Opinion: Court packaging is a Republican sport not an Autonomous hazard

more news https://northdenvernews.com

If a Biden White House or a Democratic Senate explores changes to the judiciary, including the Supreme Court and federal bench, it would be an effort to reduce the influence of politics in the third branch of government designed by framers to provide checks and balance.  

So, when we hear the press and Republicans accuse Democrats of plans to “pack the court,” it is laughable. Court packing is a Republican sport and a decades-long overreach of their power.

John Bringenberg

Recent history is important. Scholarly research shows the Supreme Court as largely centrist to slightly conservative for the past 80 years with the exception of about eight slightly progressive years during the 1960s.   

Regarding Senate conduct, for the first 235 years of U.S. governance, there were 168 times when the Senate majority shut down the filibuster of the minority party to hold up a judicial, executive or cabinet nomination. 

However, nearly half (82) of those instances came during President Obama’s terms. Republicans were making good on their well-reported 2008 Inauguration Day pact to obstruct the Obama presidency.  

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

With dozens of court and executive nominations being held hostage and piling up by November 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed a confirmation-rule change to a simple majority to apply only to federal court judges and executive branch appointees. 

In 2016, Senate Republicans abdicated their constitutional duty to “advise and consent” on Merrick Garland, Obama’s February nomination to the Supreme Court court.  

Keep in mind that Garland was nominated as a 63-year-old centrist judge to appeal to Republicans, in large part because they had previously indicated he was too conservative to be chosen by a Democrat president. 

Then, in early 2017, when President Trump put up his own nominee, Senate Republicans were met with their first filibuster by Democrats on Neil Gorsuch. 

As we all know, one filibuster by Democrats was more than Republicans could stomach. They invoked the Nuclear Option for Supreme Court nominees, something Reid was principled enough to exclude in his efforts to overcome obstruction.   

In all, the Trump administration with Republican support has appointed more judges than Obama or most other recent presidents at the same point in their terms. And five of the nine justices were nominated by presidents who failed to win the nation’s popular vote — two by George W. Bush and now three by Donald Trump.     

Let’s not be fooled by those who would mislabel a Biden White House that explores options for reducing political bias by the courts as the sort of court packing that Republicans have applied with force to the third branch of U.S. government. 


John Bringenberg of Denver is a sustainable-energy financing executive and executive director of New Energy Colorado, a Golden-based nonprofit that provides information on energy issues.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.

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Why a lot of Coloradans leave college financial aid on the table and exactly how to deal with that

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By Jason Gonzales, Chalkbeat Colorado

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

For the past several years, Colorado students have left tens of millions in federal funds for their college education untapped — somewhere between $30 million to $50 million.

“It’s a pot of gold,” said Angie Paccione, the Colorado Higher Education Department executive director. “If you don’t access that money, it’s your loss.”

The state’s low completion rates of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid among high students places Colorado near the bottom in the nation — 47th overall — and well below the national average.

Read more education stories from The Colorado Sun.

While other states show that sustained, comprehensive strategies can help students complete the complicated form and access thousands of dollars to further their education after high school, Colorado has mostly pieced together smaller initiatives. The state’s approach contrasts starkly with national leaders like Tennessee or Louisiana.

Advocates and college and state leaders agree Colorado needs to do more to help students complete the FAFSA that allows students the ability to pursue their college dreams through access to scholarships and federal grants.

Colorado faces many challenges in improving those numbers.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

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  • Why so many Coloradans leave college financial aid on the table — and how to fix that
  • Trump officials end gray wolf protections across most of U.S.
  • Bodie Hilleke follows family legacy, becoming youngest kayaker to navigate Grand Canyon
  • Why Colorado Democrats are trying to unseat the most bipartisan Republican in the legislature
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via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/30/colorado-colleges-universities-fafsa/

Trump authorities end gray wolf securities across most of UNITED STATE

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By Matthew Brown, John Flesher and Jim Mone, The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Trump administration officials on Thursday stripped Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in most of the U.S., ending longstanding federal safeguards and putting states and tribes in charge of overseeing the predators.

The U.S. Department of Interior announcement just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election could lead to resumption of wolf hunts in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — a crucial battleground in the campaign between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

It’s the latest in a series of administration actions on the environment that appeal to key blocs of rural voters in the race’s final days, including steps to allow more mining in Minnesota and logging in Alaska.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz, who opposes recreational wolf hunting, called the decision disappointing and wildlife advocacy groups pledged to fight it in court.

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Both feared and revered by people, gray wolves have recovered from near extinction in parts of the country but remain absent from much of their historical range.

Federal wildlife officials contend thriving populations in the western Great Lakes region, Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest ensure the species’ long-term survival. They argue it’s not necessary for wolves to be in every place they once inhabited to be considered recovered.

In an announcement attended by several dozen people at a national wildlife refuge overlooking the Minnesota River in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt declared the gray wolf’s recovery “a milestone of success.”

“In the early part of the 20th century the gray wolf had essentially become a ghost throughout the United States,” Bernhardt said. “That is not the case today.”

Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe agreed that wolves were recovered and said it’s time for the agency to “move on” to help other imperiled wildlife. But he questioned the announcement coming so close to the election.

“It creates the perception that it’s being done for political reasons,” Ashe said in an interview.

Campers in Grand County took this picture on the weekend of June 6-7. Colorado Parks and Wildlife called it “wolf-like” but said additional work would be needed to confirm its identity, noting the atypical wolf behavior of approaching people. (Provided by CPW)

Some biologists and former government officials who previously reviewed the administration’s proposal for lifting protections said it lacked scientific justification. And wildlife advocates worry the move will make it harder, if not impossible, for wolves to recover in more regions, such as the southern Rocky Mountains and portions of the Northeast.

Their numbers also are sure to drop in the western Great Lakes area, as happened previously when federal controls were lifted, said Adrian Treves, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin. Hunting seasons took their toll and research showed that poachers were emboldened by the absence of federal enforcement, he said.

Agency scientists believe wolves can continue expanding even without the federal listing, although support from states is considered crucial.

Farmers and hunters welcomed the news.

Ashleigh Calaway of Pittsville, Wisconsin said 13 of her family farm’s sheep were killed by wolves in July of 2019. Reducing wolf numbers through state-sponsored hunts would help prevent such attacks, she said.

“It’s allowing them to be managed to a level to lower the risk to sheep and cattle,” Calaway said.

The decision keeps protections for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. It’s the latest attempt over two decades to return management authority to the states. Courts have frequently rejected such moves after opponents filed lawsuits.

Environmental groups said protections are still needed to shield small populations of wolves in West Coast states, including California, and to help them expand to new areas.

“Instead of pursuing further wolf recovery, the Fish and Wildlife Service has just adopted the broadest, most destructive delisting rule yet,” said Collette Adkins with the Center for Biological Diversity.

An initiative on the Colorado ballot next week seeks to reintroduce wolves there in coming years. With federal protections removed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have no say about moving ahead with the plan, if voters approve it.

Proposition 114 explained: What’s at stake with the effort to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado

Wolves were wiped out across most of the U.S. by the 1930s under government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns. A remnant population in the western Great Lakes region has since expanded to some 4,400 animals in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

More than 2,000 occupy six states in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest after wolves from Canada were reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park beginning 25 years ago.

Following a protracted courtroom battle that ended when Congress intervened, the Northern Rockies wolves are now under state management and are hunted in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

State officials also allowed hunting of Great Lakes wolves for several years last decade when protections were removed. The hunts ended when protections were restored under a 2014 federal court order.

