Worst-Named Campaign Event Ever. Ever.

UPDATE: It’s been brought to our attention that this event is not hosted by Michael Hancock’s re-election campaign, but rather the Mayor’s official capacity. The event’s name, however, has not changed.

Is that better? We’re agnostic.

—–

We’re just going to leave this here in the hope that someone on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s very talented communications team will see it and act immediately to change the extremely unfortunate name of this event.

That is all.

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Take Me to Your…Um, What’s the Word I’m Looking For?

The word of the day is…

Former State House Speaker Crisanta Duran kicked off her campaign for Congress in CO-1 (Denver) on Sunday with an exclusive interview with Denver7. Today, Duran rolled out a nice endorsement in former Denver Mayor Federico Peña.

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, it’s not hard to figure out what message apparently polled the best in her pre-campaign research (all bold text is Colorado Pols’ emphasis):

Duran declined to point out policy differences with DeGette, who was first elected to the Denver-based 1st Congressional District seat in 1996, but said she wants to let voters in the heavily Democratic district decide if it’s time for a different style of leadership

…”I have appreciated the work Congresswoman DeGette has done,” Duran said. “I do think, though, in these time when we have Donald Trump in the White House, we must evaluate how we move this country forward and make sure we have the right leaders in the right place at the right time.”

She added: “These times in particular, we need to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to be able to lead. I have a new and different style of leadership that I could bring to Congressional District 1. At the end of the day, it’s up to the voters to decide who is the best leader moving forward.”

Her leadership style, Duran said, involves listening to constituents.

“Building community is very important to me and is a different leadership style, I think. I also think that during the time that I’ve served, I’ve never shied away from tough issues,” Duran said. “In this time we need leaders who do things not for political convenience, but for political courage. It’s not a time to be shy, it’s not a time to play it safe, it’s a time to be bold. And I think it should be up to the people of Congressional District 1 to be able to cast their vote (for) who is the best leader to move the district forward.”

In fairness to Duran, words like “conductor,” “skipper,” and “pacesetter” probably don’t pop as much with focus groups.

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Denver Teachers Win Big After Successful Strike

Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell reports on the developing conclusion to the three-day strike by teachers of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, ending in victory for the teachers and heralding a new ascendancy for organized labor power in Colorado under Gov. Jared Polis:

Details are not yet available, but the deal includes an average 11.7 percent pay raise and annual cost of living increases, according to the school district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, a labor union representing more than 5,000 educators in Denver public schools. It will also include raises for school support staff. Bus drivers and cafeteria workers may also get a raise, but that’s not part of the official agreement with the teachers union.

It also addresses the teachers’ biggest concern: the need to overhaul the merit-pay system, which relies heavily on annual bonuses that fluctuate from year to year. The new system will place more emphasis on education and training when considering promotions, while keeping some bonuses in place…

Teachers did make some concessions, but the deal represents a remarkable win for Denver’s teachers, who have been picketing and rallying in the streets for the past two days, while school administrators struggled to keep classes on schedule. It’s also a sign of the overwhelming momentum teachers have on their side from months of widespread teacher strikes across the country over school funding cuts and low teacher pay.

After the DCTA voted by 93% to walk out, the state Department of Labor and Employment under the direction of Gov. Polis could have ordered a so-called “cooling off period” of up to six months, which would have deprived teachers of their power to back up their negotiations with action. There was considerable worry that Polis would do just that, especially after the governor and his staff took an active role in attempting to mediate between the sides early on.

In the end, though, the decision by Gov. Polis not to curtail the teachers’ ability to strike made it clear who would have the upper hand. In addition Denver Public Schools management did very little to ingratiate themselves with the public, after a message to visa-holding noncitizen teachers wrongly threatening to report them to immigration officials and stories of school administrators trying to censor students documenting the dysfunction on campus.

The proposed new contract, which still needs to be ratified by the teachers, gives the teachers much more than they were offered before the strike–which is, of course, the most important measurement of success. And for Gov. Polis, his campaign promise to be an advocate for working people and organized labor in particular is looking well-kept as of now.

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Industrial Schoolhouse Action: Denver Teachers On Strike

Striking teachers in Los Angeles, 12/2018.

Colorado Public Radio reports on the final breakdown of negotiations last night between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, ending with teachers heading for the picket lines for tomorrow morning–the first strike by DCTA in a quarter century that has seen enormous change in the operating philosophy of DPS, and a “reform” agenda that has delivered much more controversy than increased achievement:

Tensions boiled over Saturday night as several hours of discussion between the teachers union and Denver Public Schools aimed at averting a strike came to a halt and a Monday walkout appeared inevitable.

Exasperated negotiators for the Denver Classroom Teachers Association ended talks after they asked whether or not Superintendent Susana Cordova would agree to their concept of a salary schedule that gives teachers more opportunities to advance and rewards them for professional development classes.

Cordova wouldn’t give a specific answer and asked for time to consider their counter-proposal. DCTA lead negotiator Rob Gould tersely responded that they “can have some time, they can have until Tuesday!”

What does this mean for almost 80,000 kids who attends Denver Public Schools, not to mention their working parents? Without those thousands of hard-working long-suffering and no matter what they’re getting not paid nearly enough teachers, the district is doing whatever it can to provide a suitable warehouse educational setting–Denver7:

Denver Public School Superintendent Susan Cordova reassured parents in late January that the district is committed to keeping schools open during the strike and said an announcement would be sent Sunday notifying parents whether their child’s school would be open the next day.

