A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
Montrose Daily Press, Sept. 3, on the killing of Steven Sotloff and journalists' mission:
When American journalist James Foley was brutally murdered by the Islamic militant group ISIL last month it caused a lot of journalists to stop and think about our mission. The need for honest reporting during periods of war and certain unrest is critical in educating the masses on what is happening throughout the global climate.
On Tuesday, a video surfaced of the equally brutal killing of another American journalist Steven Sotloff, who was taken hostage in Syria in August 2013. The actions of ISIL remind us that Americans are not welcome everywhere and the freedoms that we all share in the U.S. — from New York City to Ottumwa, Iowa, to right here in Montrose — are not appreciated by the people who feel pointless killing will help them achieve their goals.
Who is to blame for these killings? ISIL blames President Barack Obama and his administration's bombing of suspected terrorist targets in Iraq. Some Americans are fine with the U.S government negotiating with terrorists for the release of hostages, such as earlier this year when the White House secured the freedom of hostage Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who is accused of allegedly turning his back on his unit while deployed in Afghanistan in 2009. But other people agree with the usual U.S. stance that negotiating with terrorists is a slippery slope and encourages the kidnapping of Americans.
There has been debate over the past several years regarding how people prefer to receive their news: print newspaper or through an electronic device such as a cellphone or various forms of computers. One debate is futile, however; whether a journalist is reporting on the Arab Spring or a heated football rivalry between Montrose and Delta high schools, there is a lot of heart and soul being poured into the resulting story for the readers' entertainment and knowledge.
Journalists have a special job to perform — they often go into situations which require a healthy dose of backbone, spine and even grace in dealing with hostile story subjects. While some people might argue that a journalist traveling into a hotbed of violence, such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the like, they are assuming a certain risk. Perhaps that is true. But perhaps there isn't a choice. Information makes the world go round. The public and leaders need to know what is going on to make sound decisions that will affect many.
If journalists don't risk their lives for this, who will?
The Durango Herald, Sept. 3, on kids and Uzis:
The 9-year-old girl who inadvertently shot and killed an instructor at a shooting range has an awful lot to process. Among the long list of heavy topics for the child to come to terms with - and that which will be most difficult to answer - is why on Earth the adults supervising her felt it appropriate to give her an Uzi to shoot. There is no reasonable answer, of course, and as a result, the girl must sort through the resulting tragedy. It was wholly avoidable and profoundly inexcusable.
An Uzi is a submachine gun designed by an Israel Defense Forces captain, Uziel Gal. It was first put into use by IDF special forces in 1954. The larger army began using it several years later. Its primary function was for battle: personal defense as well as attacks led by elite frontline troops. It is a fully automatic weapon designed for intense military application. No 9-year-old child belongs anywhere near one.
But for reasons unfathomable, a family excursion to the Last Stop shooting range outside Las Vegas last week led to just such a pairing and its most devastating, if predictable, result. That no one - the girl's parents, who readily turned their daughter loose with the Uzi, the range's instructor who lost his life as a result, or the facility's operators who allowed such inappropriate behavior - thought twice about the matter beforehand is relatively shocking.
Indeed, it was the girl herself who realized - before learning she had shot the instructor - that she should not be handling the weapon. She should not have had that responsibility. After the instructor, Charles Vacca, switched the gun to fully automatic mode, the girl lost control of the weapon as it sprayed. A bullet hit Vacca in the side of the head. Unaware of this, the girl returned to her parents - who were videotaping the entire escapade - and told them "the gun was too much for her and it hurt her shoulder," the child's mother said to police. It is unforgivable that the 9-year-old was left to make this determination - after an irreparable harm had occurred.
There are many instances in which it is appropriate for a child to handle a firearm, and well-established protocols to ensure that the circumstances are safe. USA Shooting has a full litany of youth programs for those geared toward shooting sports, as does 4-H, the National Rifle Association, the Boy Scouts and the American Legion. Safety is paramount among each of these programs. Matching children to a weapon they can handle, educating them about what to expect in the handling and training them to understand the associated risks are fundamental. In the Last Stop incident, these basic steps were flagrantly ignored.
Whether access to an Uzi is appropriate for any civilian is a secondary question, but one that is certainly worth asking given the relatively cavalier attitude with which the girl's family and the Last Stop staff approached the weapon's availability to one and all. Such a weapon should never be treated as a novelty. In this incident, it was. The outcome was profoundly sad. A man lost his life, and young girl is left to reconcile a scenario she should never have had to endure.
The Aurora Sentinel, Sept. 4, on civility — or lack thereof — in the Coffman-Romanoff race:
It didn't take long for the race for Aurora's congressional seat to sink into the political mud.
It was inevitable the 6th Congressional District race would turn odious since the contest is tight and the stakes so high.