Wolves were given initial federal protections in the late 1960s and listed as an endangered species in 1978, except in Minnesota where they were classified as threatened. A government-sponsored recovery effort had cost roughly $160 million as of last year.

The wolves lose protection 60 days after the decision is published Nov. 3 in the Federal Register, although the wildlife service will continue monitoring their populations for five years.

Wolves have never been legally protected in Alaska, which has a population of 7,000 to 11,000.


Flesher reported from Traverse City, Michigan, and Brown from Billings, Montana.

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  • Bodie Hilleke follows family legacy, becoming youngest kayaker to navigate Grand Canyon
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When Colorado reporters attempt to tear info out of federal governments expense is the No. 1 concern we hear about Your once a week roundup of Colorado local news

Colorado News

Journalists in Colorado so appreciate the Colorado Open Records Act that at least one reporter who worked here chose Cora as his daughter’s middle name.

The law, commonly called CORA, is our state’s version of the federal Freedom of Information Act. It helps make government more transparent, and citizens more informed to be free and self-governing. But it has plenty of flaws. In 2015, Colorado earned an ‘F’ grade in the State Integrity Investigation for the category of public access to information because of some pretty awful provisions in CORA and its sister, the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act.

Lawmakers could make CORA work better for journalists— and anyone else who wants to better understand the extent to which their government is working properly.

This week, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, a group that helps everyone in Colorado gain access to public records, published a special report that analyzed a particularly problematic provision of CORA. Justin Twardowski, a University of Denver Sturm College of Law student, researched and wrote the report, titled “A Return to Nominal-cy: Restoring a Proper Balance for CORA Costs.”

From its executive summary:

In 2014, Colorado’s General Assembly enacted a cap on the hourly fee governments can charge for the “research and retrieval” of responsive records under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). The objective of the maximum hourly rate in House Bill 14-1193 was to rein in the practice, by some records custodians, of quoting requesters exorbitant sums, consequently impeding the public’s ability to obtain government records. Six years later, government bodies show a strong tendency to adopt the legislative cap as their research-and-retrieval fee, and they often multiply that rate by many hours in fulfilling requests. The result is the same problem HB 14-1193 sought to fix: unaffordable charges that stymie the public’s access to public information.

This practice, Twardowski writes, “is out of line with judicial interpretations of CORA.” Jeff Roberts, who directs the CFOIC, wrote how Twardowski’s report “concludes that a 2014 amendment to the Colorado Open Records Act has failed to rein in out-of-control and wide-ranging fees charged to records requesters.”

Roberts goes on:

Twardowski’s paper cites examples gleaned from frustrated journalists and CFOIC’s freedom-of-information hotline, including quotes of thousands of dollars to provide records on government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Colorado can and should do better,” Twardowski writes in his report. “Colorado must adopt a policy that requires government entities to expressly, and specifically, justify their charges to records requesters, thereby promoting transparency and ensuring that agencies base their fees on clearly articulated administrative burdens.”

Part of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition’s duties is to run a hotline where citizens can call in with questions and complaints about some government or another — whether it be a podunk outpost, a major metropolis, or an entire branch of government — blocking access to open records. And cost is “the No. 1 issue we hear about,” the CFOIC’s Twitter account posted in a tweetstorm following this new report. “Journalists and members of the public are rightly frustrated when they’re quoted hundreds or thousands of dollars to obtain public records.”

Reforming the law wouldn’t only help journalists, however, and it’s not just something about which a certain industry sector is concerned. Jesse Mallory, the state director for the conservative-donor-backed group Americans for Prosperity, said in response to the report that he understands the need for research and retrieval costs. When he was working in the legislature, he said he lost count of how many records requests he had to fulfill.

“But the costs need to be reasonable,” he said in a social media statement. “Departments always seem to find a way to make their costs in the thousands of dollars — out of reach for most citizens & organizations.”

Lawmakers can do something about this, and now they have data and research to rely on as they consider it. Let’s see if they will.

Colorado journalists, know your rights. But also, who are you, really?

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press this week offered a helpful “top 5 things to know” tip sheet for Colorado journalists covering the upcoming election.

Those top five, per the RCFP, are:

  • News gathering at polling places
  • Voter rolls
  • Election returns
  • Ballots
  • Initial and recount processes

The RCFP based its tips and analysis on state laws and regulations. They go into a lot more detail about each item above. I thought this at the end was interesting, especially given how journalists should be concerned with the ways in which governments decide “who counts as media and who doesn’t“:

“A media ‘observer’ is defined as a member of the media who must have valid media credentials. It does not include private citizens interested in writing about or filming the voting process. View the guidelines on page 41.”

Following that link to the Colorado Code of Regulations at the Secretary of State’s Office, however, didn’t exactly clear that up. “The Colorado State Association of County Clerks and Recorders, Colorado Broadcasters’ Association and Colorado Press Association have collaborated to develop the following guidelines and protocols for use when members of the media observe the counting or recounting of ballots,” the code says.

But it still doesn’t seem to define who a member of the media actually is. For that, we must turn to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Elections Division Policy and Procedure Manual.

From that document:

A member of the media must have valid media credentials to be a media observer. Media can include reporters, photographers, broadcast journalist, or film crew. Media does not include private citizens interested in writing about or filming the voting process. Media may observe all election activities. Media Guidelines, as outlined in Election Rule 8.18, were agreed to by the County Clerks and Recorders Association, the Colorado Broadcasters’ Association, and the Colorado Press Association.

That led one Colorado journalist to say: “as usual attempting to draw a line just raises more questions. Are journalists not ‘private citizens’? What’s a valid credential? Are Unicorn Riot broadcast journalists?”

More on those Colorado sites ‘made to look like newspapers’

Last week’s newsletter spotlighted nearly 20 websites in Colorado made to look like local news outlets, localizing a New York Times investigation into what the paper called a “pay-to-play network” of PR sites nationwide.

This week, Denver7’s Meghan Lopez dug deeper, analyzing some of these Colorado sites that she wrote are “made to look like newspapers” and putting them on blast. “The websites, which go by names like the Adams County Times, Centennial State News, Colorado Business Daily or Grand Junction Times, look legitimate,” she wrote.

More from her story at the Denver ABC affiliate:

On the about page, the sites claim, “Our approach is to provide objective, data-driven information without political bias. We provide 100% original reporting, including to share as much data as possible from government and other publicly available sources.”

However, Denver7 found that most of the local stories on the Metric Media sites are either reworded press releases or rewrites of articles published by reputable reporting sources with a slight slant which tends to lean conservative.

The reporters who were named on various bylines were found to be freelance writers who do not live in Colorado and who write articles for Metric Media’s websites in states across the country. None of the writers Denver7 reached out to responded to our requests for comment. One of the stories on Governor Jared Polis was a word for word copy of a story featured on the company’s Wisconsin website with only the names of the Governors swapped out.

Lopez goes on to quote communications experts about the importance of media literacy, and mentions some simple things readers can do to verify if purported news sites they’re seeing are legit. More:
Check to see if the website features an ethics policy for its reporters to abide by. Click through the staff biographies and find out where they are based and whether they have written numerous other articles for the same website or type their names into social media and Google to see whether they have an online presence. Check the website’s about page and contact page to see where it is based and whether the station is [easy] to contact.
For more on the national context about these proliferating sites, listen to this podcast at The Daily by The New York Times.

