic rules of health care competition to pay providers based on the quality, not the quantity of care they give patients,” the letter explained. “This is true in our states, where we are increasing access to comprehensive primary care and reducing the incentive to overuse unnecessary services within high cost episodes of care.”

Got that? The governors believe we can resolve market problems, the underlying cause of the health care crisis, by having government insurance pay providers based on “quality” while driving people to primary physicians rather than emergency rooms. They gave congressional leaders no examples of how states are “increasing access” to primary care.

These are not big-picture ideas. They have nothing to do with growing the provider side of the health care market, which is the only way to increase access and lower costs in a country with a growing population of patients and a dwindling supply of physicians.

We have all heard the anti-Obamacare mantra that “coverage is not care.” Health insurance is currency. Like the dollar, the value of any insurance certificate relates directly to the availability of goods and services one can exchange it for.

Insurance reforms have a role, but they produce nothing. It is like printing and distributing currency and confusing it with economic growth.

The devaluation of our inflated insurance market collides with stagnation in the growth of health care and a worsening shortage of physicians. The declining value of insurance presents itself as high deductibles and co-pays few can afford. Insurance with a $10,000 deductible is of little value to the average consumer. Quite simply, inflated insurance policies buy less care.

Insurance has become so worthless the governors would force consumers to buy it, just to sustain the industry.

“Congress should leave the individual mandate in place until it can devise a credible replacement,” the governors wrote. “The current mandate is unpopular, but for the time being it is perhaps the most important incentive for healthy people to enroll in coverage.”

This is a blueprint for Obamacare 4.0, on the heels of the failed House and Senate plans of 2017. It is a plan to save insurance companies – not health care consumers.

We had high hopes for Hickenlooper, Kasich and their colleagues to propose a comprehensive state-and-federal vision for health care reform.

The country needs plans for more access, more competition and lower prices. Instead, we got another boring idea to slightly alter a regulatory scheme of insurance plans that will continue losing value. Thanks, but no thanks. We have Congress for small ideas like this.



August 31, 20171min150

Despite a Texas law against “price gouging,” prices soared for people trying to endure or escape Hurricane Harvey.

“One station sold gas for a whopping $20 a gallon,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday. “A hotel reportedly charged guests more than twice the normal rate. One business sold bottles of water for a staggering $99 per case – more than 10 times some of the prices seen online.”

In a perfect world, victims escaping or enduring disasters would pay nothing for food, fuel, water, medications and other basic necessities. We are mortified at the thought of someone getting stranded in a flood for lack of funds to buy fuel.

Our imperfect world cannot supply all things to all people at all times.

Read more at The Gazette



August 30, 20171min140

The University of California-Berkeley, with a reputation for increasingly violent activism, wants to be more like the University of Colorado. CU hasn’t endured a headline-worthy riot in 20 years.

University of Colorado President Bruce Benson spoke Saturday about Berkeley’s flattering imitation, before presenting an award at the Steamboat Institute’s ninth annual Freedom Conference & Festival in Steamboat Springs. Benson had no idea another violent left-wing melee would erupt the next day just three blocks from the Berkeley campus.

The Steamboat Institute honored Benson with its “Courage in Education Award” last year, and he was on hand to give this year’s award to Lafayette College Assistant Prof. Brandon Van Dyck.

Benson explained how the administration at CU-Berkeley recently designed a program after CU’s endowed chair of Conservative Thought and Policy, filled each year by a visiting scholar.

Read more at The Gazette



August 30, 20171min90

Marijuana advocates can no longer claim legalization is devoid of catastrophic results.

The Denver Post, which has embraced legalization, analyzed federal and state data and found results so alarming they published a story last week under the headline “Traffic fatalities linked to marijuana are up sharply in Colorado. Is legalization to blame?”

Of course legalization is to blame. It ushered in a commercial industry that encourages consumption and produces an ever-increasing supply of pot substantially more potent than most users could find when the drug was illegal.

The post reported a 40 percent increase in the number of all drivers, impaired or otherwise, involved in fatal crashes in Colorado between 2013 and 2016.

Read more at The Gazette