Editor’s note: This is a new feature for Colorado Politics. Each week we’ll introduce you to the difference-makers who work behind the scenes. Andre Bowser is a giant among men in the Colorado Capitol. Not because of his height. He’s about 6 feet tall. Not because of his power or influence in a building full […]
Starting Monday it will be Ki’i Powell’s job to make sure people in need get the help the state can provide. The Colorado Department of Human Services named her director of the Office of Economic Security.
The office is in charge of child support services, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, Colorado’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and services for refugees.
“For years, all of CDHS — including the Office of Economic Security — has relied on Ki’i’s expertise when making important decisions that affect some of the most vulnerable people in the state,” DHS executive director Reggie Bicha said in a statement. “Ki’i has been deeply involved with OES to understand its processes and outcomes, and has worked closely with the staff in counties statewide to help them succeed. Her passion for CDHS’ work and improving people’s lives, combined with her deep expertise in OES’ programs, made her an ideal choice to be the new director of OES.”
Powell is a licensed psychologist and holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She joined DHS in 2010 as the research and evaluation manager for its Division of Child Welfare and held research and evaluation roles with the Colorado Division of Mental Health Data and Evaluation and the Hawaii Department of Health’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division.
Since 2011, Powell has been DHS’s performance management director, overseeing the department’s five-year-old C-Stat performance management measures.
“I’m very excited to serve the Colorado Department of Human Services in this new capacity,” Powell said in a statement. “I look forward to continued collaboration with OES staff, county partners and our contractors to help improve the lives of Coloradans.”
Peace and quiet in Colorado’s great outdoors has a value all its own, according to a study released Tuesday by the independent economic analysts ECONorthwest.
In 2015, non-motorized recreation such as camping, hiking, climbing, hunting, mountain biking and rafting attracted 1.23 million visits to public lands from the mountains to the plains, generating $54.3 million in direct spending within 50 miles of the sites.
The report, called “Quiet Recreation on BLM-Managed Lands in Eastern Colorado,” cites 693 jobs supported by non-motorized use of BLM Lands.
Luis Benitez, director of the state’s two-year-old Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, said Colorado tourism is about more than being the country’s top destination for overnight ski visits.
“In order to ensure that our rural communities continue to thrive we will promote a conservation ethic that elevates the connection between outdoor recreation and the economic and financial viability of communities and the state,” said Benitez, an Eagle County mountaineer and a trustee for the town of Eagle until he was appointed to his state job by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
David Leinweber, the owner and president of Colorado Springs-based Angler’s Covey and chairman of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, said in a statement that his customers depend on public lands.
“The easy access and close proximity of BLM lands is essential to our ability to engage in these activities and be a successful company,” he said. “This study is the latest evidence that outdoor recreation is not only a key reason why we call Colorado home but also fuels our local economies.”
In a separate study, using 2012 figures, the Outdoor Industry Association says recreation generates $13.2 billion in consumer spending statewide and $994 million in local, state and federal taxes each year.
Republicans in the Colorado legislature are expected to turn out strong Thursday for a lunchtime rally for charter schools in Colorado Springs.
A Celebration of Charter School Families begins at 12:30 p.m. at Colorado Springs Early Colleges at 4405 N. Chestnut St. The rally is sponsored by the conservative school choice organization Ready CO and the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
The speakers for the event include Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City and Sens. Bob Gardner, Owen Hill and Kent Lambert, all of Colorado Springs.
Hill is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee and advocates for options other than traditional public schools. In the last session he sponsored breakthrough legislation, working with Democrats, to equitably share tax dollars with charter schools, House Bill 1375.
Charter schools are public schools organized by parents or leaders in a community with a charter from a local school board. Parents and principals have more autonomy on curriculum and operations. The state has 238 charter schools and more than 115,000 students.
Charter school funding was hailed as a big winner when the session ended in May so Thursday’s rally amounts to a victory lap for Senate Republicans.
Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, led the bipartisan House Bill 1340, which created a 10-member legislative committee to study school financing.
Gardner, the founder of Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy, serves on the Senate Education Committee.
“I have a passion for education, particularly for education choice for parents and children,” Gardner said on camera.
Some Democrats are concerned charter schools are a way of side-stepping protections and representation from teachers unions. “School choice” is viewed by opponents as a step toward school vouchers, which would allow some parents, but not all, to take their kids and money out of private schools and leave less fortunate students behind.
Editor’s note: This blog was updated with newer totals for charter schools and enrollment.
Colorado Politics told you this month that some Broomfield residents want more public health and safety requirements for permitting oil and gas wells written into the city charter.
They’re out collecting the 2,500 signatures from the town’s roughly 48,000 registered voters to get the issue on the November ballot. The language mirrors that of a pending lawsuit by Boulder County teenagers (fronting environmental groups) to force state regulators to balance public health and safety against the wishes of industry when the commission reviews new permits.
