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The Race for Senate: An interview with Senator Mark Udall

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markudallportrait2_300dpiThis is PULP’s second interview with Senator Mark Udall, the incumbent Senator running against Representative Cory Gardner. Our questions were designed to see how the candidates viewed Southern Colorado issues, the acrimony in Washington and their vision for America.

Sen. Mark Udall has served one term in the U.S. Senate and 10 years as a representative for Colorado’s 2nd district. He sits on the Senate Committee on Armed Forces, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

PULP: Congress’s approval rating has reached historic lows at least 12 times since 2010, and polls show divided control is likely the reason. As a Senator, how do you represent a state that, politically, is split down the middle?

Sen. Udall: As Coloradans, we demand that our leaders stand on principle but also work as rugged cooperators in order to get things done. That’s the spirit that guides my work every day as a U.S. senator. I stood on principle to lead the fight against NSA surveillance overreach and to respect our constitutional right to privacy. I also rolled up my sleeves and worked across the aisle to help secure over $700 million in emergency support to help our state recover from last year’s historic floods. That’s the way we get things done in Colorado, and I’ll continue to bring that unique spirit of strength and independence to everything I do as your senator.

PULP: How does Congress gain back America’s trust, especially when it seems to many citizens that bipartisanship is out of the question?

Sen. Udall: The obstruction and partisanship in Washington has reached an all-time high and it’s only made worse when folks refuse to cooperate. As a mountain climber, when I stand on top of one of Colorado’s Fourteeners, I don’t see a red state or a blue state–I see a Colorado that’s red, white, and blue. As Westerners, we don’t care what political party an idea comes from, we just want to know if it works. That’s why I’m proud to have worked with senators of both parties to ban wasteful earmarks and stand up for our privacy rights against overbroad NSA surveillance. No matter who’s president, or what party controls the Congress, I will continue to always put Colorado first.

PULP: What do you believe to be the biggest issue in this race for Senate?

Sen. Udall: Making sure our economy gives all families a fair shot at a secure middle class life is my number one priority in the U.S. Senate and is the focus of my campaign. That’s why I’m pushing to raise the minimum wage, pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to end wage discrimination against women, and make sure we protect the Social Security and Medicare benefits that Coloradans have earned through a lifetime of hard work. My opponent, Congressman Gardner, opposes all of these ideas and his radical agenda would undermine the very pillars of a strong and vibrant middle class. That’s just too extreme for Colorado.

PULP: You recently said at a Senate event that the vote you cast in the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill was the most important you’ve ever cast. Can you explain why?

Sen. Udall: America is better and stronger because of its immigrants. Yet our broken immigration system continues to undermine American businesses and tear apart families and communities. I am proud of my work to pass comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate but am frustrated that Tea Party radicals like my opponent continue to block the bill from even coming to a vote in the House. I will continue to push for the House to do its job and vote to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will strengthen families, boost the economy, shrink the deficit, and create jobs here in Colorado.

We also need to find a way to support the Americans who grew up in our communities after being brought into the United States by their parents–through no fault of their own. Young people who have contributed to our country should have the opportunity to fully contribute to our communities, economy and national security and eventually wait their turn to apply for citizenship. That’s why I support the DREAM Act. No child should be cast aside by the country she grew up in and calls home.

PULP: Southeastern Colorado is trailing behind the rest of the state in college graduation rates, job opportunities and household income. How are you going to focus on this portion of the state to reverse that?

Sen. Udall: Southeastern Colorado is blessed with some of the strongest, most vibrant communities in the state. Our businesses and workers thrive when they are given the chance to do well and that’s why I’ve fought to make college more affordable and invest in education and job training to ensure our workers are prepared to take advantage of the 21st century economy. My opponent takes the opposite view. He would slash the support that allows low-income students to afford college and voted to gut funding for teachers and essential reading and math programs.

PULP: When it comes down to urban areas of Colorado and rural areas, is there a method to serving both?

Sen. Udall: I’ve always worked to do right by Colorado and to make sure that all Coloradans–regardless of geography, family circumstances, or income — are able to live life on their own terms. No matter what part of Colorado we live in, we all want a fair shot at middle class security and to pass on a brighter future to our children.

That’s why I’ve pushed legislation that would help ensure equal pay for equal work and successfully passed a law to fight discrimination in the workplace. It’s also why I led the fight to support our homegrown wind energy industry here in Colorado by extending a key tax credit that supports thousands of jobs across the state. These aren’t rural issues or urban issues–they’re economic issues that affect Coloradans in every part of the state. That’s why I will continue to stand up for all Coloradans and make sure that all of us have the freedom to live life on our own terms.

