BREAKING: Hickenlooper Backs Minimum Wage Increase

THURSDAY UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio’s Rachel Estabrook reports:

In an interview with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner, the Democratic governor said he is concerned that people making minimum wage now can’t afford to live in many parts of Colorado.

“I’m not sure there’s another way to help move more people out of poverty than to raise the minimum wage… I think in this country, if you work 40 hours a week, and you work hard, you ought to be able to afford an apartment somewhere,” Hickenlooper said.

—–

That’s the late-breaking word from Colorado Public Radio via Twitter:

We’ll update with CPR’s interview tomorrow, but we figured readers would want to give feedback as soon as the word was out. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s support for Amendment 70, as a pro-business former bar owner, is a critical boost for the campaign to increase Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

And it’ll be a pleasant surprise to his Democratic base.

GOP Pollster: Wage Hike Finds Favor With Colorado Voters

2016minimumwageAs the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports, polling numbers out from GOP-aligned Magellan Strategies spell good news for Amendment 70, the ballot measure to raise the state’s minimum wage–and bad news for Amendment 69, the ColoradoCare single-payer health insurance proposal:

A constitutional amendment to raise Colorado’s minimum wage holds a 13-point lead in the first publicly released poll on the proposal, which came out on Tuesday.

Also, the ColoradoCare amendment to create a statewide single-payer health-care system is getting crushed by a margin of roughly 2-1/2-to-1, according to a second poll put out by Louisville-based Magellan Strategies…

Amendment 70, which would raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.31 an hour to $12 per hour in steps by 2020, gets 55 percent support in the sample of 500 likely 2016 general-election voters that was conducted from Aug. 29-31. Another 42 percent of voters oppose it, while just 3 percent remain undecided roughly two months before the Nov. 8 election.

The numbers for Amendment 70 look even better under the hood, with a bigger margin of Democrats in favor than Republicans opposed–and best of all, a huge lead for the measure among independent voters, 65-35%. The survey also looked at Amendment 69, the ColoradoCare proposal, and the same respondents who score minimum wage so highly are slaughtering single-payer health care 65-27%. Even Democrats oppose Amendment 69, though by a smaller 45-41% margin.

Support for Amendment 70 may be taking even some Democrats by surprise. This past weekend, Gov. John Hickenlooper was interviewed by 9NEWS Brandon Rittiman about the proposal, which he claims to be “undecided” about but as a former bar owner has a natural predisposition against. Hickenlooper didn’t do a very good job talking down the measure, however, bogusly forecasting harm to agricultural employers when farmworkers are exempt from the proposal, and claiming that in downtown Denver servers “already” make $20-30 an hour. While that may be true at the Wynkoop or other higher-end eateries and watering holes, the median wage for tipped workers in Colorado is in reality just over $9 an hour.

If Amendment 70’s numbers stay strong into October, Hickenlooper may want to revisit his knee-jerk reaction to a $12 an hour minimum wage–especially when his own party’s platform is calling for substantially more.

Call it a question of getting with the times.

Polis: Fracking Fight Is Not Going Away

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Via the Colorado Statesman’s David O. Williams, Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder responds to the failure of two statewide ballot measures to obtain enough petition signatures to qualify this year–one of which he financially supported:

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis on Monday told The Colorado Statesman that the battle for greater local control over oil and gas drilling will keep coming back every two years if the State Legislature is unable to take action on the emotionally charged issue of fracking in and around neighborhoods.

“Issues are always best addressed legislatively, but if the Legislature fails to address it, I’m sure proponents of ballot initiatives will be back,” Polis told The Statesman on Monday after Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams concluded supporters of two anti-fracking ballot initiatives — one of which Polis backed — didn’t collect enough valid voter signatures.

