Polis Keeps Eviction Balls Juggling While DC Dawdles

President Trump and Gov. Jared Polis.

As the Denver Post’s Alex Burness reports, Gov. Jared Polis took action yesterday to extend the limited protections that have been in place giving renters in Colorado more notice of impending eviction proceedings–short of the full eviction moratorium affordable housing and civil rights advocates are calling for, and as a result not pacifying the growing discontent on Polis’ left over the issue:

Gov. Jared Polis has extended an executive order that requires that Colorado landlords must, for at least one more month, give tenants 30 days’ notice before pursuing evictions.

The normal rule requires only 10 days’ notice. Vulnerable tenants deserve a little extra wiggle room now, Polis wrote in his extension, because, “many Coloradans continue to experience substantial loss of income as a result of business closures and layoffs, hindering their ability to keep up with their rent payments through no fault of their own.”

…The order does not prevent evictions. They have restarted in most of the state, though eviction defense advocates and some Democratic lawmakers continue to push Polis to temporarily ban them. He’s resisted those calls because, he told reporters recently, he believes people should generally be back at work and thus able to cover rent.

So far, the large wave of evictions that experts do expect will inevitably result from the economic disruption of the spring and summer has not materialized. A major factor in this delayed pain is the extended unemployment benefits unemployed workers have received since the passage of the CARES Act in March, which expired at the end of July and are set to be cut by at least one-third after Donald Trump’s actions this weekend–along with the $1,200 per person stimulus checks most taxpayers have by now received and long spent.

Gov. Polis’ management of the crisis faced by renters in this state reflects an attempt to hit a “moving target” of minimal disruption–meaning property owners can still control their properties–while trying to slow down evictions for nonpayment of rent for as long as needed to allow renters to recover and meet their obligations. This strategy depends, among other variables, on the federal government continuing to provide the economic stimulus that has kept American households going since March–and for the economy to recover rapidly enough for paycheck-to-paycheck workers to get their already-behind balance sheets current. Nuanced management of the problem and taking sweeping action only when necessary has characterized Polis’ leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic–and while it’s not as satisfying as headline-making executive orders, the outcome so far suggests that it has worked.

But as we’re seeing today in D.C.’s chaos over the next round of stimulus, this calculation is not without risk. If the wave of evictions that everyone agrees is looming can be staved off long enough, in theory the net effects can be mitigated by recovery and aggressive assistance. In the end, however, success depends in part on factors that Gov. Polis doesn’t control.

We hope enough things go right that Polis’ “just in time” strategy doesn’t go wrong.

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Polis Scores Significant Win For Environment, Gets No Credit

Colorado Public Radio reported Friday on an agreement brokered by Gov. Jared Polis to keep another round of confrontational oil and gas ballot measures off the 2020 ballot, in order to give one of the biggest achievements of Polis’ term in office so far, Senate Bill 19-181 reforming oil and gas permitting in the state to prioritize public health, a chance to work:

According to Polis, the agreement is meant to allow for the full implementation of SB19-181, an overhaul of oil and gas regulations he signed in 2019.

“Let’s give SB181 a chance to work, and let’s see the full effects of the law instead of returning to the same old ballot box wars that this legislation was designed to avoid,” the governor wrote.

Protect Colorado, a political group funded by oil and gas companies, confirmed it planned to drop two ballot initiatives likely headed to voters in the fall. One is Initiative 284, which would have blocked local governments from limiting natural gas hookups in new buildings. The other is Initiative 304, which would have required fiscal impact statements attached to future ballot initiatives…

Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said her group participated in the discussion along with the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Citizens and Western Colorado Alliance. They all agreed not to back regulatory reforms on the 2020 or 2022 ballot. That said, she added that Conservation Colorado will not pause other efforts to combat climate change or limit the health impacts of oil and gas development.

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

After the over-the-top initial political reaction to the passage of SB181 last year, which ended in a string of embarrassing failed recall attempts against Gov. Polis and Democratic lawmakers, the oil and gas industry belatedly admitted that the law had not “destroyed the oil and gas industry” as its opponents breathlessly insisted it would before passage. Since SB181 has taken effect, historic declines in the price of oil and gas have disrupted the industry in Colorado far more than any regulatory burden ever could.

The collapse of fossil fuel prices in 2020 has led to bankruptcies and acquisitions across the industry, and the players who lavishly funded pro oil and gas measures like 2018’s ill-conceived Amendment 74 don’t have the means to throw tens of millions at a statewide ballot initiative in Colorado–and if they do, the return on that investment has dwindled even if they are successful to the point of mootness. With all of this in mind, the industry’s new tune that they’re going to “allow SB181 to work through the regulatory process and work for Colorado” is more an acknowledgement of reality than it is good faith.

Despite this significant win for Gov. Polis, we were struck by curious editorializing in some coverage of this deal–a good example being the Colorado Sun’s ever-contrarian John Frank:

Gov. Jared Polis declared a truce in the oil and gas wars in Colorado — but once again it appears to be an illusion.

Here’s the problem with this lede: because environmentalist groups had already announced that their proposed ballot measures were not going forward due to the difficulty in gathering signatures this year, the only net effect of Gov. Polis’ agreement is the withdrawal of the pro-industry measures. In Gov. Polis’ op-ed announcing the deal, he doesn’t claim that any final agreement for 2022 has been reached–only that the groups involved “have committed to withdraw current ballot measures filed for 2020 and have expressed a willingness to work together to prevent future ballot measures through 2022.” Frank quotes some of the groups who had already withdrawn their 2020 measures, and they won’t commit to a plan for 2022 yet.

And that’s fine, because this deal is about giving SB181 a chance to work in 2021.

All told, this agreement marks the biggest win for Gov. Polis on energy policy since the original passage of SB181, and clears the way for the law to prove itself instead of being hyped out of earthly proportion for political gain. The oil and gas industry’s assent is further proof that the hyperbolic warnings of doom and gloom over SB181 bill were false.

But above all, it’s a sign that this industry’s power over Colorado politics in general is waning.

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Pat Neville’s Mask Lawsuit All About The Benjamins

Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R).

As we we discussed last week and Colorado Public Radio reported, Republican House Minority Leader Patrick Neville threatened a lawsuit on Thursday in response to the statewide face mask executive order issued by Gov. Jared Polis, which came after weeks of pleading by public health authorities to take this additional step as COVID-19 cases grow in the state:

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville tweeted that Polis was “on a power trip,” and said he had hired attorneys with “the intent to sue” for an alleged violation of civil liberties, though he didn’t give any further details about the potential lawsuit.

In a separate written statement that didn’t mention legal action, Neville asserted that the order is unnecessary because Colorado’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are still lower than their April peak.

Although Neville “didn’t give any further details” about his impending lawsuit against Gov. Polis’ mask order, yesterday on Facebook what’s probably the most important component of the whole operation went live.

The fundraising page!

You knew this was coming: “lawsuits aren’t cheap,” and in this case as unlikely to be successful as any of the Neville political clans other recent failed stunts (see: recall of Rep. Tom Sullivan, et al)–but as the organizers of the stillborn recall attempt against Gov. Polis last year can tell you and P.T. Barnum can tell you, there’s a sucker born every minute! The Nevilles have figured out that win or lose, usually the latter, there’s cash to be raised by slapping Polis’ picture on an ad with the words “stop this guy.”

Democrats should of course celebrate Neville’s anti-mask crusade, since it further divorces the Republican brand from the mainstream majority of Coloradans who support masks and any other measure needed to slow the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Given the money spent by fellow Republicans during the recently-concluded primary to take out Neville’s favored House candidates, and a significant reduction in money flowing into the House GOP’s Neville-owned “independent” messaging group Values First Colorado, we don’t doubt that the Neville clan needs to get creative to make payroll.

As always, it is our sincere hope that nobody sends Pat Neville their welfare check.

