About nancycronk

Nancy Cronk is a longtime community activist and women's leader living in Arapahoe County. Six months before the historic "red sweep" election of 2014, she was recruited to run as a "placeholder" in HD37, and managed to bring in 40K from 500 small donors, and 42% of the vote -- just one point lower than the previous candidate who ran in a presidential year.

Calling on Colorado’s Straight Progressives — Step Up To The Plate

First they came for the Jews

   and I did not speak out

   because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

   and I did not speak out

   because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

   and I did not speak out

   because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,

   and I didn’t speak up

   because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me and there was no one left

   to speak out for me.

~Martin Niemoller, Protestant Pastor and Social Activist, 1892-1984

If Martin Niemoller were alive today, I believe he would add gays and lesbians, as well as new immigrants, and people of color to this list. What happened in Nazi Germany can happen anywhere. What we are seeing in today’s political landscape is what so many have feared — with the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, Americans have turned on each other. It’s called scapegoating.

The New GOP has gotten more extreme every year, attempting to take away women’s basic rights to health care, financial safety nets for the poor and the elderly, and our children’s opportunity to succeed through public education. They blame our pain on us, and they target the most vulnerable among us — gays and lesbians, American laborers, new immigrants, teachers and firefighters, people of color — even minority children.

As we say in Judaism, “Enough!” “Dayenu!”

There is one antidote for scapegoating, and only one. It’s when people of all stripes — of all colors, all ages, all ethnic backgrounds, all religions, all sexual orientations, and all professions — stand together and say, “This is our country. These are our bodies. These are our homes. This is our work. These are our beliefs. These are our choices. These are our friends. This is my life, and you are going to have to pry it from my cold, dead hands!”

I ask my straight friends and neighbors — please stand with me on this year’s Civil Unions Bill in Colorado. This bill is not just about giving compassionate equity to Coloradans who have been treated like second class citizens far too long, allowing them the same human dignities we enjoy and take for granted. It’s not just about ensuring they can hold their loved one’s hand at the end of life, or own a home together, or buy insurance policies together. It’s not just about protecting their children’s right to legal  protections.

It’s about holding tight to the America we love… the America that cares about every citizen, rich or poor, male or female, native or non-native, gay or straight. It’s about fighting to hold onto what made this nation great — it’s diversity and it’s compassion — it’s equality, it’s dream, and it’s potential.

As straight progressives, please stand with me every step of the way on the CO’s Civil Unions bill, also known as SB2. Take a morning or afternoon off when it is time to testify. Bombard your legislators with phone calls, emails, letters, and faxes. Organize a rally. Start a letter, and get your neighbors to sign it with you.

Join me in speaking up, because when they come for us, we’re going to wish someone’s left to speak on our behalf.

Please join me.

Will you speak up?

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Bigotry, Prejudice and CO’s Civil Unions Bill

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Waiting to testify at the CO Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Civil Unions, I was reminded of something that happened when I was a little girl.  We lived three miles outside of Detroit in a small house with eleven residents (my parents and nine children), and my dad had occasional weekend  poker games in our garage. The garage was a real working garage with a grease pit to fix cars (a six-foot-deep rectangular hole), which he covered with several layers of plywood, in order to have his friends over for a poker game on top of it. (Ever seen the Roseanne show? It was just like that, only our kitchen was much smaller than theirs.)

Dad was deaf from a childhood accident, but he heard the language of the streets through beer, cigarettes, cars, and frequent “gut checks.” Everyone from the shop was invited to poker night, no matter what their faith, color, ethnicity, language, bank account, religion, etc. The only rule to be invited to poker night was you couldn’t drive a foreign car. (I previously wrote about that here.)

We had one television, one telephone, and ten people fighting over them, so I read often, and listened to Canadian public radio, where my liberal curiosity was nurtured. I loved meeting all my dad’s friends from “the shop” — each had a different accent, a different smell, a different look. When I studied Native Americans, my dad had a friend who was a Native American chief, and my dad asked him to teach us. Chief Red Bird, a local volunteer at a state park, brought his daughter and some friends, and had a mini-pow-wow in our living room. He even made us leather slippers, which we wore when we visited him at Detroit Metropolitan State Park.

Dad didn’t discriminate, at least not in the usual ways. Although my father quit school in the eighth grade and only later went back to finish the eleventh grade (there was no special education offered for poor, deaf kids in the forties), he was an expert at people. Dad made friends with everyone — literally everyone — and he brought them all home for poker. Jewish friends, Italian friends, Greek friends, African-American friends, German friends, Asian friends — didn’t matter. As long as they didn’t drive a foreign car, they were all his friends.

At our local drug store, there was a woman with numbers tattooed on her arm, and when asked, she told us in a very thick accent how she had escaped Nazi Germany. My mother would not have approved of me asking such nosy questions, but when I was alone, I asked them of everyone I met. Ethnic Detroit in the 70s was the perfect place to learn about the world.

I remember being intrigued by one of my Dad’s poker-playing friends, “German Joe.” Joe’s wife was the best baker, and he frequently brought over German anisette pastries. He also had an adorable schnauzer named Snoopy that did tricks and followed commands in three languages. I was about eight years old when I blurted out to Joe, “Are you a Nazi?” My dad’s friend became very serious and quiet, kneeled down to be eye level with me, and said (something like),

“When I was sixteen, I joined Hitler’s army because I loved planes and they said I could fly them. I did not hate Jews. I did not hate anyone. I just wanted to fly planes. I worked for Hitler until I escaped and came to this country. Every day of my life, I pray to G-d to forgive me for being on the wrong side.” With tears in his eyes, Joe continued, “When you grow up, remember to ask a lot of questions… because if you don’t, you might end up on the wrong side, like me. Sometimes I wish I died in the war. You should never live like Old Joe.”

I sensed Joe’s deep shame and never forgot it. I also never shared Joe’s secret with my parents (my dad was deaf, remember). Many of my father’s nine brothers fought the Nazis in World War II — it wouldn’t have gone over well. How could someone who appeared so kind have been part of something that was so unspeakably cruel?

Later, as a teenager, I started attending a synagogue and eventually converted to Judaism. In shul, I heard many more horror stories about the Holocaust, and often thought of Joe — Joe with the sweet dog, the delicious cookies, and the horrible secret. Joe the Nazi, who flew planes for the most murderous regime in human history.

I learned as a kid, to talk to everyone, to assume nothing, and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It’s easy to hate people; it’s much more difficult to understand them. I studied psychology in college for this reason.

I was thinking about all of this yesterday at the CO State Senate Judiciary hearing on Civil Unions. A young woman representing the Anti-Defamation League testified that people who opposed Civil Unions were motivated for many different reasons, but among them were bigotry and prejudice. A very tense exchange between the young woman and Senator Lundberg went something like this:

Lundberg: “Are you saying that anyone opposed to Civil Unions is a bigot, or is prejudiced?”

Woman from ADL: “No, I am saying there are many motives to oppose equality for gays and lesbians. Among those reasons is bigotry and prejudice. That’s why I’m testifying on behalf of ADL.”

Lundberg repeated his question in slightly different words, and the woman repeated her answer in a similar fashion. As the proverbial saying goes, you could cut the tension with a knife.

I thought about German Joe, and I thought about the woman with the numbers on her arm. I thought about Rosa Parks, whom I met when I was sixteen; my high school social studies teacher invited her in to speak to our class. I remembered her saying how important it was to the civil rights movement that white people joined the cause, too. I thought about one of my best friends who killed himself while struggling with his sexuality and the homophobic world around him, and I thought about Senator Lundberg.

When it was my turn to testify, I said,

“I’m sorry Senator Lundberg is out of the room…” (he and Senator King left the room frequently during the hearing, each missing approximately half of the testimony. Even while there, Lundberg rarely looked up from his laptop or iPad, apparently doing his taxes, or something else equally more important than listening to the pain of gays and lesbians for hours). I continued, “because I wanted to tell Senator Lundberg I do not believe every person who opposes gay marriage or civil unions is a bigot, or is prejudiced.”

On the break, I gave Senator Lundberg a copy of my testimony, shook his hand, and told him the same thing. And I meant it. I don’t believe he hates gays.

In my testimony, I spoke of being homophobic while in high school. When I heard gay jokes as a kid, and laughed at them, I meant no harm to anyone. Like my Dad, I didn’t hate gay people, or Jews, or Muslims, or African Americans, or Italians, or anyone else. Hate has never been a part of my heart, even a little.

And yet, by not speaking up, by not showing up, by not standing up, I was part of the problem. When my friend Bret killed himself, and left a note, I found that I, too, in high school, shared something with German Joe.

Never again. Never again. Never again.

I will listen to all sides. I will strive to understand. I will assume everyone has good intentions unless I can prove otherwise. And I will never, ever stop asking questions. I will never stand quiet when those around me are persecuted. I owe it to the woman with the numbers on her arm. I owe it to Rosa Parks. I owe it to my friend Bret, and to many other millions of people who have been persecuted because of the (literally) thoughtless actions, or inactions, of others.

Senators Lundberg and King gave their reasons for not supporting civil unions. For King, he essentially believes civil unions are a veiled attempt at gay marriage, and defining marriage is the right of the church. To quote King, “Separation of church and state is there to protect the church.”

Lundberg’s argument was similar. He believes the civil unions bill is no different than the gay marriage attempts of the past. Because of the fact Lundberg only actually listened carefully to a few minutes of the five hour long Senate Judiciary hearing, he managed to avoid hearing all the reasons why the Civil Unions bill is very different from earlier gay marriage legislation (I sat immediately to his right in the completely packed chambers and watched him surfing the net for five hours  — that is, when he was even in the room). The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will now continue on to the entire Senate, despite King and Lundberg’s opposition.

“Ask questions, Senator Lundberg”, I thought. “Listen. Engage. Understand. Feel what it feels like to walk in the shoes of another.” That’s how Colorado will know you are not a bigot.

Have you ever testified on behalf of Civil Rights?

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Mayor Cory Booker Rocked The House In Denver Saturday Night

You may have heard Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker was in town on Saturday, as the keynote speaker at the Colorado Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner. His speech was electrifying. These principals are why so many of us are Democrats.

