A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Loveland Reporter-Herald, Dec. 2, on abuse of the recall system:
Gun laws trigger legitimate differences of opinion. Lawmakers in the Colorado Legislature passed new gun rules this year that generated the kind of opposition that's deeply passionate. But the nature of the opposition that led to the resignation of Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak last week showed how strident disagreement can lead to a distortion of the democratic process. It was a regrettable instance of rank partisanship and cynical opportunism leading to abuse of the political process.
Hudak faced a recall election that adversaries threatened over her support of legislation that expanded gun background checks and banned large ammunition magazines. Two Democratic senators already were recalled over the legislation, and the loss of Hudak to a recall would have meant the possibility of Republicans wresting control of the Senate from Democrats. With her resignation, Democrats are able to name their own successor to Hudak's seat.
The democratic process has a clear, efficient way of dealing with representatives who, short of corruption or malfeasance, fail to represent constituent interests, and that is through the regular election system. Don't like the positions a senator took during a given term? Don't vote for that senator next time.
The recall process is meant for extreme cases. What will state politics look like when every legislator faces a recall every time he casts a vote an opposition group disagrees with?
Gun rights advocates were not just challenging an individual legislator but were ingenuously ripping through what was designed as a minute opening in the state's recall provisions. You might have thought they would have claimed victory when Hudak resigned, but they seemed almost as deflated as Hudak's supporters. They had lost the chance to take over the Senate, which was the real prize. Notable is the fact that earlier this year, organizers tried and failed to collect enough signatures for Hudak's recall. But after two recalls elsewhere in the state were successful, the effort was renewed with paid signature gatherers backed by people out of her district looking to change the overall makeup of the chamber.
If a majority of the state's electorate truly opposes increased gun restrictions, this should be reflected in the makeup of the Senate. But such a shift should not be forced by aiming the gun of recall at senators' heads.
The Daily Camera, Dec. 4, on labelling genetically modified organisms:
Voters in Colorado may be the next to decide whether the state should embark on a program that would provide food labels for products containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
If approved by the voters, the Colorado Right to Know Act would require food manufacturers or distributors to label GMO food and food products starting in 2016.
The fight over such labels has been piecemeal -- and particularly noisy because it attracts such major political players as Monsanto and the Organic Consumers Association. Major corporations like Safeway, Kroger and Walmart -- which operate a domestic operation in states with potentially conflicting labeling laws -- are watching with interest.
Proponents of GMO labels should not be confused with those who want to ban GMOs based mainly on as yet unfounded health repercussions. A widely distributed and very controversial study linking GMO corn with cancer in rats was recently discredited. The Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, which published the study by French scientists, has retracted the story. But its impact was already felt, leading to policy work geared toward banning GMO products.
But the labels are about consumer preferences and choices, not eliminating a category of food before it is warranted. There is no reason to fight those labels, any more than there was a reason to lump all fats into one category. That fight ignored the fact that a growing number of American shoppers wanted to avoid trans fats. Those labels were required by the Food and Drug Administration long before it decided the science has proven trans fats are unsafe.
A federal standard would be preferable; the commerce of agriculture, food production and retail is an interstate affair. Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, D-2nd CD, introduced such a bill earlier this year.
A New York Times poll this year found that 93 percent of respondents want GMO ingredients to be properly labeled. An earlier poll by the Washington Post found 94 percent of respondents favored the labels.
Despite such support, results of such initiatives have been mixed. Opponents have so far won over several voters by saying it will make food too expensive. This is a hard argument to swallow. People who don't care about how their foods were grown can choose their foods based on price points. People who care about GMOs would pay a premium if they so choose and if they can afford it, just as organic and locavore shoppers do now. They might do so out of health fears, but they may do so because of a preference for certain farming practices or because they think food produced with heirloom produce tastes better. No matter their reason, they should get a choice.
Maine and Connecticut have GMO label laws that would depend on other nearby states joining in. Measures in Washington and California failed.
People have a right to know what is in their food. Short of a federal standard, the state measures are a good first step.
