The Spot: Why popular ideas don’t always become law, Twitter’s hold on the 3rd Congressional District and Juneteenth

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The Colorado legislature is primed to pass a bill to provide in-state tuition at public colleges and universities to American Indian students whose tribes have ties to this state, even if those students don’t live here. Lawmakers, higher education officials and some Indigenous leaders have hailed this as an overdue step toward undoing historical injustice against Indigenous people.

Yet Brett Chapman, a civil rights attorney and member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, isn’t impressed. The bill doesn’t go far enough, he says, and if Colorado really wanted to do something with impact, it would provide free tuition for these students.

“It’s just really performative,” Chapman says. “The only thing they’re giving them is the ability to pay tuition same as the white people whose ancestors ran off the (American Indians).”

Thing is, Senate sponsor Steve Fenberg, the majority leader, largely agrees with Chapman — that it’s not enough, not that it’s performative. 

“Look, I want to continue working on this, and I hope that we can get to a place where we can provide free tuition,” the Boulder Democrat says. “This bill is a first step.”

This situation reveals how the state legislature mostly operates — incrementally, with ambitions limited not only by lawmakers’ imaginations but more often by a lack of funding and/or will. 

Colorado isn’t giving tribal members free tuition for the same reason it hasn’t automatically expunged low-level marijuana convictions, reformed the Colorado Open Records Act or closed down private prisons. There’s broad agreement, but spending the money, energy or political capital — sometimes all three — is more difficult.

That can be hard to accept for advocates and others who are impatient to see things change. 

“When the f*** is the second step going to come?” Chapman says. “Is anyone bothered that this first step is coming in the year 2021?”

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Top Line

 

Nearly a year and a half after Elijah McClain was killed, the independent investigation that was initiated by Aurora was released this week. In it, it says police and paramedics majorly erred throughout the entire incident, and that officers did not have legal basis to stop, frisk or use a chokehold on McClain. 

The Post’s Elise Schmelzer has comprehensive coverage of this week’s news, from the findings themselves to why Aurora will hire an independent monitor for police discipline and accountability to an accounting of recent grand jury decisions on police killings in Colorado. You can also read the full 157 pages of the independent investigation here.

Capitol Diary • By Saja Hindi

‘A more informed electorate’

People are struggling to decipher what’s based in fact and what’s unsubstantiated, and Colorado lawmakers are looking to combat some of the misinformation found online. 

They’re doing this by targeting students with two bills to promote media literacy and strengthen civics education.

The bipartisan media literacy bill is the result of an advisory committee created in 2019 that recommended resources and best practices. The proposal would require the Colorado Department of Education to maintain those teaching resources and materials, and help schools that want to put those policies into action.

“It’s really important to give kids the tools they need with the reality of the media landscape,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, a Jefferson County Democrat, adding that students also have to deal with both deliberate attempts to disinform them and just general misinformation.

Disagreement on how to solve problems is one thing, but everyone has to be able to agree on the facts on issues like climate change, economic recovery and health first, she said.

The prime Republican sponsor of the media literacy bill, Sen. Don Coram of Montrose, also is sponsoring the second bipartisan bill to require the state board of education to review civics education standards and update them with specifics that schools should teach. Districts that have 90% of schools that implement them will be denoted with a seal.

Coram said the goal is to achieve a “more informed electorate,” using the example of the thousands of emails he gets from people who don’t understand what a state legislator does. 

“My hope is that we will actually get the conversations that the children are learning at school become a dinner table conversation and remind people that, yes, this is our form of government and there’s state and local and national government,” he said.

More Colorado political news

  • Schools that refuse to change their American Indian mascots could start paying monthly fines in 2022.
  • Alcohol to-go: It’s the future for good in Colorado if a bipartisan bill passes.
  • A racist governor’s portrait will remain on the Colorado Capitol’s walls.
  • Lawmakers want to exempt students from state-issued standardized tests, but need permission from the federal government.
  • Colorado GOP lawmakers want to change how voting works. Their first bill has already failed.
  • Republicans want to curtail the governor’s powers. Democrats won’t let it happen.
  • 135,000 Coloradans finally accessed federal unemployment benefits. 