Polis gave $25,000 to Yes for Local Control Over Oil and Gas, the group pushing Initiative 75 that would have given local governments more regulatory control over oil and gas drilling within town and county boundaries, including possibly banning fracking in certain areas. Drilling is currently regulated primarily by the state…

Polis supported anti-fracking ballot initiatives in 2014 and worked toward a legislative solution in what would have been a special session designed to avoid a ballot fight. He later supported a deal with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper that formed an oil and gas task force to hopefully address the setback and local-control issues.

fracksmokeRep. Polis did not contribute to Initiative 78, which would have mandated a very large 2,500 foot setback for new oil and gas development from existing structures. Likewise, leading environmental advocacy group Conservation Colorado endorsed Initiative 75 (local control) but not 78. Although both the local control and setback ballot measures were jointly promoted during the petition drive, opinions on the two different approaches even among environmentalists are not unanimous. For everyone except those who very deliberately are seeking to completely ban the practice of “fracking” for oil and gas, the large inflexible setbacks in Initiative 78 just aren’t workable–and if you want to ban fracking, you should be honest about that in your proposal.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the realistic battleground in the ongoing debate over oil and gas development under the urbanizing Front Range of Colorado is going to be over the rights of local cities to regulate the industry within their boundaries to a greater degree than the state oil and gas commission. The ballot measure fights in 2014 and this year both stem from decisions by local voters and governments in Front Range cities to ban or place moratoria on fracking within their boundaries. Many of those bans and moratoria have been overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court, but Polis is absolutely correct that the issue isn’t going away. Until a better deal is struck between mineral rights holders and the growing population centers on the surface–one that recognizes that human beings on the surface do indeed matter more than the minerals beneath–every election is going to be haunted by these unsatisfied grievances.

In the Denver Post today, even Gov. John “Frackenlooper” Hickenlooper paid lip service to this ongoing challenge:

The Democratic governor said he wants to “continue the discussions” between the energy sector and supporters of the two unsuccessful ballot measures, which would have prohibited new oil and gas facilities within 2,500 feet of homes, and given more power to local governments to restrict fracking. But he offered no specifics. [Pols emphasis]

“I think most of the people I’ve talked to both in the environmental community and the oil and gas industry recognize that there is more work to be done,” he said.

The trick, as we’ve learned now in two disappointing election cycles, will be turning that lip service into something tangible–for local residents and local governments who have been pleading with Hickenlooper’s administration for years for better protections. “Banning fracking” should not be the goal of environmentalists in Colorado, but effective control of oil and gas drilling to ensure local governments can make land-use decisions that are appropriate for their communities.

Every legislative session, like every election, is a fresh chance to do the right thing.

Hick, Crisanta Duran Shine on DNC’s Final Night

Here’s video of Colorado’s two stars on the last night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia–first, Colorado House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran’s three minutes of glory, with musical intro by Coldplay:

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports:

Colorado House Democratic leader Crisanta Duran spoke of breaking her own glass ceilings Thursday afternoon at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you’re from or how you got here, you are special and your potential is as big as America itself,” Duran said to young people in her speech. “That’s what Hillary Clinton believes. That’s why she’s spent a lifetime fighting for every child.”


At least Hick didn't...

At least Hick didn’t…

Later in the evening, it was Gov. John Hickenlooper’s turn at the mic to take a surprisingly hard shot at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader reports:

“I’ve never hosted a reality TV show but I know the true mark of a successful businessman is not the number of times you say you’re fired, it’s the number of times you say you’re hired,” Hickenlooper said, taking a dig at Trump’s TV show “The Apprentice.” “Unlike Trump’s businesses, my businesses didn’t go bankrupt six times.”

The governor didn’t pause for applause or laughter but plowed right into his plug for Denver’s urban revitalization, which began after Hickenlooper opened the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in an abandoned warehouse district nearly 30 years ago.

“More entrepreneurs arrived and the neighborhood took off and so did Denver,” Hickenlooper said. “As Hillary Clinton says, ‘it takes a village’ … she understands that even in Colorado, land of rugged individualism, our economy is stronger together.”

Unvarnished reviews of both speeches we’ve heard have been quite positive. It’s clear that Hickenlooper was nervous about his prime-time speaking slot, but he delivered a strong if a bit dry-mouthed five minutes of solid support for the Democratic nominee–with a few great quotables like “my businesses didn’t go bankrupt six times.” Tim Kaine, who narrowly bested Hickenlooper for the vice presidential nomination, is obviously a more comfortable speaker and attack dog, but Hick didn’t disappoint. Those couple of times we were sure his voice was going to crack, it didn’t.

All told, not too shabby for our little flyover state this convention season! If only Darryl Glenn had gotten some face time.