Note: This is 37 minutes long. The first 12-13 minutes are a little slow, but starts out very touching. Mayor Booker found out his friend and fellow Newark resident, Whitney Houston, had just passed, minutes before being introduced on stage. The first 12 minutes also make a number of funny Denver references; you can jump to 13:28 for the best parts.  

 

The rest of the evening was spectacular, and a whole lot more upbeat than the televised CPAC. Kudos to Chris Laughlin, Beverly Ryken, Rick Palacio and all who were involved in planning the event.  

2012: The War On Women’s Bodies, and How To Respond Legislatively

Pro-zygote, anti-woman bills are being presented all across the nation, in an effort to awaken the evangelical Republican base before the election of 2012. Most of these bills have been written by, or championed via Personhood USA.

In Oklahoma, our not-so-distant neighbor, Senate Bill 1433 states a fetus “at every stage of development (has) all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.” If Senate Bill 1433 becomes a law, all forms of abortion and various forms of contraception could potentially be considered murder, and therefore illegal.

Democratic State Senator Constance Johnson, attempting to make a point, attached

an amendment to the Oklahoma bill that would ban the spilling of semen in any location other than a woman’s vagina. Unfortunately, Senator Johnson then withdrew her amendment, which would have made masturbation illegal.

A like-minded State Senator, Democrat Jim Wilson, also added an amendment to the same bill, requiring the biological father of the child to be financially responsible for the mother’s welfare during the entire pregnancy (put your money where your mouth is, conservatives!), including housing, utilities, food, transportation, and all medical care expenses. As you may have guessed, this amendment also failed.

A similar bill to Oklahoma SB 1433 was defeated at the polls in Mississippi in November, 2011. Clearly, the point still needs to be made, and not just in Oklahoma.

In CO, their strategy is a little different. Personhood USA is once again attempting to amend the Colorado constitution through a statewide initiative, similar to the earlier Amendment 62. Amendment 62, in a nutshell, said a fertilized egg is legally a separate and distinct human being, and aborting one is murder. We know from previous elections in Colorado, this initiative will probably not pass. Voters have resoundingly defeated similar bills twice.

Still, Coloradans are concerned about what is happening all over the country, and it is merely a matter of time before our state legislature will be handed an anti-choice bill here. According to NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, which released a 2012 study of pending legislation all over the United States:

The report shows that states enacted more than twice as many anti-choice measures in 2011 as the previous year, and the legislative landscape could open the door to even more attacks in 2012.

“The findings in this report should spur every American who values freedom and privacy into action,” Keenan said. “Last year, we predicted that our opponents would ignore the public’s call to focus on the nation’s immediate challenges, such as the economy. Sadly for women, our predictions came true at near-record levels. Lawmakers waged a War on Women, and as a result, women in many states will see more political interference in their personal, private medical decisions. In some cases, women could lose access to reproductive-health services they currently have.”

Keenan said 26 states enacted 69 anti-choice measures in 2011, the second-highest number since the organization started tracking such data in 1995. The record is 70, set in 1999. Since 1995, states have enacted 713 anti-choice measures.

Keenan said two pro-choice governors, Mark Dayton of Minnesota (D) and Brian Schweitzer of Montana (D), vetoed anti-choice bills and kept 2011 from breaking the record for state-level attacks. NARAL Pro-Choice America dedicated the publication to these gubernatorial champions.

The outcome was quite different in other states. For instance, while former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas (D) vetoed eight anti-choice bills over the course of her tenure, her successor, Gov. Sam Brownback (R), signed five anti-choice bills into law in his first year in office. Kansas tied with Arizona and Florida for enacting the most anti-choice measures this year.

Colorado needs to stand together to defeat the latest incarnation of Amendment 62, and be ready when the next pro-zygote bill is presented at the state legislature, as well. As a concerned citizen, I respectfully offer the following tips to our state legislators, when faced with a piece of anti-choice legislation.

Attach any of these as amendments: 1) The mother is allowed to claim the zygote as a dependent on her taxes, 2) Give the zygote a vote beginning with the next election, as interpreted by the mother (pray for twins ladies — you’ll get three votes), 3) Give the zygote the right to collect Social Security, food stamps, and other “entitlement” resources, 4) Give the zygote residential status beginning at conception, 5) Attach an amendment saying fathers owe child support beginning at conception.

The persistence of the evangelical right to strip women of their personal, private decisions regarding the health of their own bodies is not funny. Personhood USA, and its supporters, are incredibly persistent. As progressives, we need to also be persistent in protecting the rights of women everywhere. Sometimes, it takes a little humor, or a little shock-value, to wake some people up to the serious ramifications of ill-thought out legislation. In this regard, Colorado is at least as clever as her neighbors, is she not?

HB 12-1049 — Bipartisan Common Sense In Education

Colorado State Representative Judy Solano recently introduced CO HB 12-1049, giving parents the authority to decide if their child should take the TCAP (formerly CSAP) exams, or allow them to be exempt for personal reasons, without negative consequences for the student, the teachers, the school, or the district. This bill reminds me of a conundrum I had years ago…

I remember watching one of my sons, about 8 or 9 years old I think, tell me his stomach hurt one morning just before school. When I woke him up an hour before, he appeared fine. His color was good, his forehead felt normal, and he had eaten the same cereal and milk he had digested many times before. I was about to tell him he could stay home from school, when I remembered why he was suddenly “under the weather”.

It was CSAP day– Colorado Student Assessment Program examinations — the dreaded day every year my high achieving, very intelligent son became nervous, frightened and sick to his stomach.

I should have remembered. For days, he had been drinking more water than necessary for his health (“My teacher says water hydrates your brain and we have to be well-hydrated before CSAPs” he told me.) We had been to the supermarket for granola bars (“The teacher told us to have carbohydrates in our pocket so our blood sugar doesn’t drop suddenly”) and later to Walgreens for some gum (“The teacher said chewing helps your brain stay alert and focused”). The night before, he asked if he could have something to help him fall asleep, since he was not tired (“The teacher said we should get plenty of sleep the night before CSAPs.” Apparently, he had seen a commercial on television about taking a magic pill for insomnia.) That’s where I drew the line. I advised him warm milk would do the trick, and muttered under my breath about the *#$%^&*# “No Child Left Behind” legislation that created the nightmare of high-stakes standardized testing for children.

The next morning, I was late for a meeting preparing the perfect food pyramid breakfast (“The teacher said…”) and running back for a sweater and some extra number two pencils “just in case”. Sitting outside the school, I wiped a tear from my son’s face. “Don’t worry, honey, we’ll love you know matter how you do on the stupid test.” I told him, “I just don’t want you to throw up on your paper, okay?”

Each of my children has a very different personality, so for one of my sons, the change in routine was exciting, and he found the exams pleasantly challenging. With the other two boys, this scenario played out again and again and again. For them, the pressure of being in honors classes in the most competitive school district in the state was already more than enough to handle, and CSAPs meant additional stress. Watching my children freak out each year while preparing for a test that meant less than nothing to me, and one which I thought was a complete and utter waste of time, was maddening.

I remember the first time I decided one of my kids would not participate in the developmentally inappropriate, high-stakes testing. I marched into the elementary school where I frequently volunteered (having a much better idea of where my son was “at” academically than any impersonal test could possibly tell me), and informed the teacher he would not be coming to school on test day.

“I don’t believe in high stakes testing for children, and I have read the research,” I said. “These tests do not accurately reflect how any child is learning because each child’s ability to regurgitate facts on a two-dimensional sheet of paper varies. The tests also do not measure creativity, critical thinking, motivation, persistence, and many different types of aptitude. They only measure how well they have memorized what they’ve been taught the last few weeks. Not to mention that, but my son’s self-worth as a human being, or as a learner, should not be based on how some anonymous person scores him on a worthless exam. I don’t believe in these tests, so our family will not participate”. (Harruummph!)

The teacher looked sympathetic.

“I certainly understand your position, Mrs. _____” (they always called me by my husband’s name). “I wish I didn’t have to administer this test myself. To be perfectly frank with you…” she continued in hushed tones, “preparing for this test is an enormous waste of our time. I would much rather be working on the things the students are passionate about than teaching them how to properly fill in little shapes with their pencil properly, or lecture them about not being late on test day. Unfortunately, these tests determine an awful lot for our school, and for my job. If your son does not take the test, we get a ‘zero’. By keeping your son at home, you punish the entire school. Please don’t do that to us, Mrs. ____ . Your kids are smart — we need your son here.”

This lovely young teacher was literally begging. I felt like a heel. Her words haunted me for days. The flattery of “Your kids are smart” was wierdly juxtaposed with “these tests are an enormous waste of time”. I wondered what they told parents whose children had developmental disabilities, or for whom a language barrier might affect their scores. I grew even more concerned. I made an appointment to speak with the Principal, who told me essentially the same thing.

“We don’t like these tests, either, Mrs. __________, but our hands are tied. If your son stays home, it only hurts the school, and in the end, it hurts our students”, he said. “If your son is feeling stressed, there are things we can do to help. He should be eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep…(blah, blah, blah).”

Clearly, there was nothing the school could do, and I didn’t want to hurt the school, or the teachers. They were not the problem; they were being victimized just as the students were. Over a number of years, my boys became more accustomed to taking the tests, and the stomach-aches became less frequent. In the older grades, students were rewarded with the next day being a “free day” (which meant Disney movies).

“What a giant waste of precious teaching time”, I thought.

Keeping children home from school for personal, political, religious or medical reasons has always been the prerogative for parents in Colorado, provided they attend school a minimum number of days per calendar year. For example, my son’s school gave us the option of keeping our children home the day they learned about sexual reproduction in the fifth grade. (We were also given a choice to keep our children at home for an optional “winter celebration” on the last day before winter break, presumably to avoid the possibility another student might say something scandalous like the word “Hanukkah”, or accidentally wish someone “Happy Holidays”.)  

I went to the “reproductive education” parent meetings, read the curriculum, and asked questions.

“This is what some parents think is objectionable? My neighbors keep their kids home so they don’t hear words like “breast”, “vulva”, mitosis, and “gamete”. Seriously?”

