Director of Colorado Energy Office Resigns

If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a member of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s cabinet and you know a thing or two about energy, you might be in luck.

The Governor’s office announced today that Tanuj “TJ” Deora has resigned as Director of the Colorado Energy Office in order to accept a position in the private sector with IHS in Englewood. Full press release after the jump.

Gov. Hickenlooper announces change at Colorado Energy Office

DENVER ­- Wednesday, May 16, 2012 – Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today Tanuj “TJ” Deora has resigned as Director of the Colorado Energy Office.

“TJ helped continue Colorado’s rise as a leader among states in energy research and development,” Hickenlooper said. “We very much appreciate his service to Colorado.”

Deora’s resignation is effective June 15. He will then begin work as Director of Energy and Environment at IHS, a global information company headquartered in Englewood.

“It has been an honor to serve in the Cabinet and I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of an outstanding team,” Deora said. “I leave confident that the Colorado Energy Office is on track to lead energy market transformation to make for a cleaner, more secure and more prosperous state.”

The Colorado Energy Office promotes sustainable economic development in Colorado by encouraging job creation, increasing energy security and lowering long-term consumer costs while protecting the environment. The office under Deora’s leadership helped the state adopt compressed natural gas as a component of a balanced energy portfolio for transportation fuels; eliminated roadblocks to residential and commercial energy efficiency financing; and increased statewide energy literacy among consumers and businesses.

The recent passage of House Bill 12-1315 will enable the Energy Office to build on Colorado’s national reputation as a leader in clean energy and energy innovation, and enhance the office’s ability to support private-sector job creation in renewable energy and natural gas industries. The bill changed the name of the office to the “Colorado Energy Office,” secured funding for five years and established the office’s Innovative Energy Fund and the Clean & Renewable Energy Fund.

A search for a new Director at the Colorado Energy Office will begin next week.

To Be a Fly on the Wall for This Discussion…

Governor John Hickenlooper is apparently going to meet with Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to discuss eco-tourism and economic development. From a Hickenlooper press release:

Gov. John Hickenlooper will meet with Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday, March 23, to discuss common efforts and issues related to eco-tourism and economic development. The three governors will meet in Wood River, Neb….

…According to statistics gathered by the Colorado Tourism Office in 2010, Colorado attracted 51.6 million visitors made up by overnight leisure travelers and day trips. Visitors to Colorado spent $14.6 billion in 2010, an 8.4 percent increase over 2009. The tourism industry supports nearly 137,000 jobs and generates $750 million in local and state tax revenues, saving every Colorado household $395 in taxes they would have otherwise paid to maintain the same services.

In addition to discussing tourism efforts, the governors will view the world-renowned migration of the sandhill cranes, a significant eco-tourism attraction in Nebraska.

This sounds absolutely thrilling. Talk about the perks of being Governor, eh?

We can understand discussing eco-tourism in Colorado, but we’d imagine the discussion starts to slow down once Nebraska and Kansas start talking. After all, only so many people will be interested in taking the family to Prairie Dog Town.

Honey Badger For Governor Would…

UPDATE: Note, Gessler told Lynn Bartels that he would consider running only if John Hickenlooper doesn’t run in 2014. We stand corrected, and we’d say that’s a wise caveat.

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Well go on, gentle reader, finish the sentence! A Scott Gessler campaign for Governor in 2014 would…what do you think that would mean, folks?

After all, our friend Lynn Bartels of the Denver paper is speculating about the possibility today, and when the newspaper of record speculates about something like this, you’re more or less obligated as a member of the chattering class to go along for the speculative ride.

While a potential Gessler candidacy is interesting for speculation, the seriousness of the possibility will say a lot about how Republicans view their chances at defeating Hickenlooper in 2014. If this idea gains any sort of momentum and is not squashed by Republican Party leaders, then they are all but admitting that Hickenlooper is unbeatable (because there is zero chance of Gessler defeating him). Of course, given all of the damage that Gessler has done to the Republican Party in just two years as SOS, perhaps the GOP is more than willing to give up on the Governor’s Mansion for a cycle just to get rid of Gessler.

See our poll after the jump to provide your own thoughts.

[poll id=”1432″]

The Colorado Pols Politico of the Year for 2011

We like to spread out our end-of-year retrospectives so that 2012 gets a little reflection time. It is with that in mind that we present the awards for Colorado’s Top Politico (and Worst Politico for 2011, as well a look at who had a good and bad year in the last full year of human existence.

Read on, er, readers…

COLORADO’S TOP POLITICO, 2011: Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs)

For possessing the political and policy chomps to do what made sense while most of his Republican colleagues cowered indecisively in fear of the Tea Party, Rep. Massey is our Colorado Politician of the Year for 2011.

The Poncha Springs Republican took on a stronger leadership role in 2011 and almost singlehandedly helped salvage whatever is left of the GOP “brand” in the state legislature. As Chair of the House Education Committee, Massey received bipartisan kudos for his efforts to protect $67 million for public education while other Republican figureheads blathered on uselessly about how much they cared about our schools. Massey correctly understands the difference between what you believe and what you can reasonably accomplish,  but that doesn’t mean he shies away from voicing his opinion; he told the Pueblo Chieftain that funding education should be a priority over preserving the Senior Homestead Extension, a refreshingly blunt position compared to colleagues who complain about everything but make decisions about nothing.  

Massey’s moderate conservatism likely hasn’t endeared him to right-wing Republicans, but much like former Republican Rep. Don Marostica, Massey legitimately seems interested in legislating as opposed to just tossing grenades from January through May. If Republicans had more elected officials like Massey, they’d be much better positioned to win future statewide races than they are today.

