Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Prepping Legislators

When I was first elected to the legislature many years ago, Representative Jerry Kopel (D- Denver)gave me and others in my newly elected class some excellent advice. Older members of our caucus gave Jerry the accolade as sort of the uncontested "Dean" of our delegation. "Kopel knows the rules," Dominic Coloroso, (D-Denver) whispered to me as he gave me his worn book of rules. As I read some of the sage advice former legislators are sharing with the newly elected, I did not notice Kopel's common sense and simple advice. So now with his permission which I know he would give, I share it with all, even Republicans.

Jerry suggested that we find pictures of the legislators, all 100 of them from the Speaker on down. Clip out the picture and paste it on a 3 x 5 card. On the other side write in the legislator's name; home town; birth date; wife or husband and children's names; cities and towns within the district; committees assigned; schools attended; and businesses operated. Jerry always said leave space so you can write down things which come up during the session: hobbies, favorite songs, movies or latest book read. At the time I joked that we probably would not have to fill in many books read recently. Everyone has been too busy campaigning, I figured. But I was wrong on that joke. Most legislators were well read. And I was familiar with the principle of flash cards: I encouraged my Latin and Greek students at Regis to do the same for vocabulary practice. "Happy Birthday, Senator!"

I christened my picture cards: "Kopel's Legislative Flash Cards." Jerry suggested we flash them several times a day; when you get up; at lunch time; and when you go to bed. Flash the cards in the morning and flash the cards at night. "Eventually you will remember all the material on the cards and it will impress your colleagues that you cared enough to find out about them and their lives" was what Kopel told us. Dean Kopel would actually give us spot quizzes on which legislator was from where and all the rest. Our caucus developed information envy. And the points of information made for good discussion between heated arguments. The cards lowered blood pressures and made us laugh. Indeed, we shared our humanity with each other in moments of intense partisanship.

And Kopel, as usual, was right. Legislators and their spouses appreciated the human touch that one remembered little facts in their lives. I know one legislative wife appreciated my knowing her family name which I still use as a memory test. I fondly recall Senator Fay DeBerard, (R-Kremmling) a conservative west slope rancher. His wife, Beverly Burford, no relation to Speaker Bob, inspired Jack Kerouac's "Babe" in On the Road. I think it often made the Republican Assignables nervous when I crossed over to their side to sit next to her in the Senate Chamber. I would ask her if she "had seen Jack lately down at Capelli's Bar." That bar is now My Brother's Bar on 15th and Platte in North Denver, famous for Kerouac, Neal Cassidy and others sipping brews there in the Beat days gone by; gone alas like our youth too soon.

And I remember Senator Ralph Cole, (R-Littleton),who was very conservative, but always thoughtful. I once heard him argue a point from the Senate well on an issue, "English parliamentarians lost their heads over this issue. The king, and now the governor, wants to grab more power from us in the legislature," Senator Cole shouted hitting his fist reverberating on the lectern. Ralph and I did not agree on lots, but when we talked about English Parliamentary History, we were the best of friends. Ralph gave his tattered copy of English Constitutional History which has a Latin Magna Carta amongst its well-worn pages. I confess I keep this revered text from Ralph on my bookshelf near my bed for when I can't sleep. I still hear Ralph: "Don't let those parliamentarians die in vain."

Years later I suggested to leadership that we get two constitutional experts from DU or CU law schools to summarize the principles found in the US and Colorado Constitutions for the new and older legislators. They laughed me out of the room, but I still think it is a good idea. I remember one House Majority Leader in all seriousness arguing, "The Constitution really doesn't count for much on second reading." Any one remember who said that? I still believe that the Constitutional legislative teach-in could do much to cut down patently unconstitutional legislation and rhetorical blather on floor debate.

Now today with all the computers and social networks, legislators can put the faces and information on face book. Can you flash face book? But I would use face book as backup for the printed and oral comments written on the regular flash cards.

JFK

I recently had a delightful dinner with a group of hungry Regis University Freshmen. We ground our teeth on exquisite Japanese cuisine and laughlingly tried to manipulate fumbling chop sticks at Domo's near Colfax, I asked some of them if they could remember why November 22, 1963 marked an important date in American Presidential history?

Several groaned with the sonorous stentorian tones of a Greek chorus, "We weren't even born then." Not one could tell me about that date. "It was the day John Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas," I told them. That day, that dies irae, a day of wrath, a terrible day came crashing down on us all like lightning bolts from Zeus himself.

Those of us old enough to remember JFK, all remember where we were when we heard the tragic news. I was a guide at the National Shrine in Washington, D. C. on the campus of Catholic University, my graduate school, I was giving a lunch hour tour to visitors. I joked that we should finish our tour by taking the stairs to the main floor. "Friends, we are taking the stairs to support President Kennedy's vigorous fitness program." The tourists laughed politely, still in church.

The tour completed, I walked over to my English class in the John K. Mullen of Denver Library on the campus. I made small talk before our professor got to the room. "Dennis, I thought of all people you would be upset the most by the news," one of my female associates chided me.

"Upset about what?" I asked her. "President Kennedy was shot in Dallas earlier today,Dennis, I heard the news on the radio during lunch." I told her,"I thought we would have him with us so much longer. He was so young."

My mind went back to when I actually had met JFK in 1959 when I was a junior at Regis in Denver. We had read he was coming into Denver to talk at the old Cosmopolitan Hotel. So I made signs "Denver welcomes Kennedy, Denver students welcome Kennedy, Good luck, JFK," in my best Italic calligraphy. A few Regis students and I drove out to old Stapleton and roamed around the airport for what seemed a long time looking for Kennedy. Finally a reporter saw us and directed us to the room where he was about to have a press conference. He came out smiling happy to see us with the signs and shook all our hands. He was amused to hear so many Irish names of the students: Dennis Gallagher, Peter Rohan, Jerry Dempsey, Larry Rice and Richard Murray. He then invited us to attend the press conference. I put my homemade signs up against the wall. "What's your agricultural policy?" Kennedy responded very well, I thought at the time. Teddy Kennedy was there standing close to Jack.

Patting me on the shoulder and looking up at me, Teddy asked if I played football at Regis. "We don't have a football team," I responded. "But we have a great basketball team," I added apologetically. Seeing our signs Teddy had us all line up with Jack. Our picture signs and all appeared in Look Magazine. I was not in the picture because I pushed Rohan, Dempsey, Murray and Rice forward. I remember thinking that day at the airport, "Kennedy's so young, I'll have plenty of time to meet him, later on in life, you know."

I told my fellow students just to tell folks were were young democrats. I suggested we could just leave out that we were from the Catholic and Jesuit college. Then I Jerome Dempsey told a reporter we were all Irish Catholics and we came out to root for our Irish candidate or something like that. I turned to the reporter, "We are not denying the faith, but can't you write that we are just young Democrats from Denver." Regis did not have a Young Republicans or Young Democrats at that time. We would have two wait years later for Ed Feulner to change all that.

The reporter winked and said, "I understand what you're saying Gallagher. I'm Irish and I went to Fordham." He put his pen in his trench coat pocket. The secret conspiracy smoldered. We would meet again when the battle was lost or won, when the hurly burly was done. We would have more time with JFK because he was so young.

Marian Rossmiller, a friend of my fireman father and a Democratic Captain whose brother was a Jesuit in Rome, told us to come to the Democratic Dinner that night. She said we could be her guests. She thanked us for bringing the signs and showing support for JFK. At the dinner, I confess I was actually shocked at how partisan Kennedy was toward the Republicans. He could not find a good thing to say about any of them. Friends, let me assure you, I am no longer shocked.

Dempsey recorded the speech but for some reason the recorder did not work, so JFK's words that night are gone with the wind of his breath. What a great memorable time we all had. We would never forget meeting him and we will never forget where we were when we heard the news of his death.

Of all the words at JFK's death, the words I remember most were those uttered by Daniel Patrick Moynihan as he heard the sad news: "There is no use in being Irish, if you don't know sooner or later, the world will break your heart." And that day the world broke my heart and I thought we would have him with us for a much longer time.

More Ciruli and the last election

In ancient Greece, kings and generals came to the Oracle at Delphi to seek out predictions for the future. Today we turn to pollsters to find out which trends might forge the future. One Greek general asked the oracle: "If I go into battle, will I win the battle?" The oracle responded, "If you go into battle, a mighty kingdom will be destroyed." The general lost, but the oracle still spoke only the truth. She forgot to mention the destroyed kingdom was his own.

Floyd Ciruli, Colorado's top poll taker pointed out recently in a talk at City Club that Ken Buck lost the campaign for Senate in the last two weeks of the campaign. Buck underperformed his statewide ticket. Floyd said that lots of voters turned in their ballots early. He joked that those early voters were probably women voters who know in which drawer in the desk has the stamps. He believes men usually wait until later during the campaign to vote.

Floyd speculates that the Bennet campaign conjured up a good strategy with the ads announcing Buck was too extreme for Colorado. Buck was ahead in polling in August and September leading Bennet by 5%. However, the Bennet campaign saw a vulnerability, especially with women voters, after Buck's disastrous shooting himself in his foot on a national TV interview. So Buck gave the voters evidence that he was too extreme for Colorado and it resonated with voters. Floyd said he thinks women voters are a large percentage of the small number of votes, 14,000 votes, which put Bennet over the top for the Senate seat here in Colorado.

Bennet topped Buck in women voters in an October 21, 2010 poll by 53% to 40%. In that same poll, Independents favored Bennet over Buck 46% to 44% not much of a difference. This poll back up Floyd's previous speculation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

That crazy Governor's Race

I had the inestimably valuable professional opportunity to listen to Floyd Ciruli, Colorado's top pollster, talking about what happened in the recent election. As always Floyd, a Pueblo native, offers us insights based on good solid evidence and speckled with good humor. Let me share with you some of his highlights and insights.

