Colorado governor bans evictions for lessees who can prove financial challenge because of coronavirus

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Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday issued an executive order banning Colorado landlords from evicting tenants who can prove financial hardship because of the coronavirus crisis.

The order, which lasts at least 30 days, comes after the Democrat faced months of pressure from housing advocates to protect renters from losing their homes during the pandemic.

Polis formed a Special Eviction Prevention Task Force, which recommended that he enact the eviction ban.

In order to meet the financial hardship threshold, renters must prove they are:

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Known cases in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado has had coronavirus spikes before. Here’s why the current one could be different.

>> FULL COVERAGE

  • Attempting to obtain government assistance for rent or housing
  • Either expect to make no more than $99,000 in annual income for calendar year 2020 or no more than $198,000 if they are filing a joint tax return; were not required to report any income in 2019 to the Internal Revenue Service; and/or received an Economic Impact Payment under the federal CARES Act
  • Unable to pay full rent or make a housing payment due to
    a substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, were laid off, and/or are facing extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • Making an effort to make timely partial payments that are as close to
    the full payment as possible
  • Unable to find other housing and would likely be rendered homeless or forced to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting if evicted

MORE: Read the executive order.

Polis said the order reaffirms and clarifies a national eviction moratorium enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that lasts through the end of the year.

Polis, under Colorado law, can issue emergency orders like the one surrounding evictions only in 30-day increments.

The governor also put the onus on Congress to take further action to help Coloradans and people across the country weather the financial hardships of the pandemic.

“We must take additional steps to provide relief to Colorado renters and small businesses,” he said.

Landlords may still evict tenants if they pose “an imminent and serious threat to another individual” or if they cause “significant damage” to the landlord’s property.

The order adds: “Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed as relieving any party of their duty to comply with any contractual obligations imposed on parties by a lease or rental agreement.”

The Colorado Apartment Association has said that warnings from housing advocates of an eviction tsunami because of the coronavirus crisis have been overblown. It called the CDC’s eviction moratorium “bad policy.”

“These small property owners, who already are struggling financially during the COVID closures, don’t have enough customer diversification or capitalization to withstand constant meddling from the federal government,” Drew Hamrick, general counsel and senior vice president of government affairs for the Colorado Apartment Association, said in a written statement.

The association did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment on Polis’ order Wednesday.

Tanisha Diggs and her husband Kwabena Yeboah sort through court documents at their kitchen table on June 17, 2020. The couple and their two sons were facing eviction because their rental company said tha they violated their lease. But they dispute the claims. (Moe Clark, The Colorado Sun.)

Colorado’s unemployment rate fell to 6.2% in September after reaching a peak of 11.3% in April. But there are still nearly 200,000 unemployment workers in the state.

In April, Polis issued an order outlawing evictions except in cases where public safety was at risk. But he opted not to extend the directive, angering housing advocates and some Democratic legislators at the Capitol, who then tried and failed to pass a bill to do just that.

Polis has taken a number of smaller actions on housing, outlawing late fees and requiring landlords to give tenants extra notice before moving forward with eviction proceedings.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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  • Colorado governor bans evictions for tenants who can prove financial hardship because of coronavirus
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via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/21/colorado-eviction-ban-jared-polis-coronavirus/

Did you miss our previous article…
https://danpabon.com/east-troublesome-fire-explodes-toward-grand-lake-prompting-immediate-discharges/

East Troublesome fire explodes toward Grand Lake prompting immediate discharges

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The East Troublesome fire in Grand County exploded east on Wednesday toward Grand Lake, prompting urgent evacuations over a broad area and creating a smoke plume so large it was visible on the Front Range.

“We’ve had a lot of activity today,” Incident Commander Jake Winfield during said during a video briefing on Wednesday night.

The fire, which began on Oct. 14 near Kremmling, has burned about 30,000 acres, including roughly 10,000 acres on Wednesday alone. It is 10% contained. Its cause is under investigation.

A map of the East Troublesome fire before it exploded east on Wednesday. (Handout)

“The fire is growing faster than we can catch it right now,” Winfield warned.

Winfield said the blaze is “outflanking” fire crews.

The East Troublesome fire on Oct. 16, 2020. (Handout)

The Grand County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday night issued an evacuation order for all areas west of U.S. 34 along Grand Lake, a massive area which runs between Granby and Estes Park. Colorado 125 has been shut down between Granby and Walden because the fire has jumped across the roadway.

All trails on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park have been closed because of the fire.

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said he’s not too worried about Granby, a population center, being evacuated or being directly affected by the fire. Hot Sulphur Springs, he said, also appears to be out of harm’s way for the time being.

The Cal-Wood and Lefthand Canyon fires in Boulder County, which ignited over the weekend and quickly burned thousands of acres, were relatively inactive on Wednesday, but fierce winds are heading into the area on Wednesday night into Thursday.

Officials evacuated Lyons Park Estates on the northeast side of the Cal-Wood fire as a precaution in anticipation of the windstorm. Already the Cal-Wood fire has destroyed 20 homes.

Some people were anxious about smoke over Boulder on Wednesday being from the Boulder County fires, but officials say it was actually from the East Troublesome fire.