Hickenlooper Nabs Big-Time Speaking Slot at DNC

Gov. John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper

We’ve known since last week that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper would be speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, but until today, we didn’t know when. As the Denver Post reports, Hick has been handed one of the most desirable time slots of the entire convention:

He won’t be introducing Hillary Clinton, but Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper still landed a prime time speaking slot this Thursday at the Democratic National Convention, the curtain call of the four-day gathering.

Hickenlooper told Denver Post TV that he is slated to speak between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. eastern — not long before Clinton is expected to deliver her acceptance speech at the Wells Fargo Center. The topic of the speech was not disclosed.

This is a pretty big deal. Democratic House leader Crisanta Duran is also speaking on Thursday, sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 pm, but Hickenlooper’s time slot is about as good as it gets if you aren’t the nominee for President. Hick will speak shortly before Hillary Clinton is announced to accept the Democratic nomination for President, which all but guarantees that he will speak in front of a huge national TV audience.

Hickenlooper’s high-profile speaking slot is also another good indication that he will likely be picked for some sort of Cabinet post if Clinton is elected President.

Tim Kaine: The Better Hickenlooper?

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

The New York Times reports on the selection of Sen. Tim Kaine as Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton’s running-mate: beating out a number of other “finalist” contenders including Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado:

Hillary Clinton named Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia to be her running mate Friday, selecting a battleground-state politician with working-class roots and a fluency in Spanish, traits that she believes can bolster her chances to defeat Donald J. Trump in November.

Mrs. Clinton’s choice, which she announced via text message to supporters, came after her advisers spent months poring over potential vice-presidential candidates who could lift the Democratic ticket in an unpredictable race against Mr. Trump…

Ultimately, Mrs. Clinton, who told PBS that she was “afflicted with the responsibility gene,” avoided taking a chance with a less experienced vice-presidential candidate and declined to push the historic nature of her candidacy by adding another woman or a minority to the ticket.

Instead, the campaign, which had become concerned about its deficit with white men, focused on Mr. Kaine and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and looked more closely at Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado. [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Tim Kaine is in many ways a safe pick for Clinton, being a relatively moderate white male politician in a key swing state. It’s true that those descriptors could also apply to our own Gov. Hickenlooper, although we’d say excepting Hickenlooper’s soft spot on energy issues he’s probably more of a “progressive” than Kaine is. With Clinton expected to run strongly to the middle in a bid to pick up support from Republicans who cannot bring themselves to vote for Donald Trump, Kaine can be regarded as a “ticket balancer” who will make the choice of Hillary more palatable.

Bottom line: this may not be the more exciting choice for the Democratic base, but Kaine is arguably closest to what Hillary needs to close the deal: with the broadest possible range of American voters.

Get More Smarter on Friday (July 22)

Get More SmarterGoodbye, Cleveland; hello, Philadelphia. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Donald Trump formally accepted the Republican nomination for President on Thursday to wrap up the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Trump delivered a very long speech that seemed intended to scare voters more than inspire them to jump onboard the Big Orange Bus, as the Washington Post explains:

The language he used was as dark and ominous as in any acceptance speech in recent memory, and what he promised to fix was a mess that he laid directly at the feet of Clinton, the former secretary of state and wife of former president Bill Clinton, as well as at the feet of President Obama.

Running through a litany of problems in the Middle East that have happened over the past seven-plus years, Trump said of his rival: “The legacy of Hillary Clinton is death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”…

…Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, had promised earlier in the week that Trump would campaign on a theme of law and order, a theme that was largely unspoken through much of the early months of Trump’s candidacy.

On Thursday, Trump embraced that message in the opening minutes of his speech, asserting that this is a “moment of crisis” for the country that threatens “our very way of life.” He painted a picture of an America out of control, with rising crime in big cities, police being shot and illegal immigrants streaming across the border.

“Beginning on January 20th of 2017, safety will be restored,” he said.

In a separate story about Trump’s acceptance speech, James Hohmann of the Washington Post summed up the remarks thusly:

Trump essentially used the most important speech of his campaign – and perhaps political career – to yell fire in a crowded theatre.

The Associated Press did some fact-checking on Trump’s acceptance speech, pointing out several problems with his statements on the economy, immigration, and — of course — Hillary Clinton.