Floyd starts off his comments by telling us something we all already knew, "Hickenlooper is a lucky guy." Ciruli told the Denver Post in late October that Hickenlooper had "the benefit of not having to deal with just one Republican opponent and has kept a low profile, eliminating the chances of making and starting controversies."

Floyd's analysis of the polling figures showed how Hickenlooper kept rising in the polls. In August the mayor was at 43%, Tancredo, the American Constitution candidate, at 18%. And in September the mayor gained two points to go to 45%, while Tancredo jumped to 34% showing some considerable momentum. And on October 30th Hickenlooper was at 47%, another two point gain, and Tancredo peaked at 44%. Floyd's handout (available on his website) shows the final figures with the mayor finishing with 51% of the vote to Tancredo's 37%, down 7% from his polling figures. Polling figures for Dan Maes, the real Republican candidate, showed an August figure of 31%, and an over 50% drop in September to 15%. The October 30 poll showed Dan with 6% showing strength on the west slope. Maes ended up with a vote percentage of about 11% which means the Republicans will still be an actual political party for the next partisan election cycle.

Floyd's reporting of the top counties for the three candidates revealed lots. Hickenlooper carried Denver, San Miguel, Pitkin, Boulder and Costilla over 70%. Tancredo carried the high plains counties, Elbert, Washington, Lincoln, Morgan and Yuma at over 50%. Maes carrid Dolores, RioBlanco, Archuleta, La Plata and Baca by over 20 and 30%.

Ciruli told the Washington Times that "Tancredo is the best known Republican in the state." Floyd added that Tancredo "is the most easily nominated Republican in the state." Floyd believes Tancredo helped broaden his appeal in the race by showing up at the debates and letting voters know he can actually talk about topics other than immigration. But Floyd also points out that Tom had the highest negatives of those polled concerning their feelings about him. And it is clear that Tancredo is not going quietly into the good night as we see by his recent criticism of former Republican Bill Owens for betraying the Republican cause by serving on Hickenlooper's transition team.

For those readers who want to check our Floyd's more in depth comments, simply google: Ciruli Associates 2010 and you will get sites showing his encyclopedic details of what happened in this crazy election. Let me know what you think as to why people voted the way they did in this last election.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Billions

The word "billion" has appeared in newspapers a lot recently. The Denver Post carried a story that scientists now determine that there are "billions" of earth size planets out there in space. We can see now why the ballot proposal in Denver got so many votes to set up a welcome committee for greeting space aliens when they land in Denver or Colorado. A friend in Adams County said space aliens were much more likely to land in Adams County than Denver. When I asked why, "We have so much more open space." She smiled at me as she answered.

Our own federal government has shared with us for the first time the amount of tax dollars spent on intelligence activities: $80.1 billion. The National Intelligence Program has been awarded $53.1 billion in fiscal 2010 so far. And thus far our government has dished out $42.6 billion to the State Department and foreign operations. Uncle Sam's wallet has spilled out $3.5 billion for Iraqi intelligence operations. Some ask why we spend so much and know so little?

In another article a few days later the paper shared with readers that $5.7 billion has been paid out if its total 2010 appropriation to US Immigration and Customs to send back 392,862 undocumented immigrants from the United States. They must be using first class fares. Estimates are that it would cost $80 billion or more to send back all the undocumented aliens in the country to their country of origin. We know nothing will happen on this front as the pressure for fiscal restraint sinks into the next congress. That figure assumes we know how many undocumented aliens are here in the country. We simply don't know.

Floyd Ciruli, Colorado pollster, told me recently that over $4 billion was spent nationally in the last weeks of the campaign. He thinks lobbyists, advertisers and consultants dumped over $50 billion into Colorado races. Much of this money is unaccounted for and we will never know who actually paid for what.

We will probably continue to see the word "billion" a lot more in the news

Monday, November 1, 2010

Keeping in Touch

Greg Moore, editor of the Denver Post, visited the Auditor's Office recently. Our staff reviewed the many changes and improvements we have made to the Auditor's Office permitted by the passage of charter changes to our office. We talked about the charter changes enabling our office to do performance audits, and the many benefits from an independent audit committee. We shared with Moore the highlights of our Audit Plan for 2011. Readers can review the plan on our website. I hope you will check it out. Let me know what you think of the plan.

Because Greg Moore came to The Denver Post from many years of service at The Boston Globe, our conversation invariably turns to the rough and tumble but always interesting and entertaining politics of Boston. Moore repeatedly tells a favorite story about former Boston mayor, Ray Flynn when we have met with him. Flynn was very outgoing and the word on the street said that Mayor Flynn had personally met a large percentage of the people of Boston. So The Globe commissioned a survey to see how many people had actually met and talked with the mayor. The report reported to the Globe that over 90% of the people of Boston had personally met Flynn.

People often ask me why I go to so many events, visit neighborhood meetings, attend religious festivals, visit with neighbors in our city's many different coffee shops, lunch at senior centers and synagogues, and our city's recreation centers. Last year during Librarian Appreciation Week, I visited every Denver Public Library, and delivered flowers and cookies to city librarians.

At the end of Moore's visit to our office, I told him I am trying to match or better Mayor Flynn's percentage of personal contact with Denver residents.

To me that's what public service is all about: being accessible and available, trying to keep in touch to let people know what the auditor's office is trying to do to bring accountability and improved performance among our city agencies. I appreciate hearing what Denverites tell me is going on with them and our city government.

Like Mayor Ray Flynn and Tip O'Neill, I look forward to visiting with you in one of Denver's many great neighborhoods.

TV and the Power of Political Parties

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan, the renowned Media Ecologist, predicted in his book, Understanding Media that TV would do away with the power of political parties. Politicians no longer need the endorsement of political committee people or party captains to get into office. They can go directly to voters in their living rooms on their TV's. He goes on to say in his chapter on "Television, the Timid Giant," that "with TV came the end of bloc voting in politics." People don't even need a political party at all. Consider the case of Tom Tacredo now running for Colorado's governor.

I heard Mike Rosen on the radio talking with Tom Tancredo earlier about the suggestion that he re-register with the Republican Party if he wins for governor. Tom registered with the American Constitution Party to get on the ballot since the Republican slot was already taken by Dan Maes whose popularity slips daily in the polls. McLuhan explains the phenomenon this way that since TV: "Instead of the voting bloc, we have the icon, the inclusive image. Instead of a political viewpoint or platform, the inclusive political posture" we have" the icon , the inclusive image."

"Gone are the stag line, the party line, the receiving line, and the pencil line from the backs of nylons," McLuhan adds.

And with Facebook, email, and all the rest, McLuhan's insightful prediction, in my view, exacerbates the final phase in the decline of the power of political parties. Just like after Gutenberg's printing individual copies of the scriptures, why did we need a church or clergy telling us what various parts of holy writ meant? We had our own copy of the bible in our own room. We did not need to go to the chapel and check with the hand-written copy chained to the lectern to read something and get clarification. We did not need to check to see what father thought. Religious loyalty was gone, and thus came the Reformation.

With TV, McLuhan said "So great is the change," with TV, "in American lives, resulting from the loss of loyalty to the consumer package in entertainment and commerce..." And I believe if McLuhan heard on radio Mike Rosen's suggestion that Tom drop his American Constitution Party registration and return to his former Republican registration, he might say, "I told you so.". In answer to Rosen's suggestion Tancredo said something like "Awe, shucks, Mike, I am still the same old Tom I've always been, regardless of which party to which I swear allegiance." One could almost hear Tom's cowboy boot scrape the floor of the radio studio.

Can anyone tell me what any of the main points in the American Constitution Party's platform for Colorado? It doesn't really mean much these days with TV and the new media politics. Party loyalty is dead. Comes now the new political reformation. But let's please not be too quick to say, "Long live TV."

Changes that Cost

I heard Ed Nichols at City Club talking about the new building on Broadway which will house the new History Colorado, formerly the Colorado Historical Society. I am experiencing cognitive dissonance on this new name change. Stand in line, the Colorado Historical Society is not the only Colorado organization to hire a "branding" expert who does focus groups to try to figure out how an organization can change its image in the community. When I hear the word "branding" I think of hot irons in a fire at our stock show ready to burn rancher's letters onto the quivering backside of some little doggie tied up with rope. Have you checked out the cost of focus groups lately. Just ask Floyd Cirulli how much those doggies cost.

Even Denver went through a branding change here at the city. I think we had focus groups and experts from back east to help us figure out what we need to show about ourselves to make folks want to come to Denver. We now have a new logo on city stationary which has a big bank building as our central symbol.

Some years back, the University of Colorado hired a branding agent and changed its motto from Classical Greek into English, "Let your light shine." That phrase actually springs from scripture. Emblazoned in Classical Greek letters the motto was not noticed. Now that CU's official motto on their escutcheon prints out in English, I am surprised the ACLU has not taken the University to court on the separation of church and state issue. Again, I wish it could have been printed in both languages Greek and English.

Can you imagine the costs accompanying this change. I'll bet now one at CU will admit the thousands of dollars it cost in new stationary with the new English motto.

I told Betsy Hoffman the president of our mother ship university at the time, that no good would come of the shift from classical Greek to modern English. And just look what happened. The gods were not happy with this change. The football team went to hell in a hand basket and then the whole fiasco with Professor Ward Churchill dominated the headlines and talk radio for years.

Regis University, who did it all without a football team, is not without sin in this area of unnecessary change. Some years ago Regis went from a Latin diploma to an English diploma. I believe I was the only faculty member to vote no on this change. I thought to be fair to our classical roots, at least give the students a choice, Latin or English. But no, like a rule change from Rome, the diplomas were in English only. I suggested an English copy on the back of the old Latin diploma for the thousands of students who actually got through Regis without the inestimably valuable Latin education. I guess these linguistic changes fit in since Colorado by constitution is an English only state. But it was very expensive to have all the new diplomas printed up in specially engraved copperplate letters. I thought I saw a tear on the cheek of the statue of Ignatius Loyola on the Regis campus near Carroll Hall when this change was thrust on the students and faculty. "quo usque tandem abutere patientia nostra. How long, oh, how long, are they going to abuse our patience."

