Heated DPS meeting prompts video that looks like start of 2013 DPS elections

Last Thursday, Denver Public Schools Board President Mary Seawell and a majority of the DPS board meeting passed a controversial vote to colocate Strive HS (formerly West Denver Prep) at North High School.  Every vote relating to the colocation passed 4-3.

I watched part of the meeting online, and dozens of North parents and community members spoke out against the idea, while reform groups such as A+ came to speak in favor.  Contentious decisions aren’t anything new to DPS, but Mary Seawell, in her new role as President of the Board, responded by lashing out against the community members who came to speak.

At one point Board Member Jeannie Kaplan attempted to propose a compromise, but Seawell quickly cut off conversation.

This morning, a video is making its way around facebook and emails from members of the “Choose North Now” group, which looks a lot like the first volley of the 2013 DPS election cycle.  

If Seawell’s “Shame on you” speech and this response video are any indicator, 2013 is going to be a long, heated campaign that will make 2011 campaigns look downright friendly by comparison.

Does Progressive Talk Radio Have a Future in Denver?

About a week ago AM760 announced they were ending Mario Solis-Marich’s evening drive time show and replacing it with Norman Goldman, a national radio show host.  

Mario was one of only three progressive talk show hosts in the Denver market who discussed local issues, and one of only two had a regular M-F show.

I have heard a lot of criticism about Mario’s show, ranging from the fact that he no longer lived in Denver (his show was run out of LA), to a narrow view of progressive politics.

Regardless, the decision to replace him with a national show instead of another local show means one less venue for local topics to be discussed.  With only David Sirota in the mornings, and Dr. Daddio’s Saturday show, progressive talk radio listeners are getting less opportunity to discuss local issues and fewer viewpoints about them.

Progressive talk radio has never been as popular as conservative channels, and both 630 and 850’s line ups including several local shows.  This means more opportunity for conservatives to listen and discuss local issues in Colorado, and ultimately for the Republican party to push messaging to their base.

I know there are a lot of regular readers here who have expressed their dislike for both Sirota and Solis-Marich, but I’m curious about your thoughts on progressive radio in general here.  Is this an indicator of progressive talk radio dying in Colorado, or is there a future still?  Also, if 760 ultimately decides to put a local show back on the air, who could do the job?

DPS School Board “reformers” shut out opposition from leadership

After such a heated school board race, I was curious to see the first meeting with the new members.  Honestly I wasn’t motived enough to go down there, but fortunately it’s available online and on TV if you have Comcast.

After several hours of the old members approving/declining charters, it was clear that the old board majority was sticking together: Easley, Pena, Hoyt, and Seawall voted together every time, while Merida, Jimenez, and Kaplan did not, with various 5-2 configurations (and many 7-0 votes as well).  You can read the votes here.

It was no real surprise that the new board, which maintains a majority backed by Hancock, Stand for Children, and similar individuals/groups, would do the same.  What saddened me was the blatant signal they sent on their first votes about ignoring other viewpoints.

In their first action, the Board elected Mary Seawall President, Happy Haynes Vice President, Nate Easley Secretary, and Anne Rowe Treasurer.  The three other board members, generally seen as supported by the Teachers’ union and opposed by the “reform” crowd, were completely shut out of executive positions.

Dissent is good.  Bringing people of different viewpoints to the table is good.  At a time that Congress is seen as broken along party lines and those divisions are blamed for a lack of progress, we see a faction, or “slate” as they were called during the campaign, stand together opposing any notion of dissent on a local nonpartisan board. Formerly Jimenez held the Vice President role, which was at least a symbolic gesture that all viewpoints would be considered.  

I don’t think there is any one solution to improving DPS, and now every position is held by individuals who have already signaled their uniformity.  Add to that Mayor Hancock’s appointment of the head of Stand for Children to his cabinet, and we have an ideological monopoly guiding our schools.  We encourage our kids to consider different viewpoints and ways of life, but the people guiding our schools already look like they are not doing the same.

In this last election, Jennifer Draper-Carson nearly unseated Arturo Jimenez, attacking the progress of DPS schools.  Organizations like Latinos for Education Reform joined her, with a mixed message proclaiming that the current board majority and superintendent’s plan was a success, but that everything was failing and needed to be changed.  It always struck me as convoluted, and despite outspending her opponent dramatically, it didn’t work.  However, it did work for both Happy Haynes and Anne Rowe, who defeated their opponents by wide margins.

