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Glenwood Springs mayor column: 2A ballot measure will provide clarity on airport’s future

Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes.

A vote this fall for 2A is an opportunity for the community to provide clarity concerning the future of the runway at the Glenwood Springs Airport. It is important for people to know what they are voting for, and more importantly what they are not voting for.

A vote for 2A is 4 mills and costs a homeowner about $25 per $100,000 of assessed home value annually. This amount will be around four times that for commercial property owners.

It is very important to understand that there will be a helicopter operations center maintained in all scenarios and circumstances, regardless of the outcome of this vote. Any firefighting or medivac activities that take place at the Glenwood Springs Airport are conducted exclusively with helicopters. The large tankers and slurry bombers have to come from Colorado Springs or Grand Junction. Fixed-winged fire planes are just not able to utilize the GWS airport, and helicopters do not need a runway. We all live in Glenwood just like you, and I would never put my family or neighbors in jeopardy in the event of a wildfire or medical evacuation crisis.

Of the money raised, $5.5 million will go to tunneling under the runway so the fixed-winged small aircraft can continue to enjoy the landing strip. Several million more dollars need to go into the airport to make it safe, secure and functional. For example, the runway needs to have a new $300,000 fuel system, ground lighting, runway sealant, hangars, weed management, security/wildlife fencing and a laundry list of other deferred maintenance items that have accumulated over the years. There are currently serious safety code violations associated with the fueling systems, and the fire marshal has given the city 30 days to correct these threats that are adjacent to residential properties.

While some airport users feel that many of these upgrades are unnecessary, it is the responsibility of staff and City Council to ensure the safety, security and potential liability of all city assets is front and center. Private aviation is an inherently risky hobby, and it is our responsibility to minimize hazards and limit our legal liability exposure.

If 2A does not pass, then the future of the runway portion of the airport is less certain. We have been trying, with some small successes, to find grant funding for South Bridge. Just this week we were informed that our congressional earmark from Sen. John Hickenlooper of $1 million dollars was successful. Unfortunately, being a non-FAA commercial airport makes obtaining grant funding for the tunnel portion of the project impossible. So far, we have $25 million of a $56 million project committed. Being able to reduce the cost of the project by $5.5 million by not building a tunnel under the runway will be a significant cost savings. Conversely, if 2A is able to pass, then we will have the funding necessary for the tunnel, and the funding gap will be the same. In either scenario, we reduce the funding gap and bring South Bridge closer to a reality.

If 2A does not pass, council will be faced with needing to commit significant financial resources into upgrading the safety issues associated with the runway. Without the source of revenue that 2A would provide, these funds would have to come from the city’s general fund, which provides the budgets for departments like police, fire and streets. How does council cut budgets across the city when the voters have just told us they didn’t want new tax dollars spent on maintaining a runway? What if we spend several million dollars anyway, the infrastructure bills get passed, and we now have the federal funding to begin construction on South Bridge? Is this an acceptable “sunk cost” to the taxpaying citizens?

This is why council voted to put this question before voters this November. We need to understand if the citizens value the runway portion of the airport when asked directly to fund it. If not, it is disingenuous to say that closing down the runway prior to investing in these large capital expenses is not a strong possibility.

Passage of 2A ensures, for at least the next generation, the certainty and viability of the runway the small private aircraft owners have been requesting. It rectifies the numerous safety issues staff has identified and provides funding for the tunnel. Failure of 2A creates a significant financial burden for the rest of the city with no ready way to pay for the improvements. Failure of 2A could even mean the closure of the runway. Please vote wisely and give me a call if you have any questions: 970-379-4248.

Jonathan Godes is mayor of Glenwood Springs. He was first elected to Glenwood Spring City Council in 2017.

PI Editorial: Mill levy alone won’t solve Roaring Fork School District’s challenges on staff pay, retention

The Roaring Fork School Board will consider next week whether or not to put a mill levy override on the ballot in November.

The ballot measure, if approved by both the school board and then voters, would primarily go toward increasing staff salaries. The override will max out what the school district can source via mill levies — a roughly $6.8 million property tax increase.

Obviously it’s not guaranteed the board will choose to put the mill levy override to voters, but it’s still very likely to make it on the ballot.

If that happens, we’d definitely encourage school board members who support it — as well as school administration where it is appropriate and allowed by statute — to make available information to the voters on what the ballot will accomplish and why it is so important.

Increasing teacher pay within the Roaring Fork School District is without a doubt a reasonable policy goal. Starting wage for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 is $41,140, which doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to in our area.