We don't need to waste money on logo changes and branding experiments. In Denver, if we are delivering services to the taxpayers which are fiscally accountable and not wasteful, we don't need brand new names and new branding. We only need a watchful auditor willing to tell truth to power. And if universities deliver to their students an outstanding educational experience, we don't need to waste moneys on new fancy stationary and diplomas.

And the brand new "History Colorado"will continue to save our states history and make it available to the taxpayers as it did named the Colorado Historical Society.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Send in the Clowns


Last week I was pleased to welcome The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus to town. A large crowd of trainbuffs, kids, and neighbors gathered at the intersection of York Street and E. 47th Avenue, a leaping lasso of a street crossing on Swansea's east side. A huge and ancient Union Pacific steam engine pulled the circus into the intersection. Whistles blue and smoke and steam filled the air. The circus train is billed as the longest and heaviest train in the world, stuffed full of animals, performers and most importantly, the clowns.



Jonathan, the full-voiced and mellifluent circus ringmaster, introduced me with a flourish, just after he told the crowd about the clowns. When he mentioned "clowns," his hand innocently gestured in my direction. I welcomed the circus performers and told them I took no offense in Ringmaster Jonathan's waving toward me as he brought up the subject of clowns. I told the crowd that the mayor and council wanted to be there but they were in a weekly meeting. A sarcastic wag in the crowd shouted, "Send in the clowns." The people laughed.

I felt like I was at the Newt Gingrich talk with all the tea party and no one world folks shouting and protesting.

"Some may wonder where Barnum neighborhood got its name," I asked the crowd. "With over 300 days of sunshine, the original P. T. wintered many of his circus animals here and P.T. bought land over in west Denver. The city fathers were so happy that Barnum, a genuine easterner, would bring economic development and attention to our fair city, they named part of west Denver for him. I don't believe they used tax increment financing for the development. Barnum loaned younger lion and bear cubs to Mary Elitch for her Zoological Gardens on 38th and Tennyson."

I think Denver has always had a bit of an inferiority complex about things. We are not happy with the way we are. We always seem so delighted when some clowns, I mean, developers, commercial groups or entrepreneurs want to bring some new unusual enterprize into town. We can't wait to give away the farm. Remember the millions the Grand Prix was going to bring to the city coffers? How many times have we been told as Denverites that this event or this enterprize will finally make Denver a first-class city? These venues are often billed as "public-private partnerships." That means the public pays while the private partner leaves town with the money after the circus has its run.

Let's try to remember Denver is already a first-class city. We don't need to feel inferior about our town. We have the stock show. Got your red nose piece? Send in the clowns.

That Time of Year, Again

Fall is my favorite time of year.

One of Shakespeare's Sonnets puts it almost like this: "That time of year when thou mayst in me behold, when yellow leaves or none or few do hang upon bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang..." From memory, so I may be off a word or two. But in the lines Shakespeare celebrates the beauty of autumn in the form of yellow leaves hanging on the ruins of a destroyed cloister, possibly wrecked by Henry VIII and his rapacious hoards of philistines. He recalls a happy memory of the echo of birds singing amidst the signs of the pending winter.

Well, it's that time of year in Denver again.

It's Dollar Dictionary Drive Time. Interneighborhood Cooperation celebrates its 15th anniversary of collecting funds in 2010 which provide a free dictionary and invaluable thesaurus for all Denver Public School third graders. Since the program started, INC volunteers have handed over 225,000 books to over 100,000 Denver students. This program is counter culture. My son, Daniel Patrick, told me once when I introduced him and my daughter, Meaghan Kathleen, to the Oxford English Dictionary in the Regis Library, "Dad, I don't need a dictionary, I have all this on my computer."

That's true, but the Oxford English Dictionary, now even available on a disk, gives you the joy of etymologies, when the word was first used in our language and several quotes by famous authors using the word in context. Steve Nissen and Cathee Fisher, co-chairs of the drive, are to be congratulated for their years of service to Denver's children.

What computers and the Internet are doing to books and dictionaries in our lives makes hand held, old-fashioned books, covers and all, artforms to be kept and saved. In a book dictionary, you can make a small red mark next to a word you've looked up. The second time you look it up, as Sr. Carlos Marie at Holy Family School often reminded us word finders, "One should be embarassed into remembering a word with two or three marks by it."

Send in your donations and checks payable to Dollar Dictionary Drive, PO Box 18347, Denver, Colorado 80218. Tell your friends. Bring some warmth and joy into the lives of third graders in Denver who face the pending winter possibly more content armed with their own personal dictionaries.

And I'm upset. The Regis Library has moved the Oxford English Dictionary to a new place in the Reserve Section.

Change is not easy.

Sunday Reflections

A recent Sunday seemed to be a day which brought lots of relection.

At 10:30 am I arrived at Babi Yar Memorial Park on the edge of Denver. The memorial to the vicious murder of over 32,000 people in a ravine near Kiev in Ukraine was to begin at 11. I got there early as I wanted to find a shady spot. I sat in a shady row on the right side of the audience and when I stood to greet Larry Mizel, I turned around and an older Russian woman had placed her purse on my chair. So I ambled over to the other side and found a semi-shady spot.

One speaker reminded us that those who perished in the murders at Babi Yar died twice. the first time when they were shot and killed and the second time in that the little bit of earth above them bore no markers as to their names. Just a mass grave with thousands ;upon thousands crowded in together. I thought of the many mass graves in the west of Ireland in County Clare. No markers tell the names of those who starved in the famine. They died twice too.

Many older members of the Russian and Ukrainian Jewish community attended and I tried to speak what little Russian I remember from my 4 years of study. I can rattle off poems and prayers. An pianist of Armenian ancestry played three selections for those who died at Babi Yar. I met her later and thanked her for her beautiful compositions.

A young woman recited a prayer in Hebrew for the dead.

I am pround that 12 Regis students attended the ceremony and I could tell they were all moved and they took Alan Gass's tour of the site, as students did last year. They mentioned they did not know about it prior to this event. Dr. Victoria McCabe reports this from many students over the years. The sun was hot and beat down on the crowd gathered for the solomn event.

Letters vs Numbers on the Ballot

At a neighborhood meeting recently at New York Deli in southeast Denver on East Hampden where District 9 Democrats meet every 3rd Saturday of the month, a citizen asked me what is the difference between the number proposals and the alphabetic proposals on the ballot?

Referenda proposed by the Colorado legislature are designated by an alphabetic lineup, a letter.

Initiatives proposed by citizens who have gathered signatures are given numbers.

One wag announced a simple way to figure out the ballot this year: "Vote 'yes' on the letters and 'no' on the numbers." I, however, hope you will study the issues, letters and numbers, and then make up your mind based upon logic and reflection. Remember democracy is a participatory and serious game.

At the end of the meeting I told the owner of the New York Deli that he really needs to work on his waitresses. "They are too nice to the customers, not like New York at all." He responded tongue in cheek: "You can leave anytime, schmuck, I need your seat." And we really need a little humor to get through this election cycle, don't we?

happy Birthday league of Women Voters

last week I attended the 90th birthday of the Colorado and Denver League of Women Voters at the Governor's Mansion.

Attendees congratulated the members of the League present because the League of Women Voters remains a vital part of public discourse.Judge Bob Kapelke lead a chorus of women singers who entertained with frolicksome songs celebrating the League and women voting.

And I remember my mother and grandmother, not members of the League, discussing their "official" sample Democratic ballot which committee people delivered to our house the week before election. These ballots prepared by Dolores Dickman, our long-time Democratic Captain had what she called "circling" parties. People were asked to bring a red marking pen to circle the issues on her "official Democratic Ballot" which she passed out in the precincts.

My mom and grandmother enjoyed reading the election pamphlets prepared by the League of Women Voters of Colorado Education Fund. They liked it that the League gave arguments "for" and against" the proposals. Sometimes Dolores would include the League's analysis of ballot issues. My mom and grandmother enjoyed being good citizens and reading up on the ballot proposals, though they put their trust in Dolores Dickman's recommendations. After my mom studied up on the issue she would inform my dad on how she was voting. He told her he would have to check with Local 858 of the Firefighter's Union to see what they were recommending. Voting gets complicated, doesn't it.

The League has issued another pamphlet on this year's 2010 ballot proposals and they can be obtained at the League Office, 1410 Grant St., B-204 here in Denver. And you can check their website www.lwvcolorado.org to get more information on the League, which accepts men as well.The League has a voter hotline as well: 303-863-VOTE 8683 which you can call as well.

So educate yourself on the issues, reflect, and vote. Voter turnout is important for the neighborhood. The capitol and city hall know which districts turn out the vote. The powers that be pay more attention to neighborhoods which turnout a high number of votes in an election.

Economic Contradictions

Listening to the radio last week, two news stories presented back to back, offered listeners simple contradictions. The stories stoked more heat than light on public discourse.

Story one: a libertarian candidate for office harshy condemned laws which mandated certain conducts aimed at personal safety among citizens. The libertarian candidate railed against the tyranny of the nanny state. Remember when mom always said: "Don't forget to wear your coat to school."

Story two: a gubernatorial Candidate Tom Tancredo reacted on radio to his being hit by a driver while riding his motor cycle. Tom confessed to the papers that he had chosen not to wear a helmut. Like the monk knight guarding the holy grail in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, said of the character who selected the wrong chalice: "He chose poorly."