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Big Oil’s Presumption Of Your Stupidity Is Apparently Endless

Bizwest’s Dan Mika via the Greeley Tribune has a story up today with what may honestly be the dumbest headline you’ll see this week, and in 2020 that is no small achievement:

Dan Haley of COGA.

That’s right, readers, with a straight face, Dan Haley of the Colorado Oil and gas Association wants you to believe that a 2019 law incrementally prioritizing public health over drill-baby-drilling in Colorado has done more to damage the oil and gas industry than the global demand for oil plunging to levels so low it become unaffordable to store current production, let alone produce more oil:

BizWest previously reported oil producers in Weld County cut production by around 60% and plugged thousands of wells between March and April, as the COVID pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders reduced the need for fuel to power cars on commutes, planes in the sky and destabilization in transport and freight supply chains.

That sudden and dramatic drop in domestic demand was matched by a production and price war during the two months between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s second and third-largest oil producer nations behind the U.S., further depressing global oil prices.

Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said the state had about 20 rigs drilling new wells across the state at the start of 2019, but between COVID and the implementation of sweeping oil regulations from Senate Bill 181, those active rigs have fallen to five across Colorado. He attributes that decline to Gov. Jared Polis and SB 181 supporters.

Got that? The chief talking head for the oil and gas industry in Colorado actually wants you to believe that the decline in oil and gas drilling in Colorado is not attributable to this:

But rather because one state responsible for a small percentage of the total output of the U.S. oil industry tightened up our permitting process for new wells a little. Now, we know that the industry’s many well-compensated defenders in this state are excited to start firing off densely worded justifications for this ridiculous claim, how the fractionally higher cost of compliance that can be reasonably expected from prioritizing public health and safety over “fostering” more oil and gas production means Colorado’s oil and gas industry is somehow more wounded by the historic plunge in the price of oil than, say, Texas.

But that doesn’t change the bottom line: the price of oil fell so low this year that no one on Earth could drill for it profitably–and Senate Bill 19-181 had nothing to do with that development. If the price of oil supports profitable extraction, the industry will comply with whatever rules they have to in order to extract it. And if the price of oil is so low that companies can’t make money drilling for it no matter what the rules for drilling for it are, which it has been for much of this year, due to factors entirely beyond the control of anyone in Colorado?

The free market is what dictates we leave it in the ground, not Jared Polis.

If the oil and gas industry expects sympathy for its plight in 2020, they first need to be honest about it.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (June 26)

Don’t look now, but we’re rounding the bend of June and rolling into July already. Let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

***If you still have a Primary Election ballot at home, don’t put it in the mail! Go to GoVoteColorado.com to find a ballot drop off location near you.*** 

 

It might still be the first wave. Maybe it’s a second wave. The number doesn’t really matter, because the important part is that the COVID-19 is still growing in the United States with 40,000 new cases being reported. Texas is seeing a huge spike in coronavirus cases, as is Arizona — two Republican-led states in the southwest that were too anxious to reopen without making sure it was safe to do so.

The Washington Post explains how Arizona lost control of the pandemic:

Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is recording as many as 2,000 cases a day, “eclipsing the New York City boroughs even on their worst days,” warned a Wednesday brief by disease trackers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which observed, “Arizona has lost control of the epidemic.”

But physicians, public health experts, advocates and local officials say the crisis was predictable in Arizona, where local ordinances requiring masks were forbidden until Gov. Doug Ducey (R) reversed course last week. State leaders did not take the necessary precautions or model safe behavior, these observers maintain, even in the face of compelling evidence and repeated pleas from authoritative voices.

“We have failed on so many levels,” said Dana Marie Kennedy, the Arizona director of AARP, who said her organization has yet to receive a response to four letters outlining concerns to the governor. She is working on a fifth.

Neither the governor’s office nor the state health department responded to requests for comment.

Florida — another Republican-led state — is slowing down its reopening process because of a surge in cases; on Friday, Florida reported nearly 9,000 new cases (the state’s previous daily high was 5,500).

Colorado has also seen an uptick in coronavirus cases, but not nearly to the extend of neighboring states. Within Colorado, El Paso County is one of the worst-hit areas; it’s not a coincidence that El Paso is a solid-red Republican county.

At the White House today, Vice President Mike Pence will provide a media briefing on the nation’s coronavirus response…the first such briefing IN TWO MONTHS.

President Trump, meanwhile, is apparently watching an entirely different movie than everyone else:

 

President Trump is hemhoraging support. As a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds, Trump’s disapproval ratings have reached an all-time high:

Trump’s approval rating sits at just 40% overall, while a record 58% disapprove.

What’s more, a whopping 49% of voters “strongly disapprove” of the job Trump is doing. That kind of intensity of disapproval is a record never before seen for this president or any past one. [Pols emphasis]

So much winning! The #1 most disliked President ever!

 

Sticking with the subject of political polling, 9News released new data on Thursday showing that the race for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination is pretty much over. According to data from SurveyUSA, former Gov. John Hickenlooper is a 2-to-1 favorite over former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff ahead of Tuesday’s Primary Election.

 

Hickenlooper is probably not going to beat Romanoff by 30 points, but as the saying goes, you can tell the “fat lady” to start warming up.

 

Political suicide. On Thursday the Trump administration announced another boneheaded decision that one Republican consultant called “pretty dumb” earlier this week. As The Washington Post reports:

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late on Thursday to overturn the Affordable Care Act, telling the court that “the entire ACA must fall.” The administration’s argument comes as hundreds of thousands of Americans have turned to the government program for health care as they’ve lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded to the brief by saying there is “no moral excuse for the Trump Administration’s disastrous efforts to take away Americans’ health care.” Dismantling the ACA would leave more than 23 million people without healthcare plans, according to a recent analysis by the liberal-leaning think tank Center for American Progress.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Pelosi, who on Wednesday filed a bill to expand the ACA, said in a statement.

Again, the Trump administration is making a big show of trying to take away health insurance for millions of people in the midst of an historic global pandemic that is pummeling the United States. Is Trump trying to lose in 2020?

This is also bad news for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who has repeatedly voiced support for destroying the ACA through the courts.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

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Endnotes: The Ridiculous Hullaballoo Over Senate Bill 163

Measles.

In today’s The Spot newsletter, Denver Post political reporter Alex Burness offers some useful context as the battle over Senate Bill 163, legislation to improve Colorado’s bottom-in-the-nation childhood immunization rates, comes to a successful conclusion for proponents:

[I]t has taken a Democrat-controlled General Assembly two years to muster support to pass a bill that allows parents to… still not vaccinate their kids.

This year’s bill preserves the right to nonmedical exemptions. You just have to take an online education course first. The opponents aren’t happy about that, but the bottom line is that no parent is going to be forced to watch a needle be plunged into their kid, even after this bill passes.

Other states have stricter policies; some allow no exemptions except for medical reasons. Colorado lawmakers have concluded that this is not a legislative option here, which is a credit to A) the governor’s stated “pro-choice” stance on vaccines and B) the fervent activism of the vaccine bill’s opponents.

Burness argues that the passage of SB-163, even though opponents have vowed to mount a repeal ballot initiative campaign to prevent the law from taking effect, betrays a hard limit on the ability of today’s lawmakers to take effective action even on an issue with overwhelming majority support–due to the fierce opposition of a small but vocal minority. Vaccines are not the only issue for which this appears to be the case. Even though the public strongly supports common-sense gun safety laws that our state is a model for today, passage of those bills resulted in a backlash from the passionate minority of gun rights activists that led to the successful recall of two Democratic Senators in 2013 and the resignation of a third.

One of the biggest problems with both this year’s modest vaccine bill as well as 2013’s gun safety bills is that the opposition was (and is) completely untethered from the facts about the legislation. Just as Republican lawmakers told the public in 2013 that the gun bills would “effectively ban gun ownership,” many of the protesters who turned out against Senate Bill 163 believe the bill does away with non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements. Although a majority of the public would support doing just that according to polls, SB-163 does not eliminate exemptions available for any or no reason.