The Social Dilemma is a Colorado production

Those of a certain age might remember the innocent early promise of social media and the Internet.

For me, it was the first day of college in New York when we stood in line for a new IBM Thinkpad and a smiling assistant showed us how this improbable machine could access the Web without being plugged in. We were attending a university billed as one of the first “wireless” campuses in the nation. I’d hear the distinct sing-song digital chimes of AOL Instant Messenger echoing from behind a stall door in a shared dorm-floor bathroom and feel like I was living in the future. Kids from other colleges would come to see if it was true: Yes, you could be online while outside on the quad. We’d see how far we could venture off campus before we lost the signal.

Now, a powerful new film, The Social Dilemma, available on Netflix, shows how corporations have broken the promise of a utopian digital-age future. To be sure, there are untold positive aspects of our connected age. But told through dramatizations, animation, and the provocative confessions of Silicon Valley insiders with titles like the former such-and-such of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever, the movie makes a strong case for some kind of counter-action against the online status quo.

The documentary comes as the First Amendment is having a … shall we say, moment … and amid some recent chin-tugging about free speech in our era of unprecedented disinformation. On Oct. 13, Emily Bazelon published a New York Times Magazine piece all about this conundrum. A day earlier, The New Yorker had offered an in-depth takedown of Facebook that detailed how the platform is “overrun with hate speech and disinformation” (and asked if the company really even wants to solve the problem). Even some of our best indie musicians are onto it these days; last week, the band Better Oblivion Community Center noted a song in which they sing “The truth is anybody’s guess” was originally about the QAnon delusion. This week’s cover of The Economist sports these words: “Social Media and Free Speech.”

The Social Dilemma does a compelling job of capturing the urgency about why all this matters. At one point, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt points to spiking suicide rates of teens and pre-teens— numbers that took a rocket ride after 2009 when social media became widely available on phones. “GenZ, the kids born after 1996 or so, those kids are the first generation in history that got on social media in middle school,” he says in the film. “How do they spend their time? They come home from school and they’re on their devices. A whole generation is more anxious, more fragile, more depressed. They’re much less comfortable taking risks. The rates at which they get driver’s licenses have been dropping. The number who have ever gone out on a date or had any kind of romantic interaction is dropping rapidly. This is a real change in a generation.”

Throughout the movie, participants lay out ways in which social media business models can be poison for democracy.

In one particularly grim scene, computer scientist Jaron Lanier games out a future in which Wikipedia, say, stops showing the same entries for everyone in favor of customized definitions for each different user based on payment from third parties. “So Wikipedia would be spying on you. Wikipedia would calculate what’s the thing I can do to get this person to change a little bit on behalf of some commercial interest, right?” Lanier asks. “And then it would change the entry. Can you imagine that? Well, you should be able to because that’s exactly what’s happening on Facebook. It’s exactly what’s happening in your YouTube feed.”

Maybe you’ve seen this in your own life. An aging extended family member on Facebook morphing online into someone you no longer recognize. A youngster radicalized down the rabbit holes of YouTube. “The flat-Earth conspiracy theory was recommended hundreds of millions of times by the algorithm,” says Guillaume Chaslot, a former software engineer at Google, in the film. “It’s easy to think that it’s just a few stupid people who get convinced, but the algorithm is getting smarter and smarter every day. So today they are convincing people that the Earth is flat but tomorrow they will be convincing you of something that’s false.”

Indeed a lot has happened since the days of that Gateway 2000 box with the cow spots on it and those AOL CD Roms that came in the mail. Now, “the way to think about it is 2.7 billion Truman shows,” Venture capitalist Roger McNamee explains in the film. “Each person has their own reality with their own facts.”

Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, gets plenty of play in The Social Dilemma, hammering on the symptoms, and the cause of the disease: profit-motive fueled by runaway capitalism. “We’ve created a system that biases towards false information,” says Sandy Parakilas, a former operations manager at Facebook. “Not because we want to, but because false information makes the companies more money than the truth. The truth is boring.”

Toward the end of the film, Harris asks viewers to imagine a world where no one believes anything that’s true. “Everyone believes the government is lying to them,” he goes on. “Everything is a conspiracy theory. I shouldn’t trust anyone; I hate the other side. That’s where all this is headed.”

As it turns out, The Social Dilemma has roots in Colorado.

Last month, The Denver Post reported in a headline: “Boulder filmmaker’s new Netflix documentary will make you want to delete social media forever.”

That filmmaker would be Jeff Orlowski. From the piece:

“I was class of ’06 at Stanford. When we all graduated, that was (around) the birth of the iPhone and the birth of apps. So many of my closest friends went directly to Facebook, Google or Twitter. Multiple friends sold their companies to Twitter for exorbitant amounts of money,” Orlowski said on the phone before his film’s world premiere at January’s Sundance Film Festival.

The project came out of conversations with those friends “who were starting to talk about the problems with the big social media companies back in 2017, at the birth of the tech backlash that we’ve been seeing. Honestly, I’d heard nothing about it, knew nothing about it.”

This week Westword wrote also about the documentary’s connections to our state while noting it “became the most-watched film on Netflix in September, beating out Pets Unlimited, two Smurfs movies, and hundreds more offerings.”

From Westword culture editor Kyle Harris:

The documentary … was directed by Jeff Orlowski, edited by Davis Coombe, written by Vickie Curtis, produced by Larissa Rhodes, Stacey Piculell and Daniel Wright, and with music composed by Mark Crawford of Boulder-based Exposure Labs. Even the animations were homegrown, produced by Mass FX Media, run out of Denver by husband-and-wife duo Shawna and Matt Schultz.

How about that! Harris interviewed Exposure Labs and Shawna Schultz for a Q-and-A, which you can find here.

Colorado’s U.S. senator says: protect journalists

A month after Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado introduced a bill to examine ways in which the federal government might help the local news industry, he’s again talking about journalists.

This time, the brother of a former New York Times editor and son of a onetime NPR president is asking the nation’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to help protect journalists around the world.

From a statement this week from Bennet’s office:

“Recently, we marked the somber anniversary of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally killed by agents of the Saudi government at its Consulate in Istanbul for openly criticizing that country’s leadership,” wrote Bennet and the senators.
More from the letter, signed by nine other senators:
In recent years, countless journalists around the world have been threatened, imprisoned, beaten and even killed as they attempt to report the truth and hold their governments more accountable. On the anniversary of Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, we pay special tribute to those brave journalists whose dogged pursuit of the truth never wavered in the face of these threats. Their legacy is proof that fear will not silence facts.
Bennet’s office noted that beyond his Future of Local News Commission Act legislation, he wrote in February to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “demanding the company do more to protect journalists across the globe from attacks on its platforms.”

Followup: Fallout from KUNC’s exposé

Gavin Dahl at KVNF invited me on his community radio program in Paonia Tuesday to talk about last week’s newsletter. During the conversation I recounted some updates KUNC reporter Scott Franz posted on social media following his exposé involving a “journalist getaways” program at the state tourism office and travel writers in Texas.

On Twitter, Franz told readers about fallout from his reporting:

Franz says the state of Colorado paid a freelancer $2,091.28 in travel expenses this summer for the trip and told Franz they expected it would result in a newspaper story about travel for the 2021 summer tourism season.