Honorable Mention: House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver). When Rep. Sal Pace stepped down as the Democrats’ leader in November in order to focus on his Congressional run, Ferrandino was unanimously elected as the new House Minority Leader. If Democrats can re-take the House in 2012 – a distinct possibility given favorable reapportionment numbers – Ferrandino will likely become Colorado’s first openly gay Speaker of the House.

COLORADO’S WORST POLITICO, 2011: Secretary of State Scott Gessler

It’s quite possible that this “award” could end up being permanently named for Gessler, who isn’t likely to be much less of a disaster in 2012 than he was in 2011. Gessler has been WTF-awful since he was first elected in November 2010, using what has historically been a benign position to cause all sorts of unnecessary problems all across the state. Just how has Gessler erred? Let us count the ways:

  • Unilaterally (and illegally) attempting to change a variety of campaign finance rules. Nonpartisan officials wasted little time rejected Gessler’s efforts, and the Colorado legislature will have to clean up his mess in January.

  • Telling Congress and anyone else who would listen that Colorado has a huge problem with illegal immigrants casting ballots, despite literally no evidence to support his claims. Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, a Republican, notable asked what the hell Gessler was talking about. Gessler later claimed that his charges were not intended to be factual, despite, you know, telling Congress all about it.

  • Making wildly-irresponsible claims of voter fraud that he still has yet to back up. On the few times he has been directly challenged on his assertions, Gessler just shrugs and says things like “I don’t know, it might be fraud. http://www.coloradopols.com/sh…

  • Gessler sued the City of Denver in a blatant attempt to reduce voter turnout because he didn’t like so many mail ballots being delivered. Pueblo County eventually joined the lawsuit on behalf of Denver (Pueblo County’s Attorney said that Gessler’s interpretation of the law was just “plain wrong”) and numerous other counties ignored Gessler’s declarations in favor of actually trying to encourage Democracy.

  • Infamously agreeing to take part in a fundraiser for the Larimer County Republican Party to help them pay off debts incurred for campaign finance violations that are the purview of the Secretary of State’s office. Gessler’s help included agreeing to sit in a dunk tank, a plan that organizers eventually abandoned after a slew of negative press. What made this ethical lapse even more disgusting was that Gessler had earlier decided to ignore what could (and should) have been hundreds  of thousands of dollars in fines incurred by the Larimer GOP in 2010.

  • Lobbying the Colorado legislature to give him authority to purge the Colorado voter rolls as he sees fit. Legislators told him to get bent.

  • Publicly stating that he is in office to further the conservative viewpoint, which came as news to voters who thought they had elected him to oversee elections and business filings in Colorado.

  • Whining that his new job as Secretary of State didn’t pay enough ($68,500?) and asking if he could moonlight for his old law firm. Even fellow Republican Attorney General John Suthers couldn’t figure out a way that Gessler could possibly justify a clearly conflicting second job.

    Dishonorable Mention: Speaker of the House Frank McNulty. Whether it was helping to completely bungle reapportionment for Republicans or doing little to fulfill Tea Party promises, McNulty proved incapable of leading the GOP caucus in the State House. His problems with The Homestead Exemption and public school funding are a prime example of how he’s stuck between reality and rabid conservatism with no game plan for finding a way out in 2012. McNulty will have a hard time keeping his one-seat majority in the House, and even if he does, he can probably expect a challenge for the Speaker’s role.

    2011 WAS A GOOD YEAR FOR…

  • Democratic election law attorneys. Democrats ran embarrassing circles around Republicans at every step of the reapportionment and redistricting process. The GOP legal strategy of relying on an argument of “minimal disruption” was incredibly foolish, sure, but the Democrats did an excellent job of keeping Republicans stuck in their logic corner. Both reapportionment and redistricting created advantages for Democrats overall, which will be incredibly important over the next 10 years.
  • Republican Congressman Cory Gardner. The freshman congressman had his bumps in 2011 (such as his ill-explained support of the Ryan Plan), but the year couldn’t have ended much better for Gardner. While redistricting made re-election tougher for fellow Republicans Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton, adjustments to the boundaries of CD-4 did nothing to prevent Gardner from what should be a relatively easy re-election in 2012.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper. While Democrats have been less than thrilled with Hickenlooper’s first year as CEO of Colorado, he finished 2011 as the most popular governor in the country and was getting national press as a potential Presidential candidate in 2016. His term as governor won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, but the former Denver Mayor had a pretty stress-free 2011.
  • 2011 WAS A TERRIBLE YEAR FOR…

  • Republican Congressman Mike Coffman. His congressional district lines moved so much that they are now as unrecognizable as a botched plastic surgery patient. Coffman went from representing a safe Republican seat in 2010 to what will be one of the most competitive races in the country in 2012. That would be enough to make 2011 a bad year for any politician, but Coffman had numerous other problems that will only be exacerbated by his new district makeup. He may have said more controversial (and unnecessarily-so) statements in 2011 than any other Colorado politico, from calling Social Security “A Ponzi Scheme” and famously criticizing the Peace Corps to his weird efforts to repeal parts of the Voting Rights Act and his ideas for essentially destroying Medicare. Coffman alienated so many different constituencies in 2011 that perhaps he’s almost (almost) better off with an entirely new set of voters.

    And lest we forget, the icing on the cake for Coffman’s 2011: He agreed to become Colorado Chair of the Presidential campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, making the announcement right as Perry’s campaign was cratering.

