Chicago aldermen considered ways to provide reparations for descendants of slaves Thursday in the first meeting of a special City Council subcommittee on the issue. The Subcommittee on Reparations within the council’s Health Committee is tasked in part with “examining the state of equity in the City of Chicago,” according to the resolution that created it. The first meeting was mainly a chance for the group to get organized and hear from experts on the issue of providing reparations to Black residents who are the descendants of slaves. Evanston Ald. Robin Rue Simmons talked about the important...
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State Sen. Don Coram tried to paint himself as a moderate, experienced alternative to incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert during the first debate between the candidates ahead of the Republican primary elections.
“As George Washington said in his farewell address, our biggest threat to our young republic is excessive partisanship. We have a nation that is so divided that they couldn’t agree on buying ice cream, and that needs to change,” Coram said during a debate Thursday morning at the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio. “I have been critical of the opponent’s record and I’d liken it to a new Denver football player, in that she throws a lot of passes but has zero completions. Who would be happy with that?”
Boebert leaned into the ideological differences between her and Coram, who has a history of bipartisanship during his time in the Colorado General Assembly.
“I ran as a conservative and I won as a conservative. I legislate as a conservative because I am one,” she said during her opening statement. “I will win this primary because I am the only conservative in this race.”
She called it a “bipartisan” debate, though they are both Republicans.
The split was obvious elsewhere: The approximately 300 attendees clearly separated themselves based on candidate preference, with one side of the event space pro-Coram and the other pro-Boebert.
The debate was the first in-person encounter between the two candidates in one of the state’s most anticipated primaries in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. It was moderated by Dave Woodruff, the Durango chapter president of the Colorado Restaurant Association. Candidates had two minutes to respond to pre-written questions, and then had the opportunity to ask one another questions at the end.
Marina Zimmerman, who did not make it on the Republican primary ballot but is running as a write-in candidate for the general election, did not participate.
Boebert was first elected in 2020 after defeating longtime Rep. Scott Tipton. Coram, of Montrose, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2010 and the state Senate in 2018.
Though Coram’s campaign claimed that the candidates agreed on a “paper and pencil” policy — meaning they could have paper on stage to take realtime notes but could not bring prepared information — Boebert had pre-written notes she referenced frequently throughout the debate.
“She shows up with a notebook of answers already, and I’m up there with not even a piece of paper. I thought that was a bit disingenuous, but I also realize that’s her only operative, because she can’t think on her feet,” Coram told reporters afterwards.
Gun policy in the wake of Uvalde
The first question revolved around this week’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman murdered 19 elementary school children and two teachers. The candidates were asked what role Congress has in reducing mass shootings and what reforms, if any, they would support.
Coram responded that he wants to prioritize mental health support, a common Republican response to gun reform questions.
“Republicans and Democrats, for years, have talked about mental health. Mental health is the cause of a lot of the problems that we have in these shootings. But we have not put the commitment together to fund the necessary treatment and address those issues,” he said.
The Uvalde shooter had no known history of mental health problems, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.
Boebert, who is a vocal supporter of gun rights and owns a firearm-themed restaurant, said that additional laws won’t fix the problem, as criminals will just disregard them.
“We cannot legislate away evil,” she said. “We need to be able to arm and protect ourselves. Moms need to be able to have a tool — an equalizer — to protect their children. Our teachers need to be well equipped and trained and certified to also protect our children.”
She said she wants the state to use excess federal ARPA funds to “secure” schools, which would include increasing police presence on campus.
Boebert ‘proud’ of voting against presidential election results
Boebert used a question on election integrity to spread baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. She pointed to debunked anecdotes of “hundreds of thousands of ballots” going out illegally and the presence of “illegal drop boxes.” Claims of election fraud have been repeatedly debunked by experts, courts and election officials from both parties.
Boebert voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
“I am proud that the first major action that I took in the House of Representatives was to vote to not certify some of the electoral college results from the 2020 elections,” she said.
