The Durango Herald, Jan. 3, on a livable wage:
Colorado's minimum wage quietly went up Jan. 1, as planned by the passage of Amendment 70 in November 2016 with 55.4 percent of the vote. The second of four stepped increases the ballot measure authorized between 2016 and 2020 took the wage paid hourly workers from $8.31 per hour in 2016 to $9.30 in 2017, and $10.20 as of Monday.
It will increase two more times on Jan. 1 in 2019 and 2020 until it reaches $12 per hour. Tipped worker wages also increased from $5.29 in Jan. 2016 to $7.18 in 2018 and will top out in 2020 at $8.98. By comparison, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, just over $15,000 per year ($3,000 more than the 2017 federal poverty level for a one person household), and has not changed since July 2009.
Locally, as of July 2017, La Plata County's Thrive Living Wage Coalition has calculated the hourly living wage for a single person in La Plata County as $13.31 per hour or $27,684 per year; a parent plus one pre-school child at $23.41 or $48,693 per year; and two adults with one pre-school and one school-aged child at $28.84 per hour or $59,987 per year.
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This takes into consideration the number of jobs an individual or family would need to have at the minimum wage to afford basic necessities like housing, child care, utilities, transportation, health care and taxes. Currently, twenty seven percent of La Plata County residents work in occupations where the median wage is less than $12.98 per hour, .33 cents less than Thrive's calculated $13.31 per hour living wage. In Nov. 2014, Thrive developed its own Employer Recognition Program and has certified 103 La Plata County employers that pay their employees $13.31 per hour or more.
The main reason local employers give for paying a living wage is consistent with the research that advocates for doing so: the gains in employee retention, productivity, happiness, longevity and lower training costs far outweigh any losses.
La Plata County government is a living wage employer for these reasons and to support the community. In a 2016 study by the University of Denver (http://bit.ly/2CxQmA4 ), researchers estimated that since low-wage workers tend to spend whatever they make (there is nothing left to save), Colorado's wage hike to $12 by 2020 will result in a $400 million injection into the state economy and an increase in living standards for 400,000 households, half of which are families.
Amendment 70 opponents cited a study by Portland State University economist Eric Fruits who estimated that a $12 per hour minimum wage could result in 90,000 fewer jobs. Fruits' critics point out that the last time Colorado raised its minimum wage, by 33 percent in Jan. 2007, from $5.15 to $6.85 per hour, the Colorado economy added 71,200 jobs in the two years following the increase. A 2014 Congressional Budget Office report estimates that a $10.10 per hour federal minimum wage would lift 900,000 families above the federal poverty line and off public assistance programs.
The Colorado Center on Law & Policy's 2017 State of Working Colorado (http://bit.ly/2lHE6Dd ), released in December, concluded that economic recovery has not been equally shared or lasting, that for most workers wages are stagnant and underemployment remains a problem.
Though current tax reform leans heavily on corporations to drive job creation, wages and the economy, there is still a considerable role for legislators, business and not-for-profit leaders to play developing policies and practices to help people achieve economic self-sufficiency and community health.
March is the next month Thrive will be accepting applications for their recognition program. Visit thrivelaplata.org for more information.
The Denver Post, Jan. 2, on the Douglas County shooting serving as a reminder of mental health needs:
Douglas County sheriff's Deputy Zackari Parrish was killed Sunday morning knowingly responding to one of the most volatile and dangerous calls law enforcement officers get — a domestic abuse complaint tinged with mental health concerns.
Parrish and the four other law enforcement officers and deputies injured in an ambush shooting were certainly aware of the dangers, and they responded anyway, trying to intervene and protect others from the threat posed by 37-year-old Matthew Riehl.
That's the selfless sacrifice made by law enforcement day in and day out across this nation, and Parrish's widow and two young daughters can take small comfort in our gratitude for the bravery of their husband and father.
Details of the ambush that killed Parrish are still coming out, but early reports make us all wonder what more could have been done to prevent the tragedy, especially given that Riehl was known to local law enforcement for making veiled but disturbing threats in Wyoming that resulted in increased police presence at the University of Wyoming Law School.
What do we, as a society, do with people who haven't broken any laws or made the kind of explicit threats that warrant an arrest? Colorado is one of a few states able to put people on a 72-hour mental health hold. Too often, because of limited resources in mental health facilities, that means putting someone in the midst of a psychotic episode in a jail cell, an unacceptable breach of liberty that does nothing to treat the underlying illness or prevent future behavioral issues.
Recognizing the flaw in the system, lawmakers prohibited putting someone in jail for a mental health hold in a 2017 law that takes effect in May, while simultaneously allocating resources to create a more robust response to mental health crises than incarceration. Senate Bill 207 set aside about $7 million a year for crisis mental health services. The money will provide training to law enforcement officers and deputies across the state, create two-person mobile crisis teams between law enforcement and mental health professionals, and increase access to crisis facilities 24 hours a day.
The multimillion-dollar investment is still being rolled out across the state, but could conceivably have made a difference in a case like that of Riehl, where early intervention by a mental health expert could have prevented a tragedy. It's also possible the outcome would have been the same.
Colorado should continue to take the many mental health needs in this state seriously.
With the reality of America's mostly unfettered and guaranteed access to guns and ammunition, it's critical that law enforcement have a way to identify imminent threats and handle them with early intervention. In Colorado there are far too many instances of deadly outcomes when mental health needs fall through the cracks: James Holmes told a psychiatrist about his desire to kill people before he murdered 12 at an Aurora movie theater in 2012, and Karl Pierson was in contact with a school counselor before he shot and killed Claire Davis and himself in a 2013 rampage at Arapahoe High School.