  • Incumbent legislators. The Holidays were a mixed bag for a dozen incumbent legislators who were drawn into districts with fellow incumbents of the same party, leaving them with the choice of a difficult primary or walking away from their seat altogether. Many legislators chose the latter, but there will be a couple of heated battles in 2012 as a result of reapportionment.
  • Rich Coolidge, Spokesman for Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Coolidge held on to his job in the SOS office after also serving under Democrat Bernie Buescher. We used to think well of Coolidge, who was helpful and humorous during the 2010 election season, but in 2011 he tossed all credibility out the window. He flat out refuses to respond to critics, no doubt at the wishes of his boss; while this may help him keep his current job, it won’t do much to help his future employment opportunities.
  • Brian Boatright, You’re the Next Contest on the Colo. Supreme Court!

    Governor John Hickenlooper announced today that he has appointed Brian Boatright to succeed retiring Colorado Supreme Court Justice Alex Martinez.

    Full press release after the jump.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today his appointment of Judge Brian Boatright to the Colorado Supreme Court. Boatright will replace Justice Alex Martinez, who is retiring Oct. 31 after 14 years on the bench.

    “Brian Boatright has a great capacity to listen and evaluate the implications of his decisions,” Hickenlooper said. “He is a seasoned trial judge whose ability to collaborate and find consensus is built on a fundamental understanding of law. We commend him for his public service in the courtroom and for his involvement in the community. Brian will make an outstanding member of the Colorado Supreme Court.”

    Boatright, 49, is the 102nd person in the state’s history to be appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

    He has been a District Court Judge in the 1st Judicial District (Jefferson and Gilpin counties) since 1999. Boatright has dedicated much of his time on the bench presiding over juvenile matters and was voted Colorado CASA Judicial Officer of the Year in 2011.

    Boatright also served as a Deputy District Attorney for the 1st Judicial District (1990-1999).  He earlier was an associate attorney at Boatright and Ripp. Boatright earned a bachelor’s degree from Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., and a law degree from the University of Denver. He and his wife have two children and live in Arvada.

    Boatright will serve a provisional term of two years. If retained by voters, he will then serve a 10-year term.

    Colorado Supreme Court: The Final Three

    The top three candidates for the vacancy on the Colorado Supreme Court have been submitted to Gov. John Hickenlooper. From a press release out of the Governor’s office yesterday:

    Gov. John Hickenlooper today received the names of three finalists to choose from to fill the vacancy on the Colorado Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Nominating Commission selected the candidates for a vacancy created by the retirement of the Hon. Alex J. Martinez.

    The nominees are Brian D. Boatright of Arvada, Frederick T. Martinez of Castle Pines and Patrick T. O’Rourke of Highlands Ranch.

    Under the Colorado Constitution, the governor now has 15 days (until Oct. 28) to appoint one of the nominees as a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court.

    The full release is after the jump.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper today received the names of three finalists to choose from to fill the vacancy on the Colorado Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Nominating Commission selected the candidates for a vacancy created by the retirement of the Hon. Alex J. Martinez.

    The nominees are Brian D. Boatright of Arvada, Frederick T. Martinez of Castle Pines and Patrick T. O’Rourke of Highlands Ranch.

    Under the Colorado Constitution, the governor now has 15 days (until Oct. 28) to appoint one of the nominees as a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court. The governor will interview each candidate on Friday, Oct. 21, and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia will interview each candidate on Monday, Oct. 24.

    In the weeks leading up to receiving the nominees today, Hickenlooper has met with each sitting Supreme Court Justice to discuss qualifications to look for in a new justice. Hickenlooper also met with representatives from the following business groups: Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry; Colorado Civil Justice League; Colorado Concern; Colorado Medical Society; COPIC; Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce; and the National Federation of Independent Business.

    Additionally, he met with representatives from the Colorado Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Bar Association; Colorado Sam Cary Bar Association; Colorado Indian Bar Association; Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado; Colorado Women’s Bar Association; Colorado Hispanic Bar Association; and the Center for Legal Inclusiveness.

    Comments, recommendations and referrals regarding any of the nominees are being accepted and may be sent via e-mail to the governor at judicial.appointments@state.co.us.

    Sen. Greg Brophy Wants Those Hippies Gone

    FRIDAY UPDATE 6:30AM: After an apparent standoff most of the night, police moved in after 6AM and are, as of this writing, clearing out tents and other structures from Lincoln Park. Media reports upwards of 1,000 protesters overnight.

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    UPDATE #3 10:45PM: Police appear to be preparing to enforce the order that protesters not camp in the area surrounding the Veteran’s Memorial. A sizable crowd has formed in the park.

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    UPDATE #2: 9NEWS reports:


    [I]n a statement Thursday morning, Governor Hickenlooper clearly stated that the protesters have until Thursday night to pack their bags and leave. He claims that although he agrees that these protesters have a right to speak their mind – their camping out overnight could be dangerous to the public.

    Mark Silverstein, the ACLU legal director, felt that the posting of tents could be a “symbolic speech that’s protected by the First Amendment.”

    “I’m not saying they have a legal right in court to keep those tents there,” Silverstein went on to say. “We’d ask the question: Is there a way the government can accommodate the expression without having to shut it down, without having to clear people out of the park?”

    —–

    UPDATE: In a tense press conference a few minutes ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Attorney General John Suthers say (again) that protesters can’t camp where they are, specifying an 11PM-5AM period when they are not permitted to occupy the park. No word on any specific enforcement planned, but Occupy Denver protesters are interpreting Hickenlooper’s remarks as an imminent threat–and calling for backup.

