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


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 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


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.