Congressman Mike Coffman is running for his third term to the seat. Mike grew up here. He served in the state House, the state Senate, as state treasurer and secretary of state. During all of those jobs, he's made headlines as a U.S. serviceman.
He's a smart, sarcastic, big-hearted, funny and tenacious politician. Bitten by the polls bug eons ago, politics defines him, and he's good at it.
I like Mike. I've always liked him. He comes from humble roots, and he's never forgotten them. He likes to taut his lengthy military career, and how that career has shaped his moral fiber.
That's why I was so surprised by his below-the-belt shot to Andrew Romanoff a couple of weeks ago during an Aurora Chamber of Commerce forum.
Coffman said that The Denver Post once called Andrew's behavior during a past Democrat primary race for Senate, "sleazy."
It never happened, and Mike knows it. In 2010, a Denver Post editorial took Andrew to task for a campaign ad against incumbent Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet. The ad misleadingly made it look like Bennett partook in shady dealings as an employee of Phil Anschutz and his movie-theater largess. As the Colorado Independent pointed out recently, the Post said the ad was "over the top." And it was. It was a stupid move that helped cost Andrew the election.
Sadly, Mike is doing the same thing he's attacking Andrew for by running a misleading ad defaming him, instead of hitting Andrew right between the policies, which is what he needs to do.
If you don't know who Andrew is, you're excused as long as you don't regularly live and breathe Colorado news. Romanoff is a former Denver state lawmaker who rose quickly through the ranks to become speaker of the Colorado House. It's easy to see why. Romanoff is a highly intelligent, affable, perceptive guy who always seems to be doing the right thing. He's a close listener and observer, which means he gets it when Joe and Jane Doe tell him their woes.
He's not sleazy, and Mike should be ashamed of his attempt to paint him that way. That's not what the military's code of honor is about.
Andrew doesn't stay on the high ground either. Trying to paint Mike as a creature of political action committees because he's part of the same bankrupt political system everyone in Congress is, is unfair. Andrew doesn't take PAC money, but it by no means ensures that PACs aren't working hard on Andrew's behalf, and he has no intention of stopping them.
As far as political foes go, Andrew and Mike actually agree on more than they don't. That's because both are loyal to the causes we all share in Colorado. But where the two part ways, on immigration, on abortion rights, on healthcare reform, on energy policy, each candidate is able to eloquently and persuasively detail their logic and opinions.
The party faithful on both sides of this election have little or no intention of listening to anything the opposing candidate has to say. Aurora, however, is home to huge numbers of voters who loathe the current state of partisan politics. They're open to the idea that Mike is more than a pawn of PACs, and Andrew is more than an intellectual snob. So move to the high road, Mike, Andrew, and tell us how your assessment of issues is the way forward for all of us, not how the opposition has cooties.
The Daily Sentinel, Sept. 3, on Mesa County's dwindling labor force:
If no economy is fully healthy until it recovers the jobs lost during the Great Recession, then Mesa County has a long way to go.
Indeed, agencies that monitor workforce trends have spent the better part of 2014 aggregating the economic impact of job losses since 2008 while playing up hopeful signs that the worst is behind us.
In July 2008, Mesa County's labor force stood at 83,016. In July of this year, that figure had been reduced to 77,097. Between 2008 and 2013, $72.5 million in annual wages drained out of the county.
But these numbers don't fully explain what happened. Did people leave the workforce to pursue better opportunities elsewhere? Or did the exodus of workers occur because jobs were eliminated? It's a chicken-or-egg question that no one has answered definitively. Instead, the job losses are cast as takeaways to guide the recovery.
For example, Greg Ruland summarized a "triple whammy" when he reported on this issue in March. According to county officials, a brain drain depleted the local talent pool, causing businesses to hunt for skilled workers outside the area. The absence of talent, in part due to inadequate educational infrastructure, caused some businesses to locate elsewhere. And many of the excised jobs were among the best-paying in the area — so losing them depressed overall wages.
This is highly instructive, to be sure. But how do you apply this information to revitalize the economy and create jobs? It doesn't help that unemployment figures are trending downward. In our view, this actually clouds the situation.
For one thing, unemployment rates can be misconstrued. The jobs that are being filled may not be comparable to the ones that were lost during the recession.
The Mesa County unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in July 2013, compared to 6.5 percent in July 2014. That's the lowest monthly rate reported since December 2008.
But there are more temporary and part-time jobs now than there were in 2008. Overall, 2014 is on pace to exceed job orders in 2008, according to the Mesa County Workforce Center.
So let's not use joblessness as the chief indicator of our economic health. Unemployment is more of a quantitative measure than a qualitative one. And low unemployment poses its own set of problems.
Our fear is that local officials could grow complacent if unemployment keeps shrinking. As it is, too many people are still mired in a "just wait til the next boom" mentality, unwilling to invest in education, infrastructure and amenities that drive economic development and attract new businesses and investment.