Now candidate Tancredo, with his retired congressional health plan. would probably never want if his accident had left him more seriously wounded. Though he mentioned the pain from the accident was considerable. What should bother us about all this is that lots of people in our country cry "tyranny" when asked to practice simple common sense safety measures. But serious brain injuries of people who don't wear helmuts while riding motor cycles often eventually become economic tax burdens to the general citizenry if their insurance benefits run out.

The state should not have to encourage citizens to practice safe and common sense measures, to make good choices in life which protect health and life. I think lots of people would agree that the real and ultimate tyranny is the many years of health bills taxpayers have to pay to maintain those who made bad choices.

Start with yourself: make good choices which will keep your bad choices from becoming unfair tax burdens to others. Think of it as being patriotic and choose wisely.

Special Advisory Reports

The Denver Auditor's Office has initiated a special service for city agencies which can provide information based on a limited review or time-critical assessement. Special Audit Advisories are not in full compliances with auditing standards, they are non-audit services which can further the accountabillity of the city by providing a reporting vehicle that is flexible, timely, and focused on a singular issue.

Our staff recently issued a special advisory report to the administration of Denver International Airport. The information provided in the report was developed during a a performance audit of the Department of Aviation's safety culture.

The report emphasized the importance of a holistic approach to safety. The report defined safety culture as "those aspects of the organizational culture which will impact on attitudes and behavior related to increasing or decreasing risk." A footnote in the reprot identifies this quote to G. W. Guldenmund in an article in Safety Science entitled "The nature of safety culture, a review of theory and research."

The report's research showed light on two important elements for estblishing an effective safety culture. Firstly senior management must embrace and make a long-term commitment to safety. Second, the report pointed out that employees are an important source for safety ideas. The participation of employees, those on the front lines of action at the airport are crutial to making sure a safety culture is maintained at the highest level at the airport.

Additionally, the research "revealed insights into the importance of training, the best ways to develop leading indicators of safety performance, and how the organizational structure should reflect a commitment to safety."

Citizens can read the SAR Special Advisory Report on the Auditor's webpage: www.denvergov.org/auditor.

Special Advisory Reports serve as great tools, like picks and shovels to an archeologist, to help change the culture at the city to one of accountability. I often wonder if I should not have majored in anthropology in order to be a better auditor, a better cultural change agent in our city. But studying Classical Languages, as I happily did, certainly gives anyone a good foundation to understand and change organizational cultures.

We look forward to picking away at apathy and shovel away obstacles to organizational accountabillity at our city.

Unintended Consequences

In December 2009 I wrote an answer explaining why now Denver taxpayers
have to send their tax payments to Dallas, Texas for deposit. Lots of
small business owners button holed me in their stores, in coffee shops
and on the streets asking why they had to waste all that time to send
their taxes and fees to Dallas. They said this was not very business
friendly for Denver to do this to their business folks. Some said they
thought their payments would be late.

A friend, trying to renew his burglar alarm permit just wrote me that he
was "hesitating to mail my check to Dallas, Texas. I figured it was
some sort of scam. Why in the world would the Denver Manager of Revenue
have a Dallas P. O. Box?" At first I too thought it might have been
some cruel hoax perpetrated by an egregious hacker.


But city council staff answered that "a decision was made last year to
decommission the mainframe that housed the program used for burglar
alarm permits. A 'Request for Proposals' was issued and an evaluation
committee identified a solution offered by PMAM Corp., to administer
burglar alarm permits. The City uses lockbox services provided by the
City's primary bank, JP Morgan Chase, to process checks and the Treasury
Division assisted Excise and Licenses in setting up a lockbox to receive
alarm permit fees and tines. The location for large volume lockbox
processing by the bank is also located in Dallas."

Marshall McLuhan, renowned professor of Media Ecology at St. Louis
University, coined the phrase, "the medium is the message." That phrase
helps explain the unintended consequences of the Texas lockbox.

In the eyes of many Denver citizens the message of the medium of the
Dallas P.O.Box for their taxes now bears the stigma of being a possible
scam. The hiring committee at the city did not imagine the spam
connection with their decision on the Dallas lockbox.


When my friend got this answer, he wrote back: "I am always reluctant to
send money to Texas."


When this contract comes up for renewal again, I bet council and the
mayor may look for a provider with a Denver address on tax and burglar
alarm payments. And as long as the policy change has no unintended
consequence and is competitive in price that is.

Stimulus Fund

You might recall a long time ago,last year, I went to Washington to lobby our Colorado Congressional delegation to put additional audit staff at state and local levels to make sure auditors could monitor the stimulus monies properly. Regrettably no moneys were added for audit staff to monitor the stimulus moneys. So local land state auditors and recipient agencies dealing with millions in stimulus dollars have the increased burden to monitor those funds with the same amount of staff before ARRA funds. Now the cows are out of the barn.

Now an inspector general report on the Recovery Act notes that job shortages in federal sectors present problems.

Here are some examples:

Energy department officials pulled staff from other areas to deal with recovery grants but they "lacked financial experience and failed to get key information from grant seekers." USA Today, September 8, 2010. The result for Energy was even more delays.

FEMA has experienced grant delays and decreased oversight due to lack of knowledgeable staff to review it.

Energy complained the money was flowing to their agency and no one was there to manage it.

This is just as I predicted. And I am very proud of John Carlson and our whole Audit Staff for their participation in the recent Mountain and Plains Audit Forum Conference on Auditing Simulus Moneys. I was honored to co-chair the event. Over 120 attended the conference and we all learned lots about the risks to federal stimulus dollars mentioned above. In Denver we are trying to alert departments in our city receiving stimulus moneys of potential risks and internal control issues. Hope you heard me on Colorado Public Radio talking about it. We have issued several audit alerts related to the city's handling of stimulus grants.

St. Rocco's Procession

Last year you might recall my blog this time of year on St. Rocco's procession at Mt. Carmel Church in North Denver gave us a hint on how the recession was affection the economy in our city.

Each August, the Potenza Lodge of Mt. Carmel Church hosts the bidding of the carrying of the statue of the saint through the neighborhood around the church at W. 36th and Navajo. Many people who came to Colorado from Italy, came from Potenza. This last Sunday was the annual Procession of the Statue of St. Rocco. Marie Lava Clayton was there, the Italian Consul was there, Dutchess Iacino Scheitler was there along with the Casagranda's and the LaNegro's all the way from Boulder. I was there, Tony Lombard and his mom were there and several hundred other people from all over were there. Tom Tancredo did not make it. This year the band with lots of trumpets and trombones enlivened the march along the streets of North Denver. The procession brought smiles to the people who come out on porches to watch.

Last year families from the parish bid slightly over $2,000 to carry the statue. That figure was down from previous years which I took as a sign of a tough economy. But this year the bidding family topped over $5,000 which prompted my cousin, Captain Brian Gallagher of Denver's Police Department, to speculate that the high bid may be a good sign that the recovery is around the corner. I argued that it was probably more generous parishoners, not economic recovery.

After the procession through the neighborhood during which two young women dressed as angels handed out flowers to all the women along the parade route, the people made their way to Potenza Lodge across from Leprino's Cheeze Offices on West 38th. Experts say the feast serves the best sausage and green pepper sandwiches in the city.

Finally, friends, amici, this procession is what truly separates Denver from the suburbs. This is community building at the best. This parade is what makes Denver a great city. You just don't get something this special, old-world, ethnic, loveable and meaningful in Cherry Hills Village.

Art and Calligraphy as Economic Development

I am sure it never crossed the minds of the patient monks on the Island of Iona off the coast of Scotland whothe year 800 A.D. penned what we now call the Book of Kells that their work would be viewed by over 500,000 visitors a year. But that is what has happened to this Latin copy of the gospels.

After Viking raids and much pillaging by the same, the Irish monks and pious calligraphers decided to move inland on Ireland to the town of Kells. There the text rested until the Cromwellian days. Cromwell wanted to destroy it because it was a papist text and contained pagan symbols and even the renderings of animals.

In the 11th century Gerald of Cambridge saw it and declared it the work of angels and not of men.

We don't even know the names of the several monks who wrote these magnificent words of the four gospels because it would have been showing pride to put their names on a page.

I guess what I am saying here is that Denver and Colorado can do more to promote the arts as a means of getting us out of this recession which is taking longer to get out of than we thought.

History and Myth as Economic Development

I returned recently from my class in Ireland with Regis University students. One of the many areas of Irish culture we study is how the Irish appreciate good stories and myths. And the Irish have turned history and myth into a very prosperous tourist industry. Myth as tourist attraction is particularly evident at Blarney Castle. Every year I stand in amazement as I watch my students line up to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. The myth and history reports that an ancient king who lived around Blarney Castle had a terrible problem, he had a slight speech hesitation, he stumbled when he spoke, he fumbled with his cloak when he gave speeches to his people. He feared giving a speech more than going to war. The Blarney attraction brings in millions in economic development, stone, wool sweaters, restaurants and the like.

One rainy day, which seems like every day in Ireland, the king came upon a whithered crone sitting near the gates of the castle. The soft rain was washing down down upon her wrinkled face. The king took pity on the old woman and gaver her his cloak to cover her from the rain and chill.

She thanked him, I beleive his name was McCarthy, and she wished to reward him for his kindness. She told him to go up to the top of the Blarney castle and kiss this particular stone below one of the overhangs of the castle. If he did so, she told him, he would be cured of his speech hesitation, his speech stumbling and fumbling and his fear of giving a speech. If he kissed the stone, he would be granted the gift of "eloquentia perfects" perfect eloquence.

The king did so and miraculously received the power of perfect eloquence.

So now thousand upon thousands of visitors line up at the castle in hopes they will be able to overcome their fear of giving speeches. Did you know that the fear of giving a speech is ranked as the number one fear by a vast majority of people who are asked People pay good money for this mythological service. I don't think we have anything to compare with the Blarney story which is several hundred years old.