 

► With the Republican Norovirus Convention coming to an end in Cleveland, John Frank of the Denver Post notes the continued defiance from Colorado delegates:

Colorado’s delegates remain reluctant to support Donald Trump, which is to say most of them will vote for the Republican nominee despite their bad history.

This is what it looked like Thursday night —  Donald Trump hit one of his big applause lines in his acceptance speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention and his screaming fans jumped to their feet.

The Colorado delegation, for the most part, remained in their seats. Some clapped. Others sat arms crossed.

“Look at stubborn Colorado,” a Georgia delegate and Trump campaign surrogate snorted from behind the delegation’s seats.

Chris Cillizza of “The Fix” offers up his Winners and Losers from Day Four of the RNC.

 

► It appears increasingly likely that Hillary Clinton will name Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. From Politico:

Hillary Clinton’s veepstakes is ending the way it began: with the humble-but-sturdy Tim Kaine sitting at the top of her list.

After an extensive, months-long process during which the campaign considered a host of different options — even vetting a serious candidate from outside the political arena — the squeaky-clean Virginia senator, whose biggest liability to emerge was that he was boring, is emerging as Clinton’s top choice. Kaine has been urged along by two men familiar with the demands of the job: President Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton, those close to the process say.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (July 21)

Get More SmarterThe norovirus celebration in Cleveland comes to an official end tonight. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Former Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz emerged as the biggest story from Day Three of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, overshadowing an evening that was supposed to belong to Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence. The big news from Cruz was his pointed refusal to endorse Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for President, a gambit that appears to be backfiring already. From the Washington Post:

Ted Cruz is on the defensive after he gambled his political career on refusing to endorse Donald Trump, with key allies turning on him and members of his home-state delegation questioning his motives.

After his dramatic prime-time speech here last night to the Republican convention, after which he left the stage to loud boos and was then refused entry into an angry Sheldon Adelson’s suite, the runner-up for the nomination came under friendly fire during a surreal Texas delegation breakfast.

As some chanted “Trump, Trump, Trump,” Cruz argued that the less courageous route would have been to skip the convention. He said he called Trump three days ago to say he wouldn’t endorse him. “Why not,” someone yelled from the crowd. “I’m happy to answer that, but I won’t engage in a screaming fight,” the senator replied…

…Another Texan asked him how he could go back on his pledge, made during a Fox News debate last summer in the very arena where he delivered his speech last night, to support whomever wins the GOP nomination. Cruz said Trump “abrogated” the pledge with “personal” attacks on his wife’s looks and by suggesting that his dad was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. “I’m not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” he said.

Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump is obviously a longer-term political gamble that assumes Trump will lose badly in the General Election to Democrat Hillary Clinton. A likely Presidential candidate again in 2020, Cruz is also hoping that Republicans either forget his dismissal of the GOP nominee or somehow come to view the move as a principled political stance rather than a selfish grab for the spotlight. We may get the answer to this question fairly soon; much depends on whether or not Cruz’s non-endorsement actually moves the needle in a negative way for Trump or is generally ignored by GOP voters.

 

► Donald Trump will accept the Republican nomination for President tonight at the RNC in Cleveland (theoretically, at least). The success of the Convention in general may hinge on Trumps’ performance.

 

► Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is not likely to be named as Hillary Clinton’s running mate on a Democratic ticket this fall. From the Denver Post:

Hillary Clinton may name her choice for vice president as early as Friday, and despite repeated flirtations, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is not expected to propose to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Instead, three other Democrats — U.S. Sen. Timothy Kaine of Virginia, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Labor Secretary Tom Perez — emerged this week as more likely picks to join the Clinton ticket.

Rumors about a potential Vice Presidential slot for Hickenlooper have been ongoing for months now, reaching their peak last week after Hickenlooper met with Hillary at her home in Washington D.C. We can’t say we’re surprised by this — while Hick was certainly in the discussion at some point, there was never any strong indication that he had cracked the Top 3 on Clinton’s wish list. On the plus side for Hickenlooper and his supporters, it seems very likely that the Governor could end up with a Cabinet appointment in a potential Clinton administration.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Hick For Veep After All?

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

You’d better pay attention to what the AP is reporting via the Colorado Statesman this weekend:

Hillary Clinton summoned contenders to become her running mate to her Washington home on Friday as she closes in on a pick for vice president.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren were seen in separate cars departing the former secretary of state’s home on Friday afternoon.