Federal politics • By Justin Wingerter

The Great Twitter Race in CD3

“We are just 7 followers away from 3,000,” she tweeted. “Please RT and help us get over the hump!”

It was February 2020 and Lauren Boebert, a little-known longshot candidate for Congress, was seeking traction. She would gain it — shocking Colorado’s political establishment and becoming a rising right-wing star — in part by harnessing the power of Twitter.

Now, the large number of Democrats seeking to unseat her — a half-dozen and counting — are taking a page out of Boebert’s playbook. They beg for Twitter followers as she did. They respond to her tweets with fundraising pitches, like Boebert responded to Donald Trump’s and Joe Biden’s tweets. They have, in some cases, also seen their follower count soar.

“I have been running against Lauren Boebert for just three weeks,” Gregg Smith tweeted Wednesday. “We now have 266,000 followers. Lauren has 549,000. Please retweet this and ask everyone you know to follow my twitter account to join us and pass her …”

No one has benefited from Twitter more in the 2022 cycle than Smith, a political neophyte whose viral tweets have handed him name recognition, media attention and fundraising opportunities.

“@LaurenBoebert has 547,000+ followers! We can beat that. Retweet this and ask your friends to FOLLOW this campaign to show the force of our movement to UNSEAT her,” state Rep. Donald Valdez, another Democratic challenger, tweeted Wednesday. Valdez often responds to tweets by and about Boebert as a way of introducing himself to anti-Boebert tweeters.

It takes far more than tweets to win a congressional race and the medium’s power should not be overstated, considering only about 20% of American adults use the platform. But there is money to be raised and name recognition to be gained by candidates who can corral angry tweeters. So, across the 3rd Congressional District, where internet connections can be spotty, the Twitter race is on.

More federal politics news

  • Boebert’s campaign publicly acknowledged Monday that a finance report was inaccurate.
  • Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland, who will likely decide whether the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters stays in Colorado, agreed to visit Grand Junction.
  • Meanwhile, Denver attorney Nada Culver will temporarily lead the agency, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports.
  • Republican operative Michael Fortney created a new national mail firm based in Colorado, Politico reports.

Mile High Politics • By Erica Hunzinger

Usually, you hear from Denver politics reporter Conrad Swanson in this space. But he’s on furlough this week, an unpaid leave that the majority of The Post’s newsroom — reporters, editors, photographers and digital strategists — has had to take more than once during the pandemic.

If you value The Post’s reporting, we ask that you subscribe — digitally or in print — so that our staff can keep you informed … without a forced break. Do that here. 

One more thing before sharing some of the week’s headlines. On Monday, the Denver City Council unanimously voted to make Juneteenth an official holiday in the city and county (though it’s more of a ceremonial holiday vs. a take-off-work holiday). 

Norman Harris, president of the JMF Corporation, a nonprofit that oversees Denver’s Juneteenth Music Festival, said organizers are “overwhelmed with joy” at the decision. 

“We believe that the city recognizing … the holiday gives us the opportunity to discuss both equity, opportunity and how culture is part of the integral fabric of the Black community in Denver, Colorado.”

He also said now that it’s an official holiday, they’re going to expand the celebration, “and build more awareness throughout all communities of the importance of celebrating Juneteenth.”

The full details are still being worked out, and with COVID-19, Harris said the No. 1 priority is for it to be a safe event. But he said plans include extending Juneteenth to “the Welton Street corridor and a number of beautiful open spaces within Five Points — Manual High School, Sonny Lawson Park, Curtis Park and the connecting streets.”

“It’s kind of like our version of South by Southwest with a Five Points appeal to it and a Juneteenth appeal to it,” he said. 

More Denver (and suburban Denver) political news:

  • The city and county of Denver is getting a weather observation station to have a “more representative” understanding of what it’s like outside. 
  • “Nothing like this has been done in years”: The Drop is now bringing “urban alt” to Denver’s FM dial.
  • Sexual assault allegations roil Denver’s street art scene.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union got involved in an Arapahoe County dispute between a neighborhood subdivision and a man who wants to fly an LGBTQ flag and put up a sign calling for inclusivity.
  • Denver is taking the cops out of responding to non-emergency calls about homeless encampments.
  • Colorado’s third In-N-Out location opened this week, and traffic was an animal (style).
  • OMG, so much snow.

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