YEAR IN REVIEW
From the presidential election to marijuana laws, 2016 provided an endless supply of news on which to opine. Here are excerpts from what were among the top stories of the year.
15 Denver Post editorials on the topics that mattered most in 2016 Trumped!
After more than a year of proving his critics wrong, Donald Trump again shattered expectations and prevailed in his race for the highest office in the land.
Despite his undisciplined, hostile and demeaning rhetoric on the campaign trail, The Donald trumped his ankle-biters in gathering enough electoral support Tuesday, and now he reigns supreme.
The former reality TV star can take his show to the White House.
We hoped our country’s contemporary fascination with him would fade before the obvious danger of a Trump presidency. That the blustery billionaire managed to hijack the party of Lincoln with his racist and misogynist ways suggests darker times ahead for the country. …
Democrats share in the blame in allowing this gamble.
The party was too loyal in narrowing Hillary Clinton’s path to nomination, and the result was an ossified candidate with enough baggage to fill a truck, whose reliance on the Democratic machine prevented her from making a convincing argument. (Nov. 9)
Clinton makes history with her story
One of the things the Democratic National Convention got right in its well-choreographed grand narrative was to remind viewers of Hillary Clinton’s lifelong dedication to helping the disadvantaged and those the system excluded from freedoms every American ought to enjoy. In her history-making acceptance as the first female nominee of a major political party, Clinton gracefully summed up the accomplishment by not just focusing attention on her story, but on her story’s potential to clear the way for all. …
The convention accomplished more than biography, of course. Clinton effectively brought the conversation forward. In the build-up to accepting her party’s nomination, she was at her best. Whether the argument can break through the troubling aspects of her past time will have to tell.
But there she stood for the history books, arguing for a nation that works together for those not already doing well, for children who need to be able to believe they can make it, too, as that awkward young woman from the formative years of the civil rights effort grew up to prove with the story of her life. (July 30)
Of course Congress should investigate alleged Russian hacks
What an extraordinary time for our nation that there would even be a debate over whether Congress should investigate allegations that another nation attempted to influence our presidential election.
After months of warnings from President Barack Obama and the nation’s top spies that Russia sought to make a mess of things, we learn that CIA officials believe that Russian-backed hackers worked to help push Donald Trump to his surprise victory over Hillary Clinton. Perhaps predictably, President-elect Trump says that’s all bunk and that further investigation would be a waste of time. For added measure, the blustery New York billionaire dismissed America’s premiere intelligence agents as hacks in their own
right, and politically motivated bumblers at that.
Either way, shouldn’t Americans be granted the opportunity to learn the truth? (Dec. 13)
Glib reactions to Orlando shooting, but no easy answers
We’re not surprised politicians are arguing that the massacre in Orlando validates their positions, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to subscribe to their claims.
From gun control to fighting the Islamic State to Muslim immigration, most policies being debated would likely have done little to prevent the rampage of Omar Mateen. …
Hillary Clinton on Sunday said, “We need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.” Yet so far as we know, Mateen only became a terrorist and violent criminal the day he stormed the nightclub. …
Donald Trump’s renewed call for a temporary halt on Muslim migration to the U.S. is just as deficient as when he first proposed it, on civil liberties grounds for starters. Now he says we have no way to “prevent the second generation from radicalizing.” And yet one sure way of radicalizing more U.S. Muslims is to institute the equivalent of a religious test for entry — the first of its kind in our history. (June 13)
Denver’s use-of-force policy is a true milestone
If you were trying to devise a modern, humane use-of-force policy for a sheriff ’s department that responded to the controversies of the day, it’s hard to imagine one much better than what Denver announced on Thursday.
It’s also hard to imagine we just wrote those words, given all of the criticism we’ve leveled at the department in the past few years over abuse of prisoners, erratic discipline and scandalous hiring procedures — not to mention leadership that had been blind, if not indifferent, to the problems.
But the city has methodically — too methodically in our view, but we won’t harp on that today — moved to clean up the mess, including hiring a new sheriff from outside. And this use-of-force policy is another milestone in the effort. (June 16)
Don’t shortchange efforts to combat Zika
Another baby was born this week in the U.S. with Zika-linked microcephaly — an abnormally small head and arrested brain development — the third such case overall and first in the Northeast. But there will be more in the U.S. after this one, and perhaps many more. …
What to do? Above all, fund research to combat the disease and efforts to control mosquitoes and educate the public (the virus can also be transmitted sexually, for example). That’s what the Obama administration has been saying for months, while calling for an appropriation of $1.9 billion to boost antiZika efforts, including the government’s research into “vectorborne diseases” (ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, etc.) that is headquartered in Fort Collins.
