Colorado liberals who think that the midterm blue wave that washed over this state will keep them safe from taunting haven't met Jon Caldara. To end this year on a high note, the president of the Independence Institute, the self-described "free-market think tank" based in Denver, has announced the first two of five nominees for the institute's 2018 Californian of the Year award.
The award doesn't go to just any Prius-loving Pilates freak. It's reserved for "the Coloradan who best exemplifies the effort to change our once liberty-loving Colorado into the command-and-control state of California," Caldara says in a statement announcing the contest.
This round's first nominee, Jason Lacy, president of the Steamboat Springs City Council, is trying to ban plastic grocery bags in the mountain town. "Yes, other nanny-driven communities have taxed grocery bags in that grand style-over-substance environmentalism that drives the Californian elite, but Steamboat Springs did it with childlike wonder," Caldara says of Lacy. "Their effort to take away choice was brought forward, quite literally, by children who asked city council to outlaw the evil bag."
Lacy, an attorney who's served on the town council since 2015, has been president since 2017. His colleagues on council, the town's newspaper and even Kroger back the proposed ban, which council will vote on in early January. And for that matter, even Caldara doesn't seem to hate the idea, but instead targets the council's tactics in bringing it forward. "Congratulations to Jason Lacy and the Steamboat Springs City Council for reminding us that changing hearts and minds was the strategy of old liberals. Coercion is today’s standard operating procedure," Caldera says.
The second nominee, Boulder City Council rep Jill Adler Grano, who introduced that city's assault-weapons ban, isn't treated any more gently. Caldara, who lives in Boulder, says that Adler Grano "has brought Boulder’s unique brand of smug intolerance and hate to a new, higher level by turning thousands of law-abiding Boulder gun owners into criminals with her so-called assault-weapon ban."
Adler Grano and the rest of her liberal cohorts on Boulder's city council are "treating gun owners in the same way old Southern rednecks treated gays and lesbians," Caldara charges. And also the way Steamboat's council is treating plastic-bag lovers: When she served on the New Era Colorado board, Adler Grano helped launch a campaign to reduce disposable bags, which resulted in Boulder's bag-free ordinance.
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Caldara's unique brand of political advocacy doesn't end with satire. He's the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against Boulder's assault-weapons ban, and he was behind the cheeky "Fix Our Damn Roads" ballot measure that promised to repair Colorado's highway infrastructure without raising taxes. But Caldara admitted that his proposal, which voters turned down in November, was really just a way to stop Proposition 110, which would have tackled road problems with a .62 percent tax increase.
"Keep in mind why we did 109 in the first place," Caldara told us in November. "It was to make sure a tax increase would not pass. We wanted to give people an honest choice, and by doing so, we made sure 110 went down in spectacular glory. That was our first and foremost goal."
This is the second time the Independence Institute has looked for a Californian of the Year. Last year's winner was Colorado Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, a "squishy Republican" who beat out Jared Polis, among others, with his Senate bill that "ripped away all Coloradans’ right to vote on tax and debt increases."
This year's Californian of the Year will be crowned on January 2. In the meantime, Caldara advises, "Stay tuned, and welcome to the New California!"