Colorado Editorial Roundup

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A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:

The Denver Post, Aug. 11, on why the U.S. should arm Kurds in Iraq:

The Obama administration has reportedly taken the momentous step of funneling weapons to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, even if it doesn't want to admit it — yet.

And why not? If the U.S. can sell arms to the Baghdad government, whose troops have been reluctant to fight warriors of the Islamic State, then it should be willing to provide arms to the Kurds, who are chomping at the bit to fight.

Unfortunately, the Kurds had to fall back from some towns because they were outgunned by the extremists. If the Islamic State is going to be stopped in the north, the Kurds will have to do it.

Opponents of supplying the Kurds fear that it will promote the further disintegration of Iraq, and that is a risk. But the alternative is almost unthinkable: that the U.S. allow the most stable, peaceful, pro-Western territory in Iraq, which is controlled by the Kurds, to be overrun by jihadists.


The Pueblo Chieftain, Aug. 9, on new funds for cleanup at the Pueblo Chemical Depot:

We were thrilled to learn that the U.S. Army will be redirecting $54.5 million over the next two years to speed up cleanup at the Pueblo Chemical Depot.

The funds are pre-budgeted and are simply being relocated to the project to help with ongoing remediation efforts. They bump the remediation budget to $65.7 million for 2014-15, a significant increase from the $11.2 million that was originally budgeted.

"PCD is doing important work to dispose of our nation's chemical weapon stockpiles, and these additional funds will support that critical, ongoing mission," said U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

The Colorado Democrat is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and played a crucial role in securing the money. "These funds also will ensure the depot can strengthen its remediation work around its facility and protect public health," Udall added.

The depot has been in operation for nearly 72 years. Over the years, it was subject to accidental contamination from mustard agent leaks, and intentional but necessary contaminants such as buried missile fuel.

The base was decommissioned in 1988 under the Base Realignment and Closure Act and all of its missions were terminated excepting the storage and destruction of chemical weapons.

The new funds will expedite the cleanup of those parts of the complex not critical for the destruction of the weapons. With little doubt, this is a great thing for Pueblo and Pueblo County.

The sooner the massive campus is cleaned up and declared habitable, the sooner it can get its second life. We thank the senator for pushing the Army on the funds to expedite the process.


The Daily Sentinel, Aug. 10, on a transparent search for an airport director:

The tone-deaf Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority seems to have a hard time understanding the concept of transparency. Or maybe it just doesn't care.

Intentional or not, that's the message the board is sending. In selecting an internal candidate as the lone finalist for the vacant airport manager's job, the board has revealed a sizable blind spot in its understanding of "optics," or the way the public perceives things.

The board has undergone months of heightened scrutiny in the wake of a federal investigation that aroused serious misgivings about its oversight function and led to the dismissal of former aviation director Rex Tippetts.

As a result, the board overhauled policies, tightened internal controls and promised to be more open about the way it conducts its business.

We took that as a sign that it had learned a lesson about the importance of transparency. But the board's search for a new airport manager proves it still has a way to go.

Most local government entities publicly vet candidates for top-level administrative posts. There's no legal requirement to do this. The airport board has every right to select a new airport manager without scheduling a public listening session or a "meet the finalists" forum. But why wouldn't it? A scandal-ridden board does not restore the public's confidence in how it does its job by selecting an internal candidate as its only finalist and making no public announcement about it. The board simply posted a finalist list to its website — a bare-minimum effort to inform the public.

The board seems certain that Ben Johnson is the best man for the job. Indeed, Tom Frishe made a convincing case that he's uniquely suited to succeed here. And maybe he is; but the questionable process that led to his selection undermines that vote of confidence. Johnson is the current airport operations manager and was initially a member of the search committee. He quit the committee and applied for the job after a nationwide search produced no qualified candidates.

To be fair, the board hasn't made a final vote on Johnson's hiring. It has a solid record of allowing public comment, so the public still has a chance to weigh in on this matter at the board's next meeting Aug. 19.

But we think it could avoid any second-guessing by acknowledging that the national search was a bust and starting the process over. Let Johnson's understanding of airport operations speak for itself. By publicly contrasting his views with those of an outside candidate — someone who might be able to put a fresh set of eyes on the airport's biggest challenges — the board can avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Otherwise, the board leaves itself wide open to interpretation. Is Johnson a hand-picked puppet — a board yes-man in the making? If the board wants to avoid such speculation, it should change course. Transparency can avert any misperceptions.


The Coloradoan, Aug. 9, on a transparent mission statement for the new oil and gas study panel:

Gov. John Hickenlooper has an unprecedented opportunity to determine the future of oil and gas extraction in Colorado.

And the best way he can lead is by throwing open long-closed doors and displaying transparency on the process that is expected to inform new laws on fracking regulations.

The first place he must start is with a "blue-ribbon" panel he is creating to address burgeoning issues related to fracking, such as the role of local control, public health and the environment.

Here is what we know:

The committee will be made up of six Colorado politicians and residents, six industry representatives, and six "respected Coloradans," according to Hickenlooper.

But here is what we don't know, and it's a far longer list:

What is both the scope and the timeline for this group?

How is the governor defining "respected Coloradan?"

Where and when will meetings be held, and will they be public, as they should?

How will feedback be collected?

So far, the governor has selected two people to the panel: La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt and XTO Energy President Randy Cleveland. Why them?

The governor must tread lightly here with such a process. The formation of a blue-ribbon panel could be an inclusive and transparent boost to this process. But Hickenlooper also surely recognizes that this commission does not necessarily ensure that the will of the people of Colorado are represented. Nor is an appointed commission necessarily accountable to the public.

Here's another challenge for the governor: Thursday, a judge struck down a moratorium on fracking in Fort Collins, where many residents are concerned about fracking's impacts on their homes, schools, water quality and health. A similar ruling occurred in Longmont. Meantime, Weld County is the most active county with fracking. Northern Colorado demands representation for its residents on this commission, as does the Western Slope. This cannot be a Denver-based commission.

Hickenlooper successfully convinced representatives of four ballot issues and those vowing legal action to stand down. They won't hold off long if this commission is not transparent and representative.


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