It also makes me wonder about the next round of elections in two years.  With their new (old) majority, will organizations like Stand for Children be able to continue to push candidates who are attacking DPS’ performance?  They will, of course, have had a majority for a number of years.  Four seats will be up in 2013: Mary Seawall, who showed in her first race that she could raise an unprecedented sum of money (only surpassed now by Happy Haynes), the seat currently held by Jeannie Kaplan (who is term limited), and two controversial board members: Easley and Merida.  If there are not dramatic improvements, this monopoly of ideology from the Mayor’s office to the Board will likely be brought into question.

Latinos for Education Reform’s lack of transparency, Buck Donors, 527s, Repub Strategists, and more

Last weekend I wrote a diary about Latinos for Education Reform’s ties to the pro-voucher community.  It sparked no less than four new pols names being created to defend the organization, and as of today has 72 comments.  Given the interest, and the many questions that were raised in the discussion, I thought I would look into the organization more.

The first thing that struck me as odd was that there was actually no record of the group existing under political organizations.  Looking under businesses, it shows up as having been formed two days ago(October 10th, 2011), two days after my diary went up and presumably weeks (or more) after they had started collecting contributions and placing ads in local newspapers.  While campaigns for the Denver School Board all sent in their lists of donors last night, this “organization,” whose only public action so far was to run ads advocating for and against candidates, has not made public where any of their funding is coming from.  Given that Secretary of State Gessler has been so “forgiving” of right-wing groups in the past I would be surprised if this ever becomes an issue.

More after the jump.

This diary may start to sound like an incestuous version of the Kevin Bacon game, but poking around for filings a few names kept coming up that seemed connected to each other in odd ways.  Some of this is more questions than I have answers, but I wanted to share (and please chime in if you have any thoughts, even if you just think that I’m seeing things that aren’t there).

Jesus Salazar: Mr. Salazar is the Registered Agent for LFER (the ad refers to him as Treasurer).  Mr. Salazar is on the board of A+, which I think is hosting candidate forums for the DPS races.  A+ is Van Schoales, who also works at Ed Reform Now with Myles Mendoza.

Stand for Children: Stand is a group from Portland, Oregon who recently poured money into several Illinois elections.  Afterward, their CEO gave a rather boneheaded speech at the Aspen institute for which he later apologized.  Their Colorado Chapter has recently become active, as seen by the huge contributions to several DPS candidates.  Stand also brings us to our next individual, and possibly the most interesting of this group: Katie Kennedy

Katie Kennedy: Katie is apparently involved with a number of organizations related to this race.  Searching her name on the Colorado Secretary of State webpage bring up Stand for Children (where she is the registered agent), as well as something called “Better Schools for a Stronger Colorado” (where she is also the registered agent).  BSSC appears to be operating out of the stand office, which raises a question about why two groups apparently doing the same thing are in the same place.  That by itself isn’t too odd though, until you take a look at candidates they are supporting.  Jennifer Draper Carson, Board Member Jimenez’s opponent (the main candidate LFER is attacking), is paying Strategic Compliance LLC for “consulting” work..  That business name is (you might have guessed) Katie Kenndy’s..  Other links to Katie Kennedy show that she’s the registered agent for groups like the (Republican) Senate Majority Fund

Speaking of Republicans, it’s interesting that major contributions to all three of the top fundraisers (which have been referred to as a slate: Happy Haynes, Anne Rowe, and Jennifer Draper-Carson) come from two wealthy Republicans: Bruce Benson, who gave each campaign $10,000, and (more interesting) Henry Gordon, an oil and gas conservative whose previous contributions were limited to $1500 to Ken Buck against former Superintendent Bennet. Gordon gave a whopping $25,000 to each of the 3 campaigns.  Between the two of them, that’s over $100,000 into the race.  Dan Ritchie topped all of them, donating $26,000 to each (The Ed News Piece points these out well).

So what to make of all of this?  To recap, LFER is a new organization that apparently doesn’t feel the need to actually file paperwork to engage in political activity (and of course their C4 status is questionable given what they have been doing).  That’s all very solid.  As for the rest of this, the same names just keep coming up too much, even in a city as small as Denver.  Why is a campaign paying the registered agent of two independent expenditure groups?  Why is that campaign using a Republican with extensive 527 ties at all?  Why is Stand for Children and BSSC, who apparently share an office, using a Republican Strategist for a nonpartisan race between two registered Democrats?  Why is a man whose previous largest contribution was against (now) Senator Bennet suddenly contributing huge amounts to three candidates who are seen in the media as supporting the Bennet/Boasberg reforms?

I’m curious if and when LFER actually has to file any information on their donors, given that they are appearing as a business and not a political committee.  I would imagine a lot of the same names would keep coming up again.