There’s also the added challenge of the rising cost of housing in our community, which means some teachers have less money left over at the end of the month than they did a year ago.

All this makes it completely sensible for the board to seek additional funding through a mill levy override from the voters — but the override alone is unlikely to be enough to completely solve the challenge.

Regardless of what the board decides on the mill levy override, we’d encourage the district administration to continue seeking other ways to boost the quality of life for our teachers and district staff. We’re lucky in that our great outdoors is a powerful magnet for many employees — we lost count years ago the number of people we meet who say our mountains, slopes, trails, rivers and lakes are what keep them here.

However great the outdoors is, it doesn’t make a paycheck go further. So what are some things the district — and other employers for that matter — could do to help retain and attract skilled employees? Employee housing is probably the next best thing to increased wages, but there are other things that can resonate with workers: employer-provided day care, more paid time off, flexible schedules and allowing for remote work are just some things employers around the nation are doing for their workers.

None of these are likely to fix the problem on their own, but the more we can do for our educators and support staff, the more likely we are to keep them right here in the Roaring Fork Valley, helping our children learn and grow.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher Bryce Jacobson, Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Annie Bell and Amy Connerton.

Guest opinion: Boebert’s first week in office should be her last

The day before thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted, “I’m standing STRONG for election integrity & objecting to the Electoral College certification!”

One could choose to view her words as benignly as Garfield County Commissioner John Martin does. In a recent interview with Grand Junction Sentinel, Martin had no criticism of Boebert and other legislators who refused to accept the 2020 election results. “They spoke what they believed in,” Martin said.

We disagree. It is obviously the duty of elected officials to consider the consequences of their words and actions.

Boebert and the other 146 Republican Congresspeople who continued to parrot Trump’s big lie about the presidential election results were not simply exercising their right to free speech. They were spreading false information about our nation’s elections. Neither the Supreme Court, U.S. Attorney General or FBI have found any evidence of election fraud that would have changed the fact that Biden won.

These legislators were also demonstrating a blatant disregard for the U.S. Constitution. As GOP Rep. Ken Buck, Chair of the Colorado Republican Party, reminded his colleagues: the Constitution does not give Congress the power to decide whether or not to accept certified Electoral College votes submitted by the states.

Finally, the 147 Republicans who refused to accept the 2020 election results were fueling the fire under white supremacists who made no secret of their plans to disrupt the election certification process.

Inspired by Trump’s fiction that the election was rigged, pro-Trump zealots had been filling social media platforms for weeks with thousands of posts calling for violence in Washington, D.C. on Jan.6.

As Republican Russ George, Rifle resident and former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, told the Grand Junction Sentinel, the legislators who rejected the 2020 election results share blame for the attack on our nation’s Capitol.

Determined to promote her “I’ll do whatever the hell I want” image, Boebert took a step further than many of her Republican colleagues. She tweeted provocative messages invoking times of violent insurrection. “The Founding Fathers did not back down when people told them what they could and could not do,” she tweeted on Jan. 5. “Today is 1776,” she tweeted the next morning.

Hours later, “1776!” was the chant that a mob of Proud Boys shouted as they charged the Capitol. Boebert touts herself as a champion of “law and order,” yet it is rhetoric like hers that led directly to the violence and chaos we witnessed last week, including the killing of a police officer.

Did Boebert not understand that her “just try to stop me” attitude toward the “stolen election” and her references to armed insurrection were inciting mobs of white supremacists? Or did she understand the implications of her words and actions, and move forward with them anyway? Either way, Boebert is clearly unfit for her position.

The morning of the insurrection, Boebert took the floor of the U.S. Congress to give a loud, fiery speech about a “completely indefensible act” in Arizona, which she said amounted to voter fraud. What was this egregious act that angered her so? An Arizona judge allowed for 10 extra days of voter registration in October, due to COVID.

“All of these votes are unconstitutional,” Boebert shouted, referring to the votes cast by people who registered during the extended voter registration period. Every member of Congress who certified Arizona’s election results, she charged, “has sided with the extreme left.”

Watching Boebert get completely unhinged about the idea of making it easier for U.S. citizens to vote in elections was not the most disturbing part of her diatribe that day. Less than 30 minutes before rioters charged the Capitol building, Boebert told the nation, “I have constituents outside this building right now. I promised my constituents to be their voice!”

Boebert seems to believe that it is her job to be a voice for the kind of people that were rioting at the People’s House that day.

Boebert should be removed from office before she does any further damage to our democracy. We can’t afford two more years of her fanning the flames of Q-Anon, Proud Boys and other white nationalist groups.