MORE: Five charts that show where 2020 ranks in Colorado wildfire history

All of Colorado is under drought status and facing extreme fire conditions after a hot, dry summer. The U.S. Forest Service closed the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in Clear Creek, Jefferson, Gilpin, Boulder, and Larimer counties on Wednesday out of fear of another fire starting.

Firefighting resources are being spread thin between the Boulder County blazes, the East Troublesome fire and the still-raging Cameron Peak fire west of Fort Collins, which last week because the largest in Colorado’s recorded history.

A reprieve in the form of a significant snowstorm is expected to move into Colorado over the weekend. However firefighters are still bracing for several more weeks battling the blazes afflicting the state.

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  • How to tell who’s behind political messages flooding screens in Colorado ahead of the 2020 election
  • The first images of OSIRIS-REx touching an asteroid have made it back to Earth
  • Colorado governor bans evictions for tenants who can prove financial hardship because of coronavirus
  • They’ve been called soccer moms, rage moms and Zoom moms. Why the Colorado suburban-women vote is so important.

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/21/east-troublesome-fire-explodes-colorado/

Coronavirus is a historic health dilemma. So why isn’t it increasing Colorado health insurance costs?

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Amid a historic public health crisis, something curious has happened with health insurance prices: Nothing.

When state officials this month unveiled the approved rates for next year’s health insurance plans, they announced the smallest change in years. Average prices for plans in the individual market — where people shop for insurance if they don’t get coverage through an employer — are set to decline by 1.4%. Average prices in the small-group market — where small employers buy plans for their workers — are set to rise by 3.8%.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Known cases in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado has had coronavirus spikes before. Here’s why the current one could be different.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Given that prices in both of these markets were increasing annually by double-digit percentages not long ago, the non-news of next year’s rates comes as welcome news for consumers. But it also raises a question. Why hasn’t the coronavirus pandemic — and all the costly medical care that can go along with it — led to higher insurance prices?

The answer can be found in dozens of pages of regulatory filings that insurance companies submitted to the state when seeking approval for next year’s rates. The upshot is that health insurers seem to be as unsure as the rest of us about what next year will look like.

Some companies project a modest increase in the amount of medical care they will have to cover due to coronavirus — on the order of 1% or so. Others think people will continue to avoid seeking treatment for non-urgent conditions, resulting in lower expenses. And some companies openly say they don’t know and don’t want to guess.

“It kind of nets out once you look at the savings that came from this year and you try to forecast that forward,” said Michael Conway, Colorado’s insurance commissioner.

Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway speaks at a public forum in Frisco on Feb. 21, 2020. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

Nationwide trend

What’s happening with health insurance prices in Colorado matches what’s happening nationwide. When the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-research organization, looked at filings across the country, it found an average 1.1% increase in prices for individual market plans next year. Digging deeper, the organization found that COVID-19 had an average 0% impact on next year’s prices.

“The term ‘uncertainty’ came up a lot,” said Nisha Kurani, a senior policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Part of that uncertainty is trying to figure out how much medical care unrelated to coronavirus people are going to need next year. When the pandemic hit this spring, hospital and doctor’s office visits for elective and non-urgent medical care plummeted. Even people potentially experiencing heart attacks stopped showing up at hospitals — possibly leading to an increase in cardiac arrests at home.

Michael Kleinrock, a research director at the health care analytics company IQVIA, said hospital patient volume nationwide has rebounded after steep drops earlier this year. Overall for the year, the system is seeing about 20% less utilization than expected pre-pandemic. Patient volume is close to normal but not enough to make up for all those missed visits earlier in the year.

“The system appears to be learning how to walk and chew gum, learning how to manage COVID in this environment and still deliver necessary health care for other people. Which is positive,” he said. “But there’s still that lingering issue of the where-did-they-go people.”

Colorado hospitals have also seen a rebound in patient visits, but not enough to make up for earlier losses. Julie Lonborg, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association, said inpatient discharges are down 12% for the year and emergency room visits are down around 25%.

Hospitals expect that lower volume to persist through the end of the year and much of next year, far longer than what the hospital association thought when the pandemic first hit the state.

“We all thought at the time, ‘Oh gosh, surely by October life will be a little back toward normal,’” she said. “I think we all recognize now that that is not the case and will continue not to be the case for some time.”

The certainty of “uncertainty”

But there are also other factors that make it complicated to project how coronavirus will impact medical costs next year. How much will the virus spread? Will there be a safe and effective vaccine and when will it be ready? Will new treatments be approved and how much will they cost? Will the election mean a change in the White House and a different approach to fighting the virus? Will pandemic-related job losses cause more people to buy coverage in the individual market — or drop coverage altogether?

“We note,” the Denver Health Medical Plan wrote in a filing with the state, “that there is substantial uncertainty regarding the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on premium rate development, including whether the pandemic will increase or decrease costs in 2021.”

Some of the information that companies provided to the state is redacted to protect business confidentiality, and it is possible that the insurers were more candid with their assessments of the pandemic in those sections. But, just like the Kaiser Family Foundation saw nationally, the word “uncertainty” keeps popping up in insurers’ public filings. 

“Due to the limited information available on the pandemic,” the insurance company Oscar wrote in an actuarial memo filed with the state, “any analysis is subject to a substantially greater than usual level of uncertainty.”

The website for Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance exchange, shown in October 2018. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Regulatory limitations

There’s also one other coronavirus-related reason that rates will stay relatively flat next year, and it involves regulatory muscle.