More Colorado local media odds & ends

A national FOX host apologized — “we regret the insensitive error” — after the station played the Johnny Cash song “Ring of Fire” as it showed footage from the Denver affiliate and reported that Colorado’s deadly wildfires had left multiple residents missing or unaccounted for.
?House of Pod is accepting nominations for its annual Colorado Podcast Awards.
?”A number of reporters and photographers” were present at an Oct. 15 event with Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman who 10 days later tested positive for COVID-19.
⬇A bill to implement Colorado’s media literacy program in schools “failed this year as the legislature’s attention shifted to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.” (A member of Colorado’s Media Literacy Advisory Committee says, “My understanding is that a future legislature still has access to that work and could revive it.”)
?A Northern Colorado public radio story headline: “What Happens When Your Ballot Gets Rejected? One KUNC Reporter Found Out First-Hand”
?The Denver Post reports Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey during a public hearing “why President Donald Trump’s tweets are sometimes censored by Twitter but tweets from Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including one denying the Holocaust, are not.”
?The anti-Trump talk show host Craig Silverman, who was unceremoniously kicked off his conservative radio station mid-broadcast last year, says The Colorado Times Recorder deserves “accolades in their roles for fighting intolerance, bigotry and creeping fascism, especially as it comes in [the] form of right-wing media.” (In his recent column in The Colorado Sun he said “We should all choose good, reliable sources for information while we still can.”)
?Writing in Complete Colorado, Ari Armstrong defended 9News anchor Kyle Clark from conservative attacks. “Why some conservatives have fixated on Clark is an interesting question,” he writes.” If you look at the journalism that Clark actually produces, you will find that almost all of it presents the news of the day in a thoughtful and context-rich way.”
?Here are the 25 newsroom winners of the #newsCOneeds funding campaign.
?KVNF community radio in Paonia celebrated its 41st anniversary.
?A KOA News Radio talk-show host indicated she believes “MSM outlets” that practice news judgement as they see fit “deserve to have their First Amendment rights stripped if they can’t be responsible with them.”
⚠Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry explained how such news judgement works: “For far too long, the media wrongly allowed Trump to tell lies and fiction with impunity, because he’s POTUS. This paper, and most others, kill endless stories because they cannot be substantiated. We stalled 3 this week. It’s our job.”
?Thirteen new what, KDVR?
?On Jan. 1, Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune will “stop printing and delivering a daily edition at year’s end and switch to a weekly printed newspaper delivered by mail.” (Coverage of it made NYT and elsewhere.)
⚰Ex-Colorado journalist and Missoulian editor Gwen Florio writes for The Nation about “the death and life of great American Newspapers.”
*This column appears a little differently as a published version of a weekly e-mailed newsletter about Colorado local news and media. If you’d like to add your e-mail address for the unabridged versions, please subscribe HERE. 

via Straight News https://www.coloradoindependent.com/2020/10/30/colorado-open-records-costs/

Colorado wellness authorities warn state might get to record coronavirus hospital stays by Nov. 10

get headlines https://thecherrycreeknews.com

Colorado health officials on Friday warned that the state could set a new record for coronavirus hospitalizations as soon as Nov. 10 with the disease continuing its rapid spread.

As of Thursday, 622 people were hospitalized in Colorado with COVID-19, the highest level since May 7. Hospitalizations have been steadily rising for several weeks.

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: A half-million Coloradans have already signed up for the state’s new coronavirus-tracking notification tool

>> FULL COVERAGE

The state’s peak coronavirus hospitalizations count was reached on April 14 at 888 after the pandemic first took hold in Colorado.

“There is a small window to improve transmission control over the next few weeks,” Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, said in a written statement. “To limit increasing infections and avoid peaks that could strain healthcare capacity over the next three months, a substantial increase in transmission control is needed.”

If the trend isn’t abated, Colorado could surpass its intensive-care unit capacity in January, or even as soon December if people father over the holidays and don’t abide by mask-wearing and social-distancing guidelines, health officials warn.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says its modeling shows that approximately one out of every 219 Coloradans are currently infectious with COVID-19. The state’s “R-naught” value is thought to be 1.6, meaning that each person who contracts coronavirus is spreading it to 1.6 others.

“This implies that the probability of encountering an infected person in the population is higher than it was at any point this summer,” an agency news release said.

Colorado’s daily case count is higher than it’s been at any time during the pandemic. Over the past seven days about 7% of people tested have tested positive for COVID-19.

To combat the increase in cases, some counties have enacted additional restrictions to limit people’s movement and try to halt gatherings. Denver and Pitkin counties, for instance, now mandate that people not get together in groups larger than five.

Statewide, CDPHE last week ordered gatherings to be limited to 10 people from no more than two separate households.

Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar this week enacted a two-week curfew started Friday in an attempt to slow coronavirus’ spread. Puebloans are barred from leaving their homes between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/30/coronavirus-hospitalizations-colorado-peak/

Colorado political election officials claim theyre positive citizens will certainly be able to cast their ballots safely

get headlines https://thecherrycreeknews.com

Colorado election officials are downplaying concerns about Election Day violence and insist voter intimidation has not been a concern, even as a handful of local governments have bolstered election-related safety measures in recent days.

Pitkin County officials beefed up election safety by hiring security guards and banning firearms from polling places. Denver officials are preparing for possible unrest in the days after the election. In Douglas County, law enforcement has formed an 84-member “strike force” to handle safety and security in the days surrounding the election. 

There is national context for the local concerns. Armed men dressed as security guards showed up outside a Florida polling place. In the Rust Belt battleground of Michigan, the secretary of state attempted to ban the open carrying of firearms at polling places, but her order was struck down by a state court. 

ELECTION 2020
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In remarks Friday, Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said Coloradans can feel safe and secure in voting. She said the most high-profile instance of voter intimidation in the state to date occurred in Fort Morgan, where a landlord told residents he would double their rent if Joe Biden wins the election. That statement drew a rebuke from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. 

“I do want to underline that our elections are going very well right now,” Griswold told reporters. “In Colorado, Coloradans should feel confident in going to the polls. If there is an issue, we have contingencies and plans, and we’ll be able to act as fast as possible.”

Turnout has reached record levels in Colorado, perhaps in response to the tumultuous year leading up to Tuesday’s vote. In recent months, thousands have taken to the streets to protest racial injustice, and a pandemic and recession have rocked the nation. President Donald Trump, who remains a deeply polarizing figure, has sought to undermine confidence in the election and has on multiple occasions declined to commit to a peaceful transition of power should he lose this election. 

But amid these broader concerns, Colorado officials say they are confident in the state’s election security. That’s partly because incidents at in-person voting locations are less likely in Colorado because the overwhelming majority of voters cast ballots by mail or submit them at drop boxes. 

Adams County Clerk Josh Zygielbaum said his office has received some reports of intimidation incidents at drop boxes, but that they haven’t held up after investigation. All drop boxes in the state are made of steel, bolted to the ground and monitored by 24-hour surveillance cameras. 

“Everything has been unsubstantiated when we’ve taken a look at our cameras,” he said.

Some inadvertent electioneering has occured at polling places but has not been an impediment to election safety, he said. It’s prohibited by state law for voters to wear any paraphernalia — shirts, buttons, hats, face masks, or the like — that support or oppose a candidate or cause within 100 feet of a building that includes a polling location.

“We’ve simply spoken with folks who have done it and they have moved along,” Zygielbaum said on the call with Griswold. “I anticipate that will continue to be the case as we approach the election here and even on election day. And in the event that something more serious happens, we do have a plan to keep our voters and our workers safe.”

