• 06/24/2024

    Best And Worst of Colorado Politics 2023

    December 19, 2023
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    Governor Polis driving the bus!

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    By Pam Long

    Colorado politics are confusing by design. It can be challenging to determine who works for you as an elected representative and who works for themselves and interested parties. Author Pam Long explains what happened in 2023 in her essay The Best and the Worst of Colorado Politics 2023.

    Listen to what happened in 2023, right here:

    For those who respect the Constitution and capitalism, then this summary reflects the best and worst of Colorado politics in 2023. This year elected officials in the Democrat supermajority of the Colorado capitol governed by idealism rather than policies based in sound economic policy, biology, or transparency.

    Best Legislative Victory: Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Protect 2A

    In 2022, Colorado quietly staffed and funded “The Office of Gun Violence Prevention” under CDPHE to push a long-term agenda of incremental gun control. Democrats started the 2023 legislative session by introducing five bills aimed to infringe on the Second Amendment. As NPR reported, Gov. Polis signed four gun control bills into law in April, and “gun rights groups sued to reverse two of the measures: raising the buying age for any gun from 18 to 21, and establishing a three-day waiting period between the purchase and receipt of a gun.” A third new law expands the red flag law, and the fourth new law removes liability protections from gun manufacturers. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) and grassroots activism defeated HB23-1230 Mass Shooting Prevention Act, which was an “assault” weapons ban. RMGO protected citizens’ right to bear arms.

    Worst State Policy: Defund the Police to Increase Crime

    According to the Common Sense Institute report on Colorado Crime,

    Colorado’s crime has risen to one of the highest rates in the nation in the past ten years. As of 2022, Colorado ranked 4th highest nationally for combined property and violent crime rates according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data. This is a dramatic decrease from the 2012 ranking of 31st. Both property and violent crime rates have risen steadily since the early 2010s, speeding up in the early 2020s. The state ranked 3rd in the nation for property crime rates and 8th in the nation for violent crime rates.”

    Despite the crime rate decrease between 2021 and 2022, the state’s crime rates still outpace the nation’s and neighboring states. Colorado’s crime rate is 56% higher than for the U.S. overall, and it is higher than seven of its neighboring states. Only in New Mexico is the crime rate higher than Colorado’s (3%).”

    Compared to other US cities, “Denver ranks 3rd in property crime, 4th in motor vehicle thefts, and 20th in both aggravated assault and overall violent crime.”

    Second Place in Worst State Policy: A runner up is awarded to Gov. Polis’ sanctuary state of Colorado busing immigrants to other states. According to NBC News, “Colorado ends short-lived program to bus migrants to Chicago and NYC.” The mayors of both cities demanded that Gov. Polis stop sending migrants to them in January 2023. Later in 2023, Colorado officials started publicly warning migrants about the high cost of living in Colorado to deter immigration. According to KDVR, “In the last year, the Mile High City has supported more than 30,000 migrants. The influx has cost the city more than $36 million.”

    Best Defense of TABOR Refunds: Natalie Menten

    For the 60% of Colorado voters who rejected Proposition HH, we all need to thank fiscal hawk Natalie Menten, on the board of directors for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights Foundation. Menten wrote several strategic articles at Complete Colorado on how the public could defeat Proposition HH and keep their TABOR refunds.

    Menten, who lives in Jefferson County, is a long-time activist who spends much of her time during election season educating voters about ballot issues and how to oppose them through the little-known TABOR clause that often goes unused.”

    Menten publicly celebrated the financial benefits of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights in January 2023 when politicians in the legislature indicated intent to circumvent TABOR. In August 2023, she educated the public in a series of articles explaining how local governments could reduce property taxes on their own, how the public could provide input by deadlines on the ballot issue notice comments and the ballot information guide, and counter the deceptive language of Proposition HH to all voters throughout the state. By September 2023, the Prop. HH opposition campaign had built momentum with a long list of opposition groups and organizations, as well as a lawsuit.