There were a lot of variables involved in the drafting of this legislation, not least of which is a governor reticent to impose “medical mandates” on families. Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB-163 precisely because it does not coerce anyone to get any vaccine. The gulf between perception and reality with this bill among its opponents is not the fault of Gov. Polis, however, and the Republican lawmakers who have eagerly embraced the “anti-vaxxer” movement in opposition to this bill are the ones making no attempt to give opponents factual information.

With that, we’ll ask our readers: is there any way to prevent the tail from wagging the dog? Will the fringe always wield disproportionate influence simply because of their ability to yell louder and longer? And will passing a modest reform now make further reforms that would still enjoy broad public support harder to pass later?

These are all questions worth answering as the dust settles on this particularly crazy fight.

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Polis Rips Trump Threat To Send In Army, Gardner Silent

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As the Denver Post’s Jon Murray reports:

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday that violence during recent nightly protests in Denver overshadowed demonstrators’ “righteous” message, but he rebuked calls by President Donald Trump and others to activate the military to put down civil unrest in cities across the country.

“This is not China. This is not Tiananmen Square. And that’s not leadership,” Polis said early in an afternoon briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. “That’s just creating more of the very division that we need to prevent and heal from and bridge. To create real systemic change, we all need to come together.”

Westword’s Michael Roberts:

In these introductory remarks, Polis didn’t specifically mention Trump, but later in his talk, he made it clear that the president’s assertions were at the top of his mind. He suspects that Trump’s threat about troops shows that he “has become so isolated in the White House, in the ivory tower, that he doesn’t understand what’s going on in our streets.” After lauding those who helped clean up after vandalism near the State Capitol, Polis stressed that “part of leadership is feeling and understanding the anguish and pain that so many Americans feel — Americans who believed we lived in a better America, one that had overcome many aspects of our legacy of racism stemming back to the days of slavery.”

As for Trump’s suggestion that governors unwilling to assert “dominance” over protesters show that they’re “weak,” Polis stated, “Even those who support his policies often question his careless use of words and rhetoric” — a habit that predates his tenure as president, he allowed.

Gov. Jared Polis has earned both praise and some criticism in recent months for avoiding direct confrontation with President Donald Trump, even in situations where it would be entirely reasonable and appropriate to do so. The reason for this is simple: angering Trump for any reason risks provoking his arbitrary and capricious wrath, and the possibility of real world consequences for the state from a governor failing to get along with this President during the emergencies plaguing the year 2020 makes challenging his daily verbal assaults on decency more trouble than the headlines would be worth.

In this case, however, Trump’s threat to use military force against American civilians is egregious enough that even Trump’s own Secretary of Defense Mark Esper came out against it in an interview last night. Such high-level dissent within Trump’s own White House appears to have given Gov. Polis latitude to let his real feelings show a bit.

Sen. Cory Gardner, on the other hand, can’t even show the backbone of Trump’s own Secretary of Defense.

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Neville to Push Bill Limiting Governor’s Authority to Issue Public-Health Orders

(#COVID4Colorado – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R).

Colorado Republicans plan to push for legislation limiting Gov. Jared Polis’ authority to issue public-health orders to 15 days, after which time Polis or a future governor would need to get the green light from the state legislature to extend orders any longer.

State House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock said at a news conference and on KCOL radio that he and fellow Republicans plan next week, when the legislative session resumes, to begin “pushing back on the governor’s authority, making sure that after 15 days he actually has legislative approval to continue on with his emergency powers.”

When Arapahoe County area District Attorney George Brauchler called on lawmakers earlier this month to push this type of legislation, a professor of medicine and public health at the University of Colorado School of Medicine called it a “sad” illustration of how the response to the pandemic is being converted into a “partisan issue.”

Brauchler called for a “liberty-loving legislator” to offer a “bill to claw back the massive authority given to the governor.”

Brauchler appears to have found his lawmaker in Neville, who’s one of the highest-ranking Republicans in Colorado.

Neville, who’s falsely alleged that masks “don’t accomplish anything,” said on air that the GOP plans to run a bill that “essentially says ‘the governor can only have emergency authority for 15 days. After 15 days, he has to go back and seek legislative approval.'”

Neville acknowledged his proposed legislation probably won’t move forward this year, because it will be considered a late bill that can’t advance without the approval of the Democratic majority, which, he says, will not allow it.

Republicans Target November Election

In light of the likely paralysis of his proposal to strip Polis of his authority to issue pubic-health orders, Neville tried to turn Republicans’ attention to the upcoming election.

Neville said he saw this situation coming, and that’s why he was involved in the failed recall campaigns last year in Colorado

“This is a big reason we were active in the recall elections a year ago and why we were trying to push back, because we saw a lot of this happening,” said Neville on air. “We never thought it would actually get to this point.”

“We really need people to be on the ground fighting for Republicans in elections,” he continued. “If we don’t at least close the gap on Democrat control, then we will probably never solve this.”

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Delta County Commish Hopes There’s No Violence, But…


Don Suppes.

Here’s a video we were forwarded of Delta County Commissioner Don Suppes, who readers east of the Divide probably remember better a fierce Republican opponent to now-Sen. Kerry Donovan from her tough SD-5 election in 2014. Suppes, speaking at a “Reopen Colorado” rally Saturday along with Rep. Matt Soper and other local GOP luminaries, railed against Gov. Jared Polis and called on supporters to “put pressure” on the state government–saying he “prays to God” that “we can get this resolved without getting violent.”

The implied threat in these words is of course very clear. Affecting disdain for violence and then immediately offering sympathetic justifications for that violence is tantamount to threatening violence. Suppes knows this, and his open-carrying audience last weekend knew it too. When the press comes calling, this tacit understanding is strenuously denied even though all parties know what’s going on. It’s a game as old as closeted racism itself.

Apropos on the subject of racism, in 2014 now-Commissioner Suppes was hit with revelations of racist social media activity–for which he concocted an elaborate “rogue staffer” defense that was a bit too convoluted to believe. The incident contributed with other scandals to Suppes’ narrow loss to Donovan that year. Suppes’ political brand is all about this kind of shock-jock conservatism, so it can’t be considered out of character.

Gov. Polis has got a nice state here, and we too hope nothing bad happens to it.

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You’ll Decide: Reality-Based Fiscal Policy Or Bloodletting

Under controversially relaxed signature-gathering rules in place to maximize voter participation during the ongoing pandemic, two opposing campaigns are petitioning to get on the November ballot with initiatives that can be credibly called tax cuts–or at least tax cuts for the overwhelming majority of Colorado residents. One measure, Initiative 271 (but don’t memorize that number because it will be different on the ballot), cuts the state’s income tax from 4.63% to 4.58% for everyone who makes less than $250,000 a year. For the wealthiest, the rate goes up to 7%–a move toward a progressive income tax structure used by a majority of states and the federal government. The net effect is a $2 billion increase in state revenue to help offset the enormous cuts coming even after federal COVID-19 economic stimulus factors in.

The other initiative is Initiative 306, an across the board tax cut to 4.5% regardless of income. This initiative is being run by the Independence Institute, the arch-conservative “stink tank” which has quarterbacked the opposition to every attempt to increase revenue for the state of Colorado since the 1980s. In his press release Monday announcing the launch of 306, Independence Institute honcho Jon Caldara makes it abundantly clear that his initiative is about muddying the waters for voters considering Initiative 271:

“The Colorado economy —pre-COVID-19— was on fire thanks to our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and our flat state income tax,” said Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute, and co-ballot proponent of the tax rate reduction. “We look forward to giving the voters a real choice [Pols emphasis] between a progressive tax increase which will be billed as a middle-class tax cut, and a real tax cut for every Coloradan. Question is: which one is actually the tax cut? Hint: Not the ballot question that starts “Shall state taxes be increased $2,000,000,000 annually…”

“We think that a small tax cut for everyone makes a lot more sense than a $2 billion tax increase,” said Michael Fields, Executive Director of Colorado Rising State Action. “And even if both pass, the tax cut only has to win by one vote over the tax hike to be implemented. So, we like our chances.”