The Aurora Sentinel, Nov. 27, on zoning and marijuana:
We're all unsure of just how this legalized marijuana thing is going to play out in Aurora, but Denver's experience with medical marijuana and fledgling recreational pot legislation is helping to show local lawmakers the best directions to follow and avoid.
A small committee of city lawmakers are exploring Aurora's options in accommodating state law that legalizes the production, sale and use of marijuana. It's hard to predict what rules will make it to the city council floor next year as Aurora prepares to open the marijuana market. The committee has only advisory power, and as history has shown, the full city council in informal meetings do the real work.
But two ideas so far are surfacing from this city council panel that the rest of the council should address now: An arbitrary limit on production and retail services, and restricting retail sales to industrial zones in the city.
Both ideas are bad news for business owners, for users and for public safety.
We've pointed out before important aspects of retail marijuana issues in the community. There will be plenty of Aurora residents who will be buying and smoking pot as it becomes more readily available. If they don't buy it here in Aurora, the sales and sales taxes will be lost to other communities, most likely Denver.
If Aurora doesn't allow for retail sales in the community, it is guaranteed that there will be retail operations that open on the city's border with Denver and other communities. If Aurora lawmakers have concerns about how these retail shops will affect the surrounding community, lawmakers need to ensure that they allow for convenient operations, or Denver, Arapahoe County and Adams county will be calling the shots as to how these pot shops will run, essentially in Aurora's backyard.
If Aurora pushes these shops into industrial or warehouse areas, where consumers will be loath to go, lawmakers virtually guarantee a brisk business on its borders with municipalities that know better.
Even more important, pushing these shops into lonely warehouse districts will almost certainly increase the likelihood of crime, out of the eyes of the public and police. It's easy to see that if Aurora were to treat liquor stores like it might pot shops, there would be a string of liquor stores along the city's border, and there would be a string of robberies in Aurora liquor stores forced into remote warehouse districts.
It's hard to find a compelling reason to keep these shops anywhere other than where retail liquor operations are permitted.
As to an arbitrary cap on these businesses, again, it makes no sense and only serves to take control of retail operations out of the hands of Aurora lawmakers.
Rather than cap the number of shops at 10 or 20, it's a more prudent plan to restrict these shops by zoning, density and proximity to critical community features. Had lawmakers done this with businesses like pawn shops, check-cashing stores and rental stores, East Colfax Avenue wouldn't be facing the dilemma it does. By ensuring the stores are relatively few and far between, the city avoids the Colfax concentration and conundrum of too many sin-and-sorry businesses too close to each other.
Clearly, city council members want to ensure that these retail pot shops are safe, well-regulated, profitable businesses that contribute to the community and keep their products out of the hands of children and adolescents. Aurora can do that best by keeping these operations right out in the open and under the scrutiny of police and the public. Natural concerns about these businesses — the storage of cash, of pot, carding purchasers and preventing kids from approaching customers — are all accomplished best by enforceable, accountable and observable city regulations controlled by Aurora's government.
The Fort Morgan Times, Nov. 29, on not forgetting the hungry this season:
Many of us ended Thanksgiving with a shopping spree.
National chains in particular have moved their special bargains to Thursday evening now — and many people enjoy shopping after a day of feasting. Of course, they pay the price of shoving and fighting to be the first in line for a limited supply of items, in many cases.
In some ways, it is unfortunate that stores just cannot wait until so-called Black Friday for this. It would be nice to have at least one day of relaxation and family without having to go to the store.
Those who enjoy it would probably disagree. Plus, some of us have to work on Friday, so this is better for those who do.
Let's not forget the reason for the day, though. We set aside one day a year for gratitude that we are alive, and for the blessings we enjoy, even if those are small in some cases.
There are still many people in Morgan County who are in need, and food stamps were recently cut. That means the poor are in greater need than ever. Their family food budgets were cut at the same time.
That has led to a run on the food pantry, which has limited supplies, too.
So let us remember the season, and put aside at least a little to give to those whose children go hungry. Let's make donations to Caring Ministries of Morgan County, whether of canned food or cash. Cash is probably best, because the food pantry can buy food inexpensively and make the money go further.
Let's not get so caught up in consuming that we forget that there are those who do not have enough food to consume.