Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Last Friday, I spent the evening listening to 6th graders at Jefferson County Court House, the Taj Mahal, as some call it. The students had researched various parts of the constitution and gave two minute talks on what they found in that special document. I really enjoyed the experience and I actually got a plug in for everyone to attend their precinct caucus. 'While I don't find the word, 'caucus' in the Constitution, I encourage everyone to attend their neighborhood caucus meetings this year,” I said.

It is at the caucus where people registered with a party meet to elect delegates who will select who runs for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and all Colorado House members and half of our Senators.

I asked the crowd of youngsters what night is caucus night? I told them if any one youngster can answer I would give him or her a dollar. I could tell by the expressions on their faces that this was an unfair question because tonight we were only talking about the US Constitution, not what a caucus was. One student answered correctly "March 16." "Correct," I shouted, you can remember because it is the day before St. Patrick's Day. Caucus meetings are usually held at local schools. Perhaps their school will host some.

I told the students to pick a caucus and attend even if they are not old enough to vote yet. Senator Ron Stewart of Boulder County, perhaps the youngest Democratic chair ever, ran the Longmont Office when he was just 14 years old. Senator Stewart always was precocious.. That's how he got his start, so age is no barrier to being involved in civic life. "Precinct caucus attendees will be delighted to see you," I told the 6th graders. I encouraged them to get involved in campaigns as well. Campaigns need volunteers of all ages to help out. .

So call you party's headquarters and find out where your caucus is this March 16. You’re your friends, bring the family and bring the youngsters, they might actually learn something.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stand Up and Be Counted

The month of March 2010 has been set for the Denver Census 2010 and you should stand up and be counted. Historically, every ten (10) years, the United States counts its people nationwide, including people of all ages, citizens and non-citizens, races, and ethnic groups. The bottom line is that the results of the Census are utilized to determine the needs of all U.S. communities.

Constitutionally protected and confidential personal information and data are gathered by respective Census Bureau or its representatives. This means your sensitive information and data are strictly protected by the U.S. Constitution from any accessibility of all kinds. Your answers to questionnaires are protected by the U.S. Constitution. The Census Bureau or its representatives are legally forbidden to disclose or share your sensitive personal information with IRS agency or Immigration department, or use your information against you in any form to garnish your salaries, collect alimony, child support, and delinquent taxes, or cease your welfare and services, or investigate your immigration status, arrest warrant and traffic violations.

Financial Implication of Census 2010 for Denver Community
The Federal Government pays $826 for each person residing in Denver, each year for ten (10) years (or $8,260 per 10 years) in Federal funds, if you’re counted. Historical data revealed that Denver community has lost $74 million since the 2000 Census because some Denver residents chose not to be counted. Each year, the Federal Government allocates roughly $435 billion to U.S. communities in federal funding and the amount of money allocation basis to each community is associated with the Census data collection.

Conservatively, approximately $435 billion in federal funding is allocated to communities in the U.S. each year and the Census data determines the amount of money given to each community. In the past, Census counts have provided many benefits to the citizens of Denver through funding for community colleges, K-12 school funding, health services, public library construction, senior services, student loans, road construction and maintenance, alcohol and drug abuse, head start, women, infants and children programs, children’s insurance programs, housing and community development, unemployment and more.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Define Performance Auditng

I am very proud of the performance audits which our audit teams are doing for the city of Denver. When I am at neighborhood meetings people often ask me what is a good definition of performance auditing? This week at the Auditor's Office we asked ourselves that very same question.

Let us consider one definition of performance auditing offered for our auditors during a recent training session held for our Internal Audit staff.

"The systematic assessment of ongoing performance for advising management whether its objectives are carried out throughout a disciplined and independent appraisal that focuses on managements important objectives."

Let's talk about this definition. Performance auditing looks at management's systems. The audit assesses the performance of a department or agency to see if the entity's system follows the best business practices in serving its mission for the citizens of Denver. Notice in this definition the assessment of performance the appraisal has to be disciplined. I take that to mean a competent appraisal based on analysis by trained auditors.