I guess the closest we in Colorado come to such history and myth as tourism compared to Blarney are places like the Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde. Local history attracts many hundreds of visitors to a lesser degree Buffalo Bill's grave and Leadville and Central City. And the holy water at Mother Cabrini's Shrine near Golden has been reported to help cure physical and mental ailments. These old and some ancient sites have lots of mystery and mythology surrounding them to appeal to enough of our human foibles to encourage us to want to visit such places. Tragedy can be a source of visitor interest: consider Sand Creek and Ludlow massacres here in our state. Bothe sites are remote and off the beaten path. It takes special efforts to find these sites. Though I fear our civic memory has diminished the tragic in our history as well. Only one of my students on the Regis Ireland trip could tell me the year JFK was assassinated.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that we should not discount myth, history and legend as sources of potential economic tourism. We must continue to think outside the box if we are to recover from the fiscal crisis which engulfs us. Otherwise we can kiss recovery "goodbye," like the thousands kissing the Blarney stone in hopes of perfect eloquence.

In as pirit of full disclosure I must report that I have never kissed the Blarney Stone. I am afraid it might recharge and fall from its lofty place on the top of the castle roof.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Literature toursim

Here in Dublin large but tastefully illustrated brass markers highlight literary events which happened in the city. Brass markers all around Dublin record the paces of Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's epic novel, Ulysses, on June 16, 1904. The event is a world wide celebration of literature. People have christened it Bloom's Day and thousands of readers of Joyce gather in Dublin the celebrate the book. So every June 16th, an economic boom hits Dublin. Students on our tour have been out taking pictures of the markers.

Denver has no equivalent. I guess the closest we could do with our short literary history is to commemorate Jack Kerouac's watching baseball at 23rd and Welton or remember his drinking a beer at My Brother's Bar. Perhaps we could find out where Mary Chase imagined Harvey living in Denver from her play by the same name. And while we have many fine writers who use Denver as the backdrop for their stories, we may have to wait awhile for the city to recognize literature as an economic development tool.

And remember Denver has torn down much of it's history. Gone are buildings of historic note which played out the lives of some of our important literary and historic characters. In Dublin if anyone tries to touch a building mentioned by Joyce in any of his stories, the whole nation gets into an uproar. It is not uncommon for the president or prime minister to intervene in such economic decisions.

Was it Moliere who said: "True art knows no bounds?"

Monday, August 2, 2010

Professor Matt Daly, Director of the Business Division at Regis University, and fellow faculty member on our Regis student tour approves of the business technique used by inn owner Rory O'Conneely on Inish Oirr. Inish Oirr (pronounced 'ear,' is the smallest of the Aran Island chain off the coast of Galway. Rory and his wife Anna operate Tig Ruari, meaning 'Rory's House' in the Irish Language. Foreign languages spoken on the island include English. Our Regis tour stayed there with Rory and Anna last week for two days on our literary and history tour of this country.

When Rory sees you he shakes your hand and says, "Welcome Home." Professor Daly is the expert on business techniques and he and I agree this personal, eye-to-eye, heart to heart communication is the best for long term business alliances.

Cicero summed it all up so well so many years ago when he said: "Cor ad cor loquitur. Heart speaks to heart." And isn't that the best communication for any relationship. We can learn from Rory and Anna and their 'mi casa es su casa' business theme.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Irish Sports

The Irish seem to have more fun than we do when it comes to needling opposing teams. The counties Kerry and Cork reside geographically right next to each other and sports rivalry between the two counties spills over in interesting and clever manifestations. The colors for Kerry flame out a bright green and yellow. Sheep farmers from Kerry cross over to West Cork and paint sheep yellow and green. Farmers from Cork have been known to paint Kerry sheep red because Kerry's colors are white and red. They only paint the sheep red because the white sheep don't show the white paint. I am informed the friendly rivals use water based paint which helps the wool growers.

County councillors do not trade challenges or barbs as do the governors of Colorado and Nebraska around football season time. So politicians seem to stay out of the rivalry. However,this morning in our accomodations, our Kerry hostess forgave John Donovan, our bus driver for being from Cork. I told her that my grandmother was from Cork. She said she forgave me too. This is all is good fun, but it squares jokes and competition between Colorado and Texas.

Here in Ireland, the county flags fly over most homes in a county. Tribe and family takes preference over national symbols. The oral tradition trumps the printed word. And the flag of the USA is everywhere, because we are, afterall, the next county over.

But in the two counties, the economy takes precedence over sports. The two counties have formed a tourism board to make sure visitors come to their particular counties. We in Colorado can learn from that.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ireland

Every year around this time, as you may know, I take a little time to take Regis University students to Ireland for a historical and literary tour. I am pleased to report that the land of my ancestors is as green as ever but, like our own country, the economy stands in marked contrast to last year's trip. Let me share some examples which Professor Matt Daly of Regis Accounting Department shared with me which may give you an idea of how things are here.

The exhange rate favors the dollar so this is good for us. The cost of tours is not up and remains about the same as last year. The rates for our bus is about the same.

Our accomodations at Trinity College in Dublin is down this year compared to last year. Trinity College ranks high on the scale for places to stay in Dublin. The rooms share the campus with the renowned Book of Kells, an 8th century Latin copy of the gospels. Thousands of people a day from all over the world walk through the darkened chamber sheltering this magnificent manuscript.

The cost of buses on Inish More, the largest of the Aran Island Chain off the windy coast of Galway, were down. And Regis students reported to me that cab drivers in Galway city thought the students were tipping too much. And I experienced the same. The driver said he was pleased that so many Americans were visting in the country and trying to help the economy.

Mary and Sheila Gallagher, no relations that I know of, manage the Nora Barnacle House Museum in Galway and they report their attendance is down but their Bloom's Day celebration on June 16 of this year was a rip roaring success with over hundreds of readers. Every June 16th readers from all over the world read selections from her husband's book, James Joyce's Ulysses. And my cousins, Benedict and Bernadette Gallagher, inform me that the price of sheep is holding steady for folks still courageous enough to ranch and farm in this world. Alicja from Poland who operates the Internet Shop here in Dingle in County Kerry where I am typing this blog shared with me that her business in 50% below what it was last year.

Despite this people remain optimistic and hope that times will get better. A woman in a church here in County Kerry whispered to me that candle sales remain slightly up. That means people are lighting more candles. I lit some for the Auditor's Office and for our city of Denver. May righteousness begin to flow like a mighty stream and our economy return to happier days.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Prevailing Wage

At a recent neighborhood meeting someone asked what has the Auditor got
to do with prevailing wage?

The Denver Auditor's Office enforces Denver's Prevailing Wage Ordinance with
contractors who work on city projects. If we find a company which is
intentionally violating the prevailing wage laws in fulfilling the
contract they have with the city, the Auditor can recommend debarment, or
barring the company from ever doing business with the city. Debarment
would only be applied to those companies which have intentionally
violated some part of the prevailing wage ordinance. The vast majority
of companies doing business with the city shine as examples of
law-abiding citizens. However we had one company recently against which
we initiated a debarment because the company was flagrantly violating
the prevailing wage ordinance. They were telling the city they were
paying the workers with checks and in reality we found they were
underpaying the employees with cash. I regret to tell you the debarment
did not make it through the city process used for such action. Often
the city is afraid to enforce accountability and responsibility. That
is part of the culture I am trying to change as auditor.

On the brighter side, the Auditor's Office has started giving awards to
businesses which have excellent compliance records. We present
these awards at our quarterly meetings. One business owner received my
invitation to attend our award ceremony because he had an exemplary record.
When he saw the auditor's return address on the envelope, he threw it in
his drawer, worried that he had done something wrong, owed the city
money or the like. When he eventually opened the letter, he realized what it was about and called explaining why he missed the awards ceremony.

Now I send the invitations in a plain white envelope.

I want to thank
our outstanding prevailing wage staff in the Auditor's Office for their
excellent enforcement of our prevailing wage laws.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wall Street Regulation

You probably read or heard that the Congress has just passed the Dodd-Frank bill which tries to bring Wall Street and financial interests into accountable and responsible practices. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal recently compared the reform bill to Sarbanes-Oxley of a few years ago in response to another panic and noted that the new bill is 30 times more complicated than Sarbanes-Oxley which mandated only 16 new regulations.

One Wall Street law firm announced the new bill will include 243 new rule makings.

And if anyone thinks the new rules passed by Congress will keep us from having another financial panic in the future, don't count on it. The new rules and regulations are also supposed to prevent another government bailout of unscrupulous financial manipulators. Folks always seem to find a way to get around old rules and new rules no matter how many ethics classes they may have taken in college.

The Wall Street Journal editorial was as skeptical as you and I about these new reforms. Only time will tell if the new rules and regulations actually work as intended.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wonderful Audit Staff

I am very proud of our City of Denver Auditor's staff last week the
staff, the Internal Auditors, presented to the Audit Committee an
overview of the Denver Auditor's Office Fraud Prevention Program. The
Association of Government Accountants predicts that 7% of the ARRA funds
will be pigeonholed into the abyss of fraud and waste. That's $60
Billion - see the two ARRA Audit Alerts which our office has released to
the Administration and council on ARRA Funds coming to Denver http://www.denvergov.org/Auditor/AuditAlerts/tabid/434248/Default.aspx. We must
do all we can to be vigilant to make sure Denver does not fall into that
7% category.

I thank all in the Denver Auditor's Office who are helping us fight on
the front line in the battle for accountability and responsibility at
our city.

Monday, July 12, 2010

SLAVES WHO BUILT U.S. CAPITAL BUILDING HONORED

African-American slaves sweated in the summer heat and shivered in the winter's cold while helping to build the U.S. Capitol. Congress took note of their service and sacrifice Wednesday by erecting commemorative plaques inside the Capitol in their honor. Lawmakers said the memorials will ensure that the contributions of slaves in building one of the world's most recognizable buildings will never again be forgotten.

Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a former civil rights leader from Georgia, who chaired a congressional task force that studied the contributions of slaves to the Capitol's construction, told onlookers that the plaques help reveal a part of the Capitol's history that has been overlooked by many. "Imagine, in Washington's oppressive summer heat and humidity, to chisel and pull massive stones out of a snake- and mosquito-infested quarry," Lewis said. "Imagine, having to fight through the bone-chilling winter in rags and sometimes without shoes. Just imagine, the United States government paying your owner, not you, but your owner $5 a month for your labor. This Capitol, the most recognizable symbol of our democracy, was not built overnight, it was not built by machines. It was built through the backbreaking work of laborers and slave laborers." Historians have discovered that slaves worked 12-hour days, six days a week on construction of the Capitol. The federal government rented the slaves from local slave owners at a rate of $5 per worker per month. Besides working on the building, slaves worked in quarries extracting the stone for the Capitol. Other slaves provided carpentry skills, and still others worked at sawing stone and timber. Slave women and children were used to mold clay in kilns.
"In remembering the slaves who labored here, we give them in death some measure of the dignity they were so cruelly denied in life," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said at the plaques' unveiling. The plaques read: "This original exterior wall was constructed between 1793 and 1800 of sandstone quarried by laborers, including enslaved African Americans who were an important part of the work force that built the United States Capitol." Lawmakers have been looking for ways to honor the slaves who were used in the construction of government buildings, including the Capitol and the White House. These plaques, in their own right, will serve as a symbol of their sacrifice and will be seen by visitors who enter the building forevermore."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Civic Center Fireworks

Shakespeare opens his play, Twelfth Night, with the line, "If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it." Saturday night, the night before July 4th, Civic Center played host to the Colorado Symphony in a rousing concert of American patriotic favorites and we had a joyful excess of music. The place was packed with people from all parts of the city. I believe I saw every neighborhood represented in the enthusiastic crowd. Citizens brought folding chairs and picnic dinners forming small circles of friends as they waited for the concert. The Mayor mentioned that city hall was awash in colored lights and the sunset, rosy fingered, as mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, streamed brilliantly across the heavenly backdrop behind our City and County Building. Someone said they saw a rainbow in the sky earlier, a good sign. And Councilwoman Robb asked all to turn and see the sun glancing off the golden dome of the State Capitol.

One of the melodies played by the orchestra had to do with a typewriter. As the syncopation of a typewriter played from the concert stage, I heard one child ask his mother, "Mom, what's a typewriter."

The mother responded that she would take the child to the museum and show her sometime soon. Or she could bring her by the Auditor's Office and I could show her my typewriter. When the last Smaldone passed, I noticed a garage sale at the house where he lived. I looked through all the books, and could find no signatures or any other relics with identifiable markings. So I bought the typewriter and someday it might be worth doing an audit of the old ribbon which still adorns this old relic of personal printing.

At the concert and the next day, I received many comments of support of the Civic Center Concert on Independence Eve. I received two calls saying the fireworks were outstanding. One call was from Capitol Hill and the caller indicated she could see the fireworks from her from the front window of her apartment near the Capitol. Many people hope that this might become an independence holiday tradition. Given our City's short budget, I hope we can find enough sponsors next year to continue this celebration.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 4th

For the past few years, every July 4th Tom Noel and I lead the reading, or better, indeed a proclaiming of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence at Denver's Historic 4 Mile Park. Every year we pass out about 250 copies of the document to those who want to help us read the declaration aloud. Every year, I lead the crowd in a cheer: "Down with King George. No royal titles here." This year's crowd responded very enthusiastically between the various grievances penned against King George.

Congresswoman Diana DeGette and Liberty Day generously gave us the copies of the Declaration. The Constitution is included in the small pocket sized booklets. I keep my copy in my suit coat inside pocket right over my heart. Senator Robert Byrd did the same and I bet he had a copy in his coffin as he was buried last week. I think of the booklet as 'my contract with America,' not some partisan scheme thought up in a smoke-filled back room in a think tank in Washington, D. C.

This year a Lincoln lookalike recited the Gettysburg Address while the Denver Municipal Band played the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was inspiring. Some said it sent chills up their spines. The people stood as Lincoln recited his lines.

Thomas Jefferson, played expertly by Jack Van Ens, started the reading and he gave away copies of his book, "How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes." We could use a Jefferson now to clean up our economic mess.

Tom and I always try to engage the children in the reading and this year we assigned sections to those interested. Mandy and Ilona, too shy to read alone, decided they wanted to read together. They recounted how King George made his judges bend to his will alone. The crowd cheered these two young patriots as they read before the crowd of several hundred. Their young voices, a gathering and swelling chorus, fired the crowd's indignation as the king, unfit to be a world leader. Lots of other boys and girls joined in on the public reading - Brave patriots all.

John Stewart, Denver lawyer and historian, joined in on the reading. He was joined by Judge Larry Bohning who vigorously read Jefferson's lines with meaning. The crowd cheered, "Down with King George."

At the end of the reading finished by Jefferson, Tom Noel asked the crowd that if they agreed with the Declaration to raise their hands. The enormous crowd all raised their hands in affirmation of Jefferson's call for independence. He asked if any disagreed. Two younger folks meekly said they were from England and felt they had to defend the royal family. We cheered them too, but reminding them our Constitution allows for Congress to grant no royal titles.

I closed with the famous line of Ben Franklin who when asked what kind of government did we now have after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia replied: "A Republic, if you can keep it."

I hope everyone will read the Declaration again this year. And I hope you will contemplate the historic principles which are contained therein. The Declaration ties directly into our Bill of Rights. And let's hope we keep our Republic. Down with King George, and Up with our Republic.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Biennial of the Americas

Boulder will get some competition from Denver this year in hosting its
renowned annual (happening once a year) International Affairs
Conference. The Boulder Conference was inspired by legendary Howard
Higman, who reminded folks he did not have a Ph.D. Howard's daughter,
Alice Reich, taught with me at Regis for many years. But this summer
Denver plays host to Biennial of the Americas, its own international
affairs conference.

Biennial should not be confused with biannual which means something
happening twice a year. Semiannual is a good synonym for biannual.
Biennial means something happening every second year. These words were
confused at a recent neighborhood meeting discussing this month long
event.

The headquarters of the Biennial's central exhibits is in the McNichols
building on the north edge of Civic Center. I have fond memories of this
classical building because it housed the old Carnegie Library. I spent
my life there in high school. Like all Denverites, we relish the
magnificent Corinthian leafy Greek Columns adorning the edges of this
architectural treasure.

Planners have scheduled contemporary artists from Argentina, Brazil,
Chili, Mexico and Peru. The purpose of this celebration is to encourage
communication and collaboration of the 35 countries of the Americas.
The events will include workshops on art, dance and music of the
Americas, with concerts and performances all over our city by different
cultural groups based in the Americas. And finally there will be a
series of Roundtable and Summits designed to inform us about issues
facing people who live in the Americas. These events will be at the
Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

The events occur during the whole month of July. The website tells all:

www.BiennialoftheAmericas.org

I predict citizens will enjoy these mind-expanding events. Or you can
drop by the McNichols Building between 10am to 8 pm beginning July 1
through July 31 to find out all about it. There are monthly fees ($35)
and individual fees ($9), family fees ($20) and senior citizen fees ($5)
for various events.

I hope you will join me at some of the exciting events planned to
broaden our appreciation of the arts in our lives. And borrowing from
James Joyce who never traveled to the Americas, I hope this July we will
joyfully forge on the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of
our different tribes. And I know this event will be a success because
the city has brought in the capable and accountable Donna Good to
oversee the whole operation. For the older or old fashioned Americans
among us, the phone number for Biennial of the Americas is 303-892-1505.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Auditing the Fed

Aristotle tells us that change comes in small increments.

Recently the Senate showed some courage by unanimously approving a small
change with an amendment to their Wall Street Reform Bill to audit the
emergency spending at the Federal Reserve. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT
wanted a full blown and ongoing audit of the Fed, a big change, but
settled for this watered down version, a smaller change, with an audit
of just the emergency spending. The audit scope will cover the period
when the Fed used its resources to help prop up the already failing
financial institutions and megabanks.

Why is this small change a step forward? Why is it important to audit
the Federal Reserve?

Because the Federal reserve is the unelected central bank of the U. S.
and enjoys a monopoly over the flow of our nation's money and credit.
The Fed has never operated in complete transparency and accountability
since its creation in 1913.

During the current economic crisis, Congress, the Treasury and the Fed
have put the American people on the hook for over $12 trillion in
national debt. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has refused to disclose which
institutions have received trillions in bailouts. Bernanke has also not
shared with the representatives of the people in Congress the details
about what deals have been made with foreign banks.

So congratulations to Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, for reminding us of
the truth of what Robert Frost said about banks: "A bank is a place
where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back
again when it begins to rain." Perhaps this small audit of the Fed may
bring enough sunshine in to lead to big changes and fuller audits later.

Shared sacrafice

Recently I heard David Sirota, radio host and journalist, and author of books and articles on current economic and political affairs. He did sort of an existential examination of where we are as a people and nation. Let me share some of his thoughts and my reflection with you about his insightful comments on party, people and the nation.

He reminded the audience that James Carter was the last president to ask the American people to do shared sacrifice for the nation. John F. Kennedy asked shared sacrifice of us in his famous line from his inaugural speech, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country." He criticized the current attitude of people "what is the government going to do for me today?" He chided those who cry "Me first," attitude my selfishness and my greed. He referenced FDR who asked workers, business and the people to take cuts during the Second World War. I thought of our most recent military action in Iraq and Afghanistan in which a president said we are at war and here are your tax breaks.