When insurers filed their preliminary rates earlier this summer, they asked the state to approve an average 2.2% increase for the individual market and 5.7% increase for the small group market. But the state Division of Insurance, led by Conway, knocked those rates back before final approval.

When coming up with proposed rates, insurers have to make calculated guesses on how much certain components of health care costs will increase or decrease in the coming year. For instance, insurers will estimate how much rising prices or how much frequency of health care utilization will impact their costs. This is called “trend” in regulatory parlance. 

One reason regulators knocked next year’s proposed rates down is that the state imposed a cap on how much of an increase insurers could predict for health care utilization — setting the amount at no more than 1%. Conway said that was done because the state last year approved projected utilization increases that were way higher than what insurers have actually seen, because of the pandemic. That meant rates were likely set higher than ultimately needed last year, which could lead insurers to having to refund money to customers in the coming years.

“It just really hadn’t come to fruition, the increase we had approved last year,” Conway said. “So we didn’t think it would be appropriate to grant a typical utilization trend.”

Amanda Massey, the executive director of the Colorado Association of Health Plans, an insurance industry trade group, said the Division of Insurance also limited how other coronavirus-related costs could be factored into the 2021 rates. She said it’s important that the long-term costs of coronavirus be fully accounted for. Not doing so, she said, “could have serious consequences for health insurance premiums in the future if not accurately reflected in rates.”

BUYING INSURANCE

Open enrollment for plans in the individual and small group market starts Nov. 1 and will run through Jan. 15. You can shop for plans either on Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s insurance exchange, or through a private broker. Need more info? We put together an explainer last year for procrastinators looking to buy insurance, but its tips still work for anybody shopping for a plan without help from an employer: A procrastinator’s guide to buying health insurance in Colorado

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  • How to tell who’s behind political messages flooding screens in Colorado ahead of the 2020 election
  • The first images of OSIRIS-REx touching an asteroid have made it back to Earth
  • Colorado governor bans evictions for tenants who can prove financial hardship because of coronavirus

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/22/colorado-coronavirus-health-insurance-prices/

Colorado child security caseworker under examination for falsifying records about looking at children at-risk adults

more news https://northdenvernews.com

At first, the child protection worker’s supervisor noticed missing notes in a handful of cases of alleged abuse and neglect. 

Then more cases looked suspicious, as if the caseworker’s details about checking on children and their families weren’t actually true. After an outside team — a crew of 15 caseworkers from nine counties — was dispatched to Craig to review her work, they discovered a pattern of fraudulent paperwork like nothing any of them had experienced in their careers, according to documents obtained by The Colorado Sun through public information requests. 

The out-of-town team, which was housed in a Craig hotel for two weeks, reviewed more than 250 cases involving alleged abuse or neglect of children or adults with disabilities. Of those, the team identified about 80 in which they had to start over from the beginning, knocking on doors and checking on suspected victims to determine if they were safe. 

In multiple cases, the child protection worker appeared to have fabricated details, including that she had checked on kids or interviewed parents or guardians, according to records from the Colorado Department of Human Services, which organized the outside team to review the cases.

The cases went back several months, raising questions about why the county didn’t detect there was a problem sooner.  

No children were found to have been injured or killed because of the shoddy casework, the records say. But memos and letters from the state child welfare division and the Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman’s Office obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act make it clear the rural county’s division of child welfare and adult protective services was overwhelmed. 

This is why we exist. We are the early-alert system. We are the ones that citizens talk to directly when they are concerned about the health and safety of a kid.

child protection ombudsman stephanie villafuerte

The Moffat County District Attorney’s Office confirmed it is investigating the matter, though charges have not yet been filed. The caseworker’s name was redacted from documents released by the state. 

State child welfare officials declined to discuss the case, citing the ongoing investigation. Moffat County Human Services Director Annette Norton called it a “personnel matter” and refused to answer questions.

But records show the state and the child protection ombudsman began taking a closer look at Moffat County in the summer and fall of 2019. 

A statewide performance-monitoring system, which scores county child welfare divisions on how well they respond to suspected cases of abuse or neglect and whether they make face-to-face contact with suspected victims within required timeframes, alerted state officials that Moffat County was slipping. 

Around the same time, Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte’s office received three separate reports from citizens in Moffat County who said local caseworkers had failed to check on children. 

In one case, reported in July 2019, a citizen said a baby who needed medications to survive had missed pediatrician appointments and that caregivers had not refilled the infant’s prescription. The allegation was urgent enough that, under Colorado law, it required a caseworker to check on the baby within three days. But according to the statewide database of child welfare cases, no caseworker had done so. 

In a September 2019 report, a citizen told the ombudsman’s office that a child was injured while in the care of grandparents and not been taken to a doctor for treatment. Again, the complaint to local child welfare officials lacked documentation noting the report was properly investigated, the ombudsman found. 

And in December 2019, another Moffat County resident told the ombudsman’s office that two children were sexually abused and that local authorities had not followed up. The ombudsman discovered that the county had received eight reports about the same children during a nine-month period and that Moffat County determined that none warranted review. 

Villafuerte’s office alerted both the county and the state child welfare division about the citizen complaints, and in an interview Wednesday, questioned why it took seven more months for officials to discover the alleged fraud.