That will not be the case for all early childhood education classes, which will be canceled due to the district’s inability to meet the rigorous requirements for licensed staff in those classrooms, Cordova said, adding they would try to provide opportunities for the 4,714 children currently enrolled in the district’s early childhood education programs.

Additionally, a DPS spokesperson said a daily assessment would be made as to whether there is an adequate number of teachers and substitute teachers — as well as supervisors from the central office — to keep schools in the district open during the strike.

The school district is expected to have every nonunion employee with a college degree serving as a substitute teacher tomorrow, with an unknown number of temporary teachers hired on the promise of a large daily rate to cover the indignity of crossing a picket line. Obviously, the educational value of the substitutes is going to vary widely, and in many cases it’s reasonable to expect to see whole student bodies watching movies in the gym Monday.

The breakdown between the sides continues to be over the district’s bonus system to achieve staffing goals versus the teachers’ demand for broadly higher pay to offset the growing shortage of teachers and Denver’s skyrocketing cost of living. Underlying this standoff is a larger philosophical disagreement over reforming public education, with the DPS “ProComp” compensation plan and the later “teacher effectiveness” law SB-191 passed in 2010 representing a controversial shift toward blaming teachers for the whole range of aggregate social and economic factors that affect student achievement. Without a positive correlation of better educational outcomes for students to justify this approach, and with a demonstrable and growing shortage of qualified college graduates willing to take on the challenge of a career in public education…what are we doing?

Look, folks, we have no idea how deeply this is going to be reckoned with in the current standoff at Denver Public Schools. But it’s critical to understand–on both sides–that this is much more than an argument over a few percentage points more or less in a contract. This is about a fundamental disagreement over the hardships teachers face in their jobs, and how their work should be both valued and evaluated by society.

If you think you have a slogan that answers all these weighty questions, you don’t.

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BREAKING: Polis Will Not Intervene, DPS Strikes Next Week

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday declined to intervene in the impending Denver teacher strike, which could have delayed a teacher walkout by up to 180 days…

At the heart of the disagreement is Denver’s teacher compensation plan ProComp. Both sides have proposals they claim improve the pay scale that determines how and what teachers get paid. DCTA’s proposal kicks in about $28.5 million toward teacher compensation, while the district’s is about $20.8 million.

In addition to the $8 million difference in teachers pay plans, the district and union disagree on how educators should advance along their proposed compensation schedules. The union’s plan allows for more opportunities for teachers to bump up in pay as they accrue credits toward advancing their education.

—–

That’s the breaking word from the first floor of the state capitol, Gov. Jared Polis will NOT order a 180-day cooling-off period via the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, returning power to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association to commence a strike if a deal isn’t reached by Monday, February 11th.

We’ll update with coverage and statements, but this is a big win for teachers that will shore up Polis’ left flank on the hot-button issue of public education–and puts teeth in Polis’ campaign pledge to help organized workers flex their muscles.

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Will Polis Let ‘Em Strike?

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Colorado Public Radio’s Jenny Brundin reports as the standoff between the Denver Public Schools management and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) grinds on with no sign of rapprochement between the sides:

Gov. Jared Polis is making one last attempt to meet with both sides in Denver’s contentious teacher labor dispute and broker an agreement before the state decides whether it will intervene…

Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment will decide whether or not to step in by Feb. 11. In the meantime the strike teachers voted for is on hold. If the state decides to intervene, it could postpone a strike for up to 180 days.

In a letter, the agency said a lack of meaningful dialogue, a fundamental disagreement over the facts and costs of competing proposals, and the reopening of negotiations last week that turned into “political theater at its worst,” all weigh heavily on the state’s decision.

In response, the teacher’s union insisted the state not get involved.

With negotiations between DPS management and the DCTA effectively stalled and teachers itching to get out on the picket line, there is undeniable pushback building over Gov. Jared Polis’ attempt to informally broker a compromise. The real deadline now is the one observed by the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), who will soon decide whether or not to order a six-month “cooling off period”–a decision that would buoy management’s negotiating position but greatly increase tensions between the teachers and the governor’s office.

As we said last week, all parties are watching closely to see how Gov. Polis navigates this situation, the first real political controversy of his brand-new administration. Polis campaigned with the strong support of organized labor in this state, but also has been a supporter of the sometimes-divisive education “reform” agenda that underlies the dispute between teachers and Denver Public Schools officials.

The only thing we can say for sure is that kids won’t get to play hooky either way.

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DPS Management Strike PR Off To Really Horrible Start

Are you SURE you want to strike?

Denver7’s Oscar Contreras reports on a nasty little “misunderstanding” this week between Denver Public Schools officials and Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) teachers who voted overwhelmingly this week to strike for better pay:

Denver Public School officials are apologizing after a notice went out to teachers warning those on working visas that they would be reported to immigration officials should they participate in a district-wide strike voted on earlier this week .

The letter, obtained by Denver7, states the district needs to be informed of the decision of teachers on H or J visas to go on strike “as soon as possible as we are required to report that to immigration and the US Department of State.”

That letter, however, was the result of “misrepresentation” of information received by the district’s immigration firm and an incorrect communication, according to DPS spokesman Will Jones.

“The communication was in no way intended to cause fear for our educators on visas,” Jones said in the prepared statement sent to Denver7 Thursday evening.