Jon Caldara.

The context for these initiatives, of course, is the biggest fiscal crisis faced by the state of Colorado at least since the Great Depression. The estimated $3 billion shortfall lawmakers are wrestling with today is expected to be partially offset by federal economic stimulus, but not enough to close the gap completely–and certainly not in a recurring manner to meet the ongoing need. The state has faced a looming revenue shortfall for many years, resulting from the throttling effect on revenue growth over time relative to the need created by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR’s labyrinthine limits and regulations on revenue growth, and stilted language requirements the ballot questions it mandates for any tax increase, created a growing gap between need and revenue supply that the COVID-19 economic crisis has severely exacerbated. Colorado’s budget is already very tight, and the pandemic is a fiscal disaster the state can’t afford.

With this in mind, Colorado voters have to ask themselves a simple question: who has our state’s best interests at heart? Supporters of a measure to cut taxes for just about everybody while raising more net revenue the state desperately needs–or those who think the solution to a grave fiscal crisis is to make the crisis worse? Like with other extremely ill-advised ballot measures in previous years, like 2010’s infamous “Bad Three” or 2018’s nightmarish Amendment 74 which would have crippled local governments to empower the oil and gas industry, we’re obliged to trust the wisdom of Colorado voters to see through the misdirection. It’s honestly helpful when the bad actors admit up front like Caldara did here that they’re playing a political shell game instead of proposing serious policy.

Conservatives rely on the axiom that while voters may want the vital services government provides, they hate paying for them. That’s the unspoken presumption that turned TABOR into a blunt weapon against government instead of a tool to encourage responsible government. In Colorado, tax increase measures have slowly increased their percentage in consecutive losing efforts, reflecting the slow progress of years of educational efforts mounted by progressive fiscal policy groups as well as the state’s leftward-shifting electorate in general.

In 2020, this old battle will be fought once again. In a changed world, with higher stakes.

And we’ll find out if the old tricks still work for Caldara and friends.

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Even More Drain-Circling Poll Numbers For Cory Gardner

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reported Saturday, a new survey of Colorado voters shows solidifying trendlines indicated by previous polls–high marks for Gov. Jared Polis, relatively favorable opinion of the Democratic majority in the Colorado legislature ahead of next week’s “grand reopening,” and positively brutal numbers for Sen. Cory Gardner and President Donald Trump:

“This isn’t 2014, when Cory Gardner was a relative blank slate with the national winds at his back,” said Andrew Baumann, a Denver-based pollster with Global Strategy Group, a Democratic firm. “Colorado voters now clearly understand that Gardner has put his loyalty to Trump ahead of Coloradans, which has left him well-defined in a very negative way — and with a deeply unpopular albatross hanging around his neck.”

Baumann and Global Strategy Group surveyed 800 registered voters in Colorado online between May 7 and 11. They found 37% of voters approve of the job Gardner is doing, which is lower than the 41% of Colorado voters who approve of the job Trump is doing. Thirty percent approved of Gardner’s work on coronavirus response.

There’s a lot of data to unpack in the latest issue of the Rocky Mountaineer, and if that’s not enough you can further digest the details here. Highlights include a declining approval rating for Donald Trump, a double-digit lead for Joe Biden, John Hickenlooper’s name ID owning the Democratic Senate primary, and great news for Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly looking to expand their majority even beyond 2018’s historic wins. As for Cory Gardner, his sub-Trump approval rating is a continuing sign that he is weak on both flanks–and his base support is heavily dependent on his continued fealty to Trump, even though Gardner’s servility to Trump seals his doom with many more voters.

That all looks right to us, folks.

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Polis and the President: A Mutually Beneficial Exercise

President Trump and Gov. Jared Polis yesterday.

Colorado Public Radio’s Caitlyn Kim kicks off our coverage recap of yesterday’s visit by Gov. Jared Polis to the White House, which appears to have been successful for the state in terms of obtaining supplies to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic–an issue deep in political subtext for President Donald Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner, and other Republicans in the room with Gov. Polis yesterday:

Trump said Polis and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum have done a “fantastic” job starting to lift social distancing measures and allow economic activity to ramp up…

Following a public discussion, the press left the room and the governors had a private conversation with the president and other state and federal officials. In a press conference following that, Polis told reporters he felt the need pursue all “possible options” for supplies for Colorado and it wasn’t an opportunity he could pass up. Polis said he was asked to talk about Colorado’s needs and update the president.

Polis said that he did not feel it was “a time to air differences on unrelated policies.” [Pols emphasis] He said both political leaders shared a single foe: the new coronavirus.

The Aurora Sentinel’s Kara Mason details some of the commitments Gov. Polis obtained:

Among the commitments Polis said he was able to secure from the federal government during his trip is approximately 96,000 tests, which he said will aid in the state’s goal to amp up testing to nearly 10,000 per day…

More deliveries of protective gear, including masks, from FEMA is anticipated to be delivered to the state for nursing home workers, Polis said, adding that he’s urged the federal government to continue that program into June and July.

But as Alex Burness of the Denver Post reports, yesterday’s meeting was not without its misinformation:

Trump also spoke against all-mail voting.

“It’s subject to tremendous corruption — cheating,” he said.

Colorado, which is at the vanguard of the all-mail voting trend, has shown that this is not true. [Pols emphasis] The state is widely regarded as one of the safest places in the country to vote, and the practice has been touted by Republican and Democratic state election officials alike. It’s also increased voter participation.

Speaking after the meeting, Gov. Polis made it clear that his purpose yesterday was not to challenge President Trump’s inaccurate statements, rebuke the administration for its deficiencies, or engage the President at all on issues unrelated to pandemic response:

“I’m here to advocate around COVID-19, around coronavirus, not to get into a debate or correct the president when he makes inaccurate statements about the reliability of mail-in voting,” Polis said in a press call after the meeting.

He clearly made an effort not to rankle the president. Asked whether he was impressed by Trump, Polis said, “He’s the president that we have,” three times in a 14-second span. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve seen a number of different reactions to Gov. Polis’ meeting with President Trump yesterday, ranging from relief that Polis stayed focused on productive discussions instead of sparring politically to irritation that Polis let any number of serious problems with the federal government’s management of the pandemic slide despite a golden opportunity to challenge Trump on national television. For our part, we expected Polis to stay professional in his dealings with the administration, as he has from the beginning of the emergency so as not to arouse the President’s wrath–and we would have been more surprised if Polis had turned this meeting into a pissing match with America’s undisputed pissing match titleholder.

Obviously the President benefits politically from a positively-framed meeting with a Democratic governor, but Polis benefits too: we have to think that Trump’s effusive praise for Gov. Polis’ controversial reopening of the state, ahead of any other Democratic governor, will help mollify the far right in Colorado led by GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville who have been clamoring for Polis’ political head. The shrill, distasteful attacks on Polis from high-ranking Colorado Republicans like Neville have gone on ignorant of the reality that Polis is taking a big risk to do exactly what they want. They won’t hear it from Polis, but maybe they’ll hear it from Trump.

If this all leaves you feeling a bit unsatisfied politically, it’s understandable. But it’s important to keep in mind what both Trump and Polis were looking for get out of this meeting. Trump earns one somewhat less scandalous news event–certainly not enough to overcome the overwhelming view of Americans that Trump’s pandemic response is a failure. Trump’s fictional characterization of mail ballots seems to have been fact-checked and debunked in real time by most news stories that mention it. Meanwhile, Polis gets cover from the very top against the fringe-right hordes turning out to protest and commitments for more equipment the state needs, while solidifying his reputation for staying cool in moments of political adversity.

