Secretary Wayne Williams urges support of open-records measure

Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right, testifies in favor of an open-records bill before a Senate committee Wednesday. With him are, left, SOS IT director Trevor Timmons, and, middle, the bill sponsor, Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins. (SOS photo)

By Lynn Bartels and Julia Sunny

Secretary of State Wayne Williams quoted President Lincoln and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” when he testified before a state Senate committee Wednesday on a bill that would modernize Colorado’s open-record laws.

“Ultimately public data belongs to the people and it’s not for government to say, ‘Well, I don’t like what you might do with that information.’ … Too often in government we don’t make information easily accessible to people,” he said.

“This bill makes it easier for Coloradoans to get the documents in a format that they can use. It does it while providing protections for information that should not be disclosed and it is an important step in opening up information that truly belongs, as President Lincoln said, to the people.”

The State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee voted 4-1 to send Senate Bill 40 by Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, to the Appropriations Committee, but only after amendments that could ultimately doom the measure. (Keep reading to see how various media outlets, including Kefalas’ hometown paper, The Coloradoan, covered the hearing.)

Read moreSecretary Wayne Williams urges support of open-records measure

Hand counting, grave digging and moose watching in Walden

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Jackson County clerk and assessor staffers Wednesday in Walden. From left to right: Clerk Hayle Johnson, Deputy Tammi Gonzales, Assessor Kerry Moran, Deputy Clerk Margaret Caul and Deputy Assessor Wendy Larsen. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Jackson County clerk and assessor staffers Wednesday in Walden. From left to right: Clerk Hayle Johnson, Deputy Tammi Gonzales, Assessor Kerry Moran, Deputy Clerk Margaret Caul and Deputy Assessor Wendy Larsen. (SOS photo)

All Colorado county clerks issue marriage licenses, but Jackson County’s clerk goes one step further.

“We do the marrying and the burying,” Clerk Hayle Johnson said.

The county owns the cemetery in Jackson County so the clerk’s office helps with funerals, arranging with the road-and-bridge department to have the grave dug and then closed up.

The clerk also keeps the cemetery deeds, so plots are purchased at the office.

In addition, the three-member clerk’s office also handles elections, payroll, document recordings, liquor licenses, motor vehicle registrations and takes the minutes of the commissioners’ meeting.

That’s why arranging for road department to bring heaters to get the ground to thaw for a funeral might take  priority over meeting an election deadline, Johnson told  Secretary of State Wayne Williams on his visit to Walden Wednesday. But she added she couldn’t do the job without the help of the elections staff, particularly Josh Johnson.

Read moreHand counting, grave digging and moose watching in Walden

Colorado County Clerks Association honors four lawmakers

State Rep. Dominick Morena, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane and lobbyist Mike Beasley at the Colorado County Clerks Association meeting Monday. Crane is president of the group, which honored four lawmakers, including Moreno. (SOS photo)
State Rep. Dominick Moreno, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane and lobbyist Mike Beasley at the Colorado County Clerks Association conference Monday. Crane is president of the group, which honored four lawmakers, including Moreno. (SOS photo)

The Colorado County Clerks Association today recognized three lawmakers who sponsored a bill to make it easier for clerks to maintain or upgrade equipment used to record documents.

The effort to pass the bill actually began two to three years ago, CCCA director Pam Anderson told clerks at their summer conference, which began Monday.

A lot of people put a lot of effort into getting Senate Bill 115 passed, she said, including the sponsors. The bill was sponsored by two Republicans, Rep. Kathleen Conti of Littleton and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik of Thornton, and Rep. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat.

“With perseverance you can get things done at the Capitol,” Humenik told the clerks. “Sometimes it just takes several years.”

The clerks association also honored outgoing Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a Boulder Democrat who is only the second woman to lead the House. She carried House Bill 1303 in 2013, which made major changes in Colorado’s election laws.

Read moreColorado County Clerks Association honors four lawmakers

Deputy SOS Suzanne Staiert: “That sense of duty toward country”

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert tells a group of new citizens why she feels such a bond with them during a naturalization ceremony Wednesday in Centennial. (SOS photo)
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert tells a group of new citizens why she feels such a bond with them during a naturalization ceremony Wednesday in Centennial. (SOS photo)
Immigrants take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony Wednesday in Centennial. (SOS photo)
Immigrants take the oath of allegiance Wednesday, including Simon Jones, center, of Australia. To his left is his wife, Catalina Poveda of Colombia. She is due July 3rd “so there is a chance of having a very American baby on July 4th,” Jones said. (SOS photo)

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert told a group of new U.S. citizens Wednesday there’s a reason she feels such a bond with them when she attends naturalization ceremonies.

‘My father and mother met on a U.S. campus. My father’s Iranian, my mother’s American,” she said. “When we were very young we went over to Iran for a few years and came back right before my fifth birthday. My father didn’t come back with us.”

Staiert informed 79 immigrants from 33 countries, from Australia to Mexico to Zambia, that she and her two siblings and her mother eventually settled in Wyoming.

“As you can imagine, because of the relations between Iran and the U.S., it was a kind of a hard place to be from when we were growing up,” she told the attentive crowd. “When I was in middle school we had the hostage crisis. When I was in college there was Iran-Contra.”

Read moreDeputy SOS Suzanne Staiert: “That sense of duty toward country”

“You are now citizens of the greatest country … “

Rachel Kalonda, who immigrated from the Congo, proudly holds up her paperwork after becoming an American. (SOS photo)
Rachel Kalonda, who immigrated from the Congo, proudly holds up her paperwork after becoming an American. (SOS photo)

By Lynn Bartels and Julia Sunny

In a ceremony marked by elation and emotion, 79 people from 33 countries lifted their right hands Wednesday and become citizens of the country they love.

“I am so grateful to be in the United States,” said Rachel Kalonda, 48, who is from the Congo. “I feel so great. I start a new experience today.”

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert shared her own experience with the new Americans. Her father is Iranian and she briefly lived in Iran as a young child.

Staiert encouraged the immigrants to register to vote so they can participate.

“It may not be the election that you’ve dreamed of voting in in November,” she said to laughter, showing that the newest citizens are up on current events. “Congratulations to all you. You now are citizens of the greatest country that you could be citizens of.”

Read more“You are now citizens of the greatest country … “