A broad coalition of over 65 Colorado legislators, labor unions and other organizations have already banded together to demand Boebert’s resignation. Progress Now Colorado is circulating an online petition to hold Boebert and Colorado U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn accountable for their roles in helping to incite the insurrection.

The Garfield County Democrats will also be organizing efforts to push for Boebert’s expulsion from Congress and to build the infrastructure needed to elect a Democratic Representative in 2022. We invite you to join us.

Debbie Bruell is communications coordinator and John Krousouloudis is chairman of the Garfield County Democratic Party. Also signing on to this commentary are the respective chairs of the Pitkin, Mesa and Montrose county Democrats, Howard Wallach, Maria Keenan and Kevin Kuns.

Whiting column: There’s more to the wolf vote than wolves

The voting process was designed to assure citizens have a voice in decisions which directly affect their lives. Political leaders and taxes come to mind. Wolves are not one of them.

The impetus for wolf introduction comes from two sources: people and scientists. Most people are well-intentioned, but don’t realize the consequences, haven’t experienced wolves in the wild and aren’t directly affected. Many scientists are motivated to develop and maintain their career.

“Wolves, wouldn’t that be nice” is a common response among those who haven’t considered the consequences. Most realize cattle, sheep, horses will be killed and ranchers will be compensated, but that isn’t the total picture. Empathy is lacking. It’s not only having animals they raised, cared for killed, it’s animals they know. Wolves don’t ask first. The attack and result is not a pretty picture; one most would not want their children to witness.

Wildlife population will be significantly affected. Advocates state Wyoming and Montana elk populations haven’t decreased. That may be true statewide, but in the western half of both states, into which Yellowstone wolves have expanded, elk, deer and moose population have dropped precipitously. Fish & Wildlife service: Wyoming mule deer population has decreased 52% in the Yellowstone Northern Range ecosystem. Journal of Wildlife Management: Yellowstone Northern Range has seen the elk population go from 23,000 in 1988 to 8,300 in 2004 and 5,800 in 2019.

Growing up in Cody, Wyoming we saw moose every day from the road. In the wilderness on horseback, moose were so common-place as to be a nuisance. The trail to our camp on Jones Creek, went through “Sam Berry Meadows.” Moose were so prevalent, we dismounted and led our horses through to minimize the chance a moose would decide our horses were a rival or potential “date.” Moose hunting was a one-day event. Today, you’re lucky to see one in a whole summer/fall season. In the past five years we have spent over 20 days in Yellowstone, on the trail, away from roads. Number of moose seen: one. The past two years, my son and I have spent 14 days bow hunting elk outside Yellowstone, four to five hours from the nearest road: one.

Advocates say the Yellowstone Northern Range was overgrazed by elk. That’s just not true. Before wolves, one could ride through meadows where the grass would touch your stirrups. The massive fires of 1988 (over 800,000 acres) only served to multiply the acres of grass available to elk.

If additional wolves are introduced to Colorado, it’s reasonable to expect similar wildlife reductions. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will see their successful attempt to establish a moose population derailed. The decreasing elk and deer populations in the Roaring Fork Valley and western Colorado are already well documented as a result of habitat, people and climate issues. These issues are only going to increase, magnifying the need to protect current populations from a wolf pack.

Colorado’s hunting reputation has already decreased. When we need to recover from the negative economic effects of COVID and less oil/gas, reducing the number of non-resident hunters doesn’t help. We should be protecting, not eliminating, jobs.

Lack of wilderness habitat is another problem. Colorado wilderness is in small chunks when compared with Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. We have 3.5 million acres of wilderness in 40 areas averaging 80,000 acres in size. Only two are over 100,000 acres. Wyoming has 3.5 million acres in 15 areas averaging 220,000 acres, two over 500,000 and one over 700,000 acres. Montana has 6.4 million acres, averaging 400,000 with two over 900,000. Idaho’s numbers are even larger. In Wyoming, there are places that are over 20 miles, as the crow flies, from the nearest 4-wheel drive road. To get there it’s over 75 trail miles. Nothing approaches that in Colorado. Yellowstone ecosystem is 22 million acres, Colorado is 66 million acres; you do the math.

Advocates say use Rocky Mountain National Park. They don’t realize RMNP is 12% the size of Yellowstone, 5% the size of the Yellowstone wilderness ecosystem. Plus, wolves won’t stay there. As a pack breeds, the young males, if they want to live, go off to form their own pack. Wolf packs don’t share territory. That’s why Yellowstone wolves populate Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and now Colorado.

