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Colorado News Miner 115

Republican anti-LGBTQ bigotry, school restrooms, distracted driving, election reform, new gun laws, socialists and guns, faux libertarians, energy bills, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
June 14, 2024

Republican Fallout

As I wrote for Complete Colorado, the Colorado Republican Party urged people to burn Pride flags, said "God hates [pride] flags," and called all LGBTQ people "godless groomers" seeking to "harm our children." As you can imagine, the GOP's bigoted nonsense has generated quite a lot of other discussion.

Quite a few people responded to Kyle Clark's Tweet linking to my article. (See also Clark's podcast episode with City Cast Denver.)

Kyle Clark Tweets a link to Ari Armstrong's article about the state GOP's anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

CPR reports that various Republicans are calling on Williams to resign or be removed. See also articles by Hannah Metzger and Ernest Luning.

Here is the latest from Luning: "Jefferson County GOP executive committee censures county chair Nancy Pallozzi for petition she initiated to remove state GOP Chair Dave Williams, declaring petition 'null and void,' but Pallozzi says she still plans to submit it today."

Michelle Goldberg wrote a New York Times opinion (more of a news review) on the matter. She quotes "Chuck Broerman, a longtime Republican official in El Paso County, where [GOP chair Dave] Williams lives," as saying, "There was kind of a movement in the party—I think it was propelled by Steve Bannon—to really take control" starting around 2021.

Goldberg writes:

Mainstream conservatives might "agree with him [Williams] on gay issues," said Dick Wadhams [I hope not!], the state Republican Party chair from 2007 to 2011. But "I don't think they like . . . the hateful tone of what he put out," he said, and "they think his conduct has become embarrassing."

Goldberg nicely summarizes the fit between MAGA and the anti-LGBTQ agenda:

The ex-president may not be particularly homophobic, at least by Republican standards, but he knows that many of his most devoted supporters are Christian nationalists who see the L.G.B.T.Q. movement as part of the constellation of subversive forces that have stolen the country from them. That's why anti-gay paranoia and election denialism fit together so naturally.

Wadhams told Goldberg that Williams may have sent out the email in question to "rev up his base" for his Congressional run.

Wadhams also told Goldberg, "He's very good at playing the 'I am a victim' card." Along these lines, Williams, who urges Republicans to burn pride flags and who demonizes all LGBTQ people, complained to Denver 7 about "cancel culture."

Dave Perry wrote an op-ed condemning Williams.

In a June 11 email, state representative Brianna Titone linked to my earlier article about the GOP's anti-trans hysteria. Titone writes of the GOP's anti-LGBTQ stance:

This doesn't make good governance. This takes away the ability of many of my Republican colleagues from voting their district and their conscious. It perpetuates an extremist view by forcing it to be normalized. Check out this article by Ari Armstrong on this topic [linked]. Ari and I often have many contrasting views on political topics and I would call him a conservative, but he has thoughts on the Colorado GOP nonsense.

I wouldn't and don't call myself a conservative, although, as I've pointed out, a genuinely liberal viewpoint necessarily contains a selective strand of conservatism. Certainly I'm more friendly toward free markets and more skeptical of government interventions than is Titone. Regardless, I appreciate Titone maintaining a conversation with people of good will of different political viewpoints. She is a model legislator.

Also, the progressive Colorado Times Recorder picked up my article about the transgender moral panic.

Jason Van Tatenhove writes with his usual flair:

The recent email blasts from the Colorado GOP read like a fever dream of right-wing fantasies: urging parents to yank their kids from public schools and calling for the burning of Pride flags. This isn't just a hard right turn; it's a swan dive into the toxic swamp of authoritarianism.

Some people take anti-LGBTQ rhetoric seriously. Two masked men stole a pride flag in Lakewood and left a racist and anti-gay message, 9News reports. Other pride flags have been stolen in the metro area.

Statement from Grand Peak Academy on Republican Email

A recent Republican email by Darcy Schoening states (in part):

In Colorado Springs, at Grand Peak Academy, parents were told by the Principal & Board in March that their third grade girls would be continuously forced to use the restroom with a grown male teacher who calls himself "Ms. Sparks" and tells kids they can be "any gender they want."

In a May 30 article (originally published May 28), Krista Kafer writes:

The email, riddled with factual errors, distorts gender-related controversies and ill-equips parents and voters seeking solutions. First of all, no teacher by the name of Ms. Sparks works at Grand Peak Academy. Adults in public schools are not allowed to use children’s restrooms; they have their own adult facilities.