First of all, and this needs to be bold faced in every single story about this incident, we are not talking about undocumented immigrants. Teachers from abroad in Denver Public Schools have work visas and fully legal status to do their jobs. According to DPS officials doing damage control after reporters contacted them about these letters sent to teachers, the individual names of noncitizen teachers would not be reported to ICE–just the fact that a strike is taking place, and presumably ICE can…take it from there?

On second thought, that’s not very comforting either, is it?

It should go without saying that DPS management should be extremely careful and diplomatic with their communications with teachers ahead of a strike, and in this case their comms carelessness just happened to come down on the side of intimidating legal immigrant teachers with the specter of Donald Trump’s immigration enforcers–who we’re going to go out on a limb and suggest don’t like strikes much either.

Whether an accident or, you know, not so much, we can all agree this is not the way to win hearts and minds.

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DPS Teachers Vote To Strike, Polis Wades Into The Fray

AP via Colorado Public Radio reports on a situation we’re monitoring closely in Denver, after teachers represented by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) voted overwhelmingly to strike for better across-the-board pay and other unresolved disagreements with the school board.

Into this widening divide steps Colorado’s new Gov. Jared Polis, hoping to bridge the impasse before the potentially disruptive strike is set to begin next Monday:

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday he is seeking to prevent Denver teachers from walking off the job next week after they overwhelmingly voted to strike over pay.

Polis, who took office this month, said he would meet with representatives of the school district and teachers’ union to see if he could “play a role in bringing them together.” But the Democrat who has vowed to increase school funding declined to elaborate…

The earliest teachers could legally walk off the job is Monday. However, the state labor department could also intervene and put the strike on hold for up to 180 days. It would be the first teacher walkout in 25 years.

Can Gov. Polis bring the sides together in a fight dripping with subtext over major philosophical differences in public education? Will the state flex its controversial muscle and impose a cooling-off period? Whatever happens next, this is the first big labor fight of a new era of full Democratic control in Colorado. The outcome here is going to, as they say, set a tone.

We’ll update with developments, and we don’t expect to wait long. Stay tuned.

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300, the Denver College Affordability Fund, Is a Photo Finish

As of 1pm the day after the election Initiated Ordinance 300 is behind by just 43 votes. This is out of 79,175 for and 79,218 against. With more than 6,000 undervotes and 21 overvotes (Source: DenverGov) a recount seems incredibly likely.

With four other tax increases on the ballot this effort may have just been one too many for Denver voters. Also, opponents raised the issue of if this should be a function of city government. Though language was submitted to the blue book to oppose this measure there was no organized campaign against it other than statements made by the usual suspects.

The rest of the Denver tax increases, 2A, 301, 302, and 7G passed by wide to significant margins.

Parks – 61.44% yes
Mental Health – 68.11% yes
Childhood Healthy Meals – 57.42% yes
Flood Control – 60.04% yes (Denver alone)

District Wide
Flood Control – 55.35% yes (source: Denver Post)

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In Which James Coleman Cheerleads for the Oil and Gas Industry

Liberty Oilfield Services CEO Chris Wright speaks to the crowd before introducing Rep. James Coleman (right) at last week’s “Energy Proud” event in Denver.

On July 26, State Rep. James Coleman (D-Denver) cheerfully touted his 100% rating through the 2018 legislative session from Conservation Colorado, one of the state’s foremost organizations focused on conservation and environmental policies. Coleman even acknowledged his 100% rating by Tweeting a message with the tagline, “Thanks for your support!.”

Seven days later, Coleman was a featured speaker at an “Energy Proud” event organized to praise the many wonders of oil and gas extraction and the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing. The event was heavily promoted by oil and gas interests, including the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), that are generally not worried about any of the conservation and environmental stewardship ideals that Coleman boasted about one week earlier.

As Western Wire reports:

A former Interior Department Secretary called people working in the oil and gas industry “revolutionaries” and Colorado officials said energy issues transcended traditional party lines at a rally in Denver Thursday.

The “Energy Proud” event was hosted by energy companies on the west steps of the state Capitol before a few thousand people, and comes just days before an August 6 deadline for anti-oil and gas proponents to submit signatures for a proposed 2,500-foot setback in Initiative 97.

“It’s not often that I get to speak to a crowd of revolutionaries,” said former Interior Department Secretary and former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton. “That’s exactly what you are because you have accomplished a revolution.” [Pols emphasis]

Two days after this “Energy Proud” event, proponents of a measure designed to weaken local control of oil and gas drilling submitted petition signatures to get Initiative 108 onto the November ballot.

This was all a carefully-orchestrated public relations effort for the oil and gas industry — or the “revolutionaries,” as Gale Norton called them — as they seek to drill holes in every piece of land they can find in Colorado. The cherry on top of this bullshit sundae was to find a Democratic state legislator who could be easily convinced to stand up in front of a crowd of oil and gas people and sing their praises.

Seven days earlier, James Coleman was proudly boasting about his 100% record alongside environmental group Conservation Colorado.

Enter James Coleman.

The Denver Democrat spoke briefly to the assembled crowd after an introduction from Liberty Oilfield Services CEO Chris Wright, beginning his remarks with platitudes about “hardworking Coloradans” and taking a bipartisan approach to the issue of oil and gas extraction. Here’s an excerpt from Coleman’s remarks, which you can watch in full below:

A lot of times, we put politics in front of relationships. I had the opportunity to get to know Chris Wright, the man who just introduced me, many years before I ran for office. When the recession hit in 2008, many folks got laid off. But his company, Liberty — which is why I’m proud of him and what he’s done — he didn’t lay off one person because of what was happening in the economy. [Pols emphasis] That is the kind of person that we need.