That plan has included input from law enforcement, but, Zygielbaum said, “officers will not be in or around vote centers unless they’re absolutely necessary.” Adams County officials moved a polling place out of a law enforcement substation because its location could have made some voters uncomfortable, Zygielbaum said. 

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

The story is similar in Fremont County, said Clerk Justin Grantham, who has reached out to law enforcement but does not expect any major issues. He said electoral backlash was less of a concern of Fremont County, which is “off the beaten path” southwest of Colorado Springs. 

Like in Adams County, Grantham said he has seen a couple instances of unintentional electioneering from voters who have worn a political hat or mask into a polling location. In those cases, he said, most people have been “pretty nice” about removing their electoral paraphernalia when asked to do so by election officials. 

But even though he doesn’t anticipate any issues, he has contacted police to make a plan for any issues that should arise around more serious voter intimidation. 

“If something gets out of hand, and I can’t handle it myself, then they’re around,” he said.

On Friday, NAACP Aurora Chapter President Omar Montgomery said his organization was planning to meet with law enforcement, but said the NAACP was not asking police to be at the polls. Montgomery said he wasn’t expecting any major election incidents, and urged people not to be intimidated by any information they see in social media posts.

“We just want people to know their rights once they arrive at the polls,” Montgomery said. “And if there’s any type of intimidation, that it is taken care of as quickly as possible so that everyone can be able to exercise their right to vote.”

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  • Colorado election officials say they’re confident voters will be able to cast their votes safely
  • Colorado health officials warn state could reach record coronavirus hospitalizations by Nov. 10
  • Why so many Coloradans leave college financial aid on the table — and how to fix that
  • Trump officials end gray wolf protections across most of U.S.
  • Bodie Hilleke follows family legacy, becoming youngest kayaker to navigate Grand Canyon

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/30/colorado-voter-intimidation-2020-election/

Did you miss our previous article…
https://danpabon.com/barbara-nickless-juggled-story-as-well-as-backstory-to-produce-a-tale-inspired-by-an-army-intelligence-officer/

Barbara Nickless juggled story as well as backstory to produce a tale inspired by an Army intelligence officer

Colorado News

Barbara Nickless is the Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Sydney Parnell crime novels. She is a two-time winner of the Colorado Book Award and three-time winner of the Colorado Authors’ League writing award. She also teaches creative writing to veterans at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She loves to hike, cave, snowshoe, and travel as far as possible off the beaten path.

The following is an interview with Barbara Nickless.

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.


What inspired you to write this book? 

At a meeting of retired intelligence officers, I was fortunate to speak with (recently deceased) Army Major Thomas VanWormer. In the course of our conversation, Tom asked if I knew about the brief appearance in Iraq of a weapon that was particularly deadly for American troops and was likely manufactured outside the Middle East—Russia or elsewhere. From that single spark, a story was born. 

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?

With this excerpt I wanted to show Sydney’s vulnerability. Even though she’s a former Marine and incredibly tough, she also grapples with her guilt from the war. She served in Mortuary Affairs in Iraq and has been haunted ever since. I also wanted to show her determination. She’s alone in Mexico City—a metropolis of more than 15 million people—searching for an orphan whose family was killed in Iraq. 

The boy is in danger from a mysterious entity known only as the Alpha, and the question of the book becomes who will reach him first—those who want to protect him or those who want him dead? “Ambush” wraps up a plot line that was introduced in the first novel of the series.

Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?

As with all of my books, this one was research-intensive and involved not only travel to Mexico but sit-downs with intelligence specialists, two FBI counterintelligence agents and a visit to Denver’s Regional Transportation District security headquarters where I spoke at length with the RTD’s chief of police. I also learned a lot about treating injuries in animals, thanks to a local veterinarian.

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?

This book is more of a thriller than the other books in the series and required a different approach to the material—pacing and suspense had to be ramped up and the plot required an international flair. All of that was a learning curve for me. 

Also, since “Ambush” wraps up plot threads introduced in the first book in the series but must serve as a standalone novel, I had to catch the reader up on what happened in “Blood on the Tracks” without slowing the pace or creating confusion for the reader. I juggled a lot of balls trying to create a fast-paced story that—of necessity—carried a lot of backstory. But I am excited to write another thriller.

Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet? 

I’m lucky to be able to write full time, outside of my teaching commitments. I’m at my best in the morning, so I create new material in the morning from around 8 to 11, then exercise and eat lunch. The afternoon is devoted to research and editing. I try to knock-off around 5:30, when I often enjoy a glass of wine and think about the next day’s work. 

Of course, if the work has gone particularly poorly, it might be whiskey I drink instead of wine. As for music—that’s an interesting question for me. Prior to losing my home in the Waldo Canyon Fire of 2012, I always wrote with music. Since then, I almost never do. I’ve spoken with other wildfire survivors who were startled to realize that they, too, have given up long-standing habits. Maybe after losing so much, you become a different person.

What’s your next project?

My publisher is launching a new series based on a character I introduce in the fourth book of the Sydney Parnell series. I’ll return to Sydney and her K9 partner at some point, but right now I’m in a new city with a new character and a new set of murderous bad guys.

— Buy “Ambush” through BookBar.
— Read an excerpt from the book.

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  • Barbara Nickless juggled plot and backstory to create a tale inspired by an Army intelligence officer
  • In “Ambush,” a detective seeks a young Iraqi boy with secrets — and so does a ruthless killer
  • Opinion: Why COVID-19 might help schools overcome generational challenges
  • Colorado election officials say they’re confident voters will be able to cast their votes safely
  • Colorado health officials warn state could reach record coronavirus hospitalizations by Nov. 10

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/31/barbara-nickless-ambush-sunlit-interview/

In Ambush a detective looks for a young Iraqi young boy with keys therefore does a fierce killer

more news https://northdenvernews.com

Barbara Nickless is the Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Sydney Parnell crime novels. She is a two-time winner of the Colorado Book Award and three-time winner of the Colorado Authors’ League writing award. She also teaches creative writing to veterans at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She loves to hike, cave, snowshoe, and travel as far as possible off the beaten path.

The following is an excerpt from “Ambush.”

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.


2020 Colorado Authors League winner for Mystery, Crime and Suspense

Inside the room, I bolted the door, dropped my duffel on the bed, then ripped off my bloodstained clothes and stepped into the shower. The stall was moldy, and I had to share it with a spider. I lifted my bare foot to crush it, then stopped. No more death. Sharing the space with the creature seemed only fair, since I was the interloper.

I took my corner, and the spider took his, but he scurried away as soon as I turned on the tap. Fickle friend. I cranked the faucet until the wheezy stream of water was as hot as it would go and then let it burn away the surface of my skin still stained with Angelo’s blood. I used every bit of soap and shampoo as I scrubbed my hair and body, then stood with my face turned into the spray and rinsed my mouth until I no longer tasted blood. My weeping mixed with the fall of water, and I could tell myself the tears were only that—a warm mingling of oxygen and hydrogen.

The minutes ticked by, and still I did not move. Then the air shifted, and the stall seemed to shrink, and, even in the heat, goose bumps ran down my back. Behind me, I sensed a ghostly presence. I didn’t have to turn to picture Angelo standing with me in the small space, his ruined face awash with water, his butchered hands hanging helpless near his thighs. I kept my back turned and my eyes closed, for I could not bear to see him.

