Monday, November 30, 2009

Sand Creek

November 29th, 2009 marked the 145th anniversary of the Massacre at Sand Creek, a day which lives in infamy in Colorado history. That “dies irae,’ that terrible day of wrath, Col. John M. Chivington led members of the Colorado Cavalry in a slaughter of mostly Arapahoe and Cheyenne elderly women, children and old men. Chief Black Kettle who originally welcomed the pale faces to the banks of Cherry Creek and the Platte, was killed in the massacre under an American flag and a white flag. I wonder what went through Black Kettle's mind as he saw the pale faced soldiers killing his people "indiscriminately" as the congressional hearing reported.

On Saturday, November 28th, 2009 at 8 am at Riverside Cemetery on Brighton Boulevard on Denver's border with Adams County, I along with about 100 citizens gathered at the grave of Silas Soule to commemorate his bravery in refusing to kill women and children and in testifying before a congressional committee which broke from concerns about the civil war to investigate Chivington's actions at Sand Creek; Captain Soule, showed great courage and an ethical soul that day, that terrible day. Soule refused orders to fire upon unarmed women and children at Sand Creek. Federal troops present also refused to kill unarmed women and children. Otto, Soule's nephew from Iowa, told me the name is pronounced 'sole."

Spiritual leaders of Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes blessed runners for their participation in the 11th Annual Sand Creek Massacre

For testifying against what he saw at Sand Creek, Soule was assassinated near 15th and Arapahoe near Skyline Park. His name is listed on the civil war monument at the State Capitol among the civil war military dead. I never noticed that before.

At the ceremony at the Capitol I was honored to speak to those who gathered to mark the day.

Many Coloradoans don't remember Sand Creek, or Ludlow, or the Columbine Mine murders. Our attention spans are about as long as a 30 second TV commercial. I know we can do better to recall important historic events in our state's history.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Friday November 20th, the “Across the USA” section of USA Today had the following depressing notice for Colorado:

“Denver – Colorado had a record-high number of foreclosures in the third quarter, when filings hit 12,468, the state Housing Department said. The quarter ending Sept. 30 was the fourth consecutive quarter in which foreclosure filings increased. For the year, foreclosure filings are up about 18% compared with the same period in 2008.”

The number of working Coloradans fell by almost 10,000 in the month of October this year. Colorado’s unemployment rate is at 5.3% better than the national average. But I would guess that the Globeville and Northeast Neighborhoods in Denver hit closer to 20%.

I hope you are as upset as I am about these statistics. They hit home to me recently when I saw my neighbor putting boxes in her station wagon. “Are you going out of town,” I asked. “Dennis, I have been out of work for some time now and I am taking the keys to my house down to the bank. My house is in foreclosure.” My neighbor got in the car and drove away.

These statistics hit home to me because I think of my own grandparents who lost their home during the depression. My grandfather lost his job on the Moffat Railroad and the Gallagher family lost their house. “The girls went to St. Clare’s Orphanage on 26th and Osceola and I (my dad) and my brother, Louie went to St. Vincent’s Orphanage on Lowell,” my dad often said. It took my grandparents two years to get back on their financial footing. My dad said, “My brother cried himself to sleep every night for two years while at St. Vincent’s.” Despite being split up from their families, the Gallagher kids had fond memories of loving nuns who tried their best helped them through those tough homeless depression years.

It affected us all. All our family reunions retold depression and orphanage stories. The stories sounded just like McCourt’s "Angela’s Ashes", without the free food wakes, without the humor, without the songs. Homeless counts continue to grow in our city.

So it’s going to take awhile for Denver and Colorado to crawl our way out of the current ‘recession.” Depressing, isn’t it?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Real Threat

A few weeks ago I attended the Fiscal Wake-up Call initiated by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation where former Comptroller General David M. Walker reminded us of what he considered the number one threat facing our country: our ever increasing debt. It chalks up at over $180,000 per person, 56 billion as of September of 2008. It was cosponsored by University of Denver.