I referenced Kafer's article in my June 4 column.

On May 29, I sent an email to Grand Peak asking for a comment. On June 12 I received the following reply from Nicole Parker, the principal of the school:

Myself, nor our GPA Board of Directors, told the parents that "their third grade girls would be continuously forced to use the restroom with a grown male teacher who calls himself 'Ms. Sparks.'" In regards to this situation, every action we have taken, as well as all communication that was sent, has been carefully written and reviewed by our attorney to ensure that we are staying compliant with Colorado law. We cannot confirm the rumor that the substitute used the restroom while at GPA, much less a restroom that children use while at school. To be clear, there was not a report that anything happened with the substitute and children while in the restroom. Outside of the student restrooms in our building, we have a total of 4 single stall restrooms that adults have access to. With a staff of nearly 80 people and limited time that teachers sometimes have to use restrooms, if the single stall restrooms are not accessible, our staff may use the student restrooms if they need to. Student and staff safety are of utmost importance to us and we will continue to make this a priority at GPA.

Our staff are expected to teach our Board approved curriculum and Colorado state standards, however it is not in our curriculum to teach sex education at GPA. Therefore, we do not teach students that they "can be 'any gender they want.'" Even though gender identification hasn't been taught and is not in our curriculum, we are accepting of all students and staff and we welcome diversity. Our mission statement also states that we "prepare students for the world today."

Distracted Driving Bill

Recently I briefly mentioned Bill 65, pertaining to distracted driving and cell phone use. Rebecca Wallace, policy director of the Colorado Freedom Fund, send in the following explanation:

I'm reaching out because I saw your note on SB65, the distracted driving bill. I agreed with your assessment of concerns regarding the bill as introduced. CFF, ACLU, and others opposed the bill on overbreadth grounds and related concerns that it would invite pretextual stops. We worked with sponsors and in the 11th hour secured substantial amendments that I believe adequately addresses overbreadth concerns. The passed version maintains distracted driving as a secondary offense—so that officers can only pull folks over for distracted driving if the officer observes careless driving as defined in Colorado law. So, this offense will function more like a seatbelt violation. We can have a big public education campaign that says we are a handsfree state, but then only have folks pulled over who are engaging in dangerous behavior. With these amendments, CFF was able to move from an oppose to a support position. Just wanted to share this perspective with you.

I'm glad to hear the legislature was responsive to the concerns. I continue to think, though, that the statutes should address distracted driving more generally and not focus on one potential cause of distracted driving.

Hubbard on Thiry Election Reform

I have another column coming out Tuesday on the election reform ballot measure backed by Kent Thiry. I asked Curtis Hubbard, a spokesperson for the effort, to discuss the movement of the measure through the title board. Following is his reply of June 12.

We are moving forward with signature collection for Initiative 310.

Here's one of the best write-ups to date [KOAA link].

What I would add is that the process that produced Initiative 310 may be the most exhaustive and involved for any ballot initiative in state history.

It included almost two dozen meetings between campaign representatives and interested parties; nearly 80 hours of public comment and review through multiple Legislative Council review and comment hearings, 8 Title Board hearings, and 39 rehearings (many of which were requested by attorneys who work closely with Colorado’s Democratic and Republican parties); and 9 appeals to Colorado’s Supreme Court.

Changes reflected in our final measure as a result of that input:

• Eliminating requirement that Clerks report results in timely fashion on Election Day
• Switching from Constitutional Amendment to statutory initiative (though the SB24-210 shenanigans demonstrate why the former path may have been a better choice)
• Keping nomination via caucuses/assemblies as a path to the Open Primary ballot (previous versions woudld have required all candidates to petition)
• Maintaining existing signature thresholds to qualify via petitions (some versions proposed reducing signature-thresholds)
• Using ranked-choice voting (RCV) for Presidential General Elections
• Applying all-candidate primary and Final 4 RCV to all federal/state/county offices
• Using RCV in Primary Elections
• Top 2 advancing from Primary Elections
• Eliminating vacancy committee appointments

We also engaged the Colorado County Clerks Association (CCCA) on RCV for presidential primary elections via legislation in 2023. They opposed for 2024 and, later, for 2028. As a result none of our initiatives proposed RCV for the presidential primary.

