A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Denver Post, Sept. 23, on gun rights and gun control:
One of the stranger revelations of this election season is that gun retailers are gearing up for a surge in winter sales if President Obama is re-elected — similar to what happened after his election in 2008.
Never mind that no significant piece of gun legislation has passed during Obama's first term and the president has never listed gun control as a priority. Second Amendment enthusiasts continue to suspect him of secretly yearning to restrict gun ownership — or even to confiscate weapons if he could.
And their fears are stoked by the likes of the National Rifle Association, whose spokesman was quoted recently in The Wall Street Journal as warning that "there's no political downside if Obama enacts more stringent gun-control measures" in his second term.
Oh, please. The president doesn't enact anything. Congress does. And there would be a political downside for members of Congress if they were to go too far on gun control — a huge downside, as it happens, given existing public opinion supporting the right to own guns.
But what would qualify as going too far? For Second Amendment absolutists, any restrictions qualify. But that's not what public opinion polling suggests.
True, polls in recent years have consistently affirmed that Americans believe it's more important to protect the right to own guns than to enact gun control. In fact, a Denver Post poll published a week ago revealed the same pattern in Colorado: 56 percent of those asked said it was "more important" to protect the right of Americans to own guns than "to control gun ownership."
However, the problem with such all-or-nothing questions — and we realize that this particular question on gun control has been a standard of polling for many years — is that they don't leave room for opinion on specific policies.
After all, banning high-capacity gun magazines doesn't threaten the right to bear arms. What it does, however, is limit a gunman's ability to kill indiscriminately. Banning assault weapons might have a similar positive result.
So it's no accident, in our view, that Americans are more receptive to both of those specific proposals than they are to the general proposition of gun control. And while polling results aren't entirely consistent, some polls have concluded that a clear majority of Americans (and Coloradans) favor both policies.
So, yes, it's important for elected officials to understand that Coloradans for the most part remain strong supporters of Second Amendment rights even in the wake of the mass shooting in Aurora. But that doesn't mean those same officials shouldn't take the lead in promoting sensible reforms that reduce the likelihood of such crimes — or at least the likelihood of their success.
Why, of course they should.
Loveland Reporter-Herald, Sept. 22, on national obesity projections:
Odds are, when you go out and about in a few years, half the people you see will be obese.
It could be newsworthy just to see people outside, but the reason they might be there is only to fill up on more fast food.
In projections released earlier this week by Trust for America's Health, by 2030 more than half of this country will be obese. Right now, about two-thirds of Americans are above their optimal weight, and 36 percent of them are obese.
Colorado is not much better, and the trend is downward (or upward, on the scale). As of today, the state has the lowest obesity level in the nation at 21 percent. But by 2030, the projections say that will jump to 45 percent. No state will have a rate lower than 44 percent. Obesity is defined as a person with a body-mass index of 30 or more, a measure comparing a person's weight and height.
Officials with Trust for America believe their projections are reasonable. They are also frightening and appalling numbers that show the poor choices too many make.
There are few excuses to eat unhealthy foods and decline exercise or other self-care. To those who say they are rushed, take a look at how much time is spent in front of a screen: TV, phone, tablet or computer. And it's not just about home-cooked meals, either. In a similar study, those who live in rural communities are at risk too because they pack their food with unhealthy additives and they aren't active.
So what can a person do?
Take the time to make and eat heart-healthy food. Set aside time on a day off to prepare a week's worth of meals. Use lean meats such as poultry, fish and lean red meat, though limited meals for that. Eat those vegetables, whole wheat noodles and substitute healthy alternatives such as Butter Buds for the processed choices.
And for goodness' sake, find 25 minutes in your busy schedule to go for a walk or a jog to get your heart rate up at least three days a week.
The government could take a role, as New York City has done, which saw the health costs of sugary drinks and decided to act. Or it could create incentives for better choices instead of being the nanny that doles out punishment. However, the path to good health always starts with the individual.
