Erica Meltzer Archives - Colorado Politics

Adam McCoyAdam McCoyDecember 29, 20173min2540

The election isn’t until May 2019, but one community activist is already eyeing Albus Brooks’ seat on the Denver City Council.

Denverite has the report about Candi CdeBaca, founder of the Cross Community Coalition and executive director of Project VOYCE, who told the online news outlet her decision to file paperwork to run for District 9 was centered on gentrification in the city. More so, an interview Brooks gave Colorado Public Radio on gentrification following the Ink! Coffee controversy spurred her to file.

Here’s more from Denverite’s Erica Meltzer:

“He didn’t understand the nuances of involuntary displacement,” she said. “That is directly connected to his power and his purview. He should know all of the ins and outs of it.”

In particular, she was struck by a comment Brooks made that displacement doesn’t affect homeowners.

“Displacement is not in the homeownership category,” Brooks said. “It’s in the rental category and someone cannot afford what their landowner is jacking up the price with, right? And so, that is something that we are working very hard on.”

Brooks has served on the council since 2011, representing a district that encompasses downtown Denver, Five Points and Globeville and Elyria-Swansea. In the midst of battling cancer, Brooks was selected as council president by his peers in 2016.

CdeBaca, who grew up in Elyria-Swansea, told Denverite she opposes the I-70 expansion project and wants to alter the city’s approach to development and growth, Denverite writes. She noted her winning alone wouldn’t effect the change she wants, but rather a slew of like-minded candidates for council and a “strong candidate for mayor” would

Read Denverite’s full report here.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 1, 20173min1480

Denverite’s Erica Meltzer reports that Denver residents once again won’t get to vote on a wide-ranging campaign-reform proposal that, among other features, would have introduced public funding for campaigns. When all the tallying was done at the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office, the ballot initiative and petition drive by the group Clean Slate Now had fallen just shy of the 4,726-signature threshold needed to make it onto the fall ballot.

The proposal had a lot of moving parts. Among which, it would have banned corporate and union donations to candidates in Denver municipal races; it would have lowered limits on individual contributions to candidates, and — in what was probably the most progressive provision — it would have set up an $8 million fund to allow for public financing of elections. Candidates who opted in would have had to agree to a certain number of public debates and accept an even lower limit on individual contributions.

As we’ve noted before, asking the public to foot some of the bill for political campaigns is a touchstone in some political circles — viewed as a last, best hope for curbing the influence of special interests on candidates and their campaigns. If the money comes from the public till, the reasoning goes, the candidates are less likely to be beholden to anyone in particular. And, ideally, office seekers also would spend less time dialing for dollars.

Of course, dinging the public for political speech doesn’t sit well with many who reside elsewhere on the political spectrum, particularly on the right. And it may affront the sensibilities of centrist voters, too, who may feel the last thing they want to do is be forced to pay for all those obnoxious campaign mailers that usually go straight to the recycle bin.

A similar proposal headed for last year’s municipal ballot was derailed by a court challenge. Perhaps next year?


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 7, 20174min841
Denver City Hall in happier times — before the advent of the Trump presidency. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)


… But of course, that comes as no surprise. Sure, the depth and breadth of the cuts in federal funding proposed by the White House have sweeping implications for urban centers like the Mile High City. Then again, it’s not like Denver’s Democratically inclined political establishment has had many kind words for The Republican Donald since his unexpected elevation to the presidency last November. There’s immigration policy; LGBTQ issues; the Paris Accord and all things green; the list goes on.

So, the latest round of outrage at Denver City Hall was probably inevitable. Denverite’s Erica Meltzer captures the mood per a resolution the City Council passed this week calling for Colorado’s Washington delegation to oppose the administration’s draft budget:

“You have seen the news media about these proposed cuts. If Congress moves to approve it, the implications to Denver residents will be devastating, particularly if you happen to be one of the people who rely on any of these services,” Councilwoman At-large Debbie Ortega said after reading the resolution into the record Monday. “We in this country don’t throw people aside and expect them to just fend for themselves. … It’s important to send a message to our congressional delegation.”

