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2017 in Review
Photo courtesy: La Voz Photos

By James Mejía

President Donald Trump dominated news the entire year. A day after his January inauguration, the country’s largest marches called the ‘Women’s March’ took place in Washington, D.C. The Denver version of the march comprised over 100,000 in Denver’s Civic Center Park, headlined by Democratic Speaker of the House, Crisanta Duran.

Between Twitter tantrums, Trump’s first 100 days were marked by executive orders putting into place a Muslim ban, pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and continued promises to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. By February thousands more protested, this time about more stringent immigration policies.

Trump could do little to dodge credible accusations of collusion with the Russian government to sway the U.S. election. Trump’s firing of FBI Director, James Comey further fanned flames of suspicion. Thus far, Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained a plea from former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI. Flynn’s plea foreshadows further charges against the Trump administration.

By the end of December, Trump scored his biggest legislative victory to date – passing a tax plan that shifted benefits to the country’s wealthiest.

Natural and Political Disaster in Latin America

Puerto Rico fell prey to Hurricane Maria in September. The official death toll is 64 but in mid-December Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló questioned the official death count, a number he says could be as high as 1,000. Rosselló implied the official count was intentionally low to minimize reaction to a weak U.S. response to the tragedy. It took five days for top ranking U.S. officials to visit the island, the emergency manager quit his post this fall, and large portions of the island remain without power, telephone service or consistent sources of food and fresh water. Meanwhile, international organizations including Refugees International and Oxfam continue criticism of the U.S. response.

Mexico suffered three successive earthquakes in September. The worst damage was sustained in the State of Oaxaca in southern Mexico where over 70 died. Puebla was epicenter to another quake which created the most damage for Mexico City since devastating seismic activity in 1985. Home to shifting tectonic plates, the capital was better prepared for rescue and recovery this fall.

Venezuela is home to the world’s largest store of crude oil. During times of high oil prices, the South American country was known to share its wealth with politically compatible nations including Cuba. Since the plunge of oil prices, President Nicolás Maduro continued the path of former leftist President Hugo Chávez, and invested in a bloated military at the expense of basic needs of residents. Maduro’s summer announcement that he would rewrite the Constitution in dictatorial fashion led to the country’s suspension from the South American Mercosur trading bloc. Meanwhile residents look to find food and supplies in neighboring countries or leave the country altogether, leading to historic emigration rates. Violence is rampant; dozens of protesters have been killed by authorities and homicides hit record levels.

Colorado Politics and Policy

Colorado attorney, Neil Gorsuch was introduced by both Colorado Senators, Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner at his U.S. Supreme Court senate hearing where he was easily confirmed.

Colorado’s opioid epidemic only worsened over the past 12 months. The year ended with the devastating announcement that Arapahoe House, one of the state’s most extensive treatment facilities would close in January 2018. State Representative Brittany Pettersen, whose family is afflicted with addiction, is attempting to find emergency funding to keep the facility open. Another State Representative, Leslie Herod, is working with Denver City Councilman, Albus Brooks to create the U.S.’ first safe injection site for heroin users through nonprofit, Harm Reduction Action Center. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 228 deaths occurred in Colorado in 2016, a 43 percent increase from 2015 and six times the number from ten years previous.

Colorado’s Governor’s race slated for November, heated up on the Republican side when Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman entered the race, adding stiff competition for State Treasurer, Walker Stapleton. They join anti-immigrant candidate, Tom Tancredo. Aurora shooting prosecutor, George Brauchler, has left the governor’s race to run for Attorney General.

Democrats have already begun a spirited campaign, most leading with an improved education platform. Businessman Noel Ginsburg starts his campaign pitch as a co-founder of Colorado’s I Have A Dream Foundation, which supports whole classes of public school students through college. State Senator, Mike Johnston earned his stripes as a Mississippi public school teacher and principal in Thornton. Former State Treasurer, Cary Kennedy, authored Amendment 23 to increase school funding. Boulder Congressman Jared Polis initiated Race to the Top funding spurring increased school choice and is a co-founder of the New America School for immigrants. Lieutenant Governor, Donna Lynne is a former Kaiser health executive.

Attorney General candidate George Brauchler leads the Republican side and will likely face off against a strong Democrat field including State Representative Joe Salazar, prosecutors Amy Padden and Michael Dougherty, Denver attorney Brad Levin and former CU Law School Dean, Phil Weiser.

Jared Polis’ entrance into the Governor’s race opened the District 2 congressional seat representing constituents from Boulder, Broomfield and several other western counties. A liberal stronghold and near lock for Democrats, the leading candidate is former CU Regent, Joe Neguse. Democrat, Ken Toltz recently suspended his campaign due to a family health emergency.

Latino Institutions

Iconic goodbyes were issued this year for institutions in the Latino community. After 46 years in operation, Escuela Tlatelolco closed its doors after a contract with the Denver Public Schools was not renewed. Started by Chicano icon, Corky Gonzales during the Civil Rights Movement, Escuela served scores of Chicano students with an education based in indigenous history, community service and social awareness. The school served as the education arm of the Crusade for Justice.

Our Lady of Visitation church started 2017 resisting the Denver Archdiocese efforts to close the small north Denver church in the neighborhood known as Goat Hill. After repeated attempts to communicate with archdiocese leaders including the Archbishop, the board appealed their case to a higher authority. By year’s end and with constant pressure, the board received news that the Vatican would review the church closure.

The community celebrated the life of Judge Roger Cisneros and his wife, Adelia after their passing in September. The couple was a fixture in nonprofit service and the social scene at the Denver Athletic Club. Roger Cisneros pioneered Latino judgeship in Colorado’s District Court and was a former State Senator.





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