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February 24, 2011 08:42 PM UTC

Denver Needs An Education Mayor

  • by: nancycronk

As one of many politicos who live outside of Denver, I am watching the Denver Mayoral election with great interest. Do people outside of Denver have a vote? No. Does Denver’s Mayoral race affect us? Absolutely. Is it the rest of the state’s business who is elected Mayor in Denver? Definitely.

As Colorado’s largest city, what happens in Denver affects us all. Laws passed, emerging trends, political realities, and budgetary issues that effect Denver are often precursors to the kinds of things we see in surrounding communities later. The reverse is also true.

Denver has more than a dozen candidates running for Mayor, all of whom voters in my state house district (39), state senate disctict (27) and US  congressional distict (6) would give their I-teeth to have represent them. From Senator Chris Romer, the son of beloved Governor Roy Romer, to the well-thought-of Michael Hancock, Denver is fortunate indeed. (This voter would reconsider anyone on the City Council who voted against the pit bull service dog exemption for people with disabilities, however.)

This Mayoral year is heavy on education concerns. Although the school board, and not the Mayor, make decisions regarding the city’s schools, the Mayor is the political leader of the city. The Mayor has the podium, or the bully pulpit, if you will, and the political clout to get things done. He or she also has the attention of the media — both mainstream and internet-based, that can affect change in the minds of the other leaders around him.

With Governor Hickenlooper’s recent proposed budget cuts to public schools of approximately five hundred dollars per student in K-12, and an additional 37 million dollars to higher education, Coloradans across the state are up in arms. Granted, those who understand the budget process and the horror that is TABOR, know that the Governor is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The state budget must be balanced, and there are few places to cut.

The Governor has invited citizens to suggest alternatives. Personally, as an informed voter, I understand education is the single most powerful  investment to impact the future of any state. I personally would be willing to have higher taxes, pay much higher fees for every governmental service across the board, and am  willing to sacrifice using state parks and highways, if that is what it would take to save our schools.

When we invest in the next generation, we invest in problem-solvers who will handle every problem that comes along for decades to come. When we invest in preschool education, we are investing in the child for his/her lifetime. When we invest in higher education, we invest in the parents of the next generation. Wise legislators, like Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana, understand this.

The City of Denver and the people of Colorado need a leader in education to get us through this mess, who can think outside the box. We need a leader who grew up in a family that absolutely depended on public education — as most of our families do in Colorado. We need a leader who has committed his or her life to educating our state’s future generations, and understands the importance of investing in our children. We need a leader who is not afraid of standing up to political pressures. We need a leader who understands that when you invest in children and families before they start school, they perform better as students all the way up, from kindergarten through graduate school. We need a leader who understands that a well-educated populace brings jobs and prosperity to the state, and ultimately, safe streets for everyone.

I believe that leader is James Mejia. Just today, James Mejia released a press release calling on the Governor to restore education funding.

I do not work for James Mejia, and I have not been paid to write this article. (But hey, James, if you want to hire me, give me a call. I’ll gladly quit blogging for a few months on this race in order to help you out.) I have written this diary because I desperately believe that our schools need to be funded, and funded well.

I challenge all of our Denver Mayoral candidates, as well as candidates for Chair in both political parties, to be as courageous and forward-thinking as James Mejia.

I challenge our Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper, to stand up strongly and confidently in favor of repealing TABOR and increasing taxes — unafraid of the personal political fallout for taking such a stand, as Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer does everyday.

The future of the State of Colorado depends on it.

Mejia Calls on Legislature to Restore Education Funding

Feb. 24, 2011


Mejia Calls on Legislature to Restore Education Funding

Mejia asks Joint Budget Committee and Denver delegation to base decision on updated revenue projections, oppose increase in “rainy day” fund

DENVER –  Denver Mayoral Candidate James Mejia today asked the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) and the Denver delegation to the State Legislature to act to restore funding to public education and reduce the proposed $375 million cut in education funding.

Following conversations with members of the JBC, the Denver Public Schools Superintendent and members of the Denver School Board, Mejia sent a letter to the members of the JBC and the Denver delegation, calling on the legislature to:

1.    Make the final decision on education funding based upon updated revenue projections.

2.    Dedicate to education the increased funding that results from higher revenue projections.

3.    Oppose the re-funding of the “rainy day” fund from 2% to 4% and shift the difference to education funding.

In calling for these actions, Mejia noted that the cuts to education recommended by the Governor were based on two month old data, which was the best available at the time but that projections are expected to improve before the JBC is required to act.

