A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Daily Sentinel, Aug. 21, on President Obama and Ferguson:
Why isn't President Barack Obama on the front lines in Ferguson, Mo?
It's a question pundits have raised in the wake of sustained clashes between police and protesters (and opportunistic looters) over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white officer in the largely black suburb of St. Louis.
Make no mistake, the president has been vocal in his calls to end violent confrontations. He's taken an even-handed tone, asserting the right for peaceful protests, but saying there's no excuse for looting or antagonizing police. But that message is getting lost between Washington, D.C. and St. Louis County.
We think the president would be far more effective in making a personal appearance in Ferguson. As the only black president in U.S. history and a constitutional scholar to boot, Obama is uniquely suited to ask the people of Ferguson to show some faith in the system — no matter how slowly the wheels of justice seem to turn. Shouldn't he defuse a racially charged atmosphere?
No, says Jonathan Capehart, a member of the Washington Post's editorial board. The president should be commended for not indulging in showy theatrics "that might make people feel good in the short-term, but do nothing to advance a greater cause."
The president, Capehart wrote, has done everything he can, including dispatching U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, also African-American, to the scene to personally oversee a federal investigation of the shooting. The systemic problems that gave rise to the shooting can't be solved in a 15-minute speech.
But New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd frames Ferguson in the context of Obama's growing aloofness. The president's disdain for partisan squabbles has alienated many supporters within his own party, leaving him few allies to manage crises like Ferguson. The president who once touted himself as a uniter who could rise above the partisan fray "turns out to be a singularly unequipped to operate in a polarized environment," Dowd wrote. "... the country needs its president to illuminate and lead, not sink into some petulant expression of his own aloofness, where he regards himself as a party of his own and a victim of petty, needy, bickering egomanics."
An appearance in Ferguson would answer critics. But more importantly it could help the community move beyond this singular event and start working on long-term solutions to pressing inequities. It would also be a golden opportunity to remind the people of Ferguson that they have the power, to not only demand change, but to effectuate it through the ballot box.
Indeed the president's first question might be: "Ferguson is two-thirds black. Why don't you have better representation on the city council?"
As Dowd points out, F.D.R. welcomed the hatred of his biggest critics. Because he believed in what he was doing, he carried a country's confidence on his shoulders. President Obama has little time left in office to leave a legacy. Helping America heal its racial divisions should rank high for a president who is biracial. Maybe tackling a problem like Ferguson will incite some passion in the president and lead him out of an exile of his own making.
The Aurora Sentinel, Aug. 21, on Ferguson, transparency and Aurora police:
Aurora can teach the nation — and especially Ferguson, Missouri — some lessons when it comes to running a police department that serves and protects rather than antagonizes and intimidates a community.
But Aurora, too, can learn from the tragedy in that suburban city as officials here search for a new police chief and ponder local police oversight.
It's nearly impossible to imagine Aurora making the seemingly endless gaffes made by police outside of St. Louis, Missouri, during the past several days since white officer Darren Wilson shot to death black teenager Michael Brown, prompting a string of violent protests.
Aurora has for decades been a model, modern police department, embracing community policing. Aurora police officers embody the mission and philosophy of a civilian police department: to help residents in trouble and protect them, even if they're caught as criminals or scofflaws. To further that philosophy, police a few years ago moved away from uniforms and other designs that gave police a military look. Instead, former police chief Dan Oates insisted cops wear old-style police hats and drive cars with a decidedly friendly look. When illegal immigration problems heated up in the city, Aurora police made it clear they will not act as federal immigration agents, even though such pushes have become politically popular in some places in Colorado. Aurora police are trained to handle criminal and civilian incidents with respect, authority, sympathy and some humor. In most cases, that's just what they do, and residents here should be proud of how successful the department is despite how difficult it is.