As long as the numbers–for once we’re not talking about poll numbers–keep moving the right direction, Gov. Polis and Colorado come out ahead here. And we hope there’s nobody on either side who wants to bet against that.

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Brauchler’s Proposal to Roll Back Polis’ Power Shows How Pandemic Is Being “Converted into a Partisan Issue”

(It would be cool if Brauchler spent this much time on his real job — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a proposal that one health expert is calling a “sad” illustration of how the response to the pandemic is being converted into a “partisan issue,” Arapahoe County area District Attorney George Brauchler is urging lawmakers to roll back Gov. Jared Polis’ (D-CO) power to fight the COVID-19.

“I think Gov. Polis ought to convene a task force to say, ‘How can we trim back my authority,'” said Brauchler recently on his Saturday morning “George Show” on KNUS radio. “You know that will never happen. We need to re-look at these public health orders. We need to look at how we give authority to these people.” “Which liberty-loving legislator from either party will stand up and begin this important and needed conversation by offering a bill to claw back the massive authority given to the governor?” wrote Brauchler in a Denver Post opinion today.

Matthew Wynia, a Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says proposals like Brauchler’s are an “illustration of how the response [to the pandemic] has been increasingly converted into a partisan issue.”

“That’s sad because it shouldn’t be partisan,” Wynia wrote in an email to the Colorado Times Recorder. “Both Republicans and Democrats are dying of this illness – and we all care about the people in our families and communities who are at particular risk.”

“Also,” continued Wynia, “people in both parties are equally concerned with re-opening society as quickly as possible and reducing the harms the shut-down is creating, which are very real and which should not be downplayed at all. No one wants to keep the shut down in place, and no one is talking about keeping it in place forever or even indefinitely. The argument is whether to keep measures in place until we have the numbers going down, when we can do adequate testing and tracing, and when our health care system is ready for the inevitable increase in cases that will come with re-opening.

In questioning the wisdom of Colorado laws that give the governor broad power to respond to public health emergencies, Brauchler is aligning with Republicans across the country who are proposing legislation and filing lawsuits to roll back pandemic-related orders, like closing restaurants and requiring residents to shelter-in-place and wear masks.

In Colorado, Brauchler, who briefly ran for governor in 2018 before dropping out to launch a failed bid to be the state’s attorney general, appears to be the highest-profile Republican who’s proposing to trim Polis’ power.

State Rep. Rod Pelton, a conservative Republican from Eastern Colorado, said last month he’d like the General Assembly to “roll back” the governor’s power to issue public-health orders. He’d like to start on this when the legislature resumes next week, but it might have to wait until next year, he said.

Wynia called the type of legislative effort proposed by Pelton and Brauchler “purely political messaging” that has “no chance of success since the Democrats control both houses.”

“In that regard, it’s a waste of time at a moment when there are much more important things for legislators to be addressing,” wrote Wynia.

In his opinion column, Brauchler didn’t acknowledge that passing legislation now is next-to-hopeless with Democrats, including Polis himself, in charge of state government, but he did address the issue of legislators being too busy.

“And before the ‘we’re too busy’ crowd can claim that they have more important issues to address with their limited time, let me address those more pressing issues,” wrote Brauchler. “Outside of the state’s budget, an ironic victim of these very orders, what legislative action can result in as sweeping and devastating an impact on Coloradans as permitting a potential second, nearly unchecked shutdown of the state?”

Bruachler did not return a call for further comment.

Nationally, the most intense efforts to roll back the power of governors’ public-health orders, either via legislation or the courts, has occurred in key the presidential battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all of which have Republican-controlled legislative bodies and Democratic governors.

But Republican legislators in Ohio have targeted the authority of the state’s health director, leading fellow Republican governor Mike DeWine to tell them they should focus on coronavirus testing and the economy.

So far, actions to reduce gubernatorial power to fight the virus have failed nationally, according to James Hodge, director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University, but he predicted there will be “massive legislative and judicial battles ahead for the rest of the summer.”

Hodge, who helped develop model legislation designed to help state governments respond to health crises, said if roll-back efforts are successful, they could set back the government’s ability to deal with the pandemic.

When he drafted legislation, “governors essentially told us, ‘Spell out for what powers we might have, and let our legislators consider that and pass these specific provisions, and we’ll act based on those specific legislative authorizations,” said Hodge. “If you don’t spell that out, you create more chaos, not less,” he said.

It appears that Colorado law does not give more emergency powers to its governor than many other states, judging from comparisons available online and a review of emergency orders issued in other states.

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Mr. Polis Goes To Washington

Gov. Jared Pols and Vice President Mike Pence (4/18/20)

Colorado Public Radio reports on the event dominating Gov. Jared Polis’ work week, a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Donald Trump in a newly contaminated area of the city known as the White House:

“The Governor’s first priority is the health and safety of Coloradans, and the federal government is an important partner in Colorado’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Polis is expected to push for “more federal support during this global pandemic, including critical testing supplies and personal protective equipment” during the meeting, scheduled for Wednesday.

While Colorado has received shipments from the national stockpile, it hasn’t been enough to meet demand. And efforts to purchase supplies on the open market haven’t always worked out well for the state. At the start of the pandemic, Polis told CNN that one shipment was taken by the federal government.

Headlines over the weekend that staff uncomfortably close to both the President and the Vice President have tested positive for COVID-19 infections make this trip to Washington especially worrisome for Gov. Polis, and the apparent disregard for personal and therefore community safety expressed by both Trump and Mike Pence even after their staffers tested positive is also not what you’d call a good omen either. Gov. Polis has been nothing but diplomatic in his dealings with the Trump administration, even when it would be difficult or impossible for any reasonable person to avoid swear words–which will hopefully work in Colorado’s favor when the moment comes Wednesday to “kiss the ring” and ask Trump to come through with the equipment our state still very much needs.

Gov. Polis may not need hazard pay, but anyone obliged to visit the White House right now should get it.

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Gov. Polis To Veep Pence: Cover Your Damn Piehole, Please

UPDATE: Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen (er, “Mother”) says that the guy in charge of the White House coronavirus task force didn’t know that he was supposed to wear a mask

Sure, maybe Pence never noticed at any point that he was the only person in the room without a mask. Or maybe they were short one mask and Pence lost the coin flip.

—–

Vice President Mike Pence’s ongoing refusal to wear a non-medical mask to slow his potentially COVID-19 contaminated droplets as they exit his orifices became a national point of controversy earlier this week, when Pence flouted the policy of the world famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, greeting patients and doctors all clad in masks conspicuously without one of his own.

But a week before, as readers will recall, Pence previewed his au naturale babyface on a trip to Colorado to speak at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony–where he was greeted, some say confronted, by a mask wearing Gov. Jared Polis:

Gov. Jared Pols and Vice President Mike Pence (4/18/20)

Yesterday, CBS4 asked Gov. Polis about Pence’s mask resistance, and Polis once again was as diplomatic as he could be in tiptoeing around an obviously frustrating situation. After all, public expressions of displeasure with the Trump administration can have unfortunate consequences for mouthy state governors:

When asked about the behavior, Polis said “As elected officials I think we have an additional responsibility, with the soapbox we have, to practice what we preach.”

“I’m trying to be an ambassador for wearing masks. I walk to all my press conferences wearing a mask, take it off when I speak and I’m at the podium,” Polis said.

“I think elected officials should be role models and wear masks because they can save lives and help us return to economic normalcy sooner rather than later.” [Pols emphasis]

What’s the opposite of a role model? A cautionary tale. Hopefully the vice president doesn’t become one.

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Screw The Workers, Says Trump, The Meat Must Flow

Pork: it’s the new toilet paper.

Among the many headlines involving the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado has been the plight of thousands of workers in meat processing plants located in predominately conservative agricultural areas of the state like Weld County. At the JBS beef packing plant in Greeley, over 100 confirmed cases led to a very brief shutdown of the plant before controversially reopening late last week. The Denver Post reports:

A fifth employee at the JBS USA plant in Greeley died Sunday after contracting the novel coronavirus, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7.