I tried not to pass judgment. I knew the school was teaching the biology of sexual reproduction, not the values or the politics of sexuality, so I couldn’t understand why other parents were making a big deal of it. Still, it was their right, and I respected their concerns, even though they differed from my own.

“Let me get this straight”, I wanted to ask. “When my kids were younger and couldn’t sleep at night because they wondered if their teacher would still like them, or if they would someday get into college, on tests they took when they were eight years old, and I wanted to keep them home to avoid the inappropriate amount of stress they were being subjected to, I didn’t have a choice. But now, I can keep my child home from school simply to avoid a “holiday party” with snowmen, or on the day their teacher might say the word, “menstruation”. Are you kidding me?

Don’t even get me started about the day I was given an option to keep my children at home, because their homeroom class planned on playing a ten-minute video clip of the President of the United States telling them to “work hard and have a good year at school”!

My kids are older now, but I still feel passionate about this issue. Please support HB 12-1049. In Colorado, parents have always had the choice to keep their students at home for important personal, religious, medical or family reasons, as long as the students are getting the required number of hours of education in each calendar year. If snowmen-phobic parents are allowed to keep their children home one day a year without repercussions, families like yours should have the same right.

Do you support a parent's right to decide if their children should take TCAP exams?

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Best Superbowl Ad?

I don’t give a Gingrich moonbeam about professional sports, but I do like to see what people say about the new commercials afterward. “What does their popularity say about cultural, marketing, or political trends?”, I want to know.

As a native Michigander and UAW kid, I couldn’t be more proud of the State of Michigan and the auto industry for its comeback. The Superbowl commercial featuring Clint Eastwood literally made me cry. For those of you who missed the commercial, here it is. Remember, three short years ago, Willard “Mitt” Romney, spoiled rich kid whose Dad used to be the Governor of Michigan, heartlessly told the world, “Let Detroit Die”.

I am grateful to the financial-vulture-turned-Presidential-candidate for issuing a challenge to the hundreds of thousands of good people in my homestate to prove him wrong… and they did. In contrast, President Obama stood by Detroit, assisting in negotiating a deal that would bring back America’s automotive industry. Three years later, not only did the auto industry pay back all of the bail-out money, they are doing remarkably well, all things considered. My own brother, a skilled tradesman, and many of the people I grew up with, are back at work. Things are starting to look up.

Here’s my vote for best Superbowl ad. What’s yours?  

The Right Man For Congress in CD6 – CO State Representative Joe Miklosi

Rumor has it CO Senator Brandon Shaffer, current candidate for CD4, will be deciding this week whether or not to jump into the CD6 race, abandoning his campaign in CD4. My guess is, he’s waiting for CO Representative Joe Miklosi’s numbers to come out from the last quarter. For those who have not been paying close attention, Colorado’s CD4 became less easily winnable as a result of recent Congressional redistricting.

I respect and admire Brandon Shaffer; he is literally one of my political heroes. Not just that – I am indebted to him. I’ve made calls for his race in CD4 very recently.

Loyal readers on Colorado Pols may remember Senator Shaffer’s unwavering support of Michael Bennet in the 2010 Senate Race. Not only was Senator Shaffer one of just a few legislators who believed in Michael Bennet from the beginning (add State Representatives Karen Middleton and Daniel Kagan, as well as Congressman Jared Polis to that list), but he also took a lot of grief for Bennet at the Boulder Convention and Assembly. I stood by Senator Shaffer then, and always will.  

Senator Shaffer courageously sponsored a controversial anti-human trafficking bill written by my friend Beth Klein, as well. Always a diplomat and a statesman, Senator Shaffer had to answer to opponents on both sides of the aisle to defend the bill. I am grateful to him for his courage and strong sense of justice; he acted to protect young street girls and boys who would otherwise have no political voice, and who certainly were in no position to benefit his office financially or politically.

Yet, I support Joe Miklosi for Congress in CD6. Joe has laid the groundwork since the beginning for a successful campaign to oust tea-party darling, Congressman Mike Coffman. An expensive primary in CD6 will not help win the seat for a Democrat. Because of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, unprecedented amounts of dirty corporate money will be pumped into this Congressional race (You thought you were sick of Bennet/Buck ads in ’10? Just wait!). We need every dime from every Democrat we can scrape together to defeat corporate loyalist Coffman.

My friends and I are deeply invested in this race. While working for MoveOn in 2008, my team and I registered many thousands of new voters across the state, most of whom turned out to elect President Barack Obama. Staffers of then Secretary of State Mike Coffman instructed voter registrars to register voters one way, then Coffman said they did it incorrectly, prompting him to try to throw out more than ten thousand of the registrations. It took a federal investigation to get him to stop.

Coffman’s office has also turned away left-leaning and independent constitutents who have tried to meet with Coffman, telling them, “Congressman Coffman represents those who voted for him”. Add to that the time Coffman’s staffers flat-out lied and told television reporters the crowd of 1000+ pro-health care reform activists we gathered outside his office were in fact, anti-reform tea partiers.

Democrats and Independents alike in CD6 want Republican extremist Mike Coffman out of office as soon as possible. The Colorado Democratic Party could not justify helping us much in 2010; CD6 was considered a lost cause. This year is different; the numbers are in our favor. Winning in CD6 depends on two huge variables: getting out the vote in Aurora, and Mike Coffman’s friend, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, doing his job with integrity. The first variable is within our control. The second takes faith in our political system.

Why Representative Joe Miklosi?

Joe identified CD6 as his next goal long ago – long before Congressional redistricting made CD6 a competitive seat. Joe cares about Veterans, and knows Coffman has failed them. Joe believes in listening to his constituents and working across the aisle when necessary, and Coffman’s record is abysmal at both of those things. Joe cares about the many diverse interest groups in Aurora, and wants to protect their interests; Joe has a solid record in the state legislature to prove it. Joe understands suburban and rural voter’s issues, and has learned the political landscape of our district. He’s met many of us, and we’ve signed on to his campaign.

Joe Miklosi won me over as a supporter a couple years ago when I saw his extraordinary skills as a mediator and consensus builder. At the time, progressive radio talk-show host Mario Solis-Marich was raking Democratic State Senator Morgan Carroll over the coals ruthlessly for her “no” vote on tuition equity; he literally aired slanderous commercials on his radio station at every break. As a friend and supporter of Morgan’s who understood her rational while wishing she would vote “yes”, I was outraged. Those who know Morgan know she is a legal genius – if Morgan says a bill is not written well and violates the State or U.S. Constitution, you can bet your house keys that she’s right. Senator Carroll wanted a bill that was better written and would hold up in court, and was willing to work together as a team to draft a better bill – one that would not only win, but stand.

I called a group of Latina/Latino friends and asked them to meet with Senator Carroll and myself over dinner to talk about what happened on tuition equity and try to rebuild together for another round of legislation. The first meeting was great. The second meeting, with an expanded circle of invitees, was very heated and tense. In stepped Representative Miklosi, someone who cares deeply about the issue and wanted what was best for Colorado, and helped to diffuse the tension and clarify mutual goals. It was at that moment I saw an extraordinary statesman in Joe Miklosi –not your average Joe.

I recently asked my network of 2500 facebook contacts (most of whom are progressive activists in Colorado) if they think Senator Shaffer should primary Representative Miklosi, and those who responded were overwhelmingly against the idea. Those in CD4 said they would feel betrayed, and would ask for their contributions back. Those in CD6 said they were already supporting Joe Miklosi, who has worked long hours since Day One to build relationships, going to many house and senate district meetings and special events.

Money may have started trickling in slowly at first (CD6 residents have a version of learned helplessness, I think), but pundits will discover the pace picked up remarkably in the fourth quarter of 2011. CD6 residents are starting to believe in the political process again, and they… we… are finding our hope in Joe Miklosi. Joe Miklosi has also won the support of many labor unions and nearly every Democratic state legislator in the area.

The 2012 election cycle will see an unprecendented amount of PAC money dumped into Colorado, but the latest incarnation of the eggmendment and the marijuana legalization initiative will get out left-leaning and independent voters in large numbers. Under those circumstances, Democrats tend to do well. I trust Senator Shaffer (and his very capable campaign manager, RBI’s Craig Hughes) will see the wisdom in staying in the CD4 race and giving it all they’ve got. We need to win both Congressional seats in CD4 and CD6, and in 2012, it’s possible to do so. Why? Senator Brandon Shaffer is a class act, and Representative Joe Miklosi is not your average Joe.

Please send Congressional candidate Joe Miklosi as much money as you can if you want a strong new leader in Congress.

Still To Come Very Soon: “Who is Joe Miklosi?”

 

Romney Wins In Iowa By Eight Votes (video); Santorum Surges From Behind

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Other headlines of note this morning:

“Santorum Lubed Up for New Hampshire”

“Romney, Santorum and Paul in Three Way”

“The Second Coming of Rick Santorum”

“Santorum Is On Everyone’s Lips This Morning”

“Santorum Pulls One Out After Messy Race”

“Romney Squeezes Out Santorum”

(Weinergate may soon be topped here, folks. If you have no idea why these are funny, google the definition of Santorum.)

But, what does all this mean?

1. Obama for America is giddy from the possibility they may only have to beat a pro-life Tea Party candidate. Then again, Iowa remains a deeply socially conservative rural state, and what happens in Iowa might just stay in Iowa.

2. Ron Paul is so close, he is the real story here. Young white males flock to him like flies on soda cans, and both the GOP and Obama will have to deal with that reality. In my experience as a progressive with an extensive network, Ron Paul also appeals to many young males who formerly voted for Obama, as well. The power of the anti-war platform cannot be underestimated.

The military-industrial complex power brokers will be launching a war against Ron Paul to save their puppet, Romney. Paul won’t know what hit him because they will do it in the shadows.

3. Gingrich “has a rusty knife” and based on last night’s speech, fully intends to use it against Mitt Romney. This could get very interesting.

I gave up watching my alma mater play an important game last night (Michigan football) because the real game was in Iowa. The “clown car” race keeps getting more and more interesting everyday.