Our ghosts are our guilt.

Barbara Nickless.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, water leaking into my mouth where it mingled with the tears. “I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. I didn’t know they were following me. And I didn’t know they would go after you.”

A thick silence greeted my words.

My counselor would have advised me to turn around, to face my demons and confirm that they existed only in the traumatized space between my ears. But although Peter Hayes had served in Iraq just as I had, he had not spent long nights alone with the newly deceased. Hayes was wise about many things, but about the dead, I feared he was, well, dead wrong. If I turned, I would learn that I was not alone.

I spread my hands flat against the ancient tiles and pressed my forehead to the slimy wall. The water pounded the back of my head and neck, burned down my back, and roiled at my feet as my chest heaved with sobs.

“You have to go,” I said at last. “I can’t think with you so close.”

By the time the water turned cold, my tears had stopped and Angelo had vanished. I lifted my chin and shunted aside the self-pity. I was here to find Malik. He was all that mattered, and I would not let myself be sidetracked by grief or guilt or fear. His mother had given her life for the Marines, and, if need be, I would do the same for her son. The life of one boy might seem a small thing against the backdrop of a still-raging war. Against the loss of so many. But if I ever came to believe that, my soul would be forfeit.

I stepped out of the shower and turned away from the mirror.

Despite what I’d told Daniel, I needed some sleep to clear my head before I could plan my next move. A good six hours, then I’d be ready for the world again.

To sleep, perchance to dream.

But not here. The Alpha seemed capable of reaching anyone—of corrupting them, or torturing them, or killing them. I had to find a different hotel. A place where no one would be at risk for the simple sin of knowing me.

I dried off with the rough towel, donned a clean tank top and my filthy cargo pants, placed Daniel’s cap and jacket on the bed, then grabbed my bag and cranked up the volume on the television set.

I went out the window above the toilet.

Chapter 4

There are good and bad people on both sides of a conflict. The trick is in figuring out which is which. And who is working for whom.

—Sydney Parnell. Personal journal.

At 2:00 p.m. the next day, I sat at a table in an open-air coffee shop in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec with a café Americano and a plate of sugar-dusted pan dulce.

I’d arranged myself with my back to the adobe brick wall, my chair half-hidden by a riotous climb of brilliant-red bougainvillea and the shade cast by the eaves of the roof two stories above. The afternoon was quiet, save for the occasional rattle of cutlery and clink of glasses as a woman set the tables inside. I tried to relax as I took in the mingled aromas of coffee and baking bread and the sweet waft of the flowers nodding in a soft breeze.

Angelo had died a soldier in a war he hadn’t even known was being waged. But the fact that the Alpha’s men had gone so far meant they were desperate. Malik was not yet in their sights. And for the moment, at least, I’d shaken off their pursuit. Over the next hour, perhaps I would learn something that would help me find Malik. And find a way to keep him safe.

“Ambush” by Barbara Nickless.

I put down my coffee and sat back. I wore a newly purchased embroidered blue blouse, a long skirt, sunglasses, leather huaraches, and a straw hat, bought at a market that morning. I’d dyed my hair a dark brown and replaced my usual braid with a tight chignon coiled at the nape of my neck. I looked minty and new, or so I hoped, the duffel sitting next to my sandaled feet the only outwardly tattered thing about me.

To any casual observer, I hoped to pass as a local, an idle expat housewife enjoying the afternoon while she watched the sun bake the world into a torpor.

The waiter, a friendly twenty-something, appeared at my table.

“You like the abrazos?” he asked, gesturing toward the pastries on the red-and-white patterned plate. “They are a warm hug, are they not? Those with the cream, they are my favorite.”

I smiled and picked up my coffee. “They are very good.”

“Would you like more coffee?”

“Por favor.”

“I’ll be right back.”

The little square in the town of Ecatepec was a sleepy, sun-drenched refuge. After my trip to the market that morning, I’d taken an Uber to the Buenavista subway station, then the suburban railway to Lechería Station. From there, I’d used a combination of taxis, another subway, and a bus before walking the final stretch. When I was absolutely sure there was no one on my tail, I’d selected this table tucked into the afternoon shadows. My duffel was within easy reach on the ground, the stun gun with its remaining three cartridges sitting on top of my filthy clothes.

I was there to meet a man named Ehsan Zarif, who ran security for the Jameh Mosque where Malik had been photographed. When I called him that morning and introduced myself, Zarif had assured me the place was known only to the neighborhood locals. “You won’t find it on any tourist map,” he’d promised. Which made it a good place to rendezvous if you didn’t want to be seen.

And Zarif and I did not want to be seen. I had my own reasons. For him, it would likely raise uncomfortable questions if he were spotted in the company of a young American woman, sharing pastries with her on a Sunday afternoon.

And meeting at the mosque had been out of the question—the Alpha almost certainly knew about it by now. Extreme pain like the kind Angelo suffered sooner or later makes everyone talk.

The waiter strolled out of the café and refilled my cup. He smiled at me, then stretched and yawned, taking in the day before strolling back inside. I was his only customer. I scooted my chair a few inches to the right to avoid the encroaching sunlight spilling across the tables and kept my face in shadow. I slid my phone from my pocket and checked the time. Still early.

Ten texts and two voice mails from Daniel. I’d sent him a text earlier, thanking him and letting him know I was all right. I ignored these newest messages and my guilt and dropped the phone back in the pocket of my skirt.

In the distance, a train blew its horn. The sound pushed against the effects of the coffee and adrenaline, and my heart rate slowed. But the sound also brought a deep desire for Denver and those I loved. If his schedule permitted, Cohen would be out for a midafternoon run with Clyde, the mountains rising in steep blue ridges beyond the park near police headquarters. Clyde would ignore the taunts of magpies and mountain blue jays, and the lure of the squirrels darting between trees. He would stay with Cohen.

I sat up when a man appeared on the far side of the square. Of medium height and build, he had a neatly trimmed gray beard and wore jeans, tennis shoes, a collarless shirt, and a black suit jacket. A black ball cap topped off the mix of casual and professional. He stood motionless as he scanned the restaurant patio. I leaned forward, into the sunlight. When he saw me, he smiled and made his way across the square.

I stood when he drew near.

“Ms. Parnell?” he asked in unaccented English.

“Sydney. And you are Mr. Zarif?”

“Ehsan. Please.” We shook hands. “It’s a pleasure to meet someone from my home country.”

“You’re American?” I asked.

“First generation. My parents fled Iran for the U.S. in 1979, after the shah was deposed. I grew up in San Diego, but I went to college in Boulder, not far from your hometown of Denver.”

Of course he had researched my background. “You speak like a native.”

“You’re kind. But not completely truthful. Still, I try.”

“And now you live here. In Mexico.”

“I still have my American citizenship. But I’m an expat. Or, as I prefer, a man of the world.”

“Most people are running in the opposite direction.”

The skin around his eyes crinkled. “What do they know?”

He held my hand for a moment, cupped in both of his in the Persian manner as we took a moment to inspect each other. He was not what I expected. Most people who work security are physical, almost overbearingly so, and they carry themselves with an aggressive body language designed to discourage anyone from getting close to their clients. Zarif’s gentle gaze and frameless glasses gave him the look of someone more comfortable running Google searches than chasing bad guys.

But appearances could be deceiving. And there was the matter of the gun he was packing; I’d taken note of the outline of an ankle holster beneath his jeans as he approached. Possibly there was another gun in his back waistband.