Lack of space means they will be in our populated areas, because elk are there. Towns like Evergreen, Estes Park, and all the western slope have elk around all year and concentrated in the winter. Wolves go where the food is. There isn’t winter food in the high mountain peaks.

Safety becomes an issue. They will be on and around the trails we hike, bike and cross country. The days of taking your dog for a run outside of town will be over. There’s a reason you can’t take your dog or your bike on the trails of Yellowstone. Your dog is either a threat or a meal. Running, biking or skiing on a trail makes you prey. Trails are already periodically closed because of bears, cougars which tend to be singular animals. Wolves are pack animals. Think about taking your two children on a hike or cross-country skiing.

Thankfully, attacks by wolves are rare, but they do occur. A man was dragged out of his tent in Banff last summer. Compressing wolves into smaller, human intensive areas increases the odds. Many like to ride horses. Imagine your horse’s reaction to a pack of wolves. I can tell you from personal experience it isn’t, “oh, look nice dogey.” Unless you ride your horse in a barn, you will encounter wolves.

The biggest problem, however, is fairness. Recently, there has been increased focus on equity and injustice. Allowing the entire state to vote on wolves when it will only affect a small percentage of the population is not equity, it’s injustice. It’s discriminating against our way of life. Most living in the Front Range world of concrete, not only don’t, but can’t put themselves in our position. Would it be fair for the Western Slope to require introducing grizzlies in Denver? Grizzlies used to inhabit the front range prairie. They would laugh because that’s not realistic, but it’s the same with us and wolves. It’s not ethical or moral. They aren’t the ones going to have to live with the decision. One can’t fight injustice in one area and not another. You either believe in equity or you don’t.

It’s our personal responsibility consider those who will be affected when we vote.

Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than government intervention. Comments and column suggestions to: bwpersonalresponsibility@gmail.com.

Guest opinion: Prop. 113 helps Colorado’s conservatives

The conservative industrial complex — what I call Colorado Conservative, Inc. — is failing the constituency that serves as its purported reason for existence.

How many more elections in the Centennial State does the right have to lose until rank-and-file conservatives wake up?

A perfect example is Proposition 113, aka the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Opponents are avoiding an open and honest discussion on what is arguably the most important question on the ballot in this year’s general election. Instead, they propagate myths, falsehoods, and disinformation, including in the pages of this newspaper.

Their most popular claim is that Proposition 113 abolishes or changes the Electoral College. Those who claim this know they are lying.

For the record, I am a conservative who campaigned for Tom Tancredo and against John McCain during the 2008 presidential primaries and caucuses, worked for Ted Cruz, and fully supports Donald J. Trump. I would never support any proposal that altered the constitutional framework for electing the president.

Proposition 113 is both constitutionally conservative and constitutionally consistent. It exercises the General Assembly’s authority under Article II of the U.S. Constitution to replace the state-based, winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes — a method James Madison, better known as the Father of the Constitution, opposed.

Notably, Colorado’s present method of awarding electors is not in the U.S. Constitution, was not debated at the 1787 constitutional convention, and was never mentioned in the Federalist Papers. In fact, states have routinely changed the method of awarding electors since the first presidential election. Examples include Massachusetts, which has changed its method 11 times. Maine and Nebraska use a different method than Colorado. Using different methods to award electors does not abolish or change the Electoral College.

Opponents also regularly claim that New York and California would control a presidential election under the popular vote. This is demonstrably false.

California and New York, which together have given conservatives three presidents in Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Trump, account for just 18% of the country’s voters. Eighty-two percent of voters to be outvoted by 18%, unless you reject basic math.

It is understandable why some conservatives are instinctively opposed to Proposition 113. I had the same initial reaction when I first heard about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact five years ago.

However, the more I stopped and thought about it, the more I realized that it amplifies the voice of conservatives and, more broadly speaking, Republicans.

Colorado, having gone ‘blue’ in the last three elections, is not a battleground. As a result, Coloradans in every part of the state are ignored as Joe Biden and Trump pander to voters in the handful of states that actually decide the election. This is why Trump gave $13 billion to Puerto Rico three years after hurricanes — there are at least 1.1 million Puerto Ricans in must-win Florida — while Colorado with never-ending wildfires gets only the usual disaster relief.

Arizona, a former safe GOP state, is one of this year’s most contested battlegrounds. In fact, the Grand Canyon State may determine the winner. Additionally, any honest pundit will admit that once solidly ‘red’ Texas and Georgia are either battlegrounds now or will be toss-up ‘purple’ by 2024. Without carrying these states, it is mathematically impossible under the present electoral math impossible for Republicans to win.