UPDATED: Vouchers in sheep’s clothing in the Ed Reform Movement

Monday morning update: A friend who read my diary told me this morning that my link regarding Mr. Mendoza’s voucher celebrating house party no longer works.  Apparently Mr. Mendoza or someone else spent some time this weekend literally scrubbing his tracks from the internet (comments below also indicate that he’s removed his postings on facebook and twitter).  Fortunately the internet has a way or replicating things many places.  You can still read the story here.

(Original Diary)

In any movement, there are the reasonable people and those on the extreme fringes.  For those of us who believe in a balance between traditional neighborhood schools and charter, magnet, autonomous, and innovation schools, the line is usually drawn at vouchers.  Earlier this year we saw the right wing radicals like John Caldara fighting to keep vouchers for religious schools in Douglas County, which of course was thrown out by a judge:

I figured Douglas County could keep their nutjobs, because no one in Denver (where I live) actually supports vouchers for religious schools (besides a handful of Republicans no one will elect).  Apparently that isn’t the case.  I was reading about the gloves coming off in the Denver school board race, and one name struck me as interesting: Myles Mendoza.  Myles is the mouthpiece for a new group called “Latinos for Education Reform” which just started running full page ads attacking Arturo Jimenez, the board rep running for reelection in NW Denver.   He has since posted this “ad” on every facebook page relating to NW Denver he could find.  This is the same Myles Mendoza who held an event at his home in Castle Rock celebrating vouchers being approved in Douglas County:

So apparently after being thrown out in the courts there, Mr. Mendoza, who is employed by Ed Reform Now (an organization that I don’t believe is radical), decided to start attacking Denver Board members.  A quick search also shows that Mr. Mendoza was a pretty major donor to Jane Norton in the last Senate campaign.

Mr. Mendoza clearly isn’t the type of Bennet reform Democrat that he apparently wants people to think he is naming a group LFER (sounds a lot like DFER right?  Except that DFER is a national group and actually has a history besides some attack ads).

I’m writing all this because I don’t want people to think that right-wingers like Mendoza speak for those of us in the middle on reform.  I support good schools – I think that’s all every parent really wants.

Westword connects the dots: Hancock, Prostitutes, Break-in

A few days ago a few rumblings started about Mayor-Elect Hancock possibly buying services from a prostitute.  While the story didn’t have all the proof, it was covered by Westword, which I believe is still the 2nd biggest newspaper in town.

If that was the only coverage, it probably would have died there.

A few days later, however, another credible media outlet covered a break-in at the home of a former pimp (escort service operator, but let’s call a spade a spade).

From there it got more interesting

So we have a newly elected government official accused of criminal activity, and a known criminal has his house broken into and files stolen.

The 7 news piece doesn’t quite make the connection though…who might have been in that little black book?

Re-enter Westword, who has always been more willing to go out on a limb with a scandal than some other Denver media outlets.  Westword decides it’s time to lay it out on the table, putting both stories together along with more on the twisted tale:

Michael Hancock’s election took place against a bizarre backdrop. A Complete Colorado piece alleging a link between Hancock and the Denver Players prostitution ring that brought down Judge Edward Nottingham was ignored by mainstreamers, but it blew up on talk radio. On Monday, KHOW’s Peter Boyles met the story’s source: ex-Denver Players owner Scottie Ewing, whose records-filled computer was reported stolen later that day.

Did I mention these files were allegedly stolen the day before election day?  

So it’s clear at this point that this isn’t just a one day story.  Where it goes from here, however, is still debatable, and probably dependent on a couple things: was there a back-up copy of the files?  Who has the originals?  

The logical answer is that if the prostitute story is true then someone tied to the Mayor-Elect swiped them to protect Hancock, but could it be the case that someone else swiped them to blackmail him?  Also, who else was on that list?  Could another “customer” have decided it would be a good time to make it disappear when the attention would logically turn to Hancock?

Regardless of the exact details on this story, the recent break-in and continual coverage around the periphery of the story make me think of the old adage — where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Polsters — your thoughts?  (Poll follows)[poll id=”1356″]

New Mayoral Poll: Romer/Mejia 22%, Hancock 18%

( – promoted by Denver Pols)

Two public polls have been done on the Mayors race, and the most recent shows that a clear line is being drawn between the candidates who have a shot at the runoff and those who don’t.  A few weeks ago, RBI strategies and Colorado Pols released their poll showing Romer 22%, Mejia 10%, Hancock 9%.  

