momentum. Even the recent school board election has failed to thwart its advance.
The foundations, the Piton Foundation, backed by a Denver oil company, and the Donnell-Kay Foundation, a so-called family foun- dation, have become the dominant players on Denver\u2019s education scene. They sponsor tax increases for voter approval, sponsor and fund char- ter school applicants, push thinly researched reports that seek to change the direction of Denver schools. With their funding, a network of aligned groups have emerged, from groups like Padres Unidos and Metropolitan Organization for People, that pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries to put professional orga- nizers on the street, to the national group, Stand for Children, which has received over $300,000 to open shop in Denver to impact the Denver School Board race.
Perhaps most concerning is a website called EdNewsColorado.org, run by a former Denver Post reporter and Piton employee, Alan Gottlieb. EdNewsColorado.org features cover- age of the statehouse and of educa- tion issues, mostly written by Todd Engdahl and Nancy Mitchell, a for-
Coalition to End Hunger and Share Our Strength, the leading national organization working to end child- hood hunger, announced the launching of the \u201cCampaign to End Childhood Hunger in Colorado.\u201d The campaign will immediately work to increase the number of children enrolled in school breakfast and summer food programs while developing a compre- hensive plan to end childhood hunger in Colorado by 2015. Lt. Gov. O\u2019Brien, former president of the Colorado Children\u2019s Campaign and long-time
Downtown is getting a unique Christmas tree lot, with sustainably forested trees, music, home-baked cookies and proceeds going to ben- efit Concerts For Kids, a non-profit organization that supports a range of area children\u2019s non-profits. It will be staffed by a unique program that marries returning veterans with jobs with an environmental twist.
The Denver Foundation, with its commitment to address- ing
long term solu- tions to the hunger cri- sis, was also recognized for its role in encour- aging
the launch of the Campaign to
End Childhood Hunger. With
the support of its donors, the Foundation has con- tributed over $700,000 within the past year to front line food pantries across the state of Colorado. Additionally, it has been instrumental in supporting the creation of the Colorado Coalition to End Hunger.
\u201cToo many children in Colorado are facing hunger, and in this mod- ern day and age, that is simply unac- ceptable,\u201d states Kathy Underhill, Executive Director of the Colorado Coalition to End Hunger. \u201cTogether
ber of the Concert for Kids board, is the prime mover behind the the tree lot. Located in the center of Downtown Denver for the next two weeks, shoppers can visit Tiri\u2019s Garden beginning at noon on Friday to select and purchase their favorite tree to take home with them for the holidays.
\u201cWhen we created Tiri\u2019s Garden in May 2009, we didn\u2019t anticipate the year-round effect it could have on the residents of Downtown Denver,\u201d says Christie Isenberg, President of Concerts For Kids. \u201cOnce again, with the generosity of Shames Makovsky Realty and Europa Landscaping, we are able to provide them (and others) with an easy-access solution for decorating their homes.\u201d
More than an estimated three mil- lion dollars have been spent by two foundations to push a radical agenda to privatize Denver\u2019s public schools.
The agenda includes a strong anti-union push to get rid of teachers as public employees, and to short- circuit direct accountability by an elected school board.
The effort includes well-funded grassroots groups that target poor and minority parents, an organiza- tion devoted to creating a political army to support its aims, an opin- ion-leader organization fronted by two former mayors, but driven by a cadre of people paid for their activ- ism, even a propaganda arm, staffed by former reporters churning out pieces, some terribly slanted.