Voting ‘yes’ on Proposition 113 puts conservatives up-and-down the ballot in a better position after years of losses by Colorado Conservative, Inc. In doing so it would chart a path out of the political desert for Republicans.

To put it in better perspective: The Colorado Republican Party has been reduced to its second-fewest number of state House seats since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Then there is the fact that 37% of county GOP parties don’t have a website in the year 2020. This dysfunction is what happens to the minority party in a politically irrelevant state.

In a presidential election under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, the Republican candidate would invest in each and every county in each and every state because winning would become a numbers game. This would be a game-changer for conservatives because running up the score in the vast swath of ‘red’ America offsets losses elsewhere.

It also explains why Trump says he supports a popular vote. He knows it is easier for him and other Republicans to win if the votes of every voter in every state count.

Conservatives who want to win elections should ignore Colorado Conservative, Inc. and vote ‘yes’ on Proposition 113.

Dennis Lennox is campaign manager of Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote.

CMC Column: A rural perspective on Gallagher

In 1982, Colorado was a different place than it is today. The population statewide was roughly 3.1 million. The value of the average home was about $130,000. The Denver Broncos were still a year away from drafting John Elway. And, in that year, the state passed the Gallagher Amendment, which was intended to maintain tax revenues from businesses and homes at predictable levels.

Today, Colorado is changed in many ways. Principally, our population has doubled to nearly six million. The state has the strongest economy in the nation, which is naturally attracting ever-larger numbers of retirees, young families and recent college graduates to experience the high quality of life some of us have enjoyed for decades.

These massive changes have resulted in a doubling of the number of homes in our state. And the average price of a home in Colorado has tripled since 1982, to more than $420,000.

Unfortunately, complications resulting from this growth aren’t limited to traffic congestion, urban sprawl or inflation. Population growth and property valuation increases over time force Gallagher Amendment adjustments that effectively lower residential property taxes, thereby raising property taxes paid by businesses and, in many cases, reducing revenues that fund critical public services. And these effects are more acute in rural Colorado than on the Front Range.

While the Gallagher Amendment is complex, it is important to learn the basic facts about it. This law is baked into our constitution and subsequent to its passage has become commingled with other competing measures. In essence, when residential property values rise faster than those for businesses, Gallagher lowers the percentage of a home’s value that is subject to taxes. Even if you’re not a public finance expert, it’s fairly easy to observe that home prices are skyrocketing to historic levels while local businesses are struggling to survive.

When the residential property tax rate is forced down by the Gallagher Amendment, it also results in reduced funding for K-12 school districts, public safety, fire protection and health care — in many cases services voters have initiated and approved in their local communities.

Though this “Gallagher thing” may be new to much of Colorado’s electorate, it’s actually been a challenge to small towns and special districts for decades. The net impact on rural areas has been greater than on the Front Range. In 2020, however, while managing the most challenging budget since the Great Depression, legislators from across the state acted to place Amendment B on the ballot. In fact, nearly 80% of all legislators at the capitol — Democrats and Republicans alike — support this measure. It has become that important.

While it is not appropriate for me to advocate one way or another for Amendment B, it is relevant to note that Colorado Mountain College has been at the forefront of this issue for several years. Our elected board of trustees initiated a successful campaign to “de-Gallagherize” in 2018. Since that time, we have provided presentations and technical advice to countless local special districts, and have hosted conversations and debates concerning the Gallagher Amendment’s impact on rural Colorado. 

Those who helped author or advocate for the Gallagher Amendment in 1982 could never have predicted the extraordinary changes to Colorado in the decades that followed. We should assume that their efforts were well-intended for the benefit of residential taxpayers. Today, however, we can all objectively say that the Gallagher Amendment has had a deep, cumulative and direct impact on essential public services, and those impacts have been more pronounced in rural communities.

It is important to underscore that Gallagher is not TABOR (Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights). If Amendment B passes, TABOR remains in the state’s constitution; any future property tax increases must still go to the voters. Amendment B doesn’t change this.

Heraclitus, the ancient Grecian philosopher, is credited with saying, “the only thing permanent is change.” This is certainly true for Colorado since 1982. And while some will argue that residential tax rates should forever be protected in a fixed formula created 38 years ago, the legislature and other experts believe it has unexpectedly denied rural Colorado the resources it needs to fund schools, public safety, fire protection, health care and other services enacted by its electorate. Adhering to the insights of Heraclitus, Colorado voters will be wise to understand the effects of the Gallagher Amendment and recognize the wisdom of preparing for the future of our evolving state while equitably balancing the needs of its rural and urban communities.

