Public Eye

| June 15, 2000
How many car license plates should Colorado have anyway? This month, Gov. Bill Owens vetoed a special license plate that would have raised money for programs that encourage neutering and spaying cats and dogs, stating that he "found it odd that household pets would be deemed worthy of a license plate but not the victims of the Columbine tragedy."

Owens, of course, was taking a swipe after the Legislature did not adopt a "Respect Life" license plate honoring the slain students and teacher at Columbine (yes, the Respect Life motto is the same as that of the Catholic pro-life campaign).

Anyway, the Political Voice for Animals group was peeved and issued a statement saying they were shocked by the veto, especially since the governor had signed another bill less than an hour earlier to honor agriculture -- you guessed it, with a special new Colorado license plate.

*******

Is it just me or does it bother anyone else that a Washington D.C.--based group is behind a drive to ban bilingual education in Colorado public schools?

Of course, plenty of other citizen initiatives and legislative bills stem from the interests of powerful interest groups who don't call Colorado home.

For example, how many people really think that Colorado's new law banning same sex marriage came from a group of concerned Coloradans who feared that hordes of gays and lesbians planned to riot until the government agreed to marry them? No, the same sex marriage ban was more likely hatched in an ultrasecret gathering of the Council for National Policy. That's where conservatives like Phyllis Schafly, Oliver North and James Dobson sit around, decide the next biggest threat to the traditional family and figure out how to conquer it -- state by state.

But usually the pushers behind these kinds of efforts at least pretend they have a solid base in the state they are trying to get laws adopted into.

Not so with this latest drive, sentimentally titled "Colorado English for the Children." The sponsors' phone is a Washington, D.C. number. They haven't even bothered to set up headquarters in the state; instead they have a post office box.

The main force behind the initiative is Linda Chavez, a Beltway political activist and president of One Nation Indivisible, which got a similar initiative banning bilingual education passed in California two years ago.

Opponents fear that the proposal would hurt 25,000 Colorado students currently in bilingual programs.

The Washington group is collecting signatures now for the November ballot, and at least one newspaper -- our own Colorado Springs daily -- has already endorsed the measure. In a gush of praise, the daily on June 6 called the proposal "sensible" and -- without citing any studies to back up their claims -- stated that bilingual education is unnecessary in the predominantly English-speaking United States.

Notably, that same day, public radio's Latino USA aired an inspiring report about the benefits of bilingual education, specifically detailing a Cambridge, Mass.--based program. The Cambridge model is a bilingual immersion, not just for children who are learning English but for all students who learn in two languages. By getting equal doses of Spanish and English, the playing field is leveled -- and students who started out speaking just one language -- whether English or Spanish -- emerge bilingual.

One of the more poignant moments of the broadcast was a woman who joyously pointed out that, because of the program, her daughter was able to speak with her grandmother -- which other family members were unable to do because of a language barrier.

The nation's education secretary, Richard Riley, says the program will be a model for similar curriculums around the country.

But not in Colorado, if Linda Chavez has her way. Her petition circulators are currently collecting signatures to get the bilingual education ban on the November ballot.

By the way, someone might mention to her -- and to the Gazette -- that the word Colorado is Spanish. It means red.

*******

Amnesty International calls him a political prisoner. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for his release. The FBI says he's a cold-blooded killer.

This week, Leonard Peltier was denied parole -- again -- after spending 24 years in federal prison for the 1975 murder of two federal officers near Wounded Knee, S.D.

Peltier, along with other members of the American Indian Movement, had been protesting injustices by the federal government against tribes, including violations of treaties. After three years of intense local surveillance by federal agencies, a shoot-out left two agents and a Native American man dead.

Peltier was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the officers' murders. But civil rights activists have decried his conviction, citing the flimsiness of the evidence. The next step, they vow, is clemency.

-- degette@csindy.com

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast