Sentinel endorsements for 2012: Miklosi for CD6; Yes on Amendment 64


Aurora is growing up.

No longer just another suburb in the West, Aurora has attracted about 330,000 people from all over the world that call this region home. Unlike many metro-area communities, the city is much more than houses and malls. Aurora is home to one of the biggest and most energized health science and research campuses in the country. Aurora is home to the bustling Buckley Air Force Base. Aurora is home to one of  the most culturally diverse populations in the nation.

Beginning this year, political district lines were redrawn to allow for Aurora to be represented in the U.S. Congress as a single community, making it clear that the city is finally being recognized for the political power it wields. Already home to a dozen state House and Senate districts, now the 6th Congressional District primarily represents the residents of Aurora, and the will of those constituents.

So it’s time for voters to make tough decisions based on how our city has pushed past its awkward adolescence and is now ready, able and determined to move ahead even faster as a leading force in the metro area.

While both Republican Mike Coffman and Democrat Joe Miklosi offer solid options as the city’s first inclusive representative to Congress, Miklosi is the best choice for Aurora.

Here’s why. While Aurora has certainly become a vastly diverse place, Miklosi is much closer aligned with how the majority of residents think about important issues Congress will undertake.

Both candidates have strong backgrounds in public service. Coffman has spent most of his adult life representing much of Aurora as a state lawmaker, state treasurer and secretary of state. Time and again he proved himself to be a strong advocate for members of the military and vets. He’s shown great compassion at times for those in need, ensuring government is there to provide the glue that keeps the country together.

But over the past few years, Coffman’s politics and values have pulled away from those that the majority of Aurora residents hold dear. Coffman opposed ending the ludicrous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell anti-gay policy in the military, even as most Americans, most Aurora residents and most members of the military and Pentagon wanted the discrimination against gays to end. Miklosi supported ending that discrimination.

Coffman has vociferously opposed the Affordable Care Act, helping to hamstring it and creating unnecessary challenges in improving it. Miklosi supports the act.

Coffman has increasingly aligned himself with radical anti-abortion groups and measures and then tried to distance himself for political expediency. Aurora voters have a strong history of respecting a woman’s privacy when it comes to reproductive and all medical issues. So does Miklosi.

Coffman has made it clear he strongly opposes the now fading DREAM Act in Congress, which struggles here in the state as well. While he insists there is room for allowing illegal immigrants to keep some American jobs as part of comprehensive immigration reform, he has said he will not support efforts that allow some form of amnesty, even to children of illegal immigrants. That’s not how the majority of Aurora residents feel about the issue. That includes Miklosi.

And Coffman has made it clear that he opposes ending discrimination against gays and lesbians in regard to allowing them the dignity and respect to make their own decisions about relationships and marriage. That’s not who we are as a community. Rest assured, as states continue to weigh in on this issue, there are those in Congress anxious to put an end to it, and Aurora’s vote and voice in Congress will be important.

Coffman has been a hardworking and thoughtful lawmaker and government administrator for many years, but on so many issues important to all of us, Aurora has moved on, and Coffman has not. Aurora has matured to become a vibrant, appealing and progressive community, a welcoming home to all Americans and visitors. Coffman no longer represents the wishes of the community’s diverse and tolerant population. In fact, his record in Congress during the past two years shows that he too often opposes what most Aurorans stand for. And that’s wrong.

Miklosi offers a great deal of experience, a great capacity for innovation, and the best choice to have our mature voices and wishes carried loud and clear to Washington for the next two years.


Aurora state House and Senate seats

The story is much the same for races for Colorado House and Senate seats. Aurora has a long list of pressing needs and concerns when the Legislature convenes in January. It’s critical that the wishes of Aurora residents be heard above the tired and increasingly shrill sounds of partisan politics.

That makes Democrat Nancy Todd a natural choice for state Senate District 28. Todd proved to be a highly effective voice during her terms in state House, leading that group on a wide range of education and transportation issues. There is no doubt she will continue to be a tempered and thoughtful voice for Aurora in the state Senate.

Likewise, Democrat Morgan Carroll is a courageous and creative lawmaker as Aurora’s representative in Senate District 29. The city would be a lesser place without her steady and enthusiastic leadership. Carroll has watched out for all Colorado residents, but especially those who are our neighbors being pushed around by big business or even big government.

Democratic state Sen. Mary Hodge, too, has made the case for her re-election to Senate District 25 by showing that her seat on the Joint Budget Committee can be a powerful place to implement Aurora’s desire to see an economical government that provides the services we all expect as Coloradans.

It’s a different situation in Senate District 26. There, voters can’t make a wrong choice between Democratic incumbent state Sen. Linda Newell and GOP Challenger David Kerber. Both candidates have strong feelings about ensuring government regulations don’t hamstring businesses right out of existence. Newell has made a name for herself at the Capitol in ensuring the state find better ways to protect children drawn into state welfare programs. We recommend Kerber this time because of his passion for wanting to help lawmakers understand the effect of legislation on average state residents. His sympathy for all Colorado neighbors extends to several social issues, setting apart this refreshing GOP moderate from an increasingly shrill and extremist Republican leadership. Kerber’s political party and all of Colorado could widely benefit from emulating Kerber’s politics of seeking an efficient government that stays out of its residents’ private lives.

