Well-Known Denver Activist Dennis Dougherty Dies


Dennis Dougherty

Dennis Dougherty, a longtime fixture in Denver and Colorado politics, died on Friday after a long battle with cancer. Dougherty was a significant player in fighting for LGBT rights both in Colorado and nationally.

Here's the obituary from the Denver Post:

Dougherty, 70, died after 9 p.m. Friday at Aurora Medical Center of complications from liver cancer, said [Leslie] Herod, a former senior policy adviser in the Ritter administration.

Dougherty was a "super-connector" who moved easily in a variety of circles, whether rubbing elbows with the political elite and business executives or helping homeless youth and training disabled skiers.

He was generous with both his time and money and not the type to take no for an answer, said those who knew him. Although he supported a variety of causes, Dougherty was best known for his work on LGBT issues.


Mark Ferrandino Backs Alec Garnett in HD-2

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, right, is backing Alec Garnett as his successor in HD-2.

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, right, is backing Alec Garnett as his successor in HD-2.

One of the most expensive legislative Primary races in Colorado is in HD-2 (Denver), where three Democrats are running to succeed term-limited House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. The frontrunner in HD-2 is Alec Garnett, the former Executive Director of the Colorado Democratic Party and the son of Boulder District Attorney (and 2010 Attorney General candidate) Stan Garnett, whose $48,000 war chest is more than any State House candidate in Colorado thus far.

Alec Garnett holds a sizable fundraising lead over fellow Democrats Aaron Silverstein and Owen Perkins, each of whom has raised a shade under $12,000, and he has also secured the endorsement of Denver Reps. Dan Pabon, Angela Williams, Beth McCann, Paul Rosenthal, and Sen. Pat Steadman. Today Garnett cemented his frontrunner status with the most important endorsement of the race: Speaker Ferrandino himself. Here's what Ferrandino had to say in an email announcement:



At Least You Didn’t Pay for this Poll

We've received the results of a new poll from Quinnipiac University, and to put it bluntly (pun intended), we learned very little. Quinnipiac is one of our favorite polling outfits in general, but this poll about Colorado Super Bowl parties and marijuana is, well, not particularly informative:

Thinking about their Super Bowl buzz, 6 percent of Colorado adults who plan to watch the game say they will enjoy it with a mix of beer and marijuana while 36 percent plan to stick with tradition and just drink beer, according to a Quinnipiac University poll completed last night and released today.  Another 2 percent plan to go with marijuana only and 56 percent say they will take neither beer nor marijuana. 

Among adults 18 to 49 years old, 3 percent plan to toke up while 43 percent plan to drink beer and 8 percent plan to do both, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.  Among adults 50 to 64 years old 4 percent plan to enjoy both beer and marijuana while 32 percent plan to only drink beer.  Among adults 65 and older, 1 percent plan to try beer and marijuana while 18 percent are keeping it to beer only.

No kidding, huh? You mean most people aren't confessing that they are going to have a big smoke-in for the Super Bowl? Did you ask what percentage are planning on a bring-your-own-heroin party?

But there are some polling results that we found especially interesting — though they have nothing to do with politics:



Scott Martinez Named Denver City Attorney

From a press release late last week out of the Denver Mayor's office:

Mayor Michael B. Hancock today appointed Scott Martinez as City Attorney for the City and County of Denver, a key position responsible for advising and representing the city on a broad range of legal and policy matters. The Mayor also announced the departure of Doug Friednash, Denver’s City Attorney since 2011…

In his capacity as City Attorney, Martinez will provide legal representation to all city officials, agencies, departments, boards and commissions, as well as 200 attorneys and staff.

“I am committed to bring cutting-edge solutions to our evolving legal landscape and honored to assume such an important role,” Martinez said.  “It’s a dream come true to serve as Mayor Hancock’s counsel, and I will defend the city and its people with all that I have.”

Friednash is leaving the City Attorney's office tol join Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck as a shareholder in its Government Relations Group.


Merida Casts Final Votes of Train-Wreck of a Term

Andrea Merida finally takes her leave from DPS

Andrea Merida finally takes her leave from DPS with the same final meeting that she once denied her predecessor.

From Ed News Colorado:

Thursday was the last regular board meeting for board president Mary Seawell, Jeannie Kaplan and Andrea Merida. Kaplan and Merida make up two-thirds of the camp that some call the last stand for traditional comprehensive neighborhood schools. Seawell, more often than not, has supported the district’s accountability-based reform efforts and charter schools.