These are some interesting comments from Coleman. Did he come up with these remarks himself, or did he just repeat talking points that were handed to him? The reason we ask is because Chris Wright launched Liberty Oilfield Services in 2012. Its predecessor company, Liberty Resources, was founded in 2010. Liberty didn’t lay off anyone following the 2008 recession because the company didn’t yet exist.

Anyway, let’s get back to Coleman’s talking points:

These are the kind of people that we need. The kind of leaders who care about people and take care of Coloradans. Because at the end of the day, all we care about it providing for our families, serving our neighbors and our communities, putting clothes on our backs, food on the table, roofs over our heads. That’s what you all do and are allowing us to do because of the great work you do here in the state. Thank you for all you do.

Of course, these are also the kind of people who can’t be bothered to worry about whether their extraction methods are harmful to local communities and schools. As Think Progress writes:

According to a Denver Post investigation, in the eight months following a deadly April 2017 gas explosion in the town of Firestone, at least a dozen explosions and fires have been associated with industry pipelines along Colorado’s Front Range. That area is part of the Southern Rocky Mountains.

Low-income communities of color in Colorado have also fought against drilling efforts along the Front Range. And studies have shown elevated cancer risks in parts of the wider area…[Pols emphasis]

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton was also a featured guest at the “Energy Proud” event, and he gleefully played up Coleman’s statements in a separate interview:

“I think it’s really important to recognize, as James Coleman said, that this shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Stapleton told Western Wire. [Pols emphasis]

Representative Coleman is running for re-election in HD-7, a safe Democratic district in northeast Denver with a sizable minority population and low-income communities of color. In fact, HD-7 contains a larger percentage of African-Americans and Latinos than any other state legislative district in Colorado. Coleman’s district is also near the Suncor Oil Refinery that regularly spews hydrogen cyanide gas across north Denver.

Maybe Coleman really believes that he is a true conservationist who listens to the concerns of the people in his district but genuinely supports the oil and gas industry anyway. Maybe not. Either way, you can be sure that voters are going to be regularly reminded of Coleman’s duplicitous nature should he ever attempt to seek higher office in Colorado.

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Why Paul Rosenthal Lost His House Seat

Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver)

Democratic State Rep. Paul Rosenthal will not be elected for a fourth and final term in November because his name won’t even be on the ballot.

As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Rosenthal failed the meet the threshold to get his name on the June Primary ballot at Saturday’s HD-9 Democratic assembly:

The three-term incumbent’s defeat is the first in Colorado for an accused lawmaker amid the #MeToo movement.

A sexual harassment complaint prompted a Democratic primary challenge from two women, Ashley Wheeland and Emily Sirota. The allegations played a role in the vote, according to interviews with delegates, along with Rosenthal’s break from liberal activists on homeless and energy issues…

…Rosenthal received only 24.7 percent of the assembly vote, below the 30 percent needed to make the ballot. Wheeland won 39.5 percent and Sirota won 35.8 percent.

It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback Rosenthal’s downfall as a result of the sexual harassment allegations made against him in recent months — which certainly played a significant role — but poor campaigning and some particularly bad votes in the legislature sealed his fate.

The allegations against Rosenthal contributed heavily to an initial Primary challenge from Emily Sirota, and soon thereafter Ashley Wheeland entered the race herself. Sirota quickly announced several high-profile endorsements and has been raising money at an impressive clip. Wheeland, meanwhile, is a well-known Democrat with strong ties to women’s rights groups (including Planned Parenthood) and the LGBTQ community. Both Sirota and Wheeland are strong candidates, and Rosenthal — who had never faced a serious Republican challenge in this heavily-Democratic House district — was completely unprepared for even token opposition.

Rosenthal didn’t even try to gather signatures to petition his way onto the ballot — a miscalculation that proved fatal to his re-election hopes — and he couldn’t rally support among his Democratic base because of some strange votes. Rosenthal was the deciding vote in 2016 that killed legislation intended to give communities more local control over fracking, and in 2017 he opposed a “Homeless Bill of Rights” measure that was not unpopular with his liberal base.

As Wheeland told Denverite in February, HD-9 is a changing area of Denver where voters are looking for more progressive candidates. In the end, Rosenthal just gave them too many reasons to choose someone else.

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Hold Everything, Says Victim in Hancock Harassment Case

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Denver7’s Tony Kovaleski updates the story of a sexual harassment claim against Denver Mayor Michael Hancock from a former member of his police security detail–a story which, despite the apparent reluctance of the City Council to wade into a complex and politically murky situation further scrambled by opportunistic score-settling against the Mayor by the police union, is not going away:

Nearly three weeks after Detective Leslie Branch-Wise broke her silence accusing Denver Mayor Michael Hancock of sexual harassment, calls for an investigation have gone nowhere. Now, in an exclusive interview with Denver7 Investigates, Branch-Wise is accusing Denver City Council of protecting the mayor and sweeping the issue under the rug.

The bombshell accusations come just days after Denver City Council released a joint statement indicating there will be no further investigation into the sexual harassment claims against the mayor, out of concern that doing so would further victimize the former security detail officer who told Denver7 Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski on Feb. 27 that the mayor’s texts made her uncomfortable.

On Sunday, Branch-Wise confirmed with Kovaleski nobody from City Hall had contacted her to ask if she wanted an investigation into the mayor.

“That says to me that they don’t want to investigate… they don’t want to investigate the mayor,” Branch-Wise said. “That says to me they have no interest in how I feel about what happened to me. I was victimized. In not asking me how I feel about this victimizing is to say, ‘how she feels doesn’t matter.’”

Does she consider this a cover-up?

“I do. I strongly do,” Branch-wise told Kovaleski.

Obviously the stated reason by Denver City Council for not investigating further, the risk of “re-victimizing” Leslie Branch-Wise, can no longer be considered valid. We are very sensitive to the difficult situation Branch-Wise is in, with her settlement in a sexual harassment complaint against Mayor Hancock’s close friend and aide having apparently prevented her from getting accountability for Hancock’s own actions. We’ll say further that there is something especially distasteful about this woman being victimized twice with no apparent regard by the Mayor for her prior experience.

We also understand that Hancock’s long-running battle with the police union has grown highly acrimonious of late, with a recent appearance by the head of the DPD union to help the Trump administration demonize immigrants at the city’s expense and the union jumping to call for Hancock’s resignation in the wake of the disclosure of Branch-Wise’s story. It’s further true that Hancock has apologized, which differentiates his case from other recent cases in Colorado politics where the alleged harassers have issued blanket denials.

But when the victim says justice has not been done, justice has not been done.

And that means the questions must continue, if not by City Council than the press or whatever other oversight there is. The full story of both what happened in 2011, as well as what has been happening for years between the Mayor of Denver and the city’s police force over much larger issues, should be told. And let the chips fall where they may.

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Decriminalized Magic Mushrooms, Anyone?

Colorado Public Radio reports on an initiative Denver voters may soon have the chance to approve–and depending on how pharmaceutically colorful your own adolescence was, it might bring back fond memories:

After a few rousing chants of “free the spores,” a small group of roughly 20 citizens filtered into the Denver city and county building Monday for a meeting with city officials and emerged knowing they may soon have the all-clear to gather signatures on a measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

The group calls itself Colorado for Psilocybin after the fungi’s scientific name. Their proposed measure would do away with felony charges for people caught with mushrooms, and make them the lowest enforcement priority for Denver police…

A 2005 appeals court decision in New Mexico effectively legalized the cultivation of psilocybin. Last year, Oregon reduced possession charges for many illegal drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. California voters approved a similar measure in 2014.

Another state may beat Colorado to the ballot: California may vote on a similar measure later this year.

Although to the uninitiated any drug identified as “psychedelic” conjures up visions of wild-eyed naked hippies running through the forest in hot pursuit of elves/gods/whatever it is they’re seeing at the time, in truth the effects of psilocybin mushrooms are quite mild with little to no danger of lethal overdose or addiction. It’s certainly nothing you would want to operate machinery under the influence of, but on objective scale of public safety hazards, magic mushrooms rate low enough that in the era of legal marijuana it’s just not something to get worked up about–not to mention the benefits some users cite from consumption.

If this passes, the next generation of hippies might have yet another reason to include Denver on their gap year world tour! Please trip responsibly.

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Denver Mayor Faces Troubling Sexual Harassment Allegation

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Westword’s Michael Roberts reports and it’s not good for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock:

Last night, Mayor Michael Hancock issued an extraordinary video apology for what his office has termed “inappropriate behavior” toward Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise when she was part of his security detail approximately six years ago. The clip, on view below, was prompted by Branch-Wise’s participation in a February 27 Denver7 report in which she shared text messages from Hancock, one of which asked if she’d ever taken a pole-dancing course before warning her, “Be careful! I’m curious;)!”

Hancock’s star has continued to rise despite past links to stories alleging sexually inappropriate behavior — most notably involving the Denver Players/Denver Sugar prostitution ring. But the latest revelation, which is emerging amid the post-Harvey Weinstein rise of the #MeToo movement, suggests that this time around, he won’t so easily avoid paying a political price as he’s gearing up to run for his third term as mayor.

In her interview with Denver7, Branch-Wise made public an open secret among political observers and the press: She was the Denver police officer to whom Hancock friend and political adviser Wayne McDonald was accused of making inappropriate comments in 2012. This behavior prompted Branch-Wise to request removal from the mayor’s security detail, and Hancock sacked McDonald four days later…

But allegedly, Mayor Hancock was something rather less than sympathetic.

He joined in.

[Hancock] goes on to say that “during Detective Branch-Wise’s time on the security team, we became friends, but my text messages in 2012 blurred the lines between being a friend and being a boss. Unfortunately, I didn’t know until just a few days ago that she felt our text exchanges were unwelcome and contributed to the pain and disrespect she was already feeling. [Pols emphasis] But it is obvious now that she did feel that way. I sincerely apologize to Detective Branch-Wise. I apologize to my wife and family and to the people of Denver.”

DPD Detective Leslie Branch-Wise requested a transfer off Mayor Hancock’s security detail following alleged sexual harassment by Hancock’s aide Wayne McDonald, and received a settlement that reportedly prevented her from filing any other lawsuits against city employees. It should be noted, as Westword correctly does, that McDonald also sued and received a settlement over the case.

But none of those details excuse Hancock’s own behavior, or the possibility that justice for the police officer in question may have been thwarted because of the McDonald case. Hancock problematically denies that his conduct rose to the level of sexual harassment, but in its context–and above all, based on the opinion of the victim–that simply can’t be justified with the reported information.