He released my hand.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me,” I said.

“Of course. Although you were very mysterious.” He smiled. “But then, maybe that’s why I came. Who can resist a mystery?”

— Buy “Ambush” through BookBar.
— Read an interview with the author.

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  • Barbara Nickless juggled plot and backstory to create a tale inspired by an Army intelligence officer
  • In “Ambush,” a detective seeks a young Iraqi boy with secrets — and so does a ruthless killer
  • Opinion: Why COVID-19 might help schools overcome generational challenges
  • Colorado election officials say they’re confident voters will be able to cast their votes safely
  • Colorado health officials warn state could reach record coronavirus hospitalizations by Nov. 10

via Straight News https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/31/ambush-barbara-nickless-sunlit/

Opinion: Why COVID-19 might aid institutions get over generational difficulties

more news https://northdenvernews.com

As Colorado students and educators settle into the school year and adapt to the many changes that the pandemic has forced, it is a good time to reflect on the current state of education.

Teachers and school administrators have had to wrestle with unthinkable scenarios to ensure the health and safety of students and educators at school. They worked overtime to come up with flexible plans to start the year with remote and in-person learning.

For their part, parents also weighed new options and came up with creative solutions like pod-learning to guarantee their children would have access to education while still limiting exposures to COVID-19.

COVID-19’s challenges have only added to an already heavy burden facing educators. Colorado ranks near the nation’s bottom when it comes to funding for students.

Megan Ellis and David Kurtz

Schools struggle to balance a litany of needs against minimal budgets: student enrollment; the achievement gap and inequity issues across districts; recruiting and retention of qualified teachers (which is particularly challenging in rural areas); low teacher pay; limited connectivity and/or access to technology.

Compounding all of this, schools are now trying to manage new levels of issue complexity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Historically, we have worked with schools to help visualize and bring to life the future state of education by designing and building facilities that more effectively support learning needs.

Through that work, we’ve noticed a common thread that runs through almost every school: the imagined future state of education is confined by existing standards.

Educators imagine the school of the future in terms that depend on the needs of students today. This approach is practical and pragmatic, but potentially limiting. And this is why we see the COVID-19 pandemic in a different light.

The current situation, while distressing and disruptive to the educational norms to which we’re accustomed, is an opportunistic event. We have re-evaluated these norms with 21st century design, but not everyone believed change was needed.

COVID-19 may allow schools to untie themselves from the anchors of the past to make space for new and truly innovative ideas that could solve, or at least minimize, these generational challenges schools face.

Never before have educators and students needed more flexibility – in when, where and how they teach and learn. We can support changing needs by reimagining what the learning environment should look like and offering more variety, with less rigidity, when it comes to our standards.

When we think of spaces that are contained in a school, there’s a pretty traditional list that seems universal. All schools have a gym, a cafeteria, a library, classrooms – many of which are dedicated to specific activities (i.e., the music room, the science lab, etc.) – and hallways connecting all of these spaces together. This universal standard also assumes that all students use these spaces in the same way, year after year.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

This traditional set-up is one of the roadblocks preventing us from realizing a truly innovative future state of schools. When we consider all of the variables that need to be accounted for in today’s education system – from individualized learning plans for students and curriculum standards to the many effective teaching styles educators are required to engage – it’s easy to see why the traditional breakout of spaces might be impeding teachers, students and administrators from reaching their full potential.

By designing schools with more flexibility to use space in multi-dimensional ways, we are taking an innovative step forward to respond to changing needs. For example, Colorado class size and population have grown overtime, necessitating larger facilities with higher density standards.

But cohort class size as a result of COVID-19 has shrunk class size. Now, we might see a resurgence in the use of wall partitions to enable schools to reconfigure space to accommodate fewer people with lower density standards.

Rural schools in particular are most in need of these same flexibility principles and tools as class size is extremely volatile year-to-year, even without COVID-19.  

With adaptable spaces, we can also imagine the possibilities educators might have to customize curriculum to each student. For example, virtual teaching labs may facilitate an expansion in curriculum or allow relocated students to finish out a school year at their last school.

Teachers might also have flexibility to move classrooms to more immersive spaces (e.g., a science experiment is conducted virtually from a professional science lab to save school resources), or reconfigure spaces to expand or contract as needs change. Schools that embrace this idea of flexible space will have more options to creatively respond to unforeseen scenarios that force changes to the learning environment.

These schools will also be in a better position down the road with facilities that can flex as learning styles and techniques change over time.

Today we’re focused on distancing and density standards, extending the learning environment outdoors, and technology accommodations that integrate in-person and virtual learning.

We can’t know what challenges we’ll face tomorrow, but we can equip ourselves to manage them with facilities that evolve and change as our needs most certainly will.

Designing schools with different levels of changeability will allow educators and students to face disruptions like COVID-19, and whatever comes next, with confidence and efficiency.

COVID-19 has forced dramatic changes to our daily lives and change is something humans are predisposed to resist. The silver lining is that COVID-19 has also leveled the playing field.

We’re all dealing with change and working to adapt our needs. Our hope is that this new reality will spur people to think differently, particularly when it comes to imagining the future state.

Something pretty amazing could be born from our current reality as we reckon with so many unknowns and consider completely new ways to overcome challenges.


Megan Ellis is a senior interior designer and David Kurtz is a senior architect at The Neenan Company, a Colorado-based design-build and development firm.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com. 

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The latest from The Sun

  • Barbara Nickless juggled plot and backstory to create a tale inspired by an Army intelligence officer
  • In “Ambush,” a detective seeks a young Iraqi boy with secrets — and so does a ruthless killer
  • Opinion: Why COVID-19 might help schools overcome generational challenges
  • Colorado election officials say they’re confident voters will be able to cast their votes safely
  • Colorado health officials warn state could reach record coronavirus hospitalizations by Nov. 10

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Whats Working: A new $375 stimulation small business gives and also stories from Colorados joblessness line

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With just a few days before the election, Congress appears to be not one bit closer to another round of COVID-19 relief than it was in late July, when special pandemic unemployment benefits ended.

Hence, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis figured out how to offer a one-time $375 payment to almost anyone on unemployment between March 15 and Oct. 24. 

Polis is taking $163 million from the three state funds, including the Disaster Emergency Fund, and giving it to those most in need. Read his executive order.

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About 435,000 people qualify but not everyone on unemployment is eligible. There’s actually just one qualification: 

  1. Received at least one week’s worth of unemployment benefits for $25 but no more than $500 between March 15 and Oct. 24.

Based on that lone requirement, this translates to people who make less than $52,000 a year. It doesn’t matter if you’re on regular unemployment or pandemic unemployment. No certification is required.

“Only about 49,000 (on unemployment) will not be eligible,” said Cher Haavind, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “Our outreach effort to all claimants will start next week.”

This is not unemployment, by the way. It’s just a payment that most people on unemployment qualify for. That said, there’s no appeals process if you happen to make $501 a week in unemployment benefits, she added.

If you believe you’re eligible, the Department of Labor says you don’t need to do a thing. You’ll receive an email or call from the department starting as early as next week. But they suggest that you log into your benefits account and make sure the address and payment method is up to date. Payments should be sent in early December.

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Speaking of emails, especially unopened ones…

Many people on unemployment are not checking their inboxes for messages from the state Department of Labor. 

