A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Gazette, Jan. 28, on an unconstitutional fracking ban:
A federal court ruling last week should put a stop to the war on fracking - a counterproductive movement that threatens the economic security of every man, woman and child in Colorado.
The Gazette has said it routinely in recent years. Fracking bans stomp on private property rights, which are protected by the federal and state constitutions. A city or county has no more authority to control and devalue mineral and surface rights than it has to suppress religion or free expression. Property rights are a cornerstone of freedom that trumps a community's quest for more collective control. We have property rights, in large part, to protect the economy from irresponsible community plebiscite. Without the secure right to make constructive use of private property, societies cannot progress and succeed.
Colorado isn't the only battleground in which "community control" advocates seek to obstruct the country's march toward energy independence with an anti-jobs assault of private property. In New Mexico, activists persuaded voters in Mora County to ban fracking and drilling. An oil producer filed suit, as the ban rendered worthless the company's investments in property.
Federal District Judge James Browning ruled the law violated the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause because federal case law protects property rights for corporations. The new Mora County law said oil and gas companies "shall not have the rights of 'persons' afforded by the United States and New Mexico Constitutions," including First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights of free speech, property and due process.
It's an ignorant proposition on the surface. A company is nothing more than an entity of one or more individuals interacting in marketplaces of goods, service, commodities or ideas. If companies cannot have property rights or free speech, it's hard to imagine how hospitals, churches, grocery stores or any other businesses would survive challenges made in the interest of "local control." A mosque without First and Fifth Amendment rights could not survive mob challenges in a community fearful of Muslims. "Local control" activists could demand laws eliminating companies that offended their values.
Here's how the judge explained it.
"Some counties could prohibit speech on certain viewpoints," wrote Judge James O. Browning, in a 199-page decision. "Others could deny basic rights to members of certain racial ethnicities . The Constitution would be applied in a cookie-cutter fashion across the United States with such inconsistency from place-to-place that it would cease to be a Constitution of the United States at all."
If challenged, Browning's decision will go to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - which has jurisdiction over Colorado.
Activists can petition whatever they want onto a ballot. City councils and county commissions can try as they may to shut down oil and gas production for the sake of "local control" and exaggerated fears. But the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution has a history of negating inappropriate forms of local control. If it did not, we'd still have Jim Crow laws and segregated schools. Because local control has logical, ethical and moral limitations, our march toward energy independence will likely survive. We can thank the wisdom of America's founders, who foresaw community assaults on individuals rights and pre-empted them with law.
The Denver Post, Jan. 28, on city police policy on shooting drivers:
Denver police should follow the example of leading police departments across the country that forbid officers from shooting at or from a moving vehicle in almost all instances.
This is becoming policy around the country and has been a frequent recommendation from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Within the last seven months, Denver police have shot at cars four times — killing two people.
Early Monday morning officers shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez in a Park Hill alley as she was behind the wheel of a stolen car. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
Police say that in each of the recent shootings, the vehicle was being used as a weapon.
Denver Police Chief Robert White is reviewing the shootings and independent monitor Nick Mitchell has launched an investigation into the department's policy, which now allows officers to shoot at cars if they have "reasonable belief" that the vehicle poses "an immediate threat of death or physical injury."
Shooting at vehicles creates an unreasonable risk. Missed shots can hit bystanders or passengers. Even if effective, the shots can disable the driver, making the car potentially even more dangerous.
Modern police practices now urge officers to not put themselves in the path of a vehicle that can pose a risk and to not shoot unless someone inside the vehicle is shooting at them.
The Police Executive Research Forum — a think tank on police issues — recommends prohibiting shooting at cars unless deadly force is being used "by means other than the moving vehicle."
Since 1972, when New York City stopped shooting at cars, no officer has lost his or her life by being struck by a vehicle, says the Police Executive Research Forum.
The Justice Department, in reviewing use-of-force policies in Cleveland and Albuquerque, has recommended those cities adopt policies against shooting at cars. Denver should, too.
Four incidents in seven months suggest something is wrong. Chief White should put a stop to this unsafe practice once and for all.