In the end, Initiative 310 creates Open Primaries and Final 4 RCV in the General Election for the following "covered offices":

U.S. Senate
Attorney General
Secretary of State
State Senate
State House
State Board of Education
University of Colorado Board of Regents

New Gun Laws

Jesse Paul has a good summary of the gun-related bills passed (and not passed) by the legislature this session.

By my reading of 131, if you happen to be driving by a school suffering a mass attack, say, by a "lone wolf" domestic terrorist or members of an international terrorist ring, and you see a perpetrator murder someone and walk toward the open school door, it is illegal for you, as a licensed concealed handgun carrier, to take your gun onto school property for the purpose of subduing the perpetrator. Oh yeah, and given 1348 it is also illegal for you to leave your gun in your car outside of a locked box to try to rush the perpetrator unarmed. Okay, it's an unlikely scenario. Still.

The carry law pertains to private as well as public schools; surely private schools should have the freedom to set their own policies.

That said, it looks like the vehicle storage bill was improved relative to the version introduced.

This Socialist Isn't Radical Enough for Colorado Ceasefire

Here's a crazy story. Bryan Lindstrom, one of the "Democratic Socialist" teachers who promoted the anti-capitalist resolution through the teacher's union (as I discussed last May), currently is running for state legislature. His endorsements include Democratic Socialists of America and Denver Democratic Socialists of America. (Imagine if more Colorado journalists covered the radical socialist left in this state the same way they cover the ultra-nationalist right.)

Bryan Lindstrom's legislative endorsements include Democratic Socialists of America and Denver Democratic Socialists of America.

Marissa Ventrelli has the latest about the campaign: "Colorado Ceasefire, which calls itself a 'grassroots gun violence prevention organization,' has withdrawn its endorsement of Bryan Lindstrom, a candidate for House District 36 in eastern Aurora."

What's the problem? The existing Democratic Socialists in the legislature ran the "assault" gun ban (which failed). Here's how Lindstrom described the disagreements to Ventrelli:

Throughout the questionnaire, I hit on nuances of 'going upstream to reduce gun violence' and how outright bans are not my preferred approach to policy. As an Aurora teacher, I have experienced gun violence first hand with the shooting of my assistant principal and the school shooting where I teach. This is an issue I care deeply about. However, I also know that more, stricter laws oftentimes lead to more and worse police interactions for our BIPOC [black, indigenous, and other people of color] communities. I support evidence based gun violence prevention and always have. At the end of the day, I will address every piece of legislation in a way that protects our working class and communities of color.

One thing I like about the Democratic Socialists is that they're often fairly sensible on criminal justice issues. (They're also often not very sensible.) Before gun owners get too excited, they should consider Ventrelli's closer: "In an October 2020 tweet, [Lindstrom] said that 'gangs are the response to racist capitalism and can be good.'" Sigh.

Quick Takes

Polis vs. Epps: Speaking of Democratic Socialists, Elisabeth Epps has a primary opponent, Sean Camacho, who has now been endorsed by Jared Polis. Of course the leftie editorializing Newsline refrains from calling Epps a Democratic Socialist and instead calls her "one of the most progressive members of the Legislature." Right on cue, Epps sent out a June 13 email characterizing Israel's war against Hamas as "ethnic cleansing," ignoring Hamas's horrific assault on Israel and refusal to surrender. (One can criticize Israel's tactics and at the same time condemn Hamas.)

Faux Libertarians: Ernest Luning: "Colorado's Libertarian Party doesn't plan to submit paperwork putting the party's presidential and vice presidential nominees on the state's general election ballot." What's the problem with those candidates, Chase Oliver and Mike ter Maat? Oliver wore a face mask during the pandemic, celebrated a "distanced Thanksgiving dinner" during the pandemic, and supported parental and personal rights with respect to gender-affirming medical care for minors. In other words, Oliver dared to be a libertarian, and the Libertarian Party cannot abide that.

Energy Bills: Sam Brasch: "Colorado's Public Utilities Commission approved a plan directing the utility [Xcel] to double down on energy efficiency programs and incentives for all-electric appliances like heat pumps. . . . The final version directs the company to invest up to $440 million between June 2024 through 2027 . . . to help energy customers reduce gas usage and switch to electric appliances. The new plan will be funded by fees added to customers’ monthly energy bills." Meanwhile: "In Wyoming, Bill Gates is building a cleaner, cheaper nuclear power plant."

Anti-Immigrant Republicans: Congressional candidate Gabe Evans wants to "definitely prioritize" mass deportations. Lauren Boebert falsely said immigrants are "causing crime, chaos, and death." This is just straight-up Republican fear mongering and scapegoating.