“As responsible Coloradans we understand the need for sound fiscal management in tough economic times. As citizens of Denver we fear this will have a catastrophic impact on an already weak public education system,” Mejia wrote. “In DPS our average classroom size is too large, our teachers are asked to perform with inadequate resources and our system is failing too many of our children,”

Addressing the increase of the “rainy day” fund, Mejia wrote “Given the current state of education funding in Colorado, I believe this is indeed a “rainy day” and money should not be diverted from education.”

The full text of the letter sent to the JBC and Denver delegation is included below.

Letter sent to members of the JBC & Denver delegation to State Legislature:

Re:    Education Funding

Governor Hickenlooper’s plan for balancing our budget included a $375 million cut in education funding.  As responsible Coloradans we understand the need for sound fiscal management in tough economic times. As citizens of Denver we fear this will have a catastrophic impact on an already weak public education system.  According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Colorado ranks 40th in per capita education funding.  Reducing our investment in education is not in the best interest of our children, the future workforce of our economy.  I am writing to you as a member of the Joint Budget Committee and Denver’s delegation urging you to restore education funding in Colorado’s budget.

The cuts to education recommended by the Governor were based on two months old data, which was the best available at the time. According to senior members of the Joint Budget Committee the data is likely to improve with updates that will be available before the JBC is required to act.  Additionally, the Governor has recommended increasing contributions to Colorado’s “rainy day” fund from 2% to 4%.  This recommendation is counter to the intent of the statute.  These dollars should be used when the state experiences shortfalls in funding to avoid drastic cuts.  Given the current state of education funding in Colorado, I believe this is indeed a “rainy day” and money should not be diverted from education to grow the “rainy day” fund from 2% to 4%.

I am calling on the Joint Budget Committee and the Denver delegation to:

1.    Make the final decision on education funding based upon updated revenue projections.

2.    Dedicate to education the increased funding that results from higher revenue projections.

3.    Oppose the re-funding of the “rainy day” fund from 2% to 4% and shift the difference to education funding.

In DPS our average classroom size is too large, our teachers are asked to perform with inadequate resources and our system is failing too many of our children.  The Denver Preschool Program, of which I am on leave as the founding CEO, is just beginning to give Denver families the support for early childhood education that is critical to learning success. I believe the proposed cuts to education funding will erase the progress we’ve made with The Denver Preschool Program.

Thank you for your ongoing efforts in the capitol on behalf of all people in Colorado.  Your work is difficult and challenging.  I know there are no easy answers but I believe in the resilience and determination of the people of Denver and our elected officials. We must invest in Denver’s future.


James Mejia

Candidate for Mayor

City of Denver

End of letter

About James Mejia:

James is a Denver native from a family of 13 children raised in Park Hill.  He is a graduate of East High School, the University of Notre Dame, Arizona State University and Princeton University.  He began his work with the City when as a college student he worked summers for Denver Parks and Rec to help pay his tuition, and later went on to become Manager of the Department for Mayor Webb.  James has served on the DPS School Board, elected as an at-large member, is the founding CEO of the Denver Preschool Program (emphasis mine) and was selected by Mayor Hickenlooper to lead the development of the Denver Justice Center, a $425 million bond project which he delivered on time and on budget.  He is one of Denver’s most respected leaders having received the 2009 Community Leader of the Year from 9News and the Denver Chamber Leadership Foundation.  James is married to Dr. Heather Riley. They have three girls; seven-year old “twins by marriage”, Moya and Alexandra and one year old Riley.

For more information about James Mejia, visit


49 thoughts on “Denver Needs An Education Mayor

  1. Go James !  I am a huge supporter and have known him a long time.  Call me a Mejia shill – I don’t mind.

    Basing the funding on updated revenue info just makes sense, and yes, our rainy day is now.    

    That is not a dis to anyone here supporting someone else.  I just think James has very thoughtful and detailed ideas for Denver, and what he is proposing above is a good example.

    1. I figured I lost 2/3 of my progressive friends fighting for Bennet. I might as well alienate 14 of the 15 candidate’s followers, too. What the heck.

      My friends at Progressive Outreach and in my Senate District want everyone to read my sig line everyday. LOL  

            1. is a “recommended diary” different from being front paged ?

              Since it kind of endorses a particular candidate can it be FP’d ?