But on Thursday, the three came together to form what Kaplan called a “weird” bloc of votes when the board considered renewing a contract with the Escuela Tlatelolco, a school founded by Denver civic rights leader Corky Gonzales.

The northwest Denver charter school, which serves students K-12, has ranked as one of the worst schools in the district for three years. According to the Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s own memo: “Escuela’s TCAP growth has consistently fallen short of District expectations by a wide margin. In addition, the School’s performance is below that of its similar school cluster across subjects.”

Merida was the most the vocal and most upset. She said it was a disservice to the Latino community to allow the school to remain open.

The final board meeting for Seawell, Kaplan and Merida was certainly more subdued than Merida's 2009 inauguration, when she kicked off a controversial, and brief, career on the Denver School Board with a strange move; Merida got a court order to allow to her be sworn-in as a new Board member before the traditional end of the final board meeting of her predecessor. Merida's only term on the School Board featured a series of bizarre stories, from grossly over-spending on her district-supplied credit card to publicly criticizing former DPS Chief (and then-U.S. Senator) Michael Bennet without disclosing that she was being paid by the campaign of Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.

Merida had been running for re-election in 2013 until she (at last) saw the writing on the wall in September and wisely exited the race. Both union organizer Rosario C. de Baca and former City Council President Rosemary Rodriguez had the political experience and fundraising ability to crush Merida (Rodriguez ultimately won the seat).

Whether or not Merida ultimately decides to try a return to politics as a candidate herself is probably a moot point. It would be hard to find another public official in recent memory who made so many high-profile enemies, and demonstrated such inexplicably bad judgment, over such a short period of time. Maybe her name ID is strong enough that she could come back and run for something else in the future, but shaking off the skeletons she stuffed in her closet will likely prevent her from winning another race. And that's probably not a bad thing.


GOP 2016 Denver? Come On Down!


As the Denver Post's Allison Sherry was first to report:

The Colorado GOP is preparing to make a bid for Denver to host the 2016 Republican National Convention — potentially delivering the state a repeat of the economic boost it received when it hosted the Democratic National Convention five years ago…

In addition to Denver's already proven record at hosting the massive four-day international event that draws roughly 50,000 visitors, a 2016 GOP convention in Denver would be apropos, [Colorado GOP chairman Ryan] Call said, because it will be "bookends of eight years of an Obama regime."

"A Republican convention in Denver will not feature Greek columns at Mile High Stadium," Call said, referring to the stage built in 2008 for President Barack Obama's acceptance speech. "But it will showcase the issues important to the West and to America."

CBS4's Shaun Boyd:

The GOP leaders believe Denver has a good shot at landing the convention since the cityhas experience with such an event. Denver hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention where then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama received the party nomination.

Most Denver residents have fond memories of the 2008 Democratic National Convention held at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, despite the inevitable inconvenience of hosting such a major event in the middle of a functioning metropolis. A report not long after the 2008 convention showed an economic benefit to the Denver metro area of some $266 million from the Democratic convention, and there's every reason to believe Republicans coming to town in 2016 would be similarly great for the local economy.

Whatever your choice of party may be, at a certain level, a party is a party.


Weirdest Voicemail You’ve Ever Heard in a Denver School Board Race

POLS UPDATE: Sources close to the school board candidates "supported" by the robocall described below insist that this recording did not originate with their campaigns, or anyone linked to them. Several sources indicate that, despite the call's ostensible targeting of "fellow Republicans," it was widely sent to Democratic voters in Denver. If correct, that would seem to indicate this robocall was a "false flag" attack, seeking to undermine support for these candidates by "outing" them as closet conservatives. We'll update as this unusual story develops.


This year's Denver School Board candidates apparently tripped, fell, and landed in Douglas County while the rest of us weren't looking, if this bizarre voicemail to "fellow Republicans" (yes, all six of you who live in Denver!) is any indication:

According to the cheery, robotic disembodied voice, Landri Taylor and Barbara O'Brien "share our conservative values" and will help parents send their kids to schools "free of the liberal agenda." Christian schools and vouchers are specifically mentioned, in connection with one another, just in case you needed the point driven home with a sledgehammer.

Maybe Scott Gessler should have suspended his campaign to work on Denver races, instead? DougCo seems to be doing a good job of electing far-right School Board members without the Honey Badger's help. Here in Denver, it looks like he'd have an opportunity to help send even more tax dollars to Christian schools, and right under Diana DeGette's nose, too. Now that's a Honey Badger move.