Democrats for Election Conspiracism: Meanwhile, some immoral and reckless Democrats are funding Ron Hanks ads in the hopes of derailing Hanks's Republican competitor. Hanks is best known for his conspiracy mongering about the presidential election. The ads probably won't matter, as Jeff Hurd seems to be leading in polls. Still. Democrats should know better than to play such risky games. (This is for the seat that Boebert abandoned.)

Mushrooms: CU Anschutz and New York University are running a study on psilocybin to look for "changes in outcomes on scales of anxiety, depression and demoralization, and others related to cancer, mortality and general outcomes." See Andrew Kenney's lengthy story.

Marijuana: AP: "Randy Gregory is suing the NFL and the Broncos claiming discrimination over being fined $532,500 for taking medication containing THC for disabilities during his brief time in Denver." I don't see why marijuana use is any of the NFL's business.

Property Taxes: Mark Hillman and Jon Caldara praise Republican legislators Lisa Frizell and Barbara Kirkmeyer for helping to rein in property taxes. Related: "Nearly 100-year old Denver theater’s owners [Aztlan] say steep property taxes threaten its future."

Colorado Journalism: Corey Hutchins summarizes a COLab report on Colorado news media. A key line: "Nearly half the journalists who once covered Colorado news are gone. And the rest are exhausted. Local news outlets are struggling."

Los Seis: Ben Markus thinks the story of Los Seis de Boulder is "complicated." The likely basic story seems pretty simple to me: Some domestic terrorists accidentally blew themselves up. The alternative is that someone or some group murdered them, but there's no evidence in favor of that view, just the (admittedly strange) coincidence of two bombs killing people. The Gazette is not buying the conspiracy theories.

Hollywood Tax Discrimination: Of course the Sun cheerleads discriminatory taxes that benefit film lots, because it just wouldn't occur to Sun reporters ever to include a critical comment about such government programs. Anyway: "Polis signed House Bill 1358, which expands a tax incentive credit for film, TV and commercial productions that want to shoot in Colorado." Discriminatory taxes are unjust. If government is going to imposes taxes, it should do so evenly across the board and not play favorites.

Wage Theft: Heather Willard has a good review of the "wage theft" bill that Polis vetoed. Obviously everyone agrees that wage theft is bad; the debate is over how to address it. Means matter!

CORA Expenses: Jeffrey Roberts: "CORA's maximum research-and-retrieval rate will jump to $41.37/hour on July 1, letting state and local government entities in Colorado charge up to 23.2 percent more to process requests for public records." Again: Government should just put all its records online, with few exeptions. If it doesn't it certainly shouldn't charge people to access them. It's the internet age!

Clark: Jimmy Kimmel featured Kyle Clark's moderation of a Fourth Congressional debate. Clark was good, but I thought he came off a little strong and sometimes cut off candidates too quickly. But better a tight rein than a loose one.

School Lead: Jason Gonzales: "Nearly two-thirds of the roughly 2,200 sources of drinking water found roughly a year ago to have excessive lead contamination in Colorado's 10 largest school districts still need to be fixed. That's according to a new Colorado Public Interest Research Group analysis of state data."

Homeschool Bigots: My family homeschools. This group does not speak for me (James O'Rourke): "Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) . . . is scheduled to hold its yearly Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference. . . . . One of the conference's keynote speakers is Kevin Swanson, a Colorado pastor and host of the radio show 'Generations.' Swanson previously said that gay people should be put to death, in accordance with his interpretation of the Bible."

CBI DNA: Not good: "CBI analyst’s DNA misconduct leads to plea deal and lighter sentence for Boulder triple murderer."

Oltmann: Heidi Beedle: "Douglas County podcaster and election conspiracist Joe Oltmann fled a deposition in federal court in Denver, opening him up to further sanctions and possibly contempt of court charges. Oltmann is currently a defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by former Dominion executive Eric Coomer, who is suing Oltmann for damage to his reputation and harassment suffered after Oltmann, on his podcast and many others, claimed Coomer . . . would rig the 2020 election."

Jayson Boebert: Lauren's ex "pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment Wednesday after separate altercations with his ex-wife at a local restaurant and their son at home earlier this year," the Sun reports.

Lying Social Worker: Bennito Kelty: " Robin Niceta, the former social worker who falsely reported Aurora City Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky for child abuse, was led away in handcuffs . . . May 24, to begin a four-year prison sentence."

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