I agree with Walker. And I hope you will double check the website: to get the rest of the story.

But I think there is something even worse about which we should be worried when it comes to the future of our democracy. The biggest threat to our way of life is the tremendous lack of ignorance in young and old in our country as to the concepts in our constitution and form of government.

My most recent wake-up call happened on my recent visit to Skinner Middle School to listen to students present their ideas about constitution principles after a period of study. On of my fellow listeners asked a panel of students if the constitution allowed for someone to hold an opinion which might upset someone else's feelings. A student responded that the constitution did not allow people to have opinions which might hurt another's feelings. I tried to tell the students that the constitution does not prohibit unpopular opinions even those that might hurt another's feelings. I tried to remind them that the first amendment protects unpopular opinions.

I am not sure I got through in a few minutes of discussion at 8am on a cold day.

But despite the budget, I think ignorance of the constitution and other current affairs is the greatest threat to our country. We cannot give up and we have to keep fighting and arguing, with civility of course, that people have to wake up as to what our form of government is and what rights in our Bill of Rights protect us even when we hold unpopular opinions.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A thanksgiving Thought

As we approach this year’s Thanksgiving holiday, it is important that we remember those who may be less fortunate. More Americans are struggling to put enough food on the table for their families. Making ends meet is a struggle for some Americans regardless of the state of the general economy. Such a struggle can leave families insecure about having enough food to get them through the month. Some may have to scrimp on the quantity or quality of the food that they eat. While these situations happen in the best of times, they become more common and acute in economic recessions when job markets are weak and State and local government assistance is curtailed by tight budgets.

USDA's Economic Research Service's (ERS) released its annual report on Household Food Security in the U.S., which revealed that in 2008, 17 million households, or 14.6 percent, were food insecure and families had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year. This is an increase from 13 million households, or 11.1 percent, in 2007. The 2008 figures represent the highest level observed since nationally representative food security surveys were initiated in 1995. Colorado was one of 13 states where the percentage of households struggling with hunger dropped over the three years ending in 2008 despite a surge nationally, according to a federal report released Monday. The report also looked at households dealing with the most acute hunger problems and found that the percentage in Colorado rose from 3.9 percent to 5 percent between the two time periods. One in eight Colorado households had to deal with hunger issues, and the problem has intensified in 2009 with the recession, officials surmised based on anecdotal evidence.

The USDA’s domestic food and nutrition assistance programs increase food
security by providing low-income households access to food, a healthful diet,
and nutrition education. I would like to encourage all who are able to donate to our community food banks or find other ways to share during this holiday season. Remember that it is not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, that is the true measure of our thanksgiving.

The full study is available at

Thursday, November 19, 2009

During these difficult economic times it is important for our governmental. Everyone is tightening their belts and the government must too. However, rather than wholesale cuts across every agency, I believe that government must be strategic in its financial reductions – making sure that the citizenry gets the most “bang for the buck”.

I am proud that under my tenure the Auditor’s Office has added an entire new menu of products intended to help city agencies make strategic decisions. Our “Audit Services” package gives an agency the flexibility to ask for benchmarking and in depth analysis in comparing of how other cities may handle a situation. With our Audit Services we often identify what is the governmental “best practice” in a variety of scenarios. We can provide this insight in real time and it does not require as much time as a full-blown audit to complete.

In these tough economic times, information and insight is the key to providing the most city services at the cheapest cost. Audit Services is a unique and powerful way to ensure this happens.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I encourage readers to check out the DaVinci Institute. This institute has nothing to do about fighting between angels and demons. Alas no medieval knights joining crusades to challenge some medieval foes. It is not an adjunct in the controversy Mary Magdalene’s place in the salvation legend.

The DaVinci Institute encourages people to look at trends and see how those trends might be affecting our future. The organization presents excellent futurists who try to let us know what trends may be facing economics, education, environment and even water availability.