(End note: I absolutely hate Denver School Board races, and if this weren't so utterly bizarre, I wouldn't have posted it. And frankly, I like Landri Taylor. But seriously, what the heck? Is this Opposites Year? Multiple DSB candidates selling a pro-voucher stance?)


Hancock Submits 2014 Budget to City Council

Full letter from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock after the jump. Some of the highlights from the 2014 budget:

  • Establishing a $3 million housing fund to build new and much-needed workforce housing, as well as additional funding for homeless services and the medically indigent.
  • Hiring up to 80 new police officers, 15 firefighters and additional sheriff’s deputies during peak times to keep Denver safe while maintaining a focus on crime-prevention.
  • Investing $2 million to advance transformational change in long-overlooked neighborhoods adjacent to Interstate 70.
  • Eliminating “convenience fees” charged to consumers who pay their city fees, bills and fines with a credit card, saving citizens $2 million a year and encouraging more Denver residents to make payments online.
  • Phasing out the city’s sales and use tax on aviation parts, which will keep us competitive with other cities around the country and help attract new aviation maintenance jobs to the metro area.
  • Dedicating $500,000 to the implementation of Denver Moves, the city’s multi-modal transit infrastructure plan, to make our streets safer for walking, biking and riding.



Merida Exits Denver School Board Race

Updating the ever-contentious Denver School Board races, via Great Ed Colorado:

Andrea Merida, who represents District 2 on the Denver Public Schools board, announced Thursday that she is ending her re-election bid, citing her displeasure with the influence of national campaign contributions to board races and the increased role of federal policies in district-level decision-making…

…Merida’s withdrawal leaves union organizer Rosario C. de Baca battling former City Council President Rosemary Rodriguez for the southwest Denver board seat. In June, de Baca won the endorsement of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association over Merida, whom the union had endorsed in her initial run. Rodriguez is a well-known Denver figure who is currently the state director for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the former DPS superintendent who launched a slate of reforms now championed by Boasberg.

Whatever Merida's stated intent for leaving the DPS race, it was clear that she had little chance of winning re-election in November. Merida could not have been elected in 2009 without the financial support of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, and losing that endorsement (as well as failing to get other notable endorsements) meant that she was going to have a difficult time finding the resources to run a competitive race this fall. The combative Merida has made an inordinate number of political enemies in a short time, and leaving what would seem to be an unwinnable race probably saves her from more attacks surrounding her infamous DPS credit card "overages."


Denver City Council Deciding on Marijuana Measures

As The Denver Post reports:

Denver is all in, but city lawmakers are finding that setting up the nation's first legal marijuana market is not so simple…

On Monday, the Amendment 64 committee meets for three hours, making decisions about 39 rules and regulations for the new industry, ranging from zoning buffers to hours to fees.

Later in the day, the full council takes up a discussion about whether to put a proposed 5 percent sales tax on pot sales on the November ballot.

While Denver is not alone in dealing with local marijuana regulations, many other municipalities have been taking a wait-and-see approach. Whatever Denver decides could end up being the basis of how sales and distribution regulations are handled throughout the state.


Denver Post Weighs in on Morrissey Death Penalty Decision

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey announced yesterday that his office would seek the death penalty in the prosecution of Dexter Lewis. As the editorial board of the Denver Post notes, Morrissey is following the law as it is written in making this decision (the Post has repeatedly editorialized in opposition to the death penalty as public policy):

Still, we're not about to castigate Morrissey's decision as illegitimate or unprincipled just because our own position differs. Capital punishment, however rarely employed in this state (just one execution since 1967), is in fact an option that remains on the books. Morrissey isn't resorting to some dubious tactic or stretching the purpose of the law. He maintains Lewis inflicted the fatal stab wounds last October on five people who were murdered at Fero's Bar and Grill in a crime of mind-boggling brutality.

Indeed, if anyone qualifies for consideration under the death statute, it surely would be a man allegedly responsible for such a crime. Prosecutors are not obliged to take a vow of unilateral abstinence on the death penalty just because some of us detest it, especially when a significant number of other citizens support it.

No, the only politicians who can end these legal spectacles that drag on inconclusively for decades are state lawmakers and of course the governor — and yet they have chosen not to do their part.

