Who Is In Charge

Judge puts campaign amendment on ice

Denver District Judge Catherine Lemon Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the 2008 constitutional amendment that severely restricts political campaign contributions. The amendment was challenged in court by a broad coalition of civic leaders and labor groups, including teachers’ unions.

Challenges to the constitutionality of the amendment were filed last January, and hearings started Monday.

Amendment 54, passed very narrowly by voters last November, was designed to prohibit campaign contributions from holders of sole-source government contracts worth more than $100,000. That included labor unions that have collective bargaining agreements with government entities. The amendment barred contributions in all political races, not just those to candidates for office in the entity that was party to a contract.

Plaintiffs argued the amendment violated rights to free speech and association under the First and Fourteenth amendments.

The injunction bars the state from implementing or enforcing the amendment. Next steps could include a full hearing on the merits of the suit or appeal of the injunction.

While issuing the order, Lemon said, “In my mind, it’s not a close case” that the amendment is unconstitutional.

“We are excited that the injunction has been granted and feel confident that we laid out the facts of the case in a way that clearly demonstrates that Amendment 54 is unconstitutional” stated Jean Dubofsky, a respected former Colorado Supreme Court justice and one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. “We are confident that future court rulings will agree.”

The main public spokesman for the amendment last year was conservative CU Regent Tom Lucero, who’s now running for Congress in the 4th District. He argued it was necessary to stop “pay to play” abuses between contractors and government bodies. Its other backers were somewhat shadowy, although people connected to the Independence Institute were involved. The institute has long criticized public employee union involvement in campaigns.

Amendment 54 was part of a tangle of proposed union and labor amendments last fall, some of which were pulled from the ballot and several others of which failed. Because of ballot clutter, there were ad campaigns that supported or opposed groups of amendments, likely intensifying the usual voter confusion about ballot measures.

Among groups challenging the amendment in court are the District 14 Classroom Teachers Association and the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees, plus Kerrie Dallman, president of the Jefferson County Education Association.

Other prominent plaintiffs include Children’s Hospital, the University of Denver, Denver Councilmember Charlie Brown and Dan Ritchie, former DU chancellor and current CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Two suits originally were filed against the amendment, but they have been consolidated.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.