Politically, this creates a dicey situation as Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly pursue a resolution to expel a lawmaker accused of both many more and arguably more severe instances of sexual harassment. We are not the ones tasked with handing down punishment in these cases, but it’s very important that accountability in all cases of sexual harassment be both consistent and sufficiently severe to deter further offense.

And that means everybody, even the Mayor of Denver.

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Michael Hancock Getting Ready Early for Third Term Campaign

Good politicians with strong political organizations understand that the best way to win an election is to prevent top opponents from ever entering the race.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock won’t be up for re-election until May 2019, but he’s already working to clear the road for his third term. Hancock is holding a “reception” tonight with some very prominent names on the host list, including House Speaker Crisanta Duran, businessman Zee Ferrufino, former Denver Fire Chief Larry Trujillo, and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

You’ll notice that most of the names on this list are those of well-known Latino politicos in the Denver area, which is certainly by design. A list of supporters like this will undoubtedly make any potential Latino candidates think twice about taking on the two-term incumbent Mayor of Denver. Sure, there is a lot that can happen between now and Spring 2019 that could change the dynamics of the next municipal elections in Denver, but the wise move for any incumbent is to get out in front of possible challengers as soon as possible.

Tonight’s event is not being billed as an official “kick-off” for Hancock’s third term, but the message it sends is unmistakable.

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If DPS Isn’t Reform-y Enough For Betsy DeVos, What The Hell Is?

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Sarah Darville writes for Chalkbeat Colorado:

Earlier this month, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was praising Denver’s efforts to support school choice. Not today.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution Wednesday, she called out Denver as an example of a district that appears to be choice-friendly — but actually lacks sufficient options for families.

A new Brookings report gave the city the top score for school choice, citing the unified application process that allows families to consider charter and district-run schools at the same time.

But DeVos implied that without vouchers to pay for private schools (something Colorado’s state Supreme Court has twice ruled unconstitutional) and a sufficient supply of charter schools, Denver’s application process amounts to an optical illusion.

“The benefits of making choices accessible are canceled out when you don’t have a full menu of options,” she said, pointing to New Orleans as a better example of the choice ecosystem she’d like to see. “Choice without accessibility doesn’t matter. Just like accessibility without choices doesn’t matter. Neither scenario ultimately benefits students.”

As a reform-minded public school district responsible for a large and diverse urban population of students, Denver Public Schools has been on the front lines in the battle over “innovation” and school choice for a number of years. Battles over the district’s school choice programs and reform efforts in struggling DPS schools have made for bitter infighting between nominally allied liberal Democrats, and frequently sparked conflict between the school board and the district’s teachers.

With that said, there should be absolutely no daylight between the factions in Denver Public Schools when it comes to opposing private school vouchers, a question that has already been thoroughly explored by the Douglas County school district to the south of Denver. Colorado’s constitution explicitly prohibits public funding for religious schools, which has been repeatedly upheld by the state supreme court. The Brookings Institution’s report praising DPS for its accommodation of choice for parents shows that the district is doing everything it can be reasonably expected to do under state law.

And if that’s not good enough for Education Secretary Betsy “Amway U” DeVos, that only demonstrates how far she is from the mainstream–not Denver Public Schools.

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Pro Choice Avdocates Oppose Partial Vote Abortion

UNFAIR, UNFAIR, Pro Choice advocates cry, as the Hillary vote is killed at the ballot drop. Planned Parenthood insist that a woman must fulfill her duty to bring forth a Hillary vote, in spite of it being declared damaged or defective by the FBI. When it comes to Democratic support, women have no choice.

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Poll: Who Will Win The Denver DA Democratic Primary?

With the June 28th primary election now less than a week away, we’re rolling out informal polls for our readers in a number of races around the state. The Denver District Attorney’s Office, currently occupied by term-limited DA Mitch Morrissey, features an intense three-way Democratic primary between Kenneth Boyd, Michael Carrigan, and Beth McCann.

As with all of our polls, we’re interested in knowing who you actually think will win this election–not your personal preference.

Who will win the Denver DA Democratic primary?
Kenneth Boyd
Michael Carrigan
Beth McCann
View Result
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Poll: Who Will Win The Democratic HD-3 Primary?

With the June 28th primary election now just a week away, we’re rolling out informal polls for our readers in a number of key races around the state. Highly competitive Colorado House District 3, presently held by Rep. Daniel Kagan, features a robust Democratic primary race between Jeff Bridges and Meg Froelich.

As with all of our polls, we’re interested in knowing who you actually think will win this election–not your personal preference.

Who will win the HD-3 Democratic primary?
Jeff Bridges
Meg Froelich
View Result

 

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Poll: Who Will Win The Democratic HD-8 Primary?

With the June 28th primary election now just a week away, we’re rolling out informal polls for our readers in a number of key races around the state. Strongly Democratic Colorado House District 8, presently held by Denver DA candidate Beth McCann, features a closely-watched primary this year between Aaron Goldhamer and Leslie Herod.

As with all of our polls, we’re interested in knowing who you actually think will win this election–not your personal preference.

Who will win the HD-8 Democratic primary?
Aaron Goldhamer
Leslie Herod
View Result

 

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Aurora School Board Member, House Candidate, Appears to be Spectacular Con Artist

UPDATE #3: Nelson for Colorado responds directly in the comments below….