There is a potential reason for collective action. Imagine what each individual's health insurance premium costs will look like 20 years from now if half of the population suffers from obesity. Not to mention how much public health programs will have to pay.
When people choose unhealthy habits, it ends up costing us all.
The Pueblo Chieftain, Sept. 21, on funding for state transportation projects:
The Colorado Department of Transportation has stars in its eyes over the prospect of high-speed rail projects.
Right now it's spending $1.8 million on a study of the feasibility of a rail project between the Denver metro area and Vail. The word is out, and about 150 companies from around the world have shown some level of interest.
Of course, this would be public money they'd be getting if this latest boondoggle ever gets off the drawing board. CDOT's priorities are out of whack.
The Pueblo Freeway, for instance, is due to be rebuilt, but there's only enough money in the till for a short segment around the Ilex Interchange. Meanwhile, the Freeway is fraught with vehicular crashes, and those can shut down the highway for long stretches. And we're still waiting for the Dillon flyover.
Puebloans and Southern Coloradans in general ought to be weary of seeing the Denver metro area get all the transportation goodies while we get the crumbs. This latest rail proposal would mostly accommodate metro skiers. Why should they be more worthy of highway expenditures for their weekend jaunts than the people of this region who depend on our highway system to support their business and their employees who work here?
Meanwhile, CDOT is contemplating a high-speed train between Pueblo and Fort Collins — something that would cost Coloradans billions of dollars. That would put us in the same position as California, where the cost estimate for a line between Orange County and San Francisco has grown from $33 billion to $100 billion, and is still growing.
The Colorado Legislature should insist that CDOT focus on maintaining adequate highways rather than on the romance of rail traffic that in most cases won't take people anyplace close to where they want to end up.
The Daily Sentinel, Sept. 20, on possible high speed rail project:
The staggering cost estimates — tens of billions of dollars — for constructing and operating a high-speed train to relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 70 between Denver and mountain towns have long kept the brakes on such plans.
There's no evidence those cost projections have suddenly plummeted. But it is encouraging news, as recently reported in The Denver Post, that 150 companies from around the globe have expressed an interest in the project to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
On Sept. 19, CDOT officially began asking companies for formal proposals to relieve I-70 congestion — using levitated trains or some other technology. Interested firms must submit Statements of Technology Information to CDOT by Oct. 10. The transportation agency hopes many of the 150 companies that have expressed interest will submit official proposals.
We hope that whatever proposals are put forth, state officials will consider ways of maximizing transportation along I-70 all the way to Grand Junction, not just to Eagle County.
We understand that the most serious congestion problems occur between Denver and Vail, and that's where the primary focus of any technological solution to the traffic congestion should be. But it would be unfortunate if, in resolving the Denver-to-Vail problem, transportation planners created a new bottleneck from Vail westward. That would further divide this state along new geographical and political lines.
That concern aside, the news of CDOT's search for technological proposals to relieve I-70 congestion and the preliminary private interest in the project is encouraging.
CDOT officials anticipate receiving some proposals that are unrealistic or unworkably futuristic. The proposals that are more grounded they plan to place into three different groups, according to the Post: those capable of operating entirely within the existing I-70 corridor, those that will have to operate completely outside the interstate corridor and those using a blend of I-70 right-of-way and other property.
The feasibility study for the high-tech project is to be completed a year from now, and an environmental study related to solving the I-70 traffic woes suggested having a high-speed train or other technology in place by 2025.
Completing such a project 13 years from now, when neither the technology nor the funding is in place, is probably overly ambitious. Still, each year, the congestion on I-70 seems to worsen, and not just from Denver to Vail. That increased congestion frustrates travelers and makes out-of-state tourists less likely to visit western Colorado. That hurts ski resorts and other businesses in this region. At some point, the costs associated with congestion will make other options more feasible.
A better system is needed. CDOT is on the right track in soliciting ideas for a variety of technological fixes. Perhaps a great idea is just waiting to be presented.