Colorado’s Raise the Bar amendment meets reality

A legal hurdle has snagged Colorado’s new Raise the Bar rules for amending the state constitution, and thank goodness. While the voter-approved Amendment 71 meant to make life saner, its key requirement for winning a place on the ballot has never struck us as fair. Turns out, it’s not. According to District Court Judge William Martinez, the provision stands at odds with protections provided by the law of the land. Martinez took issue last month with 71’s insistence that a citizen measure can go to voters only if at least 2 percent of registered voters from each of the state legislature’s 35 Senate districts sign a petition in support. The judge says the stricture violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment. We wanted to support the Raise the Bar effort in 2016. The process for amending Colorado’s constitution was so easy it invited mischief. Prior to 71’s passage, petition-gathers needed to secure signatures of registered voters equal to at least 5 percent of the total vote in the last race for secretary of state. That done, they needed to convince 50 percent of voters. Now a ballot measure needs 55 percent of the vote to pass, a provision Martinez left in place. But unless Colorado’s secretary of state provides convincing evidence to the contrary by week’s end, Martinez’s finding should settle the matter. At issue are the protections provided within the concept of “one person, one vote.” Raise the Bar’s backers rightly note that state Senate districts are drawn based on an equal number of residents as determined by Census figures. But activists who challenged 71 are also correct to see the disparity among the number of registered voters among districts. Consider a district in Colorado Springs, where many military members and families might account for large Census numbers, but fewer voters registered in Colorado. Martinez argues simple math supports Continue Reading

The Public Pulse: Raise the bar in 2018

If time flies, 2017 was truly a blur. Even though it felt as if the year went by too quickly for anything to have actually happened, several praiseworthy legislative advances were made to benefit veterans. As a result of these improvements, veterans no longer have to put up with faulty Veterans Administration employees who do not have the best interests of our American heroes at heart. Veterans also have a better chance of rebuilding their lives upon return through their new ability to use their tuition benefits indefinitely, without the restrictions of a time limit. Life is all about paying it forward, and legislators last year worked hard on revisions that would begin to give back to the people who have risked it all to keep us safe and sound on the homefront. How can we raise the bar in 2018? Sophia Daley, Omaha Continue Reading

Part of Colorado’s Amendment 71 — “raise the bar” — is unconstitutional, federal judge concludes

In a Wednesday court order, a federal district court judge concluded that part of last year’s voter-approved Amendment 71 — which made it harder to change the state constitution via ballot initiative — violates the U.S. Constitution. The order by Judge William J. Martinez stopped short of striking the amendment down, but pledged to block a significant part of it from being enacted unless Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams can convince him otherwise. Amendment 71, dubbed “Raise the Bar” by supporters, lifted the threshold for passage of constitutional amendments to 55 percent of the vote. And, to get on the ballot, measures now need signatures from 2 percent of registered voters in all 35 state Senate districts. But in April, opponents of the measure filed suit, arguing that the signature requirement violated the principle of “one man, one vote,” because Colorado’s Senate districts vary greatly in size. The court agreed, concluding that the “widely varying registered voter populations” violates the 14th Amendment. “Part of the new amendment process is constitutionally infirm,” the judge concluded. “It is, however, severable from the remainder of the new requirements” — meaning the higher vote threshold needed for passage can stand. The lawsuit was brought by a number of advocacy groups, including the Coalition for Colorado Universal Health Care and ColoradoCareYes — two groups behind Amendment 69, the failed 2016 ballot measure that would have created a single-payer health care system in Colorado. Suzanne Staiert, the deputy secretary of state, said her office would “defend the vote of the people,” but hadn’t decided whether to respond to the judge’s analysis, or challenge it on appeal. Martinez gave the state until March 9 to file a response arguing against a permanent injunction against the signature-gathering requirements. This Continue Reading