Watch Santorum’s Speech:

Predictions for Iowa Caucus

Here’s mine. By the numbers, it will be Romney on top, Ron Paul close behind, and Santorum making big strides to become a strong third. Santorum will make a surprising leap in raw numbers and will have momentum going into New Hampshire. Bachman will continue to talk abut miracles happening in New Hampshire through Florida and will sound like a fruit loop. Gingrich will blame Romney’s victory on his piles of money (and be partially correct in doing so). Huntsman will bail soon.

What’s yours?

Who will win in Iowa?

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Setting The Record Straight on Romanoff v. Bennet, and why Obama Should Listen

Last week, before Andrew Romanoff endorsed Joe Miklosi in CD6, there was a diary comment on Pols which stated “Romanoff’s Senate campaign was a disaster”. That comment got under my skin, so I will set the record straight, for the sake of the tens of thousands of his supporters, as well as for the 2012 elections in Colorado. That may sound incongruous coming from one of Senator Bennet’s earliest and most ardent supporters — please hear me out.

First, a fast review of what happened, for those living under a rock, or out-of-state, from 2009-2010. Romanoff’s Senate campaign was a study in contrasts. There were epic mistakes made, but in many ways, it was wildly successful considering  its tiny fraction of financial resources. The vast majority of activists and staffers who worked on it have every reason to be proud of what they accomplished.

Many of us on Colorado Pols predicted Romanoff would lose the Senate primary in ’10 because we’ve been around the block a few times. We know how powerful money is in politics, and we knew no primary opponent had a chance in this Barney-purple state, at this time in history, to win an off-year election against a well-qualified Democratic incumbent, without a mountain of financial backing. We thought it was a waste of precious resources to even try. We did everything we could to try to convince Romanoff, one of our state’s strongest leaders, to not jump into that race, and when he did, we tried to convince him (indirectly) to get out. We winced, and we watched.

Many of us also knew Michael Bennet was a quick-study, was well-suited for the job he already had, and had connections nationally “up the wazoo”. Watching Romanoff run against him was like watching the best athlete in one sport give it up for a career in another. It was hard to watch; any seasoned sports fan could predict exactly where that athlete was bound to fail.

True, Romanoff made some monumental errors in judgement (getting into the race too late, hiring Pat Caddell and Bill Romjue, not taking union money, going negative against a fellow Dem, and allowing a few colorful, renegade local personalities to have access to new media on his behalf). Despite those mistakes, not one of those lapses of judgment lessened his contributions to the state of Colorado, nor the enormous positive impact his political legacy will have on this state for decades to come. Should he decide to run in a state-wide race at the right time, most of us would jump to his defense. I will.

Second, not one of those errors discounts the things his campaign did right, nor the strength and tenacity of his volunteers and activists who accomplished so much with so little. They do not represent the average Romanoff-for-Senate supporters whose vision and commitment made that race one of the most watched Senate races in the country.

Why do I care to set the record straight 14 months later? In my work as a recruiter for the Center for Progressive Leadership*, it is my job to identify the best and the brightest emerging progressive leaders in Colorado, and give them access to a professional development program that nurtures their political and social movement goals. Many of these emerging leaders were “baptized by fire” via their work on the Romanoff campaign. Their passion, their vision, their commitment, and their drive are far stronger, as a result, because they cut their teeth on one of the most aggressive political campaigns in the history of Colorado — maybe anywhere.

It’s difficult to find stronger leaders than Romanoff’s staffers and empassioned activists. Among them are some of the most promising future leaders the west has to offer in the areas of lgbtq rights, health care, women’s issues, education reform, immigration reform, international peace-keeping, social safety nets, green energies, environmentalism, and much more. Bloggers can rehash the Senate campaign between Romanoff v. Bennet from a strictly strategic point of view until the cows come home, but no one can accurately say Romanoff failed as a populist leader of historic proportions, or question the sheer talent of the activists he attracts everywhere he goes. As a Bennet campaigner in ’10, there was one truth I could never deny –Andrew Romanoff has always had a profoundly impressive base of grass-roots support.

Romanoff’s campaign was boot camp for many of Colorado’s emerging leaders. Outside of literally a few vocal wingnuts, 99% of Romanoff’s team accomplished the unthinkable. They created a groundswell, seized new media, harnessed local talent, and awakened sleeping passions… all on a shoestring budget. For that, I give them a mountain of credit.

Every national Democratic leader from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz down, has identified Colorado as one of a handful of key states in securing a second Obama term. Should the Obama campaign fail to acknowledge the power and talent that was behind the Romanoff half of the CO primary race, and neglect to inspire and motivate his base, it may mean the Presidency in 2012, and all future Democratic elections in CO for a long time to come.

Romanoff staffers and activists across the state, take a bow. You deserve it. Let’s hope the President’s people see that, and give you the positions of leadership you well deserve in the 2012 election.

*Disclaimer: The Center for Progressive Leadership is nonpartisan, and not affiliated with any candidate, candidate’s campaign or political party.  

Friday Jam Fest

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Hard to believe it’s been 31 years. John Lennon’s lyrics continue to speak to us deeply. We miss you, John.  

Is There Hope For Aurora?

I attended the swearing-in of Debi Hunter-Holen, one of the newest members of the Aurora City Council, on Monday evening. It was a proud moment to watch her raise her right hand, swear to uphold the laws of the land, and be seated on the very large semi-spherical stage. The impressive surroundings of the City Council chambers look more like they should hold the US Supreme Court rather than the City Council of the third largest city in Colorado. I couldn’t help but wonder how many public libraries could have been kept open with the cost of that room. Clearly, Aurora’s civic center buildings are impressive; unfortunately, they were built at the expense of not building new recreation centers for decades.

The meeting was full of pomp and circumstance; the quarter-century long Tauer Dynasty was ending, and this was the closing ceremony. After thunderous applause from his mostly Republican colleagues, Mayor Ed Tauer returned to sit in the public section of the audience with his wife, taking his gavel with him. New Mayor Steve Hogan (R) was sworn in, and took his seat between his twelve all-white counterparts.

I remembered when I first talked to Ed Tauer when I was a resident of Aurora. At the time, I had lived in Aurora for ten years, and (I believe) he was a City Councilman at-large. I called him because he was a proponent of a bill to require all residents of Aurora to keep their cats on leashes. I asked him if he was out of his *#$%^&* ever-lovin’ mind. “This is a legitimate problem in Aurora”, he told me. “I like to garden, and my neighbor’s cat keeps leaving his feces in my flower-bed.”

Coincidentally, my husband and I were looking for a house with a larger kitchen to accomodate our three growing children at the time. I refused to live in a city where the laws were designed for one family (albeit a very influential family). We moved a stone’s throw outside the city limits and enjoyed every moment watching our two cats be cats. The cat-leash law is still on the books, according to City Councilman Bob Fitzgerald, as well as a law that allows dogs that look like pit bulls to be taken away from families (no proof is required that they are either pit bulls or dangerous), and killed, with no compensation to, or sympathy for the families. So much for “small government”.

To be fair, the Tauer Dynasty brought a number of positive changes to Aurora. Under their leadership, Aurora built a state-of-the-art skate park as well as a large multi-sport complex off of Colfax, and it drew a major medical-research center to the region. Aurora played a significant role in partnering with Denver on the International Airport, and on the infrastructure to support it. Aurora is currently competing with the City of Denver to steal the Annual Western Stock Show.

I digress. Back to the City Council meeting.

The Aurora City Council went on to hear heart-wrenching testimony from about a dozen residents concerned with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — the very controversial use of a chemical and water mixture injected deep into the ground to break up and extract oil from bedrock. One of the speakers was a physician and another a community health nurse, both of whom were concerned about potential serious health risks. Many were parents. One man expressed concern that homeowners where he lived will never be able to re-sell their homes because of the fracking operation near a subdivision and elementary school. Residents referenced fracking nightmares in other states, and pleaded with the Council to exercise their authority to enact a moratorium on fracking until the safety concerns could be resolved.

Other residents asked the City Council to prioritize re-opening Aurora’s closed libraries, or extending the hours on the Mission Viejo library to more than the current 20 hours per week. Another resident pleaded with the city to consider building more recreation centers for the city’s tens of thousands teenagers.

While listening to all of the Aurora residents plead for basic services — libraries, recreation, public health and safety, etc., all I could think of was how white — and how Republican — the City Council was.

According to the US Census Bureau, Aurora is very diverse city. Less than fifty percent of Aurora’s residents are white and non-Latino (47.3%). People of color make up 16%. Native Americans, 1%. Asians, 5%, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 0.3%. Persons reporting two or more races, more than 5%. Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, 29 percent! Twenty percent are foreign-born, and a whopping 30% speak another language besides English at home.

In a city where less than fifty percent of the residents are Anglo, its Mayor and every one of its City Council members are Anglo. What’s wrong with this picture?

Democrat Debi Hunter-Holen (who incidentally is married to Democrat Bill Holen in Ed Perlmutter’s office) will bring a diversity-minded, progressive voice to the Aurora City Council — one that has been long overdue. Still, she is one of only two Democrats (that I know of) on the entire thirteen member Council. If the City Council of Aurora actually represented the residents of Aurora, in all of their beautiful diversity and cross-cultural wisdom, I suspect there might be a greater emphasis on basic city services for all of Aurora’s families.

As I left, I pledged to myself silently to work harder at recruiting community leaders from non-white and non-traditional backgrounds into the Center for Progressive Leadership, in the hope that someday, one or more of them will consider running for a position on the Aurora City Council.

But first, I need to go find my cat.

Nancy Cronk is a 2010 graduate of the Center for Progressive Leadership program. Please mention her name if you would like more information, or would like to apply to be a 2012 Fellow. http://www.progressiveleaders….

Michael Moore Occupies Denver; Peace Ensues

Documentary film-maker Michael Moore visited Occupy Denver last evening, squeezing the stop into his “Here Comes Trouble” book tour. A crowd of nearly 1000 protesters were there to meet him.

