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.


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


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.