City and county attorney Bill Tuthill threw a cold dose of legal reality on the activists at the last city council meeting. Even if they get it on the ballot and it passes, current law is not in its favor, which could put the city in court, a familiar place for north metro communities trying to push back against the energy industry.
Tuthill read from a statute that said the city charter can’t repeal vested property or contract rights.
“Even if the charter is amended the effect it will have on existing rights and contracts is going to be governed by this statute,” he said. “… In the simplest terms, this statute says you can’t undo a contract by passing a city charter amendment.”
Colorado Politics asked for a comment from Vital for Colorado, the statewide coalition of business leaders that supports energy development.
“We have been down this road before,” Vital chairman Peter Moore said in a statement. “National anti-oil and gas groups pushed a series of unlawful local bans on energy development and those measures were struck down by the state’s highest court. It’s hard to believe oil and gas opponents are trying the same thing again, but that’s exactly what they’re doing, and they’re sending the bill directly to Broomfield taxpayers.”
The temperature has been hot in Broomfield for a while, in a region accustomed to court cases and bitter political disputes between people who want to drill and prosper in the northeast metro region and those who want to live there.
At the meeting, Broomfield resident Camille Cave alleged Councilman Kevin Kreeger had a “bromance” with Andrew O’Connor, the Lafayette man who wrote a letter to the editor of the Boulder Daily Camera two months ago suggesting blowing up gas wells and shooting workers to impede drilling.
Cave read from Kreeger’s e-mails obtained through an open-records request. She chose selected passages that, out of context, sounded damning. In one, Kreeger complimented O’Connor for his his fracking activism. “‘I applaud your energy and drive to do what’s right,'” Cave read from the e-mail, written sometime before O’Connor’s April 19 letter.
She began and ended suggesting Kreeger was a snake in the grass, and made a hissing sound at the podium as she concluded.
Kreeger responded that he was targeted by the oil and gas supporters, and he was simply answering one of the dozens of e-mails O’Connor sent him, with no knowledge of O’Connor’s views on violence as a solution.
He said he’s not against all fracking, but is opposed to current proposals for more wells in the city.
“What’s truly unfortunate is this nasty, disgusting, Washington, D-C.-level of personal attacks that’s come into our local politics,” Kreeger said. “And in no way ever did I imply that violence is an appropriate response on either side.”
Gunfire in Washington, Russian hacking chat in the elections office and a mental hospital in “jeopardy.” The week in Colorado Politics was one for the history books.
These are the stories our staff thinks you should take a second look at.
5. Let’s get this party started
Colorado’s newest minor party came into its own this week as the Unity Party began making plans for its first state convention. After passing the 1,000-registered members threshold, the Uniters become Colorado’s fourth officially designated minor party, joining the Libertarians, the Green Party and the American Constitution Party.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams went on the offensive this week to reassure Coloradans that even if Russia meddled in last year’s election — by trashing Hillary Clinton with hacked e-mails — it doesn’t mean they tampered with any ballots in Colorado.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is hankering to bring federal drug law down on medical marijuana providers. The law man, a long-time foe of the ganja, is asking permission from Congress, but Colorado’s delegation isn’t eager to give it.
2. State mental hospitals moves fast to keep federal dollars
The leader of the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo stepped down as the state psychiatric hospital pulled together enough staff to prevent losing its Medicaid and Medicare dollars, about 13 percent of its budget, after regulators said staffing shortages put patients in “immediate jeopardy.”
1. Gunfire at GOP practice rattles Democrats Polis and Perlmutter
Colorado congressman Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter were practicing for a charity game with the Democratic baseball team when shots were being fired at the Republican practice two miles away. “Nobody knew what it was, nobody knew if there was a live shooter coming after the other team, our team,” Polis told Colorado Politics.
Brandon Rittiman and Anna Staver had a fascinating piece on 9News Friday night about a plan being hatched by centrist-minded politicians fed up with partisan politics in the Colorado legislature.
The Centrist Project is looking for five good candidates to run for the statehouse under the Centrist banner. If they can do that — and saying it and doing are two very different things in politics — they tell 9News that they can deny both parties a majority.
Hmmmm, that math equation is built on a lot of if’s.
Right now, the Democrats have a 37-28 majority in the House. Even if all five candidates won there, and even if they knocked off five Democrats, that would still leave Democrats with a 32-28-5 majority. The five would still need to caucus with one of the parties to have much hope of getting anything passed. The Centrists would have to stick together and vote with the Republicans to force the Democratic majority to negotiate, but that’s sounding messy and hard. For one, Democrats could use their control of committees to kill any bill they didn’t like if it’s in jeopardy of a 33-32 outcome on the floor. Plus, the centrists would have to run the table in the general election, if they have only five candidates.
And wouldn’t the math mean five centrist candidates are House Republicans for hire when their votes are needed to force Democrats to the bargaining table, if they inexplicably weren’t able to kill a bill in committee?
