Read the article on The Parker Chronicle here.
We've heard about fake news lately, but what about what's left out of our politically correct history books? As I've been re-learning our country's history over the last few years, I've discovered some hidden truths that are not taught in our books or classrooms. It's time to shed some light. Recently, my eldest daughter graduated with her master of divinity from Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University. Yes, I'm very proud, thank you. So, my daughters and I traveled from New York to Virginia to move her to her next adventure. Once down there, we went to Jamestown Fort, "America's Birthplace in 1607." I had been to that historical area before as a kid and loved it, but that did not prepare me for what I would soon experience. This time as I visited Jamestown and the plantations, I was in tears. I now know a fuller truth of that history so it was hard to hear the usual story told in our history books from a white man's perspective. Now, don't stop reading. I know this might seem controversial to some, but stick with me, please. This time, I knew that when the 104 English settlers arrived onto a "new" land, they dismissed the fact that it was already home to thousands of natives here. And that Capt. John Smith, the handsome cartoon character with Pocahontas, was actually part of the beginning of the white male patriarchy in our country. Yes, these allegedly courageous Englishmen who traveled the seas and braved the elements of this new land actually claimed someone else's land (and sometimes their wives) as their own. But if that weren't enough, then they literally bought or stole people from another continent (Africa) and brought them over and enslaved them to do their own work and make themselves profitable. So the history film's narrator in the visitor's center might have delicately and politely said, "these three cultures came together," but there was not much politeness or delicacy about it. It was actually horrifying this time as a conscious adult to walk the land where so many people were injured, killed or enslaved for power and profit of the white man. And as a white person of English descent, this was particularly hard history to relive and feel the guilt of what my ancestors had done. But it was also healing and transformative for me, and my family. Now I know this might feel awkward, but it's time to own our whole American history, not just the marketed glamour of the red, white and blue cups and plastic ware. We need to also acknowledge that our country was founded on white men dominating people of color. Sadly, looking at today's statistics in business or government, that hasn't changed enough. I believe it's now necessary to learn from the untold stories in history in order to heal our divides and better understand how to truly transform us into a society worthy of this land. So as we're celebrating the Fourth of July this year, we may want to look at the full history of our country and figure out how to do our personal part in the continuing liberation of the peoples we white folk have oppressed for hundreds of years. It's time to own and acknowledge the whole truth. Linda Newell is termed out as the state senator of Senate District 26 and is now educating people on how to understand and influence their government. She may be reached at Senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.
Read the article on The Parker Chronicle here.
As a freshman state legislator in the summer of 2009, Linda Newell had a lot to learn about a lot of things—and as it turned out, so did everyone else.
Some onlookers wondered, just who was that unknown blonde and her two lovely daughters waving from a passing car in Littleton’s Western Welcome Week parade?
As Newell jumped from the cavalcade, two women approached her, noticing a nametag that identified the mystery lady as some sort of “state senator.”
Former state Sen. Linda Newell stands in front of the Littleton Municipal Courthouse, where she plans to eventually tape an episode of her planned television series on the workings of state and local government. The Last Bill: A Senator’s Story, which serves as the series pilot, will have its premiere March 18 at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Littleton.Photo by Peter Jones
“We don’t have a state Senate, do we?” a woman asked.
“Yes, we do,” Newell responded with her trademark smile.
“We don’t pay for that, do we?” the second woman followed up.
“Poorly, but yes,” Newell quickly rejoined.
As a political novice and a newly elected Democrat who was never expected to win the once-Republican-safe District 26 in the 2008 Obama wave, Newell would turn out to be an unlikely educator on the ways of state government.
“I would get questions like, ‘How do you like D.C.?’ And I would need to explain to them that I’m a state senator. I work at the Colorado State Capitol. I’d have to explain the difference between federal and state,” the 59-year-old former lawmaker said. “These were not young people. These are people my age who have voted.”
Newell would eventually try to fill those embarrassments in ignorance with educational town halls, not just focused on her own legislative priorities, but on the mechanics of making state laws—legislation that many assumed come from thin air.