A bill to end Colorado's death penalty was filed in the legislature this year but failed in the House Judiciary Committee after Gov. John Hickenlooper said he opposed it. Since then, of course, Hickenlooper has granted a temporary reprieve to death-row resident Nathan Dunlap as well as signaled his personal opposition to capital punishment.


This is HUGE – Rosemary Rodriguez Running In District 2 Race for Denver School Board

Really big news in the Southwest Denver School Board race – Rosemary Rodriguez will be running for the District 2 seat currently occupied by that disgrace of a board member, Andrea Merida. She's formerly president of the Denver City Council, and is Senator Bennet's State Director.

This is according to this Ed News Colorado story.


Rodriguez will definitely enter the race as a clear frontrunner, and – based on the support it looks like she's already assembled – it seems like she might already have the race wrapped up. She's got a who's who of grassroots leaders, electeds, progressives, etc in her corner.


According to her website she's got the support of Wellington Webb, Dan Pabon, and Rudy Gonzales, all of whom backed Arturo Jimenez in 2011. She's got the support of Tim Sandos, who's been a longtime powerhouse in the Southwest Denver community. She's also got Polly Baca and many many others. A lot of these folks have been on the other side of some of the debates in Denver, so props to Rodriguez for assembling such a strong, diverse coalition of people. Exactly what the seat needs after Merida, who has been so divisive (among many other things).


From the looks of it, Rodriguez has a ton of great experience for the job and has represented the community before. DCTA hasn't endorsed in the race, and took a pass on Merida (who they've been allied with). Another union-linked candidate (Rosario C. de Baca, a former union organizer) has also entered the race, and Rodriguez herself has really strong progressive credentials, which should make it a very tough choice. Certainly, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to endorse against Rodriguez, given how strong she'll be. De Baca is a community activist, but as far as I can tell, she probably doesn’t have much of a shot at winning the seat – she just makes things hard, and probably now, impossible, for Merida. My guess would be that DCTA sees the writing on the wall and sits this one out. At least, that's probably the most sensible thing for them to do.

Either way, Rodriguez is a serious favorite to win this seat, so this may (finally) mark the end of our mis-adventure with Andrea Merida


Rosario C. de Baca to Challenge Andrea Merida

When the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) announced an early list of endorsed candidates for Denver School Board in late May, notably absent was controversial incumbent Andrea Merida. At the time, Ed News Colorado noted that DCTA might be waiting to see if other candidates emerged before backing Merida again.

The rumored candidacy of Rosario C. de Baca became official last week, which is bad news for Merida. While some candidates can get elected to the Denver School Board without the help of the DCTA, Merida is not one of them; if DCTA backs de Baca, Merida will have trouble finding the resources and financing needed to win re-election.

Full press release after the jump.



DCTA Announces Endorsements, With Notable Exception

Last week the Denver teachers union (DCTA: Denver Classroom Teachers Association) announced its first wave of endorsements for the 2013 campaign season. And as Ed News Colorado reports, there was one particularly notable exception:

The Denver teachers union isn’t wasting time getting ready for the November election, opting to announce three endorsements four months earlier than normal. Those endorsements are: Meg Schomp, Roger Kilgore and Michael Kiley.

The 3,000-member Denver Classroom Teachers Association Thursday announced three endorsements but conspicuously did not endorse anyone running for the southwest Denver seat now held by Andrea Merida. Merida has announced plans to run for re-election. DCTA endorsed Merida four years ago. But DCTA Fund Chairperson Michelle Miller said DCTA hasn’t had an opportunity to interview people who may run against Merida, such as union organizer Rosario De Baca. Miller said DCTA expected to make its final endorsement by the end of the school year.

Merida has been a polarizing figure on the School Board since she was first elected in 2009. She regularly engages in nasty back-and-forth discussions online with detractors, getting particularly angry when anyone questions whether or not she has paid back the staggering $12,000 she charged to her Denver Public Schools credit card in 2011. After initially pledging to pay back the charges, which included questionable charges for fast food and expensive electronics, Merida backed off that promise in favor of some weird explanation that by not using her credit card she was going to make it all equal, or something. 

It would certainly be no surprise if DCTA withheld another endorsement for Merida in hopes that another, less ethically-questionable candidate will emerge.


At Least She’s (Hopefully) Not Your School Board Member…

(The battle of Andrea Merida vs. everybody else rages on – promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s always good to see our elected officials take to the interwebs to engage in some good ol’ interaction with the people they are supposed to be representing.

