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Colorado Editorial Roundup

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 8, 2014 at 1:07 pm •  Published: September 8, 2014

A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:

The Denver Post, Sept. 6, on the death penalty and delays in justice:

It has been more than two years since James Holmes allegedly committed mass murder at an Aurora theater. And it has been nearly two years since Dexter Lewis allegedly stabbed five people to death at Fero's Bar and Grill in Denver.

Neither has been tried, let alone convicted of those crimes. Prosecutors in each instance chose to pursue the death penalty, and so the cases have bogged down in procedural issues and a flurry of motions on almost every imaginable issue.

Meanwhile, a vicious mass murderer you probably never heard of, Jaacob Vanwinkle, will be sentenced later this month to life in prison without a chance of parole for crimes he committed in Cañon City just this March.

Only three months later, in June, Vanwinkle pleaded guilty to 36 felony charges against him. He will receive one more burst of publicity when he is sentenced, and then will vanish, as he should, into the utter obscurity of a maximum security prison, to face the crushing tedium and hopelessness that is life in a cell.

By contrast, Holmes and Lewis will be in the news for years and become household names — a status already achieved by the accused in the theater shooting.

With the death penalty having become an issue in the governor's race, it's worth contrasting these cases and asking ourselves, as Coloradans, which choice makes the most sense.

Is it worth pursuing the death penalty in a few select cases knowing it will postpone justice literally for years, cost many times the alternative of life without parole, and, given the appeals, won't actually resolve the murderer's fate for decades even if a jury agrees to the ultimate penalty?

Or should we embrace the opportunity for relatively quick pleas that ensure the killer will never walk again as a free man?

There is also the issue of equity to consider. Vanwinkle's crimes of stabbing a mother and two young children to death were as brutal as murders get. The mind shudders to contemplate the terror endured by his victims as he coldly proceeded from one to another. Vanwinkle also raped a teenage daughter, whom he presumably would also have killed if she hadn't managed to escape.

He is as depraved as a murderer can be. It seems glaringly inconsistent to seek the death penalty for Holmes and Lewis but not for Vanwinkle. And yet this is not an isolated inconsistency. There have been several savage multiple murders in recent memory in which death was not sought for the killer.

The death penalty may be a winner politically, but it's a loser in terms of fair and reasonable public policy.



The Tribune, Sept. 6, on maintaining the increasingly trafficked road infrastructure in northeast Colorado:

Anybody who has traveled Weld County's major roads and highways has noticed the increased traffic - and the increased damage to roads.

We don't dispute that a considerable amount of state highway funding has flowed into Weld County and the Colorado Department of Transportation's Region 4 in northeastern Colorado. For example, in recent years Weld County has received 42 percent of the Region 4 funding.

But with a booming oil and gas industry, a growing dairy industry that feeds a new cheese factory in Greeley, with continued ag traffic delivering crops and cattle to market and with continued population growth in Weld County, we think there's an easy argument to make that more state funding is needed.

"Our roadways are deteriorating at a faster rate than we had planned due to increased traffic," said Myron Hora, planning and environmental manager for Region 4.

Sadly, making the argument for more funding won't be nearly as hard as winning it.

In 2007, CDOT had an annual budget of $1.6 billion. Seven years later, you'd think that figure would be higher. But in 2014, CDOT has $1.1 billion to spend on state highways and interstates.

And how far will $1.1 billion go? This figure will give you an idea: Officials say adding a third lane to Interstate 25 from Mead up to Colo. 14 at Fort Collins would cost $1.5 billion.

We're happy to hear that CDOT began earlier this summer a study to evaluate the impacts of the oil and gas traffic on roads. The study will take 15 months to complete and will not only examine how the industry impacts road maintenance but also how the industry might contribute to funding solutions.

We think Weld County government certainly is doing its share to help. The county has committed $125 million over the next five years to major expansion and extension of Weld County Road 49. The road already serves as a major route for oil and gas traffic from Interstate 76 to U.S. 34, and when the expansion is completed, it is expected to take even more traffic off U.S. 85.

What's becoming more and more clear is that some sort of tax solution must be examined. The Colorado gas tax hasn't been increased in more than 20 years, and it is a dime lower than the average state gas tax across the country. The state's severance tax formula provides help for several state agencies and local governments, but very little goes to state highway or interstate construction.

"When I look at the lack of resources and the lack of funding, it makes me very nervous where we're going to be in the next 10-20 years," said Johnny Olson, CDOT director for Region 4.

We certainly share that nervousness.

As time goes on, it's becoming more and more clear that heavy truck traffic, much of it traced back to the oil and gas boom in northern Colorado, is having a significant impact on road maintenance needs in northeastern Colorado.

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