“It became very clear that I had to do more to educate people in a nonpartisan way,” she said. “In my last session, I had this idea—let’s take the government to the people so they don’t have to come and find us.”
With a background in theater and television, Newell knew one of the best places to find her constituents was in front of their TV sets, or maybe in a movie theater.
The result: The Last Bill: A Senator’s Story, a new half-hour PBS-style documentary that has its world premiere Saturday, March 18, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Littleton.
The film is essentially a senator’s eye view on an unseemly process that is often compared to making sausage. It is also a primer on the “ups” of bipartisanship as an idea becomes law, and the “downs” of a second bill that inexplicably dies in committee.
The Last Bill follows Newell as she runs about the dome, making friends, influencing people, advocating her position, compromising on it and eventually finding common ground with her Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud.
“We’re very apart on many things, but we really enjoy working with each other when we can get that sweet spot of policy we agree on,” Newell said.
Their bill—passed by the Senate and House of Representatives and signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper last year—essentially encourages multi-tiered collaboration in proactive suicide prevention with nonpunitive language easier to sell across the aisle.
A movie subplot surrounds a second bill that dies in committee after Newell is unable to garner Republican support for criminalizing the fraudulent use of service animals.
To hear Newell tell it, the lawmaking process onscreen is not so different from that famous sausage analogy, with a bit of childbearing thrown in for good measure.
“It’s ugly. It’s pretty. It’s beautiful. It’s heart wrenching,” she said of her work as a senator. “It’s difficult, but it’s also a wondrous thing. We’re so lucky to live in a country and a state that still has the integrity of that process.”
Despite its title, The Last Bill may not be the last of its kind. The documentary will serve as a pilot as Newell and her production team pitch a proposed public-television series that would take similar case studies on all three branches of government in Colorado, from city councils to the governor’s office, from municipal judges to the state’s Supreme Court.
“You will see the process through a human story,” Newell said.
Plans would be for each episode to be re-edited for use in schools, with accompanying curriculum to enhance the learning experience.
Newell stresses that the project is nonpartisan, a natural move, she says, after representing the purple District 26, which is evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and independents in its stretch from Littleton and Englewood to Cherry Hills and Greenwood Villages.
“When you are purple, you are constantly voting against somebody, but I was elected to represent and that was my job,” she said. “It’s a really hard place to be, which is why I wish more districts were purple, so that we didn’t get the extremes. It should be harder.”
Read the full article on the Villager here
You can take the lawmaker out of the Capitol, the old saying goes, but you can’t take the Capitol out of the lawmaker.
Maybe that isn’t precisely how the old saying goes, but it describes former state Sen. Linda Newell’s path since the Littleton Democrat faced term limits last year.
As her eight-year legislative career neared its end, Newell returned to her roots — she worked in the theater and produced television shows in California years ago — while still at the Capitol, producing a short documentary film that takes a behind-the-scenes look at the legislative process during the General Assembly’s 2016 session.
“The Last Bill, A Senator’s Story” premieres Saturday, March 18, at the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton in the Aspen Grove shopping center. Fortuitously, Newell notes, the movie theater is within the boundaries of Newell’s old Senate District 26. Tickets to the two scheduled showings — at 12:15 p.m. and 2 p.m. — went on sale Friday, March 3. Newell and members of her production team will answer questions after each showing.
Former state Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, is pictured in the trailer for “The Last Bill, A Senator’s Story,” a short film she produced depicting a behind-the-scenes view of the fate of two bills in the 2016 Colorado legislative session. The film premieres on Saturday, March 18, 2017, at the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton. (Courtesy Linda Newell)
In addition to getting viewers acquainted with how the Legislature operates, the documentary traces the fate of two bills Newell sponsored in her last session.