Sirota did not comment on the recent legal fuss about the White House offering Andrew Romanoff a job if he would drop out of the Senate Race. He said that action shows that the leadership in the Democratic Party has become so arrogant that it thinks it can dictate who will run for office in the party, not the voters, not the rank and file, certainly not the people. These disturbing kind of actions attack the very democracy which the Democratic party says it supports. He said: "Democrats can't be against democracy." He did not use the word hypocritical in describing such actions, but I will. To me it sounds unAmerican.

He reminded us that we have to hold our elected officials accountable about what kind of government they will work for. Sirota advised the audience further that the relationship between politicians and citizens in our country cannot be based on whether we like the politician. It has to be based on issues and whether we agree or disagree with the stance of the particular political official. He said he like to see politicians fearful of what voters can and might do to them if they do not serve the common good.

I thought Sirota hit the mark and so did lots of others listening to his comments. And the outcome of the elections in our state with lots of angry voters will be the proof in the pudding of his challenging comments.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Literature as Economic Development

Last Friday I had lunch with Art Hutchinson, Superintendant of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Superintendant Hutchinson shared lots of information about the myths and lore surrounding this mysterious part of San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado. He answered the parent of one of my students at Regis who once bemoaned his daughter wanting to major in English Literature. "That won't help her earn any money anywhere," he puffed and snorted like one of the web footed horses roaming across the sands of the dunes.

He asked why so many Germans want to visit the San Dunes? Only Professor Tom Noel knew the answer: the historical novels of Karl May, a prolific German late 19th and early 20th century writer, who glorified life in the American west. He shared with us that Germans can now come to Denver on Lufthansa and many buy their parks passes at Great Sand Dunes for access to all the US parks. Karl May writing about our west did almost as much as Buffalo Bill Cody did for making Europeans interested in our west though his wild west show.

Art shared some of the legends about the Sand Dunes: that wild horses can be seen galloping across the dunes with webs on their hooves; that the Spanish hid lots of gold there in the dunes; and at night one can hear wailing and singing coming from the sands. He reminded us that the tallest dune, the tallest in the U.S. is taller than any of our downtown sky scrapers, 750 feet...coincidently and appropriately called the "High Dune."

And the dunes boast their own unique beetle, the Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle, the Cincendela Theatina. That's Latin for the Theatine Beatle. Fr. Bernardo Rotger, the Theatine pastor from San Luis found the beetle and asked that it be named for his religious order, the Theatine Order. The excellent Visitor' Guide lets visitors know that they can splash in the ocean-like waves of Medano Creek, when it has water. The waves are called a 'surge flow.' Lucky visitors may see the elk herds on the many acres of grasslands, yellow-bodied red-faced Western Tanager, a little colorful bird found in forest land, short-horned lizards, and of course, our Colorado state fish, the green back cut throa trout.

So I know one place in Colorado I want to visit this summer: The Great Sand Dunes.

And the next time someone says literature has no relation to economic development, remind them of the story of Karl May whose writings, long in the past, encourage so many Germans to visit Colorado and the west.

Danke, Karl.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Colorado Foreclosures

Everyone keeps saying, "The recession is over and Colorado is fairing better than other places." The recession is hardly over for the thousands of Colorado families who have filed for foreclosure. A small sign of improvement can be seen in first quarter filings this year which were down 4.3%. So things seem to be getting better according to a report issued by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs' Division of Housing.

Sam Mamet's recent newsletter from the Colorado Municipal League gave statistics on page 5 which I wish to share with you. The sentences below are from the CML newsletter and are also found in the Local Affairs report:

New foreclosure filings rose to 11,136 in our state during this years first quarter and that's up 6%. 2010 first quarter total for foreclosure sales at auction was highest since the third quarter of 2007. Driving the large number of foreclosure sales were the record-high totals of new foreclosure filings experienced during the second and third quarter of last year.

Since the first quarter of 2009, foreclosure filings have fallen in Adams, Denver, El Paso and Larimer Counties. Mesa County reported the largest increase among metropolitan counties during the first quarter with new filings increasing 126.9%.

Weld reported the highest foreclosure rate among all metropolitan counties with 178 households per foreclosure sale at auction during the first quarter. There were 192 households per foreclosure sale in Adams County, and 234 households per foreclosure sale in Arapahoe County. In Denver County, there were 329 households per foreclosure sale.

Boulder County reported the lowest foreclosure rate among metropolitan counties with 605 households per foreclosure sale during the first quarter of this year.

Many Colorado families are being helped to avoid foreclosure by calling the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline.

So thanks, Sam Mamet, for helping inform us on foreclosures in Colorado. For the full report visit dola.colorado.gov/app_uploads/docs/2010%201st%20Q%20Foreclosure%20Report.pdg. Bet you are going to make a mistake on this one.

So things seem to be looking better, unless you are a family which is in foreclosure.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In his magnificently probing book, The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall
McLuhan asks readers to probe the following question: "What will be the
new configurations of mechanisms and of literacy as these older forms of
perception and judgment are interpenetrated by the new electronic age?"
With the rise of TV and the Internet we are seeing the new configurations which for establishments and institutions almost seem to twist into gargoyles and grotesques.


In his next book, Understanding Media, McLuhan predicted way back in the
1960's that television would change politics in America forever. He
prophesied that television would eventually diminish the power of
partisan party bosses in America. Voters no longer needed the
recommendation of party as to whom to vote for because candidates could
come into everyone's living room on the TV screen. Candidates bypassed
the party bosses and talked to voters directly, electronically. He
foretold that TV would eventually push people away from voting the
"party line."


I can remember people actually calling Dolores Dickman, our North Denver
Democratic Captain, asking for her marked official Democratic sample
ballot so they knew whom she recommended for the primaries. That showed
true party discipline. And if one of the committee people did not hand
out the sample ballots before election, voter turnout was diminished in
that particular precinct. This trend reflected the truth of the
communication theory which says: "Lack of information equals
uncertainty." Without their sample ballots, like the cell phone user in
the TV spot talking with his girl friend: "Was it something I said?
Did she hang up?" The phone's battery could have simply died and
perhaps she did not hang up, but the lack of information led the caller
to great angst and romantic uncertainty. And uncertain voters often
stayed home.


The Internet dragon breathes fear and trembling among China's government
officials. Like church officials after Gutenberg's press the church
could no longer control the messages to the faithful. They now had
their own copy of scripture.


China's current leaders do not know it yet, but the Internet has
transformed its blossoming online population, now over 400 million, into
one big buzzing national electronic caucus. The Colorado based DaVinci
Institute, which analyzes media future trends reports that China's
Internet has morphed its society into a national digital forum where
citizens can communicate and "express their opinions in a way rarely
seen in a country where traditional media are under strict government
control." They don't know it, but it is too late for the party bosses
to try to stop Internet communication. Even Chairman Mao couldn't put
the toothpaste back in the tube.


We can see the trend away from party discipline in the Colorado
primaries this year. Andrew Romanoff top-lined 60-40% Michael Bennet at
the Colorado Democratic State Convention last week. Democratic
establishment from President Obama down through Gary Hart had endorsed
Bennet. Dan Maes, the anti-establishment candidate top-lined the GOP
establishment Scott McGinnis, not by many points, at the Republican
State Convention the same weekend. In earlier times, in a print
culture, top-line designation by the party assemblies and conventions
meant more to the party faithful than it does today. Top-line
designation could mean up to 10% of a vote. Newspaper endorsements mean
less now due to the electronic media. Remember the embarrassment
suffered by Ken Salazar in his senate bid? Salazar had the Democratic
Party establishment behind him, but Mike Miles, the unknown candidate, a
fiery gargoyle, edged him out and got top line from the party rank and
file.


"Politics: the only game for adults." Dolores Dickman

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gallagher Amendment a hinderance?

Colorado's Office of Economic Development tells businesses which want to settle here in paradise in Colorado some very positive messages. They tell potential business folks that the Harris Poll ranks Colorado as the 4th most preferred state to live in. And I agree, I thank my great grandparents for settling here in Colorado. Who would not want to live here?

On percentage of sunny days, Colorado is 6th in the nation. Some others are a lot lower and hotter and more humid.

Colorado ranks first in private employment, largest in space economy.

Colorado's percent of population with a bachelor's degree or more ranks 3rd. Lots of these folks have moved here because our schools certainly are not graduating this work force. I wonder if the COED tells folks that 50% of kids in DPS do not graduate.

Colorado is 5th in scientists and engineers as a percent of the workforce. We are 10th in per-capita income. We are second in patents per 1,000 workers and we are first in average elevation.

And in the April 26th issue of Denver Business Journal we read that the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council ranks Colorado as the nation's 10th best state-tax environment for entrepreneurship and small business.

Even the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council gave Colorado second rank as a state with "responsible spending and competitive tax rates."

So take cheer, Colorado, We did this all even with the Gallagher Amendment. Better not mention that to any one.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What Nixon/Kenndy can teach the Brits

Marshall McLuhan, first Media Ecologist, shared his most probing and relevant insights on the political effects of America’s first TV presidential debate in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. And in my view there are still lessons which our British friends can learn as they wend their way through the labyrinthine ways of the medium of television debates.

In his book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McLuhan pointed out in 1964 that the cool and blurry and shaggy texture of JFK won hands down in the debates over the sharp intense image of Nixon. McLuhan castigates Theodore White in his analysis of the TV debates in his book, The Making of the President 1960. White seemed more interested in the content of the debates which McLuhan said meant little in the new medium of TV. White gave the win to Nixon because he gave more content than Kennedy. JFK, the cool personality, looked more comfortable and at ease, more presidential than the hot personality of Nixon. Nixon looked like a politician, and folks felt there was something there they did not trust when they saw him. On TV anyone whose appearance strongly declares his role or status in life is wrong for TV. Nixon’s hot and nervous content meant little on TV. Kennedy, undefined, did not look like a rich man, a teacher, or a doctor which is great on TV.