A person familiar with the process said Clinton also met with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro at her home. The person would only speak on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

The meetings came a day after the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee campaigned alongside another contender, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, in northern Virginia.

ABC News reports Friday’s confab was no cursory matter:

According to sources, Hickenlooper met with Clinton for more than two hours. Hickenlooper arrived at approximately 4 p.m. and separated after 6:30 p.m.

Hickenlooper has been a close friend of the Clintons for many years and has held many fundraisers for Clinton during this election cycle. Just last week, Hickenlooper hosted a fundraiser for Clinton at his Denver residence. Clinton also met with the Colorado governor for coffee at that time for what the governor described at that time as “brief” social conversation.

It’s been long suspected that Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado would likely take a Cabinet post in Hillary Clinton’s administration, and his name has appeared on some–though not all–speculative lists of who she might select for vice president. As a popular Western governor with a generally progressive record (excepting his famous weak spot on energy issues), and also with a good reputation for engagement across the aisle, Hickenlooper has plenty to offer this ticket.

Which is certainly not to say that other candidates such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren HUD Secretary Julian Castro are in any way less qualified. Obviously, the Clinton campaign has many factors to weigh in this selection, and reader opinions are likely to be…diverse on where Colorado’s governor lands in that process. One other point for locals to keep in mind is that in the event of Hickenlooper ascending to the vice-presidency Colorado would swear in our first woman governor: Donna Lynne.

Needless to say, we’ll be watching this very, very closely over the next few days.

PUC Hearings Slated on Xcel’s Solar-Killing Proposals

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Thursday, June 9, in Denver, and on June 16 in Grand Junction, Colorado’s Public Utility Commission will hear public comment from 4-6 p.m.about Xcel Energy’s new rate proposal.

solar panels in colorado

Solar Panels in Colorado -photo courtesy of the Sierra Club of Colorado.

The Sierra Club of Colorado is inviting public comment about the proposals, and asking supporters to meet early (at 3:15  pm) for a press event on the west steps of the Capitol, then walk with signs to 1560 Broadway to picket and to speak at the hearing. Sierra Club’s invitation reads:

Xcel’s new proposal called “our energy future” is moving in the wrong direction. It adds fees that negatively impact our families and communities – whether they have solar or not – and places corporate profit over the public interest.

Xcel tried unsuccessfully to drive solar competition out of Colorado from 2013-2015 by proposing an end to Net Metering. After a long consideration process and multiple hearings Colorado sent the signal to continue with net metering.

The Sierra Club is referring to Xcel’s second proposal:

Establishing a “grid charge” to recover distribution system costs for residential and commercial customers. The company is proposing to assess graduated charges that increase with a customer’s average use over their past 12 billing periods.

This proposal would charge solar customers a “grid charge” to penalize them for having the gall to install solar panels, which feed energy back into the electrical grid. They would like solar customers to pay extra for the privilege of generating their own power.

Xcel’s “Solar Connect” program is the same program which was rejected by the PUC in 2014. In 2014, Solar Industry called the proposal “Sleight of billing,” in which customers would have been billed for more solar power than was actually produced. Xcel’s own spin on the program somehow neglects to mention this aspect.

What happens when a utility gets to charge solar customers extra for installing solar:

The Pueblo Paws4Life no-kill animal shelter found out when they tried to be a Leeds Green building, and installed 234 solar panels on their roof.  Black Hills Energy(BHE) had a dual rate structure for solar installations, with some sneaky fine print in the contract. The shelter was a commercial installation, and so had to pay a “demand fee” to BHE.

Carol Warner, President of Paws4life, recounted what happened when the “demand fee” kicked in. The shelter’s utility bills rocketed to $12,000 per month, even though they were generating most of it from their own solar panels. The “demand fee” charges commercial consumers a rate consistent with their highest peak use. Paws4Life began to struggle just to keep the doors open.

BHE  has been no friend to solar in the Pueblo area, and many companies are going out of business.  BHE also has some of the highest utility rates in Colorado, and a bad reputation for price – gouging customers.

Rural Electric Associations across the state often have a confusing dual rate structure for solar, leading rural customers to erroneously believe that “solar costs more”. They do this because the PUC allows them to get away with it.