Four workers at the Greeley beef plant have now died, as well as one person who worked at the JBS corporate office. The death of plant employee Way Ler, 61, comes two days after JBS reopened its Greeley plant after a nine-day closure prompted by the spread of the novel coronavirus among employees.

The plant reopened Friday after the company installed a variety of protections for workers designed to slow the spread of the virus, and most employees will return to work Monday, despite ongoing concerns about worker safety and a lack of testing for employees.

Vice President Mike Pence.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the JBS Greeley plant was sufficiently alarming earlier this month that Vice President Mike Pence himself acknowledged the situation, and promised federal support to test plant workers–as Denver7 reported back on April 10th:

Pence said he spoke with Polis about having those new testing resources for the plant in-state this weekend. [Pols emphasis]

“I want to encourage people in Colorado that we will work to support that effort, but I also want to emphasize that all the people that are working in food supply – from farmers, to meatpackers, to distributors, to truckers, to grocers – continue to have our gratitude,” Pence said.

Unfortunately, Denver7 updated 12 days later:

Contact7 Investigates has confirmed promises from the White House and JBS management to provide testing for employees at the massive meatpacking plant in Greeley have not been kept. [Pols emphasis]

But the plant reopened anyway–and instead of testing for every employee, JBS sent a cease-and-desist letter to Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 7 telling her in contractually threatening terms to pipe down.

And then, Bloomberg News reported today:

President Donald Trump plans to order meat-processing plants to remain open, declaring them critical infrastructure as the nation confronts growing disruptions to the food supply from the coronavirus outbreak, a person familiar with the matter said…

Trump signaled the executive action at the White House on Tuesday, saying he planned to sign an order aimed at Tyson Foods Inc.’s liability, which had become “a road block” for the company. He didn’t elaborate. [Pols emphasis]

The order, though, will not be limited to Tyson, the person said. It will affect many processing plants supplying beef, chicken, eggs and pork.

It looks to us like Colorado’s meat packing plant workers, many of whom speak English as a second language (if at all) and have been subject to inequities large and small while they labor to supply our nation’s ravenous appetite for meat, have been judged as expendable as the animals they process. As essential as their product may be, if these workers are not afforded the same protection as every other essential worker on the job in this pandemic, it’s going to be hard for anyone with a conscience to enjoy their juicy burger, grilled chicken sandwich, or honey-baked ham.

And we say that as devoted carnivores.

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Polis To Tipton: Kindly Stop Bullshitting People

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby updates a story we’ve been following of Western Slope Republicans led by Rep. Scott Tipton snowballing misinformation into a veritable avalanche of bullshit directed at Gov. Jared Polis, making absurd allegations about the distribution of COVID-19 relief funds that say more about the competence of Polis’ accusers than Polis:

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton knew, or at least should have known, that money from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package approved by Congress last month included no money for smaller local governments, Gov. Jared Polis said in a blistering letter to the Republican congressman this week…

“It is troubling that you continue to proliferate misinformation related to the $1.7 billion in the Coronavirus Relief Fund that the state and its local governments are slated to benefit from,” Polis wrote back to Tipton on Wednesday. [Pols emphasis]

“As you well know, the bill you and Congress developed not only reduced the requested funding needed for state governments, but inexplicably prohibited communities of 500,000 or less from accessing direct aid dollars,” Polis wrote. “We remain unclear why Congress chose to strictly prohibit communities of 500,000 or less from directly accessing aid dollars. As you and your Colorado congressional delegation colleagues indicated in a letter dated April 21, ‘Congress should not be picking winners and losers in our nationwide recovery.’ ”

As we wrote previously in unpacking the several layers of misinformation which contributed, Rep. Scott Tipton voted to approve the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act–which means he has absolutely no excuse for not knowing what what’s in the bill. Nevertheless, acting on a mistaken interpretation of the bill Tipton voted for by a local official, Tipton demanded Gov. Polis explain why the money wasn’t being allocated according to that mistaken interpretation. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Tipton initially alleged that Gov. Polis intended to use the money “to balance the state’s budget,” which is a function of the legislature, not the executive branch.

Even though the whole allegation falls apart under scrutiny and leaves Tipton and Republicans who parroted him looking like idiots, the problem is there are plenty of voters who will hear the misinformation on social media, see the name of a Congressman they trust, and not ask any more questions. They’ll never see the correction, and some of them won’t care if they do see it. This is how bogus information becomes part of the popular narrative, and responsible public figures on all sides have an obligation to not make the contemptible factual errors Tipton made in his silly allegations.

The most memed moment in Billy Madison fits perfectly:

Pretty much, folks.

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The Hardest Calls: Gov. Polis Weighs Life And Death Decisions

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As a team of Denver Post reporters detail for us, yesterday Gov. Jared Polis outlined a process by which the state of Colorado will begin to reopen the mostly-shuttered economy at the end of April after over a month of mandatory stay-at-home orders in place–orders which appear to have definitively turned the tide against the COVID-19 pandemic, though at great cost to the economy here in Colorado and across the globe.

The first stage of Colorado’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic is ending, but the second phase will be far from a return to normal life, Gov. Jared Polis said Monday as he laid out expectations for how the state will reopen after his stay-at-home order expires Sunday.

Coloradans will need to shift from staying at home to being “safer at home,” Polis said, outlining how the state’s order will morph into strong recommendations for residents with restrictions on the businesses that are able to slowly reopen in the coming weeks.

Polis said he expects retailers will have the option to reopen with curbside pickup beginning April 27, and then will be able to reopen to limited numbers of in-store customers on May 1, as long as they have social-distancing policies in place.

As Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, there is increasing evidence that the stay-at-home orders have been highly effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in this state:

Officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Colorado School of Public Health presented that data in a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon. “We did well,” said Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. “We’ve reduced the contact rate to 75%” and the curve — a measure that shows the peak of infections and when that peak takes place — is going down.

Despite the news that social distancing has begun to show results, the officials said that 65,000 to 75,000 Coloradans likely have contracted COVID-19, well above the 10,098 cases listed by CDPHE for Monday.

But as 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark pointed out last night, there’s a problem: one of the key preconditions previously voiced by Gov. Polis himself for reopening the economy as well as the consensus of health experts fighting the pandemic, widespread available testing for the disease to enable informed decisions from the statewide to the individual level, has not been met.

This undeniable change in the stated criteria for reopening Colorado’s economy cannot help but create legitimate concern that the pressure to do so is overcoming the best advice of public health officials battling the pandemic, which is to keep stay-at-home orders in place until ubiquitous testing and the containment strategies testing facilitates become feasible. As history shows, premature loosening of restrictions on public life can unleash a second wave of disease worse than the first.

Throughout this unprecedented emergency, we and every other responsible editorial voice have rejected the armchair quarterbacking of qualified experts by politicians who either don’t understand or don’t value the lives at stake. There is no question the tremendous damage being inflicted on the economy by this pandemic is a very serious crisis all its own, and requires intervention no less robust than control of the disease itself. At some level every medical expert also understands that economic devastation is also a public health threat. But the lives that would otherwise be lost have to come first.

What we can say is that the overwhelming trust Coloradans have for Gov. Polis right now shown in available polling is based on his perceived diligence in responding to the crisis, and overriding attention to public health before politics–even when it would be very tempting to focus on the Trump administration’s vast incompetence. Gov. Polis doesn’t need low-information protesters endangering themselves and others to know that getting Colorado functioning again economically is secondary in importance only to stopping the pandemic itself.

These are the hardest calls any leader has to make. The polls say Gov. Polis has earned the trust to make them.

And we must all now hope for the best.

