Hal Bidlack

For some reason I don’t fully understand, my long-suffering, always-kind, and oft-forgiving editors here at Colorado Politics — whom I am in no way trying to butter up —really prefer that I write my twice-weekly missives on subjects dealing with, well, Colorado politics [Ed: really? Really?].

And so, I will today write about Colorado politics…

In just a minute…

If you’ve read my columns in the past, you know that I am particularly offended by rank hypocrisy. I despise it when I see it in myself (I am not at all reasonable about Michigan football) and I despise it when I see it in our elected officials. But a recent story in Colorado Politics (hey! Look at that!) really reminded me of the stunning degree of dishonesty, dishonor and astonishing hypocrisy found today in the national Republican party.

If you’ve paid any attention to the news recently, you know about the actions of Republican Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona. He thought it would be a clever, witty and funny idea to post — on his official congressional Twitter account — a cartoon which his team of lackies had edited to show him, a sitting congressman, murdering another sitting member, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and then attempting to assassinate the sitting president of the United States. Pretty funny stuff, right? I’m sure the Secret Service is laughing.

In what has become sadly predictable, when the House met to vote on whether to censure (which is merely a scolding, though he did lose committee seats) him, only two GOPers — Cheney of Wyoming and Kinzinger of Illinois, both of whom have been essentially kicked out of the party for not blindly supporting Trump’s attempted insurrection — voted to censure Gosar.

Now please let your minds drift back to the early days of the Trump administration, when comedian Kathy Griffin posted an equally tasteless and tacky tweet of her holding a fake head of Donald Trump, complete with blood. Again, she is a comedian who gets attention by being shocking, but she was not an elected official.

The GOP world went nuts, demanding her firing (and she was fired from her annual gig co-hosting a New Years Eve TV show) and she lost lots of gigs and friends and has been largely blacklisted. Oh, and the Secret Service paid her a visit, since she threatened (in the minds of some) a sitting president. Has Gosar been similarly condemned and visited by the Secret Service? Not so much.

The GOP has rallied around Gosar, even as they admit his cartoon was not his smartest move and has declared that the Dems are just doing a partisan attack. Again, Gosar posted a cartoon showing him murdering a fellow member of congress and attacking a sitting president. But that isn’t a big deal, apparently, in today’s GOP. I’m stunned by the hypocrisy but I’m not the least surprised.

But I’m not going to talk about that…

Instead, I want to draw your attention to a much smaller and less well publicized story in Colorado Politics, dealing with the degree to which, if at all, a community has a right to object to what is done with privately-owned land in their neighborhood.

It seems that there is a baseball field that sits on a 7-acre plot owned by Bishop Machebeuf High School, but they are apparently looking to sell the land to a developer. It is currently zoned for use as a park, a playground, a church, or (and I admit this one surprised me) a theatrical studio. But not as a location for houses or apartment buildings.

The Denver City Council has now been asked to look at a proposal to rezone the area to allow the property to be sold to a developer who intends to build two senior housing centers on the land. And in general, more senior housing seems like a good idea.

So, what’s the problem?

The Council received 53 comments that opposed the rezoning, and only 16 in support. The local residents worry about losing open space and parkland, and they believe it would fundamentally change the makeup of their neighborhood. And nice neighborhoods with open park space is also a good idea.

So, who is right here? Well, frankly, I have no idea [Ed: sigh…].

I can see both sides of the issue. Having more safe housing for seniors is a laudable goal, but so too is maintaining open spaces and ball fields. But as my regular reader (Hi Jeff!) will recall, I often find myself in these situations where the issue is not between good and evil, but two goods. Should a private property owner have the right to manage or even sell his or her property as desired? Sure, but we do put limits on even that — we don’t, for example, allow a person to knock down a house in a residential neighborhood to erect a chemical factory. But in general, we respect private property rights, but we also value communities with amenities.

As I’ve said so many times, it comes down to rights in conflict. In my HOA, you can paint your house green, but you can’t dig up your front yard to install an oil derrick. And in Denver, the City Council is going to have to decide if a private company gets to do whatever it wants to do (within reason) of land they own.

While some decisions (like, I dunno… censuring someone who thinks a cartoon about murdering a colleague is a joke) should be easy, others (like rezoning) are far less clear. I will be interested to see what the Council ultimately does, but regardless of the forthcoming decision, some good folks with good intentions will be disappointed.

Balancing liberty and order is always a challenge, as it should be.

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.

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