    Developing…

    FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

    With more than 100 people now camped out in Civic Center Park between Lincoln and Broadway, about 60 yards from Hickenlooper’s office, Sen. Greg Brophy issued a statement Thursday morning calling on the governor to take action.

    “All of Colorado is watching and the Governor has already set a dangerous precedent by allowing this to happen,” said Brophy, R-Wray…

    Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock aren’t certain what to do about the growing tent city of protesters even after meetings on Wednesday, after which they released a joint statement.

    “The Occupy Denver protesters are on State property. The State and City are working together to find a solution that balances Occupy Denver’s First Amendment rights with growing concerns around public safety and public health in violation of city ordinance and state law.”

    …Arresting all the protesters on misdemeanors and expecting them to be jailed is unrealistic, leaving Hickenlooper to joke Tuesday that the best solution may just be waiting for the weather to get colder.

    For one thing, supporters of the Occupy Denver encampment–far more than ever appear on the site of the protest at any given time–are all linked by social networking technology. Part of the “unrealistic” nature of forcibly dismantling their encampment is the likelihood that thousands of people would instantly descend on it the moment police began preparations to do so. And yes, if the mass arrest of 100 people is something authorities feel uprepared to carry out, the arrest of several thousand is pretty much out of the question.

    We are kind of wondering, though, what Sen. Greg Brophy, notable gun-toting mountain biking GOP tough guy, thinks the mass arrest and forcible dismantling of Occupy Denver would look like. And whether he’d really like to take responsibility for such a thing.

    President Hickenlooper ’16? Don’t Rule It Out, But…

    As Politico’s Reid Epstein reports, popular Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado sees his own hurdles to a run for President in 2016–and frankly, we see them too:

    Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who founded a brewpub and was twice elected Denver’s mayor, cruised to victory in 2010 in a three-way race against a fractured state Republican Party. He registered a 54 percent approval rating in a Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month, a whopping 30 percentage points higher than his 24 percent disapproval…

    “You never say never, but it’s hard to imagine,” Hickenlooper told POLITICO in an interview in his state Capitol office here. “What we’re trying to do here necessarily, I think, is going to irritate and I think in some ways divide some of the strongest constituencies that are going to be making those decisions.”

    Hickenlooper’s best path to national office in 2016 would come in a Democratic Party looking for a centrist leader in the mold of President Bill Clinton, said University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin.

    “Under many circumstances, Hickenlooper would represent a Democrat with crossover appeal who can win in swing states,” Franklin said.

    There’s no question that Gov. Hickenlooper’s broad popularity and moderate appeal place him on a hypothetical–very hypothetical over five years out–short list of viable Democratic candidates for President in the 2016 elections. But Hickenlooper makes perfectly clear in this interview that positions he holds on hot-button issues like “fracking” in oil and gas production could spell real trouble for himself in a Democratic primary. Hickenlooper talks about Colorado as a “model” in education, health care, and transportation; but most would agree that this is expressing, to put it charitably, an aspirational goal less than a year into his term.

    Bottom line: Hickenlooper has the potential to be a great candidate for President, and his centrist liabilities in a Democratic primary could easily become powerful general election assets. It’s true that the recent trend towards more strident ideology on both sides of the aisle represents a challenge for moderates like Hickenlooper. But we’re inclined to accept the argument that, as of now, Democratic primary candidates are subject to less rigid ideological litmus tests in general than Republican candidates.

    Perhaps the bigger obstacle to a Hickenlooper candidacy is that another well-known Coloradan is likely to at least kick the tires on a Presidential run in 2016 — and they can’t both become serious candidates. It’s a quiet, but open secret that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar wants a shot at the Presidency himself in 2016, and he and Hickenlooper — who are friends, by most accounts — would probably have to decide quietly which one of them will take the stage and which one will stay behind. If Hispanic voting trends continue to rise, Salazar may have the better argument by then.

    A lot can change in the next 4-5 years. Let’s revisit this in 2015 — by then it will either be a serious discussion, or not.

    Who Wants to Be a Colorado Supreme Court Justice?

    Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced today that Colorado Supreme Court Justice Alex Martinez has accepted the position of Manager of Safety for the City and County of Denver. That’s good news for the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, which finally has something to do.

    Martinez has served on the Colorado Supreme Court since being appointed by then-Gov. Roy Romer in 1996; he is the second-longest serving member of the bench, behind only Justice Gregory Hobbs in seniority. Martinez has not officially resigned from the Supreme Court, but once he does, The Supreme Court Nomination Commission will have 30 days to come up with three nominees for the bench to submit to Gov. John Hickenlooper…who then has 15 days to pick a new Justice.

    Full press releases from Hancock and Hickenlooper after the jump.

    From Denver Mayor Michael Hancock:

    Mayor Hancock Announces Appointment of Manager of Safety

    DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced today that Colorado Supreme Court Justice Alex J. Martinez is stepping away from the state’s highest court to serve as the Manager of Safety for the City and County of Denver.

    “The Manager of Safety is one of the most important positions in my Cabinet, particularly at a time when we must restore public trust and confidence in Denver’s safety agencies,” Mayor Hancock said. “Justice Martinez brings the highest level of integrity, a deep commitment to fairness and justice, and a well-earned level of respect from the legal and public-safety communities. I am grateful he has agreed to serve the citizens of Denver in this capacity.”

    The Manager of Safety provides civilian oversight of the Police, Fire and Sheriff’s departments. Justice Martinez’s appointment will be effective Nov. 1.  Interim Safety Manager Ashley Kilroy will continue to serve in this capacity until Justice Martinez assumes his new role. At that time, Kilroy will become Deputy Manager of Safety.