Moore was scheduled to arrive at 4pm, but like all good progressives, is not a slave to the clock; he arrived at a fashionably late 5:15pm or so. While we waited, people greeted friends, waved to passing drivers, sang songs, talked politics, and shared laughs. Horns honked in support. Denver progressive activist John H. Kennedy stood on the streetcorner holding an enormous sign.

Moore arrived escorted by several bodyguards in suits with earpieces. As much as I love Michael Moore, it was funny to see a guy that looks like someone’s Dad at a hockey game (wearing blue jeans, a casual zip-up jacket and a baseball hat) surrounded by people who look like they should be guarding the President of the United States. Michael was ushered into the middle of the assembled circle, surrounded by dozens of media photographers. When he started speaking, it was difficult to hear him, so I asked if he wanted to borrow my bullhorn (megaphone). Sheepishly, he asked the crowd if that was okay — the etiquette at Occupy gatherings is to use the “mic check” system, which is essentially the human voice amplified by each phrase being repeated by the crowd. We assured Moore we’d be okay with him using the megaphone.

Probably because he had a microphone, he started his speech with, “I’m not a leader. There is no leader in this movement. That is why it is such a huge and growing movment. We are not doing things the old way anymore — everybody is a leader.” The crowd cheered, despite the fact we had all been asked to use hand signals for clapping rather than actual clapping, out of respect to others who were also using the park. Moore continued (loosely paraphrasing from memory):

I bring you ‘best wishes’ and  appreciation from Occupy Wall Street in New York. People all over the country — all over the world — have been watching what you are doing in Denver, and we thank you for doing it. You’ve been out here day after day for weeks, through the cold and the snow, and the run-ins with the police, and with paid provacateurs who try to make you look bad. Keep on being peaceful, keep on surrounding instigators with love, and getting them to stop immediately if they show up to make trouble. Keep being the peaceful people you are.”

Moore added:

It’s amazing what this movement has accomplished in just six weeks. In just six weeks, it has spread to many countries around the globe, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have joined it. People have come out of their houses to join other voices saying, “Enough is enough.”

Six weeks into the women’s movement, or six weeks into the civil rights and anti-war movements, big things were happening, but not like this. This is amazing when you think about it. This is what happens when people join together to stand up to injustice — to stand up to the banksters, and the greed, and multi-naional corporations — when people stand up for the middle class.

Moore offered to thank those who organized the protests, which drew laughs and boos from the audience:

There are some people we should acknowledge for bringing all of us here together today. Their names are Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Bank of America, BP, General Electric and Fox News.

Michael Moore spoke for about twenty minutes, then left to resume his book tour.

The bigger story behind this story is that nearly 1000 people showed up to see and hear Michael Moore, or were already in the park as protesters, and the police presence was virtually non-existent. Three security guards wearing yellow and orange vests, looking much more like school crossing guards than the hundreds of heavily armed combat patrol officers in riot gear that showed up last Saturday, guided and directed the flow of human traffic. Everything was completely peaceful.

Was it the short notice of this event that failed to attract the Denver police, unafilliated anarchists, paid provacateurs, or national Fox News agitators? No one knows for sure. What we do know is that nearly one thousand Occupy Denver protesters assembled in song, in laughter, in fellowship and in unity to meet one of their favorite progressive celebrities. And everything was peaceful. Completely, totally, thoroughly peaceful.

Thank you Governor Hickenlooper and Mayor Hancock. Perhaps you’re “getting it” now.

*************************************************

I couldn’t find a video of Moore’s Speech in Denver, but here is his speech in New York the day before.

Friday Jams Fest

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

I’ve been waiting all week to share this little ditty with you. When I was a little kid growing up just outside of Detroit, I used to watch American Bandstand and Soul Train every Saturday morning. I remember seeing Elton John on television for the first time and my mother whispering, “I think that man might be a… (gasp)… ho-mo-sex-u-al”. I had to go look it up in the dictionary when I arrived at school. We’ve come a long way in 36 years. I’m proud to say my Mother and I are strong LGBTQ allies today. (Come to think of it, my baby sister, a lesbian, was born a year or two later.)

Two pieces of news came out this week showing me how far we have to go in this work, both in my home state, and in my beloved, adopted state of Colorado. The Michigan GOP just passed a bill allowing citizens to bully others if it can be justified using “religious or moral” reasons (the anti-Matthew Shepard bill, if you will). In Colorado, a lesbian couple had their home vandalized with death threats.

Homophobia sucks folks. Don’t stop fighting it. It’s still out there, it still hurts people, and the only cure is education. G-d Bless You, Elton John — even though you were dressed like the Lucky Charms Leprechaun in this video, you taught a generation of people all over the world to be proud of who you are. You rock the most, buddy.

Election Night Take-aways

Most of my candidates and issues lost, with just a few pleasant surprises. My takeaways: People are in economic survival mode, and GOTV is everything! The ones who had great field strategies (and lots of money to pay for them) won. For 2012, Dems need to prioritize GOTV.

What are your take-aways from last night?  

Election Day 2011 Open Thread

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

“A politician thinks of the next election – a statesman, of the next generation.”

–James Freeman Clarke

Best wishes today to everyone who has put their heart and soul into various political campaigns. May the virtue of each campaign, and each candidate, be rewarded with commensurate success.  

Occupy Denver Protesters Stand-off With Police

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: Westword Saturday evening:

There are few scarier sights than that of 100 police officers putting on gas masks. That view, along with the largest showing of police force yet, graced Occupy Denver’s weekly rally today when state and city police reacted to the renewed presence of tents. The unrest was met with pepper spray, batons, an unknown number of arrests and at least one protester being shot out of a tree with a round of rubber bullets.

In addition to including the largest show of police attention and force the occupation has faced yet, today’s demonstration was also its earliest interaction with the police. Officers began to close in on the camp around 2:30, and Broadway between Colfax and 14th was completely closed off by 3 p.m. By 5 p.m., more than thirty police vehicles and 200 police offers, all in full riot gear, surrounded Civic Center Park before organizing and flanking the group…

UPI:

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., moved into the crowd and used a bullhorn to urge the protesters to calm down.

“You’ve got to de-escalate this thing,” he said.

“We want jobs!” a man shouted back. “Democrats won’t get elected anymore!”

—–

I was at the Democratic Women’s Summit with a few hundred other women, a couple of blocks from the Capitol today. A newspaper reporter I know (I’ll let him tell his own story) whispered to me there was trouble at Occupy Denver, and I jumped up, following Congressman Ed Perlmutter who was also on his way there. When I arrived, there were many hundreds of protesters and what looked like a couple hundred law enforement officers lined up combat-style in riot gear. The roads were blocked off near the Capitol, and there were dozens of police cars, ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter made his way over to the State Patrol and started talking, shaking his head, nodding, looking very concerned. His animated but private conversation went on for some time. I glanced at twitter on my smart-phone, and read that some protesters had advanced to the State Capitol, prompting the police reaction. The crowd was indeed bi-sected by Broadway, with half being on the Capitol side of the street, and the other half in Civic Center Park.

I was told the police had just shot a guy out of a tree using lots of rubber bullets, and shot some others in the crowd with them as well. A man walked passed me with a swollen and bloodied neck, dripping with freshly-applied, foaming hydrogen peroxide. The smell of mace or pepper spray was heavy in the air, and it was hard to breathe for some (like me). A few protesters had gas masks on, while others offered vinegar soaked rags to those around them. (I declined, but backed away from the smokey smell.) Arapahoe County Democratic Chair John Buckley, who just happens to be a lawyer and a former paramedic, was also there. People were shouting, “Video, take photos, start tweeting, get medics”.  

The crowd seemed peaceful except for two very agitated men getting in the faces of the police, taunting them and jeering at them. The police were stoic, in precise combat line position, staring straight ahead. A few of the police looked frightened. It was very, very tense. I took some photos of them, and although they didn’t acknowledge me, I said, “I know you are not the enemy. Thank you for not reacting to these guys”. One female police officer glanced at me and smiled, and then returned to staring straight ahead, stoically. It occured to me the two men may be Sabateurs (either that, or they were just plain crazy).  

I was there about an hour, then returned to the Democratic Women’s Summit, just in time for a panel of state legislators taking questions from the crowd. I asked them if they supported Occupy Wall Street. Senator Morgan Carroll answered on behalf of many of her colleagues on the panel (paraphrasing):

“I support the reasons they are protesting. Income inequality, unemployment, home foreclosures, education concerns, and so many other issues are what’s behind the anger. Their frustrations are valid, and it is our job to make the policy changes that fix these problems. We need to re-direct that anger, that  angst, into a constructive force for positive change in CO. I wish we had one tenth of them testifying at our hearings every year. We need their voices and their perspectives to inform public policy, to make life better for every person in Colorado.”

After the meeting, I returned to the park and saw that the large crowd was still there, facing the long line of police in riot gear, although the sun was starting to set. Things were still tense. After I left, I heard from other observers who remained at the park that the police put on gas masks and cleared out the two dozen or more tents. According to twitter reports, between fifteen and twenty people were arrested today.

The sad part of today’s story is that 99% of the protesters were peaceful, apparently law-abiding citizens, there for a little nonviolent protest. I suspect 99% of the police and state patrol officers really didn’t want a stand-off either. The irony was that on both sides, these were all working people who just want a chance at the American Dream — people who have to feed their families somehow. Where were the one percent that created this mess? Where were the corporate CEOS, the bank Presidents, the Wall Street executives who profitted from the pain of others? Why were they not the ones feeling the sting of the mace in their eyes, or the rubber bullets hitting them?

And where was our Governor and our Mayor who ordered the heavy-handed police presence? Why weren’t they on the balcony of the capitol with a megaphone trying to calm the crowd, or out in the street like US Congressman Ed Perlmutter, trying to mediate between the two groups? How do the Mayor of Denver and the Governor of Colorado justify spending so much money to combat a few  crazy people, plus a crowd of peaceful demonstrators? Why weren’t there hundreds of law enforcement personnel in riot gear in 2009 when gun-toters from the NRA and people wearing tea bags hanging from their hats were pushing and shoving peaceful health care reform advocates at town hall meetings all over the state?

