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Hal Bidlack

Most of the time, when I sit down at my computer every Monday and Thursday morning to write my column for the next day, I am inspired by a story in Colorado Politics, and that inspiration is enough for me to spew forth the 1,000 words, or so.

On other days, such as today, I find multiple items of interest that I deem worthy of comment, though hopefully with a theme that at least attempts to keep things on track. And so, gentle readers, I hope that you will forgive a bit of a ramble, as there are several stories I wish to bring to your attention.

A recent CP story reported that King Soopers will reopen the Boulder store that was the site of the horrible mass murder last March. The decision as to whether to reopen or not is a tough one. Many years ago, after a horrific mass murder at a San Diego McDonald’s, that corporation decided to bulldoze the restaurant and to then donate the land to the city, for future use as a park (while the land was eventually sold to a local college, there is a small open space that services as a memorial). 

In the wake of the horrific Aurora theater shooting, a similar question arose: should that theater ever open again? A few years back, I happened to be sitting next to then-Aurora mayor Steve Hogan and I asked him about his thoughts on that theater. He said that about half the people supported reopening, as a statement that terrorism never wins, and about half opposed reopening, as that would trivialize the horror. He clearly had thought deeply about the issue and was profoundly touched by the suffering he had seen. Ultimately, and painfully, the theater did reopen.

And so, as usual, I don’t really know if King Soopers is doing the right thing or the wrong thing by reopening. Regardless of what that company would decide, some would be supportive, and others would oppose. A tough call to be sure.

A couple of other CP stories also caught my eye…

One story reported on the US Senate being deadlocked, 50-50, on the Biden nomination of the clearly qualified Charlotte N. Sweeney to be a federal trial judge in Denver. Now, in the past, before the hyper-partisanship we see today, when a president nominated someone for the federal bench, the Senate held hearings and then voted on the qualifications. Both parties accepted that elections have consequences (I’ve heard that before) and a president gets to nominate people he likes, and the Senate just evaluates their merits and not the politics of the day.

Sadly, we have now moved far from those days. We saw the GOP leadership invent a fake “Biden rule,” of all things, to steal a Supreme Court seat from President Obama, and then we saw them discard that same fake rule when Trump had a late-term SCOTUS vacancy. So, GOP hypocrisy is still shocking, but it is no longer surprising. But I want to talk about more court stuff.

Another CP story reported on a local judge making a very interesting ruling regarding the City of Aurora’s rules on who can run for office and who cannot. The city’s charter banned any candidate with a felony conviction from running for elected office there. Now, if you are like me, your mind might jump to thoughts about bank robbers and kidnappers and heck, those people should be banned from running, right?

Well…

Earlier this year, a candidate for the council did, in fact, have a felony conviction on her record. But that conviction was back in 1999, when she was but 22, and she served her time, and since then has been active on the boards of a number of non-profits in her role as a community activist.

The judge issued a permanent injunction against the city enforcing its “no felons” rule, and I must say, the more I think about this, the more I agree with the judge. When people commit crimes and are sent to jail, they are usually sent for a set period of time (we are not talking about lifers and murders here) and that sentence is considered to be the punishment. There is nothing, to my knowledge, in US law that says a person who served out his or her sentence is still beyond redemption and should be shunned by society.

Rather the opposite is true, for those who work hard at bettering themselves, and in the case cited here, her community. Do we, as a society, really want to declare that a single mistake, for which one has atoned, is still to be a scarlet letter, forever affixed metaphorically to the sinner’s forehead? I think the judge got it right here, and I’m saddened to see that the city leadership intends to place the question of former felons serving on the ballot in an upcoming election.

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.