S.A. Cocktail Conference raises the bar

By Jennifer McInnis Updated 11:04 pm, Thursday, January 19, 2012 window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-5', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 5', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-10', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 10', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-15', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 15', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-18', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 18', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); Photo: HELEN L. MONTOYA, San Antonio Express-News Image 1of/18 CaptionClose Image 1 of 18 TASTE: Jake Corney prepares a Manhattan at Rome with a View on Friday Jan. 6, 2012. Bohanan's has organized the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, the first of its kind for Texas. It's modeled after the Manhattan Cocktail Conference. Please shoot photos of bartenders mixing cocktails, the tools and ingredients they use, such as shakers, large format ice, etc. HELEN L. MONTOYA/[email protected] less TASTE: Jake Corney prepares a Manhattan at Rome with a View on Friday Jan. 6, 2012. Bohanan's has organized the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, the first of its kind for Texas. It's modeled after the Manhattan ... more Photo: HELEN L. MONTOYA, San Antonio Express-News Image 2 of 18 TASTE: Jake Corney Continue Reading

As iPhone X raises the bar and price of smartphones, some consumers opt to switch to ‘dumbphones’

Leave the old Nokia at the back of the drawer where it belongs. Companies catering to consumers who want to disconnect from their smartphones are making 'dumbphones,' which are attractive, simplistic and sometimes even pricey. According to a 2015 Pew Research survey, just under half of Americans (46 percent) said the smartphone is something they couldn't live without, a number that's not likely to have gone down in the two years since the survey. Smartphone dependency is real and manifests itself in many daily routines: Like that time you heard the familiar message 'ding' while in public and you dug at the phone in your pocket, only to realize it was actually the phone of the person next to you. And everyone else around you did the same thing. Awareness is not enough to kick the addiction. New York-based educator Gary McLoughlin, a learning specialist at Manhattanville College, said his younger nieces would "constantly have their phones on the table, and they're always scrolling and checking things, and I found this not only hard to understand but really offensive." Yet McLoughlin still found himself unable to disconnect. "I was awake in the night just to check my phone, to check what was happening. It really became worse and worse. And then I asked myself, What am I checking for? What has changed in the last five minutes?" The Apple iPhone X, to be released on Friday, raises the bar for both phone features and price, starting at $999 and reaching to $1,150. But more mobile power users are seeking ways to power down, and dumbphones — which in one case has the financial backing of iPhone manufacturer Foxconn — are being engineered specifically to lure in the smartphone crowd with its scratch- and impact-resistant glass, feather-light Continue Reading

SUNY is raising the bar for applicants to their teacher training

To boost the quality of teachers, the State University of New York is raising the bar for training them. Starting in 2015, students must pass a GRE-style exam and earn at least a 3.0 grade-point average in college in order to qualify for SUNY teacher training. The change only affects students who are applying for slots in any of SUNY’s 17 teacher training programs, which prepare about 25% of the state’s teachers. The rest come from other accredited colleges and universities. Gov. Cuomo promised to address teacher quality by raising the bar on recruitment standards for instructors in his State of the State address this year. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said the new standards show that the state is making progress on that goal. “The new admission requirements put in place by SUNY will help ensure that all students, and the schools they attend, can be more successful,” Zimpher said. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

White House imposes new freeze on drilling until oil industry ‘raises the bar on its practices’

 The Obama administration imposed a new moratorium on deep water oil drilling Monday. "I am basing my decision on evidence that grows every day of the industry's inability in the deepwater to contain a catastrophic blowout, respond to an oil spill, and to operate safely," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. "Industry must raise the bar on its practices and answer fundamental questions." Salazar had ordered a six-month halt to drilling on May 28, idling 33 rigs, but a federal court overruled him, calling it too broad. An appeals court last week refused the administration's request to reinstate the ban. The new moratorium will allow some permits to be issued if drillers can show they have addressed safety concerns. "The president has and continues to believe that we have to be careful with what we're doing," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. The American Petroleum Institute called the new ban "unnecessary and shortsighted." Even though the spill is ravaging small businesses along the Gulf Coast, business interests in the region support continued drilling because the oil industry creates so many jobs. Meanwhile, after three months of failures, BP says it's on the verge of ending the Gulf gusher that has spewed millions of gallons of oil into the sea. A new containment cap was to be installed on the broken BP oil well Monday, and officials said if all goes well, the device will be able to start capturing all the oil - a welcome, if temporary, end to the disastrous gusher. "At this point our confidence is growing," Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, told reporters. BP shares surged more than 8% on the good news. The old, leaky cap was removed from the wellhead Saturday so the new one could be installed, meaning oil has been gushing unchecked at a rate of 2.5 million gallons a day since then. The much-awaited relief well that BP is drilling to stop the oil flow permanently is now just 5 feet away from Continue Reading