Of course, for most politicians, that might mean responding on twitter or engaging on facebook. But for a select few, it might just mean getting down in to the trenches, and starting a good old flame war.

And few are more likely to be engaging in some good ol’ blog-post-comment-wars (general belief is she had quite a few sock puppet accounts here on Pols back in the day) or general online "trolling" than the Denver school board’s very own elected super-troll, Andrea Merida (when she isn’t busy imploding in some other way, of course).

What follows is almost too ridiculous to be true. It's simply incredible that she’s (still) an elected officia, and in a job that’s important!

So, check out the kind of elected official her constituents are lucky enough to enjoy!



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

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

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

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

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

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


Denver Well-Represented in State House Committees

The new Democratic House Majority announced committee chairs and vice-chairs this week, and Denver does well at the top.

New House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, who also represents a Denver district, chose 6 Democrats as chair or vice-chair of a committee (there are 11 total committees):

  • Appropriations: Reps. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) and Crisanta Duran (D-Denver)
  • Business, Labor & Economic & Workforce Development: Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver) and Rep.-elect Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada)
  • Finance: Reps. Lois Court (D-Denver) and Jeanne Labuda (D-Denver)
  • Health, Insurance & Environment: Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver) and Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge)
  • Judiciary: Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Cherry Hills Village) and Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs)

    Poll: Who Will Win in HD-3?

    Arapahoe County’s HD-3 skirmish between Democrat Dan Kagan and Republican Brian Watson has always been a case study in reapportionment. Kagan, first appointed to the seat after Anne McGihon’s 2009 resignation, has been a darling of the left since first taking office. Unabashedly liberal and a speaker who somehow marries brashness and eloquence, Kagan was the perfect fit for South Denver’s Democratic tilt. With redrawn lines, though, Kagan lost all his consistently-liberal voting base and picked up affluent and largely conservative neighborhoods in Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills Village.

    Republican opponent Brian Watson, at first blush, appeared to be the ideal candidate for the seat. A moderate with extensive business experience, Watson should’ve been able to energize the district’s conservatives without alienating the 13,000 unaffiliated voters critical to victory. The Republican, however, has been dogged by his failure to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes from past business enterprises. Watson’s been one of the top fundraisers in the state, of course, but the $250,000 in his campaign coffers pales in comparison to the $279,000 he owes to the IRS and he’s been brutally attacked in mail pieces and over the air for his questionable business record.

    HD-3 is one of those races that could shift the balance of power in the State House. With polls closing in just a few hours, we want to know: Who do you think will win in HD-3? Remember, we’ll know if you’re right or wrong by the end of the day, so make it count.

    A poll follows.  

    [poll id=”1586″]


    Poll: Will the DPS Bond and Mill Levy Measures Pass This Year?

    Sitting directly under Denver’s de-Brucing measure on this year’s ballot are Denver Public Schools’ referred measures 3A and 3B. The mill levy and bond, respectively, have stirred some ire among the regular cast of DPS critics, although a diverse coalition of, well, more legitimate education groups ranging from the Denver Classroom Teachers’ Association to Stand for Children have all come out in favor of both measures.

    Denver voters approved a similar measure in 2008 by a 2-1 margin, although the effects of the so-called “Great Recession” had not been as intimately felt four years ago as they are today. As a result of the economic downturn, some say that citizens are unwilling to pay additional property taxes or add to the district’s debt levels — empty arguments in reliably liberal and traditionally pro-public school Denver precincts.

    Do you think that referred measures 3A and 3B will pass this year? A poll follow.

    Remember, we want to know whether or not you think the measures will pass or fail, not your opinion on them.  

    [poll id=”1585″]


    Poll: Will Measure 2A Pass on Tuesday?

    With just two days until election day, most voters and local reporters alike are focusing on the presidential candidates at the top of the ballot. Receiving justifiably less attention is Mayor Michael Hancock’s Measure 2A. Unlike the outcome of the presidential race, however, the de-Brucing initiative will have a direct and tangible outcome on Denver residents — its passage would result in restored library hours, additional police and firefighter hiring, and new public works projects, among other benefits. Critics, however, rightfully point out that area business groups either oppose or abstained from supporting the measure, citing concerns over increased property tax rates.

    Still, there’s little organized opposition to 2A, compared to a robust “Yes” campaign that enjoys the full and high-profile support of Denver’s mayor and most of its city councilors.