Communities across Colorado are letting the PUC know that they support renewable energy –  with mixed results:

Solar advocates in Weld County successfully defeated a proposed ordinance which would have prohibited  solar installations on agricultural land. (Fracking was still allowed on ag land, though). This happened after massive community protest of the BCCC’s original solar-killing proposal.

The PUC is also considering the city of Boulder’s planned  intervention in Xcel’s wind farm proposal. Boulder is trying to municipalize its electrical utilities; so the planned wind facility would be one they would try to purchase, if successful.

Governor Hickenlooper appointed a GOP lawmaker with ties to ALEC to the PUC. There was massive public protest, and Vaad was never confirmed by the Colorado legislature. Hick reappointed Vaad anyway.

Show your support of renewable energy. Let the Public Utility Commission know that we will not allow Xcel Energy to kill the solar energy industry in Colorado.

For more information, contact the sponsors of the press event and public input at the PUC hearing:

Alliance for Solar Choice, which advocates for rooftop distributed solar across the country

And Sierra Club  of Colorado.

Hick Drops More Veep Hintage


With speculation continuing as to whether presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might look west for her choice of a vice-presidential running mate, Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado seems to be inching rhetorically toward something you might call readiness. The latest in an interview with Denver7’s Marc Stewart:

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has been the focus of recent political chatter about taking on the role of Hillary Clinton’s running mate on the Democratic ticket.

Denver7 reporter Marc Stewart spoke with the governor about his future ambitions.

“I know you’ve not been approached by the Clinton campaign, but you’re not ruling this out either?” asked Stewart. “No, obviously if someone feels you would add great value to service to your country, I think you’d be a fool not to consider it very strongly,” said Hickenlooper. [Pols emphasis]

Whether or not Hickenlooper is himself being “considered strongly,” or just another also-ran on a long and speculative list, is something that only a handful of people close to the process can claim to know right now. Hickenlooper’s upswing in public events to promote his new memoir could be interpreted as a politically forward looking pre-campaign tour–or he might just be promoting the book.

We’ll keep our ear to the ground, but chances are we’ll all find out together.

Hickenlooper Notes 800-Pound Gorilla in Room, GOP Loses Minds

CBS News reports: conservatives across the fruited plain are apoplectic this Memorial Day weekend after an interview on CBS News, in which Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado had the temerity, the effrontery, the gender-traitorous gall to suggest something we suspect about half our readership (give or take demographic samplewise) already know before he said it:

“Some people say, and you’d have to look at it, if she was a man all this stuff wouldn’t be at the same level,” [Pols emphasis] the Democratic governor said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “There’s an awful lot of criticism–literally millions of dollars of criticism against her every week, over things that really aren’t that, against a man, wouldn’t be brought up like that.”

“I think they’ve parsed this about as much as they can,” he said of the email issue. “I mean, she was trying to protect family and friends from unwanted scrutiny — she said it’s a mistake, right? Let’s move on.”

And then Hick lowers the boom on the right wing mediasphere’s obsession with Hillary Clinton’s admittedly undersecured private email server she utilized as Secretary of State–as criticized last week by a State Department report.

“It points out that previous secretaries of state had done roughly the same — had used their own servers, like Colin Powell, and no one had come out officially at the time and said, you know, this is a bad precedent,” he said. “Again, she’s admitted she made a mistake. I don’t understand, it’s not like the end of the world. I understand it’s been made a big deal because people have spent millions of dollars trying to blow it into this incredible flame.”

And folks, Hickenlooper is right–at least right enough that it’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask. In all of hand-wringing over Clinton’s private email server, the one obvious missing component is actual harm done–some demonstrable example of her use of a private email server as Secretary of State actually compromising American interests. Somewhere in the 24/7 obsession by conservatives with an issue that they didn’t care about when a (male) Republican predecessor made the same mistake, the obvious question presents itself.

Because there is no evidence of any harm, and Republicans have no good answer when confronted about former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s exact same mistake, you have to ask why this issue is the subject of so much attention. But that isn’t a new thing: the Clintons have been subject to the most extreme and relentless scandalizing by the conservative media, over the course of decades, that any American political family has arguably ever faced. Indeed, the right-wing media machine we know as an institution today cut its teeth on turning every Clinton molehill into whatever mountain they could conjure up.