    Many fiscal conservatives like Advance Colorado Action worked to educate the public on Prop. HH, but Menten went the extra mile to deliver specific actionable items to influence the entire electorate.

    Worst Attack on TABOR: Gov. Jared Polis

    After Republicans twice called for a special session for property tax relief, Gov. Polis instead directed Democrats to ram through Prop. HH (SB23-303) in the last three days of session. Prop. HH was a deceptive bill under the title of “Reduce Property Taxes and Voter-approved Revenue Change,” in order for the state to retain billions of dollars in TABOR refunds for a minimal reduction in property taxes. Voters rejected Prop. HH and Gov. Polis was then forced to hold a special session to mitigate skyrocketing property taxes, with some counties reporting increases in residential valuations up to 40-60%. As reported by the Colorado Sun, this special session “reduced the residential assessment rate for the 2023 tax year to 6.7% from 6.765%.”  The Colorado Sun provided tax calculators to determine how much money this special session (with a taxpayer cost of 4 days at $96,000) will affect your wallet, so you can thank Gov. Polis for his 0.065% relief!

    In-depth coverage of the special session was summarized by Free State Colorado:

    “The primary purpose of the Session was to provide property tax relief due to the skyrocketing property tax bills coming next year. Unfortunately, the Democratic-controlled Legislature used this as an opportunity to push a variety of pet projects, steal money from the TABOR pool, and provide only a minimal reduction in property taxes. It was a slap in the face to voters, who defeated Proposition HH just two weeks ago.  Not only that, but the Special Session lacked transparency, with bills not being available until minutes before they were to be voted upon. Coloradans should be ashamed of the so-called “representatives” who make up the majority in the Legislature.”

    CPR conveyed the reaction of 85% of taxpayers who do not qualify for increases in welfare programs:

    Republicans, meanwhile, decried the policy changes as a socialist-style wealth transfer, and they claimed it was counter to the will of voters, who had just rejected Proposition HH, containing some of the same ideas. ‘The people who pay little or nothing in taxes get the majority of the benefits and the real taxpayers got little or nothing,’ said Sen. Larry Liston, a Republican.”

    Best Elected Official: Sen. Kevin Van Winkle

    The Colorado Republican Party tweeted on November 15, 2023,

    Colorado Republicans oppose any measure, from either side, that attempts to backfill or ‘buffer’ local governments with taxpayer dollars, whether General Fund Reserves or TABOR Surplus. The only group who need[s] to be ‘backfilled’ are the taxpayers, not greedy politicians and government bureaucrats. We support the Van Winkle Plan that would cap the increase in property values to limit the runaway tax increases homeowners are getting saddled with.”

    The Sum and Substance reported,

    Sen. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, expressed a sentiment shared by many in his party when he called the bill a ‘drop in the bucket’ rather than an effort to provide maximum possible relief, which is what Polis told legislators he wanted from the session. Van Winkle also criticized the plan for failing to offer any relief to commercial properties.

    ‘When a family goes shopping for groceries, they will still be hit with these property-tax increases that are built into their prices,’ said Van Winkle, who also saw a committee reject his bill to cap property-tax increases at 6% for bills going out early next year.”

    Axios published a concise summary of Democrat supermajority economics which are driving up the cost of living in “Colorado hit by tsunami of higher taxes, new fees, and paycheck cuts.”

    Van Winkle is also a candidate for Douglas County Commissioner in 2024.

    Worst Elected Official: SOS Jena Griswold (consecutive annual awardee)

    Secretary of State Jena Griswold deviated from her job description to conduct a press tour promoting a lawsuit to keep Former President Trump off the 2024 ballot, based on incitement allegations which Trump has not been charged with nor convicted of. Griswold made numerous appearances in the press to promote her preferred decision in a legal proceeding: MSNBC News,  PBSCNN. This bizarre press tour promoting a lawsuit against a candidate (instead of letting a judge decide eligibility) is a radical departure from Griswold’s official duties listed in the Election Division as listed: “Supervises elections, maintains statewide voter registration file, verifies initiative petition signatures, and administers the campaign finance laws.” Is a Secretary of State capable of supervising fair elections after a press campaign promoting a witch-hunt lawsuit against a Republican presidential candidate? Did Griswold disqualify herself with demonstrated bias as serving as Secretary of State? Are there any attorneys who will petition a judge to decide her eligibility? This judge rejected the bid to keep Trump off the ballot in 2024. And if anyone is new to Colorado politics, the six “Republicans” who initiated this failed lawsuit likely qualify as RINOs, or Republican in Name Only.