PULP: You have urged Congress to invest in capital upgrades to long-distance train services that would help save the Southwest Chief. What can Coloradans expect to come from that push?

Sen. Udall: Railroads connect southern Colorado businesses and communities to the entire nation. That’s why I spoke out against proposals to reroute the popular Southwest Chief line and pushed Senate leaders to support critical upgrades to the rail line so that it can continue its service to the region. While our work is far from done, I won’t stop fighting to keep Colorado families and businesses connected to the broader world.

PULP: What was the most important action you made for Colorado in your first term as Senator?

Sen. Udall: Washington can use a good dose of Colorado common sense, and it’s that spirit of strength and optimism that I bring to my work every day on behalf of our state. That principle that guided my fight to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ rein in the NSA and stand up to those in my own party to defend our constitutional right to privacy. That spirit has also led my work to put aside partisan differences and do what’s right for Colorado, like when I led the successful push for more than $700 million in emergency support to help our state recover after last year’s record flood and fires.

I hold an unwavering belief in the promise of our state and our people, and I will always stand up for Colorado and our special way of life.

[tw-button size=”medium” background=”” color=”” target=”_self” link=”http://pueblopulp.com/race-senate-interview-rep-cory-gardner/”]Our Interview with challenger Rep. Cory Gardner[/tw-button]

[tw-button size=”medium” background=”” color=”” target=”_self” link=”http://pueblopulp.com/when-politicians-say-nothing-breaking-down-udall-gardner-interview/”]Udall / Gardner – What they said and didn’t say.[/tw-button]

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Middle schoolers have a plan to stop rock art tagging in Western Colorado

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Courtesy gjhikes.com

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Arron Buehler’s day in a western Colorado canyon might not have had the Hollywood panache of Ferris Bueller’s day off, but something about seeing Buehler’s name scrawled on the sandstone escarpment gave Chris Joyner pause.

Joyner, spokesman for the Grand Junction Office of the Bureau of Land Management, looked at Buehler’s name — and those of many others emblazoned on rock in a canyon south of Grand Junction — and said that, paradoxically, there might be a reason for hope.

It was just last year that Buehler posted his name, next to Elizabeth, who left her mark in 2017.

Few of the names appeared to be more than a year or two old, and, “That tells me there’s opportunity here,” Joyner said.

The more recent the markings, the more likely the vandals are to be found, and the more likely it is that other methods might discourage younger people from following Arron Buehler’s lead, Joyner said.

Joyner and BLM archaeologist Alissa Leavitt-Reynolds are working in Grand Junction to deal with vandalism on federal lands, whether it be by graffiti artists such as Charley Humpy (who helpfully added, “Remember me” next to his name and yes, the BLM is doing all it can to achieve total recall), drug users ditching evidence in the desert, mayhem by “marksmen” and plain old dumping.

As much as Arron Buehler and a multitude of companions — Brian, Charley, Dizz, Dominique, Kay, Megan, Elizabeth, Jon, Sam and Tosha all seem to be begging for court dates (and Tosha, did you know your name covered an ancient petroglyph?) — Joyner said prosecution ought not be the only response to a growing trend of vandalism and worse on western Colorado’s rocky outcrops and arid landscapes.

Citations for vandalism aren’t tracked by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes offenses on federal land, so no precise numbers are available.

An Army veteran, Joyner is using his post 9/11 GI Bill funds at Johns-Hopkins University to study ways to divert people from what he terms “dysfunctional visitor behavior.”

“Dysfunctional visitor behavior” has a more authoritative ring than “vandalism” and “littering” and Joyner said he hopes that a scholarly approach can help agencies fend off some of the destructive activity on federal lands before it takes place.

Some of his research suggests that “informed participation in nearby historic and cultural sites” can influence the way many residents perceive those sites, Joyner said.

The students in Ginger DeCavitch’s social studies classes at Mount Garfield Middle School experienced “informed participation” last summer.

DeCavitch took her students into Bangs Canyon to see the mica mine and found the defaced escarpment “as we were stepping over broken beer bottles and charcoal” from fires.

Vandals had used charcoal to scratch names and slogans on the rock, DeCavitch said.

“They call it tagging” and few participants see any issue with defacing the rock, taking selfies and posting them on social media, DeCavitch said.

She contacted the BLM soon afterward to see if her class could help clean up the mess they found.

“They all wanted to go back,” enough that some students hauled 40-pound containers of water down an occasionally difficult trail to help clean the site, DeCavitch said.

Her middle school students sat silent as members of the Southern Ute tribe described how they perceived the canyon and the ancient markings, many of which had been defaced, DeCavitch said.

Far from being discouraged, her students were enthused about tackling the enormity of the defacement, DeCavitch said.