    During this time of transition, Martinez will assist in the search for a new police chief for the City.

    “I am thankful to Mayor Hancock for this opportunity and for his understanding to make the transition in a way that minimizes the impact on the Colorado Supreme Court,” Justice Martinez said. “For over 25 years, I have worked to ensure the rightful application of the law and a high-level of safety for the people of Colorado, and I look forward to continuing my work within this new and challenging position.”

    Mayor Hancock said Justice Martinez will provide strong leadership within the community, building trust and strengthening communications and relationships between city government and Denver’s diverse communities.

    Among Justice Martinez’s highest priorities will be to ensure swift and fair discipline, and to maintain the consistent application of professional standards, integrity and codes of conduct.

    Justice Martinez was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court in 1996 by then-Gov. Roy Romer and was retained by voters in 2000 and 2010.

    “Having served 14 years on the bench with Justice Martinez, I wholeheartedly support him in his new endeavor,” Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael L. Bender said. “Justice Martinez has made enormous contributions to the operation of Colorado’s courts and its jurisprudence. With that, and his long record of service to the state, he will be greatly missed, but I have no doubt he will excel in this position.”

    Justice Martinez has been recognized by the Colorado Freedom of Information Council for his efforts to maximize public access to records of the courts, supporting a balance between the public’s interest in access to information and an individual’s privacy interests.

    Justice Martinez began his career as a Deputy State Public Defender. In 1983, then-Gov. Richard Lamm appointed Martinez to the Pueblo County Court bench. Five years later he was appointed the District Court for the Tenth Judicial District by then-Gov. Roy Romer.

    Serving within the Colorado judicial system for 28 years, Justice Martinez is renowned for being fair and balanced. He has built a reputation of approaching all cases impartially and taking into consideration every aspect of every case.

    Justice Martinez has also been a community leader, receiving such accolades as the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and the William Lee Knous Award, the highest award of the University of Colorado School of Law given for outstanding achievement and sustained service.

    “I am confident Justice Martinez will carry on his reputation of bringing an independent approach to his work,” Mayor Hancock said. “He will be a key asset as we strive to rebuild and restore the trust between our residents and our departments of safety.”

    From Gov. John Hickenlooper:

    DENVER ­- Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011 – Gov. John Hickenlooper today released this statement about Justice Alex Martinez deciding to leave the Colorado Supreme Court to become Manager of Safety for the City of Denver:

    “Justice Martinez has served Colorado with great integrity and distinction. We wish him equal amounts of success in his new role at the City of Denver.”

    The Supreme Court Nominating Commission will have 30 days to solicit applicants and screen candidates to replace Martinez once he formally resigns from the bench in the coming weeks. The Commission will then send the names of three nominees to the governor for consideration. The governor will then have 15 days to name a new justice from candidates selected by the nominating commission.

    ###

    About the Supreme Court Nominating Commission

    The Supreme Court Nominating Commission recommends candidates to serve as judges for the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The chief justice of the Supreme Court chairs the commission and is a non-voting member. This commission includes one citizen admitted to practice law in Colorado and one citizen not admitted to practice law residing in each of the state’s seven congressional districts, and one additional citizen not admitted to practice law in Colorado.

    Maybe Mike Coffman Doesn’t Want to Get Elected Statewide

    Republican Rep. Mike Coffman is putting forth legislation to repeal a section of the 1973 Voting Rights Act that allows districts with high percentages of non-English speakers to print ballots in different languages. From Talking Points Memo:

    Coffman said Wednesday that his legislation would repeal Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states or districts to provide bilingual voting materials if more than 10,000 or more than 5% of voters “are members of a single language minority and are limited-English proficient,” or if the illiteracy of members of the language minority is higher than the national average.

    “Among other factors,” Section 203 says, “the denial of the right to vote of such minority group citizens is ordinarily directly related to the unequal educational opportunities afforded them resulting in high illiteracy and low voting participation.”

    As Polster VanDammer points out, Coffman has signed on to most major “anti immigrant” bills offered in Congress in the last year. While this would make sense for a conservative, Tea Party-loving Congressman, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for someone with statewide aspirations.

    Coffman has made no secret of the fact that he wants to run against Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, but he’s going to have a hard time winning a statewide race by going out of his way to antagonize Hispanic voters, which he is doing with bills like repealing part of the Voting Rights Act. There’s a reason why Texas Governor, and now Presidential candidate Rick Perry has been supportive of issues like in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants — he knew he needed support from Hispanic voters in Texas.

    In the 2010 Senate race in Colorado, 81% of Hispanic voters selected Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet over Republican Ken Buck; if Buck had received just 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, he would be in the Senate today. Take a look at what Mike Melanson, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s campaign manager, had to say about the Hispanic vote last November. From Colorado Independent:

    He said the Hickenlooper campaign saw an uptick in early voting among Hispanics this year – the first time he had seen that in a non-presidential year. He said Hispanic voters are a very strong element in Colorado and that it was a mistake by Republicans to focus on immigration in a negative way.

    Either Mike Coffman wasn’t paying attention in 2010, or he just doesn’t really want to win a statewide race. But if he continues down this path of casting himself as a hardliner on immigration, there’s no way he’s going to defeat Udall in 2014. Hispanics accounted for 12% of all Colorado voters in 2010, and that number is only going to increase in the next four years. The numbers don’t lie — you just cannot win an election if you immediately lose the support of 10-15 percent of the electorate.