    We want to hear from you. Will Measure 2A pass on Tuesday or will city employees have to resign themselves to continued furlough days? A poll follows. Remember, we want to know whether you realistically think the measure will pass, not if you want it to.

    [poll id=”1584″]


    More National Ink for Michael Johnston

    State Senator Michael Johnston just keeps adding to his profile as something of a legislative wunderkind, yesterday earning the loftiest of encomiums from Forbes magazine.

    From a piece entitled (we kid you not) “The Best Speech About Education — Ever:”

    Mike Johnston (Mississippi Delta ’97) – State Senator, Colorado from Teach For America Events on Vimeo.

    Every now and then a speech comes along that reminds me why public speaking is still essential and why I said back in 2003 that the only reason to give a speech is to change the world.

    I had tears in my eyes by the end of the speech, and you will too. Johnston’s dedication to education and the real progress he has been able to make deserve to be celebrated.  Watch the speech and reaffirm your faith in teaching and teachers – and most of all students.

    [T]his speech will have you standing up and cheering for education by the end.  It’s 21 minutes that are worth spending on the future of our children.  Watch it, and tell everyone you know about it.  And thanks, Mike, for your service to education.

    It would, of course, be more surprising if Johnston didn’t give a good speech. After years as a state senator, high school principal, and three Ivy League degrees, he should know exactly what to say and how to say it.

    Still, this particular Forbes write-up, alongside a 2010 column by Waiting for Superman director Davis Guggenheim proclaiming him one of the “world’s most powerful educators,” only underscores the fact that Johnston’s political star is rising faster than almost anyone else in Colorado state government.

    Where it shoots to next is anybody’s guess. His close ties in the Obama administration offer Johnston the opportunity to shape national education policy if the president scores a second term, but Johnston may just opt to stay in office here in Colorado.

    Doing so puts him on the short list for CD-1 — although incumbent Diana DeGette probably has at least a decade left on the hill — and gives him the chance to keep pushing for reforms in Colorado.

    Which, while exceedingly controversial at home, should earn him plenty more national press — not to mention keynote addresses.


    The Irony in Michael Hancock’s Opposition to Amendment 64

    Denver Mayor Michael Hancock last week announced his opposition to Amendment 64 — the regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act — citing fears that Colorado may lose valuable tourism money if Denver is perceived as a “marijuana capital.” He then waxed emphatic about the link between marijuana, hard drugs, and the cost of legalization on society:

    “You can argue that with a lot of the things that are illegal, right — if you know that it’s occurring and where it’s occurring and where it’s allowed. The realities are this: I think the cost to society with people who graduate from marijuana to harsher drugs is exponentially higher than any benefit that someone may try to calculate that you’ll get from a…regulated marijuana industry,”he said. “I just find it very hard. Those of us who grew up where the advent and introduction of some of the harsher drugs, whether it’s heroin, whether it was PCP, crack cocaine, we know a lot of our family members and neighbors started with recreational use of marijuana.”

    Hancock’s anecdote on the topic is compelling, and his personal history probably should inform his professional take on drug policy. But it’s hard to reconcile his belief in the pitfalls of marijuana use with some of the most prominent content on his city website.

    Hancock dismisses comparisons between alcohol and marijuana use, telling Westword that “We’re talking marijuana, so I’m not going to talk about the comparisons with alcohol.” Fair enough.

    Still, for someone who’s proud to showcase his pride in Denver’s beer, Hancock would do well to remember some of the arguments made in favor of prohibiting that substance.

    Here are a select few quotes from temperance leader Billy Sunday:

    Listen! Seventy-five per cent of our idiots come from intemperate parents, 80 per cent of the paupers, 82 per cent of the crime is committed by men under the influence of liquor, 90 per cent of the adult criminals are whiskey made.

    Archbishop Ireland, the famous Roman Catholic of St. Paul, said of social crime “that 75 per cent is caused by drink and 80 per cent of the poverty.” I go to a family and it is broken up and I say, “what caused this?” Drink! I step up to a young man on the scaffold and say, “what brought you here?” Drink! Whence all the misery and sorrow and corruption? Invariably it is drink.

    The saloon is the sum of all villainies. It is worse than war or pestilence. It is the crime of crimes. It is parent of crimes and the mother of sins. It is the appalling source of misery and crime in the land and the principal cause of crime. It is the source of three-fourths of the taxes to support that crime. And to license such an incarnate fiend of hell is the dirtiest, low-down, damnable business on top of this old earth. There is nothing to be compared to it.

    It is the moral clearinghouse for rot, and damnation, and poverty, and insanity, and it wrecks homes and blights lives today. The saloon is a liar. It promises health and causes disease. It promises prosperity and sends adversity. It promises happiness and sends misery.

    There’s nothing wrong with Hancock’s opposition to Amendment 64 — there are a few compelling reasons, practical tourism interests included, to keep marijuana illegal at a state-level in Colorado.

    Hancock, however, shouldn’t be blind to the irony in preaching “slippery slope” talking points about marijuana and other drugs while at the same time highlighting Denver’s beer culture on his government website.

    There are other practical realities at play, but that doesn’t change the fact that many of the arguments he uses against marijuana, after all, were first employed to prohibit the beer he’s holding in his hand.  


    In Case There Were Any Questions About Labuda’s Ties to Payday Lenders…

    State Representative Jeanne Labuda, a lock to win her last-ever reelection campaign against quixotic Republican opponent John Kidd, caught flack during her divisive primary with activist Corrie Houck for comparing payday-lending customers to “alcoholics.” One of five Democrats to vote against the ultimately-successful bill to limit payday loan interest rates, Labuda has always been seen as something of an ally of the payday lending industry as a whole.

    And, if her campaign finance reports are any indication, industry leaders are all too happy to return the favor.

    Among contributions from Speedy Cash executives and the America Cash Advance Centers PAC, Labuda last month received a maxed-out check from William Allan Jones, the CEO of Check Into Cash and a trailblazer in the payday lending business credited with “pioneering the retail concept of providing short-term cash advances for a fee.” The so-called “founder” of payday lending has also been criticized for his “predatory loan shark” practices and esurient lifestyle — he owns a 400-acre home, a 223 acre ranch in Wyoming, a 157-foot yacht, and a private regulation-sized football field.

    It’s hard to find a starker contrast between a business owner and his patrons anywhere.

    Of course, ignoring the criticisms levelled against his industry’s practices, it’s fair to say that Jones wants to continue doing business in Colorado and personal contributions allow him to support candidates that will keep Check Into Cash locations open across the state. Indeed, over the past ten years the company has spent over $10,000 here supporting legislative candidates and leadership PACs.

    Jones injected himself personally into Colorado politics for the first time this year, however, writing checks to HD-18 Republican candidate Jennifer George, SD-19 Republican Lang Sias, and, of course, HD-1 Democrat Jeanne Labuda. Unlike those Republicans, however, Labuda isn’t in a competitive race that could determine the partisan makeup of the Colorado legislature or the future of payday lending. She’s going to win with or without Jones’ support.

    His contribution, then, looks less like an effort to protect his business from regulation and more like a reward for Labuda’s loyalty over the years.

    Those are bad optics for the Denver Democrat. Labuda claimed to have voted against payday-lending regulation because she wanted to “see if existing procedures work.” That may be true, but whatever her intentions, accepting this contribution makes it appear as though she’s in the pocket of one of the most reviled leaders of the payday lending industry.

    Too bad for Corrie Houck that Jones didn’t contribute during the primary.


    Hancock’s Cabinet Now Complete

    After more than 460 days since his swearing in, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has finally filled out his cabinet, today announcing the appointment of Rocky Piro as Denver’s Manager of Community Planning and Development.

    From Hancock’s office:

    In his capacity as manager, Piro will be responsible for implementing visionary city planning and ensuring safe, responsible, sustainable building throughout Denver.

    “A smart, 21st century planning department depends on innovative ideas,” Mayor Hancock said. “Rocky brings with him the knowledge to enact a global vision for Denver to help spur economic development while reinforcing the city’s goals around sustainability and livability for our neighborhoods.”

    The Department of Community Planning and Development is in charge of managing, planning and building within Denver, including designing and implementing citywide and neighborhood plans, establishing construction and design standards, coordinating revitalization efforts, managing historic preservation and performing code enforcement and education.

    Supervising “managing, planning, and building within Denver” is obviously critically important in shaping the city, so some may question the wisdom in waiting fifteen months to find the right candidate. And, if Piro is responsible for “implementing visionary city planning and ensuring safe, responsible, sustainable building throughout Denver,” what kind of development, exactly, has been going on since last June?

    The flip side of the argument is, of course, that Hancock took the time to pick the perfect guy for the job.

    That must’ve been one hell of a long interview.