The elephant-in-the-room question is this, “What is the government going to do about this situation long-term?” Everyone knows you can squash a demonstration with violence or intimidation, but you can’t squash a movement. When will Coloradans hear what they really want to hear — that their legislators are listening, and their legislators understand their pain and frustration? When will the good guys, legislators like State Senator Morgan Carroll and US Congressman Ed Perlmutter, get a live, televised press conference with the Mayor and the Governor and share what they heard today from ordinary Coloradans? When will the people of Colorado hear their Governor say, “I’m listening. I refuse to be influenced by big business. My door will always be open to you, Colorado. Hold me to my promises”?

Do you identify with Occupy Denver?

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The Grown-Up In The Room: DPS Candidate Emily Sirota

emilyandisaacheadshot.jpg

Denver may have one of the most heated school board races in the nation. Faction fighters on both sides of the political debate at Denver Public Schools would have you believe their opponents do not care about children in Denver. Battle lines have been drawn pitting friend against friend, former ally against former ally, community leader against community leader. Accusations fly about outside interference in neighborhood matters, the relative power of teachers unions, and the hidden agenda of corporate America to take over our schools (to allegedly create more consumers and “bean counters” than critical thinkers and visionaries, some say).

Above all the din of the warring factions, one rational, knowledgeable voice continues to bring voters back to the reason the school board exists: doing what’s best for the children and families of Denver. Emily Sirota, candidate in southeast Denver’s District 1, is disinterested in the circus-like politics of the DPS Board.

“I don’t belong to one camp or the other; I intend to make decisions based on research about how students learn best. I work collaboratively, bringing together all of the stakeholders. I am not running as a slate. I am an independent thinker”, said the red-haired mother of ten month old, Isaac.

Sirota continued, “I’m a product of public schools. I believe in public schools. My mother was a teacher. In a few years, my child will be a student in DPS, and I want the very best for him.”  

I met Emily a number of times at political events, and have always been struck by her peaceful presence and thoughtfully-chosen words. At a Democratic event a few years ago, I asked David Sirota, Emily’s husband, about his wife. “She’s a saint” he told me. “You have no idea.”

Emily studied Political Science at Indiana University in Bloomington, and met David in Washington when she was working for Senator Evan Bayh on health and social policy. David was working for the Senate Appropriations Committee. It was there she witnessed the mess created by President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Legislation. She then worked for US Rep. Baron Hill on tax, budget and housing policy.

Later, the Sirotas moved to Montana, where Emily, while working for Governor Brian Schweitzer, successfully worked on bringing all-day kindergarten to Montana’s children. As an economic development specialist, Emily was instrumental in crafting Governor Schweitzer’s Early Childhood Education plan by successfully bringing citizens, businesses, educators and other stakeholders to the same table. Sirota soon discovered working on public policy at the State level was “too late and too top-down”.  

Wanting to make a difference at the grass-roots level, she and David moved to Denver in 2007, where Emily enrolled in the Social Work school at the University of Denver, specializing in Community Practice. Since graduation, she has worked with non-profits, and to defeat a ballot proposal that threatened equal opportunity laws.

Former employer Governor Brian Schweitzer, recently in Colorado stumping for Emily’s campaign, told a crowd of supporters Colorado needs Emily Sirota in Education.  Emily understands that quality education relies on investing in the entire spectrum, from early childhood to adult education. Sirota’s research in Education convinced her of the economic imperative to invest in Early Childhood Education as sound fiscal policy. Each dollar invested in Early Childhood pays dividends many times over for the state. One of the first things Sirota intends to do as a School Board Member at DPS is to make sure all kindergarten children have access to full-day kindergarten. “It should be an optional resource to the family, but it needs to be available to each and every student”.

Sirota is adamently against school vouchers. “In order to have strong public schools, we need to invest in those schools. Taking money out of their already-limited budgets doesn’t help. If you believe in public schools, you need to invest in them.”

When I asked Sirota if she would be in favor of vouchers for schools serving specific populations, such as autism, she was emphatic. “I don’t want to mince words here. I am unequivocally against vouchers. If a given population is not receiving the very best education possible, that situation should be remedied internally.”

When asked what she would say to those who feel vouchers offer more choice, she said, “There is enough competition already. There are magnet schools, charter schools, schools in other districts. There is nothing but choice in Colorado. Parents can send their children anywhere. What we don’t have here is a strong commitment to making neighborhood schools the very best they can be.”

Sirota believes neighborhood schools build strong communities, and strong communities, in turn, support great schools. “Our schools need to offer opportunities for students to connect with the world outside. We need to emphasize learning foreign languages, encourage critical thinking skills, and de-emphasize taking tests. We should not be judging schools based on test results alone”. She continued.

“We need to invest more in art, music, physical education – subjects that honor the development of the whole child. Life’s problems are not dealt with by multiple choice. Our teachers need to be empowered to go off-script a little, to take some risks, and to teach the things they are passionate about. When school is exciting, children not only learn, they continue to be life-long learners.”

I asked Sirota what she would do differently than her opponent, Anne Rowe, who has been endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform, Latinos for Education Reform, and Stand for Children. “Their plan,” Sirota asserted, “is attached to big, monied interests — supported by hedge fund folks. Anne was quoted to say, ‘We can’t derail the path we’re on’. Since then, remediation rates have skyrocketed. The Denver Plan goals have never been met. We need to do something smarter, based on educational research.”

“We need to listen to the people who live in our neighborhoods, and support those neighborhood schools. We should take the advice of the school accountability committees before building more schools. New schools should not be built without first engaging the neighborhood in a process of developing a community vision.”

“Take Creativity Challenge Community (C3) for example. It is planned to be co-located within Merrill middle school. The decision to locate the school in that building did not originate within the school community. It was a top-down decision. There was no ownership by the neighbors. Parents within the neighborhood had no say in the matter. They wanted the school to continue to grow as it was. There was not enough discussion about other options, such as using the closed Rosedale school.”

“As a result, the School District promised the neighborhood it would be a temporary move – that they would simply incubate the new program and move it out. The whole process created an environment of distrust that exists today. That is not the way to build a community invested in supporting and embracing great neighborhood schools.”

Sirota continued, “There was a survey of DPS residents which supports the community engagement process I am describing. The findings told us three things:  1.) Parents do not want us to open too many schools. 2.) They want high academic standards. 3.) Parents support strong neighborhood schools that challenge every student… at every school. These opinions were reinforced in an Opinion-Editorial (Op-Ed) written by parents at Skinner Middle School. We know what parents want and what students need — we need to deliver.”

I asked Emily what role teachers unions played in her vision. “We need to believe in our teachers. We need to trust our teachers. We need to include teachers in decision-making process – they have valuable contributions and insights to bring to the table. We need to create a collaborative, not competitive environment within our schools – an environment where all the best minds are working together to reach high standards for our kids. Principals will be an important part of this vision. If we do these things, teachers will be inspired to do their very best work.”

I asked Emily if she would choose one reason why Denver voters should vote for her. She answered simply, “I’ve met with all of the school board members and have attended a number of meetings within the district. I understand where things are, and where we need to go. We need to end the bickering. We need to end the drama, and bring back trust. We need to work together. Our children’s futures are far too important to do anything else.”

For more information about Emily Sirota, please visit Sirota For Schools.

Post-script, October 20, 2011

A previous thread suggested Emily Sirota misquoted opponent Anne Rowe on the subject of vouchers. I asked Emily this question, specifically for Pols readers. Here is her reply (paraphrasing):

“I pointed out the fact that hedge fund companies support the organizations which have endorsed her. Voters will need to decide for themselves what that means to them. My comments about vouchers are more general than what my opponent does or does not believe. She will have to speak to those questions, not me. I’m concerned with the larger issues we should all be asking ourselves like ‘Where is national educational policy going? What are the trends, and what should we be fighting for?’ ”

Occupy Movement: Who They Are and What They Want

(Accidentally dumped PCG’s promotion, restored – promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s difficult to understand who Occupy Movement protesters are, and what they want, simply by watching main stream media coverage of their events. I spent some time with the Occupy movement in Colorado, to find out who they are, why they are demonstrating, and what makes them tick. What I discovered was an impressive network of people from all walks of life, who came together to make a point for all the world to hear.

The beautiful thing about Occupy Wall Street, and all of the other Occupy Together groups around the globe, is that it is an organic, grassroots, bottom-up, not top-down, movement. The people who organized that sit-in, and the sit-ins in every major city, did not do it for their own fame, or recognition, or personal platform. They did it as an expression of the highest form of patriotism, and a deep, abiding love for their country.

Occupy Wall Street started with a powerful idea, which spread quickly using Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and email. Like the Arab Spring, it did not happen because of social media — it happened because of emotion. Social media was the tool to make it move quickly. With or without the internet, Occupy Together would have existed — it simply happened more quickly because of it.

The message has always been about the movement, not specific people. In Colorado, where I live, the original organizers of the sit-in at Civic Center Park, across from the state capital, were people who gathered every evening for “General Assembly.” Although hundreds of people sat-in twenty-four hours per day for the first several weeks, many times that number of ordinary, middle class people dropped by for short periods of time, leaving signs, clothing, books, food, water, and encouragement.

The genius of the movement is reflected in the fact no one clear leader has stepped up to take credit or blame. This is the people’s movement. Unlike the Tea Party events which were “astro-turfed” (financed by the Koch brother’s group “Americans for Prosperity” which hired “leaders” and “organizers” who were eventually able to attract some poorly informed right-wing fringe followers), the Occupy movement, also called the “99%”, is completely organic and grass-roots. No one had to pour money into it go get it started or keep it moving. The movement has not require millions of dollars spent on a fancy bus, pre-made signs, speaking tours, and least of all, faux-folksy entertainers like Sarah Palin.

It started with outrage.

– Outrage at increasing income disparities between the rich and the poor.

– Outrage at corporate loopholes exempting corporations from paying their fair share of taxes.

– Outrage at policies that continue to shrink the middle class.

– Outrage at outsourcing jobs overseas.

– Outrage at the “don’t just do something, stand there” Congress.

– Outrage over recent wars that have spilled our children’s blood, and for what?

– Outrage at big money in politics.