“This is why we exist. We are the early-alert system,” the ombudsman said. “We are the ones that citizens talk to directly when they are concerned about the health and safety of a kid, and when in turn we review these cases and find there to be compliance violations, we raise that flag. And we did that in this case. Not once, but three different times.”

“It begs the question, what does happen once we raise the flag? How quickly are things looked into and how quickly are things remedied?”

Staffing issues plagued the department  

State child welfare officials began meeting with Moffat County in September 2019 to figure out why the county wasn’t keeping up with its caseload and to offer help with staffing. The far northwestern Colorado county had 10 people quit between March and November 2019, according to a letter to the ombudsman from the county human services director. 

That was 40% of the staff of the human services department, and did not even include that the department had already lost its previous director and child welfare supervisor. A full staff is five caseworkers, who investigate both abuse and neglect allegations of children as well as those of at-risk adults. 

The new director scrambled to hire experienced folks for a hard job with low pay, and even reached out to nearby counties for temporary help to fill the gaps. 

When the state began asking questions in September 2019, all of the division’s workers except a supervisor and the “fraudulent worker,” as she is called in state records, were new to the job. 

That fall, the county had about 100 overdue assessments of abuse and neglect cases spanning more than a year. 

Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center on Feb. 24 in Denver. ( Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The state’s goal was to provide enough support to Moffat County caseworkers to clear the backlog. At the time, it seemed to local and state officials that it was a matter of records not being entered into the statewide database — not a matter of fake documentation or victims who hadn’t actually been seen. 

But by April, it was becoming obvious that something bigger was wrong, according to records. 

Moffat County notified the state that the caseworker was no longer working there and that 36 assessments had no documentation. The caseworker initially said she had done the visits and had the notes, but just hadn’t entered them into the system. But, in many cases, she didn’t have the notes of the purported family visits to back up her claims, state documents say. 

As the county looked deeper into the casework, colleagues found potential fraud in a handful of cases. In one case review, the county found “there were inconsistencies in the observed details of the home and the previously documented notes of the home,” according to state records. In other words, it seemed the caseworker had not actually visited the residence.

By the summer, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, state officials decided to round up a team of 15 caseworkers for a full-blown review of about 250 files. The caseworker under investigation worked two separate stints of about one year each for Moffat County, the last stint ending in April.

Caseworkers from nine counties, plus two state child welfare officials, spent two weeks in July at a Quality Inn & Suites, redoing about 80 abuse and neglect assessments to make sure victims were safe and that decisions about whether they should live with parents, foster parents or other guardians had been properly evaluated. 

State has taken over day-to-day operations of adult services

As the child welfare team reviewed abuse and neglect cases suspected of fraud, they notified the state Office of Adult, Aging and Disability Services whenever they found a case involving an adult with disabilities. That office began its own investigation to determine whether at-risk or older adults were safe.

Then in August, that state office took over day-to-day operations of Moffat County’s adult protective services unit, an arrangement that continues.

In an emailed statement to the Sun, state human services communications director Mark Techmeyer said that as soon as Moffat County notified the state about problems with its case reports, the state “immediately joined the county’s efforts that were underway to review the child welfare assessments as quickly as possible.” 

He also praised Moffat County’s efforts, saying staff there responded to the year-long review “with openness, integrity, transparency and with a clear commitment to their community.”

Moffat County is in far northwestern Colorado, bordering Wyoming and Utah. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Villafuerte, the state ombudsman, said it’s common for rural child welfare divisions to struggle to maintain their workforce. That was the reason behind a 2010 recommendation from the Colorado Child Welfare Action Committee that rural areas regionalize their child protection agencies, pooling workers and helping each other fill in gaps when workers quit or take a leave of absence. 

“That’s a discussion that comes up periodically to this day,” she said. “Recruitment and retention is really tough. It’s the single biggest issue that’s been identified in rural jurisdictions.”

Villafuerte said Moffat County’s struggles are similar to those of another rural county child welfare division investigated by the ombudsman last year. In 2019, the ombudsman released a months-long investigation into Montezuma County that began with citizen complaints. The office found that the county had violated multiple state regulations intended to protect children from abuse and neglect. 

“It’s important never to look at these as a one-off situation,” Villafuerte said. “There is a thread here, that as a system we need to sit down and analyze. Are rural jurisdictions struggling with resources and if so how do we make sure they get the help they need before a problem is elevated to this extent. 

“Did we as a system fail Moffat County? Maybe that’s the question. As opposed to, did Moffat County fail its community? Frankly, we need to ask both.” 

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  • Colorado child protection caseworker under investigation for falsifying reports about checking on kids, at-risk adults
  • Denver’s unique sales tax to fight climate change could be a blueprint for future action nationwide
  • Coronavirus is a historic health crisis. So why isn’t it increasing Colorado health insurance prices?
  • East Troublesome fire explodes toward Grand Lake, prompting urgent evacuations
  • How to tell who’s behind political messages flooding screens in Colorado ahead of the 2020 election

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/22/child-welfare-fraud-investigation/

Denvers distinct sales tax obligation to eliminate environment change could be a plan for future activity across the country

Colorado News

Ballot measure 2A is part of Denver’s efforts to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in the city, but some are concerned about regressive nature of the tax

Denver voters this year could give the city a unique tool for fighting climate change that is unlike strategies pursued by other U.S. cities. Across the nation, local authorities are taking on responsibility for fighting the warming planet amid gridlock at the federal level. 