Education Department raises the bar on city high school grading system

The Education Department has made it harder for high schools to get top marks on the report cards the city is releasing Monday.The move follows widespread criticism last year when a whopping 82% of secondary schools earned A's and B's under the city's controversial grading system. "We absolutely raised the bar," said Education Department spokeswoman Ann Forte. "Our goal is to continue to create stretch targets for schools." This year, 97% of elementary and middle schools scored A's and B's, raising even more eyebrows. High school grades are based mostly on the progress a school makes raising graduation rates, improving pass rates on the Regents exams and how many students are passing classes. "We have to look at the measurements," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. "If you're just looking at test results and changing the cut score, you're gaming your own system." The percentage of schools that earn A's and B's this year is not expected to change significantly because the graduation rate climbed to 56% last year, up from 53% in 2007. This year, a school needs a score of at least 70 out of 100 to grab an A, up from 64.2 last year. For a B, high schools need a 54, a 21% jump from the 43.5 needed last year. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Ricci case raises the bar: Ruling for white firefighters moves us toward true colorblindness

The Supreme Court's ruling on the Ricci case - that white firemen suffered illegal discrimination when a promotional test on which they did well was thrown out because not enough blacks did well - will have no effect on Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. While overturned on Ricci, she is protected by the four dissenting justices who upheld the side of the case she had taken as a Circuit Court judge. Sotomayor was also helped by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's insistence on reading her dissent from the bench, as if to emphasize the legitimacy of her position - and, by implication, Sotomayor's. Ricci left Sotomayor relatively unscathed. But not affirmative action. Ricci raised the bar considerably on overt discrimination against one racial group simply to undo the unintentionally racially skewed results of otherwise fair and objective employment procedures (in this case, examinations). It's not enough for a city to say, as did New Haven, that it was afraid of being sued by black firefighters. The evidence was irrefutable that the tests were put together in a conscientious, race-neutral way. Not only were minority firefighters over-sampled in devising the questions. The designers established nine oral exam boards, each a three-person panel, each consisting of precisely one white, one black and one Hispanic. (Such is the extreme race consciousness that the Civil Rights Act, of all things, has brought upon us.) Nor will it do, as New Haven tried, to throw out a test on the pretext that another test with less racial impact might theoretically exist out there in the ether. The defenders of the old racial order, led by Ginsburg, objected sternly, declaring that the white firemen "had no vested right to promotion." Of course they didn't, but they did have a vested right to fairness, to not being denied promotion because of their skin color. Of course no one has a vested right to promotion. Isn't that why they gave those tests in the first Continue Reading

Steven Bochco’s new show is ‘Raising the Bar’

Back at ABC in his "NYPD Blue" days, producer Steven Bochco was known as a guy who pushed the envelope for bare skin and language. Now he's moved to cable, with the new legal drama "Raising the Bar." So you might assume that since his old pals at the FCC don't care what you say on cable, this move would green-light him to hit the gas pedal and mutter, "Rulebook, get outta my way!" At least on the opening laps, he doesn't. He delivers instead a solid lawyer show that fits comfortably into the mold formed by dozens of lawyer shows before it. No flesh, no cursing. The hero of night one is Jerry Kellerman, played by Bochco veteran Mark-Paul Gosselaar as an earnest young public defender who is so frustrated by a miscarriage of justice that he ends up joining his client behind bars. As story lines go, that breaks no new ground, either. But what seems to interest Bochco more, at least in this opening episode, is something about the system itself, the system that sets the unspoken rules under which Kellerman and the typically large ensemble Bochco cast are working. That "something" involves conflicts of interest, mixed loyalties and hidden agendas. In the world of "Raising the Bar," the justice system is a club where everybody knows each other, or is only one degree of separation removed. The characters freely acknowledge this, and have developed a mantra to deal with it: What happens outside the courtroom doesn't matter. Once the judge takes the bench and everyone is seated, the fact the defense attorney knows the prosecutor, or maybe has dated the prosecutor, becomes irrelevant. Justice has its own strict procedures and the outcome of a case is determined solely by the execution of those procedures. All of which, Bochco seems to suggest, is a lie. Every step of Kellerman's marquee case is shaded here by relationships. Who can nudge whom to nudge someone else to cut a deal or pull a string. The pivotal moment that determines the ultimate Continue Reading