But Congress still hasn’t agreed on a funding plan. (June 2)
Retrying Clarence Mosel-EL is a travesty of justice
A jury in 1988 decided there was enough evidence to put Clarence Moses-EL in prison for 48 years for sexual assault, and now, after a judge has vacated that sentence, a new jury will be asked to reconsider. …
Moses-EL pushed the issue from prison, including raising money to pay for the DNA testing that he believed would exonerate him and prove someone else committed the crime.
The destruction of key evidence in this case — despite the clear order to preserve — represents such a travesty to justice that if it can’t be considered by jurors, it should at least be considered by the DA considering prosecution.
Given that sorry history of justice in this case, we are puzzled by the decision to move forward with prosecution. Moses-EL has served 28 years. Without the DNA evidence to prove the case one way or the other, time served would seem justice enough. (Nov. 7)
Denver made the right move on homeless camps
So what is a city supposed to do when some homeless people reject available shelter and services and insist on camping on public property?
That’s the issue Denver has faced since last fall near the downtown Samaritan House shelter, and officials demonstrated a great deal of patience in trying to resolve the problem without moving against the camps themselves.
But the problem did not subside. It got worse and would probably have continued to worsen with warmer weather on the way.
So Denver decided to act — to evict the campers and remove their belongings on the basis of a “looming public health and safety emergency.” And while the decision was difficult, the actions taken so far this week have been justified. (March 9)
Bill Armstrong’s conservatism allowed room for bipartisanship
Bill Armstrong was a man of strong convictions. No one who knew the former U.S. senator, who died this week at 79, would quarrel with that statement, or with the fact that his beliefs were both deeply conservative and religious.
And yet Armstrong’s most memorable accomplishment during his 12 years in the Senate was almost certainly his service in 1983 on the National Commission on Social Security Reform, which recommended a bipartisan package of reforms that Congress would ultimately enact. The deal involved sacrifice on both ends of the political spectrum, including higher payroll taxes, more benefits subject to taxation, a hike in the retirement age, and a delay in the costof-living adjustment.
The settlement didn’t fully resolve Social Security’s longterm funding woes, but it was a milestone compromise nevertheless. And it remains instructive, since a similar deal is unthinkable, unfortunately, in today’s political environment. …
Armstrong left the Senate on his own terms while still in his 50s, an age when many career politicians are just hitting their stride. And he would go on, years later, to put his stamp on Colorado Christian University, spearheading ambitious redevelopment plans to expand and update the campus with state-of-the-art educational facilities. That he would contemplate such a grand goal in his 70s surprised no one who knew him well. Colorado has lost a giant in its political and civic life. (July 7)
Congress right to press VA on Aurora hospital
Taxpayers in Colorado and across the nation have been kept in the dark far too long about what went so disastrously awry with the mushrooming cost to build the still-under-construction veterans hospital in Aurora.
One would think a billion-dollar overrun for a facility originally slated to cost $604 million would demand a timely explanation. But as we saw again last week, the top brass at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs keeps trying to keep its secrets. Though the VA completed a report on the matter more than a year ago, it has declined to make its findings public. What’s more, the VA has kept information from congressional oversight.
We’re pleased that members of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs have taken action meant to free up that information. Last week, the committee voted to compel VA officials to make available detailed records from the department’s internal investigation into the eye-popping overrun. (Sept. 13)
A year after Planned Parenthood shooting, a call for women’s rights
One year ago a man beset with mental illness decided to add a deadly rejoinder to the debate over women’s access to abortion services.
The 57-year-old gunman killed three people, including a police officer, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Black Friday, a day typically spent relaxing or shopping with family and friends. A dozen others, including officers and sheriffs deputies, were injured.