The resolution denounces the budget over a range of policy areas, including health care, social service spending,  job training and housing. Though the cuts are hardly Denver-specific — they stand to affect all population centers nationwide — Denver’s leadership is taking it personally. Here is the council’s Paul Lopez:

“I cannot begin to imagine what a budget like this would do to our city … It would destroy us and especially the weakest among us. We cannot let that happen.”


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 31, 20173min1280

As we mentioned in passing just a day ago when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the wide-ranging Senate Bill 267 into law, “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” (the measure’s title) can mean a whole bunch of things. It’s all very complicated.

In other words, Tuesday’s signing was about more than Hick and Senate President Kevin Grantham shooting hoops in the Fowler High School gym. (That was fun though, wasn’t it?) So, you probably could use more detail on the bill itself even after all the coverage you’ve already seen on this big-picture legislation.

In light of this week’s bill-signing ceremony in tiny Fowler just east of Pueblo, Denverite this morning promoted a solid overview by politics and goverment go-to Erica Meltzer. It was published when the bill passed the legislature on the 2017 session’s final day and serves as a great primer now that SB 267 is law. … Just in case you missed the coverage the first time around.

Noting that, ‘Most called it a compromise, one lawmaker called it a casserole,” Meltzer aptly observes the bill, “… does a whole bunch of things that are very hard to fit into a headline.” Indeed.

You’d do well to read it; here’s the link again . The bill ended up with so many stakeholders, you could be one of them.

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 29, 20175min1223

Terminally ill patients who invoke Colorado’s new law permitting  physician-assisted suicide will, of course, need a place to carry out the act. And their loved ones likely will want a funeral.

To which the Catholic Church responds: Don’t expect much help from us.

Not only have two of the state’s largest hospital systems, both Catholic-affiliated, opted out of the aid-in-dying law, but as Denverite’s Erica Meltzer reported last week, the Archdiocese of Denver now has declared its intention not to perform funeral masses for those who use the law. The archdiocese only will allow Christian burial for church members who take their lives under the law.

Both positions — based on church doctrine that holds suicide under almost any circumstances is a mortal sin — have considerable practical consequences. The two Catholic hospital groups — Centura Health and SCL Health — along with the secular HealthOne Colorado, which also has declined to facilitate the new law, account for about a third of the state’s hospitals.

They cite a clause in the law, passed by voters last fall, that allows doctors and providers to opt-out of writing a prescription for life-ending medication. It means patients won’t be allowed to administer life-ending drugs, and presumably their providers won’t be able to prescribe them, at those hospitals. And that’s not counting however many physicians might invoke the law’s “conscience clause” on their own. So, for better or worse — depending on your view of the law — it limits patients’ options.

The ban on church funeral masses could be instrumental in dissuading members of Colorado’s substantial Catholic population— pegs it at 23 percent — from using the law.

Meltzer writes:

The Archdiocese laid out its position as part of an FAQ on physician-assisted suicide and the sacraments posted this week to the Denver Catholic website. The concern is that people might not realize the depth of the Church’s opposition if people who take their own lives are accorded a funeral Mass.

“Due to the significant risk of a funeral Mass leading people to think the Church accepts PAS (physician-assisted suicide), the bishops of Colorado have decided to only allow Christian burial for those who have committed PAS,” the FAQ states. “Funeral Masses, liturgies of the word and paraliturgies are not permitted. Some days after the burial, loved ones are encouraged to have Masses said for the repose of the soul of the deceased.”

As you might anticipate, none of this is crystal-clear. Meltzer notes the church’s stance isn’t necessarily absolute; its position on suicide has become more nuanced over time. As for the hospital systems that are refusing to participate, additional legal interpretations as well as legislation clarifying the matter may lie ahead. The advocates of the new law dispute the hospitals’ reading of their ability opt out.