              Just asking out loud  

                  1. I can’t tell when I’m being bitchy anymore.

                    So I hope you didn’t think I was. Because I don’t remember feeling like that when I wrote it. I like questions.

  2. I didn’t expect to like him, especially with a key Romanoff campaigner on his team–not that I don’t like Andrew, but the tone of the Romanoff campaign was not something I’d like ever to see in a Democratic primary again. (I’m sure I will, but I won’t like it.)

    As it turns out, Mejia has built his campaign entirely on genuine ideas and principled stances. He is positive, insightful, and progressive. And it doesn’t hurt that he released a statement opposing HB 1063, either!

    Here’s hoping we’ll be blogging about “Mayor James Mejia” soon.

      1. Now if only the straggling supporters were as good at moving on 😉 (on both sides there seem to be a few grudges nursed)

        Berrick actually emailed me Mejia’s statement on 1063 after seeing my diary.

        I suspect I may find myself wandering on down to Denver to make some calls before this Mayoral election is over. I’m hoping to avoid getting talked into canvassing, though–I hate canvassing Denver! They get so many canvassers all year, election or not, that I just feel badly knocking.  

  3. Not so thrilled with him these days since he basically told the Dept of Interior to go f*** themselves and is advocating killing wolf packs, in direct violation of the Endangered Species Act.

    Is this off topic? Yep. Sorry to hijack your diary but after the work many of us did to make sure that horrendous bill from Merrifield didn’t make it out of committee, I think it’s probably worth a mention here.  

      1. I didn’t read the HuffPo article so I have no idea how they covered it. I read several articles from Montana’s state newspapers and a couple of conservation websites and anytime I hear someone arguing that wolves are killing too many elk, I have to wonder how far his head can fit up his ass to be that stupid.

        And truly, apologies to hijacking a mayoral diary. I’m looking forward to hearing more about several of these folks since it’s pretty clear there’s going to be a runoff and currently, there doesn’t appear to be a front runner.  

  4. Nancy, I totally agree that Denver needs an education Mayor, but you didn’t really explain why James should be that mayor. Is running the DPP (as a political appointee?) really a good enough justification?  The crux of your argument seems to be that James is fighting for more funding – are any of the other candidates not? And is reducing the “rain day” fund really in the long-term financial interest of our state?

    Does Hancock’s powerful personal story and experience with the Urban League make him less qualified than James? What about Hancock’s support of the far NorthEast turnaround plan (which Mejia has wavered on). He may not have devised the plan, but he certainly took heat for supporting it.

    On the flip side of things Likhart and Boigon seem to be unwavering in their support for teachers – at least in the traditional union sense? I think they’re the only candidate that’s publically opposed SB191 – I seem to recall you were amongst this opposition.

    If “experience” is what you’re looking for, I’d say Romer is probably the best candidate in that category. He started the ‘I Have a Dream Foundation’ in his 20s and more recently helped start two of Denver’s most successful school networks (KIPP Colorado and DSST).

    Finally, if you think funding is the key to fixing our schools you can’t fail to mention Amendment 23. It wouldn’t have passed without support from organizations like Great Education Colorado (which I’m pretty sure Romer founded).  

    1. You’re at least a little better than some of the shills who just blatantly shill for somebody but it’s pretty transparent reading your posts on DenverPols what your agenda is. Pretend you’re neutral but sort of leaning Romer and sit there questioning every candidate and get in the little I think Romer is pretty good comments.

      You sure seem to have a remarkable insight into every detail of Romers life and his daily schedule almost like you’re getting talking points from him. Like when you pointed out on another thread that the reason he missed a debate was because he was at his daughters play which you claim you figured out by looking at the schools website calendar of school events? Please. You got the memo from Chris over drinks with him and his Daddy.

      If Romer is such the education reform hero why are all of the people on the school board who support ed reform with Hancock? Why was Romer only at KIPP for less than a year and their people are now supporting Hancock? Has Romer stuck with anything for more than a year other than sucking cities dry for Wall Street? Why does Romer call himself a businessman instead of being honest and saying he’s an investment banker?

      Romer just jumps onto whatever will get him a headline or a buck. All he’s got is his investment banking money, his buddies at JP Morgan who know he’ll continue to hook them up at Union Station and putting Denver into more debt. Oh yea and he’s got cupcakes.

      If you like charter schools, Hancock is your guy. If you like teachers unions Linkhart is your guy. If you like Denver, ANYBODY BUT ROMER is your guy

      1. Put down the munchies and accept reality. Romer is the only candidate who has both the education and business experience and it shows. Watch any of the forums and everybody else is racing for second place. Romer’s knowledge of the education system, of city finances and job creation make the others look like amateurs.

        More than just that he has the most organized campaign and the only one that can win. He has one of Senator Bennet’s guys who ran their whole field machine running his campaign. He has hired Hilltop Consultants who ran the field for the coordinated campaign that beat Buck like a redheaded stepchild. He has already been making commercials and they’re being done by the same people who did Obama!

        Romer already has twice as much money as any other person running and with Isenberg & Alvarado out he has Steve Farber and Maria GarciaBerry endorsing him which will bring all of the business people to him that weren’t already. He has money, he has the experience and he has a presidential level campaign on a mayor’s race. There might not even be a runoff!

        1. and the presumption that anybody who dosen’t support Romer (and there are a lot of them out there) is a pothead is actually something a pothead might be inclined to believe.

          If Romer is so good how come so many damn people can’t stand him ? Is money going to change their opinion ?

          1. disingenuous, and completely untrustworthy.  He’ll have more and more money as he sells out more and more folks that are foolish enough to rely on him as an ally.

            Hopefully there’s enough folks in Denver who’ve learned by now who and what he is.  It’ll be an damn expensive lesson for them if he ever becomes mayor.  

        2. You mean the ones Romer deigns to attend? He’s been missing from a lot of them.

          Also, “beat like a redheaded stepchild” usually means something more than the margin in the Bennet-Buck race, which was razor-thin and relied on Buck saying some unfortunate things and running not much of a campaign himself. A win’s a win, but your hyperbole is just that.

        3. Well, unless you count a week in about 1981, but I was just a stupid kid. That said, I have nothing disparaging to say about any of them, with the exception of those who have doggy prejudices (note to self — blog about breed specific legislation).

          In fact, I think the remaining 12+ candidates who are left should move to Aurora and give those residents a break from the Tauer dynasty.  

      2. Do you have an in?

        I know a lot about all of the candidates: I read the newspaper. On education I happen to think Romer is the right choice.

        I’m flattered you think I’m talented enough to work alongside the Bennet and Obama people running Chris’ campaign. If I ever quit teaching I’ll be sure to list you as a reference.

        There was a pretty cute article in the DP about his daughter’s play the day before the forum of mention ( 14 seconds of googling turned up the fact that the play was on the same night as the forum. As I said, I assume he attends his daughter’s plays – but he could have been out eating cupcakes.

        The school board members support of Hancock probably has something to do with Nate Easley’s recall. The Far North East reformers have to stick together – I respect that.  

        I agree that Linkhart is the union guy, but you’re yet to articulate why Hancock is the Charter guy. I know he gave a stamp of approval to the FNE turnaround, but am yet to read about what else he has to offer on the education front.

          1. Hancock has said publicly that he is against it and he is a supporter of Easley. At a couple events the question has been asked and he has been clear that it is just a vendetta by people who think Easley turned on them because of his leadership in the Montbello turnaround. Hancock also has the support of the rest of the majority of the school board who are actively campaigning to support Easley.

            Linkhart has not been black and white when asked in public BUT he is very close with Andrea Merida and the others who are behind DefenseDenver and she has posted online her support of him which I don’t think would be there if she didn’t know what side he was on. The only people I’ve seen at debates for him were the hardcore anti Bennet people if you can read anything into that.

            1. I also have to point out that labeling every supporter a single thing, other than a supporter, is stupid. Sorry. It is. What you meant to say was, “The only loud people I’ve noticed at debates for him…”

              Slight difference? Sure. But you can’t put the two men in the same category here. One has actually said he doesn’t support it, the other hasn’t said anything.

  5. Reading that Sunday Denver newspaper, he’s the only one who had clear, concrete economic development targets.  Everyone else had that same ‘create jobs’ blah ‘cut red tape’ blah ‘promote growth’ blah.

    I’d like Hancock more if I didn’t think that taxi cab thing was a job crusher instead of a job creator.  And, back to Nancy’s original post Hancock is talking about education, but Mejia has already been involved in it.

    I’m also giving Theresa Spahn another look after hearing her speak.  I wish she had more time to get the word out.

  6. Know most of the candidates, and I think he’s the best-suited. He’s more open and accepting of new ideas than Romer or Hancock or Linkhart. And he’s already successfully completed actual projects for the city. Plus he’s a really charming guy. It helps.

  7. And there is no mention of SB-191? Yes the money is very important. But what you do with it is equally important. So before we anoint any of the candidates the “education candidate,” how about we get their opinion on SB-191?

      1. The fundamental question is what would they change to improve education. More money is nice but by itself doubling funding won’t improve things. We have to change how we teach.

        I’m not saying that must be SB-191. They can propose a different approach. But I do think they need to speak to their opinion of SB-191. And if they think it sucks, then what do they propose.

        1. I don’t know you personally — just as a fellow blogger. I have found that most of my friends who complain about the effectiveness of teachers have not spent a day in the classroom. I have also found that my friends who volunteer regularly at schools, are BLOWN AWAY by the talent, dedication, perseverence and talent of today’s public school teachers.

          What is your school volunteer story, my friend?

          1. I have a substitute certificate (have Physics & Math degrees so I don’t need a teaching certificate) and have taught (more like babysitting) when there were teacher walk-out days.

            I unofficially student taught a high school computer class for half a semester. I was officially a room mom but the principal and teacher set it up so I could help teach to learn what it was like.

            I did the standard room mom duty somewhat regularly. (When we lived in Plano Texas I was the only dad who had every done it and they had another mom come in to back me up the first couple of times.)

            Spent a lot of time at the Elementary schools for various events and at times just dropping in. (Didn’t do that in Intermediate or High school because the kids want that to be their own world.)

            Was on several school committees and spent several years on MEAC (BVSD district-wide committee for issues facing kids of color).

            In addition, between my wife and I we have hit virtually every parent teacher night talking to every teacher (one year we had 3 kids in 3 schools with back to school night on the same night – we couldn’t always get everything between the two of us).

            And my wife was always very active in the mom network, to the extent that she was asked several time to be the PTA president.

            So yes, I’ve sat in a lot of classrooms. And I’ve talked to a ton of teachers, principals, and administrators. And from that I’ve learned a couple of things:

            1. We have some outstanding teachers.

            2. We have a large number of good teachers.

            3. Most teachers put a large amount of effort into the job.

            But I’ve also seen:

            4. That all teachers have weaknesses and do better with some kids than others.

            5. That some, even with great effort, teach poorly.

            6. That some are burned out or never really cared. And as such they put in minimal effort.

            I think all teachers can benefit from a system like SB-191 that will give them ongoing feedback on what they can improve on.

            I think the ones that can’t or won’t do a decent job need to be fired. Yes that’s rough for them until they get a different job – but keeping them is horrible for the thousands of kids that would be in their classroom.

        2. but so long as they want to fire the teachers, they can be the education candidate.

          I wish you were the objective voice on education you seem to think you are.

          1. I want to reward them for everything they are doing right, and 99% of them work their tails off, give everything they’ve got, and deserve our credit and respect.

            I’ve done their job (not in a public school but elsewhere) and it is extremely difficult. People who criticise them as an industry are ignorant, IMHO.

            1. I don’t mean that in an offensive way. I am just saying most of my hardcore reformer friends haven’t spent much time in the classrom lately to see how hard the teachers work and how skilled they really are. An unskilled public school teacher wouldn’t last a week.

              We probably agree that there are improvements that can be made to help kids learn. My list includes:

              -more para educators and assistants

              -more “best practices” instruction

              -fewer legislative headaches

              -more support and respect from the community

              -more flexibility for each teacher to reach their students as individuals

              -less standardized teaching

              -more planning time

              -more teacher collaboration (rather than competition!)


            1. And I don’t think anyone is saying the “equal” argument you just said. Especially since (SHOCKER!) Sb-191 has already been passed into law.

              Newsflash, DT808: you’ve already won the battle! Congratulations! Maybe stop being such an asshole about it.

    1. SB-191 is the law, whether the people who opposed it want that or not is irrelevant.

      Michael Johnston has reached out to the CEA when it comes to implementation, so it looks like he’s willing to move on past the bickering. Not too surprising that you’re not.

  8. The mayor of Denver can indeed at least use the bully pulpit to call for excellence in education.  Chris Romer has a strong record in support of education, which is one reason I support him for Mayor.  And unlike you, I can actually vote in that election.  

    1. (Take it back, take it back, take it back — I can’t bear the thought of being forced to agree with that cixelsyd — not even on one thing.)

  9. So, my memory is a bit blotchy ….I think Mejia was on the Denver School Board from 1999 to 2003??

    Could you list his major accomplishments during his tenure?


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