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I was sitting at my desk Tuesday afternoon, streaming the governor’s press conference on COVID-19, when I saw a Bloomberg article: White House Says CDC Will Halt Evictions Using Quarantine Rules.

Whoa! That was major. Evictions have been able to resume here since midsummer, and a promise from the federal government to suspend them almost entirely would be game-changing for the hundreds of thousands of people who, modeling shows, could face eviction in Colorado by the end of the year. It’d affect landlords, policymakers and the governor’s newly formed state task force on housing insecurity, among others.

It was a bombshell. But was it true? 

Did the CDC, a public health agency, really have the authority to unilaterally alter housing laws all over the country? Were there notable loopholes I was missing?

I immediately contacted the governor’s office, state lawmakers, the Division of Housing, Colorado courts, eviction defense attorneys and the apartment industry, and they were all reviewing the order. By the end of Tuesday, none of these people were able to affirmatively state that evictions would in fact be halted in Colorado.

The thing is, if you review the order, it’s actually not that complicated. It makes an argument for eviction as a public health concern, and it lays out the circumstances under which one would or would not be protected from eviction — the vast majority of people are protected — between now and the end of year. The White House said Trump supported the order.

So why do Colorado officials seem so baffled?

I think it’s pretty simple: The Democrats in charge here don’t trust Trump to do what he says he’ll do. There have been so many lies, so much mixed messaging, so many initiatives struck down by federal judges over the past few years that we’re now at the point where a federal agency issues a nationwide order, backed by White House officials, and the people who run Colorado can’t even confirm that, yes, it’s a real thing that will be implemented here.

Here’s part of what Conor Cahill, spokesman for Gov. Jared Polis, told me Tuesday: “Our administration is currently reviewing this recent federal action to see if it will really help Coloradans or is just empty words.” 

I asked again on Wednesday. “We are still reviewing,” Cahill said.

It’s now been nearly two full days since the order dropped, and I still haven’t heard anything concrete from the governor’s office, or any arm of state government. Meanwhile, the order is set to go into effect Friday, and many, many thousands of Coloradans stand to be impacted. 

Elsewhere in this week’s Spot, we’ve got Justin Wingerter wondering where Cory Gardner really stands (or, at least, where he really stood) on eastern Colorado seceding from the state, and Conrad Swanson writing on a Denver ballot measure you should be paying attention to.

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Top Line

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, at ...
Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, at left, is being challenged by Democratic former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in the Nov. 3 general election.

The Denver Post, Denver7 and Colorado Public Radio have gotten U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper to agree on something in their bitterly contested race: a debate. It’s the first — and possibly only — debate that will be held in Denver and the second debate total. Previously, a Pueblo Chieftain invitation was the only one both campaigns had accepted. The media partners also held the only live, in-person debate in the U.S. Senate primary. More details on the upcoming debate can be found here.

#COSen 2020 • By Justin Wingerter

An unusual attack line

One of Sen. Cory Gardner’s more unorthodox criticisms of his Democratic opponent made another appearance last week.

“I think a lot of the silent majority that people may talk about is off the I-25 corridor,” Gardner told CBS4. “It’s the Eastern Plains, it’s the Western Slope. It’s (the) 20% of counties in Colorado who tried to secede under John Hickenlooper because he called rural Coloradans ‘backwards.’”

Gardner, who lives and votes in one of the 11 counties that considered seceding in 2013, has invoked that quixotic attempt at creating a new state on several occasions this year — and blamed Hickenlooper for the fact that it happened.

“Remember what happened in rural Colorado,” Gardner said during a virtual event in late May. “You had a whole bunch of counties that tried to secede under his leadership and what he did.”

On June 30, the night Hickenlooper won the Democratic primary, Gardner told Colorado Politics, “He needs to explain why 20% of the state tried to secede when he was governor.”

The reason had more to do with gun and energy policies than Hickenlooper’s “backward” remark, which occurred four years before at a Matthew Shepard Foundation gala. Hickenlooper, then Denver’s mayor, was describing homophobia in rural areas and comparing it to Denver’s vibrant LGBT community.

“Colorado and Wyoming are very similar,” Hickenlooper said then. “We have some of the same, you know, backwards thinking in the kind of rural Western areas you see in, you know, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico.”

Gardner’s Yuma County voted to secede but Gardner has never said how he voted. He was a congressman at the time and claimed that it would be inappropriate to comment on state issues. When asked this week whether Gardner voted to secede, his campaign did not respond.

During an appearance on KHOW in February, after Gardner said “nearly 20% of Colorado tried to secede when John Hickenlooper was governor,” former state Sen. Greg Brophy of Yuma County told Gardner that he, Brophy, voted to secede. Gardner laughed heartily but didn’t volunteer how he voted.

More federal election news

  • Gardner’s latest ad is about a diner kept open by the Paycheck Protection Program, which he, and nearly every other senator, voted to create.
  • In the 3rd District, Diane Mitsch Bush will receive help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Emily’s List, the two groups announced separately Monday.
  • Her Republican opponent, Lauren Boebert, continued an in-person campaign tour with a stop in Hotchkiss on Saturday, the Montrose Daily Press reports.
  • Boebert has backed out of this month’s Club 20 forum — Mitsch Bush previously did — because of a disagreement over the format, Colorado Politics reports.

Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson

The Denver Internet Initiative walks softly but carries a big stick

The Denver Internet Initiative isn’t taking any chances in its support for a ballot measure in November that would allow Denver to enter the internet provider business. 

The measure will ask voters to allow Denver to opt out of a 2005 state law restricting governments from using tax dollars to build broadband networks. Because such a move effectively enables cities to compete directly with private providers like Comcast and Century Link, those companies have largely opposed these types of ballot measures across the state.

Proponents’ aim is to give Denver additional avenues to expand access to high-speed internet, which is a necessity in this day and age, said City Councilman Paul Kashmann, who proposed the measure. Those avenues could range from giving the city additional leverage when negotiating with private companies to the creation of a municipal internet service.

So far, private internet providers haven’t organized opposition to the measure on Denver’s ballot, though they’re clearly not in favor of the move. But the Denver Internet Initiative is buttoning up support throughout the city anyway, Co-Chair Spencer McCullough said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, all 13 City Council members, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and state representatives Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, Emily Sirota and Steven Woodrow endorsed the measure this week, McCullough said. 

“These endorsements show Comcast that we have a united front, and they’re not going to have any allies in the elected space,” McCullough said. 

Already more than 100 Colorado cities have opted out of the law, generally with wide margins. In 2017, 19 cities opted out with average support of about 83%, though not without opposition from internet providers.

Some cities that have opted out — Fort Collins and Longmont, for example — have launched their own municipal internet companies in direct competition with private providers. City officials there sing the praises of the municipal service, which has expanded coverage for people who previously lacked access to high-speed internet or were forced to settle for the single, expensive company that offered them coverage. 

Should Denver go that route — which city officials haven’t said they want to do — it could cost an estimated $1 billion and take years to complete.

But just opting out and giving Denver the option to build a municipal network gives city officials more bargaining power over private companies, McCullough said. If they refuse to expand coverage, increase speeds or lower costs, the city has options. 

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