As Denver Post reporters noted during the aftermath, “the very nature of the incident — a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic — managed to tie together two of the nation’s most divisive issues into one combustible package.” …
Today we call out for sober reflection on this miserable tragedy and a renewed pledge to women’s rights. They took a beating this election season. For many voters, the presidential race — given the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court — became an usually intense proxy battle over abortion rights. (Nov. 24)
Hickenlooper should veto grocery store alcohol sales bill
Lawmakers and lobbyists were too clever by half when they devised a compromise to allow expanded alcohol sales in Colorado grocery stores. Although they succeeded in finding a solution acceptable to most parties, they decided that wasn’t enough. They also sought to tie the hands of those who didn’t get on board with the deal.
It was a big mistake, and it badly tarnishes the finished product, Senate Bill 197, which is heading for the governor’s desk. He should veto the bill for that reason alone.
When we urged lawmakers last month to fashion a compromise to phase in full-strength beer and wine sales in grocery stores, the idea was to pre-empt the need for a ballot initiative that would throw the switch on such sales overnight. But we never doubted the right of Colorado voters to take matters into their own hands and open up grocery store sales more quickly if they liked.
That’s why SB 197 is so flawed. Although it does phase in expanded alcohol sales in groceries (over 20 years), it also curtails voters’ right to adopt a statute free of legislative interference. Even if the group Your Choice Colorado goes ahead with its ballot measure to allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer and wine and it passes in November, certain provisions of SB 197 would hamstring its effect. (May 16)
Death of Antonin Scalia raises stakes for 2016 election
In this most extraordinary political season, prepare yourself for another novelty: a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that isn’t filled for more than a year. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death over the weekend, it’s almost certainly going to happen. (Feb. 14)
Because Jack Splitt stood strong and tall, others may suffer less
Too often while observing the supercharged public policy arena, we forget why so many go to so much trouble to battle over legislation in the first place.
While it can get obtuse and verbose at times — and mean and petty — it’s ultimately about people.
This week, we were reminded of — and humbled by — the story of Jack Splitt’s brave efforts to help children and families dealing with extreme medical conditions and diseases.
Splitt, who died Wednesday at the age of 15, became the face of the successful push to allow children suffering from the kinds of ailments who see benefit from medical marijuana to be able to use it in the classroom.
Having the guts and the character to stare down the enormous taboo subject of marijuana in schools is one thing. Taking up that challenge from a wheelchair while trapped in a body frequently wracked with pain from his struggle with cerebral palsy makes Splitt’s accomplishments all the more amazing. (Aug. 26)
Cannabis decision is cause for muted celebration
The Obama administration’s decision to expand opportunities for scientific research of medical marijuana, while leaving cannabis classification under its longtime most-dangerous-drug status, strikes us as an important step, but hardly a solution.
The decision is hopeful in that it signals an attempt to end the bureaucratic hurdles that prevent scientific study of the drug that so many advocates claim has curative powers. But leaving in place the stigma and legal problems that a Schedule I designation creates makes the administration’s attempt to find some middle ground difficult to truly appreciate.
And by leaving cannabis in that most-dangerous category — a category that defines pot as having zero medicinal value — the decision leaves in place restrictions that baffle researchers and does nothing to ameliorate the many problems state-legal cannabis businesses must navigate. Nor, obviously, does it do much good for personal freedom in states where cannabis remains illegal. And so the destructive, decades-long war on pot hobbles along. (Aug. 12)
D “The former reality TV star can take his show to the White House.” President-elect Donald Trump speaks during an election night rally at the New York Hilton Midtown on Nov. 9. Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images file
“Having the guts and the character to stare down the enormous taboo subject of marijuana in schools …” 15-year-old Wheat Ridge High School student Jack Splitt’s court case led to Jack’s Law, which permits students to use nonsmokable cannabis treatment on school grounds. Hyoung Chang, Post file
D “Above all, fund research to combat the disease [Zika] and efforts to control mosquitoes and educate the public …” Joao Guilherme, who has microcephaly, receives aquatic physiotherapy treatment with Dr. Karen Maciel in the Pepita Duran clinic in Recife, Brazil. Mario Tama. Getty Images file
“Donald Trump’s renewed call for a temporary halt on Muslim migration to the U.S. is just as deficient as when he first proposed it …” Mourners gather at a makeshift memorial prior to a June 13 vigil for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, Fla.
“In her history-making acceptance as the first female nominee of a major political party, Clinton gracefully summed up the accomplishment …” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at an Oct. 31 campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio. Robyn Beck,