“We have a plan that we’ll be back,” she said.

Introducing young people properly to wild lands is one way to discourage future vandals and dysfunctional visitors.

It’s one “foot-in-the-door” tactic that Joyner hopes land managers take up.

Visitors also can be endowed with a sense of ownership by agreeing with a simple proposition — the idea that one ought not litter on public lands, for instance — and then be brought along to agree with how to visit them appropriately, Joyner said.

It’s part of a human tendency to want to be consistent, he said. People who agree not to litter tend to want to build on that as opposed to act in contradictory fashion, he said.

Even providing a small gift or trinket can engender a sense of responsibility among potential vandals, Joyner said.

Other techniques include the “broken-window” approach — the idea that replacing broken glass as soon as it’s found and thus denying miscreants their moment of victory — isn’t as easy as it might be in other environments, Joyner said.

DeCavitch’s class, for instance, learned that while cleaning up a mess might eliminate an eyesore, it also could erase history.

Her eager middle-schoolers couldn’t go forward with the cleanup until members of the Southern Ute Tribe, headquartered in Duchesne, Utah, approved the plan, DeCavitch said.

While Joyner’s studies have suggested that males 16 to 25 who live within 60 miles of Grand Junction are the likely offenders, one look at the escarpment suggests that young women are more active participants than crime statistics might suggest, Joyner said.

One study suggests that younger people prefer non-coercive approaches, but Joyner said that doesn’t mean the BLM is losing interest in prosecuting vandals and others.

Far from it.

BLM officials routinely contact school officials and consult high school yearbooks to match the names they come across with people who could be prosecuted.

Some miscreants make it easier, posting selfies of themselves with their works. Some even lower the level of difficulty by including hashtags.

The criminal exposure can reach felony levels because of the difficulty and expense of dealing with cleaning up or restoring the markings that date back hundreds of years.

If the malefactors are found, Joyner said, “We don’t write warning tickets.”

___

Information from: The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com

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The #WhatNow of #MeToo for the #COLeg

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AP Photo/David Zalubowski

When several lawmakers, lobbyists and staff at the state Legislature came forward this fall to allege they were victims of sexual harassment by lawmakers, two big questions followed: how often does this happen? What can be done to prevent more cases?

Reporters have asked state officials the first question repeatedly, returning to readers with little response from the state. The latter prompted a conversation from leadership, but as for what’s next—how the allegations, formal complaints, and legislature’s response—will impact politics under the gold dome and whether women will feel any safer is to be determined.

So far, top state lawmakers have decided to hire a human resources officer—who would be independent from the legislature—to be a contact person when incidents involving sexual harassment are brought forward. Now, leadership is tasked with handling and investigating such claims.

The group also decided to hire an independent consultant to review the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, and lawmakers, staff, and aides will undergo another round of sexual harassment training this year. Typically, those working at the Legislature are only required to go through training every two years.

Those changes are a good start, said Erin Hottenstein, executive director of Colorado 50/50, an organization that aims to get more women in public office. But the legislature stopped short of changing any current policies. And Colorado 50/50 called for an entire overhaul.

“I’m very pleased that there was a recognition that the policy needs to be improved,” Hottenstein said.

But there weren’t any specific recommendations regarding transparency, which Hottenstein said is significant in looking at what happens next.

Lawmakers and staff said they couldn’t disclose how many sexual harassment claims that leadership in each chamber have received because they were personnel issues.

“I think there’s a way to be transparent and safe,” Hottenstein said. “There should be a high- level summary document that shows on a certain date a sexual harassment complaint was made and who it was against and a date of a deposition and what the result was.”

Hottenstein said transparency becomes crucial in these cases because it leads to accountability and the public’s right to know what actions the people elected to office are taking.

In October, Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar broke her silence posting on Facebook that she was no stranger to sexual harassment and experienced it just a week earlier with a colleague she works with regularly as a lawmaker. The post was part of the #MeToo movement after a New York Times expose highlighted the stories of several women who said they’d been sexually harassed or assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Then, a flood of other allegations were brought to the surface in Colorado politics. Rep. Faith Winter said fellow House member Steve Lebsock had harassed her at a legislative party in 2016. Winter and a lobbyist say they filed formal complaints against Lebsock.

An intern said Sen. Randy Baumgardner harassed her with sexually suggestive comments. The same went for Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial, who was accused of telling an intern that if she wanted to get ahead in her career, he could help.

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, who is openly gay, allegedly groped a man and used his seat to try and get a date with another.

But the case between Lebsock and Winter gained the most attention, even prompting Lebsock to take a polygraph test, which the administrator says he passed, to prove his innocence. Lebsock has hinted that the entire incident may be a case of dirty politics, alleging that Winter is the one lying.