She said she opposes any federal election legislation.
“We do not need a D.C.-takeover of any of our elections,” she said. “That should go to the states.”
Coram agreed that elections are local and state issues but said he has yet to see any evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.
“I’m not denying that it may be there, but I want to see it in a court of law. I look forward to 2022 and 2024, rather than a theory that might have happened in 2020,” he said.
Boebert said one of the “greatest experiences” she has as a representative is attending citizenship ceremonies with people who “did it the right way.” She reiterated her common talking point that “every state is a border state,” including Colorado.
She also attacked Coram’s 2021 vote in favor of creating the Colorado Office of New Americans, which is intended to be the point of contact for immigration issues in the state.
“My opponent voted yes for that Department of Illegal Immigration,” she said.
Coram defended that vote, saying it is important for the state to know the number of immigrants, documented or otherwise.
“I’m not in favor of illegal immigration, either,” he said. “But they are here, and we have a responsibility — you, the citizens of Colorado. Their children can go to school. They are entitled to medical care. They are human beings who deserve representation and the love of God.”
His response was met by boos from Boebert’s supporters.
Coram said he would also support a system that allows non-resident workers to come to the United States to work, such as a “red card” program that gives permits for employment without the promise of citizenship or residency.
Wildfires, water, natural resources
Both Boebert and Coram agreed that Colorado’s forests need to be managed better to prevent wildfires and that it should start locally.
“The people on the ground are great,” Coram said. “But the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., have no idea what the forests in Colorado look like, the health conditions of it. We have allowed the U.S. Forest Service for years and years to be totally mismanaged.” He said he is in favor of mechanical thinning and well-planned prescribed burns.
He said the government should enable innovation and technology to help predict and fight wildfires. And he connected wildfire mitigation with water issues.
“We are in a water crisis right now. I think it’s important we have someone who actually has a background of water knowledge and issues. That is what I’ll bring to the United States Congress,” he said.
To underline his understanding of water issues, he pointedly asked Boebert her thoughts on the public trust of water, a technical doctrine that has to do with water rights. Boebert said she would have to “look into it.”
Boebert touted legislation she introduced last year aimed at wildfire mitigation that would fund the removal of trees killed by bark beetles among other prevention programs. She described it as the most comprehensive forestry bill in decades.
She criticized the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to pause prescribed burns in the midst of expanding drought conditions to review protocol and decision-making processes.
“This decision will only result in more catastrophic wildfires this summer and more fuel will stay on the ground. I called them out for putting bureaucratic politics ahead of the people of Colorado. It’s not an actual solution,” she said.
Boebert mainly used the cross examination portion of the debate to claim Coram has used his elected office for personal gain — allegations Coram has denied — while Coram accused Boebert of “grandstanding.”
By the end, audience decorum had dwindled and the candidates used their closing remarks to further emphasize their differences in policy-making ideology.
“I would say that today has proven in this bipartisan debate that the contrast could not be bigger than Don Coram and me,” Boebert said.
Coram said that Boebert’s goal is to become a political celebrity.
“I’m just a legislator. I’m not an instigator. I’m not looking for a reality TV show. I’m looking to do a job,” he said. “I’m here to work. I’m a workhorse. I’m not a show horse, and I will do the job. I’ve proven that for 12 years.”
He also challenged Boebert to present concrete evidence of any corruption from his time in office.
To Coram, his success in the primary will be up to unaffiliated voters, who make up about 42% of the voters in the district. Some attendees on Thursday said they had switched their affiliation from Democrat to unaffiliated in order to vote for Coram in the primary. In Colorado, unaffiliated voters can vote in one party’s primary election. Whoever wins the Republican primary will have an advantage over the Democratic candidate in this district, which leans Republican by about 9 percentage points.
“The race is the unaffiliated,” he said. “There’s Democrats who are frustrated with their party. There’s Republicans who are frustrated with theirs, and they are migrating to the new majority.”