    Best Grassroots Support of Public Decency Codes: Castle Rock

    Leading up to August 2023, Castle Rock, Colorado had previous PrideFest events where children were exposed to men performing in women’s burlesque costumes in adult themed dances, in which body parts were exposed and children were encouraged to participate with adult performers. Prior to the 2023 event, Douglas County Commissioners and Castle Rock Town Council attempted to ignore hundreds of citizens seeking enforcement of public decency codes at the Douglas County Fairgrounds where the event was scheduled. When elected representatives failed to protect minor children from the sexual themed show, 75 men blocked the show while wearing shirts with a “stand up for children” message. As a result of grassroots activism and media backlash, the Town Council updated its decency code for taxpayer-funded public venues, and subsequently the PrideFest event organizers announced they would find a private venue in the future.

    Worst Activism: Denver School Board

    In November 2023, Denver School Board blamed social media for the mental health crisis and teen suicide epidemic, and it joined a lawsuit against social media platforms. The attorneys have agreed to take 33.3% of any potential financial settlement, and they claim the taxpayer-funded school board will not bear any costs. According to the Denver Gazette, the lawsuit will attempt to prove that social media causes “unrealistic body ideals” that can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The hypocrisy of this claim is evident in the Denver Public Schools partnership with A Queer Endeavor to promote multiple genders to students which are not consistent with biological sexes of male and female. The Denver School Board’s class action decision also cites loss in classroom instruction due to the distraction of social media. However, the Denver School Board never filed a similar lawsuit against CDPHE for the educational losses and mental health crisis caused by prolonged school closures during COVID-19, resulting in “suicide as the leading cause of death for youth and young adults, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health.” The real agenda in this lawsuit is likely rooted in a censorship goal as indicated in the last sentence of the article, “The social media lawsuit comes amidst a growing movement to regulate the internet.”

    Best Civil Disobedience: Kenneth Jones

    In August 2023, a United Airlines pilot used an ax to remove a malfunctioning parking lot gate in the employee parking lot at Denver International Airport (DIA). As reported by CBS News,

    Jones told law enforcement that he was trying to leave the employee lot but there were six cars in each line at the lot’s exit point. Jones told deputies he ‘was trying to get rid of issues for everyone waiting.’”

    What the media failed to report on in this act of civil disobedience is that DIA parking exit ticket reading machines had been malfunctioning for over a year on a regular basis leading up to this incident. When the parking exit machine fails to read a ticket, employees do not help at the machine nor answer the call button. The stuck vehicle owner must direct a line of traffic behind the vehicle to back up, wait for a chance to clear several lanes of oncoming traffic, and drive to a drive-thru lane of an office. At the office window, the employee makes the vehicle wait while he scans thousands of cars in video footage to determine when the vehicle arrived at the parking lot and to determine the fee. (This happened to me in December 2022 at night in a blizzard, and it creates a very unsafe situation for people getting out of the cars in oncoming traffic.)

    Is it likely that this pilot had experienced parking exit gate malfunctions prior to this incident in order to have an ax in his vehicle? It should be noted that pilots have mandatory crew rest hours to complete before they can show up for duty and their next scheduled flights, which impacts airline customers with delays and cancelled flights if crew rest is disrupted. This pilot flew hundreds of people across the world safely and just wanted to get out of the parking lot and go home. DIA, with high rates of vehicle theft and over 2-hour waits in security lines, has numerous nominations for “worst airport in America” on Twitter.