The independence of the auditor's office is essential to any effective performance audit. The auditor's office must have unfettered access to all documents and city employees in working on their audits. We have had some recent examples where agencies have tried to limit our access to information essential to good performance audits. In some of our city's agencies there appears to be a tone from the top of the agency saying; "Don't tell the auditor's office anything." This definition insists on clear, concise and comparable information applicable to any audit situation.

The Yellow Book, the nickname for the rules and regulations of the Comptroller General of the United State back up all our audits in Denver. That independence and systematic backup, one of the strongest for any local government in our nation, is set in our city charter.

Performance audits can help city agencies focus on the core question: "Here is why we exist now and here's where we want to be." And these important core questions have to apply to our Auditor's Office as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We are all in this together

I attended many events this last week as part of the commemoration of Martin Luther King’s Holiday Celebration. Denver does more than any other city in the country to celebrate and teach us about Dr. King. I was reminded again how we are all tied together in the struggle for racial equality.

The Blair Caldwell Library hosted a reception on Saturday evening for the Commission which oversees the King events. The library currently houses the Abraham Lincoln Exhibit commemorating his 250th anniversary. Earlier I copied a copy of Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby of Boston who gave five sons to the war effort. Some say Lincoln did not write the letter, but its eloquence could only be Lincoln’s own. My letter is in the last cabinet on the south wall on the second floor. I wrote it on home-made paper with home-made ink made from gall nuts and iron the recipe from Lincoln’s time. Claudette Francois Sweet told me at the reception that when she saw the letter and she mentioned to herself that “Lincoln’s handwriting looked like Dennis Gallagher’s.” I hope you will visit the library to view the exhibit.

Saturday the ‘Marade’ in King’s honor got off to a great start down Colfax to Civic Center. Thousands and thousands of people marched. And speakers reminded us that King died fighting for the rights of union garbage workers in Memphis and there were lots of union workers there to march as well. The weather blessed us this year compared to two years ago when everyone froze. Vern Howard mentioned there was talk two years ago of cancelling due to the cold. Howard responded that Dr. King took years to get civil rights for all of us and we could surely spend a couple of hours in the cold. Recordings of Dr. King played before the hour long speeches and singing began.

Monday evening The Stock Show presented its usual MLK Rodeo featuring many African-American riders and performers. The show reminded us of the roots of African-Americans in Colorado and the West. Many African-Americans served in the army and the west as one can discover at the Black West Museum, one of the best kept secrets in Denver. More Europeans visit the library than Americans. Let’s turn that around this year. We are all tied together in this.

I thought of the Irish the last week. Signs in windows in New England greeted their arrival on the shores of America: “Help Wanted, No Irish Need Apply.” As Noel Ignatiev in his book reports when the Irish went south to work on plantations the owners told the slaves, “If there is anything dangerous to be done, let the ‘paddies’ do it.” He records one slave owner writing in his journal the prayer of a slave pleading with the Lord to not let his master treat him as though he was Irish.

These stories put it into perspective for us. As Martin Luther King said, in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” we are all inextricably tied together in this struggle.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I have always admired people who try to predict the future. Governor Richard Lamm looked for trends which might give an indication of future consequences of legislative actions.

In my studies of the classics I recall much discussion of the Oracle at Delphi. Generals would go to the Oracle and ask her: "Should I go into battle against the Persians?" She would answer like this: "If you go into battle, general, a mighty kingdom will be destroyed."

The general went into battle and his enemies destroyed his kingdom. The oracle always tried not to be too specific on her predictions. She just did not mention that the kingdom to be destroyed was the general’s own.

I visited Delphi once, stood on the questioning stone and closed my eyes and asked if I should run for higher office. A British voice near me, high pitched and Oxford nasal warned, "Son, be careful, don't climb too high, you might fall." I felt like the Oracle had returned and I should be careful about what office I should seek. I looked and of course, it was not the oracle but a British mother speaking to her son.

I am happy I ran for auditor. I am having a grand time telling truth to power and working at helping power listen to reason, good judgment and best business practices.

Comes now an oracle, a predictor of the future, James Chanos, who unhesitatingly and boldly predicts the future. Chanos names names. He gives details in his predictions, contrary to the two-edged answers at Delphi. He warned about troubles with big banks, Boston Market chain and Tyco International.