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is president & CEO of Colorado Mountain College, a local special district college with campuses and services spanning 12,000 square miles of Colorado’s central mountain region. She can be reached at president@coloradomtn.edu or @CMCPresident.

Mulhall column: The show that never ends

Last September 25, President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. It didn’t take long before the dull knives came out.

Barbara Striesand tweeted, “A spiteful Donald Trump picked a woman who is the polar opposite of RBG. Barrett opposes the ACA and a woman’s right to choose her reproductive decisions. She will set the country back decades…”

Bette Midler tweeted, “Do you think they tried very hard to get Donald to read anything about #AmyConeyBarrett, or did they just say, ‘We found a lady Mike Pence’ during a commercial break on OANN…”

Low resolution criticism, really. I’m waiting for the left to jump on Barrett’s faith.

Of course, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Jewish faith was wholly accepted, and when President Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor, the media praised her Catholic Faith.

Why? The easy answer is the left presumes the nomination of a Democrat executive has proven party bona fides on key issues. It’s a safe bet.

Look closer, however, and it’s clear Democrat party affiliation is a necessary propitiation signaling that Christian faith — if it’s not a form of abject insanity — belongs way down the veracity list behind numerous modern “mind forg’d manacles,” all variations on science and government.

When a Republican nominates a candidate, no ideological purity exists. Hence, you have hearings that focus on stare desisis — the legal principle of giving precedence to previous court decisions because, on the left, you can’t have a justice making decisions on really important matters using guidance from anything other than previous court decisions.

Chief Justice John Roberts’ and Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s Faiths underwent this scrutiny, and so did Brett Kavanaugh’s, though to a lesser extent. It’s also true Clarence Thomas is Catholic, but in his confirmation, Democrats focused on putting a pubic hair on a Coke can.

At stake, apparently, is how a potential justice’s faith affects judgement when, for example, a Catholic Hospital appears before the court for declining to perform abortions.

Democrats have marshaled Faith concerns whenever a Catholic has stepped onto a political stage at least since John F. Kennedy ran for President. However, what’s really under fire when this happens is Christianity.

You see this in religious exemption cases that make it to the Supreme Court.

For example, one of the most one-sided rulings in recent history was Hosanna Tabor, a unanimous decision in favor of a Lutheran school.

Similarly, while everyone’s heard of the well-known Little Sisters of the Poor case in which the ACA (Obamacare) mandated Catholic nuns to buy health insurance that covered contraception, there have also been cases in which courts have ruled in favor of non-Catholic churches and business owners. Among the more memorable include the Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop cases.

Hence, it’s not Catholicism per se that’s the problem, but Christianity in general.

The recent past provides ample guidance that the Democrats will attack Barrett’s faith. When Trump nominated Barrett to a federal appeals court seat in 2017, Democrats repeatedly raised concerns about her faith.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, at one point told Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

Democrats will oppose Barrett, to be sure, and her Catholic Faith is a much safer point of attack than anything else Democrats might contemplate — Barrett would be the first Supreme Court justice who is the mother of school-age children, two of whom are Haitian adoptees.

There’s simply no known good footing for a character assassination, and Democrat efforts to push Barrett around on the basis of anything but Catholic Faith could backfire on them next month. Still, the one big question that remains is whether Kamala Harris will go full-Kavanaugh on this nominee.

My bet is she will.

As Emerson Lake and Palmer once put it, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.”

Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.

Sundin column: More reasons not to vote for Trump

Another Trump family member, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, a former federal judge, has made some revealing statements about Donald Trump: ”He has no principles. None.” “You can’t trust him.” “[The … tweets] and the lying, oh my God.” and “The only thing he cares about is Donald Trump.”

Wage-earners shouldn’t vote for him because he has consistently supported corporate interests, rolling back worker-safety regulations and cutting back the number of safety and health inspectors to the lowest level in 50 years. It will now take 165 years to visit each workplace just once. Meanwhile 5 million workers are injured every year.

How can anyone who claims to be a devout Christian vote for a man who has broken four of the Ten Commandments — those that govern human behavior:

“Thou shalt not kill.” By his grossly incompetent mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Oh boy! How many times?

“Thou shalt not steal.” He has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in real estate ventures that went bankrupt, but not until after he took out a hefty “management” fee. He also stole money from students in his Trump University, when he closed it.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness…” He has lambasted anyone whom he dislikes or who disagrees with him with all kinds of false accusations.

