Sometimes The Bad Guys Win

KNUS-AM host Steffan Tubbs.

9NEWS’ Kyle Clark reported last night on the decision by Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood to give up on trying to pass legislation this year to authorize a pilot safe injection site for people struggling with opioid addiction, which would have been established at the location of an existing needle exchange program in downtown Denver.

As we’ll explain, those details are important:

Democrats in the Colorado Legislature will not attempt to pass a bill this session that would allow Denver to open America’s first supervised drug injection site.

Democratic Senator Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood said Republican opponents have seized on the injection sites to “bring fear and misinformation.”

…Pettersen acknowledged that faltering support from her fellow Democrats doomed the yet-to-be-introduced bill. Democrats control both houses of the Colorado Legislature and would not have needed a single Republican vote to pass the bill.

Recognizing the difficulty of addressing the opioid crisis, which has overwhelmed public health and law enforcement authorities and prompted the more recent emphasis on treatment and compassion rather than criminalization of people who suffer from opioid addiction, we understand that opinions among any group of people including our readers of this particular solution will vary.

But in the end, the opposition to this year’s effort was not policy related at all. As Colorado Public Radio reports, this was all about Republican minority politics–their first chance to draw blood from Democrats who flattened them in last year’s elections. And they seized on the opportunity with all of the usual suspects joining in, and the usual factual challenges:

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville floated the idea of recall elections to remove Democratic lawmakers from office if they voted to support the legislation. In early February, the Colorado Republican Party sent out an email that called safe injection sites an oxymoron…

Local conservative talk radio also played an active role in opposition.

KNUS talk show host Peter Boyles visited Vancouver to see the impact of a facility there and created a “No Safe Sites,” webpage, part of an effort to derail a potential Denver program. “This is so dangerous and so frightening and the cost is so expensive,” Boyles said.

Employing the same wildly false rhetoric we saw during last year’s SD-22 race, AM radio in Denver whipped up right-wing opposition to safe injection sites early this year in anticipation of a legislative debate. Peter Boyles, longtime local radio bottom feeder who we’ve called out in this space for his regular breaches of factuality and decency, was joined by Steffan Tubbs–another KNUS host who was fired by the more mainstream 850 KOA after a domestic violence arrest and has been rebuilding his career in the bush leagues.

Again, views on this issue might not always align even on the left. But the attacks on this bill were simply not accurate. This was about setting up a pilot program at a location that already serves people suffering from addiction in downtown Denver, yet these talk radio hosts had their gullible suburban audiences believing that it would mean “addicts shooting up on your street”–a situation not far from the status quo. Much like the lunatic debate over this year’s bill on sex education, opponents simply disconnected from the facts and let their imaginations run wild.

But sometimes it works. Even the best-intended efforts can be rendered politically nonviable if opponents’ misinformation becomes the dominant narrative. That’s what happened in this case, and it’s our local talk radio lowlifes–normally and correctly relegated to the fringe–taking credit for shutting down rational debate.

Whatever your opinion, we can do better. We can debate better. And hopefully next time that’s what happens.

10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. RepealAndReplace says:

    Addicts who are not in recovery are going to use, and they are going to use either clean needles or dirty needles. Pure and simple fact.

    Putting aside the human compassion element (which we know the GOP lacks) there is the economic element (which once was their prime directive) in needle exchange programs.

    A dirty needle leads to HIV and Hep C infections. Most addicts do not have private insurance, are destitute, and rely on government health care programs. Treatment costs associated with HIV (which can be managed long term but not cured) and Hep C (which can be cured) are astronomical. Guess who gets to pay for that……

    • Voyageur says:

      Definitely no good answers on addiction issues.  But legalization and regulation is almost always better than prohibition and denial.

      • MichaelBowman says:

        Whether the subject is about addiction or abortion, a Jesuit shared some great advice with me long ago: go to the root; ask why this is happening?   Addiction is almost always rooted in mental health issues. Until we start treating it as such and not as a criminal activity we're never going to solve this problem. 

        As if I needed yet another reason to celebrate my decade-old departure from the rot of this once-great party. 

  2. bullshit! says:

    Peter Boyles is the worst. I don't know Steffan Tubbs but that's a nice mug shot!

  3. DENependent says:

    Something to remember in situations like this is that this is not the end of the line for the idea. In order to get safe injection legalized public support must be strengthened.

    Personal stories from former users in places where these sites exist about how safe injection helped give them time to get to recovery and be alive. Or stories from family members of people who have died due to not being monitored.

  4. kickshot says:

    The counter to this is to recall Neville for depriving rural areas of the state of treatment. This is a serious health issue statewide.

    At the same time, Brittany could add that consideration to her argument in support of or let it come out in committee testimony.


    Find physicians authorized to treat opioid dependency with buprenorphine by state.

    • unnamed says:

      Maybe bring some of his shady accounting practices out while waging the PR campaign against him.

      This cancer of a political family needs to go.  

      • kickshot says:

        I am often depressed by the political naivete of our Dem Representatives and Senators in the state legislature. They just seem woefully unprepared to argue to support their issues on not just the level from which their opponents bring their attacks but also on a rational level as well.

        The 2013 gun safety bills are a prime example. They got bulldozed in the court of public opinion and let three seats to a band of pranksters who short-circuited the election and recall process.

        If you can't beat Neville and Brown and their frat pranks, you never be able to elevate the legislative debate to a level where the merits, pro and con, are the issue.

  5. JohnInDenver says:

    It is worth mentioning the opposition doesn't just come from mininformation and lack of partisan bravery …

    [NPR] a U.S. attorney in Vermont saying health workers at a supervised injection site would be vulnerable to criminal charges and the property could be at risk of being seized by federal law enforcement.

    [Vox] Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Trump administration — particularly the US Department of Justice — has threatened states and cities looking to open supervised consumption sites. Rosenstein recently published an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing the sites; he also issued a warning to city officials and potential beneficiaries of supervised consumption sites on the NPR member station WHYY in Philadelphia.

    “It remains illegal under federal law,” Rosenstein said. “And people engaged in that activity remain vulnerable to civil and criminal enforcement.”

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