Chanos has been saying for some time that China will be the next economic disaster to hit the world economic future. In the New York Times, Chanos warns China's fall will be "Dubai times 1000."

He accuses China of giving all the signs of a meltdown: cooking their books and not being truthful about their 8% growth rates. In the same article in The Times he answers skeptics for the signs he looks for in companies and countries pointing to disaster. He looks for "companies that appear to have overstated earnings, like Enron; companies that were victims of a flawed business plans, like many Internet firms; or have been engaged in 'outright fraud.'"

And remember what Shakespeare said: "I am Sir Oracle, and when I open my lips, let no dog bark."

Friday, January 15, 2010

When Pigs Fly

Recently, former State Senator Ron Stewart and I served as panelists at a meeting sponsored by the Everitt Real Estate Center in Longmont, Colorado, a part of CSU. The title of the Conference was "Gallagher Revisited." Steve Laposa, director of the Everitt Center, issued a 40 page report as the conference opened, so panel members did not have a chance actually to see what the report said. Susan Kirkpatrick, executive director of Governor Ritter's Department of Local Affairs noted that without the Gallagher Amendment to our state's Constitution, residential taxpayers in Colorado would have paid $14.4 Billion more in property taxes. When asked by an audience member if Colorado had the will to change the tax structure, Tabor, Gallagher and Amendment 23? Kirkpatrick responded that we could not expect a first term governor to tackle the issue with all the other things on his plate.

Billed as a way to open up dialogue on a subject that is still evolving, Don Marostica, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, did not serve his appointing authority Governor Ritter as well. Instead of trying to reason together about the Gallagher Amendment, the caustic Marostica opened by saying the Gallagher Amendment was "ugly and it didn't matter how much lipstick you put on it, it was still a pig." Marostica then wondered with mock priggishness: "I don't know what you guys were smoking back in 1982," when Senator Stewart and I worked on the Gallagher Amendment.

There Marostica goes again, sloppin' around in the rhetorical pig pen.

He then read a letter from someone who was looking at opening a business in Colorado but decided not to settle in Colorado, a place some of us call "paradise." Instead the business he quoted huffed and puffed and punished us by saying they were looking at settling somewhere in the deep south or back east where homeowners paid more so his business, an airline, would pay less. The air line couldn't wait to settle somewhere else, a far off purgatory, where the summers roasted their employees like spits of high humidity, where huge traffic jams added hours to employee drive time, where hurricanes destroyed everything the employees owned, where winter ice storms disrupted commerce and the lives of their long suffering employees regularly. I wonder if the company might be trying to find a place in Red China, our new bankers for their company where slave labor is still legal?

Senator Stewart politely castigated Marostica by saying his wild rhetoric did not serve the dialogue of the day well. I was surprised that Marostica would adopt a line from his fellow Republican, Sarah Palin, since it did not serve her well after all.

Senator Stewart said "I don't think there are a lot of residents clamoring with their pitchforks to have their property taxes raised."

And I concluded that the nub of the issue could be summarized in one question since Gallagher is securely ensconced in our constitution and voters will have to vote to change it: "Will Colorado residential taxpayers vote to raise their home taxes so business interests can pay less?" Put that apple in the roasted pig's mouth and see if that pig will fly.

I suspect Director Marostica thinks his sarcastic comments are the "silver stake" in the heart of the Gallagher Amendment. But that's not what Stewart and I heard hardened commercial realtors and developers say after the panel was finished. Folks thanked Senator Stewart and me for stepping up to the leadership plate to solve a problem, certainly not perfect, but we aren't in heaven yet, only a place I think of as paradise, Colorado.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Denver citizen recently inquired why he has to send his Denver taxes to a Dallas, Texas address. And the post box in Dallas has three 6's in the address, so maybe the devil has something to do with it.

The city's bank is JP Morgan Chase. Since November of 2009, the majority of sales, use and excise tax payments sent to the city go to Chase which has located its processing center for large payment volume processing in Dallas, Texas. Ready for more confusion: Chase changed to Texas because the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, with a branch located here in Denver, decided to clear checks in Dallas and would no longer perform the function in Denver.