Denver’s idea is different because ballot measure 2A would use the proceeds from a dedicated sales tax increase to raise roughly $40 million a year to invest in renewable energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency and more. 

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If voters approve the tax on the Nov. 3 ballot, it could serve as a model for policy options in other cities. “We truly are pioneering this,” said Councilman Jolon Clark, who sponsored the measure to get the issue on the ballot. Clark said two other municipalities have reached out to Denver to talk about implementing a similar proposal themselves.

As fires torch the West and hurricanes slam the East, the threat of a changing climate has become more pressing, and cities are more urgently taking action. The situation is so dire that local governments are more likely to try to tackle this intractable problem, said Cooper Martin, an expert in sustainability policy at the National League of Cities.

“At this point, I think you’re seeing governments doing anything they can within their power,” Martin said. 

Cities in Colorado and across the country have implemented policies to fight climate change. Boulder, with voter approval in 2006 enacted a utility tax that charges residents extra for electricity usage and uses the funds to pay for programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Miami, voters in 2017 approved a $400 million bond issue that funds climate change mitigation tactics, like those used to combat sea level rise.

Denver’s idea is inspired by action in some other cities, Clark said, pointing to Boulder. And action by cities, regardless of the strategy, is generally driven by the lack of federal action to address the climate crisis. President Barack Obama joined the Paris climate accords and put in place emissions cutting measures through executive action, but President Donald Trump has waged a yearslong campaign to repeal many of his predecessor’s environmental policies. 

MORE: Read more politics and government coverage from The Colorado Sun.

The inaction at one level has led to action at another. “Local effort is really what we’ve had for the last 10 years, and I think that it’s been valuable,” said Mark Smith, an economics professor who studies environmental policy at Colorado College.

For Denver, that means raising the sales tax to 8.56% from 8.31% to support green projects in the city. If approved, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2021. The money raised would be divided among six categories covering a range of environmental issues.

The categories prioritize environmental justice and include training programs to empower people to work in clean energy as well as investment in renewable energy.

Other funds will be dedicated to making the city’s infrastructure cleaner by reducing reliance on cars and improving mass transit. According to the city, transportation is responsible for 30% of the city’s emissions. Another 50% of the city’s emissions are attributed to new and existing buildings, and the tax funds would be used to upgrade the energy efficiency of office and residential spaces.

Proponents say many of the elements of the bill are intended to offset a reality of the proposal: It is fundamentally a regressive tax. That’s because sales taxes are regressive, meaning they require lower income individuals to pay a higher proportion of taxes.

The bill that put the measure on the ballot says city officials must try to invest half of the funds it raises directly into the community and prioritize efforts to steer funds toward under-resourced communities. 

Clark says these stipulations are designed to ensure lower income and marginalized communities receive more benefits from the tax than they pay into it. But critics say the city hasn’t provided enough details on how it would implement its strategies. 

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Denver lawyer Frances Koncilja, a former state Public Utilities Commissioner appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, wrote in an opinion piece the proposal was “light on details of exactly how these funds will be spent and who will benefit and how it fits with current programs.”

But Martin, at the National League of Cities, thought the city could offset the regressive impact by providing more benefits to poorer people than it collects from them in taxes. “You can actually still manage these effects and end up with a net result that’s better for low-income communities,” he said.

To reduce the burden of the tax, the measure would not apply to purchases of food, water, fuel, medical supplies and feminine hygiene products.

The proposal ended up on Denver’s ballot after city officials considered a handful of other options to combat climate change. Clark championed a carbon tax for the 2019 ballot, but Denver Mayor Michael Hancock opposed it. 

Other city council members were leery because it wasn’t a true carbon tax that would change consumer behavior and discourage city residents from using fossil fuels. But after the rift with Hancock, the two sides agreed to create a climate task force to come up with solutions. 

That task force set climate goals for Denver to slash greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2025 and 100% by 2040. This year’s ballot measure is part of getting to that goal.

Local governments are searching for their own solutions 

Cities and states face varying threats from climate change and have differing levels of political will to address the issue. “There are a lot of local problems,” Martin said. 

Activists and experts say policymakers should tackle what’s politically feasible in their area and work within the legal constraints of their jurisdictions. That’s led to a mosaic of approaches at the state and local level. Democratic-run California has an emissions trading scheme. Washington state tried, but failed, to pass a carbon tax. Washington, D.C., implemented “green bonds” to fund water cleanliness and climate resilience projects. 

Even so, other cities have not yet implemented a sales tax. And the threat of climate change has become more visible with devastating disasters. 

If the local policies don’t make a discernible impact on slowing the pace of climate change,  Denver’s pollution cuts are minuscule compared to the emission slashing needed — they do offer a valuable educational element, said Smith, the Colorado College professor. That, in turn, could lead to action at the federal level. 

Ultimately, cities can only do what they have the political will to pull off. For Denver, that could mean starting with ballot measure 2A.

“I think it’s probably the tool in Denver’s toolkit,” Smith said. “I suspect that they don’t have the authority to level a carbon tax. I don’t think that’s an arrow in their quiver.”