Along with that relentless scandalizing, the personal assault on the Clintons since the 1990s set a precedent we see as normal today. Along with every new angle of attack comes a thick coating of personal animus about these two political figures that has effectively dehumanized them among consumers of conservative media.

For Hillary, it’s a bunch of sexist crap. This latest affected “scandal” over her email server is just the latest segue into 20 years of character assassination that freely makes use of every sexist trope in the book where it concerns Hillary personally. It’s likely that Bill would also be getting some of this had it been his email server, but with Hillary, the attacks are bitter in a way that evokes more than the usual political demonizing.

And as hard as it may be to admit, there’s an easy way to explain the difference.

The Get More Smarter Show: Hickenlooper’s Opposite of Woe


Watch Part 2 of the Get More Smarter Show’s extended interview with Gov. John Hickenlooper! In today’s segment we’ll be talking to the Governor about his new memoir–although Hick says he’s “too young to have a memoir”–The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics, on bookshelves now.

If you missed yesterday’s debut episode of the Get More Smarter Show, you can watch it here in all its technically challenged glory including Part 1 of our interview with Gov. Hickenlooper. Next week’s show will feature fewer production mistakes, mostly because we made so many of them with the first episode.

Many thanks again to Gov. Hickenlooper for sitting down with us.

Colorado Supreme Court Rules Against Cities on Fracking

UPDATE #2: Rep. Jared Polis sounds like he’s ready to fight:

I am extremely disappointed with the bad decision today to overturn the will of the voters in Longmont and Fort Collins. It’s a blow to democracy and local control,” said Polis.  

“While at least the courts found today that local government land use authority and regulations can coexist with state regulations, the communities being hurt by unregulated fracking are looking to enact stronger measures to protect homeowners, and this case doesn’t help.

Now that the law has been interpreted, it’s up to the state legislature or the people of Colorado to act to protect our neighborhoods and homes. I look forward to continuing to help advocates in these efforts to protect our communities.”

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UPDATE: Rep. Mike Foote (D) remains hopeful despite the setback of today’s ruling:

“I’m disappointed that the people of Longmont and Fort Collins will be unable to implement measures that they deemed appropriate to address oil and gas development within their borders,” said Rep. Foote, D-Lafayette, whose district includes part of Longmont. “But a careful reading of the rulings shows that these are actually very narrow opinions. Local governments’ land use authority was reaffirmed, including for oil and gas development.”

Rep. Foote also noted that the court, in the Longmont ruling, did not dispute what it described as “the propriety of local land use ordinances that relate to oil and gas development.”

“Cities and counties may need to modify their approach somewhat,” Rep. Foote said, “but it’s clear that the Court has reaffirmed that local governments do have a seat at the table when it comes to oil and gas development.”

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Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

KDVR FOX 31 reporting, a big ruling today that sets the stage for the next battle over oil and gas development along Colorado’s rapidly urbanizing Front Range:

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that individual cities cannot slow or ban fracking near residents because it’s a matter of state law.

In 2012, Longmont voters voted to ban fracking and in 2013, Fort Collins voters approved a five-year moratorium. The oil and gas industry sued both cities in 2013, and won rulings against Fort Collins and Longmont in summer 2014…

In its Monday ruling, the court said local cities’ attempts to stop fracking is “invalid and unenforceable.”

Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith responds to today’s ruling in a statement:

We’re still evaluating the specifics of these decisions, and the Fort Collins decision appears to be particularly narrow. But, at first glance, they are disappointing.

We believe that good policy-making happens from the ground up and that local communities are best-suited to make decisions about what happens with oil and gas drilling within their borders. Local governments should have the ability to call a timeout on drilling in order to better understand its impacts and ensure safety and public health, just as they are allowed to do with other industries.

We will continue to stand with the communities that are being dramatically impacted by oil and gas drilling. Their concerns have not gone away with today’s rulings.

These decisions also show that the oil and gas industry’s threats of litigation are a hammer that the industry has no qualms about wielding against local governments if they decide to engage in land use planning. In order to combat this hammer, local governments must be empowered with better tools to protect their citizens from heavy industrial drilling.

There’s no question this is a setback for the local communities who sought better control over land use within their boundaries, but the fact is it was not an unexpected ruling. Colorado’s split-estate management of surface and subsurface development rights, a holdover from a era when Colorado was a mineral extraction hinterland and not a burgeoning urban population center, is simply not written to balance the needs and rights of today’s urban populations vs. mineral rights owners.

