A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Gazette, Jan. 22, on the NFL's fan base:
This Sunday, and for the next five months, Americans will watch multimillionaire athletes try to move a ball from one side of a field to the other. We'll have tailgate parties outside massive stadiums paid for with taxes. We'll get together with friends and relatives in living rooms so giant strong men can entertain us with a showcase of rare talents and physical prowess.
Professional football is a sign of strength. It's more American than Old Milwaukee Beer.
So, when we see the Ravens' Ray Rice punch his then-fiancee in the face, dropping her to the ground unconscious — dragging her like a doll — it's our problem. When the Vikings' Adrian Peterson appears to have whipped his child senseless — scarring the boy with serious lacerations — it's our problem. The Patriots' Aaron Hernandez sits in jail on charges of first-degree murder. Panthers defensive lineman Greg Hardy abused and assaulted a woman. Ray McDonald, a 49er, stands charged with domestic abuse of a woman.
It's time fans stand up and say "enough." Fame and fortune are not exemptions from civilized behavior. Quite the contrary, in fact.
It is not enough that big athletic men can throw, tackle, run and block. It's not enough they help the right team win. It's not anywhere in the near vicinity of enough that they perform well on the field and then do whatever they please.
The average NFL salary is $1.9 million, which includes the men who sit on the bench. The stars — the men mostly making fools of themselves — get paid considerably more. They are paid well because large audiences pay to watch them. We pay to watch them because they're part of the American experience. No matter how much they may protest, these men of privilege are symbols of the cities in which they play. More importantly, they are role models for our boys. Who cares whether they asked to play such a role? It goes with the job, like it or not.
Fans determine whether the NFL, or any given franchise, gets to flourish and survive. They are the only source of revenue the enterprise has.
If a proven wife-beater, dog-fighting ring leader or suspected child abuser takes the field — which almost happened in the case of Peterson — fans at the game should get up and leave. At home, we should turn off the set. We should call the team's office, and the NFL, and tell them we want to watch winners — people who put other people first — and will not pay to see abusive, criminal-element losers. If we want athletics without regard for character, we'll advise the state corrections departments to start the NPL — National Prison League football.
Life in the NFL is not a right. It's the essence of a privilege. It's time fans make this fact loud and clear, taking back their sport from a few bad actors who are tainting its image.
The Denver Post, Sept. 22, on curriculum reviews in Jefferson County:
The Jefferson County school board did the right thing in tabling plans last week for a new curriculum review committee. But it needs to go further. If it intends to resurrect the idea, it first should revise the proposed guidelines for the committee.
The guidelines instruct the committee to "review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions," so they "present the most current factual information accurately and objectively." So far, so good.
Then they state the following: "Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights," as well as "positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."
That's where the trouble begins.
Take the subject of history. Courses that are balanced will indeed present positive aspects of this country's past and heritage, but they will also present regrettable and tragic aspects, too. Just as you wouldn't want a survey course obsessing over the nation's shortcomings, you wouldn't want a triumphant narrative masquerading as history, either.
And how should a history course "promote," say, patriotism and respect for authority? Respect for authority is often warranted, of course. However, American history is also replete with examples of individuals and groups standing up to authority in the pursuit of justice and the very "individual rights" that the guidelines say should be promoted, too.
Whatever their purpose, the guidelines, if adopted, would give the impression that the board seeks a narrow, upbeat and even propagandistic curriculum instead of the broad and even-handed approach that is best.
The pursuit of a first-rate curriculum by the district is a worthy goal. If the board wants to appoint a committee to examine current offerings, so be it. But don't taint the process with language that hints at an ulterior and non-academic agenda.
The Daily Sentinel, Sept. 23, on revisiting child-porn sentencing:
A Denver Post story about discrepancies in prison time for child pornography convictions in Colorado raises the question: Is it time for state lawmakers to impose mandatory sentences?
Federal law says people who knowingly download child pornography must be sentenced to at least five years in prison. Creating child pornography carries a minimum 15-year sentence.
But federal prosecutors are so strapped for resources that they only focus on the worst offenders. That means hundreds of child pornography cases end up in state court. And Colorado law doesn't carry minimum prison sentences for people guilty of child pornography offenses.
Indeed, some prosecutors are opposed to mandatory prison time because they value judicial discretion in imposing sentences. As Pete Weir, the district attorney for the 1st Judicial District told the Post's Jordan Steffen, "Judges are appointed for a reason and they have the experience to assess where these cases fall on the spectrum."
Other DAs are frustrated that the proliferation of child pornography, aided by new technology and the Internet, hasn't resulted in a proportionate spike in prison time for offenders. Steffen's article noted that judges gave prison time in only 40 percent of the state's 246 child pornography-related convictions in 2013. In 2008, 56 percent of the convictions resulted in prison time.
And there's the cost to taxpayers. Steffen calculated that if the 82 people who were convicted of Class 3 felony child pornography in 2013 had been given prison time, the cost would have been roughly $2.9 million a year.
We're troubled by how the lack of state sentencing guidelines creates arbitrary punishment. An Aurora man, for example, who collected thousands of images and videos of children being raped and beaten was sentenced to probation and three years in community corrections. A similar case in federal court resulted in an eight-year federal prison term.
We can't have outcomes based purely on whether federal prosecutors decide to press a case in federal court. And knowing there's no prison time makes defendants less likely to accept plea deals that include prison or jail time.
"Child pornography is not a victimless crime — and we need sentencing laws that recognize not only the severity of these crimes, but the suffering the victims endured," Arapahoe Chief Deputy District Attorney Leora Joseph said in the Post's story.
We agree. If the amount of child pornography being created is soaring — and thereby scarring more victims — it's time for state lawmakers and the Judicial Committee to consider changes that might slow down this troubling trend.
Longmont Times-Call, Sept. 21, on northern Colorado's summer:
Labor Day weekend of 2010 will be remembered for the Four Mile Fire in Boulder County, which erupted on strong winds and burned more than 171 homes, making it the most destructive fire in Colorado history.
A record number of hot days and below-average precipitation during the summer of 2011 led to fire bans in Front Range communities.
In the summer of 2012, the mountains of Larimer County caught fire, scorching tens of thousands of acres, destroying hundreds of homes, and turning morning and evening skies amber with smoke.
The summer of 2013 in Colorado was marked by a massive fire in southern Colorado that threatened the Royal Gorge bridge, and the historic, deadly flooding in northern Colorado.
After such a run of disasters, as well as the continual threat of fire in Front Range forests, the summer of 2014 — which ended Monday — can be looked back upon as possibly the most pleasant summer of the past decade.
It was the wettest summer in 10 years, and it happened to be a cooler-than-average summer, leaving Front Range cities and foothills lush and verdant throughout the summer.
The drought that had gripped northern Colorado for years was chased away by the 2013 flood, and this wet, cool summer has kept it from returning. The northern two-thirds of the state is no longer considered to be in a drought, and the northernmost part of the state — roughly this side of Interstate 70 — is considered to have an abundance of surface water, according to the state.
Colorado residents needed this break. The summer of 2014 allowed the land and people time to recover, rebuild and re-vegetate from years of stress.
Thanksgiving isn't on the calendar for another couple of months, but as Colorado looks back at the "hottest" season of the year, residents have every reason to be thankful.
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