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  • Colorado child protection caseworker under investigation for falsifying reports about checking on kids, at-risk adults
  • Denver’s unique sales tax to fight climate change could be a blueprint for future action nationwide
  • Coronavirus is a historic health crisis. So why isn’t it increasing Colorado health insurance prices?
  • East Troublesome fire explodes toward Grand Lake, prompting urgent evacuations
  • How to tell who’s behind political messages flooding screens in Colorado ahead of the 2020 election

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/22/denvers-unique-sales-tax-to-fight-climate-change-could-be-a-blueprint-for-future-action-nationwide/

An extremely very tough day: Extensive destruction feared after East Troublesome fire blows up

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Officials are bracing the public for the possibility that there was widespread destruction when the East Troublesome fire swept across Grand County on Wednesday night toward Grand Lake and through an area packed with homes, lodges and other businesses.

“I don’t know what we’ll see in the morning, to be honest,” a distressed-looking Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said in a video statement posted just after 1 a.m. on Thursday. “Daylight’s going to tell us a lot.”

Schroetlin said the fire, which has been burning since Oct. 14, grew at a rate of about 6,000 acres an hour and acted more erratically than even worst-case scenarios suggested it could.

“Today has been an extremely, extremely challenging day for our community,” he said in his video statement. “We knew this fire was here. We knew the impacts of it. We looked at every possible potential for this fire. We never, ever expected 6,000 acres per hour to come upon our community.”

The East Troublesome fire races toward Grand Lake on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Grand County Sheriff’s Office)

The extreme fire behavior left authorities scrambling to move people out of the fire’s path on Wednesday night. But with limited routes out of the area, first responders had to get creative.  

Some evacuees fleeing the fast-moving wall of flames were directed to make a smoky, nighttime drive eastbound over Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, a route that can be difficult to navigate in daylight. It appeared that sheriff’s deputies were using all lanes of traffic on U.S. 34 to evacuate people to the west. 

EARLIER: East Troublesome fire explodes toward Grand Lake, prompting urgent evacuations

“EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY!!!!” the Grand County Office of Emergency Management said in one of several tweets urging people to flee the Grand Lake area. 

Schroetlin said first responders “made some incredible rescues, some incredible evacuations.”

On Thursday morning, a massive area remained under mandatory evacuation orders. The fire continued to burn into the early morning hours despite low temperatures. Flames were visible from Granby, which is just a few miles southwest of Grand Lake.

The East Troublesome fire began on Oct. 14 near Kremmling and had burned about 20,000 acres before its dramatic tear east on Wednesday. Its cause remains under investigation.

Even before the fire made its run toward Grand Lake, the blaze was highly active on Wednesday, burning across Colorado 125 and an area of pricey multi-million dollar homes and ranches.

“The fire is growing faster than we can catch it right now,”  Incident Commander Jake Winfield warned in a video briefing held Wednesday evening, just before the fire’s harrowing run.

Fire danger is expected to remain high on Thursday. “Warm, windy, and dry conditions will persist over Grand, Summit, and Park counties today,” the National Weather Service in Boulder said in a forecast bulletin. “This will keep the fire danger elevated.”

The East Troublesome fire is threatening to become the most destructive fire in a difficult summer and fall of wildfires in Colorado

MORE: Five charts that show where 2020 ranks in Colorado wildfire history

This past weekend thousands of people were forced to flee their homes in Boulder County after the fast-moving Cal-Wood fire broke out near Jamestown, eventually destroying at least 20 homes along U.S. 36 south of Lyons.

The Cameron Peak fire west of Fort Collins, which last week became the largest fire in Colorado’s recorded history and has been burning for more than two months, continues to rage. It has torched dozens of structures and more than 200,000 acres. 

The Williams Fork fire is also still burning in Grand County west of Winter Park after starting on Aug 14. It has burned nearly 15,000 acres and is 26% contained.

A firefighting plane drops retardants on the Cal-Wood fire near Boulder on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Joseph Gruber, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Firefighting resources are spread thin, which prompted the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday to close the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in Clear Creek, Jefferson, Gilpin, Boulder, and Larimer counties for fear of another fire starting.The Bureau of Land Management, meanwhile, shut down its land in Boulder and Larimer counties.

A dry and hot summer driven by a changing climate has been blamed for the conditions that led to Colorado’s months of destructive wildfire. People across the state have been dealing with smoke and flames for months.

A reprieve in the form of a significant snowstorm is expected to move into Colorado over the weekend. However firefighters are still bracing for several more weeks battling flames in the state.

This is a developing story that will be udpated.

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  • “An extremely, extremely challenging day”: Widespread destruction feared after East Troublesome fire explodes
  • Colorado child protection caseworker under investigation for falsifying reports about checking on kids, at-risk adults
  • Denver’s unique sales tax to fight climate change could be a blueprint for future action nationwide
  • Coronavirus is a historic health crisis. So why isn’t it increasing Colorado health insurance prices?
  • East Troublesome fire explodes toward Grand Lake, prompting urgent evacuations

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/22/east-troublesome-fire-grand-lake-destruction/

Colorado money tracker: A look at the candidates as well as projects investing to affect the 2020 ballot

more news https://northdenvernews.com

The majority of the money spent in a political campaign is aimed at persuading voters to pick a certain candidate and turnout to vote.

The tools of the trade are familiar: television commercials, glossy mailers, yard signs, flashy digital ads, text messages, phone calls and more.

What is less visible: The entities spending the money to influence voters and the donors backing the efforts.