Trump’s relationship with Russian President Putin is highly suspicious. He seems to admire Putin’s dictatorial power as something he would like to emulate. Putin’s goal is to undermine American Democracy, and he sees another four years of Trump’s presidency as furthering that goal. In this election look for Putin’s dirty work as well as Trump’s.

There is no limit to Donald Trump’s stooping to try to steal this election by any means he can. His goal in attacking mail-in ballots is to force millions of American citizens to risk infection with COVID-19 if they want to exercise their constitutional right to cast their votes. Bad weather on election-day could keep people from voting, especially senior citizens and handicapped voters.

Another trick is to drastically cut back on the number of polling places in districts where voters are less likely to vote for Trump, so they will have to stand in long lines. He will use every trick in the books, and whatever he can dream up, in order to steal this election. And if he loses the election, he has said it will be due to fraudulent voting, and that he actually won the election, and will then try to stay in the White House.

Then we come to emolument — using the office of the President for self-enrichment from sources, international or domestic, other than the salary prescribed by Congress. Since that is prohibited in the Constitution, it is an impeachable crime.

Trump has clearly shown intent to violate this restriction by directing the U.S. Ambassador to Britain to ask the British Government to steer the British Open Golf Tournament to his Turnberry Course in Scotland, which would pump millions into his financially stressed resort. He has already diverted millions of our dollars into his properties on multiple personal visits to his resorts, and has sent Secret Service agents who paid as much as $650 a night for the privilege of staying at his resorts. This is just more evidence that he considers himself to be above the law.

He appointed Louis DeJoy, a loyal supporter and generous donor (but with no experience) as Postmaster General. DeJoy’s first action was to disassemble mail-sorting machines and cut back on employees and on overtime compensation to delay the processing of mail-in ballots. Now he is telling us that these changes will actually speed up processing of the mail. If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you. It’s just another dirty trick to delay delivery of ballots so they won’t be counted.

In Garfield County, ballots will be mailed to voters on Oct. 9, so if you are voting by mail, fill out, sign, and mail your ballot as soon as possible, preferably before Oct. 20. Don’t set it aside and forget to mail it until later in October.

This election is between Joe Biden for President and Donald Trump for Dictator. Regardless of your political leanings, which is better for the future of our country? The choice is yours. The future of our democracy is at stake.

“As I See It” appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at asicit1@hotmail.com

Neubecker column: Yes on River District ballot question 7A, to support important river protections

This November, the Colorado River Water Conservation District (River District) will ask voters to approve ballot question 7A, a mill levy increase supporting their important and growing responsibilities. They provide a vital service in protecting the water and rivers for all of us on Colorado’s Western Slope and deserve our support.

The River District and the area it covers has changed considerably over the past few years and continues to evolve. So has the ever-widening and diverse array of problems and issues facing water supply and rivers on Colorado’s West Slope.

Today’s River District is not the River District of the past. The focus on agriculture is shifting. Agriculture will always remain a critically important part of the River District’s mission, but as economies and demographics of the West Slope change, so has their mission. The focus on water for communities, recreation, changing economies, and healthy rivers has increased tremendously.

The River District has been a vital player for all of us on the West Slope in working to solve Colorado’s increasingly complex and urgent water issues.

The River District was instrumental in developing the recently approved Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group Management Plan. This plan aims to protect flows in the Upper Colorado River to benefit recreational float boating and the gold medal fishery this reach of river supports. The River District has been a constant and valuable voice in this process over the past 12 years.

The River District has also just inked an agreement with the Colorado Water Conservation Board that takes water from Ruedi Reservoir to boost winter flows in the Fryingpan River. This is the result of a request from the Roaring Fork Conservancy to help protect the world class fishery below the reservoir from anchor ice, which can be devastating to both fish and the insects they eat.

Both of these examples show how the River District has evolved to meet the needs of all its constituents, especially here in the headwaters.

American Rivers has worked with the River District and other organizations, including conservation NGO’s, water providers, and the agricultural community for more than a year to develop the Fiscal Implementation Plan. If 7A passes, about $4.2 million will go to partnership projects equitably throughout the District that support water quality and supplies, productive agriculture, conservation and efficiency, infrastructure, and healthy rivers.

While American Rivers does not support all of the measures that this initiative might fund, we do support 85% of them, and we support the measure as a whole.

The ballot measure and implementation plan will also create more accountability to member counties, environmental issues, and the non-agricultural constituents who provide the majority of the River District’s funding. Some claim that the so-called “un-elected” District Board is unaccountable. This simply is not true. More than half the board members currently serve or have served in elected office, including current county commissioners. All board members are appointed by elected officials in their respective counties and are responsible to them.