Last month, Haavind shared a shocking number with me: Only 50% of emails sent to people eligible for a $300 weekly bonus were opened. The message was sent to 220,000 people on regular unemployment who needed to certify before they could claim the federal Lost Wages Assistance benefit. 

“It’s a two-way street,” she said at the time. “Please read and respond.”

This may explain why only $377.4 million out of the available $553 million in Lost Wages was paid to Coloradans as of Oct. 29. Of the 244,000 who did receive some of the money, about 68,000 were Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) users. 

While the LWA program is pretty much over (read last week’s update if you missed the deadline), the department still sends out important emails that remain unopened.

Take overpayments, for example. This has been a big issue for some people on unemployment who found themselves suddenly cut off from the weekly benefits and stuck with a demand for repayment. For one reason or another, the state paid them too much.

But among the 9,000 emails sent to users to tell them their payment was forgiven, Haavind said, about 80-85% were opened.

So, check and search your inboxes and spam folders frequently if you are expecting communication from the state.

The need-to-know on evictions

Last week, we reported that Gov. Jared Polis issued an eviction moratorium for 30 days. If you fear getting kicked out of your home because you haven’t paid rent, you still need to lift a finger and fill this out: Declaration of eligibility. 

This form certifies that you can’t pay rent because of financial hardship due to COVID-19. It’s your word, which better hold up in court. So don’t fib. 

Take it to your landlord and try to work out an alternative payment plan. 

Without this, said Carey Degenaro, an attorney helping out with Colorado’s COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, you can still be evicted.

“The most important thing is tenants bear the burden of asserting that they’re protected under these moratoria. So they need to know about complete and submit a declaration form to their landlords,” Degenaro said. “Otherwise their landlords can do whatever they want.”

There is the other ripple effect. Tenants skipping rent may create financial hardship for landlords. I’m working on a story about the issues so if you have any insight or your own landlord or renter story, let me know via email.

>>Another tip: If you’re facing eviction, you probably haven’t paid your electric bill. Call the nonprofit-run 2-1-1 helpline, or visit 211colorado.org and ask for help. I mentioned this to a reader this week who shared her unemployment situation — as well as mentioning that her lights were going to be turned off the next day. She called 2-1-1 and now has her utility bill covered until the end of the year.

Tales from the unemployment queue

Jennifer Milton shared an update this week. I wrote about her frustrating unemployment hold that left her without any income so she ended up living in her car. She reports that her case has now been resolved.

The issue? Her claim was flagged for fraud. Specifically, at one of the houses she stayed at during the pandemic, she used the computer, as did others also filing for unemployment. 

“Apparently there were numerous PUA claims filed from their IP address,” Milton said. “The only reason they put me on hold is because my address associated me with that house that one time, so they froze my stuff until they (could) talk to me.”

That took about three months.

Another woman, named Elizabeth, found her and her husband’s benefits put on hold on Aug. 13 and she couldn’t get a call from the unemployment office until December. But she reported that after the state dismissed one type of fraud hold in mid-September, she started getting payments again. Presumably, it was because the department decided that two unemployed people at the same address was OK.

However, on Oct. 8, she received a strange message from the state with a link to upload her personal documents, which included a photo of her face holding up her ID.

It was legit. We verified that yes, the state sent her a link to upload documents to Box.com.

Many of the emails I receive are from people who say they’ve also been waiting for months to get things cleared up. Like Heather Sullivan, who reached out to tell me about her and her son’s case. 

He accidentally wrote in the wrong social security number (you should ask the virtual agent at coloradoui.gov to fix that). Her case was locked for reasons she didn’t understand. She learned that the unemployment office lobby was open for appointments, managed to snag one and then “made the 120 mile trip north the following day,” she said. 

But instead of talking to someone in person, she was sent to a cubicle to talk to an agent on the phone, just as she would have done if she had called the 303-536-5615 PUA helpline.

“Once I was speaking with the agent, I quickly realized I was not getting anywhere,” she said. “This agent also could not get past the lock on my account.” 

On Oct. 9, she got that same email Elizabeth did, asking for further verification, like a selfie with her driver’s license.  

She’s still waiting.

In another case, Sam messaged me about his wife not getting the $300 in Lost Wages even though she’s a PUA person. I told him to call the PUA helpline at 303-536-5615, as the state instructed. He did and verified she’s eligible and will be receiving the bonus payment.

But I learned later that Sam’s wife was actually on regular unemployment — not PUA. People on PUA were automatically paid the LWA, while those on regular unemployment needed to tell the state their unemployment was due to COVID. (If you are an eligible PUA person who didn’t get LWA, email me.)

Lesson: Read carefully. And read the What’s Working archive regularly!

>>HELP ME: If your unemployment case was resolved or you discovered another useful tip for wading through pandemic unemployment, please share your story by emailing tamara@coloradosun.com

Child at home?

A few unemployed parents received a disconcerting message this week that they were disqualified from benefits because of a “child at home” affecting their ability to return to work.

That was a mistake, confirms Haavind.

“Yes that is an issue we identified last week, but payments were still made within payment windows,” she said. “We sent two emails notifying impacted claimants. The fix should be deployed by the vendor this week.”

Small business grant

Last week, the nonprofit Energize Colorado announced that it awarded $6.7 million in grants to 500 businesses in the state.

This week, the group, which raised funding from private donors and received some of the state’s federal CARES Act money, shared how competitive the process was:

  • 5,600 businesses applied
  • $135 million was requested
  • 90% were owned by women, minorities or veterans, or were in rural locations

Most counties had at least one business that received a grant, with the top counties being Denver (99), Arapahoe (69) and El Paso and Jefferson in a tie with 32 awardees each.

A second round of awards for a total of $19 million is expected to be announced by Dec. 30.


The nonprofit Energize Colorado, which received $30 million in public and private donations, awarded $6.7 million in grants to 547 small businesses in Colorado. This is the map of where award winners are based. A second round will be announced by Dec. 30. (Handout)

That’s it for this week’s What’s Working. I don’t delete emails, but if you’ve asked a question and I haven’t responded, please try again at tamara@coloradosun.com and make sure “What’s Working” is in the subject line. Stay safe, Happy Halloween and don’t forget to vote! ~Tamara


What’s Working is a new Colorado Sun column for anyone whose lost a job or trying to survive as a business. Read the archive and don’t miss the next one. Get this free newsletter delivered to your inbox by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww.

MORE: Read stories on Colorado jobs and unemployment

  • What’s Working: Colorado unemployment rate drops to 6.4%, $19 million for small businesses, plus “Lost Wages” leftovers
  • What’s Working: Unemployment backlogs, backdates and overpayments in Colorado
  • What’s Working: “Lost wages” gets a new deadline, overpayment forgiveness, small business updates and more
  • What’s Working: One third of Colorado’s share of “Lost Wages” still unclaimed, plus a new portal to the unemployment office
  • What’s Working: Thousands of fraud holds lifted for Colorado unemployed, while more face pricier health insurance
  • Unemployed and nearly homeless, jobless Coloradans whose benefits are on hold are crying for help
  • The $300 “Lost Wages” bonus begins, Amazon is hiring like crazy and answers from Colorado’s labor department
  • What’s Working: Extra $300 unemployment benefit gets a start date and how Colorado overpaid $40 million in jobless aid
  • What’s Working: The situation with PUA benefits. Plus, why action is needed to get extra payments.
  • What’s Working: Spanish-speaking virtual agents, extra $300 weeks approved and a new small business fund
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