Today, a new public poll was released showing Mejia and Hancock both jumping dramatically, while Romer stayed the same (Linkhart, Boigon, and Spahn were all at 10% or less, well below competitive given the margin of error of 4%).

commentary after the jump

The newest poll on it’s own shows that this has become a 3 way race for Mayor, with two of the three making the runoff (no one is leading by enough to realistically get 50%+1 to win outright on May 3rd)

When viewed in relation to the poll just a few weeks ago, it paints a larger picture.  Undecided voters went from 40% to 11%, and James Mejia is picking up the largest share of them.  Michael Hancock is picking up a large share too.  

Chris Romer, after running the most expensive campaign I can remember for Denver Mayor, did not move a single point from where he was a few weeks ago.  It looks like 22% of Denver likes Chris Romer…and that’s about it.  His TV ads run nonstop, and yet according to the newest data he didn’t pick up a single percent of undecided voters.

Also telling is that Boigon and Linkhart, both of which were considered serious candidates, cannot gain traction.  Linkhart has 10%, and Boigon 8%.  They would have to somehow gain the support of every undecided voter left to be in the running — all 11% — which isn’t really a possibility.

Looks like Linkhart and Boigon shouldn’t have been so quick to give up their at-large city council seats.  Time will tell about Hancock’s decision as well, as he has to edge out either Romer or Mejia to make run-off.

Michele Fry, City Council 5 Candidate, caught in plagiarism scandal

Michele Fry, one of six candidates running in the 5th district to replace retiring Councilwoman Marcia Johnson, was accused of plagiarism.  Apparently part of a questionnaire she provided was taken directly from another source, without credit.  In these small races where little is known about a candidate, a news story in Denver’s largest paper is not necessarily a good thing…especially if that’s really all voters know about a particular candidate.

Fry responded to the accusation on her website:

I take these charges seriously and admitted to the Post that, while doing research, I had not cited source materials properly.

More after the jump

You can read the whole story at this tiny url link

To be frank, it doesn’t sound like she forgot to put in a citation for a fact, which any graduate student might occasionally do (She states she is a graduate student at Regis — I’m sure they are glad to have the mention).  Based on the story, it sounds like she lifted entire paragraphs to fill out the questions and figured no one would notice.

Poll follows.

[poll id=”1557″]

Investment bankers give money, Marijuana community doesn’t, mayoral race continues

February fundraising numbers have been released for the Denver mayoral race.  The big surprise to me was that Doug Linkhart ended up raising the least of every candidate who is approved on the ballot (he hasn’t actually turned in his petitions, the last of the “major” candidates not to do so).  

After a much talked about fundraiser in the medical marijuana community with the support of attorney Robert Corry, I expected to see some improvement in his numbers.  I didn’t expect councilman Linkhart to lead the pack, but he raised just a hair over 19K…below even Theresa Spahn (22K).  I can’t imagine how his campaign can be competitive going forward.

On the other end, Romer brought in a over a quarter million.  I’m curious to look through his donor list, but of course his years as an investment banker and his father’s rolodex can’t exactly hurt in the fundraising department.  According to a polster (whose name implies they aren’t a fan of Senator Romer), his connections also include HS cheerleaders

Hancock, Boigon, and Mejia raised within the “competitive” range, pulling in more money then they are spending, and all have enough to run TV, direct mail, etc.

Dan Willis is doing a great job of tracking who is and is not making ballot and after tomorrow (when petitions are finally due), we will how many people actually make ballot.

Here are the actual amounts raised/spent in the month of February(in order of raised)

Romer: Raised $252,710 Spent $102,162

(That’s a lot to spend given he has not made at TV buy yet!  What costs that much this early?)

Hancock: Raised $108,670 Spent $58,645

(Seems like a normal amount for operating expenses now that his billboards are down.  Good money, but seems to be losing support after some school reform comments)

Boigon: Raised $92,311 $87,391

(I’ve heard grumblings of some pretty high salaries for national consultants and top level staff, which would explain spending more than anyone except Romer)

Mejia: Raised $66,457 Spent $65,442

(Keeps Mejia competitive; but I’m curious to see what he can do in March.  Kind of the opposite of Hancock: I know more people starting to support Mejia — but can that be turned into new money this month?)