To help voters get a better sense of who is trying to influence them, The Colorado Sun’s campaign money tracker breaks it down.

  • Find the biggest spenders in the top races in Colorado (▶ click here)
  • A sortable database of the sponsors of TV ads in the U.S. Senate race and a drop down menu describing the groups behind the spending. (▶ click here)
  • A searchable database of mailers from Colorado candidates or campaigns with drop down menus showing images, the message and details about the sender. (▶ click here)
  • A look at how much TV advertising has been purchased in Colorado markets in all races spending by date (▶ click here)

The campaign money tracker created by The Sun draws information from TV ad contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Election Commission’s independent spending data and mailers shared with Follow the Message to give voters an idea of what the money is being spent on and by whom.

The TV ad spending is incomplete because not all stations file contracts immediately, and they aren’t required to file contracts by state-level outside groups, such as issue committees or super PACs airing ads about legislative candidates. It includes typical broadcast stations as well as spending that goes through major cable companies in Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Durango. It is often the only way to track political spending by nonprofit groups in national contests.

MORE ANALYSIS: Click here to view the money tracker

See something we are missing? Drop us a note or send tips to johnfrank@coloradosun.com.

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  • Colorado money tracker: A look at the candidates and campaigns spending to influence the 2020 vote
  • “An extremely, extremely challenging day”: Widespread destruction feared after East Troublesome fire explodes
  • Colorado child protection caseworker under investigation for falsifying reports about checking on kids, at-risk adults
  • Denver’s unique sales tax to fight climate change could be a blueprint for future action nationwide
  • Coronavirus is a historic health crisis. So why isn’t it increasing Colorado health insurance prices?

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/22/colorado-money-tracker-2020-election/

Did you miss our previous article…
https://danpabon.com/aurora-functioning-team-presents-draft-plan-to-recruit-and-keep-more-instructors-of-shade/

Aurora functioning team presents draft plan to recruit and keep more instructors of shade

Colorado News

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.

Creating mentoring programs for teachers, not just those who are new, training advocates who can represent educators of color, and requiring districtwide training. Those are some of the strategies that a group of Aurora educators proposed to improve staff diversity in the district.

The Aurora school board in February passed a resolution to improve the hiring and retention of educators or color. Still, teachers of color continued to speak to the board for months after, asking for a more detailed plan.

In April, Aurora joined some Denver schools in working with Promise 54, a national nonprofit helping schools improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As part of that work, Aurora teachers and administrators have spent several months surveying district employees and holding focus groups to talk about diversity problems and how to solve them.

On Tuesday, the group presented a draft action plan to the school board including long-range work as well as more immediate steps to take. While the ideas lack funding, the staff told board members that as next school year’s budget is created, the board can make funding this work a priority.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

Read more education stories from The Colorado Sun.

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  • Aurora working group presents draft plan to recruit and retain more teachers of color
  • Two churches in Colorado granted exemption from state coronavirus guidelines
  • Colorado money tracker: A look at the candidates and campaigns spending to influence the 2020 vote
  • “Lots of structure loss” after East Troublesome fire’s explosion into Grand Lake; blaze is threatening Estes Park
  • Colorado child protection caseworker under investigation for falsifying reports about checking on kids, at-risk adults

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/22/aurora-group-recruit-retain-teachers-of-color/

Two churches in Colorado granted exemption from state coronavirus guidelines

Colorado News

A federal judge has exempted two churches in Colorado from safety guidelines intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 that some see as discrimination and a violation of constitutional rights to religious freedom.

Denver Bible Church in Wheat Ridge and Community Baptist Church in Brighton filed a complaint in August, challenging the state’s mandate on wearing masks and its limitations on indoor gatherings, The Gazette reported.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Known cases in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado has had coronavirus spikes before. Here’s why the current one could be different.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Both churches argued that the health orders “restrict or prevent religious speech” based on how closely the pastors can be to the congregation and how closely congregants can be to each other.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Domenico said last Thursday that he didn’t believe the churches would succeed at a trial, but he granted them a temporary restraining order preventing the state from enforcing the restrictions.

“The Constitution does not allow the state to tell a congregation how large it can be when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited, or to tell a congregation that its reason for wishing to remove facial coverings is less important than a restaurant’s or spa’s,” Domenico said.

Domenico said Democratic Gov. Jared Polis implemented a public health order that treats houses of worship differently than secular establishments that pose an equal risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The Colorado attorney general’s office filed Monday an emergency motion for a stay, or suspension of the injunction, pending the outcome of an appeal. The decision is now up to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Nothing in the state defendants’ public health orders reveals discrimination or bigotry targeted at religion,” the motion said. “If anything, Colorado’s orders treat religious organizations more favorably than comparable organizations that are nonreligious.”

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  • Aurora working group presents draft plan to recruit and retain more teachers of color
  • Two churches in Colorado granted exemption from state coronavirus guidelines
  • Colorado money tracker: A look at the candidates and campaigns spending to influence the 2020 vote
  • “Lots of structure loss” after East Troublesome fire’s explosion into Grand Lake; blaze is threatening Estes Park
  • Colorado child protection caseworker under investigation for falsifying reports about checking on kids, at-risk adults

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/22/colorado-churches-granted-coronavirus-exception/

Denver college board with one voice backs curriculum redesign to highlight racially diverse stories

get headlines https://thecherrycreeknews.com

The Denver Public Schools Board, while sporting matching T-shirts, voted unanimously Thursday night to enact a historic resolution that weaves the narratives and knowledge of Black, indigenous, Latino and other communities of color into every part of the district’s curriculum.