And Kennedy looked at the camera while Nixon looked at Kennedy. JFK knew he could look at Nixon all night and he would never get his vote. JFK looked at the voters in TV land and his forelock slipping down over his forehead asked every mother and daughter in America to help him brush that curl back. “Let me help you brush that lock back, Jack.” I could hear the votes clicking off for him in the precincts across America as I watched those debates. Nixon’s too closely cropped haircut, the clean cut American look, and his sweating nervously did not play well on TV. He was too high definition. JFK, at ease with his TV image, was not too precise, and Nixon fidgeted and appeared uncomfortable with his TV image. JFK was not too ready of speech as to spoil his pleasantly tweedy blur of countenance and outline. Tanned and relaxed from a weekend at the Kennedy Compound in Cape Cod, JFK looked great on TV even in black and white. Nixon refused to allow any makeup to color his sickly and flapping jowls. He came across as very pale and sickly (which he was) and weak, eager to fill up time with content which is not effective on TV. Kennedy’s cool humor helped him go from palace to log cabin, from wealth to the White House in a pattern of TV reversal and upset.

Everyone agrees the TV debates put Kennedy over the top in the campaign.

So as British politicians learn not to be too content oriented on their TV exchanges, as they try to be cool and blurry for their TV viewers, and as they try to remember to look at the voters and the cameras, McLuhan speaks eloquently to us and them on how to use TV to best advantage trying to get votes with fur and fuzz and blur and buzz.

Friday, April 30, 2010

“Debt is the slavery of the free.”

Publius Syrus declared, “Debt is the slavery of the free.”

Earlier I mentioned the ancient Athenian Ephebic Oath which every 18-year old had to swear in front of the assembly in order to become Athenian citizens. In that oath, young men, swore: “My native land I will not leave a diminished heritage but greater and better that when I received it.” Modern Greek and American political leaders should consider taking this oath. It was a civil and a military oath to defend the “altars and hearths, single-handed or supported by many.”

As Greek political leaders wrestle with the catastrophic economic mistakes of their recent past, and as American political leaders struggle with the our burgeoning deadening debt, we hope that our leaders will take the words of the Athenian Oath to heart and make the tough choices to leave our nation in better economic shape than we found it.

“To preserve their independence, we must not let our rules load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.” Tom Jefferson.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Audit Trends

Kip Memmott, our director of Internal Audit here at the Denver Auditor’s Office, proves the truth of what Will Rogers opined so many years ago: “Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Kip recently attended the Institute of Internal Auditor’s General Audit Management conference. Kip has never been one to just sit there.

Kip reported back to us that national trends show that auditors are now expected to perform more work in areas of enterprise risk management, effective governance, resource maximization and strategic planning. Speakers reported that audit work is less counting widgets and ensuring compliance. I wonder whatever happened to my green eyeshade.

Auditors now must understand the business side of operations to be truly effective and add value to audits. I am pleased to tell you that these are true of the performance audits we do in Denver.

Kip shared that internal audit functions are ideally positioned to lead organization culture change Chief Audit Executives should proactively raise organizational expectations for the internal audit function and then deliver. I often say, I am interested in bringing long term systemic change to the city of Denver, not just a series of audits which contain ‘gotchas.’

There is a movement nationally toward integrated auditing where auditors are expected to have financial, performance and IT audit skills. The Denver Auditor’s office has a whole team of auditors who are expert at auditing and analyzing IT needs. The value of that team is demonstrable to all who have contact with our IT auditors.

Effective audit risk assessment and root cause analysis practices are critical for adding value. And the more our auditors here in the Denver Auditor’s Office do their excellent performance audits the more city agencies, the city council and even reluctant administrators see value in those audits.

Audit functions trends show that those functions should automate internal processes, perform issue tracking and implement data analytic tools and techniques. We are totally green in our audits. All our audit papers are now retained digitally. We are saving thousands of trees, and saving lots of money.

Audit reports should be widely distributed. We do this digitally and some printed copies placed around the city.

Finally, perhaps the most important point discussed at the conference is audit independence. And I vow to you we will maintain, protect and defend the professional independences of our audits and the same is true for our city’s audit committee.

Kip shared with us that our office is conceptually aligned with all the thematic areas from a strategic perspective. I wish to thank Kip Memmott for helping me move our office with vision and hope forward in all the above areas. The Denver taxpayers are the winners in this effort.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Poverty in Denver

Denver's Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations has just issued an excellent profile on poverty in Denver. Did you know that in 2008 11.4% of Colorado's population lived below the federal poverty level? In 2008 18.4% of Denver citizens lived below the 2008 poverty levels. Being below the poverty level means you earn less than $21,200 for a family of four and 10,400 for a single person.

In the section on older Denverites, 10,000 of the nearly 70,000 live in poverty.

The Picture of Poverty Report is available in PDF format at www.denvergov.org/humanrights for quick access and downloading. Or if you are computer challenged, call the agency 720-913-8450 as they have a few printed copies.

So get informed and tell your friends and neighbors about what's really going on in our neighborhoods. Many of the statistics will upset you. The report contains excellent action items and recommendations which citizens and community leaders can push to help solve this important issue.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Responsive Chord

For many years I taught an Introductory Mass Media Class. I used as one of my texts, The Responsive Chord by Tony Schwartz. Schwartz, an old-time radio ad man, is remembered most for the famous Daisy Spot which helped put Lyndon Johnson back in the White House.

The spot only showed once on the popular Sunday Night Movies, the Sunday evening before the election. The ad raised a big fuss because it played on a responsive chord playing among citizens who had been hearing Barry Goldwater declare for months that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" The implied threat by Goldwater told voters that he would press the nuclear trigger first against the Russians and Communists.

Here's how Schwartz laid out the ad. The opening scene shows a little blond girl in a field of daisys. She is pulling the petals one by one, like "loves me" or "loves me not." But with each petal pull, a voice-over counts down from 10 to 1. Then a nuclear bomb destroys everything, the little girl and all the daisys in the field. President Johnson's voice concludes the ad with something like, "you better be careful who you vote for president." The line implied that Goldwater would start a nuclear war, "just let me get my index finger near that button."

Even Colorado went for Johnson in that election. Republicans fumed over the Daisy Spot, saying it was untrue and unfair. The Democrats cleverly responded that they did not even mention Goldwater's name.

The American Lung Association asked Schwartz to come up with an anti-smoking ad. He did not show damaged lungs, seared fingers, or folks spitting up blood. Schwartz showed two kids in a house playing in the attic. The little girl puts on the white wedding veil from grandma. The little boy puts on the top hat and black coat from grandpa's wedding. The final shots show the kids walking toward the sun shining through the attic window. A voice then says: "Kids love to imitate adults. Do you smoke?" The Association reported they got more calls on how to stop smoking from that ad than any other. Schwartz hit the responsive chord among even smokers that they smoked but they cared about their children and did not want to see the kids take up smoking.

So campaigns can learn lots about hitting the responsive chord. But trying to find out what themes hit the responsive chord with the voters is the question. Republicans tried to build up a base for a responsive chord against the recent health care legislation, but polls show that they have missed the mark.

I left a copy of Schwartz's book at Regis Library. See if you can hit a responsive chord.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Royal Trappings

The founders nurtured a great fear of royalty and royal titles, and royal trappings. Fearful that the British or some other royalists might try to set up a king in the former American colonies pushed the founders to ban congress from granting royal titles altogether. Article I, Section 9, last paragraph first sentence could not make it clearer how the founders detested the royalists: "No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States." This sentence is one of my favorites in the whole constitution. Royalty never did any good for my family nor anybody else's in my view. Can you imagine the costs of keeping kings and queens and princes?

Thomas Jefferson championed no royal trappings in governmental functions. In 1797, he almost skipped his own swearing in as vice president because it reminded him of ceremonies too close to royal coronations he had seen in Europe. An important anniversary is coming up for our country. In preparing for his own inaugural on March 1 1801, Jefferson prepared by studying how his predecessors handled their inaugurals. He asked his cousin, Chief Justice John Marshall to administer the oath from the constitution as his presidential oath. Marshall had his own doubts as to how well Jefferson would do as president, but said he would be happy to do so. Marshall did just fine reading the oath and Jefferson did not have to be sworn in again like Obama listening to the oath read by a nervous and bumbling Roberts.

Jefferson studied how Washington handled his inaugural. He had a fine coach with six white horses, wore his uniform and sported his trusty military sword. Adams knocked the horses down to two. He wore a simple broad cloth suit. Adams wanted to be a "republican president in earnest." Jefferson wore a simple suit, no powered wig, no sword, and skipped the horses and carriage, decided to walk everywhere on his inauguration day. In his inaugural speech Jefferson paid homage to Washington. Jefferson called him "entitled." But not royally titled and remember some wanted Washington to be crowned king and thankfully he refused.

America still harbors a lot of royal sympathizers in our midst. I guess we could call them "closet monarchists." Remember the uproarious hurrahs greeting Queen Elizabeth II when she addressed the Virginia Legislature on a visit to her family's former colony. One could feel a movement back to England in the chamber. "Tell us what to do, your majesty, we are ready to line up," seemed to capture the royal love feast.

Now what has this got to do with the Denver Auditor's Office? This question is probably asked lots about many of my blog entries.

Firstly, auditors have to continually fight the attitude in many government employees, appointed and career service, that they are special and entitled to the trappings of their office. "I'm special, I'm entitled, I deserve my government car etc." You ought to hear the arguing over how many horse power vehicles are allocated to various agencies. People argue over desks, size, placement. Who has a window or not? It's like my kids shouting "shotgun" when we got in my old Buick.

So auditors should stand four-square with the Constitution, "No title of nobility." We must continually fight the culture of the special, the important, the puffed up, and the entitled. It saves taxpayers money to look for ways to change the culture of the special treatments afforded some government officials entitled to their special benefits thanks to the taxpayer's dime. I think this is why folks are so hopping mad at Congress. They are important and entitled. Check their health plans and their pensions. You will get my drift.