A second debate is in the planning stages and will likely be held in Pueblo. A virtual forum with both Democratic and Republican candidates in the district will be held on June 8. Primary elections are June 28.
A game warden unleashed a surge of racist jokes after encountering a Black Santa Claus -- now hunters want him fired
Hunters in Mississippi voiced outrage over "bigoted and racist" Facebook posts that were posted by a game warden, WLBT reported.
The network reported his comments included “that last chimney you went down Santa was mighty smutty,” “is that a 9 mm in my back or a gift?” and “you say you want Kentucky Fried Chicken with your milk and cookies?”
Resident Devin Cockrell posted screen-captures of the post to Facebook.
“I saw him post a picture with a Black Santa Claus, and he kept on saying further and further into the racist jokes,” Cockrell said. “If he’s able to come onto your property, I mean, there’s no limit to how he can exercise his prejudice.”
IN OTHER NEWS: Uvalde shooting timeline exposes an ugly truth
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks told the station it would not comment on a personnel matter.
“I don’t plan on going anywhere near an area that that man has jurisdiction,” Cockrell said. “(It’s) just not conduct I want to have to deal with in the field, much less know that’s what’s policing everyone else in that area.”
Hunter Drik Carr was also alarmed by the post.
“I mean, that’s scary because he’s walking around with a gun, and he’s got this authority, this badge, you know?” Carr said. “He’s bragged on his post, ‘I’ve been here 33 years.’ You’ve been getting away with this for 33 years. It’s ridiculous. It is ridiculous."
In the aftermath of the murder of 19 kids and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school, the reports about what, exactly, the cops did that day are conflicting, to say the least. Initial reports claimed the police engaged in a firefight with the shooter before he entered the school, but now reports are that the gunman actually wandered around outside without challenge for 12 whole minutes. The story may very well change again by the time you're reading this, but one detail does seem to be coming into clear view: The shooter had about an hour inside the school with his victims before police finally shot him. Video and testimony show that parents were not only begging cops to do something but that when parents themselves tried to charge in, the cops held them back. At least one parent was handcuffed to keep him from charging into the school. On Friday afternoon, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) confirmed that at least 19 law enforcement officers stood in the hallway outside of the classroom at Robb Elementary for over 45 minutes as the gunman slaughtered students inside.
Police, it appears, were not keen on confronting a teenager armed with an AR-15. That's understandable from a human perspective but in direct conflict with the image that law enforcement likes to portray of themselves as brave public servants who put their life on the line for ordinary citizens. This image has been bandied about even harder in recent years, in response to the ongoing debate over how much public money is spent on policing in lieu of other social services. It's safe to say that the widespread support for robust police funding is entirely due to the assumption that cops have a duty to rush in and protect people, especially children, in such situations.
On social media, people were understandably recommending that the parents sue the police for their failure to act swiftly. It seems like common sense: We hire police to protect us, and if they don't, we can sue them, right?
Well, one certainly can try to sue! But here's the sad, dark truth: Such a lawsuit is almost certainly doomed from the get-go. In 2005, the Supreme Court settled whether or not citizens are entitled to protection from violence from the police with a resounding "nope, see you later." This case also involves the murder of three small children, so readers be forewarned. In 1999, Colorado resident Jessica Lenahan (then Gonzales) obtained a restraining order against her ex-husband, Simon Gonzales, who was stalking her and her four children. A few days later, he showed up at her house and kidnapped her three daughters. She frantically called the police for hours, over and over, and they did nothing. It was only when Simon Gonzales showed up at the police station, gun in hand, that they reacted, by killing him. They found the three little girls murdered at their father's hand in the car.
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Lenahan sued the police, arguing that by ignoring her pleas for help, they had violated her 14th amendment rights to equal protection. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where she lost in a 7-2 decision in 2005. The opinion's author, Antonin Scalia, argued that the police's right to discretion prevailed, and there is no "'entitlement' to receive protective services." That the cops were bad at their job didn't change the fact that the right to discretion over the right call lay with them, not Lenahan.