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UPDATE #2: Rep. Rhonda Fields, who holds the HD-42 seat Eric Nelson is running for, calls for him to withdraw from the race and resign from the Aurora school board:

“Impersonating a military officer, violence against women, bigamy, dodging child support payments? This pattern of behavior is deeply disturbing to me, it’s unacceptable in a leader, it goes against everything Democrats stand for, and I believe the people of Aurora and the state of Colorado deserve better. Therefore, I call on Eric Nelson to immediately withdraw his candidacy for state representative and to resign his seat on the school board.”

—–

UPDATE: The “you know what” is hitting the proverbial fan in Aurora:

Meanwhile, Nelson’s Democratic Primary opponent in HD-42 — Dominique Jackson — is speaking out and taking the high road.

—–

While you were tucked all snug in your bed last evening, Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman was breaking a story that is so bizarre you’d be forgiven if you thought it was a fairy tale. Eric Nelson, a member of the Aurora School Board and a Democratic candidate for House District 42 (Aurora), is one hell of a con man:

This is Eric Nelson. As far as anyone else knows, anyway.

This is Eric Nelson. Or a man who calls himself Eric Nelson.

A member of the Aurora Public School Board and Democratic state House candidate who describes his occupation as “Life Visionary” appears to have taken his knack for self-invention to extreme heights, an investigation by The Colorado Statesman has revealed. [Pols emphasis]Eric Durane Nelson, 38, one of two Aurora Democrats in a primary for the House District 42 seat, was rebuked by the state Division of Insurance for lying about his criminal background — including domestic violence arrests spanning a decade — and was denied an application for another insurance license for “failure to demonstrate that you are competent, trustworthy and of good moral character.”

At another time, Nelson was married to two women at the same time, according to court documents.

Based on information uncovered by The Statesman, the organization that works to elect House Democrats on Monday said it is calling on Nelson to withdraw from the race and, in an unprecedented move, will endorse his primary opponent, Dominique Jackson. [Pols emphasis]

The HD 42 seat is currently represented by state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who is term-limited and in a primary of her own against state Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, for an open state Senate seat. Republican Mike Donald is running unopposed for the GOP nomination for the heavily Democratic House seat.

You really have to read the entire story yourself — it is an incredible tale of a career criminal and con man who talked his way into a position of being the top-line candidate on the June 28th Primary ballot. Just look at some of these examples:

Although the specifics of his claims have changed over the years, Nelson says he’s earned numerous advanced degrees — as many as seven have shown up on various resumés — including a master’s degree from a university that says he was never enrolled there.

Asked by The Statesman early Monday afternoon why the Northeastern University registrar’s office in Boston said the school had no record of him, Nelson promised to email copies of his diploma and academic records but six hours later hadn’t sent anything.

—–

In earlier versions of his resume, Nelson describes himself as an Air Force veteran and has also been fond of posting photographs of himself on social media in a captain’s uniform, despite having been an active duty member of the service for just eight weeks, according to Department of Defense documents.

The story is not without its victims, unfortunately. Luning writes that Nelson recently talked his way into a job leading a nonprofit called Angel Eyes, claiming to have a Master of Social Work degree. By the time other employees and volunteers realized the lie, he had nearly robbed them blind.

“We were thinking, this couldn’t be happening because he was so slick. But it just snowballed,” said a woman who works at Angel Eyes, a Cherry Creek-based organization that comes to the aid of parents who have lost an infant.

From a political perspective, House Democrats absolutely did the right thing by immediately calling on Nelson to drop out of the race, as well as endorsing a Primary opponent for the first time in the history of the House Majority Project. It is a pretty stark difference between Democrats and Republicans in Colorado in recent years, particularly when it comes to troublesome individual candidates or campaigns.

Republicans often spend days and weeks wringing their hands when bad eggs emerge and legislators make terrible comments without rebuke; they only seem to act when something is so egregious that virtually no member of the public at-large would disagree. The Nelson story is going to leave a lot of confused and angry Democrats — particularly those who endorsed his House candidacy — but this is a band-aid that needs to be pulled quickly.

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“Both Ways Beth?” Denver DA Candidate Flips on Death Penalty

Beth McCann, left, appears to have changed her position on the death penalty to more closely resemble Michael Carrigan's stance on the issue.

Beth McCann, left, appears to have changed her position on the death penalty to more closely resemble Michael Carrigan’s stance on the issue.

The race for the Democratic nomination for Denver District Attorney is one of the more interesting battles to watch in Colorado this Primary season. Three candidates — Michael Carrigan, Beth McCann, and Kenneth Boyd — are running to replace outgoing, term-limited Denver D.A. Mitch Morrissey.

The winner of the June 28th Democratic Primary in Democrat-heavy Denver will almost certainly go on to wrap up the job in the General Election, which is particularly enticing because the Denver D.A. can serve three terms, for a total of 12 years, without ever really needing to worry about re-election efforts again. The Democratic Primary has been a heated affair thus far and has emerged as the single most expensive Primary race in the state (not counting federal races). University of Colorado Regent and attorney Michael Carrigan has long been considered the odds-on favorite in this race, which may help explain why State Rep. Beth McCann is flipping her position on a pretty major issue.

On Sunday the Denver Post ran a long comparison piece on the race that includes several answers to specific policy questions. Here’s how McCann and Carrigan responded to the following question:” The death penalty is seldom used in Denver. What is your position on the death penalty and when — if at all — would you find it appropriate to seek that punishment?”

