Afternoon Headlines June 14, 2017

A low-income housing authority in Longmont is under fire after residents concerned about their constitutional rights told local media about a program involving police dogs accompanying housing management on random apartment searches.

The city of Longmont is investigating the claims. At issue is whether housing authority management and police with drug-sniffing dogs went into random units searching for drugs without the consent of the renter. Regardless of the consent matter, media attention has focused on the program itself— police accompanying housing management on so-called training sessions with their dogs.

“I think our police department is the best in the world,” Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs told The Colorado Independent. “If a mistake was made I think the intentions were very, very honorable and, you know, we’re not a bunch of jack-booted thugs that are busting down doors the way [some in the the media] try and paint us.”

If mistakes were made, Coombs says, the best thing to do is be transparent and open and say, “Hey, we blew it.” A housing authority official initially defended the search practice by saying, “Clearly if a resident isn’t interested in confirming that there aren’t drugs in their apartment, then it sparks some curiosity.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado is filing records requests and looking into the matter.

Responding to backlash against standardized testing, Colorado schools will soon transition away from the traditional PARCC math and English tests in favor of a new state-developed test, Chalkbeat Colorado reports. The shift will begin next spring.

PARCC standardized tests, which are developed by a collective of multiple states, are given to all students from third to eighth grades and test Common Core standards. Member states hoped to create a baseline for inter-state comparisons, but critics say the collective has fallen short of that promise.

The idea behind the upcoming shift is to give Colorado teachers more say in the development process. One goal is to limit the amount of time students spend on testing, which can currently last days or weeks.

According to Chalkbeat Colorado, these new tests will include some questions from the PARCC math and writing sections, but will include some new material. They will be completely designed by Colorado teachers.

Colorado is the latest in a long line of founding members to abandon the PARCC consortium. Five more states and Washington D.C. remain as governing members.

A lack of Congressional funding for deteriorating water infrastructure in the West has prompted the Bureau of Reclamation to consider the largely unprecedented option of private investments at the federal level, High Country News reports. When private companies join water projects, it’s usually for municipalities.

Critics are quick to point out the downsides to private involvement. The drive to protect the bottom line can put private companies at odds with public interest. And if a company goes bankrupt, it can be very costly for the public.

But nationwide, the problem of aging reservoirs, treatment plants and pipelines has pushed President Donald Trump to follow the Obama administration in calling for public-private partnerships to fund infrastructure projects. Trump has even called for outright privatization to fix the nation’s aging highways.

The Bureau of Reclamation recently met with industry representatives, who gave their feedback on five water projects that might benefit from privatization.

One such project is the Kachess Drought Relief Pumping Plant in Washington, which would cost about 200 million dollars. The Yakima river basin supplies irrigation water to farms. The proposed floating pump station would allow water districts to double the amount of water they can reach.

Another, the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System in east-central New Mexico, would funnel water from the Ute Reservoir down to towns that rely on the overdrawn Ogallala Aquifer.

The Paradox Valley Unit in the Colorado River basin is meant to be an alternative to an injection well that causes more than 100 small earthquakes each year. And a potential project at Yuma Desalting Plant in Arizona would treat runoff that is otherwise sent to other locations and not counted.

The Arkansas Valley Conduit in the lower Arkansas River basin of Colorado would finally fund a decades-old proposal to create a 227-mile pipeline system to provide drinking water to southeast Colorado.

At the meeting, the Bureau gauged industry interest for a potential partnerships on these projects. The Bureau has not asked for development bids as of now, but may in the future.

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