What does seem clear at this point is that implementation of yet another statewide ballot initiative is turning out to be complicated. Certainly, more so than might have been anticipated by the nearly two-thirds of voters who endorsed the measure.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 23, 20174min1110

… urinating in public and other such “quality of life” offenses. Which is to say they diminish quality of life — but not enough, in the eyes of Denver’s City Council, to warrant sending someone packing to his native land over a violation.

Denverite’s Erica Meltzer reports the changes represent a sweeping sentencing reform of the city’s criminal code by Denver’s political leadership. One reason for the move, backed by the City Council and Mayor Michael Hancock, was to lower trip wires sending homeless people to jail. Another aim (more attuned to the news cycle) is to make it harder for federal authorities to roust foreign-born residents, here legally, amid the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Meltzer explains that lighter sentences translate to a lower risk of deportation:

The maximum sentence for a crime is a factor in deportation proceedings. Legal non-citizen residents convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude” with a maximum sentence of 365 days or more can be deported, even if they are sentenced to much less than the maximum. Having one of these offenses on their record can also affect the ability of visa holders to obtain residency.

Reducing the maximum sentence to 364 days instead of 365 gives immigrants a defense against deportation: that the crime was a mere petty offense.

Is Denver again veering into “sanctuary city” territory? Not necessarily. As Meltzer also explains:

This change probably won’t do much to protect unauthorized immigrants who get caught by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Their presence in the country makes them potentially deportable, regardless of any criminal activity.

It could help legal immigrants — green card holders and visa holders — avoid deportation for relatively minor offenses and could preserve their opportunity to apply for residency later.

At the same time, the reform includes a crackdown on on hate crimes. In unanimously adopting the revised sentences on Monday, the council reserved a category for more serious offenses, including municipal-level hate crimes (distinct from state law on the subject).

Meltzer quotes Scott Levin of the Anti-Defamation League, who addressed the council:

“Bias-motivated crimes are message crimes. … It’s not just targeting a victim. It’s targeting an entire community and telling them that people who look like them, who act like them, are not welcome.”

There’s a lot more to this story; you’ll get it all by reading Meltzer’s full report in Denverite.



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 19, 20175min1711

You say it’s already taxing enough just listening to them, not to mention carting their campaign mailers to the recycle bin? OK, but maybe there’s more to it than that, so read on.

What single-payer is to the national health-care debate, publicly funded campaigns long have been to the movement for campaign-finance reform — a touchstone and panacea for the left even if it is an abomination for the right and maybe just counterintuitive for the many apolitical people out there.

It has been implemented in various states and municipalities, generally in places of a more liberal political tilt though there are some exceptions to that rule of thumb.

Now, as Denverite’s politics and government ace Erica Meltzer reports, Denver voters could be asked to consider such a policy. Petitions probably will start circulating within weeks — courtesy of the group Clean Slate Now — to gather enough signatures to place the issue on the November ballot. Meltzer reminds us this is actually the second such attempt at a ballot question for publicly funded campaigns in Denver in as many years, but last year’s version was derailed by a court challenge.

The plan is complicated — not nearly so simple, say, as giving candidates government vouchers to pay all or a portion of their campaign expenses — so we’ll borrow Meltzer’s description of the proposal’s key components:

  • It lowers the limit for individual donations to candidates. Right now, the mayor can accept up to $3,000 from a single individual, far more than the $575 that a candidate for governor can accept from an individual. Candidates for other citywide offices like auditor, clerk and record and at-large councilman can take $2,000 and candidates for district council seats can take $1,000. The ordinance would reduce that to $1,000 for mayor, $700 for citywide offices and $400 for district council seats.
  • It defines independent expenditures and adds them to the groups that have to make disclosures to the city.
  • It bans corporations and unions from donating to candidates.
  • It creates an $8 million fund to allow for public financing of elections. Candidates who opt-in to this system would agree to a certain number of public debates and would accept an even lower limit on individual contributions. The fund would match — at a rate of 9-to-1 — the first $50 of each individual contribution, that is, up to $450. There would be a cap on total city funds that would be given to any one candidate — $750,000 for mayor, $250,000 for other citywide offices and $125,000 for district council races. There would be no cap on total spending by candidates, as there is in some cities with public financing.