These local communities who fought back for a better deal knew they were up against long odds under current law. As much as anything, these moves were intended to provoke a statewide discussion on how to better protect neighborhoods, businesses, and schools from a heavy industry with a unique right to run roughshod over local land use authority. The response from the industry, Republican politicians, and yes, many Democrats including pro-energy Gov. John Hickenlooper, has ranged from denial to outright contempt for the concerns of opponents of “fracking” in residential areas. Rather than working toward a solution that acknowledges the problem, supporters of the industry in both parties have brushed off concerns–often offensively–and hid behind the legal status quo.

After today’s ruling, the battle shifts back to the ballot box. We’ll have to wait until August to see what energy ballot measures we’ll be voting on this November, but bigger setbacks between energy development and surface populations and a constitutional statement clarifying local control rights are major possibilities. Energy industry surrogates prefer to steer this debate into extremes like a total ban on “fracking” statewide, from which they can make more effective counterarguments, but more realistic measures may well prove much more popular. If funders like Tom Steyer and Jared Polis decide that 2016 is the year to throw down, today’s ruling against Front Range cities could become the battle cry that changes everything.

Because it’s evident now that something has to change.

Colorado Budget: Private Prisons Get Their Pound of Flesh

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Strescino reports, the Colorado state legislature gave final passage to the 2016 budget on Friday–but not before a last-minute request from the Governor’s office, supported by Senate Republicans, almost derailed the deal yet again:

A last-minute request by the governor to keep afloat a private prison — and help a rural economy — held up the final budget deal until the state Senate approved it Friday.

The budget, $25.8 billion, is headed for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

Hickenlooper requested at the last minute to spend $3 million to boost payments to a private, for-profit prison company that is threatening to close the Kit Carson Correctional Center on the Eastern Plains — a move that stalled the budget bill after Senate Democrats raised complaints…

Corrections Corporation of America.

Corrections Corporation of America.

The Denver Post’s John Frank has more on the $3 million to subsidize operations at the Kit Carson Correctional Center just east of Burlington, which is operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America:

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, noted that the state gave Corrections Corporation of America a cash infusion four years ago to keep the facility open and now it’s back asking for more money. At the same time, other parts of the state budget are facing cuts or no new funding increases. [Pols emphasis]

Johnston said the timing of the request — just as budget negotiations finished — amounted to “blackmail.”

“It’s not in the best interest of the state of Colorado,” he said.

In the end, the $3 million for Corrections Corporation of America was not enough to blow up the long negotiations that led to this year’s budget compromises–which include hotly-contested line items like funding for the state’s groundbreaking IUD contraception program, a big win over the objections of the Senate’s far-right “Hateful Eight” caucus. But that doesn’t mean this “bailout” of an underutilized private prison was a good thing, as a statement from the state’s public employee union Colorado WINS makes very clear indeed:

According to WINS Executive Director, Tim Markham, “The for-profit prison industry is built on exploitation. They exploit our criminal justice system, they exploit their workers, they exploit the communities in which their facilities are located and they exploit Colorado taxpayers.

Unlike our state correctional facilities and professional correctional officers, for-profit prisons are not accountable to taxpayers. And they do not provide stable, community-building jobs – these are low-wage, low-security, high-turnover positions.

Colorado WINS has long stood publicly against the for-profit prison industry. This latest bailout is just one more example of why Colorado should extricate ourselves from this predatory and morally corrupt industry.” [Pols emphasis]

“Extrication” of Colorado’s prison system from for-profit corporate interests that have little regard for the state’s actual needs, unlike state employees who could be redistributed throughout the system and–key point–are much more qualified professionals who contribute far more to their local economies than the CCA’s low-wage employees, is a debate that will have to wait for another year. But these threat-laden “requests” for infusions of cash to a for-profit corporation under threat of closing underused prisons and “killing jobs,” this being the second such request in four years, is not at all what the private prison industry promised in the early 1990s: a happy arrangement in which private capital took the risk of operating the prisons and the public benefitted from “lower costs.”

Since that logic has now been turned on its head, we’d say it’s appropriate to question the state’s whole relationship with the private prison industry.