And while Denver parents and voters strong- ly
support their tradition- al, neighbor- hood schools, this group of
single-mind- ed advocates are far more influen- tial than even elected school board members. As a result, Denver Public Schools reform efforts are ever more controversial. With charter schools replacing closed neighborhood schools, and charters being located in traditional school buildings over strenuous neighborhood objections, the move to privatize Denver\u2019s pub- lic schools is growing in force and
Governor Ritter and Senator Mike Bennet have a healthy breakfast with
students at Place Bridge Academy where the launch of the Campaign to End
Childhood Hunger was announced.
mer Rocky Mountain News reporter. And while much of the reporting is high-quality, a check of the sources used, and the story angles chosen, are aligned with the perspectives of EdNews funders, which prominently include Piton and Donnell-Kay. The opinion section of the site include a variety of writers, but supporters of charter schools have had their voices silenced (including that of Cherry Creek News publisher Guerin Lee Green) after having been invit- ed to provide balance on the site. EdNewsColorado reporting is now being picked up on other websites, notably that of 9News, without any disclaimer that stories are being paid for by groups with a strong, active political agenda.
EdNewsColorado.org is a project of the Public Education and Business Coalition(PEBC), a group with a long history of working on teacher train- ing and development. Rosann Ward, head of PEBC calls EdNewsColorado a \u201cbranch of the PEBC tree\u201d and insists the organization is accountable for the content of the site. Ward vigor- ously defends Mitchell and Engdahl\u2019s reporting as well. But others, includ- ing school board candidates and members, term the site slanted and biased. An Internal Revenue Service complaint was made against PEBC and EdNewsColorado earlier this fall for violating laws that prohibit non- profits from engaging in electioneer- ing.
Mitchell wrote a story earlier this month that relied heavily upon a con- fidential attorney-client memo from DPS attorney John Kechriotis to the school board. Mitchell\u2019s reporting did not acknowledge the leak, the issue of waved privilege, or that Kechriotis used the memo to attack his cli- ent board member Andrea Merida. Mitchell did not even mention that Kechriotis\u2019 attack on his client was a substantial breach of professional responsibility, typically a matter for discipline by the bar.
Gottlieb\u2019s commentary often expresses his depth of knowledge of education and long history with reform issues. But it includes often harsh language attacking people he disagrees with, or the teacher\u2019s union. A sample of that language? Of recent: Before you pull a nasty, mean-spirited, back-stabbing stunt; Merida\u2019s act of betrayal; had the decency or courage; Merida and her henchpeople; nothing more than a
selfishly motivated act; Merida a long time to live this down; A shameful act; this kind of garbage in a school board election. And Gottlieb wrote this about a survey of EdNews com- plaints: \u201cOpinion and commentary is one-sided. Some people said our blog is too pro-charter. Others said it is anti-teacher. Several complained about the \u201csnarky\u201d \u201ccynical\u201d \u201ccocky\u201d and \u201csmug\u201d tone of some posts.\u201d Yet Gottlieb allows a writer from the right-wing Independence Institute full run of the site, and posts attacks by charter school advocates on com- munity members, while censoring posts that express contrary views.
Christopher Scott, who recently ran unsuccessfully for the Denver School Board, wrote Gottleib. \u201cThe parallels between you and John Milton are astonishing, if only on an sizably smaller scale. Your zeal is nearly identical to Milton\u2019s, driving you to advocate against the primary driver of student success, teachers, while supporting all sorts of half- baked ideas and claims without one ounce of corroborating data, provid- ing a vehicle for unbalanced opinion and editorial abuses, and surround- ing yourself with like minded zealots who only champion themselves. In a town with any real press corps, EdNews wouldn\u2019t have a wit of cred- ibility\u2026\u201d
PEBC has a long list of supporters, including some large area corpora- tions. It\u2019s board is chaired by an exec- utive of United Healthcare, a much- fined health insurer. Whether or not that board has expressed concerns about the direction and content of EdNewsColorado is unknown, but companies like First Bank of Cherry Creek, CH2M Hill, and Comcast are often weary of being associated with political pit-bull tactics.
As Denver adapts to having just one daily newspaper, reporting about critical education issues increasingly falls upon sources that draw their funding from groups with an agenda, as opposed to a broad cross-section of the community. EdNewsColorado may be one of the most troubling examples yet; reporting and opin- ion with a discernible perspective, cloaked by a veneer of objectivity. With little engaged reporting upon education issues, any information has much greater power. And with that power comes temptation for abuse, especially when the paymasters have such intent.