So, if you’re not up to doing your own taxes or perhaps assembling your kids’ swing set (the kind with a tunnel slide) in the back yard, this probably isn’t for you.

There is much more to this discussion. Naturally, its advocates / enthusiasts feel it has tremendous potential to clean up politics; smirking skeptics say it’ll merely squeeze the balloon and redirect yet more campaign funding underground. And there are even principled objections to it. Meltzer covers it all in much more informative detail. Give her story a read, and here’s the link again.

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 4, 20175min96
The Gorsuch debate? Obamacare repeal? Fracking, perhaps? Nope. It’s all mere coffee talk in Denver. If you really want to watch tempers flare over a contemporary political issue in Colorado’s capital, raise the subject of parking. It’s a staple of local news coverage and a thorn in the side of business owners and homeowners alike in a number of […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 3, 20173min90
Some perspective is in order — and usually overdue — when hot-button issues are debated in Congress and aired in the press. Planned Parenthood, for example. And Denverite’s Erica Meltzer offers a timely dose of perspective in the wake of last week’s U.S. Senate vote to let states withhold federal Title X funding from family-planning clinics that perform abortions. The […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 28, 20176min1010

Cory Gardner’s, in particular.

The notion was posed — where else? — on Facebook. Sure, anyone can start a Facebook page. Even if it only recycles another item off a long-standing wish list periodically warmed over by aficionados of Gov. John Hickenlooper. Aficianados who acknowledge they have no connection to the governor. They just like him, and they like the idea of bumping off Gardner — a notion to which the governor himself may not have given even a fleeting thought. Then again, maybe he has.

In any event, someone went to the bother of setting up the Hickenlooper for Senate page, amassing likes and cultivating a number of comments from (mostly) well-wishers. And here’s the kickoff post:

The page’s “about” explainer:

Welcome to the unofficial “Hick for Senate” fanpage. We need more leaders like this in our politics. We need to continue down the path of intelligence, rationality, and collaboration in our discourse. We need Hickenlooper for US Senate!

And a few acknowledgements by the anonymous author(s):

In case there is any confusion among voters, journalists, bloggers, etc – this page does not speak directly for the gov – he surely has a team of PR professionals for that. This page is about regular voters supporting the governor in a bid to become the next senator of Colorado.

As for comments to the above post, plenty were supportive:

Some were kind of backhanded:

Some clearly regard the Democratic governor as a traitor to his party’s true liberals/progressives:

And some inevitably redirected the page’s well-intended effort toward a higher office:

Meanwhile, lest anyone cry out, “enough already” with the obsessive-compulsive speculation about Hick’s political prospects, let’s remember the governor almost invites it. Denverite’s Erica Meltzer seemed to get it just right other day, lending some perspective to the latest revelation by the Denver Post that Hick absolutely, positively was NOT going to run for president — no matter what the world thought it heard him tell CNN. Writes Meltzer:

When I read this, I said to the Denverite newsroom, “Wanna bet he says something coy in three months?”

Well, it only took one day. Hickenlooper is at Politico’s annual State Solutions Conference, and he was asked about his comments to the Post. His answer: He’s definitely not running for president. For now.

“I’m trying to make Colorado the strongest economy in America, to have a jobs program that really works,” he said. “Now, down the road, who knows? But I am not, I am not right now — no, no, no, and I’ve always said this.”

It’s as if he thinks we want to be teased.

Of course, we do.