    Jones agreed to 30 hours of community service and $700 in damages.

    Worst Political Agenda Promotion: Trish Zornio

    Trish Zornio (D) wrote “Gas prices are rising, and that’s (mostly) a good thing.”  Zornio is a radical believer of climate change, and her article celebrated higher gas prices (up to $20 a gallon) to “motivate” us to give up gas, rely on public transit, and transition to renewables, while conceding the financial strain on low income and middle class. She argues the U.S. should remove oil and gas subsidies due to allegedly “artificially keeping afloat an industry that probably would have sunk long ago if left to its own devices.” Zornio, a self-proclaimed scientist, bases her argument by comparing international oil and gas subsidies (trillions of dollars) to U.S. renewable subsidies (billions of dollars). This is not a like for like comparison. When comparing U.S. subsidies in oil and gas to U.S. subsidies in renewables, the data indicates that renewables are not able to stand on their own devices. According to the Institute for Energy Research:

    Traditional fuels (coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear) received just 15 percent of all subsidies between FY 2016 and FY 2022, while renewables, conservation and end use received a whopping 85 percent. Renewable subsidies more than doubled between FY 2016 and FY 2022, increasing to $15.6 billion in fiscal year 2022 from $7.4 billion in fiscal year 2016 (both in 2022 dollars). Federal subsidies and incentives to support renewable energy in fiscal year 2022 were almost 5 times higher than those for fossil energy, which totaled $3.2 billion in subsidies.” 

    In FY 2022, the U.S. spent $15.6 billion in renewable subsidies and $3.2 billion in oil and gas subsidies. This disparity in the return on investment becomes even larger considering the number of people who benefit from renewable energy is much less than the number of people who benefit from oil and gas.

    Can someone explain to Zornio that Colorado is one of the U.S.’s top producers of crude oil and natural gas, and her recommendation to end this industry and the jobs associated with it is not “a good thing”? According to American Petroleum Institute, oil and gas supported 69,000 direct jobs and 271,000 indirect jobs in Colorado in 2019, which is the latest data available. 

    Best School District Program: Elizabeth

    In September 2023, Elizabeth School Board passed a resolution banning what it called “COVID theater” including mask mandates, experimental vaccine mandates, and social distancing. The School Board decided that these decisions are matters of health decided by parents. All these COVID-19 measures were pseudoscience recommendations promoted by CDPHE and based in hysteria, without research-based evidence of effectiveness. None of these CDPHE recommendations were established protocols in decades of pandemic response plan development. “Social distancing” as a euphemism for social isolation is known to cause mental health harms, and therefore limited to short periods of time in the most violent of criminal offenders. Other school districts are considering similar resolutions to prevent future harmful responses based in pseudoscience from public health departments.

    Worst School District Program: Poudre ISD Bus Driver

    Poudre School District (PSD) and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) are defendants in a lawsuit in which allegedly the school district hired a bus driver with a history of child abuse and allegedly withheld video evidence of additional victims when student abuse was substantiated in an initial investigation. According to the Coloradoan,

    The civil lawsuit, filed Friday in Denver, is separate from the criminal proceedings against Tyler Zanella, a former bus attendant who is facing 164 charges, including 34 felony counts of assault against at-risk victims, for incidents police say took place while he was working on PSD buses transporting children with special needs to and from school. Police have identified at least 11 named victims, primarily nonverbal autistic children, in the criminal case through video surveillance from buses Zanella was assigned to last spring.

    The lawsuit says video footage includes sound and shows Zanella striking students with his fist and cellphone on or near the head, banging the heads of some against the school bus windows, verbally harassing and taunting them, hitting one student on the leg, touching the genitals of another in way that would constitute sexual battery, and making racially derogatory statements toward a biracial victim.

    Second Place in Worst School District Program: A runner up in this category is awarded to all school districts who refuse to increase pay for bus drivers to a wage competitive with Amazon drivers, and subsequently not offering transportation to general education students while paying private companies millions of dollars in contracts to students in special education, foster care, and homeless situations who are required by law to have school transportation.

