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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 20, 20182min674

Send a convict to prison, and he’ll go straight only for as long as he’s behind bars; give him an education, and there’s a far better chance he’ll stay on the straight and narrow the rest of his life. That’s seems to be the thinking behind legislation introduced in Washington last week by Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

The Restoring Education and Learning — or, REAL — Act, would restore Pell Grant eligibility for the incarcerated, says a news release from Bennet’s office, “in order to cut the cycle of recidivism, save taxpayer money, and improve safety”:

Explains the press statement:

In 1994, incarcerated individuals lost access to Pell Grant assistance, causing a significant drop in the number of education programs in prisons. …

… The national recidivism rate is 43.3 percent within three years, but higher education can have a dramatic effect on reducing that rate. A widely cited study conducted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found that higher education reduced recidivism to just 13.7 percent for formerly incarcerated individuals who earned an associate’s degree …

It’s also cheaper to educate than to incarcerate, the senator contends: “It has been estimated that an investment of $1 million in prison education programs prevents approximately 600 crimes, while the same amount of funding would only prevent approximately 350 crimes if invested in incarceration alone.”

Bennet is quoted:

“It’s proven that expanding access to education for people in prison is not only an investment in their futures, but also an investment in our communities.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 18, 20184min378
Indivisible Denver members gather recently for a New Year’s rally in solidarity with immigrants. (via Facebook)

… The state’s Republican first-term U.S. senator is already in favor of  it. In fact, he and fellow Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, co-sponsored legislation last fall — the DREAM Act of 2017 — to do just that after President Trump had rescinded the executive order that had been used to implement the policy under the Obama administration. The legislation would allow those brought to the U.S. as kids without documentation — they’re still subject to deportation despite growing up as Americans — to remain in the country. The bipartisan bill would reinstate the intent of former President Obama’s much-debated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or “DACA.”

And yet, the protests-are-us rabble rouser Indivisible Denver staged a rally Wednesday in support of the DREAM Act that included a march on — you’ve guessed it! — Gardner’s office. The announcement via Facebook referenced the senator’s downtown Denver digs almost as if it were the campus quad back in the day: “We will meet at Benedict Fountain Park and host a press conference at 5:30. Afterwards, we shall march around Sen. Gardner’s office to gain more public support for a clean Dream Act.”

So, what’s up with that? Could be that Gardner’s office is already such a familiar landmark to Indivisible and other all-causes-left-of-center groups that they knew no one would get lost en route. Stalking the the senator has become almost a full-time endeavor for the in-crowd of devoted Democratic-leaning demonstrators, who have a bone to pick with him over just about anything, anytime — and anywhere.

Could also be that, as we know all too well by now, every year is an election year — never mind what you learned in civics class about the six-year terms of U.S. senators. No self-respecting, left-leaning group worth its salt is going to pass up an opportunity to throw darts at a Republican if there’s a chance he can be knocked off in the next face-off. Especially in perennially purple Colorado. We get it.

So, apparently, did some of the news media that covered the rally.

Denver Channel 4’s veteran news hound Rick Sallinger noted in the web edition of his report on the rally that, “Colorado Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet have expressed sympathy and support for the demonstrators’ plight.”


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Kara MasonKara MasonNovember 29, 20173min470

The spirit of two Colorado mountaineers is a little closer to living on in the form of mountains, with this week’s House passage of H.R. 2768.

CD3 U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner are working to pass a bill through Congress that would name two peaks on the border of San Miguel and Dolores Counties after Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff. Both died in 2006 during an avalanche on Genyen Peak in Tibet.

“Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff were celebrated mountaineers, but they were also known for their tireless advocacy for human rights, dedication to philanthropy, and stewardship of the environment,” Tipton said in a statement. “Through the designation of these peaks, their legacy and life’s work will live on for generations to come.”

The two peaks, located in Uncompahgre National Forest, are just more than 13,000 feet and will be called “Fowler Peak” and “Boskoff Peak,” respectively.

The duo were longtime residents of San Miguel County, according to the bill. But they loved mountaineering and traveled the world for it. Each had summited the world’s tallest mountains, including Everest, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma.

Fowler was an author, guide and filmmaker, according to the bill. Boskoff was one of the country’s top female alpinists.

Both were also known as advocates. They supported rights of porters and Sherpas, women’s education, gender equality and global literacy.

“The two are remembered not only as internationally acclaimed climbers, but also as mentors to school students and troubled youth,” said San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May in a statement in May. “Naming these peaks for them would serve as a perpetual reminder of the couple’s contributions to climbing, youth, and protecting the outdoors.”