Another false claim is that this mill levy increase would be a burden during this time of pandemic and a down economy, that a 100% increase would be too great. The reality is that a 100% increase of something that’s pretty small is still pretty small.

Currently, people who live within the River District’s boundaries pay one quarter of a mill on their property tax bill. The request is to increase that mill levy by another quarter mill, increasing the levy by $1.90 per $100K of actual value.

I live in eastern Garfield County where my assessed values are slightly above the county median. For me, that assessment last year was about $6. If the measure passes, that assessment will go up to just over $12. That’s less than what I’d pay for a six pack of good beer. The River District is worth far more than a six pack to me, and to all of us.

I urge everyone who lives within the River District boundaries to support 7A. We need to make sure that the River District remains a strong, effective, and vital force for water and rivers on Colorado’s West Slope.

Ken Neubecker of Glenwood Springs is the Colorado Project Director for the national waterway resources advocacy group American Rivers.

Sundin column: Our endangered democracy

A month ago we celebrated the 244th anniversary of the founding of our nation. We are fortunate that the intelligentsia of the American colonies at the time (who made up a major portion of the Constitutional Convention) were admirers of Greek and Roman history, government and literature. Many of them mastered enough Greek and Latin to be able to read about them in the original. They were particularly impressed with Greek Democracy and the Roman Republic, which heavily influenced them in the drafting of our Constitution in 1787.

Greek Democracy was a true democracy, in which laws were made by popular vote of the qualified citizenry (primarily land-owning men). The Roman Republic was governed by a Senate of elected representatives who elected two of its members to preside over its law-making proceedings. The major Greek Democracy of Athens was extinguished by Sparta in wars between the two states, which had been allies fending off conquest attempts by the Persians. The Roman Republic disappeared in the takeover by emperors, of whom Caesar was the first. Democratic government vanished for nearly 1,800 years.

The American experiment in democratic government had its skeptics. Even James Madison feared it might not last more than a century. Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman who spent several months in the U.S. in 1831 and wrote a treatise on “Democracy in America” which was a sensation in Europe, clairvoyantly was concerned about the emergence of a tyranny of the minority. What is the current status of democracy in America?

We are now confronted with the most dangerous challenges to the free government of our country since the Civil War, including the power of wealth, manipulation of elections, demeaning of the press, hyperpartisanship of Congress and too many Americans, and disrespect for the law.

The massive concentration of wealth in the hands of a powerful minority is incompatible with democracy. The crowning blow was the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision that corporations are people and therefore have the same “freedom-of-speech right,” allowing them to buy elections with unlimited amounts of money.

Another example of the power of wealth is the amount of money devoted to lobbying Congress. An array of former members of Congress, compensated with million-dollar salaries, gets their cronies in Congress (who drool over the prospect of doing the same) to appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars to businesses they represent, the largest example of which is the military-industrial complex about which President Eisenhower warned the country.

The attack on free elections by restricting access of those who might not vote “right” is rampant. Gerrymandering, redrawing election districts to favor the “right” party, is a standard practice in many states. The number of polling places in districts which might not vote “right” are drastically reduced to discourage participation. Mail-in balloting is resisted with the utterly false claim of one party that it would result in “massive voter fraud.”

Voting should be an inalienable right of all Americans, which mail-in balloting and also declaring Election Day a paid holiday (also opposed by the same party) would promote. The Republican Party, in its desperate attempt to hang on to power in a changing demographic, is resorting to all of these tricks. Instead, it should revise its policies to be more in line with what the majority of the public wants instead of catering to the demands of the wealthy.

The decline of the press is a serious threat to our democracy to be able to sort out fact from fiction, supplying the public with a primarily unbiased source of information, and ferret out and report corruption. All too many Americans are getting their news from the internet and social media (and Fox News) where anything goes.

Too many people are only looking for a source that reinforces their prejudices instead of seeking facts; like the ridiculous claim that Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography shop out of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. Thomas Jefferson advised that an independent, well-informed and engaged citizenry was essential to the success of a democracy.

We are living in a time when reporting the truth is labeled “fake news” and fake news is the “truth.” The new “truth” is whatever pops into the President’s head and out of his mouth or his tweets, serving his purpose. Congress also needs to relearn the art of the compromise, and rise above the current “winner-take-all” attitude that stands in the way of their obligation to serve the American public.

“As I See It” appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at asicit1@hotmail.com