A recent missive by email from the institute noted several trends to keep our eyes on, and these are my humble summaries:

1. By 2020 biotech and genetics will push ahead to occupy the attention spans of futurists.

2. Web amateurs will be seen to be a good or if not better than web professionals.

4.Smart water grid technologies will be the big discussion for future studies.

5.Space hotels are taking orders for rooms by 2012.

6. Many corporations are cash flush with money and are just sitting on their fortunes.

7. Online video services are becoming more like regular TV services.

8. Japan will experience some population concerns and face possible collapse.

9. China, our banker, will loan 10 billion dollars to Africa.

Check out these future teasers. Former Governor Dick Lamm often told me: "It not that one can actually predict the future. What is important is that one tries to think about the future."

I agree with him and hope you will start thinking about the future.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ted Hackworth

Denver received sad news recently that former City Councilman Ted Hackworth passed away at home.

Ted never hesitated to tell you how he felt about something. He never hesitated to vote no if he disagreed on something. He taught me lots and I am appreciative for his good advice which he always shared on issues of significance facing Denver.

Staffers and Council members both joked about a vote being 12 to one; that was 12 to Hackworth. Ted remained active to the end in his Southwest Neighborhood association. And he had a contagious smile which lit up a room no matter how big. Beneath the gruff exterior lurked a good sense of humor and encouraged me to quote more Shakespeare. One council member asked if she could get some credit at Regis for all that Shakespeare I quoted. I told her she would have to pass the test and that was stuff that dreams are made of and not likely.

He was very pleased when I arranged to lead the battle for him to serve as President Pro Tem his final year in office. He seemed to like that honor which the council awarded him for his many years of service. Ted will be missed and his dedication to neighborhood and city will be missed as well.

The Bully Pulpit

Recently it was reported that the City will not renew its contract with Seedco, a relationship which has existed since 2006. I would like to think that this decision was made primarily due to our recent audit which exposed gross mismanagement by Seedco. On many occasions I have been asked, “What is Seedco?”

Seedco Financial Services, Inc. (Seedco Financial) is a national Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with more than $200 million in assets under management. Filling niche gaps along the continuum of credit from small business lending to New Market Tax Credits, Seedco Financial seeks to stimulate economic development in communities that are underserved by traditional banking institutions by providing affordable capital, hands-on technical assistance and innovative solutions to small businesses, nonprofit organizations, CDFIs and real estate developers. Seedco Financial is a wholly-controlled subsidiary of Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation (Seedco), a national nonprofit intermediary that helps low-income people and communities move toward economic prosperity.

I am pleased that the Mayor has decided not to renew the City’s contract with Seedco.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fraud in times of Economic Stress

In a previous blog entry I mentioned to you that auditors warn that in times of economic uncertainty and downturn, auditors see an increase in cases of fraud. Why is that? I think it is because people, in an economic downturn, are even more willing to take additional risks to cut ethical corners and come up with schemes to defraud government agencies. You might recall the Association of Government Accountants' website estimates that 7% of the stimulus moneys, almost $60 billion dollars, will be lost to fraud and waste.

So it should come as no surprise to us that we read that over 100,000 people of the 1.5 million folks who have applied for the first time home owner 8,000 government tax credits have already come up with schemes to defraud the government fund accounts. Here is one way in which some have taken the risk to try to defraud the funds: simply lie about the age of the applicant. J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for tax administration, reported recently to Congress that 580 people seeking $4 million were under the age of 18. The youngest recipient was only 4 years old.

Linda Stiff, the IRS's deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, put it aptly when she said to the Congress folks, "any time that there is an opportunity to receive cash back, it tends to attract people that might have the intent to defraud the government." Does this news upset you as much as it does me?

I read with amusement that some governmental agencies are cutting their auditors in order to save money during the economic downturn. In a time of economic downturn, that's when you need more auditors, not less.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Failure should not be an option

I have just released our audit of Seedco, a company under contract to the city’s Office of Economic Development. The audit paints an ugly picture of dismal failure by this company over the three years it has been under contract. Worse, when the contract was renewed the last time, the company was chastised for its failures and promised to do better: So much for that.