    As reported by the Colorado Sun in “Are private transportation companies the solution to Colorado’s school bus driver shortage?”,

    “Companies such as HopSkipDrive, EverDriven and Noah Care are being used to transport our students due to the perceived staffing crisis, a crisis created by low wages, subpar benefits and a lack of proper hiring practices such as advertising jobs at the incorrect pay rates,” Trevor Byrne, a bus driver and president of the Jefferson County Transportation Association told the local school board. “What we don’t want is for this temporary Band-Aid to become a permanent solution.” 

    Jeffco Public Schools spent $2.7 million and Denver Public Schools spent $9.5 million on transportation contractors last school year. Twenty-five other districts in Colorado are also using private contracted drivers.

    Best Care for Humans: Rocky Mountain IV Medics & Hydrate IV Bar

    The pandemic response opened the eyes of many people on how the medical industrial complex refuses to participate in preventative medicine, or early treatment therapies which lessen the individual’s chance of developing severe illness and needing hospital care. Hospitalization is far too profitable to promote preventative medicine. Subsequently, private companies are emerging to offer in-home, affordable IV therapy for mild illness onset. Rocky Mountain IV Medics offers hydration, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help recovery and boost the immune system. Hydrate IV Bar was named one of the winners of the 2023 Colorado Companies to Watch. Hydrate IV Bar offers IV therapy for wellness and beauty in a spa-like setting.

    Worst Care for Humans: Funeral Home and Family Court’s Parent Evaluators

    CBS News reported in October 2023 the “Discovery of 189 decaying bodies in Colorado funeral home suggests families received fake ashes.” Return to Nature Funeral Home is under investigation.

    The Gazette reported in “Colorado parental evaluation industry faces call for audit, tougher rules after fake Ph.D. Scandal” that it was discovered that Shannon McShane, an evaluator who made decisions on child custody decisions, had fake credentials. In Colorado, litigant parents in custody disputes must pay thousands of dollars for a private parent responsibility evaluator (PRE) instead of a court appointed evaluator. Another Colorado PRE, Mark Kilmer, dismissed 90% of abuse allegations, and he himself had a prior arrest and charge for assault and domestic violence.

    Both the funeral home industry and parent evaluator program lack oversight in Colorado.

    Best Advocacy for Students: CPAN

    Colorado’s Parent Advocacy Network provides educational events on school choice, school safety, parental rights, and transparency on political agendas in schools.

    Worst Advocacy for Students: Crisis Hotlines for Minors

    Lori Gimelshteyn, Executive Director of CPAN, discussed on the Kim Monson Show what happened when she posed as a 9-year-old girl on the school-sanctioned crisis hotline using a texting application. The student thought she was possibly transgender, and she did not want to tell her parents. The hotline employee responded to her that they would keep it a secret from her parents, and the employee asked her many leading questions about self-harm and suicide. The student responded that she did not know what self-harm was, and the hotline employee gave her a detailed description. The hotline employee also connected her to The Trevor Project, which is an LGBT organization. The hotline advertises that callers remain anonymous, but the student was asked to provide her full name, birthdate, and zip code. The student was also under the age of 12, but she was not refused advice per the hotline policies. Hotline “counselors” receive a three to six-week training course and one day of mock phone calls.

    People can listen to the full interview with Gimelshteyn on the Kim Monson Show,

    “Parents should stay informed about the teaching of gender and sexuality in K12 schools. In this context, Gimelshteyn has praised the documentary Art Club for illuminating the agendas within educational institutions. Adding to this discourse, the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network has introduced a new report form. This tool is specifically designed for parents who wish to report any activities in schools that they find concerning or suspicious, thereby facilitating greater parental involvement and oversight in school curriculums and activities.”

    Pam Long

    Pam Long

    Pam Long is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, US Army Veteran, and a former Medical Intelligence Officer.

    Published with Permission of the author, Pam Long. Originally Published by The Kim Monson Show.

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