Carrigan 

Carrigan will not seek the death penalty if elected.

“It’s inefficient, it’s expensive, it prolongs the process and is something that is not practiced in the industrialized world,” Carrigan said.

 

McCann

McCann will not seek the death penalty if elected.

“I would not bring it because I don’t believe in it,” McCann said. “I don’t think the state should be in the business of killing people.” [Pols emphasis]

 

The problem here is that McCann’s statement that she would refuse to seek the death penalty is not what she has been saying on the campaign trail for 18 months. Here’s what McCann said about the death penalty in a September story for Law Week – September 2015 (PDF file):

I am personally opposed to the death penalty, and I voted in the legislature to repeal it. But it is the law, and as the DA, you are bound by the law. [Pols emphasis] So I suppose there might be an awful, horrific case where I might file, but it would have to be egregious.

By contrast, here’s Carrigan’s answer to the Law Week question:

I’m against the death penalty. It’s expensive and inefficient, and it’s not something that should continue. If I was elected DA, I would support a repeal.

In a February 2016 forum in House District 8, McCann expanded a little on her previous answer regarding the death penalty (skip ahead to about the 20 minute mark for McCann’s answer).

I am opposed to it. I need to make that very clear…Now, that said, we do have a victim’s rights act…I believe, in deference to people who have lost a child, lost a mother, lost a family member, in the most heinous of circumstances.

That if i’m the DA, I at least owe that family the right to sit down and talk to them. I’m not going to bring the death penalty — I’ll explain my thinking and reasoning to them…but I owe them that courtesy…

And I wonder what other laws Mr. Carrigan would disregard? Because if he doesn’t like the law, then he is just not going to apply it? That is not what the oath is for the District Attorney. You take an oath to uphold the law. So I believe that I would have to respect that.” [Pols emphasis]

Okay, so McCann does not believe in the death penalty and would not seek the death penalty if elected District Attorney…but she would pretend to be open to the idea so that families could tell their side of the story (even though McCann already made up her mind).  McCann concludes her answer by criticizing Carrigan for “disregarding” laws — which she just said she would do herself — as a way of attacking Carrigan’s much simpler answer that he would not pursue the death penalty, period.

The death penalty, as Gov. John Hickenlooper well knows, is not an issue with much room in the middle. You are either against the death penalty or in favor of the death penalty, and the more you try to massage your answer one way or the other, the more confusing your position becomes. McCann can’t very well say now that she would just flat-out refuse to seek the death penalty after nearly a year of equivocating.

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Dear Candidates: Proofread Your Websites

Running for office is exhausting, time-killing, and sometimes soul-crushing — and that’s just for those candidates who don’t make ridiculous errors.

We stumbled across the “About the Candidate” link for Elet Valentine, one of three Democrats seeking to win a Primary in HD-7 (Northeast Denver), and…wow.

We really don’t know much about this race or the other candidates seeking the office, but we are confident about one thing: Elet Valentine should proofread her website. Also, it’s never a good idea to shift between first-person and third-person perspectives when discussing your own biography:

From EValentineForStateRep.com

Actual screenshot from EValentineForStateRep.com

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Denver DA Candidate Michael Carrigan Debuts Unique TV Ad

If you spend any time watching politics in the United States, the chances are pretty good that you’ve seen just about every variation of a campaign advertisement that there is to see. But every now and then, a TV ad pops up that looks a little different than the rest…like this ad for Denver District Attorney candidate Michael Carrigan titled “Kid Pile”:

Carrigan’s “Kid Pile” ad is presented in a “vertical” format — both on television and online — which is intended to look like something that could have been shot on a cellphone (when the ad appears on television, it is centered between two bars of black space just like a cellphone video might appear). It’s an interesting approach to a campaign ad that should help catch the attention of viewers who are starting to be barraged with TV advertisements for various other campaigns.

Carrigan is the favorite to win the Democratic Primary for Denver DA on June 28th, which essentially serves as the general election in Democratic-heavy Denver. The “Kid Pile” ad is part of an ad buy on TV and online that will exceed $200k. Fellow candidates Beth McCann and Kenneth Boyd are also on the air (or were on the air) with TV buys of only a few thousand dollars apiece.

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A Few Words on that Child Abuser/DPS Board Appointee

standholmes

MiDian Holmes.

MiDian Holmes.

We wanted to make sure the recent controversy on the Denver Public Schools board, in which a newly-appointed school board member connected to the corporate-backed education “reform” group Stand for Children was exposed in the media as having been convicted of child abuse, didn’t get too far in the rear-view mirror without a mention. Eric Gorski and Melanie Asmar at Chalkbeat Colorado reported last Thursday:

MiDian Holmes announced on her Facebook page Thursday night that she would not accept her appointment to the Denver school board, saying she did not want to be a distraction after details of a misdemeanor child abuse conviction became public…

In 2005, she was charged with “wrongs to minors” in violation of the Denver municipal code. Documents explaining what led to the charge were not immediately available. Holmes was sentenced to a year of probation, after which the case was dismissed.

In 2006, she was charged with child abuse in violation of state law. Documents reveal that Holmes left her three young children — age 7, 6 and 2 — home alone for more than eight hours while she was at work. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse and again was sentenced to probation.

FOX 31 reported more details from MiDian Holmes’ second child abuse case, which Holmes was reportedly not completely honest about with the DPS board that appointed her:

(more…)

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