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Even More Republicans Just Making Stuff Up

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

As the old saying goes, it’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble–it’s what you know for sure that just isn’t so. Western Slope Republicans are proving it’s still as true as ever. Congressman Scott Tipton, to kick things off, heard a rumor! And on the basis of that rumor made some very stern demands of Gov. Jared Polis:

“I am writing to seek more information on how the state of Colorado will allocate the approximately $1.7 billion it will receive under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to county and local governments. Rumors [Pols emphasis] that you plan to use the entirety of the federal aid to balance the state’s budget, and neglect to distribute the funds to smaller county, tribal and municipal governments for which they are intended, are deeply troubling…

I am extremely concerned about information I have received that indicates your office plans to use all of Colorado’s CARES Act funds to balance the state’s budget, [Pols emphasis] rather than allocate a portion of the funds to county and local governments to help offset their revenue losses and unforeseen expenses related to the pandemic. This decision would be completely unacceptable, against Congressional intent for these funds, and I request an immediate response from you or your office on this matter.”

“Several state and federal elected officials are telling local ones things that may not be true.”
Grand Junction Sentinel, 4/18/20

The full text of the letter has since been deleted from Tipton’s website, and there’s a good reason. Any of you who know who Colorado’s budget-setting process works, or for that matter we believe this process works across the country, should have by now taken note of a very basic problem. As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports:

In his regular COVID-19 press briefing, Polis said he spoke to Tipton and reminded him that as a former member of the Colorado House, he should know that it’s the Colorado Legislature, and not the governor, who controls the state’s purse strings, [Pols emphasis] so it’s up to them to decide how that money is to be spent.

You see, governors do not pass the budget. Governors recommend a budget, but budgets are assembled and passed by the legislature–the state legislature in Colorado that Rep. Scott Tipton used to be a member of, and the federal legislature we call “Congress” that Tipton is a member of today. Some of the money is earmarked in the federal CARES Act to go to larger population centers, but that’s of course not the same thing–and the exact opposite of what Tipton and the “rumor” he was acting on believed. Apparently Tipton’s “rumor” was a mistaken email from Colorado Counties Inc., but Tipton as a federal official has an obligation to vet allegations before they become the subject of official correspondence. Especially when the allegation is so wrong it’s silly.

After all, Tipton voted for this bill.

From here, Ashby documents how the lie traveled around the Western Slope while the truth was still getting its proverbial pants on:

The CCI email spurred Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and state Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, to repeat the false news on social media Friday.

“Shocker!,” Pugliese wrote on Twitter. “It appears the Polis Administration made the decision to use the state and local government CARES Act funding, almost $1.7 billion dollars, to balance the state’s budget.”

Rich later corrected her Facebook post after checking the matter with the U.S. Department of the Treasury… [Pols emphasis]

Seriously folks, doesn’t any Republican legislator west of the Divide understand how their own jobs work? Sen. Bob Rankin serves on the Joint Budget Committee and definitely knows better than this. Two seconds’ consultation with Rankin might have spared Tipton and Rep. Rich a lot of embarrassment. We assume he was not on the Zoom call.

The real problem, of course, is that this kind of misinformation always travels farther and faster than the subsequent correction. Social media misinformation in particular can exponentially outrun the mainstream media’s less captivating reality, like a self-selected virus. Despite the best efforts of the Grand Junction Sentinel, voters on the Western Slope will go into the election season convinced that Jared Polis swiped their cash to balance his big-city budget.

We can only hope not too many, and other voters who don’t like being lied “rumored” to outnumber them.

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Caption This Photo: Polis Confronts The Veep

Vice President Mike Pence landed moments ago in Colorado Springs to speak at the Air Force Academy’s as-socially-distanced-as-possible commencement ceremony. Vice President Pence was met on the tarmac at Petersen Air Force Base by Gov. Jared Polis, and it appears a fairly…animated discussion took place:

To be a fly on that tarmac, right? We’re excited to hear what they were talking about, whether it’s the recent FEMA ventilator grab in the headlines or COVID tests with your 7-Eleven Big Gulp. Or maybe Gov. Polis is starting with the basics, explaining to Pence that COVID didn’t “disappear” after all. Stay tuned, and feel free to speculate in the meantime.

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Gov. Polis Emotional Over GOP Nazi Talk: “We Act To Save Lives”

UPDATE: Via the Denver Post’s Alex Burness, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville starts the backpedaling:

Sometimes it’s better to just stop talking. The Nevilles don’t know how to do that.

—–

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

During today’s briefing by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Polis was asked about Republicans who have lashed out at his and public health authorities’ orders for most Coloradans to stay at home as “tyranny” and even, as GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville put it, “a Gestapo-like mentality”–in reference to, in case you were sleeping in high school history class, the secret police in Nazi Germany.

Gov. Polis, who happens to be the first Jewish governor of the state of Colorado, had a strong reaction to this question. Transcript follows, but watching the video is necessary to grasp the full weight of the scene:

REPORTER: We’re hearing a lot of reports around here, and I know I’ve seen some stuff going on statewide about neighbors reporting on other neighbors for not following the orders, seeing a lot of rebellion out here against your orders, which have been called tyrannical, against local health department orders being equated to Nazism, um, what do you how do you react to that, what do you say to those people who are really getting frustrated with this uh stay at home order?

GOV. POLIS: Well first of all, you know, as a, a Jewish American who lost family in the Holocaust I’m offended by it. (Pause) Any comparison to Nazism. We act (pause) we act to save lives, the exact opposite (pause) of the slaughter of six million Jews, and many Gypsies and Catholics and gays and lesbians and Russians and so many others.

That being said, we know that these steps are difficult. And it’s not a contest to see what you can get away with. It’s a contest to see how well you can stay at home. You’re not, by not staying at home, by having parties, by congregating, you’re not–you’re not sticking it to the government, you’re not sticking it to Jared Polis. You’re sticking it to yourself.

Because you’re putting yourself and your loved ones in jeopardy. And you’re prolong-prolonging the economic pain and difficulties that your fellow Coloradans face. Now is the time for us to act with unity, to act together, to be able to do the best that we can to stay at home except when absolutely necessary, so we can open up sooner, rather than later, so that we can have more freedom quicker rather than later, and we can create a sustainable way for us to get by as a state and as a country.

As progressive Democrats go, Gov. Polis is one of the more libertarian-minded free market enthusiasts you can find. Even in the pursuit of progressive policy aims like expanding health care access and paid family leave, Polis has favored a market-based approach over traditional public institutions–which has made him a point of controversy more than once, and again this year.

The idea that Gov. Polis wants to impose even a little bit of economic hardship on the state, let alone the painful restrictions on the economy which have been necessary to reduce the death toll from COVID-19, is simply absurd to anyone who knows Polis’ values and and has followed his almost two decades in elected office. There is no reason to doubt Gov. Polis’ sincerity in wanting to get Colorado through this emergency intact, any more than we would doubt Polis’ offense over Patrick Neville’s outlandish Nazi rhetoric is genuine.

Watch the video. Every Coloradan needs to watch this.

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Why Can’t Jared Polis Fight Back, You Ask?

Donald Trump.

Responding to the latest damage control efforts from the Trump administration over the co-opting of 500 ventilators previously bound for Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis was more diplomatic than we could ever hope to be–but did not change the state’s position, via the Colorado Sun’s Unaffiliated newsletter today:

A Polis spokesman did not address the FEMA statement directly, but reiterated to The Post what the state was told — that Colorado’s order had been canceled by FEMA. [Pols emphasis] Polis first made the claim about the federal government taking ventilators from Colorado on CNN, but since then he’s declined to discuss it.

As we explained previously today, the facts don’t support sloughing the blame for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) commandeering Colorado-bound ventilator machines off on Gov. Polis. Reports across the country suggest that the Trump administration is appropriating large amounts of medical equipment ordered by other entities; and local governments who complain are getting similar excuses. While it’s true that the federal government has the power to do this, it frustratingly contradicts President Donald Trump’s own advice that states go it alone to buy equipment on the open market.