The Know Justice Know Peace Resolution, which was first announced in September, calls for consistency across the district in assessing and revising curriculum to create “transformational, humanizing, anti-racist and asset-based” lessons in every school subject. It includes constant opportunities for feedback, especially from students and teachers, and requires specific internal and external reviews of 11th grade civics and economics and 8th grade U.S. history. K-5 students will have a revamped social studies curriculum as well. 

Teachers and administrators will receive ongoing professional development training where they will learn how to discuss racially traumatic situations in a sensitive manner. They will also be supported in teaching lessons that celebrate the narratives of people of color and their contributions to the world. And libraries will get more support to celebrate literature from and about marginalized communities. 

The Denver Public Schools board of directors and administrators join Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College students and educators to celebrate passing the Know Justice Know Peace resolution.

The resolution comes in the wake of an internationally acclaimed podcast of the same name, started by four students at Denver’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College. 

The students had joined some of their peers in a fall 2019 school trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Denver Public Schools is a diverse district — 13.4% of students are Black and 53% are Hispanic — and DMLK Early College is even more diverse, with Black students making up 25% of the population. 

Yet for many, the field trip was the students’ first time learning about renowned Black figures — such as Mansa Musa — and their accomplishments. It motivated the young Black women to advocate for more racially inclusive classes — with particular regard to Black history and culture — at their school. They also formed a Black Student Alliance. 

This summer, in response to the police killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, students Alana Mitchell, Jenelle Nangah, Dahni Austin and Kaliah Yizar started Know Justice Know Peace: DMLK’s The Take. Over the course of eight episodes, the young Black women explored past and present racial injustice and what it means to be Black in the U.S.

MORE: Denver’s Black students are raising their voices to redesign the curriculum, ensure their history is taught

And with the help of teachers, administrators and the school board, the students led the charge to draft and pass Thursday’s resolution. An official signing ceremony will be held Friday morning.

“Us standing here today represents us refusing to be complacent,” sophomore Kaliah Yizar said at Thursday’s meeting. “This change that we’re making is not just symbolic. We, together with you and your support, are making history.”

For sophomore Dahni Austin, all of it — from the field trip, to taking African American studies electives at school, to the podcast, to the resolution — has been incredibly empowering and inspiring.

“Learning your own history can do that,” Austin told The Colorado Sun.

DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 18: Kaliah Yazir, a 10th grade student at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, speaks to the audience during the announcement of the Know Justice, Know Peace resolution she and classmates initiated to provide more comprehensive education around Black history in the district’s curriculum in Denver, CO, September 18, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Mohatt/Special to The Colorado Sun)

There have been efforts at the state legislature to rectify inequitable school curriculum, such as a bill passed this year that requires Holocaust and genocide studies. But this resolution is the first of its kind in the state to explicitly incorporate racially diverse knowledge into a district’s curriculum.

“Thank you so much for your hard work to get to this day,” board director Tay Anderson said to the students during the board meeting. “When I think of our DPS Mount Rushmore, I think of each and every one of your faces, because you have changed the landscape of what it means to be a DPS scholar.”

The students hope that this resolution is just the start of a “positive domino effect,” Nangah, a senior, said. Many who spoke at the meeting called on other districts — and the state education department — to explore how to implement versions of this change in their own schools, in large part by listening to what students want and need.

“We have young people in all of our schools who are capable of advising us, guiding us on what would help them be more effective in their studies,” superintendent Susana Cordova said. “It is about our students being able to know their history and have a deeper understanding to know themselves.”

The students have not done this all alone. DMLK teacher Kiara Roberts and principal Kimberly Grayson have been enthusiastic supporters through it all, starting with last fall’s field trip. But far from the adults encouraging the students to act, they did so on their own, often texting the educators late at night or early in the morning with new ideas.

“Their ideas flourish from their minds, and we are here as supporters for that,” Roberts said. “It’s definitely a car driven by them, we’re just here to support them.”

The curriculum change has, in some ways, been building up for some time. In 2015, after years of Grayson’s advocacy, the school added “Doctor” to the beginning of its name, to honor King’s Ph.D. And earlier this year, the school board responded to widespread requests from the district’s community by voting to separate from the Denver Police Department.

MORE: For Colorado students, becoming “anti-racist” starts with no longer letting offensive social media posts slide

While 2020 has involved a renewed racial reckoning for many, Roberts noted that Black people in the U.S. have always faced racism, and that the fight for justice — in the district and beyond — continues. 

“Now people are listening, now people want to move,” Roberts said. “So let’s move.”

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  • Denver school board unanimously backs curriculum redesign to highlight racially diverse narratives
  • Aurora working group presents draft plan to recruit and retain more teachers of color
  • Two churches in Colorado granted exemption from state coronavirus guidelines
  • Colorado money tracker: A look at the candidates and campaigns spending to influence the 2020 vote
  • “Lots of structure loss” after East Troublesome fire’s explosion into Grand Lake, but changing weather slows march toward Estes Park

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/22/denver-school-board-curriculum-bipoc-narratives/