In the end, we all want the same thing — better outcomes for those on the front lines.
We wish Parrish and the other four injured officers and deputies had made it home safely on Sunday from their shifts.
The Gazette, Dec. 31, on making 2018 better in Colorado Springs and beyond:
Saying goodbye to 2017 should not be easy tonight. Though anyone can find much to complain about, this was a pretty good year by community and statewide standards.
- Locally and nationally, we saw booming economic growth and record stock market gains.
- U.S. News & World Report found Colorado Springs the second-most desirable city among people who could choose to move anywhere, second only to Honolulu.
- Colorado Springs became so desirable in 2017 that demographers announced the population will exceed Denver's within 15 years.
- Tourism is up in Colorado Springs and throughout the state.
- Unemployment is low, locally and statewide.
- The local housing market continues setting records, as businesses and families move here.
- Plans are underway to widen I-25, the city's major north-south lifeline, between Monument and Castle Rock.
- Voters felt economically secure enough to approve funding for schools and our city's long-neglected storm water infrastructure.
Those are just some good news tidbits of 2017, which should carry over into 2018.
The past year has not been easy for those who wanted a different outcome in the presidential and congressional elections. We only hope President Donald Trump and the majority in Congress work to allay fears about the country's future.
Imagine a 2018 in which average Americans focus more on careers, children and households - and less on the federal government.
We have a few other hopes and dreams to make 2018 better than 2017:
- The federal courts continue defending and expanding religious liberty for people of all faiths and denominations.
- Crews break ground on expanding I-25.
- Investors and builders create more affordable housing.
- Congress and public health officials provide adequate help to people burdened and threatened by the Air Force's use of toxic foam as a firefighting agent.
- Put more police on the streets, and a reduction in violence and other crimes.
- Give better pay for teachers, who are leaving Colorado for neighboring states.
- Get a new home for big blue frame at the future United States Olympic Museum.
- Fewer instances of sexual impropriety and abuse in the workplace.
- Better regulation of big commercial pot, which jeopardizes the potential of Colorado's young generations.
- And, of course, more worldwide stability and peace.
We embark upon 2018 as a country embroiled in uncharacteristic levels of cultural and political rancor. We also enter the year with high levels of economic optimism, looming tax cuts and hope for unprecedented economic growth.
Not everyone should be sad to see the passing of 2017. Everyone should be excited to learn from and build on the past year's wins and losses, planning for success in 2018.
Let's continue making this a stable, strong and compassionate country, as generations have done for 241 years. Happy New Year, and let's all make it a good one!
Coloradoan, Dec. 29, on 2018 resolutions for Fort Collins, Colorado State University, Colorado Department of Transportation and Congress:
What a year 2017 turned out to be.
For some, it was the worst of times, with a steady stream of nonsense pouring out of the White House and the rest of Washington, D.C., to the detriment of national well-being.
For others, it was the best of times, with needed change coming at a hectic pace without regard to long-held sensibilities and social norms. Change for its own sake was its own reward.
The flip of a calendar page to Jan. 1 marks the beginning of a new year and a restart of our collective hopes and dreams.
What will 2018 hold for the United States and the world? Who knows? Closer to home, here are some resolutions we'd like to see local entities take on with the goal of improving Fort Collins and Northern Colorado.
For our friends at Colorado State University:
By most measures, the new on-campus stadium was an operational and financial success during its first year. Attendance at football games was up and so was revenue; complaints were few.
Good for you. But now it's time to come up with a solid plan for the old warhorse standing unloved and unwanted on the west side of town — Hughes Stadium.
University officials will weigh proposals for the 160-acre site early in 2018, with the CSU System Board of Governors making the final call on a plan. We hope the board will move decisively on Hughes Stadium in 2018 in accordance with the community's wishes, which do not seem to include high-density housing on the site.
For the city of Fort Collins:
Following its victory in the November election, the city is gearing up to create a broadband utility that would provide access to high-speed internet services.
Go for it: And be quick about it. In some ways, the city is already behind in the great telecommunications race.
Along the way, the city should be resolute in facing down attempts by incumbent cable companies to undercut its customer base through killer deals and incentives.
Opponents of the city's broadband proposal spent more than $900,000 against it in the election and still lost. Imagine what they will do when facing millions of dollars in losses because consumers have had quite enough of them.
The city should be prepared to offer deals of its own and to follow through with the delivery of excellent service.
For the Colorado Department of Transportation:
Finish your big-ticket projects as quickly as possible. Residents of the Big Thompson Canyon and other travelers have been patient with the plodding pace of repairing U.S. Highway 34 in the wake of the devastating 2013 flood. It's time to wrap it up.
The same goes for the widening of U.S. Highway 287 north of Fort Collins. We understand the scope of both projects and the importance of doing things right.
But we also understand the frustration of motorists weary of navigating orange-cone zones that seem to have lifespans longer than those of new cars.
For our representatives in Congress:
Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, find a way to work with members of the opposing party in crafting legislation that affects the country in meaningful and productive ways.
In doing so, listen to your constituents and understand their needs by conducting hearings and engaging in open debate. We don't need a repeat of the ridiculous and heavy-handed process that went into shaping the so-called tax reform that was pushed through at the end of 2017.
Resolve to care more about the people you represent in 2018 rather than the people who would donate to your re-election campaign.
As we learned in Fort Collins in November, big money doesn't always win.