– Outrage at media which is owned by the rich, and is used to convince the uninformed to vote against their own self-interests.

– Outrage that large banks have been bailed out by taxpayers, yet are still foreclosing on people who have nowhere else to go.

– Outrage at ridiculous Supreme Court rulings to give corporations “personhood.”

– Outrage that Washington insults us by believing we do not understand all of the above (especially Boehner and his cast of looney toons).  

Occupy Wall Street and all of the Occupy Together gatherings are a revolt against corporate opportunists who have robbed the middle class through thirty years of trickle-down, voodoo economics. It is a revolt against a system that rewards those who are skilled at making a fast buck, rather than elevating those who build nations and inspire generations. It is a revolt against all that is superficial, materialistic, war-mongering, and corrupt. It is a stand for our families, for decency, and for old-fashioned values. It is the height of patriotism. It is the essence of democracy. Occupy protesters demand, “WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK, AND WE WANT IT BACK NOW.”

Hundreds of the Occupy Together protesters I have spoken to since its inception are, by and large, the same people who elected Barack Obama as president. Some are disappointed they have not gotten as much out of him as a leader as they had hoped. Others support him still. Many believe he needs to step up to take the tail of this powerful tiger, and direct the energy against the evil-doers.

Obama’s wildly successful Campaign for Change was never about electing the president — it was about demanding real change. It did elect a president, but pundits and political strategists in pressed shirts have failed to see the larger picture. When an obstructionist Congress failed to deliver what the people wanted, making the president impotent, angry supporters started the Occupy Wall Street movement as a reminder. “Lead, Follow, or Get the Hell Out of the Way!”

What do the 99% want? Occupy intends to take our country back from multi-national conglomerates  who have stolen it — to take it back from a United States Congress that has served the purposes of the rich, and kicked the poor and the middle-class in the face at every turn. It intends to give our leaders a message — one that is loud and clear and simple. “You WILL stop these games and you WILL find a way to bring back our jobs. You WILL stop passing laws that benefit multinational corporations. You WILL make sure the rich pay their fair share of taxes, and you WILL stop sucking the life-blood out of the poor and the middle class. You WILL invest in education so our kids will have a fighting chance to have at least the quality of life our generation has had. If you don’t, you’re all gone.”

Occupy protesters are a peaceful, angry people. Occupy intends to take down the system of corruption through non-violent democratic means, like those who were led by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Occupy movement intends to use the electoral process to replace those in power who serve the will of the multi-national corporations, with elected officials who once again serve the will of the American people. The energy behind the Occupy demonstrations is impressive. A movement has begun, and change will be made. Watch and see.

 

Have you participated in the Occupy movement?

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Mark Udall Loves Puppies

(“Puppy Protection”=political gold. You can’t deny it. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

As astute Colorado readers are already aware, one of my interests is the humane treatment of animals.

I was very pleased to open my mail today to find this letter from Senator Mark Udall. I am confident puppy-owner Senator Bennet will also be on board with this bill (even though a certain loyal reader will say he was only on board with it after Senator Udall was – you know who you are). I wish the bill did not specifically identify breeders who sell more than 50 puppies per year — it seems to me the unlucky puppies born to backyard breeders selling 49 puppies each year deserve the same protections, but I am happy to have any improvement in the situation.

Please call your member of Congress and tell them to finally vote this basic expression of decency into law.  

Dear Ms. Cronk,

In the past, you contacted my office with your support for animal protections, specifically the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (S.707).  I appreciate your input and support for this important legislation, and I wanted to share with you that I have agreed to be a lead cosponsor of this bill.

As you know, the PUPS Act would help ensure the humane treatment of dogs by requiring licensing and inspection of dog breeders that sell more than 50 dogs a year directly to the public.  It would also require commercial dog breeding facilities to provide the dogs with daily access to exercise in an area that is both clean and sufficiently large.      

I believe this legislation is important to protecting the basic welfare of dogs and puppies that deserve to be treated humanely. Again, thank you for your input on this matter.

I will continue to listen closely to what you and other Coloradans have to say about matters before Congress, the concerns of our communities, and the issues facing Colorado and the nation.  My job is not about merely supporting or opposing legislation; it is also about bridging the divide that has paralyzed our nation’s politics. For more information about my positions and to learn how my office can assist you, please visit my website at www.markudall.senate.gov.

Warm regards,

Mark Udall

U.S. Senator, Colorado

Colombia Free Trade Agreement — What’s Your Take?

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Congress may be taking up the Colombia Free Trade Agreement soon. I don’t know a lot about it, so I am putting this question out to knowledgeable readers on Colorado Pols. What’s your take?

My gut tells me this agreement would be a disaster. Reports of between dozens (from Wikipedia who sourced Congressional hearing numbers) to thousands (reported by labor groups) of workers trying to organize there have been murdered. My understanding is the US industry most wanting to have this FTA is the beef industry — an industry that is responsible for enormous environmental devestation, and should be regulated, curtailed and discouraged more, not less. (The beef and pork industries are huge and powerful, and their products kill people — but that is another diary.) Historically, Republicans have favored this proposed agreement and Democrats have been against it, citing concerns over human rights violations in Colombia.

A friend just sent me this link from the Presbyterian church, which argues that such an agreement would add to the problem of extreme poverty in Colombia.

According to this website, the President supports the Colombia Free Trade Agreement because he believes it will create jobs. I respect, admire, and honor the President, and intend to work hard toward his re-election, but on this note, he may be wrong, IMHO. I want to know if I am missing something before I voice my own opinion on this matter to my elected officials. Is there a compelling and responsible reason some Democrats might be reconsidering this bill? Dialogue here may help to educate all of us a little. Thank you.  

Monday Open Thread

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

“The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve.”

–The Buddha  

The Brilliant GOP Messaging Behind the Debt Ceiling Debacle

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

This post has been updated from it’s previous version.

During the two weeks of counting down the debt ceiling vote deadline, I couldn’t figure out how the GOP had managed to convince so many Americans the debt ceiling should not be raised. Voting to increase the debt ceiling had usually been a routine endeavor under every previous President, Republican and Democrat alike. A rubber stamp… business as usual. Reagan and the Bushes (sounds like a failed Mo-town group) raised the debt ceiling dozens of times, and no one batted an eye. Actually paying for Bush’s costly wars required Obama to ask for a raise on the country’s line of credit. Suddenly, tea-party bloggers and protesters were successfully waging war against President Obama for even thinking of raising it again.

We all know the Republican ruse of sudden fiscal responsibility is a way to gut Social Security, Medicare, and other social safety net programs for our most fragile citizens. As much as I disagree with conservative philosophy, I am in awe of their effective strategizing. From a political strategy point of view, how on Earth did they frame this debate? A dialogue on my facebook page provided the answer.

Dave Ramsey.

For those politicos who are not familiar with Dave Ramsey, you should be. He is the conservative Christian financial guru who speaks in large mega-churches all over the country. He gives huge training sessions, lectures and workshops on fixing one’s family budget using financial advice found in the Bible. He does frequent appearances on television, and has his own radio show. He sells  tapes, books, and workshops to parishioners, and suggests people give money to their church.

People who follow Dave Ramsey are sometimes in very deep debt — they can’t pay their bills, they can’t feed their kids, and they don’t have a penny saved for their kid’s college, or their own retirement. Some, like my friend John, are doing great financially, and credit Ramsey for their success. Ramsey tells them (paraphrasing), “Give at least ten percent of your income, and G-d will reward you with future prosperity”.

I have heard of people whose financial lives have been saved using Dave Ramsey’s “seven steps” program, while others have justified not saving for their kid’s college, or buying health or life insurance, or helping out invalid relatives, until they have completed other “steps” first. Mega-churches love this guy — he brings in tons of money for them. When parishioners improve their financial success, they tell their friends, churches get more donations, Ramsey sells more products, and everyone wins.

In this clip, Ramsey references Adam Smith as the “Father of Economics”­, calls FDR a socialist, pits government as the opposite of G-d, and essentiall­y says people who believe the government should help fragile citizens are going against G-d. He tells people to go to church rather than watch news on television — to “throw a brick through the television­”. He tells them those who read the Bible have “earned a master’s degree in finance”. It is hard to deny Ramsey’s influence on Tea Party economic views.

One of my facebook friends, a conservative philanthropist in the south, explained the tea party argument about the debt ceiling using the metaphor of a family home, while quoting Dave Ramsey:

“If the US Government was a family, they would be making $58,000 a year, they would spend $75,000 a year, and are $327,000 in credit card debt. They are currently proposing BIG spending cuts to reduce their spending to $72,000 a year. These are the actual proportions of the federal budget and debt, reduced to a level that we can understand. – Dave Ramsey”

My friend continues, sharing what he learned from Dave Ramsey:

The Bible warns about being in debt. It says that the borrower is slave to the holder of the debt… We are in debt to China… We need to live within our means.

Several of my progressive Facebook friends had a field day with this. Although I normally think it is bad form to cut and paste from one electronic medium to another, I think their responses are also worth sharing.

Kevin wrote, “John. That is an apples to oranges comparison. Does your family spend 20% of it’s revenues on defense? You also seem to be under the impression that China owns most of our debt. They don’t. Americans are the largest holder of U.S. debt.”

Joe wrote:

If the US Government was a family, it’d be a working Mom trying to take care of millions of kids and pets while paying all the bills and doing the cleaning and house maintenance. Meanwhile the abusive Dad racks up credit card debt on high tech toys and presents for his rich friends, while refusing to help pay ANY of the debt even though he makes money too. Oh, and he is always yelling at the neighbors and sometimes beating them up. The question is, which parent should we kids call the cops on?

James wrote, “We are taking in much less than we should because the abusive dad started a couple of costly wars and then went to the boss and demanded a cut in pay. Who would do that?”

Kevin, Joe and James have been drawn into the argument using John’s framework. Although they are armed with a more sophisticated and accurate view of our financial economic reality (facts), they’re response is not quite as neat and tidy. Busy Americans love neat and tidy; it’s much easier than actually reading the newspaper or watching real (non-Fox) news on television. Add to that the fundamentalist teaching that is (mis)interpreted to make all secular (non-Christian) sources of news suspicious, and you have people thirsty for every drop of information Ramsey can give them:

Psalm 101:3 states, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (King James Version).

