Afternoon News Headlines June 12, 2017

Denver city leaders have begun grappling with a troubling outgrowth of its affordable housing crisis: a steady uptick in evictions. Last year, 8,419 eviction cases were filed against tenants by their landlords. That’s about 500 more than in the previous year.

City officials and tenant advocates say that the shortage of affordable housing and the high rents are putting more renters in jeopardy of losing their homes.

“Eviction has a cascading impact on people’s lives,” says city councilwoman Robin Kniech, who is helping guide the effort.

The 8,000-plus cases in Denver County Court in 2016 are “tragic numbers,” she says. “If you assume the average household in Denver is 2.2 people, then you are probably talking about 16,000 people impacted. Some of these folks are ending up homeless, some are being displaced from their communities. Some are losing their jobs …”

Erik Soliván, the new head of the Mayor’s Office of Housing & Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), told The Colorado Independent that eviction today is a byproduct of a landscape in which home ownership is increasingly out of reach. In response, he said, developers last year built 5,600 rental units, but 8 in 10 were targeted toward the luxury market. The city, he says, needs at least 21,000 more affordable rentals than it has.

The city has set aside $1.5 million for eviction, foreclosure and utilities’ assistance, and is directing all city departments that intersect with tenants facing eviction, including code inspectors and the county’s sheriff deputies, to steer tenants toward a dedicated human service outreach team focused on social service, employment and housing help.

Colorado’s in-depth review of its academic standards — what kids are expected to know in several subjects in each grade — has entered a new and potentially political phase.

About 180 Colorado educators, parents and community members have been split into committees reviewing standards in 11 subjects, along with standards for students learning English as a second language. They also will propose the state’s first academic standards in computer science.

The committees’ work, to be carried out over the 10 months, will help inform the State Board of Education, which must approve any changes to the standards by July 2018.

Colorado’s standards update, which is required by state law, opens up the possibility of another round of public debate on the value of the academic standards.

“We’ve done a lot of preplanning to help this be a conversation about substance,” said Melissa Colsman, associate commissioner of student learning at the Colorado Department of Education. “But I don’t think we’re afraid at all to have (political) conversations. We don’t shy away from conversations that are important to have.”

Other states have become embroiled in controversies over repealing the Common Core State Standards in English and math, which Colorado also adopted. But efforts to kill the Common Core in Colorado have not gotten serious traction.

Colorado adopted its current standards in 2010. It was the first time the state had updated its standards since the 1990s.

This week, Boulder Congressman Jared Polis became the fifth big-name Democrat to launch a campaign for governor, upending a primary field that already includes a congressman, a former statewide officeholder, a wealthy businessman and a former state senator.

The openly gay, bow-tie-wearing tech-millionaire kicked off his bid in Pueblo at Solar Roast, the only solar-run coffee roaster in the country. The location was a nod to a key Polis plan to get Colorado using 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

Polis who has served five terms in Congress, served six years on the state board of education and founded several schools that serve at-risk students and immigrants, is listed as one of the wealthiest members of Congress. He made his millions founding e-commerce greeting cards and online flower delivery companies.

Asked by The Colorado Independent what is lacking in an already crowded Democratic primary field, Polis dodged, saying he is excited to to offer a bold vision for the future that also includes instituting universal free preschool and kindergarten, and encouraging employee stock ownership in companies.

Polis’s net worth has been estimated around $90 million and he plans to put some of that money in the race, though he wouldn’t name a figure. “I think it’s important to note that not everybody with money is Republican,” he said. He is also putting a $100 cap on all donations to his campaign, and pledges not to accept money from political action committees.

Asked where he sees himself fitting along the Democratic Party spectrum in Colorado, Polis said he didn’t expect an ideological battle. “It’s really about the bold progressive agenda for our state,” he said. “It will be up to others to define it.”

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