And the real problem, as Sen. Cory Gardner’s ham-fisted prevailing on Trump personally for 100 of the 500 ventilators originally ordered revealed, is Trump’s redistribution of the equipment is based on politics instead of medical need.

Last week’s scandal over 500 ventilator machines commandeered by the Trump administration, of which 100 were “generously” returned after Gardner kissed the proverbial ring, threw into sharp relief an emerging central truth about Donald Trump’s leadership in the greatest crisis the United States has faced since the Second World War: politics, as it has improperly dominated Trump’s foreign and domestic policy agenda, is the principal consideration governing Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump’s smack-talk spats with Democratic governors like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were made much darker by overt suggestions that he doesn’t talk to governors he doesn’t like, even in the midst of the current emergency.

This Tweet from Trump this morning can be easily interpreted as a not-so-veiled threat against Democratic governors who have complained about any number of deficiencies in the federal government’s response to the pandemic–from commandeered equipment to the woefully inadequate testing program which forced Democrat and eventually most Republican governors to shut down their states’ economies to slow the spread of the virus. This Tweet, even judged against Trump’s unprecedented disregard for basic standards of integrity and decency that have been observed by every previous American president, is monstrous and shameful to a hardly comprehensible extreme.

And yes, this horrendous situation, in which life-and-death decisions in a global crisis are at the whim of an incompetent, amoral President and his equally amoral political subordinates, is precisely why Gov. Polis is exercising such restraint in responding to Trump’s daily roller-coaster of outrageous mismanagement. To not do so could invite Trump’s wrath, and that could result in Coloradans dying.

For Gov. Polis’ steadiness under pressure, every Coloradan should be grateful.

But it’s disturbing to speculate how much lower Donald Trump might go.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 14)

Happy Pan American Day; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

Damage control! Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and President Trump are both attempting to re-spin last week’s version of coronavirus pork barrel politics, in which Trump approved 100 ventilators for Colorado only after receiving a personal call from Gardner (and after Gov. Jared Polis said the federal government snatched up 500 ventilators that Colorado had already ordered). Click here to read more.

 

► President Trump held a 2 1/2 hour press conference on Monday afternoon/evening in which he mostly talked about what a great job he was doing as Commander in Chief and denigrated the media in general; one CNN story called it a “Presidential tantrum.” Ashley Parker of The Washington Post has a great rundown of Trump’s horrendously self-serving diatribe. Chris Cillizza of CNN breaks out 39 of Trump’s most ridiculous statements, including his early foray into media bashing:

“Now, with that, I have a couple of interesting — we have a few clips that we’re just going to put up. We could turn the lights a little bit lower. I think you will find them interesting.”

At this point, the President of the United States ran a propaganda reel/campaign ad touting how great he has done on dealing with the coronavirus. It ran on the White House grounds while Trump was in his official role as President of the United States. If you don’t have a problem with that, you aren’t paying attention.

Trump also made sure to mention that he has the sole authority to “reopen” the country regardless of the input of state governors. This is not true. At all.

“The authority of the president of the United States having to do with the subject we’re talking about is total.”

It just isn’t. Trump cannot rescind executive orders made by governors in states related to school closures or stay-at-home orders. Also, isn’t Trump a Republican? And didn’t Republicans build their party on a limited federal government and expansive state governments? Doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Governors across the country are pushing back on Trump’s 10th Amendment ignorance.

 

Last week Wisconsin held a shaky Primary Election after the conservative-majority State Supreme Court overruled the Governor’s request to delay voting on account of coronavirus. In a remarkable bit of karmic electoral magic, a Democrat managed to knock off a Republican running for re-election on the very same State Supreme Court. As The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky won the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, narrowing the conservative majority after a tumultuous election conducted in the midst of a global pandemic, according to unofficial results released Monday.

Karofsky’s victory marked the first time in a dozen years that a Supreme Court challenger beat an incumbent — and just the second time in more than half a century. Her win over Justice Daniel Kelly will shift conservative control of the court from 5-2 to 4-3.

Appearing by video conference from her home with her son and daughter behind her, Karofsky thanked her family and supporters and decried the decision to hold the election during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Look, we shouldn’t have had the election on Tuesday,” she said. “It was an untenable decision (on whether to vote), but the people of the state of Wisconsin rose up.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

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Poll Shows 30%+ Gap In Trump, Polis COVID-19 Approval

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

MSN reports the results of a (full disclosure) Microsoft News poll:

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the United States, state governors must assess the situation and make decisions on stay-at-home orders, business closures and rally services to respond to health care needs.

Americans’ views on how their state governors are handling the coronavirus crisis vary widely, but on average governors are receiving significantly higher ratings than President Trump for his response, according to Microsoft News sentiment polling. [Pols emphasis]

Microsoft News asked Americans this week how they felt about the way their governors, as well as President Trump, responded to the crisis.

Governors received favorable ratings of 72% on average, compared to 45% for President Trump.

Gov. Jared Polis beats the average with 75% of Coloradans approving of Polis’ handling of the crisis–compared to President Donald Trump’s 43% approval in Colorado, near where he’s been stuck for most of his presidency. Faithful Republican states predictably give Trump and GOP governors higher marks, but in Florida, GOP Rick DeSantis is struggling for public support at 53% with Trump at only 45%. Nuanced results like these tell us that the public, or at least the sample of the public in this poll, understands keenly what’s been necessary to confront this crisis–and who has and has not served the public interest when it was needed most.

As we all struggle to understand what the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic means for the upcoming 2020 elections, this is a much-needed data point. We’ll be watching for and Republicans will be dreading corroborative results.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (April 13)

“April showers bring May flowers.” What’s the rhyme for “April snow…”? Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

BECAUSE CORONAVIRUS…

*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:
http://covid19.colorado.gov

*How you can help in Colorado:
COVRN.com

 

Politico looks at how states around the country are confused about how to get medical supplies from the federal government. Colorado is now the canonical example for this new form of pork barrel politics:

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was pleading with the federal government to send ventilators.

The state was starting to see hundreds of new coronavirus cases pop up each day, and Polis, a Democrat, worried that hospitals wouldn’t have enough life-saving ventilators to deal with the looming spike.

So he made an official request for ventilators through the Federal Emergency Management System, which is managing the effort. That went nowhere. He wrote to Vice President Mike Pence, leader of the White House’s coronavirus task force. That didn’t work. He tried to purchase supplies himself. The federal government swooped in and bought them.

Then, on Tuesday, five weeks after the state’s first coronavirus case, the state’s Republican Sen. Cory Gardner called President Donald Trump. The federal government sent 100 ventilators to Colorado the next day, but still only a fraction of what the state wanted.

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, who is also one of the most endangered Republican Senators in the country, was also awarded with 100 ventilators by the federal government over the weekend. Meanwhile, states continue to struggle with getting and maintaining help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

 

The big story of the weekend was a stunning expose from The New York Times detailing exactly how the Trump administration failed to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak.

Via The New York Times (4/11/20)

Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.

The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials. It was a problem, he said, that had come out of nowhere and could not have been foreseen…

…Unfolding as it did in the wake of his impeachment by the House and in the midst of his Senate trial, Mr. Trump’s response was colored by his suspicion of and disdain for what he viewed as the “Deep State” — the very people in his government whose expertise and long experience might have guided him more quickly toward steps that would slow the virus, and likely save lives.

Chris Cillizza of CNN breaks down this incredibly damning story.

The President is not taking the criticism well, as you would expect, raging in every direction as he looks for people to blame who aren’t named Trump. There are growing concerns that Trump may be looking to oust Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the nation’s foremost experts on coronavirus. #FireTrumpNotFauci was trending Monday on social media platforms.

 

Weld County now holds the top spot for the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in Colorado. It can’t help that Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) keeps questioning the advice of health experts.

 

If you’re looking for political news that isn’t about Coronavirus, it’s available right after the jump…

 

(more…)

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