Legal opinion expected on term-limit issue
Feb. 9, 2013
DEL CAMINO — The fate of two county officials’ future bids for office will likely be determined in court, members of both parties and the politicians themselves agree.
Officials at the Weld County Republican Party’s biannual organizational committee meeting on Saturday agreed that Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and Weld County Clerk and Recorder Steve Moreno’s bids for re-election will likely require a court opinion before they’re allowed on the 2014 ballot.
Cooke and Moreno announced on Wednesday that they will pursue re-election to fourth terms despite a 2007 amendment to the county’s Home Rule Charter limiting elected officials to three terms. The law was established during the men’s second term, and legal opinions on the subject differ.
Cooke expects and welcomes a judge’s opinion, he said at the meeting held at the Southwest Weld County Branch Office near Firestone, where Rep. Cory Gardner also made an appearance. Republicans met to elect party officers and conduct other party business.
“I’m sure it’ll be thrown to the court and a judge will decide, which is what Steve and I want,” Cooke said. “That way there’s no doubt.”
Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said that it’s a sticky situation because she sees the men both doing well in their positions.
“It’s hard honestly because they both do a great job,” Kirkmeyer said. “But it appears to me that they can’t run again.”
Judging by the language of the Home Rule Charter that established the term limits, Kirkmeyer said she leans toward the opinion of County Attorney Bruce Barker, who told The Tribune the two are not eligible to run in 2014.
At the Democratic Party’s organizational meeting, held on the same day and at the same time as the Republican one, state Rep. Dave Young echoed the expectation for an official opinion on the subject.
“Clearly Bruce Barker has lots of experience and understands the charter and the laws,” Young said. “I’m sure there will be a legal opinion that comes through.”
As chairwoman of the Weld County Republicans, it is part of Karen Pelzer’s job to designate people to the primary ballot, she said after leading the organizational meeting that about 85 people attended. She offered no personal opinion on the subject of Cooke and Moreno’s term limits, but she said she will do everything she can to encourage a legal opinion.
In his justification for reelection, Cooke referenced former Attorney General Ken Salazar’s opinion filed in 2000 on the subject of Colorado term limits, which were added to the state constitution after being voted on in 1994. Salazar’s opinion stated limits would be applied only to the elections of 1994 and later — the year the term limits went into effect. Although legal experts dispute whether the county law enacted in 2008 resets that clock, Cooke said the state-level opinion bolsters his argument for what would be considered his second full, consecutive term under the new law.
“They said you’re grandfathered in,” Cooke said of Salazar’s opinion.
Tribune reporter Trenton Sperry contributed to this report.
Neighbors rescue woman from fire
Feb. 1, 2013
Emily Beltran and her husband, Leonel Hernandez, darted across their lawn Friday afternoon toward smoke and the screams of neighbor Rose Vilapando, who Beltran said is like a mother to her.
They pulled the Greeley mobile home owner, who was in a wheelchair, out of her home before firefighters arrived.
Greeley Fire Department was called to the scene 3:17 p.m. on a fire that began in the clothes dryer at Vilapando’s home, 2280 1st Ave. No. 43.
Three fire trucks and 17 firefighters had the situation under control in minutes, according to fire department spokesman Dale Lyman. The fire was contained to No. 43 and no one was injured.
“I left her for five minutes by herself, she’s handicapped, and she called me saying, ‘Come get me out,’” Sylvia Villalobos, Vilapando’s daughter, said. Villalobos lives blocks away and arrived to find her 50-year-old mother safely outside the building.
Neighbors and family gathered around a shaken Vilapando across the street from her home while firefighters continued to check the building for hot spots.
She said she would not have been able to get out if Hernandez had not physically wheeled her out.
“It’s hard for me to get around,” Vilapando said. “I’m okay now.”
No damage estimate was available. The Red Cross was called to provide the three occupants of the home — Vilapando, her husband, Manuel Barron, 70, and grandson Jesus Villalobos, 16 — with housing assistance.
Firefighters are investigating to determine the exact cause of the fire, but initial reports point to lint buildup in the home’s dryer, Lyman said.
He warns against letting lint accumulate in any dryer because of its flammable character.
“All it takes is a little bit if it’s not maintained properly,” Lyman said.
Guns’ use in young women’s protection debated at capitol
March 5, 2013
Kimberly Weeks was an undergraduate student at University of Northern Colorado when she was stalked there and sexually assaulted in 2006. Thankful for her survival, Weeks now carries and sleeps with a legally concealable weapon that she wishes she’d had as an undergraduate.
A half-dozen young women testified for and against a bill during a hearing in the state Senate in Denver on Monday that would restrict concealed-carry permit weapons from college campuses. But even victims of sexual assault could not agree on a stance.
The Colorado Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee listened to three hours of debate that ended about 9:30 p.m. The discussion revolved around the necessity of guns to young women’s safety on college campuses. It was the maximum amount of testimony allotted for each of seven gun-control bills introduced by Democratic-majority legislators that were heard on Monday, all of which passed out of committees on party-line votes.
Weeks made it out of the attack alive, she said in her testimony against the bill, because she was lucky enough to talk the man who assaulted her out of her apartment.
“Since my attack, there’s no substitution for sleeping with a gun and there’s no substitute for my ability to carry a concealed weapon on my person,” she said.
Sara Heisdorffer, a 21-year-old Metropolitan State University of Denver student, told committee members her story of being sexually assaulted on the Colorado State University campus two years ago when she was a student there. Her assaulter had a concealed-carry permit and pointed his legally held gun at her head throughout the attack, she said.
“Concealed (weaponry) is not just available to women who feel vulnerable, it’s available to everyone,” Heisdorffer said in her testimony. “Concealed carry is not the solution to stopping violence on campus.”