Headlines – August 22, 2023 Alexis Kenyon
Denver City Council Extends Emergency Declaration
The Denver City Council has voted to extend Mayor Mike Johnson’s emergency declaration on homelessness.
It’s the second time the council has extended the declaration, which the mayor announced at the beginning of his term last month. The new extension goes to September 18th.
Mayoral advisor Cole Chandler said homelessness in Denver is an emergency that must be dealt with.
Polis Executive Order On Housing
Governor Jared Polis has issued an executive order meant to improve affordable housing options in Colorado.
In a press conference yesterday, he said one of the goals of the order is to reduce the red tape on home loan approvals. He said that by next July, the turnaround time should be down from 240 to 90 days.
Nearly a third of all Coloradans, he said, spend more than thirty percent of their income on housing. High costs force people to live further away from their workplace, which in turn makes traffic worse, contributes to air pollution and limits job opportunities.
The governor said he wants to make sure the state is doing its part to support strategic, sustainable affordability for future generations, adding that the executive order is meant to speed up processes at the state and local levels.
At that same press conference yesterday, the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, said the biggest housing construction delays are at the local government level.
$2 Billion Dollar Property Tax Bill On Ballot
Meanwhile, A multi-billion dollar property tax relief measure will appear on the November ballot.
In a ruling yesterday, the State Supreme Court turned back a Republican challenge to the measure. Republican opponents said Proposition HH violated the state Constitution’s single-subject provision.
The State Supreme Court said they cannot rule on a measure that voters have not approved or rejected.
Elijah McClain Case: Charges Reduced Against Aurora Cops
Two Aurora police officers who face charges connected to the 2019 death of Elijah McCain have had their sentence-enhancing counts for assault charges dropped.
The Denver Gazette reports that the Colorado Attorney General’s Office dropped the sentence-enhancing counts against Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt.
The two officers still face charges of reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and second-degree assault causing serious injury.
Altogether, three Aurora officers and two paramedics face charges for McClain’s death.
The indictment said Officer Nathan Woodyard stopped McClain initially, being the first officer on the scene.
Paramedic Jeremy Cooper is accused of making the decision and injecting McClain with ketamine. The indictment said neither he nor paramedic Peter Cichuniec spoke to McClain, checked his vital signs or physically examined him.
The five have three separate trials scheduled. Roedema and Rosenblatt will go on trial together in September, Woodyard will be tried separately in October and Cooper and Cichuniec will go on trial together in late November.
New Bodycam Video From June 2021 Club Q Shooter Standoff
Newly-released bodycam video is renewing questions about whether more could have been done to prevent convicted murderer Anderson Aldrich from obtaining firearms, before last year’s Club Q murders.
The footage was taken by the El Paso County Sheriff’s office during a standoff outside of Aldrich’s home in June 2021, about a year and a half before Aldrich killed five people in a mass shooting at the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs.
In that June 2021 standoff, which ended in Aldrich’s arrest, authorities were responding to a bomb threat and kidnapping call in a home near Colorado Springs. Charges were dropped when family members stopped cooperating with investigators, according to the Associated Press.
Afterward, El Paso County law enforcement was criticized for not pursuing red-flag laws that could have prevented Aldrich from getting weapons. Legal experts who have seen the newly-released bodycam video, obtained by Scripps News, say it indicates additional charges could have been brought, that might have kept Aldrich from legally possessing firearms.
Survivors and family members of victims say they plan to sue the county for not getting a red flag order.
Aldrich was given five consecutive life sentences this past June, after pleading guilty in the Club Q case. In addition to the five murders, eighteen others were wounded.
Bureau of Land Management Whistleblower Complaint
A longtime Colorado Bureau of Land Management employee has filed a whistleblower lawsuit, alleging that her supervisors aren’t enforcing livestock grazing regulations on public lands.
Melissa Shawcroft manages about a quarter-million acres of public rangeland for the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM. She was suspended for two weeks without pay, according to the Denver Post, after she allegedly didn’t follow management rules. Her supervisor also accused her of sending unprofessional emails.
Shawcroft, a rangeland specialist for more than thirty years, says BLM suspended her for insisting that they enforce grazing rules. In her whistleblower suit, filed yesterday, she says BLM fails to stop ranchers who do not hold a permit from trespassing by allowing their livestock to graze on the land.
Ranchers with permits have submitted complaints, says Shawcroft, claiming that the livestock grazing without a permit is polluting the water, threatening endangered species along the river basin and destroying the feeding grounds.
Shawcroft told the Denver Post that BLM managers are hesitant to enforce the law because they’re concerned about an armed standoff with ranchers, similar to one in Oregon in 2014.
The Bureau of Land Management has not publicly commented on Shawcroft’s whistleblower suit.
Colorado Water Congress Meets In Steamboat
The Colorado Water Congress is meeting in Steamboat Springs, today through Thursday.
Their agenda includes announcing the next director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. That announcement is expected today.
Their agenda also includes a session on the negotiations among the seven basin states about the future of the Colorado River.
Elected officials due at the Steamboat Springs meetings include Governor Jared Polis, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and Representatives Joe Neguse and Lauren Boebert.
The Colorado Water Congress advances programs to conserve and protect the state’s water resources.
Headlines – August 22, 2023 Alexis Kenyon