In the state House, Democratic state Rep. Rhonda Fields is the best choice for House District 42. In just one session, Fields proved herself to be an energetic leader on a host of issues affecting victims of crime. Her thoughtful and compassionate style has quickly made her a solid asset for the entire city.

Democratic State Rep. Su Ryden is also the clear choice for House District 36. Ryden continues to make a strong case for commonsense business regulations that don’t hamstring Colorado businesses, but at the same time, ensuring that all of the public interests are protected. Last year, she became a leader at looking at how best to encourage oil and gas development while at the same time demanding that public health, and the rights of residential homeowners, get top consideration when determining fracking rules. It’s an important voice Aurora doesn’t want to lose.

In House District 41, legislative newcomer Jovan Melton is the best choice House District 41. Melton, a Democrat, brings a great deal of experience and enthusiasm to the open seat. In just a short time on the campaign trail, Melton has obtained as strong a grasp of the issues facing the state and Aurora as if he had long been the incumbent. Melton will be a strong and important addition to Aurora’s legislative contingent.

In the city’s southern region, incumbent Republican Cindy Acree and Democratic challenger John Buckner offer southeast Aurora residents two contrasting choices for representatives looking out for Aurora’s families. Acree has a strong understanding of medical issues, making her a solid asset in how best to implement the federal Affordable Care Act. She has proved herself to be dedicated listener and faithful advocate for those having to navigate the medical insurance industry.

But Buckner, a former Cherry Creek schools teacher and administrator, is much more closely aligned to that district’s voters on ensuring that the rights of all Coloradans are protected. Buckner would help to ensure the end of misguided and sophomoric attempts to deprive Colorado’s gay and lesbian residents of their civil rights. Buckner was  a steady and solid leader as principal of Overland High School and within the Cherry Creek School District. There is little doubt he would carry that reputation to the Capitol as the representative for House District 40.

The story is similar in the city’s northern reaches. Incumbent Republican Kevin Priola has worked hard for small businesses and landowners that know all too well how unintended consequences from state laws can end up wreaking havoc with the public. But Democratic Challenger David Rose is a better fit for that House District 56 seat this time around because of his vast experience with public schools and community activism. Rose has long been an icon in the Brighton area who can ensure the area’s interests are protected when it comes to dealing with DIA, schools and bills affecting civil rights for all residents.


State Amendment 64: It’s time to end useless prohibition

We have heard the opposition to Amendment 64 loud and clear. The measure seeks to legalize marijuana for recreational use. But the arguments against ending marijuana prohibition, as well-meaning as they might be, ring as hollow as did those against ending alcohol prohibition decades ago.

Here are the facts: Even after marijuana was made an illegal drug, millions of Americans continue to use it. And they will in the future. Keeping marijuana illegal creates a massive, malevolent and uncontrollable drug industry that is currently a violent and murderous terrorist entity in Mexico. That gruesome industry will certainly move into the United States sooner rather than later. The so-called war on drugs has become nothing but an outrageously expensive and ineffective boondoggle.

Despite marked efforts to decriminalize marijuana use for adults, there are still many instances where those convicted of carrying or using small amounts of the drug are branded with lifelong and serious consequences. These consequences have cost some Colorado residents their jobs and more, pushing people toward a life of instability rather than a life of being drug free.

We join almost all of Colorado in understanding that marijuana use by young adolescents is dangerous and damaging. But continuing on the road of prohibition only serves to ensure more teens will abuse marijuana rather than fewer. Marijuana usage has seen increases not only because it’s more available due to the change in medical marijuana laws in Colorado, but because the drug itself continues to become more socially acceptable and available across the country. Rather than spend billions of dollars on futilely chasing Mexican criminals who supply most of America’s pot habit, that money could be spent on successful programs to turn teens away from use or at least abuse, and offer treatment to those who have a problem with marijuana, depression or other substance abuse issues. Prevention can and does work, and so does regulation.

But we must first decriminalize, legalize and regulate marijuana, just as the country did with alcohol before effective abuse programs and legislation can be implemented.

Colorado and the rest of the country cannot end the use and abuse of marijuana whether it’s legal or not. But the country can use marijuana revenues to push for responsible use, just like we do with alcohol.

Amendment 64 is not a panacea that will overnight solve the problems illegal marijuana has created. There is no doubt that a bevy of court cases and grueling legislative fights will be born from this measure.

But this amendment serves as an effective referendum on marijuana prohibition, and it will almost certainly be followed by other states that have come to the same conclusion as has Colorado. This measure will move the debate across the country to Washington DC, where marijuana prohibition must come to meet its final end.

Colorado and the rest of the country must and will do all it can to ensure that all citizens work to lead healthy, productive lives free from unnecessary or ineffective government control. Several decades ago, leaders in this state and this country realized that legislating against the use of alcohol had only damaging effects on individuals and society. It simply does not work. It’s taken too long for the country to realize that marijuana prohibition is just as ineffective, and possibly even more damaging. Amendment 64 is not the perfect answer to this long-standing dilemma, but it’s the best solution available, and it’s infinitely better than continuing on a road that leads only to ruin.