When several lawmakers were asked if the case would mean a splintered Democratic party in the House, they were unsure, but optimistic about the session.

Still, there haven’t been any resignations over the allegations, though several, including leadership and editorial boards from across the state, said these legislators should step down from their seat. Some even called for House Speaker Crisanta Duran to step down from her position because she promoted Lebsock to a chairmanship despite knowing there was an incident between him and Winter.

The transparency piece has yet to be addressed by state lawmakers, and it’s unclear whether any policy or legislative changes will address that in the coming months. But for what it’s worth, the women who have broken their silence about sexual harassment in the Legislature are supportive of the changes leadership has discussed.

“I’m encouraged to see the direction leadership is taking when it comes to developing new and independent methods of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment at the Capitol,” said Esgar, who still hasn’t named the colleague she said grabbed her thigh at a legislative event earlier this year. “I’m hopeful that new ideas are still being formulated and considered, when it comes to ways to change the culture itself.”

The lawmaker added that a new session will certainly mean new ideas will come to light, “it’s our responsibility to lead the state in changing cultures to help make work environments safe and productive for all employees on every level.”

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20 cities primed on the Amazon wishlist to be its next HQ

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NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s second home could be in an already tech-heavy city, such as Boston, New York or Austin, Texas. Or it could be in the Midwest, say, Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio. Or the company could go outside the U.S. altogether and set up shop in Toronto.

Those six locations, as well as 14 others, made it onto Amazon’s not-so-short shortlist Thursday of places under consideration for the online retailing giant’s second headquarters.

The 20 picks, narrowed down from 238 proposals, are concentrated mostly in the East and the Midwest and include several of the biggest metro areas in the country, such as Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles, the only West Coast city on the list.

The Seattle-based company set off fierce competition last fall when it announced that it was looking for a second home, promising 50,000 jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Many cities drew up elaborate presentations that included rich financial incentives.

The list of finalists highlights a key challenge facing the U.S. economy: Jobs and economic growth are increasingly concentrated in a few large metro areas, mostly on the East and West Coasts and a few places in between, such as Texas.

Nearly all the cities on Amazon’s list already have growing economies, low unemployment and highly educated populations.

“Amazon has picked a bunch of winners,” said Richard Florida, an economic development expert and professor at the University of Toronto who helped develop that city’s bid. “It really reflects winner-take-all urbanism.”

Among those that didn’t make the cut were Detroit, a disappointment for those excited about progress since the city came out of bankruptcy, and Memphis, Tennessee, where the mayor said the city gave it its “best shot.” San Diego also failed to advance.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” said Holly Sullivan, who oversees Amazon’s public policy. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

Amazon said it will make a final selection sometime this year.

Besides Austin, another Texas city made the cut: Dallas. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are being considered.

Officials in cities that made the shortlist took the opportunity to further tout their locations, with Philadelphia’s mayor noting “all that Philadelphia has to offer” and officials in and around Pittsburgh citing the region’s “world-class talent pool” and other advantages.

Other contenders among the 20 include Denver; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Northern Virginia; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

“It’s a long list for a shortlist,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed.

He said Amazon may use the list to pit the locations against each other and get better tax breaks or other incentives. Two metro areas, New York and Washington, have more than one location on the list, increasing the competition there, he said.

“It’s hard to say whether all these places are in play or Amazon wanted to encourage continued competition,” Kolko said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether locations would be able to change their proposals or offer better incentives, but said in a statement that it will “work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals.”

State and local governments played up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice. Some pulled off stunts to stand out, such as New York, which lit the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Some gimmicks didn’t work: Tucson, Arizona, which sent a 21-foot cactus to Seattle, did not make the list. Neither did Birmingham, Alabama, which installed giant replicas of Amazon’s Dash buttons.

The company had stipulated that it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people, and nearly all of those on the shortlist have a metro population of at least double that.

Amazon also wanted to be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand the headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Boston’s offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others. Before leaving office Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure to allow New Jersey to offer up to $5 billion to Amazon. Newark is also proposing $2 billion in tax breaks.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the financial incentives they offered. Of the 20 finalists, 13, including New York, Chicago and Miami, declined requests from The Associated Press to release their applications. Toronto’s mayor said Thursday that the city offered no financial incentives to woo Amazon.

Several said they don’t want their competitors to know what they’re offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters, and the second home base will be “a full equal” to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has said.

The extra space will give the rapidly growing company room to spread out. It had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of the Whole Foods grocery chain and its 89,000 employees.

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Associated Press writers Josh Cornfield in Philadelphia, Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report. Rugaber contributed from Washington.

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