From Denver's Treasury fact sheet on this subject:

"Why has the City implemented this change to having my payments being mailed out of state?

The City bank processes payments in Dallas, Texas. Previously, payments were mailed to a Denver post office box, and a courier transported the payments to the airport where they were flown for processing in Texas. The payments were returned to Denver after processing via air transportation. In order to streamline and reduce the costs of getting the payments to the location for processing, payments mailed through the U. S. Post Office can be received directly at the processing plant faster and more efficiently. This also diminishes the possibility of a box of payments being misplaced or other delays in accurately crediting payments to appropriate accounts."

The fact sheet from Treasury mentions that occupational taxes are included in this new process, but property taxes are not covered at this time. I wonder if the Auditor's Office should look into this process to see if Chase Bank sending everything to its new processing location in Dallas, Texas really is the best business practice for citizens and the city?

Where's Andy Jackson, now that we may really need him? Even our public electric and gas utility has places you can pay your bill around town. You wonder why I voted against Branch Banking when I served in the Colorado General Assembly?

Monday, January 11, 2010

A friend of mine recently showed me a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle which he brought back from a conference he attended in that hilly and crowded city. The paper monitored how long it took for the city to fill a particular pot hole; repair that sign; fix that light; check this abandoned house or car. The report included the person at the city government responsible for repairing or fixing whatever was in the column. The date the issue was reported to the city was included in the short square. Imagine the following in the Denver Post: "Day 234, for pot hole going unrepaired corner of Colfax and Monaco." That is one way print journalism can help put pressure on elected officials and city agents to correct a particular problem reported to the city. I just thought I saw Frederick Bonfils pass through my front room.

Funny, you should say?

Comes now an article in Business Day of the New York Times: "News Sites Dabble with a Web Tool for Nudging Local Officials." The article by Daniel Slotnik reports that The Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut wanted to increase hits on its website. The story then goes on to relate that SeeClickFix helped the newspaper with problems in the city. Check out and Another site of interest mentioned in the article could be a site that Neighborhood Inspection Services might consider for Denver. And an added plus could be the accountability trail involved in dealing with troubled properties in our city. I have had complaints from Denver citizens who mention that enforcement on dilapidated properties seems irregular and records get lost and no one at the city ever seems to remember what is going on at a troubled site. You don't have time for my stories along this theme.

So check January 4, 2010 New York Times to find out how the digital media are changing politics by putting pressure by alerting local officials in the excellent article by Daniel E. Slotnik. I assure you I will pass this one along to the Mayor.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Denver's Mountain Parks

Whenever friends or relatives came to visit the Gallagher’s in Denver from anywhere outside of Colorado, the first place my father took us was to a Denver Mountain Park, Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum. My dad spent his early years growing up in Tabernash near Winter Park and a fisherman from youth with all his gear and tackle and trim, he knew every great fishing hole in Grand County. He loved Colorado’s mountains and streams and always caught his limit of those rose moled and all in stipple and speckled trout. He would sometimes catch some for other fishers. My dad enjoyed telling visitors the story of Buffalo Bill Cody’s passing and how the city of Cody, Wyoming named for him, threatened to come to Denver and steal his corpse and bury him at his ranch in Cody. Cody knew a good tourist attraction when they saw it. So the city fathers buried Bill under 5 tons of cement so those Cody body-snatchers could not rob him from the rightful grave right here in Colorado. His wife, who weighed over 300 pounds, was further buried on top on him. All this encouraged my father to joke: “Old Bill’s going to have one hell of a time getting out of that grave on the final day, getting through all that’s buried to keep him in Colorado.”

Encrusted like jewels in the crown of the Queen City of the Plains, Denver’s Mountain Parks boast unbridled beauty unmatched by an other American city. Mayor Robert Speer had the vision and started the acquisition of mountain sites to be official Denver Parks way back in 1912. Speer wanted people from Denver to be able to get away from the hurly burly of the city and escape to the treasures of mountain parks beyond the city limits. Today, Denver has 46 mountain parks affording visitors fishing, picnic sites with grills and shelters, bird watching, buffalo watching; hiking trails; horse shoes; geologic sites explained and marked; spectacular views and camera opportunities. Mayor Speer wanted the old Interurban Street Car which snacked its way from Denver to Lakewood in Jefferson County to be expanded to reach some of our early Denver Mountain Parks. But Jefferson County objected to all those Denverites trudging through their county even if they were trying to get to land owned by the city.