    Wham! Hickenlooper Sacks Gaming Commission Over Casino Tax Cut

    UPDATE: Reports FOX 31’s Eli Stokols, who do you suppose might take issue with this decision on behalf of the casino industry? Why, GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty, naturally!

    Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, among others in his caucus, were dismayed by the governor’s decision.

    “Gov. Hickenlooper certainly didn’t consult us before making this sweeping and arbitrary use of power,” McNulty said to FOX 31 Denver.

    “Whomever is on the commission, they need to realize that families, small businesses and entire communities rely on the jobs and revenue that the gaming industry creates. If the governor’s new appointees do an about-face on these employers, families and communities will suffer.”

    So, who “suffers” if the casinos pay the same taxes they paid before this arbitrary decision to cut them? We know who won’t be “suffering” more, and that’s our community colleges–most voters care more a bit more about the health of colleges than casinos.

    If this does turn into a political battle between Hickenlooper and the GOP, the GOP will lose. And Hickenlooper knows it. As for McNulty’s whiny “he didn’t consult us” statement–why would Hickenlooper seek McNulty’s opinion here? Coloradans elected Hickenlooper as their governor–not Tom Tancredo, and certainly not Frank McNulty–and these are the types of decisions a governor makes. Hickenlooper is under no obligation, not even as a courtesy, to put in a call to anybody at the state legislature before making a decision like this.

    —–

    We spoke a few weeks ago about a vote by the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission to cut taxes paid by the casino industry–a decision made on the pretense of “tough economic times,” but which stoked outrage from many over the preferential treatment for the industry only two years after Colorado voters approved much higher bet limits to increase revenue. Beneficiaries of these gaming funds like the Colorado Community College System cried betrayal: stakeholders didn’t join with casinos to pass Amendment 50 in 2008 only to have the industry turn around and ask for a tax cut. The appearances here were straight-up awful.

    As the Denver Business Journal reports today, this vote to cut casino taxes was a bridge too far for a commission that serves at the pleasure of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who creditably understood the terrible political folly taking place where commission members did not.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper replaced all five members of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission with new appointees on Wednesday.

    The commission decides on regulations for casinos in Colorado, which are allowed to operate in three mountain towns.

    The shakeup comes about seven weeks after its previous members decided to lower taxes paid by casinos. Hickenlooper disagreed with that decision.

    In his statement today, Gov. Hickenlooper makes it unusually clear that this ill-advised vote to cut casino taxes in the middle of a fiscal crisis is the reason why the commission was ousted:

    Each of the appointees will be new to the Commission. One current member reached the end of a second four-year term and was not eligible for reappointment; one member reached the end of a four-year term and did not reapply for a second term; and three members were asked by the governor to step down…

    “We don’t believe the Colorado gaming industry should be judged reasonably unprofitable or unhealthy at a time when some casinos are making major multi-million dollar investments in one of the worst economic periods in our nation’s history,” Hickenlooper said. “Gaming should be subject to the same risks and rewards of operating and expanding as other industries that don’t have the same ability to change their tax rate based on market conditions. Colorado casinos pay among the lowest tax rates in America, and to lower them even further in these times of unmet needs in local communities makes it appear they are diverting their fair and rightful obligation onto their neighbors in the rest of the state.”

    Any way you look at this: fairness, corporate honesty, or just plain realism in approaching our state’s complicated fiscal problems, the decision by the LGCC to cut casino taxes in the middle of a budget shortfall was a horrible move for everyone involved. We didn’t believe anything could be done about this bad decision except complain and count the losses to education and other priorities; but then John Hickenlooper reminded everyone who is governor of this state.

    We know a lot of people who will be very happy to see that.

    Wadhams Named Chief Political Advisor to Hickenlooper

    Former State Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams wasn’t unemployed for long. According to a stunning press release sent out this morning, Wadhams has been named Deputy Political Advisor to Governor John Hickenlooper. A press conference has been scheduled for this afternoon, but as the release explains:

    The office of Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced that former Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams has been appointed as Deputy Political Advisor to the Governor.

    “The Governor feels strongly about his bipartisan credentials,” said Alan Salazar, the Governor’s chief policy and political director. “There’s no better way to show that you don’t favor one political party over the other than to hire someone who is truly disliked by both political parties.”

    Earlier this year Wadhams announced that he would not run for re-election to a third term as State Republican Party Chair. Last Saturday he was formally replaced when Republicans elected Ryan Call to become their new Party Chair.

    “I think the Governor was concerned that too many people looked at him as a Democrat,” said Wadhams. “He’s not a Republican by any means, but my job is about making sure that nobody ever really understands which political party the Governor favors. The Governor has already done a good job of making that unclear, and I’m confident that I can continue to keep those waters murky.”

    More after the jump…

    April Fool’s, Polsters!

    Where Has That Skydiving Hero Gone?

    The AP reports today via the Durango Herald:

    Colorado’s state constitution is confusing and easy to change. New Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper says efforts to revise the state constitution are “a huge issue” – but Hickenlooper isn’t ready to say what he thinks should be done.

    The governor talked about Colorado’s muddy state constitution in a lunch talk Thursday with newspaper editors and publishers. Hickenlooper was asked about proposals from lawmakers in both parties to address confusing language in the state constitution, or at least change how easily the document itself can be changed.