It is difficult to work within someone else’s “frame.” John has effectively framed the argument — a great example of what the GOP has done for decades, leaving those of us on the left sitting in awe, rubbing our bruised backsides and asking, “How did they do this to us again?”

Followers will tell you Dave Ramsey is apolitical, and that he has followers who are not Republican. His “Seven Baby Steps to Financial Security” does not list giving to one’s church, but people I know who have attended his workshops (at church) have told me that it’s always in there. Ramsey’s marketing strategy of using mega-churches to disseminate his philosophy and to attract future followers ensures that the vast majority of them are members of the GOP.

Underneath this example is a point I’ve been making for years: Democrats are ineffective at messaging, relatively speaking. The GOP is brilliant at it. By reducing their political goals to a metaphor every American can identify with, and by disseminating that message through a faithful follower who has large, already-organized captive audiences (mega-churches), they have effectively seized the message, the media and the money. Brilliant.

And what do people on the left do? We use charts, graphs, statistics and sarcasm and quote scholarly experts who write in The New York Times. We try to impress people with our verbosity and our vocabulary. No wonder people would rather hurt themselves with forks than go to a Democratic public policy meeting or town hall. Where is folksy home-boy Bill Clinton when we need a translater?

Don’t even get me started about the negative connotations Fox News has associated effectively with the word “entitlements.” That’s a whole ‘nother blog diary.

Military Imposter Chameleon Rick Strandlof Does It Again

Political news followers may recall a story from ’09 about a Colorado mental patient named Rick Strandlof who pretended to be a decorated Veteran named Rick Duncan, rose to the top in the Veteran’s advocacy community, and made political allies with many of the state’s top legislators and candidates, on both sides of the aisle. Later, after the national news picked up the story and he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper, Rick Strandlof was tried for impersonating military personnel under the “Stolen Valor Act”. The case was dismissed by a federal judge who ruled that the Stolen Valor Act violates free speech protections.

As the story unfolded, it became clear Rick Strandlof had a long history of posing as people he was not, networking with leaders in each of his fake identities. In his latest incarnation, Rick Strandlof has become Oil and Gas Attorney Rick Gold, an observant and active member of Denver’s young Jewish professionals community.

I remember when I met Rick Duncan (Strandlof) at a political event in 2009. I talked to him for a good while about his endorsement of Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman in ’08, when he (as Duncan) was the Chair of the Colorado Veterans Alliance, a group he said represented 32,000 veteran members. We were at a meet-and-greet for a Democratic candidate for Congress in ’09, and I recognized him from across the room. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hey, I recognize you!” I said.

“You do?” he says, almost choking on his mimosa.

“Yeah, you’re the guy in the photos posing with Congressman Mike Coffman last year. You’re a head of a Veteran’s group in Colorado, aren’t you? I’ve been trying to reach you through your website to find out more about veteran’s concerns.”

“Yes, yes, I am. I am Rick Duncan”, he lies. Nice to meet you in person” .

I continue, “I can’t believe you’re here. I thought you were a Republican?” I pry.

“I’m committed to veteran’s issues — veteran’s rights. I think this candidate is right on the issues, so I am going to back him .”

Intrigued, I could not leave it alone.

“Really! How has Mike Coffman disappointed you –disappointed veterans? I want to hear all about it! I’d love to see him out of office, and I think we need veterans to stand up and tell their story about how the GOP is using them for votes, then not delivering, especially after they’ve been injured. It’s so obvious!”

Rick knew his stuff. He told me details about votes, and was disgusted that the troops were not getting the necessary supplies they needed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a wounded veteran, he said, he had opinions about the Veteran’s Administration, as well.

Strandlof appeared charming, knowledgeable, and articulate. Still, there was something almost-too-good-to-be-true about him. I called the campaign manager for the candidate who held the meet-and-greet, and asked, “How well do you know Rick Duncan?”

“He is one of my best friends”, he said. Later, I learned this was not true, but that the young campaign worker (whose identity I will never reveal) was trying to impress the volunteers with his grass-top’s connections.

Not long after, I got a call from another campaign volunteer warning me not to ever talk to Rick Duncan again, and to make sure I never link his name with any candidate. “Delete whatever photos you may have of him with any candidates, legislators, or campaign staff, okay? This guy is a fake, and is being investigated by the FBI.”

Immediately, I went back to Coffman’s website. I couldn’t understand how someone could pretend to be the President of a group with 32,000 veterans, and my Congressman, a proud veteran, did not know he was a fake. Apparently, Coffman’s office learned Strandlof’s true identity before we did. Photos and mentions of Rick Duncan (Strandlof) had already been deleted. Any references to the Colorado Veteran’s Alliance endorsement were also deleted. Hours later, former CO GOP leader Dick Wadhams’ posse was all over the news saying Strandlof was associated with Democrats like Congressman Jared Polis and Senator Mark Udall.

The next time I saw Rick Duncan/Strandlof/Gold, he was being interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN. Despite the ocean of legal trouble he was in, he eagerly answered questions, admitting who he really was. Clearly, the man appears seriously mentally ill.

As the story unfolded, many newspapers and television programs told the rest of Strandlof’s bizaree story. In 1997, he was Richard Glenn Pierson, charged with forgery and bad-check charges and sent to prison for five years in Montana. Later, he started a foundation in Reno, Nevada to advocate for open-wheel racing and children’s charities. His Linked-In profile as Rick Strandlof still lists him as the owner of the Reno Tahoe Grand Prix. Strandlof then spent nine months in Washoe County jail for stealing a car. Numerous other stories about Strandlof also emerged, each more colorful and interesting than the last. Apparently, he had hoodwinked hundreds of people, over many years.

Fast forward to today. An article appearing in Denver’s main daily rag is titled “Man unmasked as fake military hero in Springs reappears as “lawyer” in the Highlands“. The article tells of Strandlof posing as a young Jewish lawyer from the trendy Highlands neighborhood, who was able to hide the fact that he is bipolar, schizophrenic, homeless, and none of the things he pretended to be.

I immediately looked up Rick Gold on Linked-In. Sure enough, there is Strandlof, posing with one of Colorado’s members of Congress. Listed on the resume portion of his Linked In account, it says this:


Summary

Knowledgeable in 1031 exchanges, Section 29 credits, tax partnership agreements, unrelated business taxable income issues, mineral titles, leases, leasing, seismic agreements, exploration agreements, drilling contracts (IADC and custom), joint operating agreements (AAPL and AIPN), farmouts and farmins, gas balancing, oil and gas sales contracts, natural gas transportation agreements, gas processing agreements, dedication contracts, crude oil processing and exchange agreements, LNG contracts, pooling and unitization, and indemnification and anti-indemnification statutes.

Specialties

Various types of badassery.

According to today’s newspaper story, Senator Udall’s office also confirms the identity of the man in the photo as Rick Standlof.

On social networking site Plancast, Strandlof is listed as Rick Gold with a bi-line of “G-d, Country, Baseball. Not necessarily in that order”. It also indicates he is planning to attend a future event with Tom Tancredo.

I urge the Obama administration and all legislators and candidates to google this man’s story and images and beware. He is a master chameleon, one who researches and absorbs details of professional positions he pretends to hold. He is able to convince people of his falsely important standing, and gains access at high-level political events. Until now, he has been non-violent, but his interest in politics, the military, and community leaders shows he cannot be trusted.

(Author’s note: Sadly for the Denver Post, I cannot link to their articles due to their history of legally harrassing Colorado Pols. A number of them contain great investigative research into Strandlof’s long career of lies. My sources for this blog diary are from my own on-line investigation.)  

What will be Rick Strandlof's next incarnation?

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Ashton Kutcher Vs. Westword

Protecting the people from corporate greed and abuse is a non-stop effort for progressive community organizers and political activists. In the organizer’s toolbox are a number of tools: community groups, neighborhood associations, blogging, the telephone, facebook, direct mail, email, and now… twitter ?

The effectiveness of twitter as an organizing tool is being shown in a twitter war between movie and television icon Ashton Kutcher, and The Village Voice, owners of hip urban newspapers like Denver’s Westword.

According to human trafficking groups, parent company The Village Voice makes millions of dollars on ad revenues for prostitution, mostly under the labels of “massage” and “escort” services. Ashton Kutcher and wife movie star Demi Moore have joined the anti-human trafficking movement and believe reducing the profits made from prostitution will reduce the incidence of children being used against their will in the sex trade (we have had much debate about this issue here in Colorado).

Ashton Kutcher, whose twitter name is aplusk, has more than seven million followers, making him one of the top ten people to be followed on the social networking site. Kutcher recently has used his popularity as a soapbox to publicize his work against human trafficking. As a response, The Village Voice waged an all-out war on Kutcher’s efforts, deriding his intelligence on their cover and accusing him of using “false facts”.

In return, Kutcher issued a statement defending his work on the issue, and called on The Village Voice to age-test the service providers employed in companies placing ads before doing business with them. The Village Voice has not yet responded publicly to that challenge.

Kutcher also tweeted to American Airlines, Domino’s Pizza and other major ad buyers of The Village Voice, that there ads were supporting the slavery of children. In response, some of these major corporations quickly broke their business ties with the Village Voice.

Kutcher denies judging adult women and men who engage in consensual sex for money, and says his motives are purely to protect trafficked adults and children. Twitter followers of Kutcher seem split on taking sides, but most are sympathetic to the larger issue of human trafficking, and praise him for his efforts.

As a community organizer who values the progressive voice of urban independent newspapers, I personally encourage parent company The Village Voice to be more discriminate in accepting ads for massage, escort services, and “adult” services. The rights of consenting adults do not need to be sacrificed in order to combat the sexual slavery of children, immigrants, and other vulnerable people to human trafficking. The Village Voice should accept Kutcher’s challenge to require their local papers to personally visit the escort and massage companies that advertise with them, and age-test their employees. Westword can be a journalistic leader by raising the bar for their entire industry.  

Do you use twitter for political activism?

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