Monday, January 4, 2010

On my way home from the office last week I remembered that the generous folks at Z Cuisine's on West 30th Avenue just east of Wyandotte near Tejon were hosting a night for The Elitch Theatre. All the monies for the event went to the interior rehabilitation of the theatre, the longest running summer stock theatre in the United States.

I have meany happy memories of Elitch's and the Theatre. The Gurtler family allowed Holy Family High to put their spring musicals on at the historic theatre. Our musical director loved Gilbert and Sullivan and there is a troop trudging across the boards at various stages in Denver still polishing up the handles on the big front door. "If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it," Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, opening lines.

When in College at Regis, I was lucky enough to be hired as a stage hand with Local 7, International Association of Stage and Theatrical Employees which had the contract with the theatre to set up the productions. The Actors were all in the union as well. It was a "union house" according to the buzz among my fellow stage hands. Once a scene was set, my colleagues would go for a beer between scenes at the Tracadero not far from the stage door. I stayed to watch the actors and the play. I thought I was in paradise, to be paid to watch great actors performing the summer stock listings at the theatre. "all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players," Jacques, Act II scene 7, As you Like It.

Most of the actors stayed with families in the neighborhood and I remember Grace Kelly living with a family (The Coleman's) a block from me on Raleigh Street. And one weekday morning she sat in the front pew at the mass which we students attended weekly. My fellow students tell me that I stood transfixed like someone experiencing a vision of the Blessed Virgin herself. My gaze was rudely interrupted by one of the nuns who finally came up the aisle and angrily said to me: "Dennis, it's time to kneel. You can talk to Miss Kelly after the mass." I think of Sonnet 116, :Love's not Time's fool..."

Some say the old theatre is haunted by Mary, Grace, Fairbanks, We don't really know which one is haunting. But as long as the building stands they will have a place to bother us with costumed appearences and stage whispers. I never saw any, but some of the old stage hands said they did.

The Historic Elitch Theatre Foundation will be hosting lots of other wine and foie de canard on crackers events for the theatre. If you wish to contribute before then, send you donations to 3927 West 32nd Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80212. "We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep," Shakespeare. So send in your donation before you can only haunt the old theatre.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Marshall McLuhan the great media ecologist wrote many years ago that the “Medium is the Message.”   So if, let’s say, your post person drops off a piece of mail that looks like junk mail, the credit card companies know you will most likely throw the mail away.  Please be careful of the latest scam foisted on the American people by credit card companies which are now sending notices of your account in the form of junk mail.  You can opt out of the increases but you have to respond and you won’t do that if you throw out the junk mail notice without reading it. Clever! And the companies probably paid some advertising company millions for this scheme for their greed, the root of all evil. So read even the junk mail.  Think of it as a part of purgatory.

Why are the credit card companies playing this trick on their customers?  Because in February, 2010, finally, Congress, timidly set limits on certain onerous credit card gouging practices. Congress gave them months to wage economic war upon us.  One customer reported recently that his credit card called him and told him the company wasn’t making any money off of him because he did the right thing.  He paid on time and avoided higher penalties and higher rates.  So McLuhan, the prophet in the mid-1960’s prediction has finally come true: that cash or money would become the poor man’s credit card. Someone tried to pay cash recently at a store and had to show her driver’s license.  Just a joke. 

Dante in his Inferno condemns those who a guilty of greed to the 4th rung of hell.  They are condemned for all eternity to push with their chests huge bags of coins, up a mountain.  Shouts of “Why do you squander?” fill the dry mouths of the greedy fight with the prodigals whose howls loudly scream “Why do you squander?” They are condemned to fight with each other for all eternity. They can’t understand each other.  

I just wonder on which rung in hell Congress will end up for not acting to stop the companies before February of 2010?