Seedco was brought on-board by the city three years ago because it was claimed that loan funds previously loaned by the Office of Economic Development would be more effectively handled by this private entity with better outcomes. That has not happened. In point of fact over the last two years, OED’ loan performance far outperformed that of Seedco For instance, In 2008, OED made 47 loans for $18.1 million while Seedco only made six loans for $950,000.

The contract is once again up for renewal. Denver City Council will take this matter up next week. I don’t know what Council may do, but I do know that if I had a vote on Council, it would be a resounding NO to renewal.

They have failed to abide by the terms of the contract, seeming to treat those terms in the most flippant and cavalier manner;

They have failed to meet the performance measures stipulated in the contract, including the all-important job creation standards;

They have failed to return over $146,000 owed to the city for ten months;

They have spent tremendous sums – and what I would term highly inappropriate sums – of money on overhead, travel, and executive salaries.

I cannot be more displeased with the performance of Seedco, because the economic-generator that this loan program is supposed to be is being inhibited by Seedco’s poor performance. In these difficult times, when tight credit is negatively impacting Denver’s economy, that is performance we cannot afford.

You can view the audit here: Seedco Audit

Monday, November 2, 2009


David M. Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States, visited the Denver Auditor's Office two years ago on a swing through Colorado. Walker talked to the Internal Audit Section of the office. He has, since last year, served as the President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The foundation tries to alert Americans to the looming crisis of our growing debt.

I was pleased to hear Mr. Walker again at the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour at the University of Denver last Thursday evening, October 22. Walker hit similar haunting themes to those he brought up when he spoke to our office two years ago. Slide number one of his presentation told the whole story: "Saving Our Future Requires Tough Choices Today."

Walker pointed out three important points to a mixed crowd of older retirees and younger students. He shared with the audience that in 1968, mandatory spending programs were at 28% with discretionary programs at 66%. In 2008, mandatory programs were at 53% and discretionary spending programs were now at 39%.

The second point, always a Halloween shocker, the burden per capita of the debt in the United States: $184,000 and growing as you read this entry on my blog.

The third horrifying specter of his presentation showed how much foreign holding of US debt has risen. In 1990 our foreign debt holders was at19%. In 2009, it has risen to a ghoulish 49%. Does this scare you? No wonder the Obama White House timidly decided not welcome the Noel Winner, the Dalai Lama to the white house for tea. I guess the White House has decided "we must not offend the US banker." If Bush had done that the Democrats would have screamed like banshees and wailed like Halloween hob goblins.

I was not surprised that the audience unanimously wrote off the Senate and Congress as lacking any courage to do anything to deal with the rising debt. Like Jacob Marley's ghost, you could feel the anger rising at Congress in the DU Cable Center as the speakers continued with their description of how we got into this mess. It was clear to all that Congress will make no "tough choice" on this issue.

One older man to whom I spoke at the end of the raucous, but excellent and civil event told me: "Obama can keep the $250 he is planning to send me this year." He was dressed in a tweed suit with a warm vest. I told him that if he ever got the payment, he could endorse it and send it back to the treasury to lower the deficit. " And they'll just waste it like they did with all the money I have sent them before," he smiled back at me. He told me he was glad to see at least one elected official there at the meeting. I imagine feelings are different among older people in the neighborhood where I live in North Denver. Older people in that area are trying to decide between food and prescriptions. At the end of the meeting, Walker and the other speakers were swamped by members of the crowd. Walker told me he remembered coming to our office and I invited him to come back some time in his new roll of Paul Revere for the scary fiscal wake-up call.

Walker's final slide told the audience why he is so deeply concerned about this issue of federal debt: the slide showed a picture of the three Walker grandchildren. I hope you will look at pictures of your children and grandchildren and for their sake, get involved and focus on this "moral" issue. Type Peter G. Peterson Foundation on the search line of your Internet service or simply and the web pages lay out the whole sad story.