Spahn: Raised $22,431 Spent $17,646

(Well it’s better than Linkhart…I guess that’s something.  Maybe she can cut into Boigon’s “elect a female candidate crowd” if she can get any serious money, but otherwise I can’t see her getting much real traction)

Linkhart: Raised $19,104 Spent $31,024

(That’s just embarrassing)

Chris Romer means business

(Bumped into Friday–really? They didn’t buy the domain name before they sent the email? – promoted by Colorado Pols)

I posted this over at Denverpols, but I thought it was funny enough to share on the main site too.  I tried entitling it “Carol Boigon Chris Romer means business” but apparently strikethrough doesn’t work in titles.  –John

Whenever I see a campaign send a correction, I’m always more inclined to go back and read the original.  Usually it’s just a wrong day, or an event that got canceled, but occasionally it’s downright funny.  That brings us to today’s “Boigon means business” email…

(Punchline after the jump)

 

Carol Boigon’s mayoral campaign sent out an email today entitled “Boigon means Business”  It was a pretty standard campaign email, with one of the only interesting points that she was launching a new website, which I imagine was supposed to be a site talking about Boigon’s business background.

When I clicked on the link though, it took me to…wait for it…Chris Romer for mayor.  So either some Boigon staffer sent out an email with a link to Romer’s site, or someone must have bought the site and redirected it to Romer’s page (is it possible that Boigon’s people sent a link to a page that they hadn’t even bought, let alone built yet?)

As I can’t imagine why anyone but Boigon would own Boigonmeansbusiness.com prior to the email blast, I would guess someone was Johnny on the Spot with the purchase.

Now that’s comedy.

Here is the email (links don’t seem to work when I copy/paste, but the line “a new site” was a link that went to Romer).

Dear Friend,

Surrounded by a group of supporters, I just turned in the petitions to put my name on the ballot to be the next Mayor of Denver. After turning in my petitions, we marched from the Denver Elections Division to the 16th Street Mall to talk to voters about my unique record of effectiveness, values and resolve to bring Denver together to get our economy moving. See the video or read the press release.

I’m also excited to share with you that we have launched a new website! I hope you’ll take a minute to visit our new site and join us on Facebook and Twitter so you can be informed about our campaign’s latest events and happenings.

I may be the shortest candidate in the race, but I have no shortage of ideas and resolve when it comes to doing what’s right for Denver. That’s why today, I am announcing the Boigon Means Business Tour so that I can share those ideas with you. Over the next 60 days, I will be making weekly stops throughout the city to discuss my ideas for addressing the challenges and opportunities facing Denver. In the coming weeks I will be sharing with you why I’m the best candidate in the race and when it comes to moving Denver forward, I mean business!

Carol Boigon

P.S. I am deeply grateful to all of you who donated last month and helped us reach our goal of 150 donors in the last 150 hours of the month! Let’s keep the momentum going!

Chris Romer means business

(D’Oh! – promoted by Denver Pols)

Whenever I see a campaign send a correction, I’m always more inclined to go back and read the original.  Usually it’s just a wrong day, or an event that got canceled, but occasionally it’s downright funny.  That brings us to today’s “Boigon means business” email…

(Punchline after the jump)

Carol Boigon’s mayoral campaign sent out an email today entitled “Boigon means Business”  It was a pretty standard campaign email, with one of the only interesting points that she was launching a new website, which I imagine was supposed to be a site talking about Boigon’s business background.

When I clicked on the link though, it took me to…wait for it…Chris Romer for mayor.  So either some Boigon staffer sent out an email with a link to Romer’s site, or someone must have bought the site and redirected it to Romer’s page (is it possible that Boigon’s people sent a link to a page that they hadn’t even bought, let alone built yet?)

As I can’t imagine why anyone but Boigon would own Boigonmeansbusiness.com  prior to the email blast, I would guess someone was Johnny on the Spot with the purchase.

Now that’s comedy.

Here is the email (links don’t seem to work when I copy/paste, but the line “a new site” was a link that went to Romer).

Dear Friend,

Surrounded by a group of supporters, I just turned in the petitions to put my name on the ballot to be the next Mayor of Denver. After turning in my petitions, we marched from the Denver Elections Division to the 16th Street Mall to talk to voters about my unique record of effectiveness, values and resolve to bring Denver together to get our economy moving. See the video or read the press release.

I’m also excited to share with you that we have launched a new website! I hope you’ll take a minute to visit our new site and join us on Facebook and Twitter so you can be informed about our campaign’s latest events and happenings.

I may be the shortest candidate in the race, but I have no shortage of ideas and resolve when it comes to doing what’s right for Denver. That’s why today, I am announcing the Boigon Means Business Tour so that I can share those ideas with you. Over the next 60 days, I will be making weekly stops throughout the city to discuss my ideas for addressing the challenges and opportunities facing Denver. In the coming weeks I will be sharing with you why I’m the best candidate in the race and when it comes to moving Denver forward, I mean business!

Carol Boigon

P.S. I am deeply grateful to all of you who donated last month and helped us reach our goal of 150 donors in the last 150 hours of the month! Let’s keep the momentum going!