But Aurora is a large department, there are more than 600 cops, and there are occasional problems and failures. Police administrators were recently unsuccessful in firing police officer Chris Falco, who two years ago killed a young car-parts burglar and seriously wounded another after violating department policy and firing into the thieves' moving car. And Aurora is no stranger to racial distrust in the past. In a handful of incidents during the past 30 years, Aurora police have been accused of being heavy-handed or unfair to minorities, especially young minorities.
But Aurora has repeatedly been proactive after these rare incidents, creating entire departments that focus on the relationship among the city's myriad cultures and police. Rather than alienate minorities, Aurora police work hard to gain their trust as the agency that serves and protects everyone equally. They're not perfect, but they're light years ahead of places like Ferguson.
If Aurora were to focus on the most important lesson the Ferguson calamity has taught the entire nation, it's about transparency. No matter what the outcome of investigations into Brown's death reveal, police and government officials there have made egregious and repeated errors by holding back information in such an explosive situation.
For Aurora to continue to enjoy its reputation of professionalism and fairness, it's important that the city move forward with a plan to create a police oversight board that can quickly react to a Ferguson situation if it were to happen here. The tentative structure of an oversight panel Aurora lawmakers are looking at now gives little more than lip service to the goal of transparency. Such a panel must be autonomous from police and politics, and it must have authority to investigate and report to the public, and no one else.
The Denver Post, Aug. 20, on journalist James Foley and the ultimate sacrifice:
There are certain people who are driven by a sense of mission to the most dangerous places on Earth.
Some are soldiers. Others are medical professionals. And still others are reporters.
Freelance journalist James Foley was one of those people drawn to the front lines, and he paid for his passion with his life.
As President Obama said Wednesday, his beheading at the hands of Islamic militants "was an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world."
To be sure, reporting from conflict zones, as Foley did, is treacherous and unpredictable. Indeed, while reporting in Libya in 2011, Foley was captured and held for 44 days.
Yet this high-risk work is imperative so the world can know what is really happening in remote and dangerous areas.
Without journalists like Foley, who are willing to put their lives on the line, many important stories would go untold.
His execution by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is illustrative of the atrocities the group routinely engages in. His killing was truly barbaric.
We grieve with Foley's parents and loved ones. We also honor and respect the work that he did.
Daily Camera, Aug. 20, on GMOs on the ballot:
On Wednesday, a proposition over the labeling of genetically modified foods in Colorado was approved for the November ballot.
Backers of the Right to Know campaign, which supports the label program, announced they turned in about 39,000 more valid signatures than the needed 86,105 valid signatures.
There are certainly industry groups that will almost immediately mobilize a campaign to defeat the measure. And not just GMO producers. Major conglomerates like Walmart and Kroger are faced with conflicting rules around the country, so they have a stake in what each state decides.
There will be opposition, too, from regular consumers who aren't directly involved with the industry. From our perspective, most of these consumers are worried about a program that could potentially increase food prices across the board, and they don't consider GMO food products to be anything to be concerned about.
There will always be a customer base for the lowest price points, and nothing is stopping the GMO-disinterested shopper from buying based on price, appearance, or anything else for that matter.
But there are enough people interested in the source of their foods — how they are grown, their impact on the environment and the economy. Giving those consumers the information they want is sensible policy. Labeling GMOs will not eliminate cheap food; it will simply conform to a changing landscape of consumer preferences and knowledge.
A federal program similar to the organic label program would make sense in the future: It would also put grocery chains' and conglomerates' fears of conflicting rules to rest. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been operating the program for more than a decade: Today, more than 25,000 farmers, ranchers and food producers are involved in the organics industry, estimated at $35 billion and rapidly growing.
Last year, a New York Times poll found that 93 percent of respondents want foods containing GMO ingredients to be labeled. An earlier poll by the Washington Post found 94 percent of respondents favored the labels.
But without a USDA or other federal program, the states are on their own. In Colorado, where agriculture is so important, and consumers are keenly aware of their health and the environment, the labels make sense.
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