    “I think that those conflicting elements in the constitution are a huge issue. But I’m not sure I want to come out and say, ‘Alright, here’s my plan to solve it.’ Because as soon as I do that, I begin to color the conversation,” Hickenlooper said. [Pols emphasis]

    What we’re talking about here, of course, are the interlocking fiscal mandates and revenue restrictions that have made it virtually impossible for the state legislature to deal with the past decade of declining revenues and economic recession. The last attempt to alleviate some of these restrictions, 2005’s Referendum C, was a stopgap measure that nevertheless divided the Republican Party to the present day–and, though enormously helpful, did not achieve all of its goals, due principally to the second recession of the 2000s that hit not long after.

    All of this has gained new urgency this week after Gov. John Hickenlooper announced proposed cuts to the budget for the coming fiscal year. The latest cuts come after the state has been wrestling around the margins with small-scale revenue fixes, and mostly painful cuts, for several years: there’s nothing left except the things that everyone will feel pain from cutting now. Due to the aforementioned limitations on the legislature’s ability to raise revenue, that means K-12 education will take an “unsustainable” hit next year of over $500 per student. These latest cuts will relegate Colorado even closer to the bottom of public education funding rankings across America.

    As you can read in news reports around the state today, there is a lot of anger being directed at Hickenlooper over these proposed cuts. Some of this anger has its origins, we believe, in a lack of understanding about what the constitutional restrictions on Colorado’s budget actually mean–Hickenlooper had very little else to turn to other than education to make these cuts, and outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter warned that the next fiscal year would bring challenges greater than he had ever faced. Hickenlooper is making devastating cuts to education not because he wants to, but because he really doesn’t have much choice.

    But there’s something else driving dismay at Hickenlooper, and here’s where there may be a legitimate issue. As the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute has said in the last few weeks, and key legislators like Sen. Rollie Heath have now taken up the call, there is really only one way out of this dire situation: a ballot initiative, or set of initiatives, that would either sweep away restrictions imposed on the budget process in recent decades, or at least revamp Colorado’s tax structure to allow minimum needs to meet available resources.

    Hickenlooper’s answer to this plea has not changed since the campaign trail. “There’s no appetite for it,” he says. But was there really an ‘appetite’ for Referendum C in 2005, that is until Republican Gov. Bill Owens joined then-Denver Mayor Hickenlooper and sold it? The wonderful TV spots that Hickenlooper did in support of Referendum C, like the skydiving spot above–were those not vitally necessary in building support for Referendum C?

    More than that, say some we’ve talked to, isn’t Hickenlooper’s ability to persuade and motivate the voters of Colorado to take the steps needed, as they were in 2005…why he is Governor? “Coloring the conversation” is the whole point of the job.

    Hickenlooper Picks Al White to Head Tourism Office

    According to a press release from the office of Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper (full release after the jump):

    Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper announced today Sen. Al White will be Director of the Colorado Tourism Office and Joan Henneberry will be the Healthcare Exchange Planning Grant Project Director.

    White is a businessman from Winter Park who served eight years in the Colorado House of Representatives before he was elected to the Colorado Senate two years ago. He has a long history of promoting tourism in Colorado, creating jobs as a small-business owner and working collaboratively with all levels of government.

    “Tourism can be a catalyst for economic development throughout Colorado,” White said. “Our beautiful state has the perfect climate for family and business. We want people to visit every corner of Colorado and decide to stay for a lifetime.”

    White has earned a reputation among conservative Republicans as one of those mythical “RINOs” (Republican In Name Only) thanks to his sins of not always toeing the Party line and daring to think for himself. It’s no surprise that White might want to step aside from the GOP hardliners; in fact, White’s situation is reminiscent of that of former Republican Rep. Don Marostica, both former Joint Budget Committee (JBC) members who drew the ire of GOP bosses for being overly reasonable in budget discussions. Republican leadership recently voted against re-nominating White to the JBC, similar to threats made against Marostica in 2008. Marostica accepted an appointment from Gov. Bill Ritter as State Director of Economic Development not long after being bashed by fellow Republicans for having the “temerity” to say that Colorado really did have economic problems that couldn’t be solved merely by repeating rhetoric about cutting taxes and spending.  

    White was first elected to the State House in 2000 and was elected to the Senate in 2008; he’ll resign his position in the coming weeks, setting up a vacancy committee in Senate District 8 (which encompasses Craig, Steamboat Springs and Gypsum, among other towns).

    Republican Rep. Randy Baumgardner (HD-57), whose House District makes up a large chunk of SD-8, would seem to be the logical choice to move up — potentially creating another vacancy committee in his current House district (Note that Baumgardner may not live in the Senate District; h/t to Ralphie on this one). POLS UPDATE: Baumgardner’s voter registration lists him in SD-16, which would make him ineligible to seek a vacancy committee appointment in this case. The two House Districts inside SD-8, HD-56 and HD-61, are both currently held by Democrats, which means that White’s successor will not likely be a current legislator.

    Whomever Republicans ultimately choose to replace White, the Party will not be better off in his absence. Continually running off Republicans who are fiscally responsible, and not just blindly conservative does not help their cause in a state that has long favored moderate politicians.  

    DENVER – Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 – Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper announced today Sen. Al White will be Director of the Colorado Tourism Office and Joan Henneberry will be the Healthcare Exchange Planning Grant Project Director.

    White is a businessman from Winter Park who served eight years in the Colorado House of Representatives before he was elected to the Colorado Senate two years ago. He has a long history of promoting tourism in Colorado, creating jobs as a small-business owner and working collaboratively with all levels of government.

    “Tourism can be a catalyst for economic development throughout Colorado,” White said. “Our beautiful state has the perfect climate for family and business. We want people to visit every corner of Colorado and decide to stay for a lifetime.”