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editor\u2019s note: At least three med- ical marijuana dispensaries are locating in the Cherry Creek North business district as of press time.
The medical marijuana retail business has recently become the state\u2019s fastest growing business. This means that the consumption of available retail spaces either for lease or sites purchased for the legal distribution of medical marijuana has been recorded to outpace the start ups of restaurants, apparel shops and other more conventional retail businesses in the state. Why has this happened? I would tie the marijuana retail proliferation to a recent U.S. Justice Department pol- icy to withhold federal prosecution for the possession of marijuana in states where local laws have legally allowed for the use of medical mari- juana.
The voters in Colorado amended the State Constitution in 2000 to allow for the legal use of medical marijuana. It took nearly a decade for the concept of dispensaries to arrive in Colorado and the genesis has indeed brought with it a series of issues, some public concern and a series of local government ques- tions of how best to intervene in making governance policies, if any at all. In Denver, we have indeed seen an increase in the number of medical marijuana dispensaries that were opened in the last few months. I have received several calls and e-mails from constituents both ask- ing about my views on opening a dispensary in Northwest Denver or probing how can the city allow marijuana to be distributed so close to residential neighborhoods and schools.
The City Council has taken up the issue this month with the inten- tion of licensing medical marijua- na distribution in accordance with
what Amendment 20 purported to do. These are essential local gov- ernment control matters that have nothing to do with the broader regulatory scheme that the State legislature will likely consider next year. I believe that it\u2019s well within the purview of the city to exercise a specific license process, regulate business sites and times of opera- tion in relation to public places and schools. In other words, the pub- lic should know where a medical marijuana dispensary is located and that its owners are following the law. In addition these medical mari- juana products are commodities and should be taxed at the retail level as any other consumer product is taxed.
I believe that the public will be better protected from \u201cfly by night\u201d and the \u201cget in quick to make a fast buck\u201d types of future operators. Also, like many of my constituents, I do not want to have a medical mari- juana dispensary on every commer- cial block in Northwest Denver. At the same time, responsible dispen- sary operators should not feel that the city is over regulating a legiti- mate and legal business.
Colorado and Denver have long been viewed as progressive places where thoughtful and sensible laws are crafted by elected officials. We are at a new time in our public policy thinking that reasonable local government license and regulation are required to ensure that medical marijuana patients, care-givers and the general public are protected. This is a new era for medicinal marijuana use and Denver should again be a leader in finding a bal- anced governance approach. The latest draft legislation is posted on my city council website: www.den- vergov.org/rickgarcia ***
Tiri\u2019s Garden Tree Lot, located on 15th & California (across from the Hyatt Regency Denver CCC), will continue Europa\u2019s greening efforts by offering an LED trade-in pro- gram, using Veterans for Green Jobs as the source of labor, and most- importantly, only selling trees that have come from a de-forestation program. This means that all of the trees sold are results of a forest-thin- ning program, which is coordinated by the Colorado Forest Service and Colorado Forest Products. They\u2019ll even decorate and deliver the trees for an additional fee.
The LED trade-in program allows folks to trade in their existing inefficient christmas lights for LED lights which are much more energy efficient, and get a three-dollar dis- count on their new lights. Between using thinned trees and LED light- ing, Christmas can become even greener with a smaller carbon foot- print.
Deleo says the trees are not the classic, perfect Christmas trees, but a step above \u201cCharlie Brown\u201d trees. Trading perfection for healthier for- ests is a beauty all its own. Staff from the Forest Service will be around some days during the sale, along with information about pine beetle devastation and the need to thin trees. You can find Douglas Spruce, Alpine Firs, among other Colorado favorites at the lot. There will be plenty of trees in the six to eight foot range, plus small
Shoppers can also enjoy compli- mentary hot chocolate, apple cider and cookies at Tiri\u2019s Garden, where a portion of the proceeds will benefit Concerts For Kids. For more infor- mation about the tree lot, please visit Tiri\u2019s Garden at www.concerts- forkids.org or call 303.605.2885.
to the Timbers
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