With the passage of the bill, all documents, maps and records will refer to the two peaks by their new names.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 9, 20174min187

… eggs and tomatoes. Not to mention any of the invective hurled at some Republicans who’ve encountered angry constituents (and activists, too) in recent months. And never mind the invective stored up in reserve for those Republicans whom Democrats accuse of ducking gatherings with constituents amid the never-ending congressional debate over repealing Obamacare.

At any rate, Colorado’s Democratic senior U.S. senator will be hosting “a Town Hall meeting on Friday in Aspen to listen to Coloradans’ concerns and respond to questions,” according to a press release issued today by the lawmaker’s office. That’s unabashedly blue and celebrity-stoked Aspen in unapologetically left-ish Pitkin County.

And why not? Aspenites aren’t just beautiful people (though plenty certainly are that); they’re constituents, too. Besides, there’s no rule that says Bennet can’t take a break from all the partisan back-and-forth and just chillax a bit with the like-minded.

OK, so did you notice how the announcement as quoted capitalizes “Town Hall” even though of course it’s not a proper noun? A subliminal message, perhaps? As if to say, “OUR party thinks town halls are REALLY important. The other party? Not so much.”

Or, are we overthinking this? Yes, probably so. It’s all that party-vs.-party acrimony these days; you could cut the tension with a knife! And it’s obviously getting to us.

Anyway, here are the details of Bennet’s town hall — or Town Hall, if you prefer — from the press release:

We encourage people to arrive early, as space is limited. Questions from the audience will be chosen randomly. Those unable to attend the Town Hall can follow Senator Bennet on Twitter and Facebook for updates the day of the event.

Media is welcome to live stream the event. If you plan to live stream, please RSVP by sending an email to Shannon_Beckham@Bennet.Senate.Gov.​

Who:               U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

What:              Aspen Town Hall

When:             Friday, August 11, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. MT Doors open at 3:00 p.m. MT

Where:            Aspen High School, Black Box Theater, 235 High School Road, Aspen, CO 81611

 


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 8, 20173min246

Colorado’s senior U.S. senator may be a city slicker, but he’s no stranger to the state’s rural plains. Or to its farmers. Democrat Michael Bennet certainly seems comfortable enough in an agricultural setting; just look at this morning’s tweet from @SenBennetCO himself. So nice, we had to include it here. And it’s even on point…

…regarding an announcement today by Bennet’s office that he is cosponsoring the bipartisan Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act. The legislation aims to do as its name implies: improve access to the voluntary farm conservation programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Those programs, according to NRCS’s webpage, help farmers and ranchers reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters. Important and valuable stuff.

However, there are some wrinkles to getting enrolled, and Bennet’s legislation aims to smooth the way. He is quoted in a press release:

“Farmers and ranchers in Colorado are eager to enroll in conservation programs, but are often hindered by the onerous reporting requirements … This bill would remove the time-consuming and unnecessary reporting requirements for small farmers, making it easier for them to take advantage of tools to protect soil and water resources and improve wildlife habitat.”

The press release also notes:

Thousands of farmers and ranchers voluntarily participate in a wide range of conservation programs administered by the NRCS…

 


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Kara MasonKara MasonAugust 1, 20173min1435

Eight German exchange students headed for Salida got a taste of increasing political tensions regarding immigration policy in the U.S. over the weekend.

Before being detained at Denver International Airport, immigration officials “insisted they (the students) were coming in and taking work away from U.S. citizens, which is illegal since they have no work visa,” Susan Masterson, who has coordinated the exchange program for six years, told the Salida Mountain Mail.

Masterson said she was at the airport when the students were detained.

The students that planned on spending three weeks in the southern Colorado mountain town ended up spending Friday night in a detention facility. Meanwhile Masterson said she was in contact with state Rep. Jim Wilson, the governor’s office, Congressman Doug Lamborn’s office and Sen. Michael Bennet’s office.

But none could prevent the students, all 18 years old, from being deported back to Germany. Immigration enforcement officials determined the students were attempting to enter the country on the wrong visa, a tourist visa.

Masterson said she was blown away by the outpouring of support from different agencies. The Mountain Mail reported that Masterson wrote in a letter to the German families Lamborn’s office did everything they could to help, but “nothing could be done.”

“We’ve never had a problem like this before,” Masterson told Colorado Politics, adding that she has connections to the German school the students were coming from and hasn’t had a visa problem any of the years since she began the program.

So, was the incident a result of the contentious political climate surrounding immigration?

“Oh I think so,” Masterson said. “Controls have definitely tightened.”

The students have returned to their families, Masterson said. But “they don’t have a very good impression of our country.”

Masterson said she’s hoping to get the community to send some sort of letter to the students, so they know they’re welcomed in Salida.