There is a "traditional belief that police are there to proactively prevent and deescalate dangerous situations," as Ramenda Cyrus wrote for the American Prospect just last month, but, in reality, "the cops do not have a duty to protect you, or anyone."
Since Scalia's 2005 Supreme Court decision, another case that reiterated this legal reality came to the public's attention, initially because of, believe it or not, the comedy website Cracked.com. In 2011, Joseph Lozito was on his way to work in New York City when he got attacked, right in front of two police officers, by a serial killer the cops were already on the lookout for. The killer, Maksim Gelman, had already murdered four people when he pulled out a knife on the train and just started stabbing Lozito at random. Lozito fought back, while the two police watched but did not intervene. Lozito, even though he had been stabbed in the head multiple times, managed to disarm Gelman. It was only then that the cops swooped in and arrested the killer. Lozito sued the police and lost, because, you guessed it, the cops had no "special duty" to act.
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To be clear there are real legal issues with trying to create an affirmative duty to act for the police, starting with the danger of mass arrests for every petty crime. The 2020 episode of Radiolab that covers both of these cases digs into some of the complications and is well worth listening to. Still, the false assumption that police do have a legal obligation to protect the public is the source of much of the support for not just basic funding, but often sprawling police budgets that detract from a community's ability to pay for other services, such as the kinds of mental health services that might prevent some of these shootings.
As NBC News reported, the "Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District had doubled its security budget in recent years," militarizing the safety plan in ways that are all too familiar in our modern era. The money went to "its own police force, threat assessment teams at each school, a threat reporting system, social media monitoring software," among other things. Uvalde police are also equipped with expensive firepower, body armor, and other militarized equipment that the public buys cops, under the assumption that they are obliged to use it to protect us. But this reliance on the fancy bells and whistles appears to have contributed to the delay in response. Authorities said on Friday that the commanding officer on the scene decided to wait for his officers to be fully equipped while children were being executed steps away from them.
"They don't make entry initially because of the gunfire they're receiving," Victor Escalon, the South Texas regional director for DPS, told the press. "But we have officers calling for additional resources, everybody that's in the area, tactical teams: We need equipment, we need specialty equipment, we need body armor, we need precision riflemen, negotiators."
As political commentator Julian Sanchez noted on Twitter, "I suspect this is an underappreciated harm of police militarization: Now cops think it's not their job to protect people if it involves some risk & they don't have a tank and a SWAT team."
I suspect this is an underappreciated harm of police militarization: Now cops think it's not their job to protect people if it involves some risk & they don't have a tank and a SWAT team. https://t.co/AP71tx5IE6
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) May 27, 2022
The debate over police funding is a frustrating one because it demands nuance, and we do not live in nuanced times. So it gets reduced to this childish pissing match over whether we "fund" or "defund" the police — as if the question is whether or not there should be any police force at all. In truth, there will always be some need for law enforcement, since it's childish to believe everyone will just obey the law out of communal duty without it. But it is also and equally true that the cops are overfunded and all too often ineffective, often due to being spoiled rotten by both the public and politicians who are caught up in the myth of the hero cop. We need to de-romanticize law enforcement, bring police budgets to heel, and hold cops accountable for doing their jobs, like everyone else is expected to do.
Ironically, if we start treating cops like the public servants they actually are, instead of like they're untouchable superheroes, it might incentivize more courage under fire. Consider the two adult victims of the Uvalde shooting: Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia. These two women were schoolteachers, one of those underpaid and under-appreciated public service jobs that never gets the glory the cops routinely receive. A child survivor of the shooting reports that they "went in front of my classmates to help. To save them." Garcia's nephew told the New York Times the cops "found her body there, embracing children in her arms pretty much until her last breath."
If our cops can't be as brave as our 4th-grade teachers, why are we giving the cops so much more money?