    Henneberry is now executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and responsible for managing public health insurance programs including Medicaid and CHP+.  She will stay in her current role until a replacement is named.

    “Colorado is well positioned to implement federal health care reform that meets the needs of families throughout the state,” Henneberry said. “We are committed to working with consumers and businesses to effectively and efficiently provide health care services that are both affordable and accountable.”

    In her new role, Henneberry will be responsible for continuing the planning phase for a health insurance exchange in Colorado as called for in the Affordable Care Act. This will involve setting up work groups and committees; working with the health reform director and implementation board;  working to assess through economic modeling and analysis if Colorado can sustain a state exchange; and continuing to engage stakeholders, especially consumers and small businesses, to ensure that the Colorado exchange enables them to purchase valuable, affordable health insurance.

    Henneberry joined Gov. Bill Ritter’s cabinet as executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing in 2007. She previously worked in the private sector after spending seven years at the National Governors Association, providing consultation to states on health care services and financing, cost containment and emerging policy issues. She spent 13 years at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, chairs the board of the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, and serves on the Executive Committee for the National Academy for State Health Policy.

    Henneberry earned a master’s degree in management and completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government in 2008. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

    White was first elected in 2000 as State Representative for House District 57, representing Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties. He served four terms and during his tenure served as Assistant Majority Leader and Vice Chair of the Business Affairs and Labor committee. He was a member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the Education Committee, the Water Resources Review Committee and the Legislative Audit committee. White was the House appointee to the Colorado Tourism Office board for 10 years and was instrumental in securing funding for tourism promotion in Colorado.

    White was elected to the Colorado Senate in 2008, representing District 8 (Eagle, Garfield, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties). He currently serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and he served on the Joint Budget Committee for four years.

    White was honorably discharged from the Army and relocated 35 years ago to Colorado, where he attended the University of Colorado. He then moved to Winter Park and began a career as an entrepreneur in the ski business. Through hard work, and the community’s support, Al and his wife, Jean, spent 25 years as owners and operators of several full-service ski shops, a bike shop and a mountain lodge.

    As an active member of the business community, White served on several bank boards, was the Chairman of the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District, Secretary of the Grand County Water and Sanitation board, and Vice Chair of the Winter Park Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce.

    White will resign his Senate seat in the coming weeks; a date has not been set. A vacancy committee will name his replacement.

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    About the Colorado Tourism Office

    The Colorado Tourism Office was created by the legislature July 1, 2000, to promote Colorado as a tourism and travel destination. The CTO replaced the Colorado Tourism Board and the Colorado Travel and Tourism Authority. The office is governed by a board of directors consisting of 15 members, including four legislators and 11 members appointed by the Governor and representing various tourism and travel industry segments. Administrative oversight is provided by the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

    About Health Care Reform

    Under the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states have critical responsibilities for implementation of new federal policies. One critical area for planning is the development of exchanges, or virtual marketplaces, where thousands of currently uninsured Coloradans will seek information to select and purchase health insurance. Many of these individuals and families will be eligible for federal subsidies to help them pay their insurance premiums. Click here for more information.

    Hickenlooper Picks Ken Lund as Chief Legal Counsel

    Full press release after the jump, but here’s the meat:

    Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper announced today Ken Lund will be his Chief Legal Counsel.

    Lund is now the firmwide Managing Partner of Holme Roberts & Owen in Denver and is responsible for the articulation, development and implementation of the law firm’s client service and engagement strategy. Under Lund’s leadership, ColoradoBiz magazine named Holme Roberts & Owen the 2009 Top Colorado Company in the legal category for sustained financial excellence, community involvement and operational excellence.

    The Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel has often played a bigger political role than the job title and description suggests. Trey Rogers, who served as Governor Bill Ritter’s Chief Legal Counsel (before leaving earlier this year), was known to have Ritter’s ear on a variety of political decisions. Whether Ken Lund will be as influential in Hickenlooper’s office will be of great interest to folks in the Capitol in the coming months.

    Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper announced today Ken Lund will be his Chief Legal Counsel.

    Lund is now the firmwide Managing Partner of Holme Roberts & Owen in Denver and is responsible for the articulation, development and implementation of the law firm’s client service and engagement strategy. Under Lund’s leadership, ColoradoBiz magazine named Holme Roberts & Owen the 2009 Top Colorado Company in the legal category for sustained financial excellence, community involvement and operational excellence.

    “I could not be more pleased to accept the position of Chief Legal Counsel,” Lund said. “While leaving a great organization like HRO is bittersweet, the opportunity to work with John Hickenlooper and the team he is building is very compelling.”

    During Lund’s 11 years as Managing Partner at Holme Roberts & Owen, he took a lead role in building and supporting the firm’s growth, including opening new offices in Munich, Dublin, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix. He also spearheaded development of the law firm’s integrated marketing and brand campaign, “Experience Listens. Be Heard.”

    Lund serves on the Board of Directors of the Metro Denver Sports Commission, Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, where he is Secretary. From 2000 to 2004, he was on the Board of Directors of the Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross and previously served on the Dean’s Diversity Council (joint effort of University of Colorado and University of Denver Law Schools).

    Lund is a respected authority in his field and regularly speaks about law firm management, strategic marketing and business development, recruiting and diversity retention, as well as emerging legal industry trends. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and a juris doctorate from the University of Denver.

    He will start work in the Governor’s Office in January.

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    About The Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel

    The Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel provides legal advice to the Governor, his staff and his cabinet. The Office processes judicial applications and handles appointments to the Judicial Nominating, Performance, and Discipline Commissions.