The first bill, to create a suicide prevention plan, co-sponsored with state Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik, R-Thornton, and state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The second bill, to make it a crime to represent a pet as a service animal, co-sponsored with then-state Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Greenwood Village, however, was torpedoed by Republicans in the Senate Judiciary committee after passing unanimously out of the House. Kagan was locked in a tight race against Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty for Newell’s open Senate seat, and it’s a good bet Republican legislators didn’t want to give him a win.
But in the kind of twist no one could have scripted, Newell and Kagan’s legislation was resurrected in another bill, this time sponsored by state Sens. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, and Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, and state Rep. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, and then-state Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield. It was signed into law by the governor. While Newell and Kagan signed on as co-sponsors, the popular legislation didn’t carry their names.
State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, and Newell’s daughters, Kate and Brittany Newell, all figure prominently in the production.
Former state Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, right, and state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, confer in the trailer for “The Last Bill, A Senator’s Story,” a short film Newell produced depicting a behind-the-scenes view of the fate of two bills, including one co-sponsred with Lundberg, during the 2016 Colorado legislative session. The film premieres on Saturday, March 18, 2017, at the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton. (Courtesy Linda Newell)
“I miss being there,” Newell told The Colorado Statesman this week. “It’s such a unique opportunity and when you love it, like I did, there’s nothing like it. On the other hand, with my documentary project, it’s like I’m still there — because it’s about the Legislature, and it’s about educating people for civic engagement.”
In a trailer for the film released this week, Newell sums up her time as a legislator.
“In some of the work I’ve been able to do, I’ve been so proud I’ve been able to save — literally, able to save lives,” she says. “Every day I could make a vote was for the future of women in the state of Colorado, of our environment and helping those that are less advantaged than we are. It’s my job to help people ease their pain, if I can in a legislative way. But also, I owe it to my family to make sure we’re doing everything we can.”
In the same scene, an off-screen interviewer asks her if she’d do it again.
“Yes, I would do it again,” she responds. “On the other hand, I think I would do it a little bit differently, but I would definitely do it again.”
Newell told The Statesman she wouldn’t change how she approached “policy and process externally” but would handle things differently internally.
“I really was a workaholic,” she said. “I really did work not just during the session but in the interims. I found out that it seemed like I was working harder than I needed to, working harder than some of my colleagues, because I was on so many interim committees every year.” After pausing for a moment, she added, “I think I would learn to say ‘no’ better.”
Former state Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, discusses the legislative process in the trailer for “The Last Bill, A Senator’s Story,” a short film she produced depicting a behind-the-scenes view of the fate of two bills in the 2016 Colorado legislative session. The film premieres on Saturday, March 18, 2017, at the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton. (Courtesy Linda Newell)
Newell, who produced the documentary in collaboration with the Colorado Film School and Indie Denver Media Productions, said it’s timed at just over 26 minutes because that’s the ideal length for public television broadcasts. She says the production team plans to transform the footage — perhaps adding more graphics — into a shorter version tailored for students and pair it with a curriculum guide.
In the long run, Newell and her associates want to produce a series of documentaries taking viewers behind the scenes throughout government, including in the executive and judicial branches.
She says she’s confident there’s an audience for the documentaries.
“Over the last few months,” she said, “I’ve gotten so many questions about how government works — how to get in touch with legislators, how to track their voting records. People want to know how to become more civically involved.”
The film is directed by Aaron Koehler and edited by Matt Baxter; Brittany Newell is the associate producer, and Gary Weir composed music for the documentary.
Tickets to the premiere showing are $15, and special VIP tickets with access to a Hollywood-style red carpet are $30. Sponsorships are also available.
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Former District 26 state Sen. Linda Newell will premiere a short documentary she produced about how a bill makes its way through the Legislature later this month. “The Last Bill, a Senator’s Story” will be screened in two showings on March 18 at Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton. The 27-minute documentary follows Newell, a Littleton Democrat, and Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Republican who lives near Berthoud, as two bills go through the process of becoming laws. The film is a collaboration between Newell, Colorado Film School and Indie Denver Media Productions and is directed by Aaron Koehler. Newell termed out after eight years in the Colorado Senate last year. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/TheLastBill/.