Details. Viva la revolución.
The Senate split is 18-17 in the Republican’s favors. There’s where the favorable math is, but it’s is much taller task to get elected to the Senate. And the centrists aren’t saying which races they’re targeting.
“”If there is a place that has a need and an opportunity for independents to help bridge that divide, we think it’s right here in Colorado,” Nick Troiano, the Centrist Project’s executive director, told 9News.
Troiano lives in Denver now, but two years ago he ran for U.S. House in Pennsylvania. He got 22,734 votes as an independent candidate. Republican incumbent got 112,851.
9News cited Alaska’s House election last fall, when Republicans lost the majority for the first time since 1994. The Centrist project backed on independent, and another was unaffiliated House member was an incumbent. I’m not sure that tracks to the Colorado plan. In Alaska, a bipartisan coalition that included 17 Democrats, two independents and three moderate Republicans formed a caucus controlling 22 of the 40 seats.
That’s different than bringing in five freshed-faced outsiders with little or no experience to run in give yet-to-be named districts. The political way legislative districts are drawn in Colorado, they’re nearly always safe for incumbents, who enjoy the benefits of fund-raising apparatus and an organized ground game courtesy of their parties.
Moreover, as Rittiman notes, an unaffiliated candidate has never won a seat in the Colorado legislature.
Moreover, again, in Alaska the Senate remains staunchly Republican, so that’s encouraging gridlock, not fixing it.
The Colorado House tends to be particularly liberal as much so as the Senate is particularly conservative. That’s why they couldn’t come close to reasonably addressing the state’s $20 billion in transportation needs over the next two decades. Republicans won’t raise taxes, and Democrats won’t raid social safety nets or schools to fund roads. That’s partisan gridlock for you.
While the Centrist Project has some Colorado staff, it’s a national movement to shake up state legislatures and pull the officeholders away from their base and back to the middle by forcing negotiations.
The ever-quotable Ian Silverii, the executive director of the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado, didn’t think much of the effort.
“These out-of-state folks seem to have a solution in search of a problem,” he told Rittiman.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Monday afternoon that spends $100,000 from the state budget to support a new Navy submarine called the USS Colorado.
Lawmakers threw heavy support behind Senate Bill 183 to chip in on the cost of last December’s christening ceremony, to promote the fact Colorado has a submarine named after it within the state and to do stuff for the 134-member crew.
The 370-foot fast-attack submarine was christened in Connecticut with champagne from a Denver vintner chilled in water from the Colorado River.
Work began in 2012 to build the $2.7 billion vessel, called Virginia-class for its design and nuclear power. It’s alternatively designated SSN 788.
Senate Bill 283 was sponsored by two Colorado Springs lawmakers, Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican, and Rep. Pete Lee, a Democrat. The legislation passed the House 55-10 and the Senate 29-6.
“It’s imperative we as a state support and celebrate the officers and crew of the USS Colorado,” Gardner told the Senate committee he introduced his bill to in February. “It’s a big deal to have a Navy submarine named after your state and carry that name forever.”
Gardner and Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, attended the christening ceremony.
Ret. Capt. John Mackin of Lafayette chairs the state’s USS Colorado Christening Committee. He served in the Navy for 26 years, including as a nuclear submarine officer. He’s lived 22 years in Colorado since he retired, he said.
“I’m extremely excited and proud to have a submarine named Colorado,” Mackin said. “It is indeed a great honor to the state and all the citizens of Colorado to have such a great ship with the name of our state.”
The money has helped bring 25 sailors from the Colorado to Colorado on seven trips, a few at a time, so far. They have made appearances at 10 schools, visited the capitol and several towns, as well as visiting most of Denver’s professional teams.
“We want the sailors of SSN 788 to understand what a great state the represent,” Mackin said. “But more than that we want Coloradans to meet these young sailors. It’s great to see the interaction between them.”
The committee held a contest to design the sub’s crest. There were more than 140 entries in 2015. Mackin said he was at first disappointed to see the winner was from New York and not Colorado, but then delighted to find out winner Michael Nielson was a Navy ensign from Arvada training in New York. Today Nielson is assigned to the USS Colorado.
The first was named for the Colorado River, a three-masted frigate commissioned in 1858 that served in the blockade of the Confederacy in the Civil War, Mackin said.
The second was an armored cruiser commissioned in 1905. It supported troop expeditions in Nicaragua and patrolled off Mexico. She was renamed the USS Pueblo in 1915 as the Navy began work on a battleship named for the state.
That ship battleship was commissioned in 1923 and was an all-star in World War II, earning seven battle stars, enduring two Kamikaze attacks and other Japanese assaults. She had 77 casualties and and 388 wounded. When Japan handed over documents of surrender aboard the USS Missouri, the USS Colorado was tied along side her.